Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Question from anonymous - Last names of bastard children not acknowledged by the father

If a woman gave birth to a child outside of marriage, and the father did not recognise them, would she pass her own surname to the child? Or was there some sort of last name for "bastards"?


Anonymous said...

Only in Westeros.

PhD Historian said...

I am not well versed in the specific sub-topic of bastardy (as it is called) in Tudor England, but I do know this: There were no birth certificates in Tudor England. Therefore, there was no secular or civil government document that might testify to the name of an individual at the time of birth. Instead, the church registered baptisms. At least one researcher (Alan MacFarlane, "Illegitimacy and Illegitimates in English History") has suggested that many illegitimate children were never baptized ... and a surprising percentage were "destroyed" via infanticide, presumably to prevent shame falling on the mother. And indeed, there were both civil and canon laws intended to punish women who bore illegitimate children, usually by a term of imprisonment, but only if the child became a financial burden on the parish. Otherwise, the woman was simply subjected to a public shaming ceremony before the local church congregation.

Research on naming patterns for bastards is very scant and even contradictory. The very little that has been published suggests that bastards might be known by their mother's surname with "the bastard" often attached, or they might be known by a compound alias surname, such as "Jones alias Smith," with each of the two surnames coming from a wide variety of sources (mother, biological father, suspected father, fictional, etc).

So, bottom line, there was no rule or law to impose a specific naming pattern. Therefore, varying patterns emerged, probably influenced heavily by social status, relative wealth, relative degree of religious conviction, etc.