Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. At first glance, it sounds tremendously conventional – something straight out of PG Wodehouse.
Look a little closer, though, and you see the unconventional notes you’d associate with both of his parents, subtly sounding throughout.
First, it is convention among the British upper classes to have two middle names (i.e. three first names). In royal circles, the level of ancestor worship is so extreme that they usually have many more. Prince Harry’s full first names are Henry Charles Albert David. Prince William’s are William Arthur Philip Louis. And Prince Charles’s – so memorably mixed up at his marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales – are Charles Philip Arthur George. Prince George is George Alexander Louis. Princess Charlotte is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Prince Louis is Louis Arthur Charles.
Not only has Archie got a more middle-class 'pair' of first names, unlike his ancestors – and his cousins – they aren’t borrowed from previous kings or favoured relations: all those Louis come from Louis Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s much adored uncle.
There has never been a King Archie or a King Harrison of England. What’s more, Harry and Meghan are breaking with convention by giving their son a diminutive, ‘Archie’, rather than the full ‘Archibald’. Royal names, by convention, are given in their full, formal form, even if the diminutive or nickname is used, day-to-day. Prince Harry’s name is, strictly speaking, Henry.
Archie is a name widely used in the upper-class circles Prince Harry moves in. In fact, Prince George, Prince William’s eldest son, even appears to have given it himself as a nickname: introducing himself to a dog-walker near the Middletons’ home in Berkshire, earlier this year, he told them, “I’m called Archie.”
Archibald has a long, noble lineage, particularly among the Scottish aristocracy. It has the Germanic roots of ‘erchan’ – ‘precious’ or ‘genuine’ – and ‘bald’, meaning ‘bold’. The words combined to produce the Old High German and Anglo-Saxon name, Erkanbald, and the Old French, Archaunbault. Over the centuries, that morphed into Archibald. The grandeur of the name was enhanced by connections with the ancient Greek ‘Archon’, meaning ‘ruler’ – a suitable name for the great-grandson of the monarch.
Harrison is much more unconventional. Strictly speaking, it is correct – literally, “son of Harry”, a patronymic creation first known as a surname in 1355.
Less conventional, still, is to use it as a first name, following an American fashion: thus the popularity of Eliot and Spencer in the US. Perhaps Harry met Harrison Ford during his and William’s cameos as Stormtroopers in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Or it might well be borrowed from George Harrison.
Either way, it’s a lovely name – so let it be.
- Harry Mount is author of How England Made the English (Penguin)