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Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales

I have a fascination with names. I don’t know if my fascination with names came after I developed my love of European Royalty or not, but I suspect it came later. Names are very personal and they are how we identify ourselves. I know of a couple of people who have changed their names, both first and last names, and seeing how attached to my identity my name is, I think it would take a lot of dissatisfaction with my name in order for me to change it. It is who I am. So to me, what we are called is important. 

When I am on a message board and a Princess is about to give birth there is a lot of fun guessing what the name might be. I don’t think I am alone in a fascination with names and royalty. Often the new royal prince or princess will have a string of names. I often wondered when did the tradition of giving a royal a string of names begin? I am not completely sure. I have the book Kings and Queen of Britain by David Williamson and the first royal listed in the book with more than one name is Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of King James I-VI of England and Scotland. After that there are a few examples of multiple names in the House of Stuart but they are rare. It seems that it was with the German House of Hanover that multiple names became a tradition practiced in the British Royal Family.

With apologies to HM King George V of the United Kingdom of Great Britain I also like double first names. He is on record stating he did not care for the practice. His elder brother who predeceased him in 1892 was known officially by the double first name of Albert-Victor, although he was called Eddy within the family. He probably would have been King Edward VIII had he lived to become king. Albert-Victor also had dual dukedoms, Clarence and Avondale, and this is another practice the king did not like. George V’s wife, Queen Mary, had a string of names herself, Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes, but was known as May in the family but known officially as Victoria-Mary. So when her husband became king in 1910 she had to decide what to be called. Her husband ruled out the double first name, and she herself knew should could not call herself Victoria while only being 9 years removed the reign of the Queen Victoria, so she decided on Mary. George V’s father was known by his double first names, Albert-Edward, while he was Prince of Wales but chose to be known as King Edward VII when he mounted the throne. Even Queen Victoria herself was christened Alexandrina-Victoria and was proclaimed as queen with those names in 1837 but quickly let it be known she wanted to be called simply “Victoria.”

As I peruse royal genealogy charts I notice the trend toward double first names becoming more prominent in the 17th century and reaching its zenith in the 19th century. This practice was more prominent in German royal families and by 19th century almost every extant royal house had German blood so the practice did become more widespread. It also seems to be a practice with male members of royal families rather than with females. Although there are exceptions such as the already mentioned Victoria-Mary of Teck and Alexandrina-Victoria of Kent. Another exception is Victoria-Luise of Prussia, daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and his wife, another double name, Augusta-Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein.

Prussia is one family where double names were common. 4 kings of Prussia had the name Friedrich-Wilhelm. Other common double first names in the Prussia royal house were, Joachim-Friedrich, Johann-Friedrich, Freidrich-Carl, and August-Wilhelm. The current pretender to the vacant German and Prussian thrones is known by the double first names of Georg-Friedrich. In the grand duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin they had 4 rulers named Friedrich-Franz and in the grand duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz they had 6 rulers named Adolf-Friedrich.

Like any trend this seems to be waning. However there are still examples. In Norway, the crown prince, Haakon, was christened Haakon-Magnus but is now only known by his one first name. His sister however, is known by her double first name, Märtha-Louise. In Sweden the king is Carl-Gustaf and his son is Carl-Philip. Sweden has always had a slightly different practice than the German monarchies in numbering their rulers with double names. In German states the ordinal number came after both names, Friedrich-Wilhelm IV of Prussia is a good example. In Sweden the ordinal comes after the first name. The current king, Carl XVI Gustaf. 

There you have my strange obsession and fascination with names. Next Monday I will continue the topic of names and discuss royal nicknames.

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