The Royal Baby Name: A Unique Naming Experience That's Strangely Familiar
My phone has been ringing madly since the news broke that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a new heir to the British throne. Everyone wants to talk royal baby names: What name will they choose? How creative can they be? What impact will their choice have on baby name style?
At first glance, a royal name choice seems far removed from the decision facing typical parents -- even typical celebrity parents. Baby names are fashion statements today, expressions of the parents' style and creativity. Even parents who prefer traditional names still look for a fresh sound, making names like Elijah and Violet more common than John and Mary. And while we still love our parents and grandparents, we're not ready to sacrifice our sense of style to give them namesakes. Their "boring" names become middle names, or are honored obliquely with initials.
Can you imagine the royal family tossing aside tradition that way? What is the British monarchy, after all, without tradition, symbolism, pageantry and reminders of its past? I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that a little Princess Lexie-Mae or Prince Kenzie-Lee could trigger a crisis for the throne. You can't strip away all of the trappings of royalty and stay regal. (By the way, I plucked those sample names from the England & Wales naming stats; each was bestowed on ten or more babies last year.)
This decision, in short, isn't just a baby name choice. It's a statement of public identity for the royal family; a branding opportunity for the British throne. But that, oddly enough, is where Wills and Kate are most like other parents their age. In past generations, the main audience for name choices was your immediate family. Today, parents are more likely to consider the impact on a broader stage: what image will this name project about our family, and our child? What name will make a positive impression and set the child up for success? You might think of the royal baby name choice as an extreme version of this, with extra in-law pressure. Or, to turn it around, you might say that today, we're all raising royal babies.
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OK, so what are they going to name the kid? Since you asked...name choices reflect the way the parents live their lives, and the futures they dream of. These parents have been very respectful of image of the royal family and the roles they have to play, but within those bounds have attempted to carve out some quiet, privacy, and modernity. The respect suggests a name prominent in William's family tree. The quiet and privacy suggest avoiding names laden with too much symbolic pressure, which would rule out the likes of Victoria, Elizabeth and Diana. (They can use middle names for the family homages -- something else they have in common with other parents today.) And the modernity suggest avoiding names currently born by close living relatives.
Here's a short list of names that fit those criteria:
If you're a gambler, Matilda gives you attractive odds at 100/1. (Surely it's ten times as likely as Waynetta, at 1000/1?) I also like the odds on all of the A names -- Alice, Alexandra, Arthur and Albert -- along with Margaret and Eleanor.
And if it were up to me? Queen Alice or King Arthur. Impeccably British, well-represented in the royal family tree, fashionable in England today, and full of the stuff that dreams are made of.