Category: King Arthur
The British Prime Minister recently chose the Cornish name Endellion as the middle name for his new daughter. The baby was premature, and born while the family was on holiday in Cornwall, and Endellion was chosen because the family regularly holidayed at the little village of St Endellion, so strictly speaking the name belongs with the growing trend to use place names (such as Dakota, Savannah) as first names. However, it is also a traditional Cornish name.
But first a bit of background. Cornwall is a popular holiday place because of its unspoilt beauty. Its unspoilt beauty comes from the fact that its position at the extreme south west of England makes it isolated. This isolation protected it in the past, and led to the preservation of a uniquely Cornish culture.
1500 years ago, when the rest of England was being taken over by the Anglo-Saxons, Cornwall remained independent and retained its own language, descended from the language of the ancient British and closely related to Welsh, into the 18th century. This language is the source of many of the specially Cornish names, while the distinctive West-Country way of pronouncing English has been another source.
First there was the era of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, then there was the second (Kennedy) coming of Camelot, and now it’s been suggested that we might conceivably be entering a third, this seems like a good time to look back at the names of the original Knights, their fair damsels and their cohorts.
We look at these names through the prisms of several sources: Sir Thomas Malory created the image of the castle and court of Camelot in his 15th century Le Morte d’Arthur, then Lord Tennyson composed the popular and influential Idylls of the King, and then the 1960 Broadway musical and film Camelot was based on T. H. White’s tetrology The Once and Future King.
From these varied interpretations, here are some of the Arthurian names that could still work today:
ARTHUR–King Arthur was the legendary leader who led the defense of Britain against the Saxon invaders. His name, of Celtic origin and unknown meaning, most popular a century ago, is showing signs of a revival.
BALAN and BALIN –two brothers who accidentally killed each other in a duel
BLANCHEFLEUR — the pretty floral name of the sweetheart of Percival.
GALAHAD — One of the three achievers of the Holy Grail, renowned for his purity and gallantry, to the point where his name symbolizes these chivalrous qualities so strongly it precludes use for a modern boy.
GERAINT –A character in Welsh folklore as well as Arthurian legend, probably most famous via the Welsh tale Geraint and Enid. Might not be the easiest name for a 21st century lad.
GILLIMER –An unusual name found in Mallory‘s version.
LIONEL — One of the few Arthurian names to survive in contemporary times. Could be due for a revival.
PERCIVAL– One of two knights who accompanied Galahad on the quest for the Holy Grail. A name that has become sissified over the years.
TRISTAN — A Round Table Knight as well as the star of the Tristan and Iseult romance; has been growing in modern popularity since the 70s. We recently met a girl Tristan too, so it can make kind of an updated Kristen.
TURQUINE — a rogue knight. Definitely not a good guy.