Baby Names in the Edwardian Era

Edwardian baby

Two things caught my eye recently: the increasing popularity of “old-fashioned” Edwardian names in The Times (subscription) and the speculation over the name of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child. As a writer, choosing the names of my characters is almost as daunting as the prospect of naming my (future!!) children–I can’t move on if the name doesn’t “fit,” and I will scour IMDb, pages of Wikipedia entries, books about the peerage, and baby name websites until I find one that does. Sometimes–the lucky times–the names appear in my head without any explanation (such as the names of the protagonists in Mine Is The Night, Huw and Leonore)!

Naming fads of the Edwardian era followed the fads of the Victorians: family names, names of influential godfathers/mothers (To Marry an English Lord lists the many half-American babies saddled with the name “Albert Edward”…the more fortunate were christened after Queen Alexandra!), flowers, virtues, classical figures, and the like. A major surprise, unearthed by Ancestry.co.uk in this 2009 article in The Telegraph, is that the Victorians were not exempt from quirky names like Brooklyn or Apple:

Brooklyn, the name of the Beckhams’ first born, was first used in 1870 for a baby called Brooklyn Revell Moorey.

Apple, [Gwyneth] Paltrow and Coldplay singer Chris Martin’s five-year-old daughter, shares her name with Apple Jordan, born in 1853.

Katie Price was also copying the Victorian era when she and Peter Andre named their daughter Princess – the name was first registered in 1847 and has since been used at least 1,800 times.

Victorian parents appeared to follow pop culture as much as today – Ellen became a particularly popular name in the 1870s the same time as the Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry reached the height of her fame.

Annie was the most popular girl’s name between 1887 and 1896, influenced by Annie Oakley, an American sharpshooter and star of the touring show Buffalo Bill’s Wild West who performed in person for Queen Victoria.

And Joseph entered the top ten of names between 1907 and 1915 thanks to politician Joseph Chamberlain.

Literature also had an influence, with a rise in the popularity of the name Alice following the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865.

Another name that passed from pop culture to the baby name bank is “Wendy”. Though Behind The Name claims it was related to “Gwendolen,” it became the trendy name of 1904 with the popularity of J.M. Barrie’s play, Peter Pan.

The Victorians and Edwardians could be quite fanciful when naming their children, but none so fanciful as the Reverend Ralph William Lyonel Tollemache-Tollemache, who really let loose his eccentricities when naming the ten children born of his second marriage:

  1. Dora Viola G. I. de Orellana Dysart Plantagenet
  2. Mabel Helmingham Ethel Huntingtower Beatrice Blazonberrie Evangeline Vise de Lou de Orellana Plantagenet Toedmag Saxon
  3. Lyonesse Matilda Dora Ida Agnes Ernestine Curson Paulet Wilbraham Joyce Eugénie Bentley Saxonia Dysart Plantagenet
  4. Lyulph Ydwallo Odin Nestor Egbert Lyonel (LYONEL) Toedmag Hugh Erchenwyne (THE) Saxon Esa Cromwell Orma Nevill Dysart (SECOND) Plantagenet
  5. Lyona Decima Veroica Esyth Undine Cyssa Hylda Rowena Adela Thyra Ursuala Ysabel Blanche Lelias Dysart Plantagenet
  6. Leo Quintus Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet
  7. Lyonella Fredegunda Cuthberga Ethelswytha Ideth Ysabel Grace Monica de Orellana Plantagenet
  8. Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet
  9. Lyonetta Edith Regina Valentine Myra Polwarth Avelina Phillipa Violantha de Orellana Plantagenet
  10. Lyunulph Cospatrick Bruce Berkeley Jermyn Tullibardine Petersham de Orellana Dysart Plantagenet

Poor children! Imagine needing to sign your name in school.

Read Eleanor Nickerson’s analysis for further name trends during the Edwardian era that were distinct from the Victorians!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

About Evangeline Holland

Author of Edwardian/WWI historicals. Likes cooking, the smell and collecting of old books, various artsy hobbies, travel, classic cinema, period dramas, the fusty areas of history, and all things French (though is terrible with maintaining fluency in the language). Read more about her novels and non-fiction here

  • Piper Huguley

    A great post Evangeline! Anytime there’s a discussion about names, I am there! That Reverend was something wasn’t he? Thanks for this information!

    • http://evangelineholland.com Evangeline Holland

      Thanks Piper! I think the good Reverend had waaay too much time on his hands, lol.

  • hels

    I too am fascinated by changing fashions in naming babies. In a discussion about ordinary families (not aristocrats and other strange people) in Australia over the last 110 years, the following were the most popular Edwardian names on birth certificates:
    Girls 1900s
    Ethel Amy Ida Mary Myrtle Charlotte Elsie Eva Florence Grace
    Boys 1900s
    George Ernest Alan Arthur Harold Jack James John William Alfred
    *
    Thanks for the link
    Hels
    http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/names-we-gave-to-our-newborn-babies.html

    • http://evangelineholland.com Evangeline Holland

      Those are pretty common names! The article I linked to at the end mentioned how names moved down in class by the 1900s. It seems there was an attempt to link with middle class England by giving the children such innocuous English names.

  • http://heidenkind.blogspot.com/ Tasha B. (heidenkind)

    Great post, Evangeline! I’ve always said I shouldn’t have children because I would give them horrible names. Like Mercutio and Tybalt. :p

    • http://evangelineholland.com Evangeline Holland

      My poor children would be saddled with names of favorite TV characters…;D

  • Jillian Leigh

    Kim Kardashian and Kanye West should have taken a leaf out of the good Rev. T-T’s book. Fraudatifilia Blazonberrie Huntingtower West has a definite ring to it.

    • http://evangelineholland.com Evangeline Holland

      LOL!

  • Pingback: Naming Characters | Dreams of the Purple Koala

  • Pingback: History A’la Carte 7-11-13 | Maria Grace

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: