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Tomorrow the city of Adelaide will welcome their Olympic athletes home with a street parade. That’s a good enough excuse as any to cover the name Adelaide, which has been sitting in my Request file for many months now.

Adelaide is the capital of South Australia, and it’s a pleasant coastal city which has been voted the Most Liveable and judged Most Affordable capital city in Australia. It was planned in the 19th century as the capital of a British province of free settlers, and is the only state capital not to have a history of convict settlement – something of which it is still very proud.

Its early history was marked by a commitment to religious freedom and political civil liberties, which led to its nickname of The City of Churches. Despite this moniker, the last census revealed that almost a third of Adelaideans had no religious affiliation at all, making it one of our least religious cities.

From early on, Adelaide attracted many European immigrants escaping religious persecution, most notably from Germany. The Germans brought with them the vine cuttings which were planted to found the famous wineries of the Barossa Valley. After World War II, there were many more immigrants, including Italian, Greek, Dutch, and Polish. The names in the birth notices from Adelaide tell me that South Australians remain very aware of their cultural heritage, because there are always lots of German and Italian baby names.

Adelaide is famous for its many festivals, celebrating music, art, theatre, comedy, sport, food, wine and just about anything else you can think of. When not having a festival, Adelaide tends to be on the sedate side, although quite sophisticated for a small city. If you enjoy somewhere quiet and clean, with good food and wine, attractive beaches, plenty of parkland, lots of outdoor activities and generally friendly people, you will like Adelaide. Please don’t drink the water though; it’s not unsafe but it tastes like it is.

The name Adelaide is from the French form of the Germanic name Adalheidis, meaning “noble kind”. The Frankish nobility were keen to stress their daughters’ high-born pedigree, as it made them more marriageable, and thus names starting with Adel- abound.

There are several Adelaides from history amongst the ruling classes of Europe, including Adelaide of Aquitane, who married Hugh Capet, elected king of France and the founder of one of the most important royal dynasties of that country. Saint Adelaide was the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto, and she ruled the Empire for several years as her grandson’s guardian. (Saint Adelaide’s daughters were Emma and Matilda, which both sound very contemporary).

The name wasn’t particularly common in England until the 19th century, when William IV, then the Duke of Clarence, married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, a small state of Germany. Adelaide was less than half William’s age, and had to accept his ten illegitimate children as part of the bargain, but despite this, the couple were devoted to each other, and led a life of domestic harmony.

After William became king and Adelaide queen consort, the name got a huge boost. The English people loved Adelaide – she was dignified, modest, charitable, and gained public sympathy for being unable to produce a surviving heir. However, she was very fond of her niece, who would one day reign as Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria’s first child had Adelaide as one of her middle names, in her aunt’s honour.

It is this Adelaide that the city of Adelaide is named after; the city was founded in 1836, just a few years after Adelaide became queen. The city has never forgotten its royal namesake: there is a bronze statue of Queen Adelaide in the foyer of the Town Hall, and the Queen Adelaide Club provides an exclusive social club for women.

Each year the city celebrates Queen Adelaide’s birthday on August 13, held in the Queen Adelaide Room of the Town Hall. There is a tea party given, and everyone who bears the name Adelaide is invited to attend as an honoured guest. This year, on Queen Adelaide’s 220th birthday, 30 Adelaides came, up from 22 last year; the eldest was in her eighties, and the youngest only 17 days old. Over the past 15 years, more than 50 girls in South Australia have been named Adelaide.

In New South Wales, Adelaide was #132 in the 1900s, and then sank in popularity until it was out of regular use between the 1930s and the 1970s. During the 1980s, it was #792, representing about one Adelaide born each year. During the 1990s, it increased to #447, and continued rising. It peaked in 2010 at #154, and last year suddenly dropped to #232, so it may be losing popularity before reaching its 1900s ranking.

Australian actress Rachel Griffiths and artist Andrew Taylor welcomed a daughter named Adelaide Rose in 2005. As Adelaide Taylor was born in Los Angeles, she became part of a growing trend, because her name joined the US Top 1000 the year she was born. It has continued to rise, and is currently #407. I wonder if beleaguered MP Craig Thomson having a baby girl named Adelaide in 2011 damaged the brand in NSW – it was going so well until last year?

This is a stylish, ladylike name that manages to sound both “old fashioned” and contemporary. It’s never been on the Top 100, and doesn’t seem likely to join it at this stage. You could use Addie as a nickname, in which case it would blend right in with all the Addisons and Madisons, but many would prefer Ada, Adele, Dell, Della, or no nickname at all.