Sunday, November 14, 2010

Question from Sam - The Brandons choice of their daughter's names

A question regarding names. Have often wondered- why did Mary & Charles Brandon decided to name their daughters Frances and Eleanor? The names seem rather unusual for the time especially in view of the predominence of Marys, Elizabeths and Margarets in the royal house.


Diane said...

I don't know about Eleanor's name, but Frances was named after the French king, Francis (Francois) the First. He supported Mary and Brandon's marriage.

Foose said...

Most historians agree that "Frances" was named in honor of the king of France, who had helped facilitate her parents' marriage. (The name is spelt "Francis" in the contemporary records; I think the distinct English feminine form "Frances" did not come along until much later. I also think this might be the first instance of the name being used for a female in England; it became evidently very popular, as there were Franceses all over Elizabethan and Stuart England.)

The origins of Eleanor's name are harder to pin down. Maria Perry has suggested that she was named for Charles V's sister. Most of the sources I have looked at put Eleanor's birth in 1519, before Charles paid his visits to England, but it was the year that he was elected Emperor. It would be consistent with Mary "Rose" Tudor's desire to preserve and defend her rank as the "French Quene" to invite the new Emperor, her old beau, to stand as godfather. The King of France as one daughter's godparent, the Emperor as the other's - the names could indicate that Mary was determined her daughters would be reared and regarded as authentic princesses, despite the mesalliance that produced them.

Charles stood godfather to Francis I's daughter, who was named Charlotte. I would guess (but I don't know) that perhaps because Charlotte was not a usual or familiar name in England, that someone suggested an alternative.

Henry VIII gave his mother's (and possibly his daughter's) name to the eldest granddaughter of Francois I - Elisabeth (although again this was not a usual name in France, Isabelle being the more customary form) - so it would be reasonable for the Emperor to offer the name of his eldest sister, who by all accounts was his favorite, and who also bore a name very familiar in England.

Possibly there might have been an ironic echo to the choice - Eleanor, like Mary Tudor, had fallen in love with a man of lower rank at her aunt's court (Frederick of the Palatinate) and been caught indulging in a romantic courtship with him. Also like Mary, she dutifully bowed to her brother's wishes and married the King of Portugal, another old man who had been through two wives already (like Louis XII). ( Although unlike Mary she spurned her old lover when she was at last free, but that was after 1521.)

Foose said...

There is one other conjecture I came up with - Eleanor Brandon may have had Eleanor Percy, the Duchess of Buckingham, as her godmother.

The king's daughter Princess Elizabeth had her aunt, Elizabeth Howard, named as her godmother, so an English duchess acting as sponsor was clearly accepted by royalty. Looking at the English peerage of the 1519 period, I think Eleanor Percy is the only one who has the name Eleanor and is of the requisite rank.

In addition, her husband was a member of the royal family (by some accounts a favorite of Elizabeth of York) and Eleanor herself was the daughter of Maud Herbert, Henry VII's old fiancee, for whom some historians think he always showed special consideration. The family connexion would be intensified by the Duchess standing as godmother.

Barbara Harris, the Duke of Buckingham's biographer, describes his relations with Charles Brandon to be "friendly" (which is sort of surprising, considering his complaints about "upstarts," specifically Wolsey), and of course 1519 is some time off from the Duke's disgrace and execution (although the king was not too keen on him). So it might be reasoned that the premier English duke (Stafford) might have found it in his interests to participate in a royal christening ceremony for the daughter of the newest English duke.

I also came across a curious statement in Philip Lindsay's biography of John Dudley, The Queenmaker, which alleges that Charles Brandon had a mistress named "Eleanor Brandon" while he was married to Mary Tudor, that she was the mother of his bastard Charles, who in turn was the father of Charles I's headsman. I didn't find this "Eleanor Brandon" in any other source (and Lindsay's is an older book, and I do not think the author was a historian) but it's interesting that both the daughter and the purported mistress have the same name.