Names of Kings and Queens

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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in Toronto

Regnal names

Though most British Kings and Queens have used their first baptismal name as their regnal name, on four occasions monarchs have varied from this trend:

In the case of Robert III, he ascended the throne of Scotland in 1390, known as John, Earl of Carrick, he deemed it imprudent to become "John II", as recent kings named John had turned out badly; King John of England had a cruel reputation and suffered rebellion, and John Balliol in Scotland was portrayed as a betrayer. John Baliol was left off the king lists, portrayed as no legitimate king, which the crowning of a "John II" would contradict. This John of Carrick took the regnal name of Robert III, honouring his father and great-grandfather.[1]

In 1901 Albert Edward, Prince of Wales took the name "Edward" against the wish of his late mother Queen Victoria that her descendants would bear the name "Albert" indefinitely, and rather than rule as "Albert-Edward" as the Queen had intended, he chose to be Edward alone, saying that he did not wish to diminish the status of his father, Prince Albert. In 1936, after the abdication crisis the Duke of York, Albert Frederick Arthur George, ascended the throne as King George VI perhaps with the same considerations in mind.

Regnal number

On her accession to the throne in 1952, Princess Elizabeth (who was baptized Elizabeth Alexandra Mary), chose to use her own name in accordance with precedent. In Scotland there had never been an earlier Elizabeth however and a few characters decided to be offended by the "II", and went as far as to vandalise some Royal Mail post boxes which bore the Royal Cypher EIIR, and one even brought a claim in the Court of Session (MacCormick v. Lord Advocate, (1953 SC 396)) to contest Her Majesty's right to entitle herself Elizabeth II within Scotland. The case was dismissed.

No similar upset was claimed for the numbers of King Edward VII nor of King Edward VIII.

This fuss over two letters led to a decision, announced to the House of Commons by Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister, that where the Scottish and English numerals conflict, the higher of the two would be chosen.

In Her Majesty's other realms in the Commonwealth, She rules as "Elizabeth II" notwithstanding that Elizabeth I was never Queen in any of them.

List of names and numbers

Some royal names have been used only once, and some repeatedly. The highest regnal number is "VIII", used by Henry VIII and Edward VIII, though three unnumbered Edwards ruled England before King Edward I (who in his day was on occasion known as "Edward II" in succession to Edward the Confessor, the canonised king who died in 1066). Therefore English numbering is considered to begin from the Norman Conquest simply to avoid confusing the Edwards. If this is the case, any reuse of the name of an Anglo-Saxon king would presumably not make the bearer "II", though no such name has been used in England since the Norman conquest other than 'Edward'.

Some kings are left off the usual king lists, for example Edgar II, also known as Edgar the Ætheling, who was proclaimed after the death of Harold II but was overtaken and surrendered to William the Conqueror, and Lady Jane Grey, the nine-days' queen. Some early monarchs amongst the Scots and Picts are uncertain, heard of in a chronicle or a poem somewhere but otherwise unknown and so are discounted as doubtful.

The kings of Scotland and of England only are listed as the throne is in succession to them, not to regional kings whose kingdoms have been dissolved.

Name Kingdoms Numbers Another would be
Áed Scotland
Alexander Scotland I, II, III IV
Alfred England
Anne Gt Britain II
Athelstan England
Canute England
Charles Gt Britain I, II III
Colin Scotland II
Constantine Scotland I, II, III IV
David Scotland I, II III
Donald Scotland I, II, II, V
Duff Scotland II
Duncan Scotland I, II III
Eadred England
Eadwig England
Edgar England II
Edmund England I, II
Edward England i, ii, iii, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VI IX
Egbert England
Elizabeth England I III
Æthelbald England
Ethelbert England
Ethelred England I, II
Æthelwulf England
George Gt Britain I, II, III VII
Hardicanute England
Harold England I, II
Henry England I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII IX
Indulf Scotland II
James England I, II VIII
Scotland I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
John England II
Kenneth Scotland I, II, III IV
Lulach Scotland II
Macbeth Scotland II
Malcolm Scotland I, II, III, IV V
Margaret Scotland II
Mary England I, II III
Scotland I, II
Matilda England II
Richard England I, II, III IV
Robert Scotland I, II, III IV
Stephen England II
Victoria UK II
William England I, II, III V
Scotland I, II


  1. Magnusson, Magnus, Scotland: The Story of a Nation (2000)