In the realm of royals and regal place names, there is often some overlap between the individuals and the locations they own or originate from.
So, it’s not surprising there is sometimes confusion between the people themselves and the palaces or estates that share their names.
Why Are Royals Named After Places?
This pattern of royals and nobles taking the name of their family seat or aristocratic title is an age-old tradition which dates back to the earliest times of fledgling kingdoms and the burgeoning aristocracy.
As the feudal kingdoms began to formalise into more established royal lineages, the ruling monarchs would often use the name of their main residence or their greatest estate as the founding name of the royal ‘house’.
In royal terms, a House is not a reference to a particular property but rather to a family line, a dynasty or lineage. When a new family acquired the throne, it became customary to give a formal name to the new royal lineage, and it would become known as the House of Bourbon or the House of Hapsburg, for example.
These names were usually chosen to represent the origin of the monarch, which is why many royals are named after places. In some cases, the name would also reflect a noble title, though these would themselves usually originate from a geographical region or a family estate or castle.
In the example of the House of Bourbon, this famous line of legendary French kings originated from the marriage of a French Prince into the Lordship of Bourbon. It’s believed this noble title originates from a medieval town called Bourbon-l’Archambault.
So, in this instance, the House of Bourbon is named after a noble title that itself evolved from a place name or a castle, possibly both.
Royal Surnames & Ancient Forenames
There is another popular tradition within the sphere of royal surnames, and that’s the practice of naming a royal house after one of the earliest members of the most notable family line.
One ancient and enduring example is that of the Grimaldi Family of Monaco, the ancestors of the current sovereign Prince of Monaco, Albert II, or to use his full name; Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi.
The Grimaldi Family name dates back to the early 12th century and an individual named Grimaldo Canella, the son of a Genoese Consul and noblewoman.
Over the centuries that followed the life of Grimaldo Canella, his descendants rose in stature and significance, ultimately attaining the throne of the principality of Monaco. During this time, the forename of Grimaldo evolved into the surname Grimaldi, likely as a result of the original bearer’s son being called Grimaldi to reflect his position as ‘son of Grimaldo’.
This adoption of forenames for the surnames of ancestors is a common feature in the evolution of all kinds of names, not only royal ones. For example, names such as Robertson, Richardson, Jackson, Jameson, Anderson etc all reveal clues as to their origin and the fathers and sons who established the new version of the surname.
Places Named After Royals
In a curious twist in the trend of royal names and places, it’s not just the people who take their names from the location or estate – sometimes it happens the other way around.
There has long been a trend of naming places after royals. For many of the past centuries, kings and queens around the world have been much loved and respected by their subjects.
As a display of respect and support for their monarchs, loyal subjects would opt to christen new places in honour of their sovereign or to commemorate certain members of the royal family.
One iconic example of this is the famous Elizabeth Tower in London. This familiar landmark on the London skyline is the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster on the banks of the River Thames, perhaps best known for the name of its famous bell, Big Ben.
The clock tower was given the name Elizabeth Tower in 2012, in recognition of the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee – a celebration to mark the 60 year reign of Elizabeth II.
This practice of naming places after royals can be seen all around the world, even in countries that have famously rejected a monarchy.
In the United States of America, a nation proud of its republic status, a number of its states are named after royals from around the world. Louisiana, Georgia and the Carolinas were all named in honour of European kings and queens.
Royal Ceremonies & Soap Operas
It’s not only royal individuals who grace our landmarks, streets and buildings, sometimes royal ceremonies and celebrations are deemed worthy enough to lend their name to new places in commemoration of the event.
Perhaps one of the most famous streets to be named after a royal event is the fictional venue in the North of England that has been the home to one of the world’s most beloved and enduring soap operas for over 60 years; Coronation Street.
The popular drama is set on a terraced street near Manchester that’s deemed to be typical of many similar streets in England’s industrial towns and cities.
During the royal events of past generations, these streets were renowned for their elaborate street parties, organised to bring the community together and celebrate the latest royal event such as a royal wedding or a coronation. These festivities would on occasion filter into the town planning departments when a street would be rechristened to immortalise the royal ceremony or to grant a royal name to a new road or landmark.
The origins of names is a fascinating study, and it can be delightful to see how the names of places and people can reveal so much about their histories and legacies, as well as the cultures that gave rise to their names and titles.
While modern society may be a world away from the centuries of absolute monarchy and unquestioned deference to royal rule and status, it’s interesting that so many of the royals of the past live on in the places named in their honour, as well as how unassuming places around the world came to represent some of the greatest royal dynasties the world has ever known.