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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why Is Everyone Named George?

Many unique factors define a historical period--technology, politics, wars or the lack thereof. Social manners and mores also define an era, including the names parents give their children. The English Regency (1811-1820) was no exception.

In England, the name of the reigning monarch was always popular with the parents of newborns. In the Regency, as for the previous 100 years since George I ascended the throne in 1714, that name was "George" (George III pictured). George Washington, born in 1732, took his name from George II (reigned 1727-1760). George Gordon Byron, the famous Regency poet, Lord Byron, (born 1788) was named for George III (reigned 1760-1820). Girls were not exempt from the trend--Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, born in 1757, was named, like George Washington, for George II.

The name "George" was so important and so popular that the entire era preceding the Regency, from the start of the reign of George I (1714) to 1811, was named the Georgian era.

After "George", the names of kings and queens from the Norman Conquest onward were popular, especially among the upper echelons of society. For boys, popular names were John, William, Richard, Henry, Charles, James, Edward, and the Saxon kings' names Harold and Edmund. Girls' names included Elizabeth, Mary and Anne, monarchs in their own right, as well as the kings' consorts, Charlotte (George III), Catherine and Jane (Henry VIII), Emma (Canute the Great), Eleanor (Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of Henry II).

Caroline, the name of the Prince Regent's wife, was also popular, as well as the names of the Regent’s sisters, the princesses Sophia, Augusta, and Amelia, and his brothers, the princes Frederick, Alfred, and Adolphus.

Biblical names, with a few exceptions, such as Susanna and Sarah, were not popular with the Beau Monde. A footman might be named Joseph, but his master, the earl, would not share the name.

Here are a few links for finding Regency names:

Jo Beverley's site:

And here's a Regency name generator:

Thank you all,


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Linda,
That is so interesting. I knew the names of kings and queens were popular, but I didn't realize that in those times, biblical names were not.


Diane Craver said...

I didn't realize that about the biblical names either. Great post!

Skhye said...

Oooooooooo, a Regency name generator! What fun! Thanks

Linda Banche said...

Hi Margaret and Diane. I didn't know about the biblical names, either. Live and learn.

Skhye, I have fun with that name generator, too.

Katharine Ashe said...

This is fascinating. And I love it when authors play up trends like this. Claudia Dain has two characters named George in one of her Regency courtesan series books, and it's absolutely hilarious (which she intended!).

StephB said...

How fascinating. It doesn't surprise me. The British are very fond of their monarchy. Did you know George I spoke no english? George II spoke it with a horrible German accent. George III was the first George who spoke English like an Englishman. hehe.


Linda Banche said...

Hi Katharine. Claudia Dain has done her homework. An author can always put this kind of information to good use.

Interesting, Steph. Sounds like George I became king because he was the closest relative. If that was the case, his not speaking English was irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,
Great Post! What struck me was that so many of the names you mentioned are still popular/common today.
I must say that I like my name better than my 'Regency name'~ "Grace Hawkins" sounds like a tavern wench to my ears, LOL.
Sara J. ~ : - ]

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Sara. I don't know about the tavern wench part **grins**, but I do like the name Grace. As for some names still being popular, they must resonate somehow, or they wouldn't have lasted so long.

Donna Hatch said...

Something else that was popular was that the aristocracy often named their first sons after the mother's maiden name, so you ended up with names like Fitzgerald Darcy, for example. So Grant, Brandon, Ashley, etc were common men's first names.

Linda Banche said...

I didn't know that one, Donna. Thanks.

Arianna said...

I was wondering why regency authors tend to use more common names like Emma, Elizabeth, and Anne (names commonly used in Austen books), while, in regency times, parents often pulled from greek myths or older unique names (like Aridne or Clytemnestra), just as often as parents do today (like Kalel or Anakin).

I just wondered if it is too out-dated or passe to use odd names in regency novels. I know it was a common trend in older novels. Georgette Heyer, for example, liked to use peculiar names for her characters.

I really like the regency name generator. I've had it bookmarked for a couple years now. Whenever I'm stuck, I give it a spin and it helps me out.

Conor said...

Only just found you and enjoy the site. I have written an account of how the Celts dealt with Julius Caesar`s two attempts to invade Britannia. Book One] [Diarmid`s First Battle] is now in the Lancashire Schools library system & avaialble on Amazon & Kindle Book Two [Diarmid & the Great Invasion] is only on Kindle. It`s for Nat Curric Stage 2 but a much,adults like them as well. First(?) portrait of the Celts as intelligent & resourceful. Grania (Warrior Queen) is bit of a Hussy. Thought you might enjoy. There is a blog but as no-one has looked yet,I don`t keep up with it. Much. Best wishes, see you soon, Conor (Steve)