I had a my french friend Tellou ask me the other day whether Richard the Lionheart was a real person…something had clearly been lost in translation, and we ended up having a reasonably long conversation about which names were and were not used for Kings. This experience serves as the inspiration behind this week’s weekend post, which has a quick reccy over the names used by the British Monarchy.
Since William the Conqueror, 40 other people have ruled on the throne. I ended up showing the video below to Tellou, which lists their order as a song. Following the success of songs on the children’s show Horrible Histories, the writers then wrote this ditty to challenge it’s young viewers:
Did you get all of that? If not, here are all the names, listed next the however many Kings/Queens bore the name whilst on the throne, since some of them changed their name upon their coronation ( for example, Queen Victoria was born Alexandrina Victoria):
8 – Henry, Edward
6 – George
4 – William
3 – Richard
2 – Mary, Elizabeth, James, Charles
1 – Stephen, John, Anne, Victoria
Of course the one they failed to mention was Lady Jane Grey, who ruled for 9 days before she was overthrown by Mary I. And we also have Empress Matilda, as the daughter of Henry I, should’ve followed him on to the throne but instead her cousin Stephen took it. However Matilda’s son Henry went on to become Henry II.
But as you can see from the above list, the most used names are Henry and Edward. So let’s ponder on those names first off:
Out of all eight Henrys, you’re likely to know Henry VIII the best, as he was the one who broke away from Rome and set up the Church of England in order to marry wife #2, Anne Boleyn. He then had her beheaded a few years later.
Henry VIII was also known by his subjects as copper nose because he gradual increased the amount of copper in gold coins whilst reducing the gold content. This netted him thousands of pounds, but also meant that after years of circulation the newer coins began to show their real worth as the copper below became apparent due to wearing. As the nose of Henry was the most prominent feature on the coin, his nose was the first thing on the coin to turn copper, hence copper nose.
We also have Henry II who had the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, killed in Canterbury Cathedral, which caused scandal at the time and probably would to this day.
Right now in England, we do have a Prince Henry knocking about, but you probably know of him as Prince Harry, the younger brother of recently married Prince William.
Nowadays when it comes to Edward, you’re more than likely to think of the sparkling vampire from Twilight. As it says in the song, Edward III began the 100 Years War, ruling after his father Edward II was killed by a red hot poker.
The current Queens youngest son is an Edward, and her second son, who is not to be confused with the other Prince Edward, who is Duke of Kent, grandson of George V and cousin to the Queen. Prince Andrew, the Queen’s second son, also bears the name Edward as the last of his three middles.
And of course, no post about the royals is complete without the meantioning of at least one of Queen Victoria’s nine offspring. Her eldest son went on to become Edward VI, even though he was born an Albert.
It’s also worth noting that Elizabeth II’s father, George VI, was also born an Albert.
William the Conqueror was technically born as Guillaume, the french form of the name. The same could be said of his son and successor, William II. The latter William was also known as Rufus.
So let’s finish with a look to the future. In the current line of succession, from #1 (Prince Charles, the Queen’s eldest son) to #10 (Princess Anne, the Queen’s only daughter), the following names are used:
3 – Philip, Elizabeth
2 – Charles, Louise, Alice, Arthur, Louis, Albert, Edward, Mary
1 – Anthony, Richard, James, Alexander, Theo, George, William, Anne, Henry, Christian, David, Andrew, Beatrice, Eugenie, Victoria, Helena
Only John and Stephen, as names of former rulers, are not currently in use as names in the senior part of the Royal Family. And it’s rather pleasant to see the two names used most frequently are that of the Queen and her husband Prince Philip.
There are comments that when (and if) Prince Charles ascends to the throne, he will do so as George VII instead of Charles III to avoid comparison’s with the two Charles’ who have reigned, since one was beheaded and the other was well know for being a lover of parties. Prince Charles has denied this rumours, however, so it still remains to be seen.