Names of the Week: Philip and Elizabeth

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II, from

Prince Philip is now 90, and Her Majesty the Queen has just turned 83, and will be celebrating 60 years on the throne next year. It’s rather remarkable to think that the majority of the British (and those of the Commonwealth) public have only ever known one monarch, and personally, I think it’s a testament to the Queen’s character. Yes, a small part of me is Royalist (like my mother, I really don’t like Diana).

So, what better time than to look into the names of two very high ranking members of the Royal family?

Let’s start with Philip. I love Prince Philip, I think he’s fantastic with his mantra of saying exactly what he thinks. Yesterday on the news, Gyles Brandreth, another favourite person of mine, said he thinks Prince Philip represents the best of his generation. Prince Philip once said to the President of Nigeria, who was wearing traditional robes at the time: You look like you’re ready for bed

As for the actual name, Philip, it comes from the Greek name Philippos, meaning friend of horses, coming from two Greek elements:

  • philos, meaning friend
  • hippos, meaning horse

It’s rather ironic then, that the Royals are all enthusiatic about their horses, especially Princess Anne (Prince Philip once said if it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she’s [Princess Anne] not interested). Prince Philip himself was also born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.

But it’s not just the Royals from Buckingham Palace that use Philip (it’s also one of Prince William’s, Prince Charles’ and James, Viscont Severn’s middle names), but elsewhere too. There were five Kings of Macedon named Philip, including Philip II, who was the father of Alexander the Great.

There were also six Kings of France and five Kings of Spain named Philip. The only that always comes to mind for me is King Philip II of Spain, who was behind the Spanish Armada during Elizabeth I’s reign, which spectacularly failed. But maybe I’m biased about that.

However, thanks to the Spanish Armada, people, for some reason, weren’t keen on using Philip anymore, and it became relatively uncommon by the 17th Century.

It was revived in the 19th Century, and by 1954 had reached #16 in the UK’s most popular list, whilst it is currently at #305 in the UK, and #403 in the States.

There are two Philips in the Bible, both of whom are now considered saints. One was one of the twelve apostles, and the other was an early figure in the Christian church, known as Philip the Deacon.

Now onto Elizabeth, and I think Elizabeth is a rather a good name if one is a member of the Royal family since the three I can think of straight off all reached a rather old age:

The first, Elizabeth I, is the longest reigning female monarch of England (and technically Wales), since the Kingdoms of Scotland and England did not join until 1707, with the Kingdom of Ireland joining in 1801 to form the current establishment. She reigned for a pretty respectable 44 years and 127 days, ascending to the throne at 25 years of age, and died at 69, which is pretty good going for someone in that era.

Then there is the Queen Mother, born Elizabeth Angela Marguerite , who was 101 by the time she died in 2002, and the current Queen is more than likely to beat Queen Victoria’s record reign of 63 years and 216 days, provided she is still on the throne in September 2015.

As for what Elizabeth actually means, she is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Elisheva, meaning my God is an oath.

The Hebrew form appears in the Old Testament, where she was called Elisheba and was the wife of Aaron. In the New Testament, Elizabeth was the mother of John the Baptist.

In terms of popularity, Elizabeth has remained reasonably popular since Elizabeth I’s reign, although in terms of UK popularity, she has never reached the top spot. In 1904, 1914 and 1924, she was at #9.

Something I have noticed amongst UK naming patterns is that in many two daughter families I know of, one daughter has the middle name Elizabeth, and the other Victoria: Lily Victoria and Grace Elizabeth; Gabriella Elizabeth and Caprice Victoria; Poppy Victoria and Ruby Elizabeth. The two latter sets are twins.

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Names of the Week: Philip and Elizabeth

  1. Ketty

    Yes, the Duke of Edinburgh’s name is rather ironic!


  2. Elizabeth is a nice name, and although it’s very popular now, must be even more popular as a middle name as it “goes with” so many names.

    That’s interesting about the Victoria-Elizabeth middle name thing!


  3. Pingback: Names of the Week: Pip(s) and Pearl « Mer de Noms

  4. Pingback: Names of the Week: Ace and Elise « Mer de Noms

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