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Category: historic British names

Royal Names: Beyond Elizabeth & William

Empress_matilda

Royal names in Britain go far beyond the expected Elizabeths and Williams.  Nameberry regular Kiki guest blogs today about the long and surprising selection of British royal names.

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.

Female:

HERLEVE/HERLEVA

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.

EMMA

JUDITH

ELFREDA

EDITH

ADELA

ADELAIDE – As with Adela, this name means “noble.” Perfect for a princess.

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fitzroy

Nameberry favorite Twinkle aka WINNIE MONCRIEFF, who lives in London, enlightens us on the long line of fascinating British names chosen by her country’s prime ministers.

In the spirit of friendly, transatlantic competition, I couldn’t let a post about the President’s children go by without taking a look at the naming habits of Prime Ministers past. With a few more years of incumbents to consider(Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister in the modern sense of the position, was appointed in 1721), I discovered a veritable mountain of lovely, classic names.

The most commonly occurring name for the son of a Prime Minister was William, which popped up twelve times.  In fact, one PM, William Henry Cavendish-Bentwick used it twice, naming his first two sons (who both survived childhood) William and William Henry. In second place was George, with nine. The middle name Augustus appeared four times.

As for daughters, the most popular name was Mary, which occurred seven times, as well as there being two little Marias. The Catherine variants numbered seven – five Catherines, one Katherine, and, most recently, a Kathryn. Other names which proved surprisingly popular were Hester and Louisa.

Strange naming trends abounded; naming children after relatives and friends, for example. ‘What?’ I hear you cry. ‘I named my daughter after so-and-so.’ Well, of course, but not like PM George Canning did when he named his second son William Pitt Canning, after friend and former Prime Minister, William Pitt the younger. Robert Peel also named one of his sons after a former Prime Minister who had supported his career, bestowing upon him the name Arthur Wellesley Peel.

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