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British Royal Names

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Monikers from the Middle Ages

Battles over who ruled what and when and where gave rise to a number of different royal houses in England after the era of the Plantagenets ended in 1377. The Houses of Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stuart, and Hanover added their fair shares of royal names to the English name pool also.

Lancasters and Yorks

The very short reign of the Lancasters and the Yorks (between the two houses, they were in charge of the country for just a little more than a century) was marked by numerous rebellions and invasions, which is probably why neither house kept its throne for very long. Their short reigns also resulted in a short list of new names for the name pool:

  • Blanche: This French name, meaning “white” or “pale,” was borne by the mother of Henry IV, who, while not a great king, was an essential one to England as his rule would help maintain the support of the Church at a time when the country desperately needed it.
  • Roger: This Old German name, meaning “renowned spearman,” was borne most famously by Roger de Mortimer, the paramour of Isabelle, the wife of the Plantagenet King Edward II. She returned to her native country of France to arrange for the marriage of her son, the future Edward III, then returned to England with her lover and proceeded to wrest away the throne from her husband.

In the Tudor Style

This is the royal house made famous by King Henry VIII, who married six times in order to produce a male heir and, in the process, established the Church of England when the Catholic Church forbade him to divorce.

The Tudors added some of the most classic English names to the royal name pool, including:

  • Anne: The Anglicized version of the Hebrew name Hannah (“grace”), it was borne most famously by the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII.
  • James: James IV, who married Henry VIII's sister Margaret, was a king of Scotland. He, along with a man named Perkin Warbeck, who believed he was the rightful heir to the throne, plotted to overthrow Margaret's father, King Henry VII. Warbeck was eventually imprisoned and executed; James established peace with England.
  • Jane: This very British name is the feminine form of John (“the Lord is gracious”). Jane Seymour was the only one of Henry's wives to bear him a son—the future Edward VI. She died after his birth.
  • Charles: The name of the current man who would be king first appears in the person of Charles Stuart, a grandson of Henry VIII, but it was well established in other European dynasties prior to this time.
  • Arabella: The daughter of Charles Stuart, she became part of a plot to unseat her cousin, James I, also known as James VI of Scotland. Under James I and his House of Stuart, Scotland and England were unified and became Great Britain.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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