Wealthy British couple William Nightingale and Frances “Fanny” Smith married in June of 1818. The Napoleonic Wars had ended several years earlier, so, now that it was safe to travel through Europe again, they decided to spend the first part of their marriage on the Grand Tour.
While abroad, they welcomed two daughters:
- Frances Parthenope (pronounced pahr-THEN-oh-pee), born in April, 1819
- Florence, born in May, 1820
Both baby girls were named after their birthplaces.
Frances Parthenope was born in Naples, which had been founded — as Neápolis, in the 6th century BC — in roughly the same spot as an earlier Greek colony known as Parthenope. Because of this, “Parthenope” is sometimes used as a poetic synonym for Naples. The Greek settlement was named after the Siren Parthenope, whose name was derived, in part, from the ancient Greek word parthenos, meaning “maiden, girl” or “virgin.”
Florence was born in Florence (of course), which is located about 300 miles northwest of Naples. The city’s name is based on the Latin word florens, meaning “flowering” or “flourishing.”
(Nowadays, both of these cities are part of Italy. During that era, however, Naples was part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Florence was part of Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and the unification of Italy was still 40 years away.)
The sisters, who went by the nicknames “Parthe” (PAHR-thee) and “Flo,” returned with their parents to England in 1821.
Younger sister Florence, who went on to become a nurse (despite her family’s opposition), rose to prominence in the mid-1850s while caring for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Today, Florence Nightingale is considered the founder of modern nursing.
Which name do you prefer, Parthenope or Florence?
Image: Florence Nightingale; Frances Parthenope, Lady Verney by William White