Meghan Markle is due to give birth this spring, but the anticipation over what she’ll choose as her first royal baby name has been in full swing since she announced her pregnancy in October. Whether the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex will name their royal baby with something conventional by royal standards or something different is up for debate.
Though it’s been widely believed that Meghan and Prince Harry are going against convention in their marriage, the notion that their approach to their royal duties breaks tradition is basically false, according to Victoria Arbiter, a royal expert and commentator for CNN. The royal couple doesn’t tend to stray as far from tradition as people may think, she says. “They haven’t broken any rules, but they’re certainly doing things their way,” Arbiter tells TIME.
The naming of this royal child is, in essence, less consequential than the naming of royals who are higher on the line of succession. Meghan Markle’s baby will be the seventh heir to the throne, providing a bit more “leniency” to the naming process, Arbiter explains.
Because the child will likely not have an HRH affixed to its name — it will not be called a “prince” or “princess” unless Queen Elizabeth issues a new patent decreeing it, which she has previously done in 2012 for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s children — the naming process for Meghan and Harry has even more space for creativity. Arbiter also says the Queen would discuss this decision with the parents before writing the patent.
As the stakes are a bit lower than they are for HRH-affixed royal names, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could definitely choose to call the royal baby something untraditional, according to royal expert, Vanity Fair royal correspondent and the author of Harry and Meghan: Life, Loss, and Love, Katie Nicholl. “There’s a lot of speculation that Meghan’s going to want to go for something quite untraditional, possibly an American name or a modern name. It’s possible,” Nicholl tells TIME.
But, Nicholl says, it’s probably more likely that Prince Harry will yearn to follow tradition. “If you look at the names of royal children, they are quite traditional names. They often reflect the family tree,” she explains. “I think Harry will be keen to honor that tradition.”
Arbiter adds that the pair may look to the family tree for inspiration. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle may honor Prince Philip, just as it was a “given” that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge named their first child Prince George — now the third in line to the throne — after King George VI, Queen Elizabeth’s father.
If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be Prince Harry fighting alone for the traditional, though, Nicholl predicts. “I think [Markle] understands and respects the traditional institution that she’s married into.”
At the end of the day, Arbiter says that the name of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby will be completely up to them. The Queen only plays a small role in naming the child. Parents get to make their own decisions and choose their child’s name. “The Queen is not a dictator by any stretch of the imagination,” Arbiter says.
Still, including the Queen in the naming and making sure she’s notified of the final decision first is definitely a royal custom. “She’s the head of the family, she’s been Queen for over 66 years — really it’s just a mark of respect to the matriarch of the family,” Arbiter says.