For millennia the elite social classes known as the aristocracy and the nobility have been a source of inspiration and aspiration for ordinary people the world over.
Whether it’s the appeal of the elegant and genteel lives of the landed gentry, or the salacious glamour of the wealthy lifestyles of the upper classes, the aristocracy has always been a source of entertainment and vicarious pleasure for people from all walks of life.
So when it comes to the popular subjects of names, it’s not surprising that people often turn to the realms of nobility when searching for aspirational Christian names or inspiration for names that carry a certain cachet within society.
Whether you’re seeking ideas for an elite-sounding baby name for your little prince or princess, or you’re on the hunt for name ideas for the aristocratic characters in your new novel, here are some insights and examples of the most popular names chosen by the nobility throughout the ages.
Aristocratic Titles As Names
If you want to give your child a noble-sounding name, what better way than to christen them with an actual aristocratic title?
Obviously, there are some titles that wouldn’t lend themselves to a sensible first name – Sir, for example, or Viscount, or Marchioness – but some of the titles of nobility would make a great name, and a few have already become established as a forename.
One popular example is Earl. The world of entertainment is full of men whose given name is Earl – for example, the writer of the popular TV show The Waltons was named Earl Hamner Jr. There’s even an entire TV series called My Name Is Earl.
Another popular example of an aristocratic title used as a forename is Lady. Again, this is a popular choice within the world of entertainment, with many actresses or musical artists adopting the moniker as part of their stage name.
The most famous use of Lady as a name in popular culture is undoubtedly Lady Gaga. The famous singer and actress has claimed that she usually refers to herself simply as Gaga, and only uses the full term Lady when she wants to elevate her status or appear more impressive.
The use of noble titles has been used as a way to advance both socially and within careers for millennia, and it’s clear that the tradition of esteem and elevated status attributed to aristocratic names and titles is as strong as ever.
Another famous example of the use of Lady as a name is Lady Bird Johnson, a former First Lady of the United States. Again her use of the name Lady was a nickname rather than a formal given name – it’s believed she was called Lady Bird as a pet name during her childhood and the name stuck, following her into her adult life.
It’s a curious coincidence that she did indeed go on to become a Lady – and the First Lady, no less. This is compelling evidence that a noble-sounding name can help a person to advance in life and in society.
Royal Naming Traditions Within The Nobility
Along with borrowing the actual titles used within the aristocracy, another way to emulate this esteemed social class is to follow their naming traditions.
The nobility has historically been the social class that lived and mingled most closely with the classes of royalty. As such, it’s not surprising that a strong tradition within the noble classes is to adopt the names of great royals for their own children.
There are some Christian names that appear over and over in the lists of great kings and queens. For example, some classic names for kings and princes are George, Henry, Richard, William, David, Edward, Harold, John, James and Charles.
Classic names for queens and princesses include; Mary, Elizabeth, Jane, Victoria, Isobel, Anne, Catherine, Charlotte, Maria and Margaret.
As these names featured so strongly within royal circles over the centuries, the noble classes have tended to adopt these regal forenames and christen their own children in their honour. The gesture of naming a child after a monarch has been a popular practice for centuries – whether as a token of esteem or a hope that a monarch would favour their namesake.
Just as the aristocratic classes have turned to the superior royal ranks for inspiration when it comes to names, it’s natural that ordinary people would look to the nobility for their own naming ideas. As such, it’s no surprise that the popular names used by royals and emulated by their nobles are some of the most widely used forenames for people from all walks of life.
Aristocratic Names As Family Honours
Another popular naming practice typical within the elite social classes is the naming of children after their parents or grandparents. The tradition of naming a son after his father is an age-old idea, and used throughout all social classes. Yet when an heir is likely to inherit a noble title that has been in the family for generations, there was even more expectation that the likely heir would carry on the entire name and title.
This is why there are often multiple members of a noble family with the same name. For example, a noble family tree may have numerous Sir Johns, Lady Elizabeths, or Lord Charles etc…
It has also been a popular practice within the nobility to christen their newborns in honour of an esteemed grandparent, aunt or uncle. This practice could be especially favourable if the relative in question happened to be particularly wealthy or powerful, as they would often take a more positive interest in the child and perhaps support their education or assist with the right introductions within society.
The choice of name can carry a great deal of weight within many social circles, and this was something that the aristocrats of the ages would have known well.
Given that the nobility on the whole have become masters of social advancement and attaining the highest status and rank in many areas of life, it’s not surprising that many would look to the aristocratic realm for ideas and inspiration for names that will open doors and potentially add an air of sophistication and refinement, whatever their heritage or birth origins.