Which U.S. States Are Named After Royalty?

How Kings and Queens Influenced the Naming of Some States

Low Angle View Of Louis Xiv Statue Against Clear Sky
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Seven of the U.S. states are named after sovereigns — four are named for kings and three are named for queens. These include some of the oldest colonies and territories in what is now the United States and the royal names paid tribute to the rulers of either France and England.

The list of states includes Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Can you guess which kings and queens inspired each name?

The 'Carolinas' Have British Royalty Roots

North and South Carolina have a long and complicated history. Two of the 13 original colonies, they began as a single colony but were divided shortly after because it was too much land to govern.

The name 'Carolina' is often attributed as an honor of King Charles I of England (1625-1649), yet that is not entirely true.  What is fact is that Charles is 'Carolus' in Latin and that inspired 'Carolina.'

However, the French explorer, Jean Ribault first called the region Carolina when he tried colonizing Florida in the 1560s. During that time, he established an outpost known as Charlesfort in what is now South Carolina. The French King at the time? Charles IX who was crowned in 1560.

When the British colonists established their settlements in the Carolinas, it was shortly after the 1649 execution of King Charles I of England and they retained the name in his honor. When his son took over the crown in 1661, the colonies were also an honor to his rule.

In a way, the Carolinas pay tribute to all three King Charles.

'Georgia' Was Inspired by a British King

Georgia was one of the original 13 colonies that became the United States. It was the last colony established and it became official in 1732, just five years after King George II was crowned King of England.

The name 'Georgia' was clearly inspired by the new king. The suffix -ia was used often by the colonizing nations when naming new lands in honor of important people.

King George II did not live long enough to see his namesake become a state. He died in 1760 and was succeeded by his grandson, King George III, who reigned during the American Revolutionary War.

'Louisiana' Has French Origins

In 1671, French explorers claimed a large portion of central North America for France. They named the area in honor of King Louis XIV, who reigned from 1643 until his death in 1715.

The name 'Louisiana' begins with a clear reference to the king. The suffix -iana is often used to refer to a collection of objects in regards to the collector. Therefore, we can loosely associate Louisiana as 'a collection of lands owned by King Louis XIV.'

This territory became known as the Louisiana Territory and was purchased by Thomas Jefferson in 1803. In total, the Louisiana Purchase was for 828,000 square miles between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. The state of Louisiana formed the southern border and became a state in 1812.

'Maryland' Was Named After a British Queen 

Maryland also has an association with King Charles I yet, in this case, it was named for his wife. 

George Calvert was granted a charter in 1632 for a region east of the Potomac. The first settlement was St. Mary's and the territory was named Maryland. All of this was in honor of Henrietta Maria, queen consort of Charles I of England and daughter of King Henry IV of France.

The 'Virginias' Were Named for a Virgin Queen

Virginia (and subsequently West Virginia) was settled by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584. He named this new land after the English monarch of the time, Queen Elizabeth I. But how did he get 'Virginia' out of Elizabeth?

Elizabeth I was crowned in 1559 and died in 1603. During her 44 years as queen, she never married and she earned the nickname of the "Virgin Queen." That is how the Virginia's got their name, but whether the monarch was true in her virginity is a matter of much debate and speculation.

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Rosenberg, Matt. "Which U.S. States Are Named After Royalty?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/us-states-named-after-royalty-4072012. Rosenberg, Matt. (2020, August 27). Which U.S. States Are Named After Royalty? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/us-states-named-after-royalty-4072012 Rosenberg, Matt. "Which U.S. States Are Named After Royalty?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/us-states-named-after-royalty-4072012 (accessed March 26, 2023).