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How Do Royals Pick Their Regnal Names?

Members of the royal families go by many names. They often accumulate honors and other royal titles in the process. Sometimes they take on the names of the House where they belong. But how do they actually pick their names?

Royals pick their regnal names from any of their Christian or middle names. Prince Charles can opt to be called King Arthur, King George, or King Philip. All of these are his names.

What is a Regnal Name?

When a new monarch ascends to the throne and takes on kingship, or queenship, the monarch has the liberty to decide if they will keep their given name or take on a different, regnal name instead. (Source: Pop Sugar)

Most monarchs in the UK use their first baptismal name as their regnal name, and a roman numeral would be added if their name was already used in the past, like in the case of Queen Elizabeth II.

Despite popular belief, monarchs choosing their second or third baptismal name as their regnal name is quite uncommon. There have only been three occurrences of this in the past 200 years. Queen Victoria’s baptismal first name was Alexandrina, but she was always known to prefer her second name. She chose Victoria as her regnal name when she took on the throne.

Victoria’s eldest son also followed suit. According to historians, Prince Albert chose his regnal name Edward VII since Edward was one of his middle names and because he didn’t want to diminish the name of his father due to his decadent lifestyle.

The third time this happened was when George VI ascended to the throne. He was christened Albert but chose one of his middle names, George, as a tribute to his famous father. (Source: Royal Central)

Who Else Uses Regnal Names?

Regnal names aren’t exclusive to royal families and monarchs. In fact, using regnal names is much more common with popes. According to Catholic historians, when a person is anointed and given a special task from God, they get a new name that will help and inspire them, as well as the others around them.

Some accounts trace back the naming tradition to Pope John II. Pope John’s birth name was Mercurius, but he felt that it was inappropriate for the head of the Christian church to be the same name as a pagan god.

Popes have liberty in choosing their new name, says William Portier, the chair of Catholic theology at the University of Dayton. Popes put in the time to consider their papal name. Some choose their names to honor their predecessors, such as the case of Pope John Paul II. He took on Pope John Paul I, and in doing so, he showed the world his intention to continue the previous pope’s work.

Another good example was Pope Benedict XVI. he took on the name in honor of Pope Benedict XV, the reigning pope during world war I, and was the voice of peace. However, some popes chose their names considering slightly political reasons.

However, tradition dictates that there are other names that are considered off-limits. One good example is choosing the name, Peter. Peter is regarded as the first pope and is venerated as a saint. (Source: CTV News)

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