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Royal baby: Six well-known people tell us the story behind their names, and those of their own children

Published 07/05/2015

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge with their newborn daughter
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge with their newborn daughter
Prince William with his mother Diana
Special bond: journalist Frances Burscough on her wedding day with her dad Francis
Loving family: Laurence White and his wife Eileen with grandchildren (from left) James McCoy, Ciaran White, Ollie White and Joseph McAnespy
Prince Charles with his mother, Princess Elizabeth
Special links: Maureen Coleman (left) with her family
All smiles: Claire McCollum with her children Samuel and Rosa
Sonny side: Emma Heatherington chose a strong name for her son
Daddy’s girls: Pete and Julia Snodden with Ivana Shannon

The naming of the royal baby has been a triumph of diplomacy. Everyone who's anyone got a nod, including the reigning monarch, the next in line to the throne and the dearly departed most popular royal of modern times. The only people with their nose possibly out of joint will be Camilla and Carole but nobody cares about them, so it's all good.

I was named after my dad Francis (note it is "i" for a male and the "e" for female) and of that fact I am very proud because my dad is a really fantastic person. He was also named after his dad and so on, because that is what you did in those days, so there are a heck of a lot of Francises in my family tree. Another reason that I am so proud of my name is because it is also a tribute to St Francis of Assisi, whom I believe is the most wonderful saint of them all. It is a tradition in Catholic families to name your children after saints, and so I was lucky enough to inherit St Francis - who is remembered for his love of birds, of nature in general and his compassion for the poor - as my patron saint. When my first son was born I wanted to keep up both traditions, that is to honour both the grandfathers and also to include a Saint's name. My then husband's dad was called Antony, mine was Francis, so both of those were obviously going to feature. We both also loved the name Jude and we had that as a strong contender for a few months until someone pointed out all the negative references associated with it. Jude the Obscure? One of the most depressing novels ever written. Hey Jude? One of the most sad songs ever written. St Jude? The Patron Saint of lost causes. Judas Iscariot?... err ... The connotations of misery, betrayal, tragedy, desperation eventually put me off the name completely. I didn't want to jinx my first born with the burdens of association did I? so Jude ended up in the wastepaper basket along with Adolf and Lucifer.

Eventually after much deliberation we settled on Luke Antony Francis, Luke after my husband's best friend.

Fortunately, the name suited him perfectly and both sides of the family were also delighted.

Naming my second son wasn't quite so straightforward.

At my six-month scan the radiologists told us it was a girl and so for the next three months all we thought about were girl's names.

My mum was Margaret, so that was on the list. His mum was Nora, so that was added, too, but we also wanted an Irish name. So out came the book of Irish saints names for girls.

Orla was one possibility. Sorcha was another. Meave? Caitlin? We were spoilt for choice ... until the actual birth presented us with another son.

We hadn't even looked at boy's names, plus both the granddads were already taken care of, so it was back to the drawing board with a completely blank canvas.

We settled on Finnian, a name which we both loved which also happened to be the name of the saint who was one of the founding fathers of the Catholic Church in Co Down.

We shortened it to "Finn" when we realised that Finnian sounded exactly like the word "Fenian" when it was pronounced in a local accent.

For ever after that, everyone assumed he had been named after Finn McCool, the character from Celtic mythology. Everyone loved the name, not least Finn himself.

After all, what little boy wouldn't like to be named after a legendary giant?

By Frances Burscough

'William and Kate have ensured Diana won't be forgotten'

When a royal courtier was asked to elaborate on the names given to William and Kate's new daughter, he replied that they spoke for themselves. He was right of course. It is not difficult to determine the reasons why the little princess was called Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

But what the names also clearly spoke of was William and Kate's sure touch when it comes to being modern royals.

William, unlike his brother Harry, has a certain reserve which seems natural, as well as fitting for a man who will be the next monarch but one. Yet he and Kate also appear as a quite ordinary couple determined to live their lives as normally as their stations in life allow.

And in their choice of names for their new baby daughter, they have deftly twinned the royal desire for tradition and continuity with a nod to modernity.

Charlotte has not just got royal pedigree but is also the middle name of Kate's sister Pippa. It is one of the most popular girl's names in England and Wales.

Of course, the princess' other two names, Elizabeth and Diana, were not unexpected. William is reportedly very fond of his grandmother and certainly she is a perfect role model for any princess who might one day ascend the throne. Having given Kate his mother's engagement ring - as a way of keeping her "close to it all" - giving his first daughter the name Diana is yet another signal of how his tragic mother still casts such a huge shadow over his life.

There are many in royal circles who would be pleased if they never heard the name Diana again, but William and Kate have made sure that the People's Princess will not be forgotten. The population at large would have been very disappointed had Diana not featured somewhere in the new princess' list of names.

Having placed it third, William and Kate, have ensured that their daughter will not be burdened by her grandmother's name, but rather will be able to regard it as a personal gift, a reminder of a woman who gave the royal family a worldwide profile, sometimes for good, sometimes for not so good.

There can scarcely be a family in the land who cannot relate to William and Kate's choice of names for their daughter. We may not be royals but there is a desire to keep family names alive long after the initial recipients have passed on. My eldest daughter, for example, has Mary as a second name, a nod to a much loved grandmother and also a maternal aunt who was especially close to my wife. A son and grandson carry the second names John in remembrance of their maternal grandfather and great-grandfather.

A daughter, born when an aunt was terminally ill at much too young an age, bears her name, Kathleen. The years have mellowed the sadness of that time but the name is a poignant reminder that life can sometimes appear so needlessly cruel and that, indeed, the good do die young.

In an era when celebrities burden their children with the most appalling names - North West or Brooklyn Beckham anyone? - the continuation of traditional names in most families is a comforting sign that the world has not gone completely mad.

For most of us, our children's names are fairly unremarkable and that is something they will thank us for, especially during their school years when a child with any unusual feature, even a name, will be teased mercilessly about it.

By Laurence White

'My parents gave a nod to tradition and family'

Maureen Denise Siobhan Bernadette Conway Coleman - yep, that's my name and quite a mouthful it is, too.

I may not be of royal blood like little Charlotte Elizabeth Diana but my parents saw fit to give me a name worthy of a princess, albeit a rather Irish-sounding one.

Some folks choose children's names because they're pretty, others because they're fashionable at the time. My parents chose names that give a nod to tradition and to family and friends, names that honour the living and commemorate the dead.

I was named Maureen after a close friend of my mum's, a midwife who was present in the delivery suite when I was born. My name also means Little Mary - "virginal and pure". Moving swiftly along ...

Denise was given to me in memory of my paternal grandfather, Denis Coleman, who died after falling from a ladder while he was painting his house. My father was in his teens when he lost his dad so I never got to meet Denis but I'm proud to bear his name and keep his memory alive. I also have a first cousin who was called Denise in his honour. Tradition runs right through my family.

Siobhan was chosen by my maternal grandmother, who mistakenly thought it was Gaeilge for Susan (Siobhan actually translates in English as Joan), but no one dared correct her, so the name stuck.

Bernadette is my confirmation name and therefore doesn't appear on my birth certificate and Conway was added later, in recognition of my mum's maiden name.

And it doesn't end there. My sister is called Kate after my mother Kathleen, who, in turn, was named after her own grandmother.

My brother Peter carries the name of his grandfather, Peter Conway and his great-uncle, Peter Coleman. My cousin Susie was named after my grandmother Susan Conway. Keeping up?

My three great-aunts, all deceased, who were well-known throughout Ireland for their tennis prowess, are referenced, too. My sister Kate Margaret Mary was named after the trio, Kathleen, Greta and Moya Coleman.

In some families, names are plucked from a book or only selected when the baby is born - "Oh, he looks like a Charlie, doesn't he?" In my family, names are a link to the past or a nod to a special person. Or saint.

We may not have chosen those particular names for ourselves but we respect why we were given them.

Even my poor aunt Gemma Helena Perpetua Veronica Mary Meenan Conway Hunt.

By Maureen Coleman

'It's a reminder to me of older generations'

Claire McCollum (40) is a broadcaster. She lives in Belfast with her husband Alastair and their children Samuel (8) and Rosa (6). She says:

I was named Claire just because my mum liked the name. My middle name is Elizabeth after my Auntie Libby - my dad's sister. It also helped that the names went well together.

My son Samuel is named after both of his grandfathers - Samuel for my dad and Thomas for Alastair's. Samuel was the first grandson, so I think the name meant quite a lot to my dad.

When I was pregnant with Rosa, both Alastair and I liked the name Emma if we had a girl. Then one day my mum told me the story of her great-grandmother - who just happened to be called Emma - and her sister Rosa. They were both brought over from Switzerland to work as sewing maids at Larchfield Estate in Lisburn and went on to marry the sons of the coachman there.

After we heard the story, Alastair and I decided that we liked the name Rosa more.

Our daughter is Rosa Jane and the Jane comes from my sister as that's her middle name, too. We thought it went well with Rosa.

I like the idea of carrying on traditions and names as the older generations won't always be with us and names are a lovely reminder. It certainly helps that we got lucky and have had some lovely family names to choose from."

'It's nice to remember those who've passed'

Emma Heatherington is a novelist and playwright and lives in Donaghmore with her partner Jim McKee, and their first child Sonny James (6 months). Emma has three children from a previous relationship - Jordyn (19), Jade (13), and Adam (12), and Jim has a son Dualta (13). She says:

The names that I gave my children are a bit different, and when Jim and I were talking about baby names, Sonny kept popping up. Once we chose that name, then it seemed natural to name him Sonny James or son of James after his dad.

It's a strong name although we have had a few raised eyebrows - my five-year-old nephew asked what his real name is.

My mother was named Geraldine and passed away when I was quite young so I chose that as my confirmation name.

My daughters did the same, as did some of my sisters, so Geraldine has become quite an important name in our family.

I wouldn't give a child the same Christian name as one of its parents as that can just cause confusion.

It is nice to acknowledge someone's memory in a second name or confirmation name if you can."

'A name can be a nice way of paying tribute'

Pete Snodden (34) lives in Bangor with his wife Julia and their daughters Ivana (4) and Elayna (6 months). He says:

Peter Scott Snodden is my full name and that came from my dad as he was John Scott. If I had a boy then the likelihood was that we would given him Scott as a middle name, too.

I like the idea of keeping Scott going as a middle name.

My eldest daughter is Ivana Shannon which came from my grandmother, Annie Shannon. She passed away before I was a year old, so I never knew her but I loved the name.

We've given both of our daughters names that we really liked, but it is nice when you can pass a name on. It's a reminder of who you are and where you're from - we all arrived on this earth because of the generations that came before us and names are a nice way to pay tribute to them."

Belfast Telegraph

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