It's the name of two regnants and three consorts making it the second most used in royal history for queens. And it's one of the bookies' favourites, at 8-1, for a possible Cambridge princess. All royal houses have names that dominate proceedings and Elizabeth is definitely a Windsor name.
At the heart of the story of the House of Windsor is Queen Elizabeth II, the second longest reigning monarch in British history. This year marks the 60th anniversary of her coronation and last year's outpouring of public support at the Diamond Jubilee showed just how successful her long reign has been. It's rare for a Windsor girl not to have her name somewhere in their full moniker - her daughter is Anne Elizabeth while three of her four granddaughters have it as a middle name as does one of her two great granddaughters. So it's a safe bet that it will be in there somewhere but can the previous Queen Elizabeths of England give a clue as to whether it will be first among equals?
Elizabeth II's mark on history is indelible. Will the next Queen Regnant of England also be an Elizabeth?
The name Elizabeth was brought into the House of Windsor by the Queen's mother. Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married George V's second son, Albert George, in 1923. As Duke and Duchess of York they had a high enough profile but were widely expected to fade into obscurity when the heir to the throne, the future Edward VIII, married. Of course we know that when he did choose a bride he was already king and picked a divorcee. The Abdication Crisis of 1936 put the Duke and Duchess centre stage and then on the throne as George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth may never have expected to be queen consort but she set about making her husband's reign as successful as possible. Major foreign tours in the first years of their reign and their image as a happy family with their two girls consolidated their standing. 'We four' was how they described their tight knit unit and the similarities between this and how many people saw their own family lives helped to boost their popularity.
Elizabeth, Queen Consort of England (1936 - 1952) with her husband, King George VI, on their tour of Canada in 1939 - just months before the start of World War II
But it was the outbreak of war in 1939 that provided the greatest test - and ultimately the greatest triumph - of George and Elizabeth's reign. The royal couple refused to go into exile and stayed in London during the Blitz that would destroy large parts of their capital city. Queen Elizabeth's regular visits to the badly hit East End of London and her donation of royal furniture to those who had lost everything made her hugely popular. The king's broadcasts were as vital to morale as the more famous oratory of his Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and when peace was declared in May 1945 one of the most iconic images in royal and British history was created when George, Elizabeth and Churchill appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
Churchill with Queen Consort, Elizabeth, and HM King George VI
Elizabeth is best known to us as the Queen Mother - the role she occupied after the early death of her husband in 1952 until her own death, aged 101, in 2002. She re-created the position of sovereign's mother, developing her profile through patronages and charity work. One of the most photographed women of the 20th century, her legacy remains in the stability and solidity of the present day Royal Family. Along with her daughter she is the bedrock of the House of Windsor - perhaps the strongest argument for calling any Cambridge princess Elizabeth.
Of course, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons wasn't the first Queen Consort of England with that name. But she was the first for over four hundred years. Given the popularity of the name in the general population, the number of Elizabeths in royal history is tiny. But they have nearly all achieved great things.
The last consort called Elizabeth before the Queen Mother began her reign in 1486. Elizabeth of York is for many a romantic heroine who helped unite the Houses of York and Lancaster and form the Tudor dynasty. She could have been the first Queen Regnant of England but did an unfortunate teenage relationship and the over ambition of her mother cost her a crown?
Elizabeth was born in 1466, the eldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She saw two younger brothers leapfrog her in the succession but when they mysteriously disappeared in 1483 after the death of their father, Elizabeth had as good a claim to the throne of England as anyone. She was a girl, admittedly, but there was a severe shortage of men to take the crown.
Two things changed her destiny. Firstly, her mother began to plot with her arch enemy, Margaret Beaufort of the House of Lancaster, to marry Elizabeth to Margaret's son, Henry Tudor. This would unite the two houses and end the war that had dominated English politics for three decades. Secondly, Elizabeth was linked to a possible marriage with the present king, Richard III. They were seen flirting and dancing with one another on more than one occasion and rumours ran rife that the king intended to make her his queen. Just two problems - his first wife, although ill, was still alive and Elizabeth was his niece. Not by marriage, by blood. The king was forced to deny any relationship but Elizabeth's reputation was damaged.
It would be hard to see how she could have come back from the rumours to take the crown for herself, even if she had been so inclined. As far as we know, she wasn't. But then the Tudors wouldn't want any such ambitions kept for posterity. Henry Tudor's blood claim to be king was patchy and he didn't want to be seen as ruling because of his wife. So he claimed the crown through conquest and even though the marriage pact was agreed before then, he made sure he married Elizabeth months after his coronation. She was relegated to a side part in the Tudor story and never rose to prominence again.
She stuck to the traditional pattern of a medieval queen - even though her husband was a modern monarch. Elizabeth had seven children, including the future Henry VIII, and died as a consequence of childbirth on her 37th birthday.
Elizabeth of York taken from the famous portrait of her with her husband, Henry VII, their son, Henry VIII and his third queen, Jane Seymour
Elizabeth of York's mother had been the first queen consort with the name. We've already talked a lot about Elizabeth Woodville on this blog, and will discuss her more as The White Queen continues on BBC One, so this will be brief. The first commoner to wed a king and by all accounts not the most popular queen of England, she was famous for her beauty, her ambition, her ruthlessness and ultimately her tragic loss of many of those she loved. The high profile TV series currently playing out her story reminds us all of the sad end to a difficult life - perhaps the least convincing reason to call a future queen, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Woodville with her husband, Edward IV. She was never popular during her 19 years as Queen of England.
If William and Kate do choose Elizabeth, she will be the third queen regnant of England with that name. The first, and for four hundred years the only, Queen Elizabeth is such a major part of British history that she gave her name to a whole age.
She started off on the wrong foot - the wrong body really as Henry VIII confidently expected her to be the male heir he longed for and for whom he had changed religions, wives and the apparatus of the state. Things only got harder - she lost her mother when she was two and a half when Henry VIII had Anne Boleyn executed and aged just fourteen she was questioned over her true relationship with Thomas Seymour who was accused of plotting to marry her to be able to seize the throne. She only just escaped from that adventure with her own head - he lost his. And in her late teens and early twenties her life was again in the balance as her ever suspicious sister, Mary, fretted over the threat that her Protestant sibling posed to her plans to re-instate Catholicism as England's religion.
But we know that she went on to enjoy one of the most successful reigns of any English monarch as the economy of her country improved and its reputation on the world stage recovered from the disastrous foreign policy employed by Mary and her advisers. Culture and the arts flourished as did house building leaving a still tangible legacy. She also restored peace after decades of religious division - begun when her father, Henry VIII, created the Church of England to marry her mother, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth's own decision to not marry may have been influenced by the end of her parents' relationship and the execution of her mother - it also meant that the House of Tudor died with her.
Elizabeth I in a portrait to mark the victory over the Spanish Armada. By then she was Gloriana, celebrated in poems and prose by poets and at the height of her powers
Like Elizabeth II, she would provide a role model and a half for any future queen of England.
Elizabeth....the case for...
- It's a Windsor name and would honour both the Queen and the Queen Mother
- It's not been used much by British royals but nearly every single Elizabeth has achieved great things - it's the second most popular name for Queens (regnant and consort) in history
- It's Kate's own middle name - and that of her mother, Carole. So no one gets left out if this royal baby is another Good Queen Bess.
- It's a lot to live up to - between them, the five Queens called Elizabeth cover 160 years of history with major successes all around
- A change is as good as a rest...two of the three queens of the House of Windsor have been Elizabeths
- There's already a future Queen Elisabeth in Europe - Princess Elisabeth will one day be head of state in Belgium
Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, future queen, with her father, Prince Philippe