LONDON – The name George, chosen by Prince William and Kate for their first son, has a rich tradition in the British royal family with six former sovereigns sharing the name.
George, a fourth-century Christian martyr, is also the patron saint of England and represents honor, bravery and gallantry. According to legend, he rescued a virgin from the claws of a dragon.
It is the third-most-popular name for a British sovereign, after Henry and Edward. Both of those names were shared by eight kings. George, which was the 12th-most-popular name for baby boys in England and Wales in 2011, derives from the ancient Greek word for farmer and was widely predicted.
The six kings named George to have ruled over Britain:
George I (1714-1727): First king of the House of Hanover, he acceded to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland in 1714 despite only being 52nd in line. He claimed the throne as he was Queen Anne’s closest living Protestant relative, Britain having passed the 1701 Act of Settlement, which prohibited Catholics from inheriting the British throne. Despite being born in Germany and having little command of English, he oversaw a period of great stability for Britain.
George II (1727-1760): Son of George I, he is the last king of Britain to have entered battle alongside his troops, fighting against the French in the 1743 battle of Dettingen in Germany.
George III (1760-1820): Grandson of George II, he is the third monarch from the House of Hanover and the first to be born in England and speak the language fluently. During his reign, Britain lost the United States, which declared independence in 1776. George III holds the record for the longest life and reign of any British male sovereign, but had to cede de facto control of the throne to his son in 1811 due to recurrent, and eventually permanent, madness. His problems became the subject of the 1994 film “The Madness of King George.”
George IV (1820-1830): Son of George III, this art collector and bon viveur commissioned the extravagant Indian-themed royal pavilion in Brighton, southern England. He enjoyed a colorful private life, secretly and illegally marrying a Catholic woman before wedding a Protestant, whom he tried in vain to divorce.
George V (1910-1936): During World War I, the emperor-king visited his troops on more than 450 occasions. Due to anti-German sentiment, he abandoned the historic family name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and adopted Windsor, the name of the castle to the west of London and the current name of the royal family. During his reign, Ireland became independent. George V began the tradition of addressing the nation at Christmas, via radio.
George VI (1936-1952): The beloved father of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. He came to the throne in 1936 after his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated to marry U.S. divorcee Wallis Simpson. His real name was Albert, but he chose George VI on becoming king in honor of his father and to send a signal of stability following the chaos sparked by his brother. He suffered from a severe stutter. Actor Colin Firth portrayed him in the multi-Oscar-winning film “The King’s Speech” in 2010.