Royal Ties: Eponyms bequeathed on Monarchs and Nobles

One cateory of names in particular bares even more of a disconnect from the species than others. There is at least a thematic link between scientists and explorers and the species named for them, but perhaps the most egregious colonial act in species naming is those species given the name of a distant ruler who neither knows nor likely cares about a species existence. These are figures who are usually fairly well documented in their own right, and thus relegating an entire species to a footnote in their legacy

There are some members of nobility who did have a specific connection to the species named for them, sometimes as scientists themselves, and sometimes as sponsors of expeditions. Where that is the case, those will be dealt with in their own articles. This page is a brief summary of the figures for whom their eponyms were functionally a minor gift in the name of nationalism.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Prince Consort of Queen Victoria

Photo Credit [link]

The Birds

Albert’s Lyrebird

Photo Credit: Tony Castro [link]

Prince Albert (1819-1861) was Prince Consort of Queen Victoria, in whom he famously inspired so much dedication that after his death at the age of 42, Victoria to go into deep mourning for the rest of her life and only wear black from then on. Between them they had nine children, the descendents of whom are represented in the monarchies of Europe to this day.

He was reputedly a moderating influence on British politics in many ways, trying to push for humanitarianism, ending slavery worldwide, promotion of the arts and sciences and opposition to foreign interventionism. That all being said, as husband to Victoria he was complicit in the harm caused by the British Empire, the most colossal colonialist endeavor in human history.

The Lyrebird was described by John Gould in a publication by Charles Bonaparte in 1850. Gould stated that he named it as such “as a slight token of the respect for his personal virtues, and the liberal support he has rendered to my various ventures”.

Sources:

  • Prince Albert on Royal.uk [link]
  • Prince Albert on Britannica.com [link]
  • Australian Bird Names: A Complete Guide, page 166 [link]

Princess Alexandra of Denmark

Princess of Wales, Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, Empress of India

Photo Credit [link]

The Birds

Princess Parrot

Photo Credit: Timothy Chacko [link]

There is a hint of irony in being the bearer of an eponym which doesn’t actually contain anything identifiable as specifically your name, yet this is the case with Alexandra of Denark (1844-1925) and the ambiguously named Princess Parrot.

Born into what had been a comparatively minor family, in 1852 her father was chosen to replace his second cousin Frederick VII and the Danish Throne, and with her new status, she was betrothed at age 16 to the future King Edward VII. Together they would have six children, including George V.

She would suffer chronic health issues as a result of illness; first rheumatic fever would leave her with a limp, and later hereditary otosclerosis would lead to increasing deafness. The result would be spending more time in social isolation, especially combined with her husband’s numerous affairs.

The Princess Parrot was named by John Gould to celebrate her marriage.

Sources:

  • Alexandra – Queen Consort of Great Britain at Britannica.com [link]
  • The Eponym Dictionary of Birds p.22

Princess Charlotte of Prussia

Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen

Photo Credit [link]

The Birds

Princess Charlotte’s Bulbul

Photo Credit: Mike Prince [link]

Daughter and sister to two bearers of the twin role of German Emperor and King of Prussia, Princess Charlotte of Prussia (1860-1919), and Granddaughter to Queen Victoria. Princess Charlotte suffered from numerous health issues through her life and was regarded as a troublesome child. At age 16 She would become engaged to her second cousin, Bernhard III, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, whom her family hoped would bring her around to more intellectual interests.

She would have a single child; Feodora, and unusually for the time would decide she didn’t want any further children, and would rather spend more time for herself in Berlin and on long trips. Her relationship with her daughter would prove to be strained over the years due to their strong wills. Charlotte would die of a heart attack at age 59 following increasing medical issues, which later scientists have suggested may well have been hereditary porphyria – a condition associated with the British Royal Family.

The connection to the bird is unclear, as Finsch left no details of his reasoning for the name, the name is only presumed to refer to her.

Sources:

  • The Eponym Dictionary of Birds, p. 117

Princess Stéphanie of Belgium

Crown Princess of Austria

Photo Credit [link]

The Birds

Princess Stéphanie’s Astrapia

Image Credit: [link]

Princess Stéphanie of Belgium (1864-1945) was the daughter of Leopold II of Belgium – the man behind the horrific atrocities of the Congo Free State which resulted in millions of deaths in the region. Leopold however apparently had minimal interest in Stéphanie or her sister and indeed largely ignored his daughters first in favour of his son and later into the running of the Free State, which belonged to him personally rather than being a Belgian colony.

She would be engaged to Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria when she was only 15, but upon discovering that she had not reached puberty and seemed naive to what that would entail, the marriage was delayed until her 17th Birthday. She would have a single daughter before disease would render her incapable of bearing further children. The relationship would continue to break down on both sides, and would culminate in Rudolf and his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera carrying out a suicide pact in 1889, leaving Stéphanie a widow.

She would remarry a year later but the notoriety of the suicide would continue to be a source of drama in her life: she attempted to publish her memoirs on it in 1935, but all copies were siezed by the police in an attempt to avert scandal. She would die in 1945.

No clear etymology is left as to why this bird was named after her.

Sources:

  • The Eponym Dictionary of Birds p. 531

Queen Carola of Vasa

Princess of Sweden, Queen Consort of Saxony

Photo credit [link]

The Birds

Carola’s Astropia

Image Credit: [link]

A member of the Swedish Royal Family, Carola of Vasa (1833-1907) would marry Crown Prince Albert of Saxony in 1852, and during her time as Crown Princess would become involved in supporting military field hospitals through an organisation known as the Albert Society. She would become Queen in 1873 as her husband ascended to the throne, and would continue her work supporting the injured for the rest of her life.

The Astropia would be named for her by A. B. Mayer in 1894.

Sources:

  • The Eponym Dictionary of Birds p. 451

Queen Victoria

Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India

Photo credit [link]

The Birds

Victoria Crowned Pigeon

Image Credit: Umberto Salvagnin [link]

Few figures loom so large in the history of the modern world as Queen Victoria (1819-1901), one of the longest serving of British monarchs, and under her rule the British Empire would continue it’s expansion rapidly to the point where her rulerships ostensiably extended to nearly a quarter of all people on earth.

She is probably one of the most recognisable figures of British history, which combined with the changes that happened under her reign meant that the Victorian period would influence the course of history both within the British Empire and globally. Her regin would see a substantial increase in the Empire’s size with it invading or otherwise taking control of among others, New Zealand, increasingly large sections of the Indian subcontinent, large swathes of Southern and Eastern Africa and a multitude of smaller territories on every continent. As as the recurring theme of European Colonialism throughout the world, this expansionism was accompanied by atrocities against the indiginous peoples of the places it entered.

The Victoria Crowned Pigeon was named after Queen Victoria by Louis Fraser in 1844.

Sources:

  • Queen Victoria on Royal.uk [link]
  • Empires: Queen Victoria at pbs.org [link]