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.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.