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Mind your language

Don’t want a Princess Charlotte? Try Violant, Fatima, Davina, Senna…

Royal naming conventions are more colourful than you might think

9 May 2015

9:00 AM

9 May 2015

9:00 AM

It could have been much worse. Someone had pointed out that among the new baby’s ancestors was Queen Violant of Hungary, which would make a splendid name. If that sounds unlikely for a possible queen of the United Kingdom, the wee princess might have been the victim of a suggested cross-cultural gesture by being given the name Fatima, since the present Queen and her heirs are descended from Mohammed through his daughter. Such descent is not unusual, though in this case there are obscurities in the early generations and in later Spanish genealogical connections. Leaving that aside, the name Fatima is also used by Catholics, who take it from the town where the Virgin Mary was reported to have appeared in 1917 (itself, in one of those byways of onomastics, named after a princess who bore the name of Mohammed’s daughter). The one religion, however, that a queen regnant cannot be, as the law stands, is Catholic.

If those suggestions sound far-fetched for a future queen, other names in the line of succession come close. Sixteenth in line is Zara Phillips, whose first name has been influenced by the Arabic name Zahra. Zara does appear in the Bible, as a man, the brother of Pharez. Zara was also the name given by Aaron Hill to the play he translated from Voltaire’s Zaïre, about a Christian slave. Elizabeth Young appeared in the title role opposite David Garrick.


Anyway, if there is still a United Kingdom with a throne, the next three monarchs will very likely be called Charles, William and George, if they choose to go by the names they bear now. If George has no children, then Charlotte will succeed. Among those lower in the line of succession are Savannah (14th), Isla (15th), Mia (17th), Davina (28th), Senna (29th), Lyla (32nd) and Zenouska (55th). Without wishing to be snobbish about my betters, I can’t help thinking that some of these names would not sound unusual on a television game show.

Queen Charlotte, consort of George II, was the one who made the name popular. But her first name had been Sophie. So little Charlotte if ever crowned could, if she wanted, take the name Elizabeth, or, of course, Diana.


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