So, a new pope has been elected. His given name is Joseph Alois Ratzinger - although he chose the name of Benedict XVI for his papal reign.
It had me thinking…why did he change/adopt a new name, and why is that fairly standard practice for popes?
Well, after a bit of investigation, I found out that it isn’t just popes who do this. Other monarchs do it as well. Prince Albert Edward became Edward VII, Prince Albert became George VI. Sometimes the regnal names are chosen to honor a previous monarch, sometimes they are chosen to keep a pattern (such as the Dutch kings William I, William II and William III) and sometimes they are just chosen to avoid an unpleasant/inappropriate name from being used as a monarch’s title.
Some monarchs don’t create a regnal name at all…for example, this passage from the wikipedia entry explains how Queen Elizabeth felt about changing/adopting a new name…
When Princess Elizabeth as Heir Presumptive became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1952, she was asked what name she wished to use, and she responded, “Why, my own name — what else?” There had been speculation that she would take the name of her grandmother, the queen consort Queen Mary, and reign as Queen Mary III. (Her given names are Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.)
After all this research, I’ve determined that I need to come up with my own regnal name with utmost urgency. Just in case I’m called into service to act as a monarch, I need to have a regnal name already picked out.