For more than six decades, Prince Charles has loyally (and patiently) waited first in line to the British throne — longer than any other heir in royal history. Thanks to a historical quirk, however, when the Prince of Wales does finally assume the throne, he may not be known as Charles III.
“It’s quite possible that he might choose one of his other names: Philip, Arthur or George,” former palace spokesman, Dickie Arbiter, tells PEOPLE. (His full name is Prince Charles Philip Arthur George.)
“It’s not common, but it’s not unusual. His grandfather, King George VI, was Albert Frederick Arthur George, but he chose George in honor of his late father.
“Edward VII’s first name was Albert, but he chose his second name, Edward.”
Confused? While Charles III is by no means out of the running, Arbiter suggests the prince may just as easily call himself King George VII “in deference to his grandfather and in recognition of his mother, the Queen.”
Out of his other names, Arthur is simply too overloaded with stories of Merlin and the round table, while there has never been a King Philip in Britain — or anywhere else, apart from Spain and Belgium.
Arbiter also notes the checkered history of the first person named Charles to sit on the British throne — Charles I, who was executed in 1649 following the English Civil War.
His son, Charles II, was invited to reclaim the throne in 1660 and proved to be one of the more enlightened Kings in British history.
“Charles II was a patron of the arts, like Prince Charles is,” adds Arbiter. “He is the one who initiated the Royal Observatory and got Sir Christopher Wren to build the Royal Hospital. So he is a man remembered for his patronage of the arts and doing good deeds.”
The historical quirks don’t end there. Along with the throne of England, Charles — whose wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will be official known as Queen Consort — will also inherit titles including Duke of Lancaster, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann (Isle of Man), Defender of the Faith and supreme Governor of the Church of England.
“The Isle of Man is self-governing, but the Queen is still head of state there,” says Arbiter. “She’s not Queen Elizabeth of the Isle of Man, she is the Lord of Man. It’s in much the same way as she’s not Queen Elizabeth II of Scotland because they didn’t have a Queen Elizabeth I.
“She is actually Queen Elizabeth I in Scotland, because Scotland didn’t become part of the union until a couple of hundred years later. So, she is Elizabeth I of Scotland and Elizabeth II of England and Wales.”
Thankfully, with the Queen showing no signs of slowing down, we are a long way from knowing which name Charles with choose either way — although it’s safe to assume that Prince Chuck is completely out of the running.
“The Queen is hale and hearty,” adds Arbiter. “She is only 92 — her mother was 101 when she died. So we’re probably not even thinking about this for another decade at least.”