Over the past few weeks, strangers hear my accent and immediately want to talk about the new royal baby.
Britain’s new royal princess, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana Windsor, was born May 2, a little less than two years after her elder brother, Prince George Alexander Louis. The princess will be fourth in line to the throne after her grandfather, Charles; father, William; and elder brother, George.
Although it did not work out this way, if baby Charlotte had been Prince William’s firstborn, she would have, for the first time in history, been ahead of her brother in the line of royal succession. The United Kingdom now has dispensed with male-preference ‘primogeniture rules’ — or to put it more simply, the eldest boy becoming king even if the firstborn royal child is a girl. Girls only inherited the throne if they had no brothers (as our current queen), but this rule, in place for almost 1,000 years, has been dispensed with for all future generations.
It always touches me how interested Americans are in the British royal family, and I have to confess that at times like this, I do miss being in the land of my birth as the nation celebrates exciting royal events like babies, weddings and jubilees.
I have been asked a number of times by my American friends what I thought the baby would be called if it was a girl as was widely predicted. I have to admit that my guess was pretty accurate. I said her first name would be a previous queen’s name — Victoria, Anne or Charlotte, followed by Elizabeth, then Diana — so I did pretty well.
So why were these names selected?
Charlotte has not been used by a member of the royal family in more than two centuries, but looking at the royal history of the name, King George III married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761. As was the custom at that time for arranged royal marriages, the couple first met on their wedding day. However, they appeared to have a happy marriage with 15 children. Their eldest daughter, Princess Charlotte, was designated Princess Royal in 1789, a title newborn Charlotte is expected to one day assume as the eldest daughter of the reigning monarch. Tragically, in 1817, the popular Princess Charlotte died at the age of 21 after delivering a stillborn son. There also are other family reasons for the choice of Charlotte as a name for the baby, including that it is a feminine version of Prince Charles’ name and the name of the youngest daughter of the Earl of Spencer, the late Princess Diana’s brother.
Elizabeth was widely predicted to be one of the baby’s names, as it is the name of both William’s grandmother and great-grandmother and seems an especially fitting choice given that this special lady — our current queen — will become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch in history on Sept. 9.
Elizabeth also carries personal significance for Kate’s side of the family. It is the middle name shared by Princess Catherine herself and her mother, Carole Middleton, as well as being the first given name of Princess Catherine’s maternal great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother.
Diana, of course, honors the late Princess Diana, Prince William’s mother who tragically died in 1997. The prince always has tried to include his mother’s memory in important moments of his life, famously giving her engagement ring to his own wife when they got engaged in 2010. This ensures that Diana’s memory is kept alive for the next generation of young royals, but appropriately is not her first name so the baby princess can someday develop her own special identity within the modern royal family.
By the way, just to remind us of some of the archaic but rather charming British traditions, in the unlikely event that HRH Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge were ever to assume the throne, she would become “Her Majesty Charlotte the First, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.” For now, quite properly, she is being nurtured by her parents and closest family members away from the public glare after her first official appearance with her parents on the hospital steps less than 12 hours after her birth. Her mother looked absolutely stunning only hours after giving Britain its newest royal.
The late Princess Diana said, “Family is the most important thing in the world.” This is a message that her son has taken to heart as he works hard to make sure that his children are blessed with parents who love each other and remain committed to their marriage.
God bless America, and God bless Britain’s royal family as well!
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