Princess Charlotte's Name Is a Perfect Balancing Act

May 4th 2015

In the past, I've described royal baby namers as "brand managers for the monarchy." Their name choices have to symbolize the rich history and tradition of the throne, and send the message that its future is in good hands. The choice of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana for the new British princess balances that branding with a concern that's much more familiar to parents everywhere: navigating the perilous waters of family.

First, the name itself. Charlotte hits the tradition bullseye, delicately. It was one of my suggested finalists based on its combo of accessible style and regal heritage. Charlotte is well-loved throughout the English-speaking world, and currently ranks #20 among girls' names in England. It's represented in the direct royal line by George III's queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The overall impression is classic and elegant but not showy, the perfect touch.

Other names could have fit that style recipe, though. Charlotte Elizabeth Diana's special qualities are on a more personal front. Consider Prince William's family dynamics. His parents went through a public and ugly divorce. His father remarried, controversially. His mother tragically died young, and remains an icon in a manner that can be uncomfortable to the other side of the family. His father's mother, meanwhile, is a uniquely powerful matriarch.

The three-part name William and Catherine chose manages to honor all three of those formidable family members -- Charles, Diana and Elizabeth -- without saddling their little girl with any specific image or legacy to live up to. The name even manages to honor mom's family, via Kate's mother Carole and her sister Philippa Charlotte. It's a thoughtful gesture toward multiple generations, and toward the throne itself. May all of us with complex naming challenges find such a happy balance.


By mk
May 4, 2015 12:19 PM

Charlotte is also the middle name of Kate's sister.

May 4, 2015 1:24 PM

Elizabeth is also Duchess Kate's middle name.  And Kate's mother's name is Carole, so Charlotte honors grandparents on both sides.  Very nifty balancing act all around.

May 4, 2015 8:19 PM

Carole Middleton's and Duchess Catherine's middle names are also Elizabeth, so there are now three named C. Elizabeth along the maternal line, in addition to honouring the Queen on William's side of the family. I agree, it's a well balanced name, honouring the family while still giving her a name that's not currently shared with other members of the family (as a first name). 

May 4, 2015 10:29 PM

That was exactly my first thought when I read the name. Clever, clever Kate. Well done. A beautiful, classic, appropriate choice.

May 5, 2015 10:00 AM

A possibly overlooked advantage of a very limited naming landscape: it's much easier to honor multiple people when multiple people all have the same few names (or some variation thereof).

By JayF
May 7, 2015 11:28 AM

It is nice that British royalty can have multiple names as a rule. In the US, the custom is for maybe one middle name, occasionally two, but I think that's rare. Of course, the new princess doesn't have a real last name, does she?

Is it common in England to have more than one middle name? Why did that not take off in the US? Or, if it was present, when did it fall out of favor? What about non-English cultures? What are the norms for naming? Does Laura have a post on this that I should have read already? Thanks!


May 7, 2015 4:03 PM

In the Netherlands those living north of the great rivers tend to be Protestant (mostly Dutch Reformed), and the naming practice is generally one or two given names total.  South of the rivers, the traditional religion is Roman Catholic, and people often have three to five given names, often in Latin.  These names, however, are seldom if ever used.  People have diminutives as call names, and only initials are used on more formal occasions, e.g., dHr J.P.L. deGroot or Mvrw. E.J.R. deBruin.