Last Friday, I speculated on the names of the first child of William and Kate, and, inevitably, Victoria was high on the list.
It is a little ironic that Victoria would now be considered a very traditional and conventional choice for a royal baby.
That wasn’t true when Victoria was named; Victoria — Latin for “victory” — was a rare name in Britain at the time, although it had been in use since the sixteenth century, one of the names plucked from Classical Antiquity. For to the Romans, Victoria was the personification of victory, and worshipped as a Goddess.
Why did Victoria receive such a name? Because that’s what her mother was called. She was Marie Louise Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield.
It wasn’t actually Queen Victoria’s first name, either. That was Alexandrina, after Tsar Alexander I of Russia.
Something else that is mildly ironic is the fact that since Victoria died, only one member of the royal family has received a name which had not been previously borne by a prince or princess of England or the United Kingdom — and that is Andrew. Yet Victoria herself actually made quite a point of breaking with tradition in the naming of her own children.
And her family makes a most interesting sibset.
Oldest of Queen Vicky’s children, born in 1840, was the Princess Royal, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa. Victoria was not just in honor of the Queen, but also the Queen’s mother, who was one of the little princess’s godmothers — the others being Adelaide, the wife of Victoria’s uncle, King William IV, and Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, one of the daughters of King George III. Louisa was the name of Prince Albert’s mother. Princess Victoria married Kaiser Friedrich III in 1858, and was the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. She died aged only 48, in 1888.
Second was Albert Edward, born in 1841, who ruled as King Edward VII. In naming the heir to the throne such, Victoria caused quite a stir at the prospect of a future King Albert. That had, indeed, been Victoria’s wish; Edward himself chose to rule as Edward upon his succession. He was named after his father, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and Victoria’s father, Edward, Duke of Kent, who had died when she was only a baby.
The third child was the tragic Princess Alice, later Grand Duchess of Hesse, whose full name was Alice Maud Mary. Alice, like Albert, had never been borne by a member of the Royal Family before. It is said it was suggested by the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who was close to Victoria. Likewise Maud was also a break with tradition, demonstrating Victoria’s medieval tastes, though it was a nod to one of Princess Alice’s godparents, Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester (Maud, as most folk know, being a medieval form of Matilda). She was born in 1843, and died in 1878, aged just 35, of diptheria, a month after her four year old daughter had also died of the disease.
Her family was particularly ill-fated; her two-year-old son had died a few years earlier after a fall from a window, while two of her daughters died in the Russian Revolution. Alix (later the Tsarina Alexandra) was famously shot with her family in a basement in 1917. Elizabeth, who married Grand Duke Sergei of Russia, was brutally murdered in 1918 along with other members of the imperial family. They were thrown down a mineshaft, grenades thrown in after them, and left to die.
Fourth of Queen Victoria’s children was Alfred Ernest Albert, later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Known as Affie, he was the second British prince to be called Alfred since the time of King Alfred; the first was one of the younger sons of King George III. He had died in infancy. Ernest was another new name in the British royal family — an import from Germany. It was the name of Prince Albert’s brother. Alfred was born in 1844, and died in 1900.
Queen Victoria’s fifth child was Princess Helena, later Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. Born in 1846, her full name was Helena Augusta Victoria. Helena was another new name for the royal family; she was named after one of her godparents, Hélène, Duchess of Orleans. Augusta was likewise in honor of a godparent, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge. Princess Helena lived to quite a good age, dying in 1923 at the age of 77.
Sixth of Queen Victoria’s progeny was Princess Louise, later Duchess of Argyll. Born in 1848, her full, correct name was Louisa Caroline Alberta. Though baptised Louisa, she was always known as Louise. Caroline had been the name of King George IV’s estranged wife, and Alberta was, of course, in honor of her father. She lived to the ripe old age of 91, dying in Kensington Palace in 1939.
The Seventh child was Prince Arthur, later Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. He was born in 1850, and also lived to be 91, dying in 1942. His full name was Arthur William Patrick Albert. Arthur was very much a choice in line with Victorian fashion, and its love of all things Arthurian. He wasn’t the first prince to bear the name — but it had been a long time since the last: Arthur, Prince of Wales, the oldest son of King Henry VII, who died aged 15 in 1502. One of the Duke of Connaught’s godparents, however, was the Duke of Wellington, whose name was, surprise surprise — Arthur. He also shared the prince’s birthday. The choice of William was in honor of both King William IV and another of Prince Arthur’s godparents, Wilhelm, then Crown Prince of Prussia, and later Kaiser Wilhelm I (he later became the Princess Royal’s father-in-law). No British prince had ever been called Patrick before, and its choice was in homage to Ireland — it was no coincidence Prince Arthur was made Duke of Connaught.
Prince Leopold was the penultimate child; later made Duke of Albany, his full name was Leopold George Duncan Albert. Leopold, another new name in the royal family tree, was in honor of the King of Belgium, whose first wife was Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter and heiress of King George IV, whose death in childbirth led to King George’s unmarried sons scrambling to marry and produce a new heir to the throne (which led to Queen Victoria’s birth). Leopold also happened to be the uncle of both Victoria and Albert; Victoria’s mother was his sister, and Albert’s father was his brother. George was actually in honor of his godfather, King George V of Hanover, grandson of King George III. Leopold received the name Duncan in the same way Arthur acquired Patrick; the Dukedom of Albany had once been borne by heirs to the throne of Scotland. Leopold had the shortest life of all Victoria’s children; he was a haemophiliac and may also have epilepsy. He died in 1884, aged 30.
The youngest of Queen Victoria’s children was Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore, later Princess Henry of Battenberg. Beatrice was yet another name new to the royal family — as was Feodore. Mary was once more in honor of Mary, Duchess of Cambridge, and Feodore was after Victoria’s older half-sister, Anna Feodora of Leiningen. Feodore is one way in which the Russian form of Theodora is transliterated into the Latin alphabet from the Cyrillic. Beatrice was born in 1859, and lived to be 87. She was the last of Victoria’s children to die, passing on in 1944.