The royal baby: George the… sixth????

No doubt wherever you are in the world you can’t have failed to notice that we here in Britain have a new heir to the throne… The latest in a long line that stretches back to King Alfred somewhere in the 800s. And they’ve called him: George Alexander Louis… And fair enough. I wish him all the health and happiness in the world and I hope he’s one of the good ones. But at only a few days old little baby George has already added to the complicated stupidity of our regnal numbering system…

I’ve been through this before, about how Henry VIII is actually Henry IX and so on… But until this little baby was born a few days ago I failed to notice another flaw… And unlike the other flaws (Like how Henry VIII is actually IX) this one is a little more hidden. It can’t be seen just by looking at the list of Kings alone. You have to know something of your history… And it’s hidden in the George’s…

Now i have nothing against the name George per se… It’s a perfectly apt name and if William and Kate are happy with it that’s super. Personally I would have liked to see a name that was a little different from his ancestors but there’s no point moaning about it… It’s not my decision. And when he becomes King he’ll have three options of which name to choose: He could be Louis… In which case he would just be King Louis although technically Louis II as we like to pretend that the French invasion of 1216 never happened. He could be Alexander… In which case he would become Alexander IV… Owing to the fact that Scotland have already had three Alexanders and the higher regnal number takes precedence. Or he could stick with George. Depending on how things play out when the current Queen dies, as it’s rumoured that Charles will opt to use George, he’ll either be George VII or George VIII. Let’s use VIII for now… Only he won’t be George VIII… He’ll be George VI… And this is for one simple reason: George I and II never existed…

‘But James’ I can hear you ejaculating. ‘How can they not exist when they’re both there on the list right next to each other? How could they not exist?’ Well physically they existed and yes they were actually Kings… But they were never George. Not really anyway… The thing is they were both German… They were more German than British… And they never called themselves George… They called themselves ‘Georg.’  And even though in official documents it was spelt as ‘George’ (which, fair enough, is the English variant) it would still have been pronounced as ‘Georg.’ Georg I (for we shall call him that to simplify things) never spoke any English so he would have gone through his entire life calling himself and being called Georg. His name, and the name of his son, were not and never have been ‘George.’ They were Georg… They would have probably been called ‘Georg’ by those around them, even officials. The only people calling him George would have been the everyday working folk… The lower class peasants. And they were wrong. because his name was actually Georg. The only reason anybody else might have called him ‘George’ is probably because they thought he was too German and they might have done it as a way of ridiculing him… And then after that it probably just stuck as ‘George.’ It’s only when you reach George III that the name is actually pronounced and spelt as George…

Technically we can say that the kings known as George I and II are actually Georg I and II… That makes George III George I… Which when you think about how it stands is confusing… Especially if you want to keep spelling Georg the English way… As in that case the list would go: George I, George II, George I, George II…. And all four of them different kings.  Ok… If you want to be pedantic and start claiming ‘but we’re English so they were ‘George’ not Georg… Try and imagine your name is actually George. You go and live in Germany and  for the rest of your life everybody refers to you as ‘Georg,’ even though it isn’t your name. Let’s say they even put Georg on your tombstone… You’d be a bit miffed in all honesty. That’s precisely what happened with the two Georgs… They were born and christened as ‘Georg’ and then they come to England and suddenly they were being called George… When in fact they were called Georg. They were Georg I and II… (Although Georg I would only have been Georg I in hindsight but let’s not go into that right now) The rest of the kings called George were all George so that’s fine… It’s just that go down two… Which makes the last George, known as George VI, George IV…  Which means when little baby George accepts his destiny many years from now he might possibly become the real George VI… Although he’ll likely be known as George VIII.

And don’t forget that this all on top of that already confusing and screwed up mass that is the regnal numbering system. What it goes to show is that it really is a ridiculous system. Yes it may help for easy identification but it misses out others (Matilda, Philip, Louis, Eustace, the missing Henry,) and it also means that, owing to a language flaw, the king who should be called George I is actually called George III… It’s complicated further by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland being added to mix. And even in France (where we get this system from,) the system doesn’t work, mostly because France took a while to become the single nation we know today and secondly because they tend to ignore the fact that they were ruled by the English for a while in the 1400s… Numbering just doesn’t work. It makes things more complicated than they need to be. Say British Monarchs used nicknames instead… Georg I could be ‘Georg the German’ for instance. We might even spell it and pronounce it George and, although it would be wrong, it wouldn’t impact on the position of the other kings. With nicknames things would become much less complicated and it would mean that, without knowing your history, you could instantly know a little bit about that King or Queen… With ‘Georg the German’ you would know he was a German for instance. No one nation would have dominance in numbering either and it means that the disputed monarchs get a bit of a look in. Life is easier with nicknames.

But still… Welcome to the universe little baby George. It’s mad, it’s crazy and, in the words of Professor Brian Cox, amazing… And it’s a lot of fun. Just remember to enjoy the ride and don’t forget that your ancestors are a bunch of clowns.

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