Henry I, who ruled England from 1100 to 1135, was one of the sons of William the Conqueror, England’s first Norman king.
About two months after Henry was crowned king (on the interesting date 11/11/1100) he married one of the daughters of Malcolm III of Scotland and his Anglo-Saxon wife, Margaret.
Malcolm and Margaret’s daughter had been baptized with the Anglo-Saxon name Eadgyth [Edith], but when she was crowned Queen of England, she used the name Matilda.
From then on, she was known as either Matilda or Maud.
Why the name change?
Because “Matilda” was a name favored by the Normans. As historian Robert Bartlett put it, “A lot of people changed their names [following the Norman conquest] because they wanted to pass in polite society — they didn’t want to be mistaken for a peasant, marked out with an Anglo-Saxon name.”
In fact, Norman nobles liked to mock the couple by calling them Godric and Godiva, both of which are Anglo-Saxon names. “Godric and Godiva were the Jack and Jill of their period.”
Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames. London: Henry Frowde, 1901.
It’s a land survey, compiled in 1086, that covered much of England and parts of Wales.
The Domesday Book provides extensive records of landholders, their tenants, the amount of land they owned, how many people occupied the land (villagers, smallholders, free men, slaves, etc.), the amounts of woodland, meadow, animals, fish and ploughs on the land (if there were any) and other resources, any buildings present (churches, castles, mills, salthouses, etc.), and the whole purpose of the survey – the value of the land and its assets, before the Norman Conquest, after it, and at the time of Domesday.
The book is held at The National Archives in London, but its contents are available online at Open Domesday.
Most of the names in the Domesday Book are male, as most landowners were men. So, to be different (and to make things easier!) I thought I’d focus on the women.
The female names below appeared in the Open Domesday database just once, except where noted. (Multiple mentions don’t necessarily speak to name popularity, as this is not a representative sample of 11th-century people. Also, some individuals are simply mentioned in the book more than once.)
See anything you like?
Also, did you notice the names of Scandinavian origin (e.g., Guthrun, Ingrith, Sigrith)? “These names are most numerous in the eastern half of the country, particularly Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. This is precisely where, as we know from other evidence, there was a substantial settlement of Scandinavian immigrants.”
Don’t get too excited — these aren’t the top names for 2009. (If only!)
Why am I posting old news? Because I recently found a more complete version of the 2008 list that goes all the way down to baby names used in England and Wales just three times. So, the top-ranked names may be old news, but the rest are new. (New to me, anyway.) Here goes:
And now, just for fun, let’s compare usage in England to usage in America:
# UK* Boys
# UK Girls
# U.S. Boys
# U.S. Girls
Mackenzie Makenzie Mckenzie
361 28 462
53 9 66
?** ? ?
4,425 2,048 2,258
*By UK, I mean England and Wales. Not an accurate substitution, I know. But “England and Wales” is just way too long for that spot.
**The 1,000th name on the U.S. top 1,000 was used for 192 baby boys. So the question marks represent some number between 0 and 192.
***Update: Kelly has astutely pointed out that raw numbers can be misleading. I’m not going to change the chart — I’m just too lazy — but I’ve thrown in some rough totals, for context.