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What will be the Regnal name of the next King?

December 20th, 2008

Coronation of Elizabeth II

What name will the Prince of Wales choose?

When Prince Charles ascends to the throne of the United Kingdom, he will choose the regnal name by which he will be known. This name will be announced immediately, but used officially for the first time at his coronation by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The regnal name chosen, including the numbering, is part of the Royal Prerogative, according to MacCormick v. Lord Advocate (1953 SC 396), where the rector of the University of Glasgow challenged the right of Queen Elizabeth II to style herself ‘the Second’ when Elizabeth I had been Queen of England, but not of Scotland. His claim that such an ordinal breached the terms of the Act of Union was rejected by the courts. However, Parliament has drawn up guidelines for future regnal numerals which would see a King Robert numbered ‘the Fourth’ in recognition of three previous Roberts who were Kings of Scotland (see Winston Churchill, House of Commons Official Report cols 199-201, 15 April 1953)

On Christmas Eve 2004, the Times published a story entitled ‘Call me George VII, says Charles’. The reasoning apparently ran that the name Charles was associated with less-than-positive periods in English history, and that George would act as an appropriate act of homage to his grandfather, George VI. The source of the story was given to be ‘two trusted friends’ of the Prince of Wales.

Some months later, the Guardian ran a story headed ‘Charles denies planning to reign as King George’. Clarence House officials were apparently scornful (in private) of the George VII suggestion, but kept dutifully to the official line that no name had yet been chosen. Charles III would not only remind people of Charles I (executed for treason) and Charles II (more illegitimate children than could be counted), but also evokes a reminder of Bonnie Prince Charlie (who would have taken such a title).

So the question remains what regnal name HRH The Prince Charles Phillip Arthur George etc etc will take. The likelihood of a name change is apparently quite high. From the Times article cited above:

‘Patrick Cracroft-Brennan, a genealogist from Cracroft’s Peerage, said: “There has been a tradition over the last century for the regnal title to be different to the christian name. The change would make sense.

“Monarchs called Charles have not had much luck. One was beheaded, one was in exile, and one was a pretender to the throne”.’

So what choices, and at what odds? I have compiled a list of the most likely choices to inspire some debate. I do not feel entirely qualified to attach odds, but would be interested if people think we should draw up a book before this market is (inevitably) launched, as a baseline.

George VII – Most likely choice, given the closeness of the Prince to his late grandmother and the affection she felt for her well-though-of husband. In all probability, I’d say this was odds on.

Charles III – Unfortunate history of infidelity, exile and treason, but given the modern media, Prince Charles is better known than almost all his predecessors as Prince of Wales. If, in the mind of the global public, he will always be Charles, he may keep the name as part of his ‘personal brand’ and for ease. Probably second favourite, due to lack of imagination.

Henry IX – Although causing people to automatically think of royal divorces, the Henry’s have (in the mind of the nation) been great kings, either through their speeches in Shakespeare or their nation-building in the Tudor period. It would be a surprising, but not unpopular, choice. Third favourite?

William V – Always assumed that this would be left to his son, but there is no reason for thinking Prince William would choose his baptismal name. Good associations with William the Conqueror and William III of Orange (though might provoke a response in parts of Northern Ireland). Not unlikely.

James III – Already accused of being not Anglican enough (he wanted to be ‘Defender of Faith’ [generally] not the Faith, to the chagrin of many Anglicans), it is unlikely he would take the name of England’s last Catholic monarch, who was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution. The possibility of unwelcome comparisons drawn with James I might dent this name’s chances as well. Not likely.

Richard IV – Although much-maligned, Richard III was not the worst king England ever had – there is a neutrality in this name, given it has not been used by an English King since 1485. Still fairly unlikely.

Edward IX – Though never crowned, Edward VIII still counts as a king for the purposes of numbering. This name would remind everybody of a king who married a divorcee that no-one would tolerate as queen, and was forced to abdicate. No chance, surely?

Stephen II or John II – Completes the list of names used by English Kings since 1066. Stephen is one of the least-well-known kings, so may appeal. King John remains infamous from Robin Hood stories. Neither has seen their name copied by their successors. Pretty long shots, both.

Phillip I – One of Charles’ baptismal middle names. Not a name used by the English kings, but common in other European monarchies. Would be a hat-tip to his father, and would be an interesting choice, signifying a new type of monarch, perhaps. Reasonable chance, perhaps.

Robert IV or Alexander IV or David III or Malcolm V – The names of Scottish Kings that appear more than once since the Battle of Hastings (for comparable reference with English names). I don’t think these are likely, but I think each of them is due a comeback.

Of course, it may be that a name not used by a British king since the Battle of Hastings is chosen, or that Charles is not the next King at all. Prince William would still likely take one of the names mentioned here. Incidentally, both he and his father do have the middle name ‘Arthur’, although maybe that sets expectations a little too high …

Morus






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