The world waited with bated breath to discover the name of the latest member of the British royal family. But why Louis?
Louis Arthur Charles: what's in a royal baby's name?
Among the royalists, loyalists and reporters who waited for news of the latest royal delivery in London last week, was a solitary republican with a loud hailer, desperately trying to persuade people of the error of their ways. “If you keep coming here,” he told the crowd, “then she is going to keep having them.” The response? A loud cheer.
Clearly, to the majority, more is better; and so - on the great Feast of St George, the Patron Saint of England and, no less, William Shakespeare’s birthday - a prince was born. Such exquisite timing. The third child of his parents, the fourth-living generation of the House of Windsor, the fifth in line to the British throne, and the sixth great-grandchild of the Queen. All His Royal Highness needed was three or four names.
The most neat and appropriate - George and William - had already been taken, by his brother and father. Would the bard inspire a name? Ajax or Alexander? Benedict or Bertram? Hector or Hubert? Oliver or Orlando? Prospero or Petruchio?
One can only imagine that, now they have produced a third child, a second spare to their requisite heir, the Cambridges felt they could relax and choose a name not out of duty but simply because they liked it. And not so quickly. George and Charlotte were named within two days; with William it was a week. The empire had to wait a whole month before Louis’s grandfather Charles was named by his parents, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Four days is not excessive, but in today’s world of instant gratification and naming in utero, it seemed interminable.
The gilded over-staffed nurseries of Hollywood and the glossy pages of Hello continue to add fantastic new monikers to the dictionary of babies’ names – Apple and Maple, Bronx and Brooklyn, Saint and Sunday. But these have been resisted by the cautious, conventional Cambridges in naming their third child and second son, Louis Arthur Charles (this writer admits to ever-so-fleeting disappointment that it was not Philip; but then one imagines the most resistant to such a sentimental gesture would have been the Duke of Edinburgh himself).
Of course, with ancient links and lineages, one can always find a name from even the recent past. His father, William Arthur Philip Louis, has two of his son’s names - in fact it was suggested at the time of William’s birth that Charles wanted to name him Arthur but Diana won with William.
William’s link to his mother remains potent and Diana’s nephew (and the heir to Althorp) is Louis Spencer. Louis also appears in the quartet/trio of given names of brother George Alexander Louis - and could be an acknowledgement of grandfather Charles’s devotion to his great uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten (born, in fact, Prince Louis in 1900; he was later given India and an earldom).
William never knew his great-grand-uncle, known to the family as "Dicky", but his influence was immense. Because of uncle Dicky, this Louis’s children will bear the surname Mountbatten Windsor. But wherefore Louis? Lord Louis’s father was also Louis, and a descendant of at least a dozen Louis, from Landgraves in 1402 to Grand Dukes, of Hesse until 1918, reminding us of the Windsors’ Germanic DNA. But the dynasty with the longest claim on Louis were the Bourbon kings of France - from Louis I, the fair and debonair in 778, to Louis Philippe who fled his throne for England in 1848. Although it is 170 years since the French rejected the Louis for la Republique, could this be a reconciliatory, royal post-Brexit plea from across the Channel? If not a cri de coeur; a cri de roi? "We Windsors are European, after all?"
In the past, second sons have found themselves crowned – Charles II, William IV, George V and George VI, and Henry VIII were either second or third sons. What is different today is that young Louis is the first prince in two millennia to concede precedence to an elder sister. After the change in the Succession Act in 2012, Charlotte remains fourth-in-line to the throne after her grandfather, father and elder brother. And her descendants, when the time comes, will push Louis further out. No wonder she was so radiant, so assured as she climbed the steps of St Mary’s Paddington to visit her bro. She may have been holding her father’s hand, but the other one was waving joyfully to the crowd, with all the pluck and charisma of her great-grandmother, Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and great grand-aunt Margaret.
But back to the boy himself. It seems likely that Louis will inherit his father’s Dukedom of Cambridge. His brother George will have enough titles to contend with; and his sister Charlotte should be the Princess Royal. But how will posterity recall him? Louis the Learned? Louis the Louche? Louis the Loyal? Louis the Lively? Whatever his legacy, we can only wish him well. Long live, Prince Louis.