Meaning of Tudor Names


  • Anne

    Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein 1539
    Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein 1539
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait

Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves

French form of ‘Anna’. ‘Anna’ is a form of Channah used in Greek and Latin. In Hebrew it means ‘favour’ or ‘grace’. It was a popular name in the Byzantine Empire, and was later used to honour Saint Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary. In Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession, there was a pageant showing her as the mother of the Virgin Mary, but it boded ill, as Mary only gave birth to a girl, and not the son Anne Boleyn desperately wanted and needed to give Henry VIII. In the end, Anne only gave birth to a girl. Anne of Cleves was shown favour after she accepted the end of her marriage to Henry VIII – instead of execution as Anne Boleyn had, Anne of Cleves was accepted as the king’s sister, and outlived him. Partly this was because of her having a standing similar to that of Katherine of Aragon – she had powerful relatives who would probably have avenged her death.  

  • Arthur
Anonymous portrait of Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York c.1501.
Anonymous portrait of Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York c.1501.

Arthur Tudor

Celtic from artos meaning ‘bear’ and viros meaning ‘man’ or rigos meaning ‘king’. Another possible derivation comes from Irish Gaelic art meaning ‘stone’. It came into general use in the Middle Ages. From what I’ve read, Arthur was named after King Arthur and the Round Table. The connotations of kingship and manhood probably referred to his future as King of England, if he hadn’t died. ‘Bear’ probably referred to the ruthlessness that was necessary of a king in dealing with his subjects and any rebellions. ‘Stone’ possibly refers to constancy and a definite presence, also required of a king. Difficult to live up to.  

  • Edward
Edward VI as Prince of Wales 1546.
Edward VI as Prince of Wales 1546.
Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Earl of Hertford.
Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Earl of Hertford.

Edward Stafford, Edward VI, Edward Seymour

English meaning ‘rich guard’ derived from Old English ead meaning ‘rich, blessed’ and weard meaning ‘guard’. Edward became popular after Edward the Confessor and hasn’t really dropped out of use across Europe. Edward VI was certainly ‘rich, blessed’ and the longed-for son of Henry VIII. He eventually had the responsibility of guarding England from foreign enemies, and Catholic enemies, including his sister Mary, hence why he tried to change the succession. Edward Stafford was rich, but only wanted to guard his own interests. Edward Seymour also wanted to guard his own interests, and those of his family.  

  • Elizabeth
Elizabeth I Darnley Portrait 1575
Elizabeth I Darnley Portrait 1575
18th century copy of Elizabeth of York as queen; she holds the white rose of the House of York.
18th century copy of Elizabeth of York as queen; she holds the white rose of the House of York.

Elizabeth I, Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Boleyn, Elizabeth Blount

Greek from Elisabet which came from the Hebrew Elisheva meaning ‘my God is an oath’ or ‘my God is abundance’. Originally more popular in Eastern Europe. Elizabeth I was named after Elizabeth Boleyn and Elizabeth of York, though the latter two don’t seem to relate to the above meanings. Elizabeth I, on the other hand, saw herself as being married to her country, which was a divine right, hence God was an oath to her – she served him. Elizabeth of York probably also saw it as her duty, not only to her husband but also to God, to serve England to the best of her ability.  

  • Henry
Henry VII holding a Tudor Rose, wearing collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, 1505.
Henry VII holding a Tudor Rose, wearing collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, 1505.
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540

Henry VII, Henry VIII

German, meaning ‘home ruler’ from heim meaning ‘home’ and ric meaning ‘ruler’. Also commonly spelt ‘Heinrich’. Used by kings of Germany, France and England. This name was certainly a well-chosen one for Henry VIII who ruled everything at home – state, church and family. It was because of his want to rule everything that England broke with Rome and he became known as a tyrant. Henry VII when he took the crown at Bosworth wanted to rule to unite the country. He spent so much time abroad in his childhood that he wanted to be a ‘home ruler’.

  • Jane
Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.
Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.

Jane Seymour, Jane Boleyn, Jane Grey

Medieval English form of Jehanne. Also Old French feminine form of Johannes. In Hebrew, it means ‘gift from god’. Jane Seymour probably seemed to Henry VIII like a gift from God when she gave him a son – the future Edward VI – after his previous two wives failed to, and it was so important to him and the Tudor dynasty. I can’t see Jane Boleyn being a gift from God, when she was involved debatably in the fall and execution of Anne Boleyn, and definitely in the fall and execution of Katherine Howard. Jane Grey probably seemed like a gift from God to the Protestants, to stop Mary I acceding to the throne.  

  • Katherine/Catherine
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine Parr at the National Portrait Gallery.
Katherine Parr at the National Portrait Gallery.

Katherine of Aragon, Katherine Parr, Katherine Howard

Greek, from Aikaterine. Meaning debated. Could derive from Hekateros meaning ‘each of the two’. Could also derive from the Goddess Hecate. In the Christian era it became associated with Katharos meaning ‘pure’. Katherine of Aragon we seem to relate with the meaning ‘pure’ as she was seen as being very virginal and religious, and refused to give in to corruption or blackmail. The reality may be different, but this is the general perception. Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr were supposedly named after her. Katherine Howard we can relate to Hecate, as she supposedly appeared in a triple form – Katherine was a naïve girl, an adulteress and the rose without a thorn.

  • Margaret
A portrait of Margaret Beaufort. None survive from the time, but she is always shown devoutly.
A portrait of Margaret Beaufort. None survive from the time, but she is always shown devoutly.
Margaret Tudor by Daniel Mytens.
Margaret Tudor by Daniel Mytens.

Margaret Tudor, Margaret of Austria, Margaret Beaufort

Latin from Margarita which was Greek from margarites meaning ‘pearl’. Probably borrowed from Sanskrit. In Irish it means ‘child of light’. Saint Margaret was the patron saint of expectant mothers. The name was widely used in the Christian world. Margaret Tudor was probably seen by her father as a ‘child of light’ as a marriage pawn to end the Anglo-Scottish hostilities by marrying her to James IV. Margaret Tudor was married several times, and had a lot of children. However, it seems weird for Margaret of Austria to be named after the patron saint of expectant mothers when she was married twice and had no children.

  • Mary
Mary Tudor in the National Portrait Gallery.
Mary Tudor in the National Portrait Gallery.
Mary I 1544 by Master John.
Mary I 1544 by Master John.

Mary I, Mary Tudor, Mary Boleyn

English from Maria from the Latin Mariam and Maria. Meaning debated. Could mean ‘sea of bitterness’ or ‘rebelliousness’ or ‘wished for child’. Likely originally an Egyptian name meaning ‘beloved’ or ‘love’. Mary I seems to be synonymous with ‘rebelliousness’ or ‘sea of bitterness’ over her father’s divorce from her mother, Katherine of Aragon – Henry VIII saw her as rebellious for not accepting her new position and Mary was bitter for her father withdrawing his love and forcing her to renounce papal authority. Mary Boleyn also seems synonymous with ‘sea of bitterness’ over losing Henry VIII’s love and having her sister replace her.  

  • Thomas
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.
Cardinal Wolsey by Sampson Strong at Christ Church 1605.
Cardinal Wolsey by Sampson Strong at Christ Church 1605.

Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer, Thomas Seymour, Thomas Boleyn, Thomas More

Greek form of the Aramaic name Ta’oma meaning ‘twin’. In the New Testament it was the name of the apostle who doubted the resurrection of Jesus (also known as Judah/Judas meaning ‘praise, thanks’). Wolsey in particular loved to be praised, and built his career and wealth on it, and it eventually led to his downfall. All of the Thomas’s listed above almost had twins i.e. two sides to them – Cromwell was ruthless as well as being a family man, Cranmer was both ruthless and naïve, Seymour was a lover and politician, and Boleyn was ambitious and cowardly.

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22 thoughts on “Meaning of Tudor Names

  1. I tink everything wrote was actually very reasonable.

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    In my opinion, iit would bring your posts a little bit more interesting.

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    1. The problem I have with the titling thing is that I’m not writing for an entertainment audience, or to get more views, I write because I enjoy it and to try and get more people interested in the subject. That’s why I try not to make my posts too long. Every post does have images within it that link to the text, that is standard in my posts. And if I come across a related video then I will insert it, but otherwise I feel that it detracts from my own work. If people are interested then little things like that won’t deter them. Nevertheless thank you for your input and your suggestions. These issues have occurred to me, but it is a personal choice! 🙂

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  2. With regard to my earlier point about the fate of Anne of Cleves, I meant this: “Anne of Cleves was shown favour after she accepted the end of her marriage to Henry VIII – instead of execution as Anne Boleyn had” The implication is clear (or it was before more about her connections was added in). Anne of Cleves was never going to face AB’s fate.

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    1. No, but she was always worried that she would. Allegedly there were plans in place to get Anne out of England if Henry made steps in that direction, although it is likely that Henry would never have proceeded against her.

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  3. I agree whole heartedly with what you said earlier. All History students should have opinions. However, where we differ greatly is the basis of those opinions. You have plucked this Thomas Boleyn jealousy theory out of thin air. Others base their opinions on existing evidence. They use the evidence to form the basis of their assertions, they don’t use their opinions to warp the evidence. “Thomas Boleyn was jealous of his children even though there’s no evidence at all,” said no Historian, ever.

    Again, this “pawn” theory. Why did he educate his daughters so highly, and equip them with the tools to develop such sharp minds of their own, when he was simply “using” them? Anne, especially, seemed especially driven by her own ambition. Funny thing with Anne: on the one hand, people want to present her as a “helpless pawn”, and on the other, as a feminist free thinker of the 21st century living long before her time. You can’t have it both ways.

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    1. I think Thomas Boleyn attempted to use Anne as a pawn, but that she managed to wriggle free and establish herself, and possibly that’s where Thomas became jealous, because she was able to break free from him. Each to their own. I’ve read behind the evidence, to come to an alternative conclusion.

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      1. You’ve read “behind the evidence”? Sounds like something the Policemen investigating the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six might have done: they’re Irish so they must be murderous terrorists. They got it completely wrong, too. Why don’t you try plain old reading the evidence first? Anything but unthinkingly regurgitating the same old cliches and prejudices of populists like Weir.

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  4. Also, why do you think Henry was going to cut off Anne of Cleves head? She was a foreign Queen, like Catherine of Aragon. He couldn’t just chop off her head for the sake of it. He would have had the Protestant League (of which Anne’s brother played an important role) to answer to. He just couldn’t have gone down that path. A minor niggle, Anna is a derivative of Hannah (my own name). I can only second what BKH said about Thomas Boleyn. He was quite a good father, by the looks of it. He ensured his daughters got an excellent education at a time when it really wasn’t considered necessary. Kudos to him for that. As for the relationship with his children, the family structure was not the same as it is now. No noble, well-to-do family raised their own children. They were all sent away for their education etc. Only commoners with no aspirations raised their own offspring to uphold family trade. I don’t think the Boleyns wanted their kids tilling the land, somehow.

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    1. I didn’t mention Henry wanting to cut off Anne of Cleves’s head … to my knowledge. I agree he wouldn’t have done that because she had powerful relatives, as Katherine of Aragon did.

      Yes, ‘Anna’ is a derivative of ‘Hannah’ but ‘Hannah’ came from the Greek ‘Channah’.

      As to Thomas Boleyn, I think that the family structure (of the Boleyns in particular) is more alike than we think, with parents keeping a close eye on their children, but essentially letting them do their own thing and grow up, although I will admit that children grew up quicker then, being married at a younger age. I never said he wasn’t a good father, merely that he was cowardly in some respects in dealing with his family. Possibly he was jealous of his own children for overreaching him. Who knows.

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      1. I think you are letting your feelings cloud your historical analysis. I can’t possibly take you seriously. There is no evidence he was jealous of his children. That’s simply ridiculous. When you say things like that, it brings down your credibility, so I’d suggest keeping away from blatant judgements. 🙂

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        1. It’s mere opinion. As students, we’re encouraged to have our own opinions on subjects and that’s all it is – opinion. I can tell the difference between opinion and historical analysis, but I think it’s a good idea to have a bit of both.

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      2. Did Thomas Boleyn want to be Queen too, then? I sincerely doubt he was jealous of his kids, and there are no fact based sources to back that assertion up at all. BKH is right, again. It seems as if you’re letting dislike of the person cloud your own judgement. He remained well advanced on Mary and George in terms of social strata, and Anne was a Queen Consort. She outranked him, yes, but it’s not as if he himself could compete on that level. Also, I don’t see how equipping your daughters with fine educations and minds of their own is “using them as pawns in a power game”. It doesn’t make sense.

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        1. I don;t dislike Thomas Boleyn, I just don’t think he was a very loving father in a lot of ways. Possibly it’s just that I couldn’t imagine growing up without being very close to my family, and that’s clouding my judgement. The Boleyns were unusual, even by the standards of the time, and I think it’s difficult to do a comparison even with other families of the time, as they are more advanced – closer to a modern family really, believing in female education, and pushing them to be themselves, rather than a social ideal. I think Thomas Boleyn did become jealous of his children, and yes there is no evidence directly to suggest this. But, if you look at how eager he was to distance himself from his children at Anne’s fall, by sitting in judgement on her ‘accomplices’, can’t you see that maybe he saw that as revenge for their power, and the fact that he didn’t get as much out of it as he could have?

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      3. Thomas Boleyn did not sit in judgement at Anne’s trial, he was excused.

        The Boleyns were not unusual in anyway. Female education was something that had come into vogue at this time due to Queen Katherine’s efforts and the Reformation.

        I highly doubt the Boleyn daughters were brought up to be individualists without worrying about society. They were brought up to do their duty, otherwise Mary would not be shunted aside after her marriage to Stafford.

        Boleyn ruled the roost politically and was given an Earldom and plenty of riches. I don’t see what more he could have expected.

        I don’t understand where you are getting these strange ideas from. We cannot look at these people and judge them with 21st century ideals.

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      4. You said, “But, if you look at how eager he was to distance himself from his children at Anne’s fall, by sitting in judgement on her ‘accomplices’, can’t you see that maybe he saw that as revenge for their power, and the fact that he didn’t get as much out of it as he could have?”

        Did he have any choice but to sit in judgment? It’s not as if he volunteered for the task.

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    1. From reading around the Boleyn family it just seems that as much as Boleyn was ambitious and ruthless, he was also cowardly in his dealings with his family – he seemed afraid to get close to them, and afraid to deal with them as more than pawns to his own ends. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Anyone else?

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      1. I think the word ‘pawn’ is used way too freely without much thought for the historical culture. The past is a different country. I highly doubt his family members were pawns since they actually reaped the benefits of Thomas’ work. This is what aristocratic people did. I don’t really understand why Thomas Boleyn gets shunted aside as a coward. He seems like a normal man of the times to me. Besides, in the case of the Boleyns, their work seems far more of a team effort than in many other cases, say the Poles or the Howards.

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