In the majority monarchies a new monarch generally retains his given name upon succession. However, there are times when a monarch either changes his or her name completely or shortens the name they will be known by during their reign. For example, Emperor Friedrich III of Germany (1888), was known as Fritz to his family, and was officially known to the public as Friedrich-Wilhelm while he was Crown Prince.
In the English/British monarchy changing names has been a recent development and even then there are only a few example. Up until the time of William IV of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King of Hanover, I cannot find any King or Queen of England that changed their name when they wore the crown. There was one King of Scotland that did change his name. King Robert III of Scotland (1390-1406) was born with the name John. One month after his accession in April of 1390 the Scottish Parliament granted John permission to change his regnal name to Robert, to maintain the link back to Robert I the Bruce but also to disassociate himself from the unpopular and disastrous reign of King John Balliol.
When King George IV of the United Kingdom died in 1830 his brother, The Duke of Clarence, christened Prince William-Henry, wanted to call himself King Henry IX until it was pointed out to him that the Scottish Pretender, Henry Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York, also claimed to be Henry IX by himself and his supporters. Given that Henry Stuart died 30 years prior and many still remembered him the King was persuaded to be known by his first name, William.
King William IV’s niece, Queen Victoria, was christened with the double name Alexandrina-Victoria and was known as Drina within the family during her youth. The day she became queen she was actually proclaimed Queen Alexandrina-Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, the next day she let it be known that she simply wanted to be called Victoria.
In homage to her sainted husband, Prince Albert,* Queen Victoria named her son, the Prince of Wales, Albert-Edward in hopes that he would become King Albert I of the United Kingdom. That did not happen and in an effort to forge his own identity he chose to reign as King Edward VII. Up until he succeeded his mother the Prince of Wales was known as Bertie within the family. Albert-Edward’s eldest son was christened Albert Victor Christian Edward and was known as Eddy within the family. Albert-Victor died of pneumonia in 1892 and never assumed the crown. Since he was known as Eddy within the family it is logical to concluded that had he lived he would have become King Edward VIII.
The next name change we find is with Queen Mary, the wife of King George V. Queen Mary was christened HSH Princess Victoria-Mary of Teck and known as May within the family, had to choose her regnal name when her husband came to the throne in 1910. As Princess of Wales she was known by her double name Victoria-Mary and since George V detested double names he told his wife to choose between which two she wanted be known by. She believed that to be called Queen Victoria was out of the question seeing that it was only 9 years ago that the great queen had passed, so the obvious choice was Queen Mary.
The son of King George V and Queen Mary, King Edward VIII, was christened Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David and although he was known as David within the family, his official public name was Edward and so when he became King Edward VIII for a short period in 1936 it cannot be considered a name change. However, his brother and next-in-line to the throne, Prince Albert The Duke of York, and known as Bertie in the family, did change his regnal name to George VI in order to show continuity with his father George V after the scandalous abdication crisis. It is understandable then, given this short tradition of name changes, to question the new Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 to ascertain what name she wanted to reign under. Without a question she chose her own name.
For years there have been rumors flying around that when the current Prince of Wales comes to the throne instead of being known as King Charles III he will be known as King George VII. The rumor is that King Charles I and II are unpopular and associated with bad reigns and it is well known that the Prince of Wales holds a great affection and admiration for his ancestor, King George III. First off, I do not put much faith in this rumor and I do not think King Charles II had such a bad reign or negative connotations are associated with him. However, if the Prince of Wales does choose to reign under a different name there is some precedence for it.
- Speaking of Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, his first name was actually Franz (Francis) and Albert was one of his many names. He was christened HSH Prince Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.