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Picking a royal name that can define an era

Noble names are steeped in history. Now that Prince William and his wife Kate have a baby boy - the third in line for the throne - they must choose the name for a royal who may take Britain into the 22nd century.
AP | By HT Correspondent, London
UPDATED ON JUL 24, 2013 03:20 AM IST

The Victorians. The Edwardians. The Elizabethans.

Royal names can define a generation. So imagine the pressure on the new parents to pick the right one!

Now that Prince William and his wife Kate have a baby boy - the third in line for the throne - they must choose the name for a royal who may take Britain into the 22nd century. They'll start by considering British monarchs from the past.

Elizabeth I offered her name to the golden era in which Britannia ruled the waves and the Elizabethans consolidated a renaissance of national prosperity. Victoria's reign was defined by rapid industrialization with straight-backed Victorian morality. Her son, Edward VII, lent his name to the champagne and cigar period before World War I in which the rigid class system came under attack.

"Names do define an era," said Robert Lacey, a royal historian, who has written books on Prince William's mother and grandmother. "Who knows as we look into the future what will happen."

With so many people to please - inside and outside the palace walls - the House of Windsor is likely to pick more than one name for the boy who was born in London on Monday. After all, his father Prince William, aka William Arthur Philip Louis, has four. There may be a nod to great grandfather Prince Philip, or grandfathers Prince Charles and Michael Middleton, Kate's father. Or King Arthur. Or a host of other dead kings.

But the first name, that has to hit the right note. It is likely to hang around a bit.

The royals will be thinking not just what the name means to them - but also what it means to the country. And you can't just pick any name either. It has to have gravitas. Commoner names - even classic British ones like Nigel or Rodney - won't do.

"Names always matter," said Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and an expert on baby names. "The public's image of this child could quite possibly be influenced by the baby's name."

Noble names are steeped in history, which explains why thousands of bets have rolled in to British bookmakers for the names George and James. George evokes the steadfastness of the queen's father, George VI, who rallied the nation during World War II. James VI united England and Scotland - and shares his name with Kate's brother.

The impression attached to a name is important, Mehrabian said. When you think of "Alexander," you think of Alexander the Great; "Elizabeth" and you think of Queen Elizabeth II.

And this child, whatever his name, is likely to mark a watershed in the relationship between the royals and their subjects. Prince William chose to eschew a royal match and married a commoner from the village of Bucklebury - continuing the process of making monarchy more accessible - an idea championed by his mother, Princess Diana.

The heir may give a name to a new century, to a country that has changed so much socially and philosophically that the daughter of a flight attendant and an air traffic controller is now in line to be queen.

"This is the historical element of this," Lacey said. "Let us see how that is reflected in the names."

The royal couple may well take their time in deciding. Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh took a month before settling on the name Charles for the Prince of Wales. Princess Diana and Prince Charles took a week before settling on William's four names.

"Who knows what the future will hold," said Timothy Long, a curator at the Museum of London, which is celebrating the royal birth with a special exhibition showcasing royal baby items. "But I'm sure with that comes a little bit of pressure."

The bookies are hoping for everyone to take their time. The bets just keep rolling on in while everyone ponders the future.

"We're taking in money by the pramload," said Rory Scott, a spokesman for Paddy Power, a bookmaker.

It's also taking wagers on the royal baby's first word and where he will be christened.

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