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European Royal Names

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From the Midnight Sun

Name Dropping

The royal names in this chapter are a good representation of all that are out there, but the list doesn't end here! Portugal, France, Italy, Hungary, and Poland are some of the other countries that were once ruled by kings and queens; Japan has been ruled by emperors for centuries. An encyclopedia of world history is a good place to start searching for the names borne by these royal families and others.

Intermarriages between the English and the Danish royal families have been fairly commonplace over time. Queen Victoria's son, King Edward VII, married Alexandra of Denmark; their daughter Maud would go on to marry Haakon VII, the King of Norway.

Norway's current royal family includes:

  • King Harald V: The name comes from the Old Norse Haraldr. It was a very popular name during the time of the Vikings and ever since then, having been borne by four Norwegian kings and numerous princes.
  • Queen Sonja: The Scandinavian spelling for the variant name form derived from the Greek Sophia (“wisdom”).
  • Princess Märtha Louise: Märtha is the Norwegian form of the biblical name Martha. Louise is the feminine form of Louis (“famous in war”) and is commonly found in the royal genealogies of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
  • Crown Prince Haakon: This is an ancient Norwegian name and comes from the Old Norse Hákon, meaning “honored son” or “descendant.”

Czars and Czarinas

What's in a Name

Some of the oldest names from Russian royalty, such as Oleg and Olga, are part of the country's heritage due to its Scandinavian roots. In later years, a number of Russian czars married into the Byzantine royal family, which added a group of Greek names to the Russian name pool.

Most of what we know about Russia's imperial rule begins and ends with the czars and their families, but the country had a ruling class far before the time of Nicholas and Alexandra. Russia was first ruled by Scandinavian chieftains—called Varangians or Rus (hence, the name Russia)—who came to the country in the eighth century C.E. According to tradition, the Scandinavian chieftain Rurik ruled in Novgorod in the 860s. Later, he was recognized as the founder of the Russian princely dynasty.

The Russian royal family came to an end in 1917 when Czar Nicholas II and his family were executed in cold blood by revolutionary forces. His wife, Alix, was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria; Nicholas himself was related to George V through his mother.

Names from Russian royalty include:

  • Alexander: The famed Alexander Nevski was a noted warrior in the battles against the Teutonic Knights of Germany who were commissioned to conquer and convert Prussia. Alexis and Alix are two popular variants of this very popular royal name.
  • Anastasia: This was the name of Nicholas' most famous daughter, the one who many believed escaped death when the rest of her family was assassinated. Ironically, this Greek name means “resurrection.”
  • Andrei: This is the Russian form of Andrew and was the name of several of the grand princes of Moscow, the forerunners of the Czars.
  • Basil: This Greek name meaning “knightly” or “royal” was borne by an early czar, Basil III, who ruled from 1505-1533.
  • Boris: This Slavic name, which means “warrior,” fit the Russian ruler Boris Godunov to a T as he dominated through persecution and fear. It would probably be to Mr. Gudunov's great dismay, however, to learn that most Americans will forever associate his name with the squatty little Russian spy with the thick accent in the cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle.
  • Igor: Another classic Russian name, it means “bow warrior” or “archer” and came to Russia via Scandinavia. The first Igor was a grand prince of Kiev.
  • Ivan: The Russian form of John. This name was borne by a number of Russian rulers.
  • Kira: This name is the feminine form of the Greek Kyros. Kira, the daughter of a second cousin of Czar Nicholas II, was one of the last children to be born to the Russian royal family.
  • Mikhail: The Russian form of Michael. Both forms appear fairly frequently on the Russian family tree.
  • Natalia: A pretty form of the name that gives homage to the day of Christ's birth. It is derived from the Latin dies natalis, or “natal day.”
  • Nicholas: Perhaps the most famous czarist name. It's the Russian form of the Greek Nikolaos.
  • Oleg: This Scandinavian name, along with its feminine form, Olga, appears frequently on the Russian family tree. It means “holy.”
  • Tatiana: Another classic Russian name, it is a form of the Latin Tatianus, which comes from a Roman clan name. Tatiana was one of the daughters of the last czar.
  • Theodore: This Greek name, meaning “God's gift,” appears often in Russian royalty.
  • Vladimir: Another popular name for the Russian aristocracy, it is Slavic and means “great ruler.”
  • Wladyslaw: Also spelled Vladislav, this Slavic name means “glorious rule.”
  • Xenia: This Greek name, meaning “welcome,” was the name of a sister of Czar Nicholas II.

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More on: Choosing a Name

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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