Life in Elizabethan England Next

Naming The Baby

Englishmen do not have middle names, as a rule. Middle names are in general found only in Europe, especially in Germany and Spain, until the 17th century. Where we find them in some lists, the odds are good that the records from which they were taken were contradictory, illegible, or wrong.

I can think of only three English exceptions; each is a curiosity and has a reason:
Jane Sybilla Morrison The 2nd earl of Bedford's stepdaughter, born abroad.
Thomas Posthumous Hoby Son of Sir Thomas Hoby and Elizabeth Cook, born after his father's death (i.e., posthumously).
Anthony Maria Browne Lord Montague's grandson, 5th in an unbroken sequence of Anthony Brownes, and born in the lifetime of both his father and grandfather. Perhaps given in honor of his aunt, Mary Countess of Southampton.

The New Baby

We do not put Junior after a name, or use "the Third" except when counting monarchs. We may, however, say "the Younger" to refer to the junior generation.

It is not true that there are only five names each for men and women in England; it just seems that way. The most common names for girls appear to be: Elizabeth, Anne/Agnes, Jane, Mary/Margaret, and Katherine. And for boys: Henry, Thomas, Edward, John, William, and Robert.

People sometimes use nicknames, but only with intimates, children, or servants. Some of these familiar names maybe unfamiliar to you:
Use... For... Use... For...
Jack John Kit Christopher
Nan Anne Meg Margaret
Harry or Hal Henry Robin Robert
Ned Edward Nell Eleanor or Helen
Bess Elizabeth Kate or Kitty Katherine
Mall or Molly Mary Jennet Jane

Nominal Curiosities

Names like Lettyce (for Letitia), Douglas, Peregrine, Fulke, Susan, Valentine, Reginald, and Ambrose are more or less unique.

James is common only in Scotland until the end of Elizabeth's reign.

Joan is a common (i.e., low) form of Jane.

Mary and Margaret often seem interchangeable in parish records.

Bridget is not considered particularly Irish, but is a fairly ordinary English girl's name. The earl of Rutland has a sisted called Bridget.

Magdelyn is pronounced "Madelyn" or "Mawdlin".

Agnes is pronounced and sometimes spelled "Anys" (an'-nis.) Anthony is always pronounced "Antony".

When a child dies, the next child may be given the same one.

Children are often named for a godparent whom the parents wish to honour. This is another reason why we often find duplicate names in the same generation.

Most Christian names come from relatives and godparents, rather than current trends.

::  Love & Marriage
::  A Midwife's Oath 1567
::  Children & Childhood
::  Heirs & Inheritance


Duffy: Voices of Morepath
Laning: Faire Names for English Folk
Jones: The Birth of the Elizabethan Age

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14 March 2010 mps