Friday, 30 March 2012

Second great-granddaughter for Queen Elizabeth II

It was announced today that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of Britain became great-grandparents for the second time yesterday, when their granddaughter-in-law Autumn Phillips gave birth to another daughter at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
The child’s name will be Isla Elizabeth Phillips and she is thirteenth in line to the thrones of Britain and other countries of which her great-grandmother is queen.
The girl’s father, Peter Phillips, is the eldest child of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, and her first husband Mark Phillips. Peter was himself born in the year when his grandmother celebrated her silver jubilee, while his daughter has now seen the light of day as her great-grandmother celebrates her diamond jubilee.
The first child of Peter Phillips and his Canadian-born wife Autumn, Savannah, was born on 30 December 2010.


  1. It might interest your readers to know that Isla is a Scottish name. It is the name of more than one river in Scotland as well as being a variant spelling for Islay, an island off Scotland's west coast which is known as the "Queen of the Hebrides" (and celebrated for its whiskey). The name's use for christening babies is influenced by these.

    Now, the 's' in Isla and Islay can be deceptive, and neither the Gaelic forms (Ilidh, Ìle) nor the more ancient English forms of Islay (Yla, Ilay) nor indeed of at least one of the rivers (Hylef) have ever had an 's' in the name.

    The girl's name Isla is pronounced "EYE-luh" in England and (approximately) "IYL-eh" in Scotland (or in the codes of the International Phonetic Alphabet : /ˈaɪlə/ and [ˈiːʎə] respectively).

    S. Quinn, Esq.

  2. Following my notes sent to you yesterday, my neighbour read it and was moved to enquire, "But what does her name mean ?- And why the 's' at all ?"

    Good questions both.

    There is no fixed or certain etymology for the places whence this personal name is derived, to wit, neither for the island called Islay (variant Isla) nor for the rivers of that name. So the name has no known meaning.

    Look at Johnston's "Place-Names of Scotland" (2nd ed. 1903), for example, which has the following entry :
    ISLAY. c. 690, Adamnan, Ilea ; a. 800, Nennius, Ile ; Sagas,
    Il; 1376, Barbour, Yla (this is very near the modern
    pron[unciation]); c. 1450, Yle. Adamnan's Ilea, like Malea and Egea,
    must be an adjectival form. Skene thinks the name pre-
    Celtic, and Il- is common in Basque place-names. Mean-
    ing doubtful. The 's' is a quite recent innovation, so no
    derivation fr[om] G[aelic] iosal, ' low,' is to be thought of.
    It is rumoured there are misty legends of a Pictish princess names Iula who may have dwelt on Islay in the Hebrides. And according to the Royal Scottish Forestry Society archives for Perthshire, Isla as "based on Norse ile, a spring or well" may inform the River Isla's name. But it would seem that for most parents, nowadays, the intended sense borne into the girl's name Isla is going to be something like "Lass of the Isles".

    The intrusive 's' in these names may be said to mirror that of the word "island" itself. The letter is entirely extraneous and "new" (as it were), for until about the year 1800 the Hebridean isle was spelled Ilay. (The Gaelic form is Ìle ; likewise Ìle is the River Isla in Perthshire, while Ilidh is the River Ila in the Helmsdale.) From the established phrase of "Isle of Ilay" one can imagine it must have been quite tempting for English quills to reduplicate the silent 's' on paper ; and given the critical juncture of history circa 1800, it was most likely some Ordnance Survey official sent up on orders from London who added the 's' while he mapped the place out, as part of the process of scouring the British Isles for a Napoleonic threat (it was around this very time the first Martello towers were built on the coasts of England and Ireland so as to scan the horizon for a French fleet of invaders).

    That the Queen's great-granddaughter bears a name from Scotland may well serve to generate some late-breaking good will in that nation. Certainly, with the impending Scottish independence referendum scheduled for 2014, good will galore will be needed in store for the British Royal Family to weather the gales of accelerated devolution.

    S. Quinn, Esq.


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