In her autobiography, fashion editor Diana Vreeland mentioned two people named for horses:
[Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster] was named after a horse–Bendor, who won the Derby. Lots of people were named after horses. One of my great friends in London was Lady Morvyth Menson. I asked, “For goodness’ sakes, where’d you get this name Morvyth?” She said, “Well, you see, my father was off racing somewhere when I was born. My mother was dying, and there was no one in charge but the servants. ‘We’ve got to name this child something.'” So they called her Morvyth after one of the polo ponies. Terribly pretty Welsh name, isn’t it?
Do the stories check out?
The first is a false alarm. As a baby, Hugh Grosvenor (1879-1953) had been nicknamed Bendor after thoroughbred Bend Or because both had “chestnut hair.” The horse, which won the Epsom Derby in 1880, was owned by Grosvenor’s grandfather.
The second seems suspicious. Lady Morvyth (1896-1959) obviously wasn’t one of Vreeland’s “great friends” — her married name was Benson, not Menson. And Morvyth’s mother didn’t die after giving birth; she lived until 1920. But, without more information, there’s no way to tell if the story is legit.
(Morvyth is a version of Morfudd, which pops up frequently in the writing of 14th-century Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym.)
I’m still intrigued by her claim that “[l]ots of people were named after horses,” but I wish she’d included a few more examples…
- Grosvenor Estate – The 2nd Duke
- Vreeland, Diana, George Plimpton, Christopher Hemphill. D.V. New York: Ecco, 2011.