My mother had a collection of hardback books, a mix of factual and fiction, which as a child I had a particular fondness for and would sit with for hours on a rainy day. The thing that drew me to them was the aesthetic pleasure of a dusty old classic with a plain cover, usually in faded red. They spoke to me of simpler times, when books were appreciated and valued. Among this collection was a particular favourite, a History of the Kings and Queens of Britain.
It wasn’t an extensive study by any means but still, I found my love of names coming to the fore and would pour over the family timelines whenever I got the chance. Sophia Dorothea was an early favourite.
Whilst honouring relatives or ancestors seemed to be the norm in the choice of royal names, there was some variety. Political allegiances were made easy to follow. French ties appeared, particularly in the Scottish royal family, with Marie and Louis showing up (Although is that any surprise with the number of King Louis’ who ended up on the French throne?) Francois and Ferdinand married in and names like Augustus and Octavius hinted at links with the German throne. And if Olga didn’t make it clear that Russia had a foot in the British royal family then I don’t know what would.
And what of these lesser known royal names? Those who weren’t born royal but married in. Those who came from foreign countries, bringing their own exotic monikers with them. Those who were popular hundreds of years ago but for some reason or other fell out of favour. Well, that’s what we’re about to find out.
This list dates back just over 1000 years, to 996 AD, and collects some of the most interesting, unusual and unexpected names in the British family tree. They run in rough chronological order of their first appearance and I even compiled a little section for the Scottish throne, that includes names which either showed up there first, most prominently or in some cases only.
You may be surprised by what you find (and the few history lessons sprinkled throughout). There areeven a few nameberry favourites lurking in here.
MATILDA – The Empress Matilda is the highest ranking example and after her the name seems to disappear until George III’s sister, Caroline Matilda, is born in the 18th century. That’s Matilda pictured.
CONSTANZA – of Castille
ALEXANDRINA – Queen Victoria’s first name. Perhaps it was telling that one of the world’s greatest monarchs would rule under a name which means “victorious” and with a first name that is connected to such rulers as Emperor Alexander the First of Russia or Alexander the Great. A big name for someone who was only the daughter of a king’s fourth son.
ETHELRED – The Ready and The Unready
OWEN – Owen Tudor was actually a peasant who secretly married Princess Catherine of France after the death of her first husband, King Henry V. It is from him that the Tudor dynasty gets its name. Pretty good going for a peasant.
JASPER – Son of Owen Tudor and Catherine of France. When his half brother, King Henry VI (from Princess Catherine’s first marriage) found out he had two secret half brothers (Jasper and Edmund) he made them the Earl of Pembroke and Earl of Richmond respectively, despite their having no biological link to the English throne.
GUILDFORD DUDLEY – either name could be used
NICHOLAS – Tsar of All The Russias
THE SCOTTISH ROYALS:
Kiki is a long time name fan and student, studying English at university. She has been posting on the nameberry boards since November and is very happy to find other people who understand her love of names.