Many babies born into the British upper class are bestowed with a string of given names.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Centuries ago, multiple middles were unheard of. They began creeping in only when “two names had ceased to be a distinction.” The trend started at the very top:
The court again set the example, and in 1738, George III was baptized by the names George William Frederic. But for many years this fashion was regarded as too absurd for Englishmen to follow.
This explains why, when John Dawnay, 4th Viscount Downe, gave his firstborn two middles in 1764 he was ridiculed by fellow society member George “Gilly” Williams:
Downe’s child is to be christened this evening. The sponsors I know not, but his three names made me laugh not a little, John Christopher Burton. I wish to God, when he arrives at the years of puberty, he may marry Mary Josephina Antonietta Bentley.
Oliver Goldsmith mocked the fad as well with the character Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs in his novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766).
But, as we all know, the fad stuck. Despite the detractors.
I’ve posted about British WWI officers with names like Berkeley George Andrew and Frederick Charles Doveton.
And Prince William, married just the other day, has three middle names: Arthur, Philip and Louis. So does his brother, Prince Harry: Charles, Albert and David.
Do you know anyone with more than one middle name? (No problem if the person isn’t British and/or a member of the upper class.)
- Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. London: Chatto & Windus, 1897.
- Jesse, John Heneage. George Selwyn and His Contemporaries. Vol. 1. London: John C. Nimmo, 1901.