IT IS NOT often that a baby is named who is, and seems likely to remain, directly in line to be monarch of Britain. Before Prince Charles, the last example was the naming in 1894 of the prince who became, briefly, King Edward VIII. He was named after his grandfather, then the prince of Wales, in line with a tradition of commemorating recent and worthy forebears. Prince Charles was named more adventurously: the first King Charles was beheaded and the second died without legitimate issue in 1685.
William is also an adventurous choice. England has had four King Williams: William the Conqueror and his son William Rufus; William of Orange, a Dutch prince who married Queen Mary II and vanquished the Irish Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690; and William IV.
William IV? What do we know of this monarch? What kind of a role model was he? From his obituary in The Spectator we learn that "His late Majesty, though at times . . . jovial," was, "for a king, an honest man." We like the ring of that. He reigned from 1830 to 1837, just before Victoria. He became king at age 64, succeeding his brother; he had, according to historian John Clarke, "taken care to live to this day--gargling two gallons of water every morning and wearing huge galoshes to guard against chills." As a third son, William was not expected to be king; a fuller description comes from the British historian J.H. Plumb:
"Oddly enough, the Duke of Clarence (as William IV was before he became king) was popular. His language was pointed, frequently obscene and always worth repeating. He lived at Bushy Park with his actress, Mrs. Jordan, who produced ten FitzClarences with remarkable regularity to swell her brood of illegitimate children. Like all the Princes, Clarence was poverty-stricken, and although Mrs. Jordan helped to support herself and children by extensive provincial tours, they were always hopelessly in debt. Neither the poverty, the domestic bliss, nor the frequent births were clothed in decent obscurity. The honesty of Clarence's behavior was wholly admirable yet the results did not add to the dignity of the royal family. And the honesty itself was carried, perhaps too far, when, realizing that his legitimate heirs would inherit the Crown, he ordered Mrs. Jordan out of his house, made a couple of botch shots at English heiresses and then promptly married Princess Adelaide."
We congratulate Prince Charles and Diana, princess of Wales, for reviving for royal use a fine old English name and for bringing to mind the days when noblesse didn't have to oblige.