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Last Updated: Friday, 21 December 2007, 16:10 GMT
Naming names for a royal baby
Julian Joyce
BBC News

Baby boy
Six-weeks is the legal limit for registering a birth
It took four days for the Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward to name their son before eventually settling on James Alexander Philip Theo. It might have felt like a long time, but there's a lot to consider when naming a royal baby.

What's in a name?

If you are a parent with a new baby - a great deal. And if you are a royal parent - all the more so. So a delay was always likely before we learned what Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex were going to call their new baby boy.

Earlier this week Edward told reporters outside the hospital where his wife Sophie gave birth: "You have to at least get to know the small person who's just come into the world before you actually try and pick a name."

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Many parents feel the same way, say experts.

Justine Roberts, co-founder of the internet forum Mumsnet, says while some parents already have both a boy's and girl's name lined up for the new arrival, many more wait to see what the new baby looks like.

"Some people really do think there are names that fit a baby - it looks like a Peter or a Lucy. And that's what they call it. But only after they have had the baby for a while and tried the name out on him or her," she says.

Another reason for delaying the naming could be simple indecisiveness - one mother posted her tentative choice of names on the Mumsnet forum - and waited for the votes to roll in. Eventually, her daughter ended up with the democratically approved moniker Eve Alice Rose.

Four days might seem like a long wait for impatient friends and relatives, eager for every nugget of news. But it's well within the six-week limit imposed by the law for registering a child's birth (somewhat longer is granted to register the name).

You have to be doubly sure that people won't be able to shorten the name to something rude.
Jennie Bond, Royal commentator

"One of our couples - both barristers - could not agree on what to call their new son," recalls Justine. "She wanted Raphael. He wanted plain Edward. They both couldn't stand each other's choices.

"In the end they compromised on Gabriel. But like typical lawyers, they argued it to the bitter end, literally early into the morning of the day when the six week deadline was up."

Taken to the cleaners

There was serious money to be won - or lost - on betting on the Wessex's eventual choice of name. Bookmakers William Hill are still smarting from the money they lost over Prince Charles' firstborn in 1982.

"We will be keeping a very close eye on this market," spokesman Rupert Adam said before Friday's announcement.

But it looks like they again came up short. Rather than James, the shortest odds were on Archie (short for Archibald) - at 8:1.

Prince Edward and daughter Louise
It took 17 days for Edward and Sophie to name their daughter

Charlie, William, George, Jack and Arthur, were 10:1, followed by Jake and Winston at 14:1. And as the odds got longer - so the names became more exotic. Oscar and Ben weighed in at 33:1. Mohammed was at 40:1. And one adventurous, though ultimately disappointed, punter had even wagered 50p on the name Lee at 100:1.

Something rude

Royal commentator Jennie Bond was close to the mark when she predicted Edward and Sophie would settle for something non-controversial.

"Being a royal parent involves more responsibility," she says. "You have to accept that whatever you call your child will be seen as dignified. And you have to be doubly sure that people won't be able to shorten the name to something rude."

Royal historian Hugo Vickers describes the inverse relationship between the outlandishness of the name, versus the likelihood the new baby will eventually become a prominent royal.

Simply put, Zara Philips' more unorthodox name probably reflects the fact she is unlikely to ever become Queen (she is currently 11th in line). On the other hand, even if the new Viscount Severn (the Wessex baby's title) does not become king, it is likely that one day he will become the Duke of Edinburgh, says Mr Vickers.

"When the current Duke dies, I believe it likely that Prince Edward will inherit the title. And Edward's firstborn son will inherit it again, when his father passes on," he says.

Until then though the Queen's eighth grandchild will be best known simply as James.

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