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The name that breaks tradition


Many are repeated not just down the generations but within them too. In an instant, Harry has rejected this curious royal parlour game

Britains Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, with their newborn son.

COULD they possibly have chosen two names less weighted with tradition, less burdened with royal expectation?

If Harry and Meghan truly wish their son not to be immersed in the duties and stiff conventions of the House of Windsor, calling him Archie Harrison is a formidable start.

Not since the Queen’s cousin Marina Mowatt came up with Zenouska for her daughter has a member of the Royal Family selected such original and unusual names. But Zenouska, whose name was derived from the cult book Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Eno after the pop musician, Brian Eno, is 56th in line to the throne though she was 27th when she was born in 1990.

Archie is a mere seventh. It is a name chosen with an eye to the future. This is an infant whose parents hope he will be a global citizen. Even so some will wonder if baby Sussex’s names were deliberately chosen for him to stand alone, aloof almost from the ancient traditions of royalty.

But put yourself in Prince Harry’s shoes. Since 2013 he has seen his brother William have the pick of royal names for his sons George and Louis and the pool is not big.

Many are repeated not just down the generations but within them too. In an instant, Harry has rejected this curious royal parlour game.

After all the speculation, all the hints and clues the only winners were the bookies who had Archie as a 150/1 outsider. And Harrison? It did not even feature among the also-rans.

With two such unexpected names Harry and Meghan have avoided the perils of offending the family by choosing some but not others. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that, despite all the talk suggesting the duke would be honouring his paternal grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh with his new son, the name Philip did not feature.

Neither does Charles, of course, and after all the sadness over the rift between former actress Meghan and her father Thomas Markle, it is no surprise that his name was not used. Spencer to acknowledge his mother Princess Diana’s family was another name that was hotly tipped but failed to make the grade.

What we can be sure of is that both he and Meghan really do like the two names they have chosen. For if there is one thing we have learned about this couple, it’s that they do things their way. Indeed after everything that surrounded the newborn’s birth, from the secrecy over where he was delivered to the timing of the announcement, the names are surely just a final twist.

Intriguingly both Harry and Meghan were themselves given different names at birth. Harry was, of course, christened Henry and, up until her teens, Meghan was called Rachel, coincidentally the name of her character in her break-out role in the TV drama Suits.

For Harry the temptation to choose a name from his rich royal heritage must have been immense. But just as Princess Anne did with her daughter Zara Phillips, he has gone his own way. Back in 1981 Zara was by no means the favourite name for the Queen’s first granddaughter. Indeed it may yet be that the duke and duchess will follow Harry’s aunt in another way by declining a royal title for their son.

Ever since this couple got together they have been breaking taboos. 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 is used.

So if Harry and Meghan have been eschewing the royal name game, from where did they draw inspiration? Archie was a name they both loved and had had in mind. And when they dug into its history and discovered it means “bold or brave” it seemed compelling.

They also learned that the name was connected to the ancient Greek word archon meaning leader, a suitable name for a monarch’s great grandson but also for a royal whose parents hope he makes his own way in the world.

Archibald has a long, noble lineage, particularly among the Scottish aristocracy. There is also a Scottish expression, he thinks he’s an Archie, meaning someone who thinks they are a bit special, above the fray. Famous Archie’s include Archie Leach, the real name of the Hollywood star Cary Grant.

Harrison is much more unconventional and reflects Meghan’s US roots. Literally, it is Harry’s son, surely therefore a nod to his father. It also perfectly encapsulates the American and wider Commonwealth trend for using surnames as first names. It’s currently ranked 113 in the US and was made popular by Star Wars actor Harrison Ford, but the expectation is that it will surge in popularity now.

There may be a more poignant explanation. Harry has twice met a youngster called Harrison at Remembrance Sunday services. In 2016 Harry stopped to talk to Harrison Degiorgio-Lewis at a Westminster Abbey service when he spotted the six-year-old wearing his uncle’s campaign medals and beret. It was Harry’s first public appearance after he confirmed his relationship with Meghan. A year later he spoke with Harrison again at the same service.

Harrison’s uncle, Lieutenant Aaron Lewis, of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. His grandmother Helen Lewis, of Rochford in Essex, said Harry had spoken to them about a charity set up in memory of her son Aaron, which helps injured veterans and those suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Choosing the name because of this military connection would be typical of Harry’s generosity of spirit.

On one level the names work because of their nobility but they also have a warm and caring common feel, just as the couple like to see themselves.

What is certain is that in the highly competitive royal world they have at a stroke avoided the pitfalls of envy and one-upmanship. No one can be offended because no one on either side of the family has been left out,’ marvels one of Harry’s circle.

They may not be to everyone’s taste, but they are certainly unique.