“Choosing a name for a monarch is not trivial”

SSaturday, September 10, King Charles III was proclaimed. He becomes royal after more than sixty-four years as Prince of Wales. A few hours after the announcement of the queen’s death, doubt persisted about the name that the new sovereign would choose: George VII, in homage to his maternal grandfather, Charles III or another name yet? It will therefore be Charles III.

Since this decision, the commentators did not extend much on this choice. However, it raises several questions in the minds of those who know the history of the United Kingdom. By choosing to keep his first name as his reign name, the new king followed the example of his mother, born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, who had found it natural to keep her first name, but he moved away from that of his grandfather, born Alexander, became king as George VI. Let us also remember that Edward VIII was indeed called Edward but that he was known in private under the name of David, and that his own grandfather Edward VII had Albert as his first name, but was more commonly called “Bertie” so as not to confuse him with his father, husband of Queen Victoria.

The thwarted destinies of the Charles

As we can see, the choice of a name for a monarch is not insignificant. Charles’ situation is not comparable to that of his mother. For a future British sovereign, the first name Elizabeth refers to a historical period considered prosperous: the English Renaissance, the time of Shakespeare, the time of the Invincible Armada.

The name of Charles, on the other hand, immediately refers to two predecessors with thwarted destinies. Charles Stuart, first of the name, was executed for treason during the civil war between the supporters of Parliament and those of the Crown, in 1649, and led to the abolition of the institution of monarchy during the period of Oliver Cromwell. In this murderous spiral of the first half of the XVIIe century, Charles Ier bears a heavy responsibility.

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Charles II, his son, was the first king of the Restoration, in 1660, after the death of Cromwell. However, his reign is not necessarily perceived in a flattering way as the character, fickle and good-natured, left a poor image of his government. It was during his reign that Londoners had to suffer the Black Death of 1665 and the Great Fire of London of 1666. Died without a legitimate heir, he left the throne to his younger brother James (the future James II), of Catholic obedience in a Protestant country, which, having become king in its turn in 1685, was forced to abandon its kingdom at the time of the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. Thus, referring to such models may come as a surprise, especially since this period of British history saw the extent of royal power shrink considerably.

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