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Thursday 13 – Medieval Names

As an author, names are very interesting to me. As a reader of medieval romance, I find myself rolling my eyes at some of the names which are obviously modern given medieval knights and ladies. I would like to see some more realistic names given to romance heroes and heroines. On the other hand, to have half the male characters named William, John, Henry or Richard would be mighty confusing. It is fact that boys’ given names were not very imaginative in Medieval England. The ten most common names account for 57.8% of all male names listed in the Rolls of Henry III. (found at www.finerollshenry3.org.uk) That means that well over half the men shared 10 names. Only 3.4% of the men listed had a name that showed up only once. So, imaginative names were pretty rare for men. For women, 9.94% had names that showed up only once. A little more diverse, but still, the majority of parents were content to name their children for saints, kings and queens. Can you imagine a passionate relationship between a William and a Matilda?

Well, get this: Willam the Conqueror, who was previously known as William the Bastard because his parents weren’t married, proposed marriage (not in person, but by messenger)to a daughter of the Count of Flanders by the name of Matilda. Matilda laughed at his envoy, saying a pure blooded princess born in holy matrimony wouldn’t lower herself to wed a base-born bastard.  Her father the Count agreed that a more profitable and seemly alliance could be made elsewhere. William was so furious that he rode all night, caught Matilda on her way to church, dragged her off her horse by her hair and left her in the street while her guards and servants were too shocked to protect her.  True story? Maybe. They were married a few months later.


So what were the most commen names in the first half of the 13th century in England? (yes, I know this is more than 13, but which names shoule I leave out?)

Top Ten Medieval Male Names

1. William
2. John
3. Richard
4. Robert
5. Henry
6. Ralph
7. Thomas
8. Walter
9. Roger
10. Hugh

Top Ten Medieval Female Names

1. Alice
2. Matilda
3. Agnes
4. Margaret
5. Joan
6. Isabella
7. Emma
8. Beatrice
9. Mabel
10. Cecilia


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