As the world waits for the birth of a new royal baby, the most pressing question on everyone’s minds is also the simplest: will it be a little prince or a little princess? The second biggest question, and one of course contingent upon the answer to the gender query, is what William and Kate are going to name their royal scion. Because we can’t see into the future and tell you what the royal baby will be called, instead let’s take a look back at some of the more colorful names given to those who warmed the English throne in years gone by. Will the new heir share the handle of one of his/her ancient forebears? We’re guessing… no.
Amazing that this handle didn’t find its way into the pantheon of more common royal names, isn’t it? Why wasn’t there a Harthacnut IV? That would have been a great one for Shakespeare, right? Lots of rhyming potential! Beyond being a mouthful, the main reason that King Harthacnut’s name died along with him is that he was the last Danish kings to hold the English throne. After his two year reign ended in June, 1042, the Saxons reclaimed the throne, though they would hold it for less than a quarter century before the fateful Norman Invasion of 1066.
4 Sweyn Forkbeard
You have to hand it to this guy—not only did he have a better name than J.R.R. Tolkien could have dreamt up, he also was also the nominal King of England… for all of one month. Ol’ King Sweyn was born to a Danish king sometime in the latter half of the 10th century, and spent much of his life raiding the English isles, because that’s just what Norsemen did. On his fourth or fifth major invasion of England, Forkbeard finally crushed his opponents, and was made king on Christmas Day of 1013. He died in early February of the very next year.
3 Empress Matilda
The first woman to rule over England did so for fewer than seven months and was never universally accepted as the rightful ruler. Matilda, AKA Maude, had a marginally sound claim to the throne due to her father, Henry I, proclaiming that she should take over after his death. When that death occurred, a power struggle commenced that saw Matilda briefly considered monarch by some, though she never formally ascended to the throne. She got her title of “Empress” because Matilda was the undisputed Holy Roman Empress for more than a decade, and hey, that’s pretty good.
From the year 802 until 839, England (or rather the kingdom of Wessex, antecedent to England as we know it) was ruled by a man with one of the dorkiest names in history. To be fair, there is much evidence pointing to King Egbert’s prowess as a military leader, and he expanded his kingdom so much that he can fairly be thought of as the first king to rule most of modern England. But still… the guy’s name was Egbert.
1 Ethelred the Unready
When your name is Ethelred, you start off with both feet in a hole. When your subjects start referring to you as “the Unready,” you might want to consider a swift abdication, retiring to a life of quiet leisure. Instead, Ethelred spent much of his life, which spanned from around 967 – 1018, fighting to onto the crown he had inherited when his father and then brother died. Ethelred was crowned king while in his not yet a teenager, and thus spent much of his monarchy being counseled by others. His nickname, in fact, is likely a misinterpretation of words meaning “badly advised” rather than “unready,” and this is a comment not so much on him but on others in his court.