This photo went wildly viral earlier this week. Taken to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday, it shows the longest reigning British monarch with the youngest members of the royal family. They are:

  • Her youngest grandchildren, the son and daughter of the queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, and his wife, Sophie. Their names are Lady Louise Alice Elizabeth Mary and James Alexander Philip Theo, Viscount Severn.
  • The queen’s eldest great-greatchild, the daughter of Peter Phillips and his Canadian-born wife, Autumn Kelly. Her name is Savannah Anne Kathleen. Peter and Autumn are also the parents of daughter Isla Elizabeth.
  • Peter’s sister, Zara Phillips, is mother to daughter Mia Grace, with husband Mike Tindall. Zara and Peter are the children of the queen’s eldest daughter, Princess Anne. Anne and her husband decided against titles for their children.
  • And, of course, there’s Prince George Alexander Louis and the littlest royal, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, the grandchildren of the queen’s eldest son, Prince Charles.

It’s easy to get lost in the adorable family photo. (They swear Mia picking up her great-granny’s purse was spontaneous – she really steals the scene.) But here’s what stands out for me: the royal family now includes kids named Mia, Isla, and Savannah!

Perhaps royal names have always been more subject to trends than I recognize, and they only feel conventional with the passing of time. Or maybe it’s no surprise that the least traditional names belong to Princess Anne’s kids, who are privileged, but not titled.

Still, I think that it’s a signal that the world has really changed as regards names. There’s simply more freedom to choose unconventional names than ever before, even if your family gatherings take place at Buckingham Palace.

Elsewhere online:

  • This is a really funny idea – and so true! That baby name is so common, nobody uses it anymore.
  • I could read this thread of Names on Nameberry that make you go WOW! forever. Actually, I could – it’s over 500 pages! Theo EverestZoe Caterina, Edith Primrose – there’s something to swoon over on every page.
  • This Names for Real post came at the exactly right moment, because it features an Emma Darling. That’s exactly what I mean by going big in the middle spot, and it coincided with my post about 13 cool middle names.
  • I’m fascinated by punctuation, diacritical marks, and other parts of how names function in an increasingly global, database-driven world. Nancy has another story along these lines, all about China’s middle dot dilemma.
  • UNICEF created a virtual child to illustrate the plight of war victims. They gave her a name, too: Sofia. Sofia was chosen because it’s universal, and so powerful – we all know a child with the name.
  • LOVE this story, a daughter named Skye for a grandfather who was a pilot. Found via the ever marvelous Name News.
  • You know when people insist that parents ought to give their kids normal names? There ought to be a law, and all that? This is the flipside of that kind of thinking: Breton names were long outlawed in France, and this family was not able to legally registered their six youngest children for decades. Non-registration isn’t just an inconvenience. As Nancy explained, it meant no driver’s licenses or voting in elections or getting married. While there will always be a handful of names that seem beyond the pale – like the sad story of baby Cyanide – too many of these rules feel discriminatory in the worst possible ways.
  • Meanwhile, some in Russia are pondering a law to limit crazy baby names. I get it, because, well, stories like the one about baby Cyanide. But where’s the line between flagging names that are deeply problematic and those that are just plain different?
  • Thanks to Jennie for sharing this story about a family and the unusual names they chose for their children. This is so true: “The fact is, the draw to a particular baby name can be powerful, and its overrides concerns about giving your child an unusual name.”
  • I think this concept that Kate has talked about is perhaps the most useful. She talks about “names foreign to Christian sensibility,” an idea defined in Roman Catholic canon law, and also acknowledges that those names will change by time and place. Obviously, we’re not all Catholic or Christian, but it seems like there’s room for a similar idea about names foreign to human dignity. Except that I’m not sure it’s an enforceable concept by any means, and what if officials decide to ban names on grounds that are, ultimately, discriminatory. It’s one thing to question the parents’ intentions when naming a child Adolf Hitler. But would we have more incidents like the Tennessee judge who changed a child’s name from Messiah? Or worse, would names that reflect a minority heritage be questioned? Reyansh, Yaretzi, or Yehuda all seem like names that could be dismissed as “weird names” to the uninformed. So I remain on the side of no laws, please. (But please don’t name your baby Lucifer. I get it. But it’s still a no.)
  • Swistle tackled the question of what to do if the name acquired a terrible association afterwards – like Isis. Because Isis was just fine not so long ago. And now? It would raise a few eyebrows.

Wow! How did this week get so heavy? Let’s end with this video You Can’t Name the Baby That! A Video for my Niece.  Her pregnant sister plays along with all of the vlogger’s  protests: “So because of a girl at work, who took your parking spot once, we can’t call her Claire?” Everyone who has ever gotten any comments on their future children’s potential names will get a laugh out of this. (So, you know, everybody!)

That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I tried making a comment to Swistle re: whether or not I’d change a child’s name because of an association, and she censored my comment. I had said that one of the legitimate factors I’d consider is who’d you believe regarding a certain matter of the former name (if changed) in the future – that if you believe me (which most sources, including straight from the horse’s mouth, do agree with me) then go ahead and change it if you otherwise want to, but if you believe Swistle who insists on disagreeing then don’t. I’m not trying to re-ignite that debate here or there, but just beware if you go to Swistle for advice that she may delete your comment if you strongly disagree with her (especially beware in cases where my points are important, with another example being a transgender person – particularly one transitioning before adulthood – looking for re-naming advice).

  2. A comment on naming laws coming from someone living in a country with one:
    I live in Norway and recently went to a talk with an onomastics professor where he explained the extreme leniency the Norwegian naming board practices. Basically, if you can prove that the name you want to used is or has been in use as a name anywhere else in the world, you are allowed to use it. The only names they do not allow are those that are of considerable burden for a child to have, like swear words and the likes of Lucifer. I’m not entirely clear on their policy on names like Musa, which is an Arabic version of Moses but also a Norwegian slang word meaning cunt, but in such a small country I imagine they will be able to actually have a chat with the parents of Musa and explain why they would advise against it, and maybe recommend they use it as a middle name or something.
    Having naming laws is something I’m all for, and I really appreciate the leniency they practice, but I realise it’s a lot easier to enforce in a small country where I’m guessing there’s a maximum of 10 cases, if any, every year of parents not getting to use the name they want. In the US, this would be a whole other kind of monster, and I’m sure all the states would have different rules, just because.
    I like New Zealand’s approach as well, they’ve banned titles, because babies don’t merit them (obviously).
    Iceland’s approach is a little too strict if you ask me, but I understand the desire to protect their language and tradition when it’s an even smaller country than ours.

    1. Dearest, thank you for your perspective! You raise an excellent point about how the laws actually work in practice. My impression is that a country like Norway is a little more homogeneous – I imagine that makes it easier to spot the outliers. I often find myself looking at the US statistics and just plain not knowing if a name is really pretty ordinary in another language, or totally out there.

  3. There’s been some debate over what the legal titles are for the Wessex children, but letters patent issued in 1917 said any child of a male line descendant of the monarch is a prince or princess. Lady or Viscount are courtesy titles.

    Isla Elizabeth was named for the queen.

  4. Andrea, your wrong on 2 points;

    1.Technically all females related to the Queen with the middle name Elizabeth are names after the late Queen Mother (also Elizabeth)


    2. Technically due to the decree issued by the Queen (via Buckingham Palace) at the time of Prince Edward’s marriage declared that and issue (children) that came of it were to be styled (titled) the same as any other child whose father is in possession of an earldom -an earl in other words- therefore Louise and Jamesare Lady and Lord not Princess and Prince eve though Edward is a Prince, also as Lord James is his father’s only son he gets one of his father’s lesser titles. Thus he is actually James, Viscount Severn

  5. Peter was after his paternal grandfather, if I remember right. Savannah’s middle names are after her maternal and paternal grandmothers respectively; Isla’s middle name is in honor if the queen. Isla and Mia are trendy names in Britain; Savannah was probably a favorite of the girl’s Canadian mother, since I don’t think it’s quite as popular there. All of them sound appropriate for upperclass Brits, which is what they are. None of the three girls will be on the throne. You won’t see a Princess Savannah any time soon. There’s less leeway for royalty. Legally, Edward’s children are Princess Louise and Prince. James of Wessex and their names are impeccably royal .

  6. Queen Victoria had grandchildren named Patricia, Maurice, Marie and Irene. Perfectly normal for us, but rather modern at the time.

    1. Ooh … thanks for that Elea! I wondered if I was missing something. 🙂

  7. You have to take into account Abby that Princess Anne and her line (Peter, Zara and the granddaughters) are very unlikely to assend to the throne therefore The princess and her children had a degree more latitude in what names they could bestow on their children then her brothers and eldest nephew did, as for you Allure while I agree Savannah, Isla and Mia are a nice change in the royal family Louisa and Charlotte have a long royal pedigree. Also, while I agree James and George (George more so than James perhaps) are not particularly daring as Royal male names go to my knowledge no one in recent history -in the last 100 years* of the British royal family- has named their son Peter so I would agree with Abby that it is quite daring.

    1. I mean, Anne named her daughter Zara! That wasn’t exactly on the shortlist for royal babies itself (though I really like it!)

  8. My daughter, age five, has a friend named Isis. I would never dream of making her change her name were I her parents. It’s a beautiful name. If she said she wanted something different, that would be a different situation. But it’s tragic, it feels like allowing the terrorists to ruin yet another cultural artifact of the middle eastern world.

  9. Royal baby names have a bit more freedom, if you’re a girl. I wouldnt call James, Peter and George daring, whatsoever.