Noble Names: Earls, Dukes, Kings and Queenies

Noble Names: Earls, Dukes, Kings and Queenies

There was a time when the titles of nobility seemed to be reserved strictly for the canine world, as in “Here Prince!” “Here, Duke!” But that seems to be changing.

When Guiliana and Bill Rancic recently named their son Edward Duke, the Edward was for family members on both sides, but they always intended to call him by his middle name, because, said Guiliana, Duke is such a strong name.  And she’s not the first celebrity to think so. Diane Keaton bestowed it on her son in 2001, and Justine Bateman followed suit the following year.

In fact, several of these blue-blood titles have been a lot more popular than you might imagine.

Earl is the one name in this category that came to be accepted as a name apart from its noble heritage—but has anything but a lofty image—especially since My Name is Earl.  But Earl didn’t fall off the list until 2006—before that it was a Top 50 name until 1939 and then stayed in the Top 100 through 1954, attached to such distinguished figures as Chief Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, banjo player Earl Scruggs and jazzman Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines, as well as basketball star Vernon Monroe known as “Earl the Pearl.”  Perry Mason-creator E. Stanley Gardner spelled his first name Erle.  Is it possible that Earl could follow sister Pearl back into favor?

King was in fashion at the turn of the last century, when captains of industry might be referred to as King Such-and-Such and musicians had royal nicknames like King Oliver and Count Basie, and an important early Hollywood director was christened King Vidor.  Today King might still be used on its own—as more than 700 American parents did last year—or as a short form of Kingston or Kingsley.

PrinceYes, the singer’s birth name is really Prince Rogers Nelson (a salute to his father’s stage name, Prince Rogers, and yes,  Michael Jackson’s sons are named Prince Michael Joseph Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II (aka Blanket).   Now that we’ve got that straight—you may be surprised to know that Prince has not been restricted to singing stars or vets’ waiting rooms: at this moment, Prince ranks at Number 481, the highest it’s been since 1910!  A prominent example of human-canine crossover.

Princess, on the other hand, has remained more of a nickname for Daddy’s little girl, just as she was in the 1954 Father Knows Best. Exception: prominent British celebs Katie Price and Peter Andre who named their daughter Princess Tiaamii—a choice met with considerable derision.

DukeBut back to Duke.  Used much more as a nickname—as it was for John Wayne and Edward Kennedy Ellington, Duke has been chosen as a first by others than Diane Keaton and Justine Bateman.  After being on the list sporadically—reaching as high as 719 in 1956—it fell off in 1971. But between that E!Entertainment couple and hunky characters like Channing Tatum’s Duke Orsino in She’s the Man—we think it could make a comeback.

Baron has a certain sophistication—if you don’t let The Red Baron or Baron Munchausen get in the way.  Baron Davis is an admired basketball player, and the Donald Trumps spelled their boy’s name Barron, as in the financial newspaper; hotel magnate Barron Hilton is the grandfather of Paris and Nicky.

Marquis A marquise is a nobleman ranking between a duke and earl or count.  The name Marquis has had some popularity among African-American parents, especially in the 1980s and 90s. Rapper 50-Cent named his son Marquise,  David Caruso has a Marquez—which just might be after the great Colombian writer.

Count and Countess are rarely heard, though Danny Bonaduce used both for his son and daughter—followed by strings of middles.

And now we get to a few variations on the theme:

Reine, French for queen, and word name Reign—both homonyms of Rain— are occasionally found, though neither ever made it onto the big list.  Reign is Willow Smith’s second middle name.

Knight is another quasi-unique name.  It was chosen by musicians Kelis and Nas for their son in 2009.

QueenieQueenie takes the royal image, does a flip, and turns it on its head.  Saucy showgirl that she is, Queenie was a turn-of-the-last-century fave, inspired by Queen Victoria, and stayed on the US list most years until 1927.  Lisa Bonet, Rachel Ward and Taraji P.Henson have all played characters named Queenie.

RexUnlike most of these names, the dashing Rex, Latin for king, is an up-and-comer, nowhere near his Top 300 highs from 1911 to 1966, but on the rise, along with all the other x-men.  Several celebs have fallen in thrall to Sexy Rexy, including Will Champion, Natascha McElhone, Sophie Kinsella and Niki Taylor.

ReginaRex’s consort has had a steady presence on the popularity list, never sky high, but on it from the beginning.  Her high point was the 1960s, when Regina was a Top 100 name; she’s now at Number 561.  An infamous namesake is Regina Giddens, the indelible central character in Lillian Hellman’s play The Little Foxes. Modern bearers include actresses King and Taylor, opera diva Resnik, and Russian-American singer-songwriter Regina Spektor.  Trivia tidbit: Regina is the birth name of Jenna Fisher.

RoyalRoyal and Loyal are two lost names from the last century. Not heard from since 1972, the regal Royal ranked at Number 283 in 1892.  Could either of these names make a comeback?

Laird, a Scottish title for the landed gentry with a pleasant burr, is known in this country primarily through big-wave surfer Laird HamiltonSharon Stone chose it for one of her sons in 2005.

Would you consider any of these noble names?

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.