What's In a Name…For a Future King of Great Britain?

BabyMove over, Harry, you’ve just been bumped.  As of earlier today, we have a new royal who’s third-in-line for the crown of Great Britain and you’ve been moved down to fourth (not that you care – this just means more time for parties in Vegas).

That’s right.  In case your Internet connection hasn’t been working until just now, you may not know that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (a.k.a. William and Catherine) had a baby boy today.  (Princess Diana would have been a grandmother today.)  Following royal tradition, they haven’t released the baby’s name yet so that game gets to continue for a few more days.

And now I get to play!

I’m not an expert on British royalty or all their traditions, but I have been fascinated by their monarchy since I was a kid.  When I wasn’t reading about John Carter and the Black Stallion I read my first biography, on Queen Elizabeth I, and I was hooked on those Tudors.  Between that and a burgeoning obsession with Princess Di (I even had her haircut!) I became fascinated with the British monarchy (for its entertainment and historical value only – I’m very glad we declared our independence from the monarchy).

CrownBoth Queen Elizabeth and Duchess Catherine (the future Queen Catherine) have names closely associated with the Tudors.  The Queen is only the second Queen Elizabeth, following in the footsteps of the daughter of Henry VIII who went on to become one of the greatest of the English monarchs (after a very rough childhood, thanks to her father’s ways).  And, of course, the first Elizabeth only came into existence because of her father’s fascination with her mother, Anne Boleyn, which led to him divorcing his first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon, and splitting away from the Roman Catholic Church to marry Anne.  (Henry went on to marry two more Catherines, one of whom he subsequently had beheaded.  Good thing it’s not as dangerous to be married to an English king anymore.)

William’s name, on the other hand, has another very important connection to English history – and the legal system we know today.  While there have been other King Williams, the most important William is William the Conquerer – a Norman who invaded England and became king in 1066.  1066: that’s a date I learned the first week of law school and I’ve never forgotten it.  While historically a bit overly simplistic, 1066 and William’s invasion of England are seen as the beginning of the tradition of common law, which we still use in the United States today.  Common law is not law based on statutes and regulations passed by legislative or executive bodies.  Instead, it’s built up out of judicial decisions, with the reasoning and holdings of those decisions used in future decisions (as precedent).

The goal, both then and now, of common law is to provide certainty to litigants and some consistency across courts and regions.  In reality, of course, it’s not perfect, but its lasted almost a thousand years old and is still relied upon (at least in part) by a third of the world’s population.

English KingAnyway, back to baby names…given the historical significance of his parents’ and great-grandmother’s name, what name will William and Kate chose for their son?  George is a historically weighty name, but there have been a lot of King Georges.  There’s the same problem with Henry.  Edward also has a long tradition, but given the Queen’s uncle’s abdication, I don’t think they’ll choose that name.  And Shakespeare ensured that we could never think of Richard in a positive light.  So I say they forget about impressive names and choose a more obscure kingly name that should be brought back: Edgar.  It may be a little too close to Edward for comfort but I’m placing my (fictional) money on Edgar for the new royal highness!



Previous articleOne of These Days, To the Moon!
Next articlePlease Vote for The Legal Geeks in the ABA Journal Blawg 100
Jessica has been litigating business and IP disputes for the past decade. During that time, she’s dealt with clients, lawyers, and judges who have varying degrees of appreciation for the challenges of managing discovery in an electronic age. Until the fall of 2011, she was an attorney at a large, Texas-based law firm, where she represented clients in state and federal court nationwide. That fall, she made a long-desired move back to the Midwest and is now a partner at Hansen Reynolds Dickinson Crueger LLC, a litigation boutique based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she continues to litigate while also consulting with business and law firms on e-discovery issues (before, during, and after litigation arises).