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Sofia the First is one of Disney's television series. Sofia is a little princess. What does "the first" mean here?

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'The First' is an expression of her Regnal Number

Regnal numbers are ordinal numbers used to distinguish among persons with the same name who held the same office. Most importantly, they are used to distinguish monarchs. An ordinal is the number placed after a monarch's regnal name to differentiate between a number of kings, queens or princes reigning the same territory with the same regnal name.

So the current British monarch is Elizabeth II, or Elizabeth the Second, because there was a previous Queen Elizabeth (for part of the UK at least). However, under most regnal numbering systems, 'the First' would be applied retrospectively rather than adopted as part of the regnal name, as it cannot be assumed during their reign that there will be a subsequent namesake.

  • "the First" is also sometimes applied informally to imply that someone is bringing in new blood or shaking up the existing order. – Werrf Mar 24 '17 at 12:21
  • Of course one might also use the term the same way it's used for men: John Smith the 1st, John Smith the 2nd. But since women usually adopt their husbands' names it would just be "Jane the First", "Jane the Second", and, as suggested above, applied retroactively. – Hot Licks Mar 24 '17 at 12:28
  • @Werrf Is it? Can you give an example, I don't quite see what you mean. – Spagirl Mar 24 '17 at 14:34
  • @HotLicks Does 'the first' get applied retroactively in that context? Doesn't John Smith remain always the unadorned John Smith? Either way, if the 'office' is 'male named John in the family Smith', then it would be adequately covered by the quoted definition. (Loudon Wainwright III's Dad is Loudon Wainwright Jnr!) – Spagirl Mar 24 '17 at 14:37
  • In the OP's example, Sofia the First, the title character is the daughter of a peasant woman who marries the king. In the Honor Harrington series, we hear about Roger Winton, CEO of the Manticore colony, who becomes Roger the First of Manticore, and is always described thus. – Werrf Mar 24 '17 at 14:45
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It's an odd use of a (pseudo-) regnal number.

No direct explanation for this slightly unusual case is given in any of my daughter's Sofia books (but there are longer books aimed at an older age group). In particular Sofia has an older stepsister who doesn't have a regnal number. I suggest that in the context of rest of the stories (welcoming her into the royal family and making her feel part of it) she was given this to make her feel more royal.

  • This would probably be more on topic at movies & TV stack exchange. – Chris H Mar 25 '17 at 9:28
  • This is a helpful answer. I don't think Elizabeth the First (i.e. Elizabeth I) was called "the First" until a second came along. So your suggestion is definitely helpful. – aparente001 Mar 26 '17 at 21:03

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