Jo Beverley is a bestselling author of historical romance, a five time winner of the RITA award, and a member of the RWA Hall of Fame for Regency.
Jo's Regency Historicals
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This list is nowhere near comprehensive. It is merely names I have collected of real regency people for my own use. All these names belonged to regency adults of the gentry and upper class, though that still covers up to three generations, and as we know, the popularity of names does change over the years. I have not gleaned any from fiction written in the period, since novelist do sometimes use fanciful names.
You'll see that the names for women were quite limited and almost all traditional. Men's names are a little more varied, perhaps because they were sometimes given a family surname as a first name. However, women are not written about as much as men, especially by first name, so the sample is not as large.
There doesn't seem to have been as much interest in finding distinctive and unusual names for children, which might reflect a spirit of conformity. If Jane Austen could write approvingly of people who "think just as they ought," perhaps she and her contemporaries would also have approved of people who were named just as they ought to be.
When naming characters we can do almost anything we want, but we do have to first come up with a reason for the loving parents of that time to give that name to their baby, and then, if it is unusual, show the reaction of people in the regency world to it. In my opinion, believable character names helps create a believable glimpse into the past.
For some reason, working class men frequently had Old Testament names -- Ezekial, Joshua etc -- while these were rare in the upper classes. Old Testament names were rare for upper class women except for Sarah and Susanna.
Please note that some names are clearly territorial, sugh as Hew (Welsh) and Ewan (Scots.)
There are fewer women's names to be gleaned simply because women appear less often in public documents, and even then they are often only mentioned as Lady Smith, or "the wife of Sir John Smith." However, there is clearly a narrow range of names thought suitable for a lady.
Albina; Amelia; Anna/Ann/Anne; Augusta
Caroline; Catherine; Cecilia; Charlotte
Eleanor; Eliza; Elizabeth; Ellen; Emily; Emma; Esther
Florentia; Frances; Frederica
Harriet/Harriette; Helena; Henrietta; Horatia
Jane; Jean; Jemima; Jessie; Joanna; Julia; Juliana; Juliet
Laura; Lilias; Louisa; Louisa-Margaretta; Lucy; Lucy-Anne; Lydia
Madalene; Margaret; Maria; Marianne; Martha; Mary; Mary-Anne
Sarah; Selina; Sophia; Susan
Uriana (Yes, really.)
Men's names have more variety since there are more examples available, and occasionally men were given names based on family surnames. However, there was a great preference for royal names: William, George, Henry, John, Edward, Charles. One has to wonder if the practice of calling men by their surnames was because there was more variety there than in the Christian names!
Adam; Adolphus; Alexander; Algernon; Allan; Americus; Andrew; Anthony; Archibald; Arthur; Augustus; Aylmer
Baldwin; Bamber; Barrington; Benjamin; Brook; Busick (I think Uriana and Busick would make a great couple!)
Carew; Cecil; Chaloner; Chapple; Charles; Coape; Colin; Cornelius
David; Donald; Duncan
Edmund; Edward; Erasmus; Ernest; Ewan
Felton; Francis; Frederick
George; Gerard; Gibbs; Gilbert; Graham; Guy
Henry; Herbert; Hervey; Hew; Hildebrand; Horace; Hudson; Hugh
Jahleel; James; Jasper; Jeffrey; John; Jonathan; Joseph
Laurence; Lewis; Lodge; Loftus; Ludlow
Nash; Nathaniel; Neil: Nicholas; Norman
Percy; Peregrine; Peter; Philip; Phineas
Ralph; Rawden; Richard; Robert; Rollo;
Sampson; Samuel; Snowley; Soulden; Stapleton; Stephen; Stratford
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