Pass the cigars and let's uncork a little of the bubbly with the fabulous news we've all been waiting for: Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William are proud parents of a new healthy baby boy, who weighed in at 8 pounds, 6 ounces, at central London's St. Mary's Hospital, the same hospital where William and Harry were born.
Before the dawn of the 20th and 21st centuries, the birth of a royal baby was marked by a number of regal traditions, which sadly, except for a lingering few, have faded into the night air. Two British historians (Robert Bucholz and Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith) told me gone are the traditions of the bells ringing from church steeples across Britain to announce the birth of a new heir to the throne; gone too are the lit bonfires and the court distributing wine at the gates of the palace, especially common during the Tudor period. Patrick Allitt, professor of history at Emory University, moreover, said that before DNA tests became so common and so reliable, the Lord Chancellor was present at the birth to make sure the baby was genuine and that an impostor had not been sneaked into the room (a so-called "warming-pan baby").
Thankfully, a few royal traditions still remained on Monday, namely, the posting of a birth announcement on an easel in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace along with the traditional Town Crier outside St. Mary's hospital to make known the news of the birth of the new prince.
With the traditional formalities in announcing the birth behind us, now all the proud parents have to do is to reveal to the world the name of their new son.
But don't hold your breath; the announcement could take a while. After all, William's name wasn't revealed until a week after his birth; and his father Charles-even longer-an entire month in 1948.
So all we can really do is speculate and place down our bets as to what the name of the new prince will be. All we know for sure is the new addition to the royal family will have an H.R.H before his name and be known as "Prince... of Cambridge.''
Possibly, much like Charles and Diana, there might be some sparring going on between Kate and William over the new name. It's been well documented when Diana gave birth in 1982; she wanted a modern name for her son. Charles and the Queen, on the other hand, insisted on a traditional royal name, one well suited for a future king. A grand bargain was struck when they settled on William, perfect for a future king with echoes to William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England, who reigned from 1066 until his death in 1087. Diana, still bent on modernizing the name of her new son, shortened it to "Wills'' or the more playful "Wombat.''
In 1894, Queen Victoria, known for flamboyant fits of anger got worked up over the Duke of York wanting to name her great-grandson Edward after the duke's elder brother ("Eddy'') who died of pneumonia two years before. The child eventually ended with the name: Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, later The Duke of Windsor and eventually King Edward VIII before abdicating in 1936 after proposing to Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was in the midst of divorcing her second husband.
Since my personal suggestions for the name of the baby (Jethro, Sparky, and Wolfgang) have apparently fallen on deaf ears at Buckingham Palace, I thought I would turn to some British specialists who are more equipped than I am in speculating what the name of the new prince will likely be.
Here, then, are some responses which came back.
- "The names are usually carefully chosen: usually names of former monarchs with a good reputation (e.g. Elizabeth; William; Henry; Edward) or with dynastic associations (e.g. George). Some names seem to have become taboo because of bad associations (e.g. no John since 13th century; no Richard since Richard III; no James since James II). I wonder if Edward will be ruled out in future because of Edward VIII's abdication in 1936. That said, I don't think most of the public have that much of a historical awareness of such significances - they just know that some names seem to be 'appropriate' for monarchs because they are frequently chosen. Personally I always thought Charles was an odd choice for the present Prince of Wales (Charles I was executed after a Civil War with his own Parliament and Charles II was both personally dissolute and politically suspect because of his liking for France, catholicism and absolutism). The present Charles hasn't exactly been universally respected, come to think of it - maybe it was a prophetic choice! ''
-Keith Wrightson, Randolph W. Townsend Jr. Professor of History at Yale University, specifically 'early modern' England (c.1450-1750), specializing in social, economic and cultural history.
- "All names are significant, of course and royal names especially so because you want to avoid bad precedents: no Richards, no Edwards and they don't seem to be ready yet for another Henry. My bet's on George or something completely non-royal, like John, Paul or Ringo.''
- Robert O. Bucholz, a leading authority on the history of the British court, the social history of early modern England, and the emergence of London as global cultural center during and after the sixteenth century is a professor of history at Loyola University Chicago, where he teaches courses on the history of early modern Great Britain, the city of London and Western Civilization.
"My money is on George, but we'll have to see. The choice of George could be a way to re-habilitate the old Duke's reputation, and to honor the present Queen's father, who was George VI, and about as deeply devoted to public service to the country as the present Queen herself.
But a good second favorite might be James, which would be a way of reinforcing the royal family's connections to Scotland and the importance for Britain of the Act of Union, on the eve of a Scottish referendum to declare independence.
Edward is probably still tainted by the abdication crisis. Arthur has legendary connections but is tainted by tragedy. So, the possibilities really are constrained by history and tradition.''
-Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of California (Davis Campus).
- "I'm voting for George as a nice way to balance something safe, traditional, and Hanoverian against recent changes in the succession, etc. George reminds you there will always be an England.''
-John Watkins, Professor in the Department of English (with a specialty in sovereignty and queenship) at the University of Minnesota.
- "Name will come off a short list. I expect, George, Henry, William, Albert, or Edward.''
-Tom Mockaitis, professor of history at DePaul University, where he teaches courses in British, Modern European, and Military History.
Cross-posted from Bill Lucey's blog, Newspaper Alum.