05 March 2015

Today's Princess: Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster

Arms of Lionel of Antwerp
By Sodacan via Wikimedia Commons
The life of a medieval heiress could be a dangerous one, as powerful men and ambitious men vied to control her and her fortune. For Elizabeth de Burgh (1332-1363), who became the 4th Countess of Ulster when she was just a baby, she was blessed by having a very well-connected mother, Maud of Lancaster, granddaughter of King Henry III's son Edmund Duke of Lancaster and the French Princess Blanche of Artois. Earlier, I wrote that Blanche was the mother of the House of Lancaster (see her post.) Through Elizabeth, she also was an ancestress of the House of York.

Elizabeth had been born in her father's lands in Ireland, but she was not even a year old when he was murdered by vengeful relatives. Maud grabbed her baby and fled back to England and the protection of her cousin, King Edward III. Maud had made the right decision as war for control of the family estates broke out among the de Burgh (also called Burke) kinsmen for the next five years, ultimately causing the family to lose almost everything.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth grew up among the various royal and noble children of Edward's extended court, and early on she was engaged to the king's second son, Lionel of Antwerp, who was later created Duke of Clarence. The two were married once Lionel reached the age of 13. Three years later, their only daughter, Philippa, was born. Philippa's granddaughter married the son of Lionel's younger brother, Edmund Duke of York. It is through this maternal descent from King Edward's second son that the heirs of the fourth son claimed right of inheritance over the heirs of the third son, who had married the rich heiress of the Duke of Lancaster. (Got it? The intermingling genealogy of the Plantagenet Wars of the Roses is not easy to explain in a sentence or two.)

Like many people of her day, Elizabeth did not live a long life, dying at the age of 31. Her title, Countess of Ulster lives on in today's royal family. It passed down through the York line until it was merged with the crown in 1461. After that, it was recreated for sons of James II, George III and Victoria, and for brothers of George I and George III. It was most recently recreated in 1928 for George V's second son Prince Henry, who was better known The Duke of Gloucester. His son Richard is the current Duke of Gloucester and the title Earl of Ulster is used as a courtesy by his son Alexander, although he generally prefers to be called Alex Ulster.

04 March 2015

Unusual Name Choices for the Cambridge Baby

The most recent Princess Eleanor: Leonor,
b. 2014 daughter of Madeleine of Sweden
by Frankie Fouganthin via Wikimedia Commons
An unusually high number of folks have been visiting the blog after searching for "Princess Eleanor." I hope they are enjoying my brief profile of Princess Eleanor of England, which is where they seem to be landing. But I think they are really trying to find out whether The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge plan to name a daughter Eleanor.

Although Eleanor did not make the cut of my earlier predictions, (See Cambridge Baby #2 Names), Eleanor actually is a possibility. So, here is my update on other possible names that are less usual among modern British royals but still fall in the realm of truly possible choices.

Eleanor/Leonora: This was a fairly common royal name in the middle ages. Several English Queen Consorts were named Eleanor, notably Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor of Castile, and Eleanor of Provence. More recently it has become a very common name among European princesses; nearly every monarchy has one: there is Leonor in Spain, Eleonore in Belgium, Leonore in Sweden, and Countess Leonore in The Netherlands. Prince William also has a strong personal connection to the name: his godmother Lady Brabourne had a daughter named Leonora who died from kidney cancer at the age of five. Prince William was nine at the time. Some longtime royal watchers will remember The Princess of Wales and The Duchess of York on the balcony with Leonora during the Queen's birthday celebrations in 1991.

Queen Adelaide
Adelaide: This name does not have an extensive history with the British Royal Family, but is notable for having been the name of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge--mother of Queen Mary and sister to the previous Prince George of Cambridge. Mary Adelaide had been named for Adelaide of Saxe-Meinengen, who was the Queen of King William IV, the last monarch to bear that name before The Duke of Cambridge, who will be William V. Queen Adelaide is the royal for whom the city of Adelaide, South Australia was named. Perhaps William and Catherine enjoyed their Australian visit so well that they would use this name. One further connection is that there is also a village named for Queen Adelaide that just happens to be located in Cambridgeshire...

Augusta: To throw in the name of another former Cambridge princess, Mary Adelaide and George of Cambridge also had a sister called Augusta, in honor of their mother, who was Today's Princess today. King George III, who is a favorite ancestor of The Prince of Wales, also had a sister and a daughter both named Augusta. His mother was also named Augusta, and his first legitimate granddaughter was Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, one of my favorite royal ladies.

Vincent and Josephine of Denmark
By Thomas Rousing via Wikimedia Commons
Joanna: Variations of the name Joan or Joanna were very common among medieval royal ladies but it has not been seen in a while. It would be a choice out of the blue, but no more surprising than when the Danish Crown Couple reached back centuries to pull Isabella out of the family tree or chose Vincent and Josephine for their twins. Let's not forget that the Crown Couple in Sweden named their daughter, a future reigning Queen, Estelle. There has never been a royal Princess Estelle anywhere before.

Lionel: Digging through more deep roots in the royal family tree, there was one Prince Lionel, the second son of King Edward III. He was Duke of Clarence but it was through his only daughter that the House of York descended to claim the throne during the Wars of the Roses. His unusual name derived from the lions on the heraldic shields of his mother's homeland of Hainault. I don't know of any other connections but if the Cambridges are seeking a proper boy's name with at least a touch of royal history, Lionel is as good a choice as any.

Speaking of as good a choice as any: let's add Edmund and Edgar to the list, too. These names go way, way back indeed, all the way to the pre-Norman days. They were still being used in the late Plantagenet royal family and even later. Prince Edmund, son of King Edward III was not only Duke of York but also Earl of Cambridge. Henry VII carried Edmund into Tudor days with his son the Duke of Somerset. The name Edgar existed even more recently: King James II had a son named Prince Edgar who was also Duke of Cambridge.

We still have plenty of time to dream up more royal baby names. What fun we'll have discussing the ultimate choices!!