Articles - July August 2019

Naming Names: ARCHIE HARRISON'S Early Life

Did Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle really name their firstborn Archie after a ginger-haired American comic strip teenager? That and other questions surround the naming of the much awaited Sussex arrival. The traditional span of first names chosen for British royal babies is a narrow one, with a proliferation of Elizabeths, Annes, Georges, and Edwards. So the couple’s choice of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor came as a surprise to many.

It turns out, however, that the name Archie – short for Archibald – is currently popular in the United Kingdom for baby boys. It was listed 18th among the most popular names of 2017, according to the British Office for National Statistics, and Harrison was 34th. But if anything the baby’s first name is more likely to remind the British of Archie MacDonald, the lead character in a long running, popular television series of the early 2000s, Monarch of the Glen rather than his American comic namesake. As for Harrison, it means Son of Harry.

The addition of Mountbatten-Windsor is a tribute to Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s 96-year-old husband, but is also a reminder of a long family conflict involving the queen, her spouse and successive British prime ministers.

He was born Prince Philip of Greece, but of German origin on his mother’s side, and the brother of three sisters all married to Germans. When he joined the Royal Navy and obtained British nationality he took the name of his uncle and mentor, Louis Mountbatten (later Earl Mountbatten of Burma). But Mountbatten was an Anglicized version of the German Battenburg, which was also his mother’s maiden name.
The problems began when, as the husband of newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II, a Windsor, he expected his own children to take his name and, in effect, to start the House of Mountbatten. But he had reckoned without Winston Churchill and the residual anti-German feeling of the British population, still making an arduous recovery from World War II.

Prime Minister Churchill warning that adopting Prince Philip’s name would be unpopular with the British public swayed the young queen. She agreed to a proclamation in 1952 that her family “should continue to bear the family name of Windsor.” A furious Prince Philip complained to friends: “Am I the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children? I’m a bloody amoeba.”

But the rule stuck, despite Earl Mountbatten pressing for a name change on his nephew’s behalf. And almost a decade later Queen Elizabeth agreed to a grudging compromise. Males in the family could style themselves Mountbatten-Windsor – with the provision that the change would not apply to her or her children, or any royal who qualified for the title His (or Her) Royal Highness (HRH), such as her first cousins, the royal dukes.

So HRH Prince Harry was correct in naming his son Mountbatten-Windsor, even though the prince didn’t qualify to use it himself; and it was seen as a sign of respect to the monarch’s aged husband, his grandfather.

In a departure from royal usage, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex followed their own plan in giving birth to their first child, keeping details private. It later emerged that their plans for a home birth had changed, and their son was born at Portland Hospital in central London. “That meant that the strange British circus of journalists, photographers, royal superfans and bemused passers-by gawking at a hospital door for days on end would not happen,” commented the BBC.

Prince Harry took time off to make what to many was a surprise appearance at the wedding in the Royal Chapel Windsor of Lady Gabriella Windsor, daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, to Thomas Kingston. Prince Michael is Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin, and both the monarch and her husband Prince Philip headed the collection of royal relations at the nuptials. It was the third royal wedding in the 15th century church in less than a year, including Prince Harry’s own to Meghan Markle. Lady Gabriella wore a gown by the Italian designer Luisa Beccaria, and a fringe diamond tiara called the Kent City of London Fringe tiara and worn by her grandmother Princess Marina at her own wedding.

Commenting on the birth, Prince William welcomed his brother “into the sleep deprivation that is parenting,” But the arrival of the child impacts Meghan Markle’s position, too, within the closed, rarified, and still somewhat rigid institution of the British monarchy. From being the wife of a royal prince she is now also mother of the seventh in line to the British throne consolidating her place in the royal family. The royal succession: Prince Charles, his son Prince William, William and Kate’s children in the order they were born - Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, baby Archie’s own father, Prince Harry, then Archie himself.

Meghan Markle has also earned a special place in English history as the mother of the first mixed-race child born to a senior member of the royal family in centuries, reflecting Britain’s multi-racial population. In addition, royal experts also theorize that baby Archie can have both British and U.S. citizenship.

Prince Harry and his American wife have opted not to give Archie a title, when he could have been styled Earl of Dumbarton, acquiring one of his father’s titles. This was seen as a sign that the child’s Anglo-American parents want him to have what Prince Harry once called “a relatively normal life.” But what can be termed normal in that particular circumstance has yet to be seen. The Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor story is just beginning.

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