What’s in a name? Well, if you are a member of the British royal family, quite a lot. Royal names signify bloodlines, stability, and centuries of tradition. From Albert to Zara, each royal name has a story behind it, and its very own place in the history books.
The most popular royal names have become synonymous with the House of Windsor. Over the past 200 years, 12 British royals have been named Albert, which means “noble and bright.” Ten have shared the name George, which is of Greek origin and means “farmer.” There have been nine Victorias (the Latin word for “victory”), eight named Charles (Old English meaning “free man”), seven Marys and Edwards, and six named Louise and Alexandra. Other perpetually popular royal names include Alice, Elizabeth, Margaret, Charlotte, Arthur, William, and Henry.
Names for the reigning monarch tend to be repeated, unless a bad seed taints the name forever. There have been 11 King Edwards, eight King Henrys, and four King Williams. Conversely, there has been only one King John, probably due to his unpopularity as the monarch who was forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. There was also only one King Stephen, who reigned over a contested throne from 1135–1154, leading to a brutal civil war.
Before the Norman invasion of 1066, English rulers had names that today seem outlandish. According to Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy by Alison Weir, early Anglo-Saxon rulers included Athelstan, Eadred, Eadwig, and Aethelred. On the flip side, the Anglo-Saxons also introduced rulers named Edward. There were also two King Harolds, which resonates with the modern day. Harold, after all, was Prince William’s private nickname for his brother, Prince Harry.
Some have speculated about if there is a deeper meaning behind the nickname. After all, King Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king, was defeated by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The new Norman dynasty would bring a new set of names to the ruling family, including William, Henry, and Robert.