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Posts Tagged ‘Arthur’

I’m just home after spending a little over a week  in Somerset.

The stay has inspired a couple of forthcoming posts, but today I have to share some of the luscious Pagan names I encountered on our travels.

This is a region rich in pre-Christian history and archaeology, a wonderful, evocative landscape, with Iron Age hill-forts, Neolithic and Bronze Age tumuli almost around every bend.

Dominating the landscape for many miles, unmistakable by its lonely tower, is Glastonbury Tor. I always get the wobbles when I first spy it, and on this trip we saw it twice in special circumstances; once floating ghostlike above the mists, and once purple against a glorious sunset.

And Glastonbury’s a good place to start with the names…

Although Glastonbury itself is probably a bit unwieldy as a name for a child (though it would make a great name for a cat), there are many others which has associations with the place.

Chief among them must be Avalon; assertions have been made that Glastonbury is the site of the legendary Avalon of Arthurian myth and legend since medieval times, and many today consider it fact, though there are other contenders.

What can be said with certainty, is that Avalon derives from the Celtic word for “apple orchard,” and makes a splendid, evocative name.

As coincidence had it, while staying within sight of Glastonbury at Wookey Hole, we happened to watch a 1978 episode of the cult BBC sci-fi Blake’s 7 last night, in which there was a female character called Avalon…

Arthur and Guinevere, are two other names which call out from Glastonbury; medieval monks at the Abbey claimed to have found the graves of King Arthur and his wife buried there, and these graves can still be visited at the Abbey.

A lesser known name connected with Glastonbury is Neot, supposedly a ninth century saint. He is most associated with St Neot’s in Cambridge, and was said to have been a monk in Glastonbury. However, it is perhaps more likely is that Neot represents a survival of the Celtic God Nodens (an important God of healing, hunting and the sea), especially given the fact his feast day is the Eve of Lughnasadh and he is regarded as the patron saint of fish.

Glastonbury still has healing connections, now mostly associated with the lovely Chalice Well; Chalice making an unusual and meaningful name option…

Which leads nicely to another healing deity and place of healing — the Goddess Sulis Minerva of Aquae Sulis, i.e. Bath.

The misty, mystical waters of Bath

The Roman Baths are one of my favorite sites; the museum is excellent — and has got even better since our last visit five years ago.

Best of all though, is the fact that the magic and the mystery of the original Celtic shrine remains, especially at the Sacred Spring itself (usually called the King’s Bath today), where the pale green hot mineral waters bubble and the steam rises as an otherworldy mist.

Sulis is the Celtic Goddess of the place, a name which I’ve always thought is just crying out for attention. It may be from the Celtic *sƒwol- “sun,” though another interesting option is from the Celtic *su- “good” + *liy-o- “flow,” an apt, if rather more prosaic, description of the spring.

And then, of course, there’s lovely Minerva, the Roman Goddess of wisdom and war with whom the Romans identified Sulis.

Also associated with Bath is Bladud “wolf-lord,” a mythical king of Britain, credited in later mythology with creating the thermal spring at Bath, and the king of “the King’s Bath.” Bleiddudd and Blaithyd are two other variants, the last representing probably the best phonetic spelling for an English-speaker.

Another magical, watery place, though of a different kind, is the characterfully named Wookey Hole, our home last night. Wookey (the “wook” rhymes with “book”) is definitely up there in the eccentric-names-best-suited-to-cats league; the jury remains out on whether it derives from an Old English word meaning “trap” and “snare” (for animals understood), or a Celtic word meaning “cave.”

Both suit it.

Today, the village (mentioned in the Domesday Book) is most famous for its caves and for the legendary witch associated with them; the legend refers specifically to one of the stalagmite formations, though is often now linked to the skeleton of a woman found in the early twentieth century, along with an intriguing alabaster ball. It is thought the skeleton is from the Saxon period, but it could be Romano-British, or even earlier.

The caves are also the source of the River Axe — well, one of them, anyway. This could derive from a Celtic word meaning “water,” another meaning “high” or from the Saxon word for “ash-tree”; it is virtually impossible to say for certain which. Whichever, Axe would certainly make another interesting name choice, offering a distinctive twist to Max.

Wookey Hole has often been used as a film-set, including one of my favorite TV series of all time — Robin of Sherwood — and the episode Project Avalon of Blakes 7.

It was pure coincidence (truly, it was) that we happened to watch that episode at Wookey Hole.

Don’t you just love a good coincidence?

Avalon...

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It’s the Winter Solstice tomorrow in the Northern Hemisphere (and the Summer Solstice in the Southern — I’m not jealous, really, I’m not).

That is to say, it’s the shortest day, or — as my mum used to say — the longest night.

And whatever your religious persuasion, or none, there’s something special about it.

It marks the very deepest, darkest moment of winter — that’s the bleak bit.

But it means from now on, the days gradually start to lengthen again. The ever turning wheel of the year has shifted, and we’re on our way back to the warmth and light. Yippee!

However, for a few days, each side of the Solstice, to the naked eye, the sun appears to rise and set in the same places — hence the name, from the Latin sol “sun” + sisto “to stand still.”

Of course, we know today that the reason why the sun grows weaker and the days shorten after the Summer Solstice is because the Earth goes round the sun, spinning on its axis, which is on an angle.

But for most of human history (and prehistory) most humans thought it was the sun doing the moving, rising in the East, setting in the West.

As the Winter Solstice approached, they thought the sun was dying; the Sostice marked the point when the sun was reborn, to strengthen and grow until it reached the peak of its power at the Summer Soltice.

No wonder this period is marked with numerous festivals, frequently of light.

Chief among them in the pagan Roman Empire was Sol Invictus — “The Unconquered Sun” — whose birthday was celebrated on December 25.

It is no coincidence that it shares December 25 with Christmas, only celebrated on that date since the fifth century.

December 25 is the first date after the Solstice when the sun stops seeming to “stand still” and the day is discernibly a little longer.

The word “Christmas” actually dates only to the twelfth century. Prior to that, the festivities which took over Sol Invictus were called Yule (the earliest Old English form known is geohol), almost certainly the name of the Germanic pagan festival celebrated at this time.

The ultimate source of the word “yule” is uncertain, but it is either cognate with, or derived from the Norse jól and is, most likely, connected with “jolly,” though there is a bit of a chicken and egg situation about which came first.

The original Norse festival of Jól was celebrated between the 20th and 31st December.

Yule and Yuletide are still used generally as an alternative name for Christmas, as they have for centuries, but it is the preferred name for the season by most Pagans of all persuasions, who usually use it now for the Solstice, rather than December 25.

Druids, however, will often call the Solstice Alban Arthan, which was first recorded by Iolo Morganwg.

So, what names for a Winter Solstice baby?

  • Aglaia — Greek aglaios “splendor”; one of the Graces
  • Alban — Welsh “solstice”; identical to the name of the saint, and quite probably sharing the same roots in the Common Celtic *albiyo- “upper world” and “white.”
  • Amaterasu — Japanese 天  “heaven,” “sky” and 照 “shine”; the name of the Japanese Goddess of the sun
  • Amber — one ancient belief was that amber was the solidified light of the setting sun on the sea.
  • Anwu — Igbo “sun”
  • Apollo — God of the sun
  • Arevik — Armenian name meaning “sun-like”
  • Arthan — An Old Welsh word meaning “winter”, connected by Iolo Morganwg with arth “bear.”
  • Arthur — Druids see Arthur as symbolic of the sun and equate him with the winter solstice.
  • Arun, Aruna — In Hindu mythology, Aruna is the charioteer of the sun.
  • Aster
  • Aten — Egyptian “disc of the sun”; the name of an Egyptian God, considered an aspect of Ra.
  • Aurinko — Finnish “sun”
  • Bay — one of the herbs traditionally added to a seasonal mulled wine
  • Cam — the Romani word for “sun” (and “to love”)
  • Cardamon — a spice added to mulled wines in the Middle Ages
  • Cerah — Malaysian “sunny” and “bright”
  • Chrysogon — Greek khrusogonos “gold-born”; Grisegond is an old variant
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrine — used since the eighteenth century as the name of a type of yellow topaz; it is believed to radiate the energy of the sun
  • Clove — one of the most important ingredients of a mulled wine
  • Cressida — derives ultimately from the Greek mythological Chryseis, meaning “(daughter) of Chryses” — a male Greek name from khrusos “gold.”
  • Day
  • Diell — Albanian “sun”
  • Eguzki — Basque “sun”
  • Enya — in the Native American language of Papai, enya means “sun.” The Irish Enya originated as the Anglicized form of Eithne used by the Irish singer-songwriter Enya; Eithne is an old form of Áine, the name of an Irish Goddess, whose name means “heat” and “light”.
  • Frankincense — an ancient resin, used as an incense since ancient times, and used for purification in Pagan temples. It is considered to be ruled by the Sun even today, and the Ancient Egyptians used it particularly in the worship of the sun God Ra.
  • Geola — Old English form of YULE
  • Gold — associated with the sun since ancient times
  • Grian — an Irish Goddess of the sun, whose name means “sun”
  • Günay — Turkish girl’s name combining güneş “sun” + ay “moon”; Aygün is a variant
  • Haru — Japanese boy’s name: 陽 “sun,” “sunlight”; Haruki, another boy’s name, combines it with 輝 “radiance, shine” or 生 “life,” while the girl’s name Haruko combines it with 子 “child.”
  • Heliodorus, Heliodora — Greek “gift of the sun”
  • Heliostásio — Modern Greek “solstice”
  • Helius — Greek God of the sun; his name means “sun”
  • Heuldro — Welsh “solstice”
  • Heulwen — Welsh haul “sun” + (g)wen “white,” “blessed” and “pure”; used since the late nineteenth century
  • Hina — Japanese girl’s name: 陽 “sun,” “sunlight” or 日 “sun,” “day” + 菜 “vegetables”
  • Honey — associated with the sun since ancient times
  • Iolo — although unrelated, Iolo (with its feminine form Iola) has a very similar ring to YULE…
  • Jólnir — a byname of Odin. Old Norse: jól “YULE”
  • Jolie — French jolie, feminie of joli “pretty,” derives from, or shares the same origin, as the Old Norse jól “YULE”
  • Jolly — sharing the same origin as JOLIE, if you find this too light, why not consider the “long-form” Jolyon, a form of Julian, deriving ultimately from Julius? Although, like Iolo, not related to Yule, the similarities are there…
  • Jua — Swahili “sun”
  • Kem — Romani “sun”; a variant of CAM
  • Khurshid — Old Persian “shining sun”; the name of an angel in Zoroastrianism associated with the sun
  • Light
  • Lucius
  • Lucy — English form of Lucia, the feminine of LUCIUS. St Lucy’s day was celebrated in many parts of Europe last week on the thirteenth; until the switch over from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, St Lucy’s used to fall on or around the Solstice.
  • Lux — Latin “light”
  • Maeve — Usual modern form of the Irish name Medb, which derives from the Common Celtic for MEAD (cognate with mead itself)
  • Matahari — Indonesian “sun” (from mata “eye” + hari “day”)
  • Mead — a beverage made from HONEY, dating back to ancient times; probably the unofficial official Pagan drink, especially for the Solstices; it shares honey’s associations with the sun.
  • Midwinter — a word used of the Solstice since Angl0-Saxon times
  • Mithras — the Greco-Roman God of the mystery religion of Mithraism, popular with Roman soldiers. His worship arrived from the East in the first century; he is identified with Sol Invictus, and his birthday was also celebrated on December 25.
  • Mull — “mulled wine,” from the verb “to mull” meaning “to warm.” The Island of Mull gets its name from a Gaelic word meaning “bare,” also quite appropriate for the season, since all is bare (the cognate Welsh word is used of bare, “bald” hills).
  • Myrene — an Amazon in Greek myth; Greek: murinês “sweet wine.”
  • Myristica — botanical name for NUTMEG, meaning “fragrant”
  • Naran — Mongolian name meaning “sun”
  • Natalia — from the Latin natale “bitth”; these days, associated with the birth of Jesus, but is just as appropriately applied to the rebirth of the Sun, as celebrated at Sol Invictus; Natalie and Nathalie are the popular French forms, and Natasha, the Russian pet-form.
  • Noel — Anglo-Norman noel “Christmas” from Latin natale —  see NATALIA
  • Nutmeg — another spice often added to a mulled wine
  • Oenone
  • Orange — oranges, being round and, well, orange, are often associated with the sun
  • Oriana — coined by Elizabethan poets in honor of Queen Elizabeth I, from Latin orior “to rise,” used specifically of the rising sun.
  • Orinda — another poetic invention coinage from orior (see Oriana above), this time of the seventeenth century.
  • Orun — Yoruba: òrùn “sun”
  • Phaëthon — Greek “shining”; the name of a son of Helius, famous for almost crashing the chariot of the sun
  • Phanes — a primeval Greek God, associated with MITHRAS; his name derives from the Greek phainô “to bring light.”
  • Phoebe
  • Phoebus — Greek: phoibos “bright” and “radiant”; epithet of Apollo
  • Ra — the Egyptian God of the Sun, whose name means “sun”
  • Ramesses — The name of a famous Pharaoh, meaning “RA/the sun bore him.”
  • Ravi — Sanskrit “sun”
  • Renaissance  — French “rebirth”; generally used since the nineteenth century of the cultural “rebirth” at the end of the Middle Ages, its basic meaning is simply “rebirth” and could be used as a name with reference to the rebirth of the sun at the Winter Solstice
  • René, Renée — French forms of RENATUS
  • Renatus, Renata — Latin “reborn”; used of the rebirth of the sun
  • — Chinese 日 “sun,” “day”
  • Samson — Hebrew: “child/man of SHAMASH”; Sampson is a common variant
  • Saulė — Lithuanian Goddess of the sun, whose name means “sun”; Saulenė is a variant
  • Shamash — major Assyrian God; his name means “sun” in Akkadian
  • Shams — Arabic “sun”
  • Shemshi — Swahili “sun”
  • Sherry — rolled out across the land at this time of year, particularly to leave out for Santa…
  • Soare — Romanian “sun”
  • Sol — Latin “sun”; Norse Sól meaing “sun” is the name of the Norse Goddess of the Sun
  • Solar
  • Solaris — Latin “of the sun”
  • Soleil — French “sun”
  • Solifer, Solifera — Latin “sun-bearing”
  • Soligena — Latin “sun-born”
  • Solstice
  • Solveig — Old Norse sól “sun” + veig “strength”
  • Sonne — German “sun”
  • Sorin — Romanian name, usually derived from SOARE
  • Sorina — feminine of SORIN
  • Sounia — epithet of Athena, from Sounion in Attica, which may, possibly, derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *su(w)en- “sun”; Latinized as Sunia
  • Stella
  • Sulien — Old Welsh name, probably meaning “sun-born”
  • Sun
  • Sunčana — Croatian name from sunče “sun”
  • Sunday — could be interpreted as referring to the Solstices as well as the day of the week
  • Sunlight
  • Sunna — Goddesss of the sun in Germanic tradition.
  • Sunniva — Old English: Sunngifu “sun-given”
  • Sunny
  • Sunrise
  • Sunset
  • Sunshine
  • Surya — Sanskrit “sun”; the Hindu God of the sun
  • Svarog — Slavic God of the sun; Slavic: svar “bright”
  • Tesni — Welsh name deriving from tes “sunshine” and “warmth”
  • Wassail — originally a salutation used when passing a cup to a guest; from the Old English wes hāl “be in good health”; in time it came to be used of the drink too, especially the spiced ale drunk during the twelve days of Christmas
  • Wine — another popular beverage of the season, especially mulled
  • Winter
  • Yáng — Chinese  陽 “sun,” “positive”
  • Youko — Japenese girl’s name: 陽 “sun” + 子 “child”
  • Yule — of course. Also the fab variant Yul. Yule was actually used as a given name in medieval times (with a feminine form Yula), surviving for some time on the Isle of Man in the form Jole.

With Yule and Sol Invictus to celebrate, I’ll be back at the Nook when the mead’s worn off…

A bright and blessed Solstice, Yule, Alban Arthan and Christmas one and all. :)

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Last Friday, I speculated on the names of the first child of William and Kate, and, inevitably, Victoria was high on the list.

It is a little ironic that Victoria would now be considered a very traditional and conventional choice for a royal baby.

That wasn’t true when Victoria was named; Victoria — Latin for “victory” — was a rare name in Britain at the time, although it had been in use since the sixteenth century, one of the names plucked from Classical Antiquity. For to the Romans, Victoria was the personification of victory, and worshipped as a Goddess.

Why did Victoria receive such a name? Because that’s what her mother was called. She was Marie Louise Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield.

It wasn’t actually Queen Victoria’s first name, either. That was Alexandrina, after Tsar Alexander I of Russia.

Something else that is mildly ironic is the fact that since Victoria died, only one member of the royal family has received a name which had not been previously borne by a prince or princess of England or the United Kingdom — and that is Andrew. Yet Victoria herself actually made quite a point of breaking with tradition in the naming of her own children.

And her family makes a most interesting sibset.

Oldest of Queen Vicky’s children, born in 1840, was the Princess Royal, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa. Victoria was not just in honor of the Queen, but also the Queen’s mother, who was one of the little princess’s godmothers — the others being Adelaide, the wife of Victoria’s uncle, King William IV, and Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, one of the daughters of King George III. Louisa was the name of Prince Albert’s mother. Princess Victoria married Kaiser Friedrich III in 1858, and was the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. She died aged only 48, in 1888.

Second was Albert Edward, born in 1841, who ruled as King Edward VII. In naming the heir to the throne such, Victoria caused quite a stir at the prospect of a future King Albert. That had, indeed, been Victoria’s wish; Edward himself chose to rule as Edward upon his succession. He was named after his father, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and Victoria’s father, Edward, Duke of Kent, who had died when she was only a baby.

The third child was the tragic Princess Alice, later Grand Duchess of Hesse, whose full name was Alice Maud Mary. Alice, like Albert, had never been borne by a member of the Royal Family before. It is said it was suggested by the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who was close to Victoria. Likewise Maud was also a break with tradition, demonstrating Victoria’s medieval tastes, though it was a nod to one of Princess Alice’s godparents, Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester (Maud, as most folk know, being a medieval form of Matilda). She was born in 1843, and died in 1878, aged just 35, of diptheria, a month after her four year old daughter had also died of the disease.

Her family was particularly ill-fated; her two-year-old son had died a few years earlier after a fall from a window, while two of her daughters died in the Russian Revolution. Alix (later the Tsarina Alexandra) was famously shot with her family in a basement in 1917. Elizabeth, who married Grand Duke Sergei of Russia, was brutally murdered in 1918 along with other members of the imperial family. They were thrown down a mineshaft, grenades thrown in after them, and left to die.

Fourth of Queen Victoria’s children was Alfred Ernest Albert, later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Known as Affie, he was the second British prince to be called Alfred since the time of King Alfred; the first was one of the younger sons of King George III. He had died in infancy. Ernest was another new name in the British royal family — an import from Germany. It was the name of Prince Albert’s brother. Alfred was born in 1844, and died in 1900.

Queen Victoria’s fifth child was Princess Helena, later Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. Born in 1846, her full name was Helena Augusta Victoria. Helena was another new name for the royal family; she was named after one of her godparents, Hélène, Duchess of Orleans. Augusta was likewise in honor of a godparent, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge. Princess Helena lived to quite a good age, dying in 1923 at the age of 77.

Sixth of Queen Victoria’s progeny was Princess Louise, later Duchess of Argyll. Born in 1848, her full, correct name was Louisa Caroline Alberta. Though baptised Louisa, she was always known as Louise. Caroline had been the name of King George IV’s estranged wife, and Alberta was, of course, in honor of her father. She lived to the ripe old age of 91, dying in Kensington Palace in 1939.

The Seventh child was Prince Arthur, later Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. He was born in 1850, and also lived to be 91, dying in 1942. His full name was Arthur William Patrick Albert. Arthur was very much a choice in line with Victorian fashion, and its love of all things Arthurian. He wasn’t the first prince to bear the name — but it had been a long time since the last: Arthur, Prince of Wales, the oldest son of King Henry VII, who died aged 15 in 1502. One of the Duke of Connaught’s godparents, however, was the Duke of Wellington, whose name was, surprise surprise — Arthur. He also shared the prince’s birthday. The choice of William was in honor of both King William IV and another of Prince Arthur’s godparents, Wilhelm, then Crown Prince of Prussia, and later Kaiser Wilhelm I (he later became the Princess Royal’s father-in-law). No British prince had ever been called Patrick before, and its choice was in homage to Ireland — it was no coincidence Prince Arthur was made Duke of Connaught.

Prince Leopold was the penultimate child; later made Duke of Albany, his full name was Leopold George Duncan Albert. Leopold, another new name in the royal family tree, was in honor of the King of Belgium, whose first wife was Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter and heiress of King George IV, whose death in childbirth led to King George’s unmarried sons scrambling to marry and produce a new heir to the throne (which led to Queen Victoria’s birth). Leopold also happened to be the uncle of both Victoria and Albert; Victoria’s mother was his sister, and Albert’s father was his brother.  George was actually in honor of his godfather, King George V of Hanover, grandson of King George III. Leopold received the name Duncan in the same way Arthur acquired Patrick; the Dukedom of Albany had once been borne by heirs to the throne of Scotland. Leopold had the shortest life of all Victoria’s children; he was a haemophiliac and may also have epilepsy. He died in 1884, aged 30.

The youngest of Queen Victoria’s children was Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore, later Princess Henry of Battenberg. Beatrice was yet another name new to the royal family — as was Feodore. Mary was once more in honor of Mary, Duchess of Cambridge, and Feodore was after Victoria’s older half-sister, Anna Feodora of Leiningen. Feodore is one way in which the Russian form of Theodora is transliterated into the Latin alphabet from the Cyrillic. Beatrice was born in 1859, and lived to be 87. She was the last of Victoria’s children to die, passing on in 1944.

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Speculation is mounting in Britain that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting.

And a recent change to the rules of royal succession means that their first child will be first in line to the throne, regardless of whether it is a girl or a boy.

Which means the choice of name takes on extra special importance.

It’s not  true to say that since Queen Victoria, all heirs presumptive to the throne have borne the names of former kings or queens – but it’s almost true.

The exceptions are King Edward VII, whose full name was Albert Edward, his oldest son Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, and King George VI, whose actual name was Albert Frederick Arthur George,

And Victoria herself, of course, who was Alexandrina Victoria.

And so, it is probably safe to say that, even if the child has a first name which has not been borne by a ruling monarch, its second name will be, and that will be its eventual throne name.

However, Kate is clearly a traditionalist through and through, so even if the throne name is a middle name instead of a first, it is very unlikely indeed any and all names the child will bear won’t feature somewhere in the royal family tree.

Which will be?

Well, it’s certainly noticeable that none of the Queen’s granddaughters have been called Victoria, which, given the fact a baby girl would one day be queen, has to be top of the list of names for Kate and Wills’ baby if it’s a girl.

Another likely contender is Mary. There has been a royal princess of the name virtually continually since the time of the fourteenth-century Mary of Woodstock, daughter of King Edward I – until the death of Queen Mary in 1953. It is another name notable for being ‘reserved’ since, prevented from use by more minor royals. It’s not remotely fashionable at present (nor is Victoria in Britain) – but that’s never bothered the royals before, and is unlikely to trouble them now. It might even be considered in the name’s favour.

Elizabeth must also a pretty major contender. That it might to be on the ‘reserved’ list was in evidence in 2003, when Prince Edward picked Louise for his daughter. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother had died not long before and if Elizabeth wasn’t on the list of names ‘put aside’ for royals higher up the pecking order, it would have, perhaps, been a rather more likely choice.

Then there are the names of the three ‘almost queens’, which might, possibly, be judged acceptable for a future Queen of the Realm, namely Jane, Charlotte and Matilda. Lady Jane Grey was ‘Queen for Nine Days’ in 1553; she was never crowned, and ended up with her head on the block, but, nevertheless, she was declared Queen of England after the death of her cousin, King Edward VI.

Meanwhile, we would have had a Queen Charlotte, had Princess Charlotte of Wales not died in childbirth in 1817. Her death sparked a national crisis, as King George III had prevented all his other children from marrying. That all changed; the princes all set about marrying and reproducing – and Queen Victoria was one of the results.

Lastly, Matilda, daughter of King Henry I and mother of King Henry II was de facto queen in 1141; and she and her cousin Stephen, the man formally considered king during the period, were embroiled for many years in a messy civil war. Peace finally came when Stephen promised to make Matilda’s son his heir.

And while it would be unlikely as a first name, I’ll eat my crane bag if Diana doesn’t feature amongst her likely four given names.

As for boys, there is one name which is screaming out as top contender for Wills and Kate’s first son – George. Like Victoria and Mary, it has had a distinctly ‘reserved’ sign on it for the last fifty years. George is also one of the most popular names amongst the British Upper Class – half of Wills’ Old Etonian friends will be Georges.

Are there others? Well, most of the names of other kings are currently ‘occupied’, which is likely to rule them out: Charles, by Will’s dad, Henry by his brother, Edward by his uncle, James by his cousin, Richard by a second cousin, William by Wills himself. Those which are not are limited to John and Stephen.

John is a no-no; it is regarded as the royal family’s unlucky name, and is unlikely to see use again for centuries.

Stephen is an interesting one; since King Stephen’s time, it has never been used again. The fact that it is ‘unfashionable’ at the moment, however, is perhaps more likely to count in its favour; the royals have never particularly concerned themselves about such things. I would be surprised, though; after all, look what happened when John got resurrected from the medieval scrolls…

There are also the names of the ‘almost-rans’, which widen the choice a bit. Probably the most likely of this bunch for Kate and Wills is Arthur. King Henry VII’s eldest son was called Arthur, and would have been king had he not died before his father, while, a few centuries earlier, Arthur, Duke of Brittany had been the intended heir of King Richard I. It is also one of both Prince Charles’ given names and Wills’. It’s also another name which has seen most use in the last thirty years in the British upper class.

Other sometime heirs presumptive of British Kings, who never made the throne because they died before their fathers were Eustace, Count of Bologne (son of King Stephen), Alphonso, Earl of Chester (son of King Edward I), Frederick, Prince of Wales (son of King George II), and the already mentioned Albert, Duke of Clarence (son of King Edward VII). Frederick might have been a distinct possibility – but it is already borne by another of Will’s second cousins, Lord Frederick Windsor.

Really, of the others, only Albert is a serious contender, although it is telling that neither King Edward VII, nor King George VI ruled as King Albert I. And it is also worth bearing in mind that when King George was born, he was not expected to inherit the throne – he had an older brother, Edward (later King Edward VIII).

But Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence, would have been King Albert I.

Still, it would be seen as a break in convention for a baby born to be king or queen to bear a name other than one of the names of its predecessors on the throne – and I think Kate (if not Wills) is rather too conventional for that…

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It is twenty years ago today that the United States recognized the independence of the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from the former USSR.

Seems like a good opportunity to take a look at what people are calling their babies in the Baltics!

Lithuanian and Latvian are closely related languages — both belong to the Baltic family. Linguists regard Lithuanian as the modern language which most closely resembles Proto-Indo-European.

Estonian, meanwhile, is a Finnic language, related — oddly enough — to Finnish.

Lithuania’s top ten in 2010 was as follows:

Girls:

  1. Emilija — Emilia/Emily
  2. Gabija — Lithuanian Goddess of fire
  3. Ugnė — ‘fire’
  4. Austėja — Lithuanian Goddess of bees
  5. Urtė — uncertain. Possibly Lithuanian form of Urd — the Norse Goddess of fate (itself from Old Norse urðr ‘fate’ and ‘uncanny’, though there are numerous other suggestions
  6. Kamilė — Camilla
  7. Gabrielė — Gabriella/Gabrielle
  8. Goda — probably arose as a short form of names beginning God-; now is interpreted as deriving from old Lithuanian words meaning ‘dream’ and ‘glory’.
  9. Rugilė — from rugys ‘rye’
  10. Miglė — from migla ‘mist’.

Boys:

  1. Matas — short form of Motiejus — Matthew; matas also means ‘measure’
  2. Lukas — Luke
  3. Dovydas — David
  4. Nojus — Noah
  5. Kajus — Gaius
  6. Jokūbas — Jacob
  7. Dominykas — Dominic
  8. AugustasAugustus
  9. Mantas — of uncertain origin; possibly simply mantas ‘treasure’, or from manta ‘property’, ‘goods’, or mantus ‘friendly’, ‘clever’, ‘beautiful’
  10. Gustas — either Lithuanian form of Gustav, or a short form of AUGUSTAS. Also gustas ‘taste’ and ‘desire’.

Latvia’s looks like this:

Girls:

  1. Sofija — Sophia/Sophie
  2. Alise — Alice
  3. Viktorija — Victoria
  4. Anastasija — Anastasia
  5. Marta — Martha
  6. Anna — Anna/Ann(e)
  7. Evelīna — Evelina/Evelyn
  8. Emīilija — Emilia/Emily
  9. Laura
  10. Katrīna — Katherine

Boys:

  1. RobertsRobert
  2. GustavsGustav
  3. Markuss — Mark/Marcus
  4. Maksims — Maxim/Maximus
  5. Daniels — Daniel
  6. ArtjomsArtemius ‘belonging to (the Goddess) Artemis; the name of a saint venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Russian form is Artyom (it is also the source of the boy’s name Artemis, made famous by Artemis Fowl)
  7. Aleksanders — Alexander
  8. Ričards — Richard
  9. Ralfs — Ralph
  10. Artūrs — Arthur

And lastly, but not leastly, Estonia. Rather harder to pin down, but apparently, these were the most popular names in June 2011:

Girls:

  1. Laura
  2. Mia
  3. Sofia — Sophie/Sophia
  4. Maria — Maria/Mary
  5. Alisa — Alice
  6. Milana — could be an adoption of the Slavic Milana, feminine of Milan < mil ‘gracious,’ ‘dear’ and ‘beloved’, or an Estonian take on Melanie, or even Magdalene (Malin is a Finnish name derived from the last).
  7. Aleksandra — Alexandra
  8. KertuGertrude
  9. Annabel
  10. Darja — Daria

Boys:

  1. OliverOliver
  2. Rasmus — Erasmus
  3. Maksim — Maxim/Maximus
  4. Romet — modern name of uncertain meaning; possibly deriving from rõõmu ‘joy’
  5. Daniel
  6. Daniil — Daniel
  7. HenriHenry
  8. Karl — Charles/Karl
  9. Sander — Alexander
  10. Markus — Mark/Marcus

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