Why does it seem like all London pub names involve someone’s head or arms? And why do the same names repeat again and again?
Turns out that no, there is not a glitch in the matrix, and it’s all actually quite straightforward.
It started with King Richard II in the 1300s. Legend has it he decreed that pub signs must carry his emblem, the White Hart. The emblem’s origins are contested. Perhaps it had something to do with King Richard II’s “fair mother”, or maybe it was a way for Richard II to distance himself from his warmongering scary father by rebranding himself as the good pious one with a white stag (and a pint).
There are twelve White Harts in London today. However, at twelve, the White Hart is far from the most popular pub name in London.
Recent data from the Greater London Authority reveals the true winner — The Prince of Wales with twenty-six London pubs! The Prince of Wales, also known as the Queen Elizabeth II’s son Charles, beats all the other Princes by a long shot. The next most popular prince is Alfred, but he’s far behind with only ten pubs.
There are twenty-three pubs in London simply named, Crown, making The Crown the second most popular pub name in London. Following the minimalist naming conventions, The King’s Arms comes in third place with twenty. And The King’s Head comes in fifth with seventeen. There are only sixteen Queen’s Heads, even though the ruling monarch is a queen (classic).
The Royal Oak ties with the King’s Arms as the third most popular pub name in London. There are twenty pubs named The Royal Oak. The Royal Oak refers to the tree in which King Charles II hid during the Civil War in 1651.
And finally, The Red Lion is the fifth most popular pub name in London. There are nineteen pubs named The Red Lion. The Red Lion is the emblem of Scotland and it’s largely believed King James I/King James VI (same person) followed Richard II’s example and is responsible for its popularity as pub name.
So there you have it! Next time you’re out in a London pub, test your friends with a bit of history trivia and raise a glass to kings of past!
And if you’re interested in seeing what every Prince of Wales or pair of King’s Arms has to say on Twitter, be sure to check out the London city project we’re working on at Socialwise.