Victoria? James? Or Kylie? How the royal baby name could mix the trendy and the traditional

Feverish speculation surrounds potential names for Prince Harry and Meghan's first child, and Harry and his brother, William, go their separate ways.

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Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, check out baby gifts they received during a visit to Canada House in London on March 11, 2019. (Chris Jackson/Associated Press)

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Amid the buzz surrounding the pending birth of the first child for Prince Harry, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, there's one question that prompts particularly fevered speculation: What will they name the baby expected sometime next month?

Will they follow royal tradition, with a name that has echoes of past monarchs and their consorts or relatives? Maybe a Victoria or a James? Or will they rip up the royal rule book — as Meghan has been doing since she joined the Royal Family after their marriage last May — and go for something a bit more radical?

Of course, there's always another option — namely, something that lands in the middle on the traditional/trendy spectrum. And that's what Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal author and historian, expects could happen.

"There may be opportunities for one of the middle names ... to be more unique, but I think the name chosen will be somewhere between a traditional royal name and a very trendy name," said Harris. "This royal baby is seventh in line to the throne, but is still in the top 10 at this time in the line of succession."

High up in the current line of succession, you get names like George and Charlotte, the two eldest children of Harry's older brother, Prince William, and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. There have already been six kings named George, and there was a queen consort named Charlotte.

Royal names range from the traditional to the much less so among the Queen's great-grandchildren, including Princess Charlotte, left, Savannah Phillips, Prince George and Isla Phillips. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

But go further down the line and royal baby names in recent years have taken a decidedly non-traditional tone: Savannah and Isla (the children of William's cousin Peter Phillips and his Canadian wife, Autumn Kelly), and Mia and Lena (daughters of Peter's sister Zara and Mike Tindall).

If you ask the British bookies, however, another name is riding high: Diana. As the name of Harry's late mother, the Princess of Wales, it comes with significant notoriety — and perhaps baggage. And that might rule it out, at least as a first name. (Charlotte, William and Kate's daughter, has Diana as a middle name.)

"I think we may well see Diana as a middle name [if Harry and Meghan's baby is a girl], but it would be a great deal to place on a child for her first name to be Diana," said Harris. "There would be constant comparisons in the press to her famous late grandmother."

Along with Diana, the bookies' odds are favouring names like Victoria, Alice, Arthur and James — more traditional names that have been in the Royal Family in previous generations.

Further down the bookies' lists are names that seem particularly unlikely, such as Joffrey or Kylie. And there are names that would seem to echo current U.K. politics: Theresa (for the prime minister, perhaps, at 100/1 or 200/1 odds) and Boris (for the former foreign secretary, with odds up to 500/1). Harris doesn't expect names of major politicians will land on the royal birth certificate — that could be seen as a political statement.

But it's not the first time a pending royal birth has made it into the broader discourse. When it was announced in September 2014 that Kate was expecting for the second time, it was just before the Scottish referendum. "There were jokes in the press about Scotland saying I'm leaving and England saying I'm pregnant," said Harris.

  • Royal births have been drawing public attention and scrutiny for generations. Our friends at CBC Archives have put together this look back at 70 years of reporting on the much-anticipated arrivals.

Will the baby be a prince or princess?

The Queen's daughter, Princess Anne, opted not to have her daughter Zara, left, and son Peter given titles. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

So far, based on the way titles are handed out, the answer is no. But that could change if Prince Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, steps in, as she did for William and Kate's children.

"The Queen can of course issues letters patent in order to adjust how titles are distributed, as she did in the case of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, ensuring that all of their children would be princes and princesses," said Harris. "Certainly that decision could be made for Harry and Meghan's child."

As it stands, the new baby could take on one of Harry's lesser titles and become Earl of Dumbarton. A daughter could become Lady (First Name) Mountbatten-Windsor.

Of course, Harry and Meghan could opt out of the whole matter of titles altogether — and there is royal precedence for doing that. Harry's aunt, Princess Anne, chose not to have her children, Peter and Zara, given titles at all.

William and Harry go their separate ways

Prince Harry, left, and Prince William take a ride on the Maid of the Mist with their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in Niagara Falls, Ont., in 1991. (Hans Deryk/Canadian Press)

For most of their lives, Princes William and Harry have been something of a package deal. Two brothers close in age, they have been in many ways united in the public psyche, particularly after the death of their mother, Diana, in 1997. They were just 15 and 12.

Even in the royal bureaucracy that is the House of Windsor, a union developed, with their comings and goings overseen by a single royal household — or office. It had grown to include their wives, Kate and Meghan.

So it was notable when it was announced the other day that their current administrative arrangement is coming to an end, with the establishment later this spring of a new household for Harry and Meghan.

"This long-planned move will ensure that permanent support arrangements for the duke and duchess's work are in place as they start their family and move to their official residence at Frogmore Cottage," the official announcement said.

William and Kate's household will remain at Kensington Palace, while Harry and Meghan's new operation will be at Buckingham Palace.

It's yet another signal in the carefully managed plan to move the House of Windsor forward in the 21st century. Much commentary since the split was announced has tried to parse what it all means, with suggestions that as the brothers are growing older and their lives diverge, the move was inevitable.

Kate, William, Harry and Meghan attend the Commonwealth Service with other members of the Royal Family at Westminster Abbey in London on March 11, 2019. (Richard Pohle/Associated Press)

"The creation of separate courts reflects the boys' changing responsibilities. It is the clearest sign yet that William is destined for the throne and thus inevitably pushing his brother to the margins of royal life," Richard Kay wrote in the Daily Mail.

Harry and Meghan have lead roles in the Queen's Commonwealth Trust, which has a particular focus on youth, and it would come as no surprise if they also wish to embark on particular charitable efforts.

"Harry and Meghan's work will be very different to what William and Kate will be doing, so it makes sense for them to have their own team to support [it]," a source told Vanity Fair's Katie Nicholl.

Still, in all the chatter around the move, there was some room for intrigue. The Times reported that Harry and Meghan had wanted total royal freedom, but the Queen and Prince Charles, who foot the bill for their office, said no.

Royally quotable

Kate gets artistic during a visit to the Foundling Museum in London on March 19, 2019. (Eddie Mulholland/Associated Press)

"I have always believed in the power of art, not only to unlock [children's] creativity, but also to bring us joy, and to inspire, challenge and positively change our lives."

— Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, as she took on a new patronage this week at the Foundling Museum in London. The museum looks at the history of the first children's charity and public art gallery in the United Kingdom.

The royals in Canada

Prince William, left, Prince Charles and Prince Harry try out some Canadian gear during a visit to Vancouver in 1998. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

The closeness between William and Harry was on display in Canada 21 years ago when they came to British Columbia. Their six-day visit began on March 23, 1998, and took the brothers and Prince Charles to Vancouver and Whistler, where they hit the slopes for a private holiday.

The visit came about six months after their mother's death, and attracted huge media attention.

Plus, at age 15, William was perceived as something of heartthrob. Teenage girls in particular screamed and swooned at the prospect of seeing the young prince.

Young girls can't wait for their chance to see Prince William as he arrives at a school in Burnaby, B.C., in 1998. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Royal reads

  • Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are in the Caribbean right now, and it's a notable trip for several reasons. It is seen as part of efforts to reinforce Charles's role as the next head of the Commonwealth, and represents a milestone that will be marked starting Sunday: the first official visit by a member of the Royal Family to Cuba. [The Telegraph] 
  • The Queen and Kate had their own first a few days ago: the first official outing with just the two of them. [Daily Mail] 
  • Monarchs have long known the power of a good portrait, although the messages they are conveying have changed. [The Guardian] 
  • Harry and Meghan and their pending parenthood may be top of mind for many royal followers, but how did other royals get along raising families? The creator of the TV series Victoria sees a double standard around that monarch and another one — Henry VIII — when it comes to how they are perceived as parents. [The Telegraph] 
  • Recent biographies and documentaries have served up a view of the Queen's younger sister, Princess Margaret, as a willful, mercurial royal who may not have been all that nice. A cache of letters from her teenage years offers a different view. [The Times] 
  • Young Canadians were front and centre when Harry and Meghan visited Canada House in London to mark Commonwealth Day. [CBC]

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.