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By the way, nobody names royal babies ‘Atlanta’

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Poll

Which is your favorite royal name?

Today’s topic is history – and, no, you may not be excused.

Much fuss is being made across the pond about the pending birth of a royal. Brits love their monarchs, and, truth be told, so do we. It is a good time to revisit Charlotte’s royal link, embarrassing though it is.

In 1762, King George III was upon the throne, using the colonies as his personal ATM.

That was the year a new county was created here. Settlers thought they could curry favor by naming it for the German homeland of the king’s wife, born in the stuffy duchy of Mecklenburg-Streliz. They dropped the second word because – then as now – no one could pronounce it.

In 1768, it was time to name the county seat. Settlers doubled down on their bet by naming it Charlotte Town, for the queen’s first name. Later, they dropped the second word because no one aspires to become a world-class town.

None of this did any good. Queen Charlotte sent no thank-you note. George III kept sending revenue agents. Charlotte’s Chamber of Commerce began talk of establishing a chariot museum to give people something else to talk about.

By 1775, the royal naming-rights issue had become a source of civic mortification. Charles Dickens later wrote a book summing things up that year as the best of times and the worst of times, noting in the second paragraph, “There was a king with a large jaw, and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England.”

With their approval ratings in the dumps, things only got worse for the crown in the ramparts of the “Queen City,” as town criers of the day would call it in each newscast.

Even though it was before liquor-by-the-drink, a rabblesome group of elders approved the Mecklenburg Declaration, thus seceding from the commonwealth. With monks in short supply, no one thought to make a copy.

Inspired by the treachery of the reformed royal bootlickers, Congress approved in 1776 the Declaration of Independence. Reading like a nasty job evaluation, it cataloged George III’s failures. Down where it asks about overall performance, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “a tyrant unfit to rule.”

Lord Cornwallis was apparently aware of Charlotte’s apple-polishing image, but he had not kept up with developments. He visited in 1780 on an errand to crush the Continental Army. He vanished after 10 days, complaining it was “a hornet’s nest of rebellion,” though some say it was the restaurant tax that repulsed him.

Now, all’s forgiven. We deal with that naming fiasco the way we deal with everything: We pretend it never happened.

As for the latest bundle in London, it is our reverent hope that its name reflect our roots of royalty. Please, please, William and Kate, name him “Bruton.”

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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