“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” ~ William Shakespeare
Carlo-Felice King of Sardinia
Today’s posting is an expansion on a post I wrote on the European Royal Message Boards. The topic was about the translations of royal names across European countries. It seems that the majority of the countries in Europe will translate a monarchs name, or their family members names, into their their native language. For example, in French speaking countries the British Royal Family’s names are translated into French. So for example, Elizabeth, Philippe, William, Henry and Andrew are translated as Élisabeth/Isabelle, Philippe, Guillaume, Henri and André. Charles is interesting in French. Although it is spelled the same in both French and English, in French Charles is pronounced as Sharles.
I try as much as I can to use the names from their native language. Here in the US the king of Spain is called Juan Carlos and I have never heard him called “John Charles.” However, this practice in the US is inconsistent. I think the current royals from all European monarchies are all called using their native language. However, the further you go into the past the more common English translation are often used. For example, it is rare to read a book about Spanish history and see Carlos II called that name, he is generally called Charles II.
So it will be strange for me to read a book in English about the kings of Sweden and see the name Charles XII but then that same book will call the current Swedish king Carl XVI. When I first began compiling genealogy charts from various books back in the late 70s (long before the internet where this information would be at the end of your fingertips) I would translate all names into English. For example, the Danish spelling of Frederik was always rendered in the English, Frederick, in my charts.
But going into the 1990s I began to change my tactic. I have both Juan Carlos and Mikhail Gorbachev and the US media to thank for that. I noticed that the US media referred to the Spanish king by his name in Spanish (as I previously mentioned) and during the Cold War Soviet leaders and politicians were called by their Russian names and not an English translation. I never heard the Press call the leader of the USSR Michael Gorbachev.
The first place I translated these names were with the German monarchies. I prefer Wilhelm II rather than William II or Friedrich II rather than Frederick II. I actually like the English names Charles better than Carl/Karl but I will still use the German translation in order to be consistent within the German monarchies.
Sometimes I think a name sounds so much better than their English counterpart. Italy is a good example. The last King of Italy was named Umberto II. I think Umberto sounds much better than Humbert! I also think King Carlo-Felice of Sardinia sounds better in its native Italian rather than Charles-Felix the English translation.
The only place I really make an exception is with the Greek and Russian Royals. Ironically, despite the usage of native Russian names by the US media being the impetus for change, I never cared for the Russian translations. I call the last Czar, Nicholas II instead of Nikolai II. I will use English names such as George, Constantine and Philip in place of their Greek Translations yet I do like Pavlos better than Paul in the Greek. And to keep it even more confusing and inconsistent I like the Russian Pavel better than Paul.
It isn’t a perfect system for me but it works.