Baby Name Story: Brilliana

Ethel Brilliana Tweedie (1862–1940)
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, during the Dutch Revolt against the Spanish Hapsburgs, several Dutch port towns were handed over to England temporarily so they could be better defended against Spain.

One of these towns was Brielle, which was called Brill by the English. The name can be traced back to the Celtic word brogilo, meaning “marshland.”

Englishman Edward Conway was the governor of Brill for twenty years (1596–1616). In 1598, he and his wife Dorothy had a baby girl. They named her Brilliana after the town.

She went on to marry Robert Harley and have seven children: Edward, Robert, Thomas, Brilliana, Dorothy, Margaret, and Elizabeth. She’s remembered today because of her prolific letter-writing. In the letters, she addressed her own daughter Brilliana by the short form, “Brill.”

Several of her descendants and her siblings’ descendants, including Ethel Brilliana Tweedie (1862–1940), also got the name.

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