Royal Names in Spanish

April 30, 2011 By: erik Category: England, Musings, Spanish, Weird 1,707 views

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Royal Seal of Reina IsabelThe Spanish news and gossip media has been aflutter lately with stories about the British royal family. It’s reminded me about a really bizarre phenomenon when it comes to names of members of the royal family. For some reason they are translated into their Spanish equivalent. For instance, the current monarch of England is called Reina Isabel. She and her husband, Principe Felipe have a son, Principe Carlos, who is next in line to the throne. Carlos has two sons, Principe Guillermo and Principe Enrique. That sounds so weird. In no other circumstance are names translated like this.

We anglophones do this, as well. Good luck asking a Spaniard about monarchs Phillip II, or the famous duo of Ferdinand and Isabella. Their real names were Felipe II, Fernando and Isabel.

No doubt this tradition has very deep roots in power marriages across European kingdoms, but it hits my ears wrong every time I hear the Spanish news media speak of Carlos y Camila and their new daughter-in-law, Catalina Middleton.

  • José

    It has some reason.
    Names evolved with time. For example, what used to be Iohanes in Latin became Juan in Spanish, John in English and so on. So the Pope Iohanes I is known as Juan I in Spanish and John I in English, but his “real” name weren’t none of them. It’s the same story with old kings, like Arthur (known is Spanish as Arturo). His “real” name in Old English wasn’t probably Arthur, with that spelling. When William becomes King he will be William V, because there were four before him. But William I was King in the 11th century and was born in France, so his “real” name wasn’t probably Willliam. His name is known now as William in English and Guillermo in Spanish. They’re considered different versions of the same name. In more recent times, royal people moved from one country to another and “changed” their names at their new homes, like Marie Antoinette.
    I’m not saying translating their names is the right thing, I just say there’s some reason behind it.

    • erik

      As I said, I’m sure this tradition has its reasonable reasons, and I even specified that reason, but in today’s society where Tom Cruise ≠ Tomás Cruise and Johnny Depp ≠ Juanito Depp, it seems a bit antiquated.

  • CoMa

    I’ve got told that it is no tradition but protocol of the spanish court. It really sounds stupid and strange.

  • Josh

    I think that many historic figures in Spanish suffer a local name change. I can’t imagine that Mrs. Marx really named her kid “Carlos”. On the other hand, “Groucho” and “Harpo” are also hard to believe.

  • It is silly…and it makes it much harder for me to help the kids with their history lessons, since first I have to figure out exactly who they’re talking about.

    • Josh

      Don’t worry about it — history doesn’t seem to be very important to the Spaniards anyway.

    • erik

      I must admit that Enrique Octavo does sound way cooler than Henry the Eighth.

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