A king is born: the importance of a name


This article is the second and final installment in this series on Prince George of Cambridge, the son of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

The choice of names is an interesting point of analysis. To the average man on the street, the name ‘George’ has a definitive ring of the upmarket to it. You will not find many Georges in state schools even in areas with an average socio-economic status! However, the name George does not carry any pretence or snobbishness. Indeed, all three names, George Alexander Louis, are firm favourites in the current aristocratic, bohemian, Sloane Square canon of boys’ names. These are exactly the names one would expect to hear at the christenings of the progeny of William and Kate’s friends in their favoured social circle. Furthermore, owing to their social imprecision, these are not the sort of names that the John Prescotts’ and the Dennis Skinners’ of this world could effusively pour their malodorous scorn on. Indeed, George’s names are not as overtly aristocratic as say Rupert, Tristram or Orlando. These names would be easier for Britain’s egotistical class warriors to tease or criticise. William and Kate have safely and wisely sailed the ship of choice (for baby names) well away from the rocks of insult and prejudice.

The name of George has been a successful one for the House of Windsor. Her Majesty the Queen will undoubtedly have succumbed to a delighted smile when she heard of the decided name. George V was the present Queen’s adored grandfather. This towering figure of tradition and Empire was called ‘Grandpa England’ by the granddaughter that he profusely doted over with gentleness and compassion. Also, George V was the founder of the House of Windsor. Prior to 1917, the Royal family was known by the surname of Saxe-Coburg Gotha. Yet, in the demonic nadir of the First World War, Saxe-Coburg Gotha was thought to be excessively Germanic. All sections of British society, from the chattering classes to the exhausted workers, began to deliberate whether the Royal family could be truly patriotic when their dynastic name so dramatically lacked quintessential Englishness. George V took decisive action to make the ‘firm’ synonymous with England in the nation’s psychology. The name of ‘Windsor’ was chosen, and scored a wonderful hat-trick for the Royal family’s popularity. After World War One, George V steered his battered country away from the polarised extremes of communism and fascism that were engulfing the rest of Europe. Instead, Britain followed a consensual political course which flowered from the deeply-rooted seeds of just, honest and decent stability. It seemed that Britain’s innate conservatism prevailed against the unsettling revolutionary movements that were annexing continental Europe. When George V met his maker in 1936, the people mourned for a King of simple pleasures who stood for common sense and decency in a time when many believed those upstanding qualities were increasingly hard to find.

Coronation of King George VI

The second George of the House of Windsor was George VI who reigned from 1936 to 1952. Colin Firth superbly captured the essence of the man in the ‘King’s Speech’ – a chap who was committed to the ideal of public service, determined to triumph over his hindering lack of confidence and perform his duty with the utmost professionalism. After the Abdication Crisis of 1936, the then Duke of York, was compelled to pick up the discarded reigns of state and ascend to the throne. This was a nightmarish eventuality for the shy, stammering Prince who desperately wanted to lead a simple, domestic life away from the prying eyes of the public spotlight. Nevertheless, like his father, ‘Bertie’ accepted his dynastic duty and rose to the challenge of kingship just as the dark clouds of war were beginning to converge over Europe once again. ‘Bertie’ chose to adopt ‘George’ (one of his middle names) as his monarchical name to symbolise a strong element of continuity with the reign of his father: a reign characterised by the contrivance to make the British Monarchy a symbol of stability in an era of unprecedented change. During World War Two, George VI became a vehement symbol of resistance, participating in the war effort, and doing his utmost to raise morale. His decision to subject himself to rationing and follow the stringent wartime regulations won him admiration and respect. When he died in 1952, the people mourned grievously for the loss of such a dignified King. Thus, the new Prince George’s name carries many familial connotations. It inextricably rings with the rich heritage of some of the most adored and appreciated monarchs of the House of Windsor. The future King George VII will hopefully enjoy the same special place in the people’s hearts as the last two Sovereign Georges.

On the other hand, ‘Alexander’ is a name that has plentiful tartan connotations. There were three Kings of Scotland by the name of Alexander. It has been widely asserted that the choice reaffirms the Royal family’s special affinity for Scotland. However, it is somewhat of an exaggeration to say that the name was chosen to help secure more votes for the ‘Better Together’ campaign in relation to the Scottish referendum in 2014. William and Kate probably chose the name for the simple reason that they liked it and it was an acceptable name for royalty. Nonetheless, Elizabeth II’s second name is Alexandra and it was the name of the Queen’s great-grandmother. Thus, one does not have to stretch the mind back to medieval Scottish ancestry to find the name’s root.

The name Louis has a subtle reference to the much admired Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, (Prince Philip’s uncle). Prince Charles has been quoted saying on occasion that Lord Louis was more of a paternal figure to him than his own father. Lord Louis was tragically assassinated by an IRA bomb in 1979 and provides a haunting memory of the horror that terrorism can inflict upon families who are capriciously forced to deal with a painful loss. It carries the flame of remembrance and illustrates that the Royal family will not forget the well-respected naval commander and military hero who happened to live in the ranks of the Royal family. To fight for the banner of freedom only to die at the hands of reprehensible cowards from a profoundly undemocratic organisation like the IRA is a tragedy of the first magnitude. The continued use of Lord Louis’s name shows that time has not dampened the memory of this man of towering respect.

[pullquote]Prince George is probably as of yet unaware of the heavy burden of responsibility that rests of his small shoulders.[/pullquote]

The flux of media interest has now begun to subside. William and Kate will have the pleasure of getting to know their newborn baby a little better behind the privacy of closed doors. However, royal tradition states that it is advantageous to have an heir and at least a spare (if not a few spares) in the sidelines. This well worn guidance implies that we can expect at least another Prince or Princess of Cambridge in the future. But for now, we can be happy in the knowledge that the young Prince George will grow up in a Royal family which is ever-increasingly popular and which has warmed itself to the hearts of the British public over the years. Prince George is probably as of yet unaware of the heavy burden of responsibility that rests of his small shoulders. One day, he will be King of the United Kingdom, Head of State in 16 nation-states, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Head of the Armed Forces and (most likely) Head of the Commonwealth of Nations. A daunting future indeed! Let’s hope that Prince George will be given a relatively care-free childhood, away from the prying eyes of the superfluously intrusive media. Now, it is only left for me to wish the best of luck to a devoted couple who are about to journey down the path of parenthood together and enrich their lives in consequence.

Photo Credit: Michael Cotterill


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