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Category: traditional British names

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I love the day once a quarter or so that I allow myself to wallow in the London Telegraph birth announcements. Britberries regularly admonish me not to take the names in the Telegraph to mean anything about typical British baby-naming behavior: Those are names chosen by mostly upper class families, they say, and are examples of a rarefied taste.

Point taken, but I still can’t help but be struck by how different many of the names are from what you’d hear in similar stratospheres of American society: on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, say, or in Beverly Hills.

There are dozens of names that are mentioned over and over in the British birth announcements that are nowhere near as fashionable here. But they’re attractive names, traditional yet quirky, excellent choices for any American parent — or British, Australian, or Canadian one, for that matter — who wants to emulate the English upper classes.

Prime examples from the recent crop of British names:

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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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