With numerous places named for British Kings George I, II and III already examined and set-aside in the previous article, it was time to turn my attention to IV, V and VI. This would be more difficult. The first set of Georges ruled for a contiguous period of more than a century, from 1714 to 1820, an era coinciding with a rapid growth of the British Empire. The remaining three ruled for half that time with a large gap in between while the Empire began to unravel. There were considerably fewer opportunities to name places for those Georges. Most of the names had already been bestowed within the Empire and new territories weren’t being added much anymore. Also, opportunities in the United States and other places dried-up after their independence. Even so I still found a few examples scattered amongst other areas of the world although sometimes I needed to get creative.
That creativity extended to the City of Guelph in Ontario, Canada (map). Guelph? Yes, Guelph was named for King George IV. The University of Guelph explained the logic:
Where did the name GUELPH originate? The city of Guelph was named in 1827 to honour the British Empire’s King George IV, whose family name was Gwelf. The spelling has been changed to today’s "Guelph" — but it’s pronounced just as it was 170 years ago: gwelf (rhymes with self). The origin of the city’s name is also why you might hear Guelph referred to as "The Royal City." Of course, we just refer to it as ‘home.’
I decided to provide another example just in case readers felt a bit cheated by the reference to Guelph. Purists in the audience probably wanted to see something named George instead. How about Georgian Bay (map)? This corner of Lake Huron on the Canadian side of the border sat east of Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula. It was quite sizable with a surface area of fifteen thousand square kilometres (just a little smaller than Kuwait), so George IV got at least one geographic feature of note named for him. Indeed, I confirmed that it was true.
Examples began to taper quickly from there. Lots of cities named streets for George IV, including a nice elevated one in Edinburgh, Scotland. However his decade long reign limited the availability of naming opportunities.
The First World War was a horrific conflict that ravaged Western Europe although it did result in something that met the criteria for this article, a swanky street in Paris named for George V. The street originally went by Avenue d’Alma. The French decided to honor George V for his support to the nation during the war and changed its name to Avenue George V on Bastille Day, July 14, 1918 (map). It wasn’t a long road, less than a kilometre, although it was exceedingly prestigious as would befit the ruler of an important ally. It formed one side of Paris’ Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle) when paired with Ave. Montaigne and the Champs-Elysées, an area considered "the most luxurious place on the right bank." This also provided a home to the magnificent George V Four Seasons Hotel, a 1928 Art Deco masterpiece. These were all served by the adjacent George V station on the Paris Metro subway.
Additionally, George V gained a lake named for him located directly on the equator in Uganda (map) although he was still Prince George at the time. I thought that should still count even though he wasn’t yet king. I had to take what I could get. There weren’t many examples.
What blank spaces on the map could the British possibly be able to fill by 1936 when George VI came to the throne? Why, places in Antarctica of course! It might have been a bit removed from the beaten track although the territory was immense, as were the naming opportunities
Lincoln Ellsworth was born into a wealthy Chicago family and had the financial means to become an Antarctic explorer. His groundbreaking 1935 expedition by airplane "covered a distance of 2200 miles of which 1200 miles was over previously unexplored territory." and he "was able to photograph the major fault depression" along his route. The British Graham Land Expedition reached the rift overland by sled the following year, traveling 200 miles "down the channel separating Alexander Island from the Peninsula." This expedition named this area King George VI Sound (map). Most of the sound was covered by ice, and that became the King George VI Ice Shelf. It was big too, stretching 300 miles (483 km). The scale was downright impressive. George VI did alright with that deal, all things considered.
What were the odds of seeing Twelve Mile Circle visitors from George, South Africa and George, Washington, USA on the same day? I found the coincidence fascinating. The city of George in Washington was, of course, named for George Washington. That other George in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, I suspected, must have been named for one of the several King Georges who ruled Great Britain. Which one though? There were six such kings over a span of more than two centuries. That led me to wonder if I could find a geographic place named for each one of them. I uncovered more than I expected so I had to split the topic into two articles. This post will cover George I, II and III. The next one will discuss George IV, V and VI.
George didn’t become King until he was well into his 50’s upon the death of Queen Anne. He’d been born in Hanover and spent his time as Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg growing up. There were numerous members of the extended royal family more closely related to Anne that George, however they were all Catholic so they didn’t qualify to succeed her. Being of Protestant faith, the throne came to George, the first king of the House of Hanover. His age pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn’t reign long and it limited the opportunity for places to be named in his honor.
A section of Richmond County in Virginia (referenced in Not the City) became King George County (map) in 1720. The county website confirmed that it was named for George I. That would make sense because its founding happened right in the middle of his reign.
Not much happened in King George County although a future President of the United States, James Madison was born there in 1751. That was impressive although I discovered another person born in the county that interested me even more, a man with the unusual nickname William "Extra Billy" Smith. He had quite a distinguished career, serving in the United States Congress, the Confederate State Congress, the Governor of Virginia both for the United States and for the Confederacy, and as a Major General in the Confederate Army. He tried his luck in California during the Gold Rush and he operated a postal service that ran from Virginia to Georgia. The postal operation earned him his unusual nickname. It seemed that he created a bunch of unnecessary side routes to collect additional fees. Friends and foes alike began to call him "Extra Billy" after authorities discovered his scheme, a name that followed him for life.
Next came George II, son of George I, who ruled for a much longer period. A longer reign equaled more opportunities for places named for him, and that’s exactly what I found. The state of Georgia (map) in the United States may have been the most significant. James Oglethorpe founded the Georgia colony in 1733 under a royal charter issued by George II, and it was always a good idea to flatter one’s patron. A beautiful lake in the Adirondacks of New York, sometimes called the Queen of American Lakes, also took his name: Lake George (map). The lake got its name during the era of the French and Indian War when Sir William Johnson occupied the territory and won the Battle of Lake George. The Georgetown neighborhood (map) of Washington, DC, however, may or may may not have been named for George II. It’s founding certainly dated to his reign. Nonetheless the founders and primary land owners were George Beall and George Gordon so those could have inspired the named too.
George II also had a war named for him: King George’s War, (1744–48), the North American campaign of the War of the Austrian Succession.
George II’s son Frederick died before him so the succession went to his grandson, George III who was only 22 years old. George III also lived a very long time. He reigned for nearly sixty years so his name got affixed to lots of places although few of them existed in the United States. He was viewed as an oppressor when the nation fought for its independence so his name may have been expunged. I couldn’t find a single instance although I’m sure some must have survived somewhere.
Elsewhere, however, his named flourished in places across the British Empire. George, the South African city referenced previously was a shining example. George became quite a lovely tourist destination in the Garden Route, wedged between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean. More unlikely was George Town (map), the capital city of the state of Penang in Malaysia. The naming traced to Captain Francis Light who founded a settlement there in 1786 on behalf of the British East India Company.
Other places named for George III included: George Town, Tasmania, Australia; South Georgia Island; Prince George, British Columbia, Canada; Georgetown, Guyana, and undoubtedly many other places too numerous to mention.
I found such a wealth of information about the six national names split by the conjunction "AND" that I had to divide them into two articles. The first article covered Antigua and Barbuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. This one will finish the remaining nations, continuing in alphabetical order. Once again I wanted to focus extra attention on the junior partner, the unfortunate geography at the trailing end of each arrangement.
Another conjoined arrangement, another Caribbean nation, this one found far down the chain of the Windward Islands. The native Caribs protected Saint Vincent fiercely and blocked colonization until the Eighteenth Century. Meanwhile they accepted escaped African slaves who sought refuge from nearby islands such as Barbados, Saint Lucia and Grenada. Their intermingled descendants, the Black Caribs, bedevil European colonists for decades. French, British and Black Caribs all fought for control. Revolts by Black Caribs remained common and frequent even after Britain gained the upper hand. It was a mess. The French shifted their focus to Martinique instead.
Speaking of messes, the Grenadines didn’t fall entirely within Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The Grenadines needed to be tagged onto a larger entity because they wouldn’t be viable as nation on their own. They were too small and spread across a long string of ocean. It might have made sense to collect all of the Grenadines together — and the British made attempts over the years — although it just never happened. Thus, when independence came in 1979, the upper two-thirds of the Grenadines became an integral part of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the remainder joined Grenada to the south. Someone living on the island of Carriacou in the Grenadines, for example, lived in Grenada, not Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Fortunately Grenada didn’t call itself Grenada and the Grenadines because that would have created even more confusion.
The Grenadines portion of the nation retained a smaller population with only about ten thousands residents, or ten percent of the overall national population. About half of those live on the island of Bequia (map). The remainder were spread amongst four other populated islands and two privately-owned resort islands.
São Tomé and Príncipe
Nobody lived on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe when Portuguese navigators stumbled upon them in the Gulf of Guinea off the western coast of Africa. Portugal thought those unclaimed, uninhabited islands would make an ideal offshore base for commercial relationships with the continent. They colonized both islands during the Sixteenth Century and it became a cornerstone of their slave trade. The nation has remained a relatively stable democracy much of the time since gaining independence in 1975. It was also one of the smallest African nations with only a couple of hundred thousand citizens.
Príncipe (map) was much smaller than São Tomé and it had only about five thousand residents. The name came from the Portuguese word for Prince, specifically Prince Afonso, son of King John II, named for his grandfather King Afonso V. He was the heir apparent to the Portuguese throne although he didn’t live long enough to become its king. Prince Afonso died in a horse riding accident in 1491, still in his teens.
It seemed odd that FOUR of the nations included on the list had been Caribbean colonies of the British Empire: Antigua and Barbuda; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; and finally Trinidad and Tobago, rounding out the set. Clearly the British found it convenient to cluster island possessions into groups so they could be governed more efficiently.
Trinidad and Tobago took a different twist. Both islands had been well established with their own distinctive histories, just off the northern coast Venezuela. Trinidad had roots as a Spanish colony before Britain seized the island in the late Eighteenth Century. Tobago, on the other hand, traded hands almost more times than could be counted. Colonies on Tobago were established, captured, destroyed, rebuilt, and recaptured with alarming frequency, by several different European powers including Spain, England, France and the Netherlands. There was also another player, one I never knew about, the Courlanders. Often it was the Dutch and Courlanders who tussled over Tobago.
The Courlanders came from the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, an area now found in Latvia (map). They seemed like an unlikely power, and yet the Courlanders maintained a great merchant fleet that sailed around the world. The Duchy traded extensively in the New World too. Tobago was their attempt to establish a formal colony in the Caribbean. They tried numerous times and ultimately failed along a section of the island that bears its name, Great Courland Bay (map).
Tobago eventually got grafted to Trinidad only because of economic reasons. The British Empire site explained:
The 1880s was to confirm that the old plantocracy was indeed in trouble. The price of sugar had continued to drop… 1884 shocked the economy of the island when its largest employer and landowner ceased trading… The British sought to ameliorate the situation by administratively joining Tobago to the larger island of Trinidad to its south. This southwards move was intended to ensure that Britain avoided taking on debt and expensive provisions for Tobago and transferring the liability to the colony of Trinidad.
That arrangement remained in place when independence was granted in 1962, and it remains Trinidad and Tobago today.