Will and Kate Only Have 9 Options When It Comes to Baby Names

Update: The Royal baby's name has been revealed by CNN as Prince George Alexander Louis.

Now that Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a baby boy, speculation about the new prince’s name will reach a high point. 

In 1982, when the prince’s father was born, the public had to wait a week before learning that his name was William Arthur Philip Louis. To pass the time, we can review past royal names to determine the most likely appellations for the new prince.

For starters, this boy is in direct line to the thrones of the Commonwealth realms, so he will need a name fit for a king. That gives his parents relatively few options. In fact, in the entire history of England since the Norman Conquest of 1066, there have only been nine regnal names of kings. They are (in order by the first king to use them): William, Henry, Stephen, Richard, John, Edward, James, Charles, and George.

Which of these regal names is most likely for the newest future king? Stephen and John are probably both out. Each name has been used only once and both are out of fashion with the royal family, possibly due to the poor reputations of the kings who bore them.  King Stephen was a usurper who was eventually forced to bequest the throne back to the rightful heir, while King John lost not only most of his territory but also the Crown Jewels.

Most of the other names are already in use by other members of the Royal family. Prince William, of course, is the name of the new prince’s father; Prince Charles is his grandfather and Prince Henry (“Harry”) his uncle. James is the first name of the baby’s 5-year-old cousin once removed, Viscount Severn. There are two men named Prince Edward in the royal family: the Earl of Wessex (the baby’s great-uncle) and the Duke of Kent (his cousin thrice removed). Prince Richard is the Duke of Gloucester, another cousin thrice removed of the baby.

So if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge want their child to have a unique name, George would be a strong choice indeed. It is the name of six of the nine kings since the Hanoverian succession in 1714 – including, most recently, the Queen’s beloved father King George VI.  And while “Prince George of Cambridge” might have one too many “g”s, the new prince’s title will change in time as the throne passes to his grandfather and then his father.

Of course, there’s no law that the new parents must name their son after a former king of England. They could choose instead a Scottish regal name such as Alexander, Robert, or David. They could name him Michael after the Duchess’s father, Michael Middleton. Another possibility is Albert, which was in fact the first name of both Edward VII and George VI; both of those kings chose to use one of their middle names as a regnal name.

Whatever the new prince’s name, it is sure to become a household one in Britain, Canada, the rest of the Commonwealth, and even here in the United States. Despite our long list of grievances against the baby’s 7th-great-grandfather King George III, we’re now in a Special Relationship with the country he is destined to rule.