What’s in a name? Louis Arthur Charles is a nod to Prince of Wales and Prince Philip’s murdered mentor
All hail Louis Arthur Charles. After keeping the world on tenterhooks for almost five days, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have announced the name of their newest arrival. And what a lovely name it is. It is also the perfect riposte to those who have, rather unkindly, suggested in recent days that there is some sort of animosity between the Duke and Prince Charles. The grandfather-of-three has been prevented from rushing to his eldest son’s side to coo over the baby by royal duty, in Scotland, something that is soon to be remedied. It is hard to image a more beautiful tribute to your father than naming your son after him, not just once, but twice. The Prince of Wales’s full moniker is Charles Philip Arthur George – so memorably mixed up by Princess Diana at their wedding in 1981, when she called him, at the altar, Philip Charles Arthur George.
Just as Charles was given his father’s name, William has now carried on that tender tradition and bestowed two of his father’s names – Charles and Arthur – on little Louis. And the show of affection towards Prince Charles doesn’t stop there. Louis – or His Royal Highness Prince Louis of Cambridge, to give him his official title – is a heartwarming nod to the man Prince Charles loved more than any other: his great-uncle Louis Mountbatten. It also features in William’s full name (William Arthur Philip Louis) and four-year-old Prince George’s (George Alexander Louis).
Louis Mountbatten – more correctly 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-79) – was the Supreme Allied Commander of South-East Asia Command in the Second World War, the last Viceroy of India in 1947 and, later, the First Sea Lord. He was also a supreme operator – perhaps the supreme operator – in royal circles. It was Mountbatten who helped to successfully orchestrate the marriage between his nephew Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth in 1947; and Mountbatten who advised his great-nephew Prince Charles on all things formal and informal. Both Philip and Charles were devastated when, in 1979, Mountbatten and his grandson Nicholas were murdered by the IRA, who had planted a bomb in their fishing boat in County Sligo.
When Prince William was born, three years later, that brutal act was still strong in Charles’s mind – thus the tribute in his son and heir’s name. These days, of course, Louis is also a hip-Sloane name, familiar in prep school playgrounds across west London. In recent years, it has been a consistently popular British choice, wavering between 61st and 71st in the name charts over the last decade. Arthur, meanwhile, has soared over 200 places up the rankings to number 30. The name means ‘bear’ and also resonates with the mythical King and his Knights of the Round Table. Charles, incidentally, means ‘man’ or ‘warrior’, and has a long royal lineage (even if Charles I met a somewhat grisly end and the monarchy, temporarily, with him).
Some commentators have suggested that the new royal baby name has been given in a last-ditch attempt to advertise the Cambridges’ street cred before Meghan-mania sweeps the land on May 19. Nothing could be further from the truth. From their childhood days, Prince William has always been the steady-as-he-goes, straight-down-the-middle prince; while Prince Harry has been Hal, roister-doistering with his school chums, before settling into a life of military service. But, still, isn’t Louis a bit, well, French? It casts the mind back to rather awkward days for royal families: the French Revolution in 1789 and Louis XVI, who lost his head to the guillotine four years later. The name is certainly French in origin, meaning ‘famous in battle’.
But our Royal Family have been using it regularly for over a century – and, like so many of our royal traditions, its popularity lies with the German monarchy, who favoured it as long ago as the 15th century. When Louis Mountbatten was born in 1900, at Frogmore House in the shadow of Windsor Castle, he was actually called His Serene Highness Prince Louis of Battenberg. It was only in 1917 – with public awkwardness at the German blood of our royals during the First World War – that the ‘Battenberg’ was changed to Mountbatten (‘berg’ being German for ‘mount’). Still, Mountbatten understandably kept his first name, Louis – also the name of his father, and great-grandfather.
ChannelMum.com baby names expert SJ Strum says, “William and Kate are mindful of their Royal responsibilities and have selected a name which works on three levels – as a suitably grand Royal name, on the international stage as the new Prince will be known across the globe, and also a moniker which is already popular in playgrounds and matches their desire to give their children as ‘normal’ a childhood as possible.” So, the besotted new parents have alighted on a name that squares the royal circle; fashionable, sentimental and noble at the same time. And one that will please little Louis’s royal grandfather immensely.