Sunday, August 01, 2010

Question from Stuart - Use of the term cousin

I read a letter from Henry VIII where he refers to Lady Margaret Douglas as his cousin. Was it common then to use cousin to mean any relative or did the person scribing for Henry make a mistake? Was cousin also used for people you were not related to at all?

Previous related thread:
(See comments for a general discussion of the term "cousin")


Alia said...

Interesting. I think in the 1500s, the term 'cousin' was looser. For example, many people were quoted as using 'cousin' to describe many types of kin--not close ones like aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc., but more distant ones. They also used 'cousin' as a familiary term, like we would use 'dear friend.' Hope this helps :)

kb said...

Cousin was a term applied to all relationships of any cousin-type version. So, first cousin once removed - cousin; second cousin twice removed - cousin; spouse of cousin - cousin.

Anyone of royal blood could be called cousin by another royal. It seems the instance you are referring to falls under this category. It is possible the scribe/secretary used cousin instead of niece (Margaret was Henry 8's niece) as a standard default title.