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Monday, 24 November 2014

What I am up to and Civil War Plot bunny with 17th century name research....

What I'm up to is using NaNoWriMo to get back to writing, which doesn't mean I will even bother to sign up but it gives me a kickstart.  I started 21st October on a plot bunny that's been on the back burner, in which my hero is told to get lost by the girl he thought he loved, because he is no longer heir to a barony.  He swears to marry the first woman who does something for him for nothing.
Engaged subsequently to his aunt's companion, circumstances make him the heir again, and a certain little madam is plotting, her nose put out of joint by Edward's apparent unconcern at her heart-breaking. 
I've got 64,212 words so far, having done just on 20k when November started, which means to qualify for NaNo I need another nearly 6k words, but it doesn't matter that much as I'm on the homeward stretch and know what I'm doing.
I haven't forgotten Elinor's Endowment and will finish that next month.
I haven't forgotten Jane and Caleb and have been planning their next adventure.
I haven't forgotten William Price and will get around to finishing the book I started.
Felicia and Robin are waiting for me to do a cover. 

The new series plot bunny is set in the Civil War, and I mean THE Civil War, not that little affair the Americans had.  Actually, strictly speaking it's our third civil war, as there was The Anarchy [Stephen and Maud] and the Wars of the Roses before the Cavaliers [wrong but wromantic] and Roundheads [right but repulsive].
Now everyone I've spoken to has assumed I planned a puritan maid and a cavalier hero.
My heroine is a cavalier woman, married and about to be widowed, which is a good thing as her husband is a waste of space, and a Parliamentarian colonel.  He isn't religiously fanatical, he just believes in the rule of parliament, and actually comes from a Catholic family as he's a descendant of Robin and Felicia.  Why not?  Keep it in the family.  She is a frivolous piece and can do ditsy very well 'because she knows it teases'.
They meet through him requisitioning her house and lands for his troops to recuperate after a battle, and when one of his officers is murdered he works with her to find out whether this has a deeper motive than just being 'the enemy' and discovers that there is a lot going on under the surface.    I kill her husband at some point after they've discovered chemistry so there's a touch of guilt there too.... and then they go on to work together again, get married, and work through the protectorate, and hopefully into the Restoration.  I'm opening it some time before Naseby.

Naturally I started some name research and discovered some awesomely off the wall names.  One might expect Damaris, Mercy, Dorcas and Keturah, but Hebshebeth?  and two names that kept recurring throughout the 17th century, Bethia and Friswith. 

Bethia is Hebrew, servant of Jehovah, all well and good [I'd never come across it and I thought my Biblical knowledge was pretty good] and according to the internet was a Scottish name that became popular in the 17th century because of its incidental sound, like beath, good health.  Believe me, I was turning up Bethias in Sussex and you can't get a lot further from Scotland than that. 
Friswith is, to my best guess, a derivation from Frideswide, a Celtic saint whom I would have considered moderately obscure.  Why did it become popular?  who knows!  Further digging showed it to have been around in the middle of the 16th Century, and I can't help wondering whether it was a backlash against the Reformation in the use of a saint name, but one which was obscure enough not to cause a lot of official notice.  Elizabeth, Ann[e], Catherine and Sarah were already well enough established for no comment to be made, despite being saint names, as were Barbara and Audrey.   Bridget makes an appearance in quantity at the same period, and there are some medieval names revived, like Iden [ in the middle ages appearing as Idonia, Idonea, Ideny, Idone, Yden(e), Idunn, Iduna, and a lovely pagan name it is], so am I barking up the wrong tree?  this is of course the period for the introduction of New Testament names, and the obscurer Old Testament ones, as well as 'quality' names, so the  girls have Abigail, Priscilla, Ruth,Rebecca, Dorcas, Tabitha, Damaris[I haven't yet come across a Naomi to go with Ruth....] and so on, as well as Prudence, Patience, Mercy, Constance, Faith and Charity.
I do not believe the name 'Sense' which recurrs a few times falls into this category.  I think it's a development of Sencey, which is the common form of Sanchia aka Scientia, Sancha, Sence, Sanche, Sanctia, Science.  As I also have a 'Saint', I suspect that's a part of it too. 
The most popular girl's names are still Mary, Elizabeth, Ann[e], Joan and/or Jane [definitely two separate names] and Sarah.  Interestingly I'm seeing girls with a mother called Joan becoming Joane [Joanne as we would spell it now] or Joanna; and those with mother Susan being Susanna[h].  Not only are Jane and Joan now different names, being given one each to sisters, but Juliana and Gillian are now separate, Emma is the preferred form of Emme with one Emlyn [from Emblem]; Amy and Mabel are separated from Amabel, which does not appear at all, though I have one Anabel, which might owe something to it, as much as to combining 'Ann' and 'belle', which connection I make purely on the spelling.  

Naturally the men have a free rein of the weirder OT names as well as introducing Timothy, and reviving Aquila.  We have Ephraim, Caleb, Zachariah, Seth, Jonas, Josias,as well as the more familiar Isaac, Reuben, Daniel, Josiah, Samuel and Benjamin.  Abraham sits in low popularity but in use right through from the middle ages.  And surprise surprise, the most popular names are still John, William and Thomas. 

And of course the odd names.  And these are the ones I'm guessing to be the maiden names of the mother bestowed upon the first-born, as was Fitzwilliam Darcy - and guess what, there WAS a Bennett!  Others are: 
Ayliffe, Chileab, Pelham, Archdane, Grafton, Gayneshe, Artlebert, Marlyon, Oliphe, Bostocke, Harmon and so on.  I pitied the boy named Hunnibun.  

On the whole, the names prevalent in the 17th century pretty much give us the central stock of names of today, and apart from the odder Biblical names which are a little quaint to our ears nowadays, are mostly familiar. 
I'd love to hear from anyone who knows a Friswith though or who has one in their family tree. 


  1. Very cool ... saw different font sizes/styles in post. Did Blogger freak out?

  2. Must have done because I copied and pasted from my medieval lists rather than try spelling them again, and then changed size and font to match the rest. And it's not showing for me.... meh

  3. There is a St Frideswide's church in Oxford; according to Wikipedia she is the patroness of Oxford

  4. Now THAT makes a lot of sense, because Oxford was a royalist centre, so maybe it's a way of declaring Royalist sympathy... though as it was in use before, maybe it was a name given by Oxonians...

  5. I had meant to read this when you first posted it and am glad to have found it. Your research is prodigious and delightful!

  6. Thanks Barbie! I enjoy research... perhaps more even than the writing....