Anglo-Saxon names, choosing baby names, classic names, english names, famous namesakes, fictional namesakes, locational names, middle names, name history, name meaning, nicknames, popular names, royal names, saints names
This year is the centenary of World War I, and just a few days ago there were commemorative celebrations for the first Australian troops to leave for the battlefields of Gallipoli. Because of this, I have chosen the name of one of our war heroes.
Edward Picton was a shearer and drover from country New South Wales when war broke out in 1914, and by the end of that year he had embarked with the 7th Light Horse Regiment. He saw active service in Gallipoli, and distinguished himself in the campaigns of Sinai and Palestine. Twice he was decorated for capturing prisoners under heavy shelling, and his commanding officer praised him as reliable, full of dash and pluck, and cool under fire.
In early 1918, he received a severe wound which left him with a permanent limp, and was taken prisoner himself; reported as missing in action, he was taken to Turkey to endure many months as a POW, and returned to Australia after the Armistice. Despite his age and disabilities, he also signed up during World War II and served in Egypt and Syria. Although one of the the most decorated soldiers of the Australian Light Horse’s famous 1917-18 campaign, he remained modest, and lived a quiet life with his family.
The name Edward is derived from the Old English ead “wealthy” (or poetically, “blessed, happy”) and weard “guardian, watchman” (the origin of our English word warden), and is usually translated as something like “rich guardian”.
The name was a traditional one amongst Anglo-Saxon royalty and nobility, as were other Ed- names, which emphasised their inherited wealth and power. An early example is the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Elder, the son of Alfred the Great; he was a successful ruler who is said to have been extremely handsome and intelligent.
Two other pre-Conquest English kings named Edward became saints: Edward the Martyr, whose short reign ended with his murder, and Saint Edward the Confessor, who was one of the patron saints of England until he was replaced by Saint George.
It was because of Saint Edward the Confessor that the name Edward also became traditional amongst the Norman kings, because Henry III named his eldest son Edward in honour of the country’s patron saint, and he became Edward I. Thus Edward became one of those rare Anglo-Saxon names which continued to flourish after the Conquest.
There have been eight English kings named Edward since 1066, with the last one being Edward VIII, who famously abdicated in 1936, the first year of his reign, to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson.
The name, although perhaps not auspicious for a king any more, is still in use by the British royal family, with a notable example being Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth, who is currently visiting Australia. The queen has a cousin named Edward – Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. The Duke of Kent was born a year before Edward VIII’s abdication, and I wonder if he would have been given a different name if born a year after the abdication?
If you are a fan of the Anne of Green Gables books, you will know they are mostly set on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province. They are named after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, who was Queen Victoria’s father.
Edward is a name which has been something of a favourite in romantic fiction, including the dutiful Edward Ferrars in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and the Byronic Edward Rochester in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Mr Rochester was one of the models for another romantic love interest, the vampire Edward Cullen from the Twilight series. There’s also Prince Edward from the movie Enchanted, and from a very different fairy tale, the strangely gifted Edward Scissorhands.
Edward is a classic which has never been off the charts, and barely been out of the Top 100 in Australia. It was at its height in the 1900s at #10, and hit its lowest point in the late 2000s at #103 (it did rise after Twilight). Currently it is #59 nationally, #53 in New South Wales, #39 in Victoria, #83 in Queensland, #30 in Tasmania, and #32 in the Australian Capital Territory, where it was one of the fastest-rising names of 2013.
I must admit to having great affection for the name Edward, because it was the first name I ever bestowed on a human, at the age of three. It is my brother’s name, and my parents allowed me to choose his name, in the hope that this would prove a great bonding experience, as I’d been very jealous and grizzly about the whole “new baby brother” deal.
I chose the name Edward after my favourite literary character, Winnie-the-Pooh – well I was only three! As Pooh fans will know, Winnie-the-Pooh, who was named after a real bear named Winnipeg and a swan named Pooh, is identified in the poetry book When We Were Very Young as having Edward Bear as his official name.
The budding name nerd in me was thrilled at learning someone’s real name, and excited that there were such things as real names. My mum explained that Edward was the “proper name” for Teddy, so the name meant “teddy bear”. That discovery about nicknames coming from names blew my mind. No wonder I couldn’t get enough of Winnie-the-Pooh.
I may have also been drawn to the name because one of the “big boys” in our community (about eleven) was called Edward, and he had apparently impressed me as being very kind and gentle. Perhaps I saw Edward as a “nice guy” name – the kind of person I would want as a brother. If so, my wish came true, as my brother Edward is gentle and kind too, and has devoted his life to helping others. He’s definitely one of the good guys.
Of course I didn’t get things all my own way. My idea was that my brother’s whole name would be Edward Bear, like Winnie-the-Pooh, and that his nickname would be Teddy. My parents said Bear wasn’t a proper name, and the middle name was James, after my dad. Teddy was vetoed, as to my parents’ generation, it was a synonym for thug, and his nickname eventually became, without any particular forethought that I noticed, Eddie. It was an early lesson in name compromise, and that once you’ve named someone, you lose creative control of the project.
My parents’ master plan did not work, and despite naming him, I was a complete brat towards my baby brother, locked in sibling rivalry hell. However, it didn’t last long, as my mother got pregnant again almost immediately, and in an astonishingly short time, there was another baby. Either the shock of having two baby brothers pulled me up, or I had turned four and was now a lot more mature. My parents chose their youngest child’s name themselves (I didn’t get a second gig), and ironically his nickname became Bear, which had nothing to do with his name at all. Talk about name theft!
(I don’t have clear memories of being three, and have drawn on the recollections of my parents and sister for this, but I do remember Winnie-the-Pooh, and the moment of actually announcing Edward’s name. I don’t remember being a massive fangirl of older-boy-Edward, but my family assures me that I was a great admirer; I don’t remember him from the age of three, but obviously I grew up around him and have many later memories. I only recall throwing one jealous tantrum over Eddie, but I’ve been told I was a right little monster).
So there you have it – a handsome classic which is a solid, reliable choice, yet still has some dashing romance to it, as well as teddy bear huggability. Even as a toddler I could tell it was a great name, and it has served my brother well for many years. Highly recommended!
(Portrait of Corporal Edward Picton from the Australian War Memorial)