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Ten unusual royal middle names

On July 17th 1947, a little girl was born at King’s College Hospital, London and given a rather rare first name.  Camilla, first child of Major Bruce Shand and his wife, Rosalind, would become known around the world by the name her parents gave her in the days after her arrival but the child who grew up to be HRH The Duchess of Cornwall also brought an unusual middle name into the Royal Family.

While the royals are known for keeping things traditional when it comes to choosing names, there are some surprises hidden away in the full appellations of the family. Here are ten unusual royal middle names.

1.  Rosemary 

Camilla Shand was given the middle name Rosemary and, so far, she’s the only royal to bear it. Her maternal grandmother, born in London in 1900, was called Sonia Rosemary Keppel and the name passed to her granddaughter.

Rosemary was quite popular in 1947 and featured in the top 40 names for girls born in the UK.  As a girl’s name, it means ‘mist of the sea’ as well as being the name of a herb.  It’s fallen out of fashion in recent years but, thanks to the Duchess of Cornwall, it now has a place in royal history.

2.  Franklin

Throughout centuries, royal babies have received the names of their godparents at the font but it’s not often that the sponsor is a President of the United States.  In 1942, at the height of the war, the Duke and Duchess of Kent invited Franklin D. Roosevelt to be godfather to their second son and gave the baby the president’s name as an additional honour.

Which means that the Queen’s cousin ended up being called Prince Michael George Charles Franklin of Kent.  His unusual name means ‘free’ and was briefly popular in the 1940s.  Today, it’s rarely used and Prince Michael of Kent is still the only royal to bear it.

3.  Christabel

Baby Michael should have seen something unusual coming his way as his big sister had been given a rather special name of her own.  The Duke and Duchess of Kent gave their only daughter, Alexandra, the middle name Christabel but it wasn’t the first time this very unusual name had found its way into royal circles.

Princess Alexandra was born on Christmas Day – just like her aunt by marriage, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.  Alice’s parents had chosen Christabel to mark their daughter’s festive birthday and the Duke and Duchess of Kent followed suit and gave their Christmas baby the same middle name.  Christabel remains generally rare although it seems to be establishing a royal connection as the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester’s youngest daughter, Lady Rose Gilman, named her daughter Lyla Beatrix Christabel in 2010.

4.  Inigo

Say Inigo and chances are that someone will say ‘Jones’.  It’s known around the world as the name of one of Britain’s most famous architects and so it’s no real surprise that it was chosen by royal arts fan, Viscount Linley, as one of his son’s names.

In 1999, he and his wife Serena named their first child Charles Patrick Inigo.  The name is a version of the Basque name ‘Eneko’ which has its roots in a word for love.  No one else in the Royal Family seems to have fallen in love with it though – young Charles is still the only member of the House of Windsor to bear it.

5.  Ophelia

The House of Kent do like to add an unusual name or two to the royal pot and Prince Michael made sure that reputation for innovation continued when he gave his only daughter a middle name made famous as that of a Shakespearean heroine.

Lady Gabriella Marina Alexandra Ophelia Windsor, born in April 1981, ended up studying literature at Brown University so it’s perhaps appropriate that she was given a name created by an Italian poet and then borrowed by the world’s most famous playwright.  Ophelia means ‘help’ in its original form and it’s occasionally used as a name today.

6. Walter

Walter is an old name, brought to England by the Normans.  But while several noble families have used it throughout the centuries, it had never troubled the royal history books.  Until the 1940s.

The then Duke and Duchess of Gloucester welcomed a second son in 1944 who was at that time fifth in line to the throne.  He was given the suitably royal name of Richard but his middle names included a nod to one of his maternal great grandfathers, a long dead Duke of Buccleuch.  And that’s how Walter, meaning ‘ruler of the army’ became a royal name.  The little boy grew up to be the present Duke of Gloucester.

7.  Marguerite

In the late 19th century and the early 1900s, there was a trend for floral names.   Rose, Daisy and Violet quickly became favourites but for parents who wanted something a bit different, there were plenty of unusual flowers to pick from.  And when the girl who would grow up to be the Queen Mother was born in August 1900 her parents hid a pretty flower among her names – they called her Elizabeth Angela Marguerite.

Her parents had aready shown a fondness for flower names – the Queen Mother’s eldest sister had been called Violet but she died before little Elizabeth was even born.  Another of her sisters was called Rose.  But it was their choice of a more unusual floral name for their youngest daughter that ensured the Earl and Countess of Strathmore turned Marguerite into a royal flower.

8.  Hamilton

Timothy Laurence married the Princess Royal on December 12th 1992 at a small ceremony in Craithie Parish Church, near Balmoral.  And among the names that were read out at the altar during their wedding was a very traditional Scottish one – Hamilton.

Timothy James Hamilton Laurence was born in 1955 in London.  Hamilton became a surname centuries ago usually denoting that its bearer came from the area of Hamilton in Lanarkshire.  In recent years, there’s been a fashion for using surnames as given names but Vice Admiral Laurence is the only member of the current House of Windsor to be part of that trend.

9. Kathleen

Kathleen was one of the most popular names for girls in Britain the first part of the 20th century but it never found its way into royal circles.  But when Peter and Autumn Phillips welcomed their first daughter in 2010, they used it as one of her middle names – in honour of her maternal grandmother.

The name is the anglicized version of the Irish Caitlin which ultimately shares its roots with that very royal name, Katherine.  In the 1910s and 20s it was regularly one of the top ten names given to girls.  But it wasn’t until the arrival of Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips that this popular name became a royal one as well.

10.  Theo

The Earl and Countess of Wessex called their son, James Alexander Philip Theo, but when their choices were announced just days after his birth in December 2007, his final name surprised many.  It’s usually a shortened version of Theodore but in James’ case it’s more likely a nod to his maternal great grandfather who was called Theophilus Rhys-Jones.

Theophilus was named after his own father and grandfather – in fact, the family were rather fond of the name which means ‘friend of God’ .  So Viscount Severn might have had an even more unusual middle name.  Even so, the youngest grandchild of the Queen still brings another interesting addition to the list of unusual royal middle names.