What's in a name?

Royal family baby name trend setters

Ever wondered why certain baby names rise or fall in popularity over time? Turns out the royal family's choice in names may have something to do with it. The take home message from this post is that if you work in the baby industry - get ready for lots of baby Georges, Charlottes, and whatever baby number 3 is called. 

I found some really interesting data from South Australia, that listed all baby names registered there between 1944-2013. Turns out there were lots of Johns and Peters back in the 50's but not that many anymore - and in fact William is one of the most popular boy names now. This got me wondering about the idea that many speculate about: that the Royal family are trend setters on everything from fashion to children's names. There may be some truth to this! 

Just a couple of quick caveats to point out that:
1) The data is only from South Australia and I'm just making the assumption that this is representative
2) I am focusing on a subset of the royals, and also have not included exhaustive derivatives of their names (e.g. I only included "Charles", and not "Charlie")
3) Of course may be other influences on baby name trends, this is just one.
4) I'm only focusing on figures from the mid 1970's to now.

Here is a graph with all the information pooled together, but below I run through some key things I thought were important.


Charles and Diana

Let's start with Prince Charles and Princess Diana. I had assumed that there would be lots of little Dianas running around after the fairytale wedding in 1981 - after all, Diana was the "peoples princess". Turns out that year, there were 28 babies born with the royal couples namesake - 14 Dianas and 14 Charles'. The following year (also the year Prince William was born) there were 17 baby girls called Diana and only 5 baby boys born called Charles (perhaps NOT wanting to have the same name as the prince!). After that first year of marriage, there is very little change in overall numbers of baby Charles' or Dianas. The figure below is a zoomed in portion of the data, just showing these two names over the period of their marriage and two children born. These figures would suggest people aren't that interested in giving their children the royal treatment.

William and Harry

Now turning to Charles' and Diana's children: William and Harry. In 1982 when Prince William was born, there were 43 other Williams born in South Australia. So already it was a more popular name than either Charles or Diana was. Over time though, we see a steady increase in the number of boys born being called William. In the late 1980's to mid 90's there were between 75-80 born each year, which jumped to 122 in 1997, the year Princess Diana died. Since then there have been 115-145 Williams born every year, making one of the most popular names in the state (it's been in the top 10 since 2002). This change is a 337% increase in the number of Williams running around each year!

The name Harry was never as popular as William. There were only 2 Harrys born in 1984 when Prince Harry was born. But, like his older brother, his name has steadily increased in popularity over time, with somewhere from 50-80 boys born each year bearing the name Harry. This is a 400% increase in the choosing of Harry for a baby boys name. So comparing these numbers with their parents, maybe it's just that this trend has changed over time. Interest in the royal family increased in the 90's and more people were naming their kids after the royal family.

Princess Kate and her kids

When Princess Kate came on the scene, you'd naturally assume there would be an increase in the number of new baby Kates, but interestingly this isn't what the data showed. Wills and Kate first started dating in 2005, so this is when the public was first introduced to her. There was very little change in the popularity of the name Catherine (her full name) or Kate over the period of their courtship or wedding in 2011. Not the pattern you would have expected if it was a general royal fascination that has developed over time. Maybe it's because people are more likely to name their babys after royal BABIES and not just any royal. Let's test that out by looking at figures for the name George - son born in 2013 to William and Kate. In 2013 George was the 78th most popular name (there were 27 born). In 2014 there were almost twice as many born - with 44 new boys called George. That number has stayed consistent until the most current data. 

So just like I said at the top, if you make or sell baby clothes or accessories with names on them, order extra ones with George and Charlotte, and keep an ear out for the new baby name upon arrival next April. On the flip side, if you're a new mum and you want a distinctive name, this also gives you some ones to avoid.

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