Naming as an Instrument of Strengthening Early Medieval Dynastic Power

Detail of an historiated initial ‘S’ (sponsus) of a man placing a ring on a woman’s finger / British Library, Public Domain

In historiographical tradition, which is characteristic of medieval societies,the history of a nation is portrayed, first, as the history of its political elite.

Dr. Marina R. Zheltukhina (Professor of Theory of English, Volgograd State Socio-Pedagogical University)
Dr. Larisa G. Vikulova (Professor of Roman Philology, Moscow City Teacher Training University)
Dr. Gennady G. Slyshkin (Head of Social Sciences and Professional Communication, Moscow State University of Railway Engineering of the Emperor Nicholas II)
Dr. Ekaterina G. Vasileva (Associate Professor of Foreign Languages, Karelian Branch of the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration)


The article examines the onomastic aspect of a medieval worldview through the analysis of naming principles for the kings of the Merovingian, the Carolingian and the Wessex dynasties. The etymological, structural and semantic analysis of the first Frankish and Anglo-Saxon kings’ names and by names is used. The etymology of the first Frankish and Anglo-Saxon kings’ names is given,and the review of their by names is made. Special emphasis is placed on the idea that the name chosen for the successor was aimed at preserving the dynastic succession and the legitimization of power. In addition, king’s personal charisma was strengthened through a proper noun. The ways of analysis are useful for development of contrastive and historical linguistics, theory of linguistics,naming theory.


In historiographical tradition, which is characteristic of medieval societies,the history of a nation is portrayed, first, as the history of its political elite. The images of power represent a specific historical and cultural phenomenon. Among these images of great interest is the representation of a king and his power,which being one of the basic concepts of medieval political culture has its origins in the heroic epoch of Germanic tribes (Sannikov, 2009). This kind of thinking is relevant for the Franks as well, who flooded Gaul following the fall of Rome and gave birth to the Frankish state, and for the Anglo-Saxons, representatives of the German tribes of the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians, who won Britain in the V-VI centuries. In science, this period of French and English history and language is known as “germanisation”. The first Frankish state was ruled by the Merovingian dynasty, which was in the VIII century succeeded by the Carolings (in the beginning known as Pippinids) (Skrelina & Stanovaya, 2001). The Wessex dynasty represents the aristocratic family since 519 governing the kingdom Wessex in the southwest of England from 871 to 1066 – the United English Kingdom. The power of the dynasty was interrupted during an era of Danelaw (area of the Danish right; in Old English – Dena lagu; in Danish –Danelagen), then in the years of usurpation of an English crown by Dane SweynI Forkbeard and his successors and was finally stopped in 1066 with Harold II Godwinson’s death and with the victory of Norman William I the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings. Medieval historians and historians of the language focus their attention primarily on the actions of sovereigns and men of power who determine nations’ fates.

Literature Review

Merovingian tremissis / Wikimedia Commons

Now we shall refer to the Merovingians, the first dynasty of Frankish kings dating back to the Salian Franks who ruled Gaul from the end of the 5th century to the middle of the 8th (481-751) on the territories of future France and Belgium.The Merovingian (Merovinginens) dynasty owes its name to the chieftain of the Salian Franks Mérovée (Merowig or Merovech) who reigned in c. 448-457. His name is of Germanic origin (meerwig) and it means “the ruler of the sea” (puissant sur mer). According to the legend, he was born by Chlodio’s wife from asea monster. Historians doubt the existence of Mérovée. Since the Frankish dynasty was believed to have a god of Germanic pantheon as its ancestor, the divine origins of the dynasty gave the family members an undisputable right to rule (Bordonov, 2009). In this particular case, it is possible to speak about the potestarian and mythological image of Merovee, which is the foundation of mythological views on divine origins of public authority (Sannikov, 2009;Zheltukhina, 2015).

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Cerdic and Cynric, chieftains of a clan known as «Gewisse», founded Wessex. The names of some of the early West Saxon leaders appear to be Brythonic in origin, including the dynastic founder Cerdic (being a form of Ceredic or Caradoc) and Cædwalla (from Cadwallon, a Welsh name derived from Caswalawn a Brythonic version of Cassivellaunus).These are interspersed with Old English names such as Ceolwulf, Coenberht and Aescwine ( The House became rulers of all England from Alfred the Great in 871 to Edmund Ironside in 1016. The Danish king Sweyn Forkbeard claimed the throne from 1013 to 1014, during the reign of Æthelred the Unready. Sweyn and his successors ruled until 1042. After Harthacanute, there was a brief Saxon Restoration between 1042 and 1066 under Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson, who was a member of the House of Godwin. After the Battle of Hastings William of Normandy became king of England. Anglo-Saxon attempts to restore native rule in the person of Edgar the Ætheling, a grandson of Edmund Ironside who had originally been passed over in favour of Harold, were unsuccessful and William’s descendants secured their rule. Edgar’s niece Matilda of Scotland later married William’s son Henry I, forming a link between the two dynasties (


The material of research is made by proper names of Frankish and Anglo-Saxon kings, their first names and nicknames. The onomastic aspect of a medieval worldview reveals in the analysis of naming principles for the kings of the Merovingian, the Carolingian and the Wessex dynasties. King’s personal charisma was strengthened through a proper noun. The name chosen for the successor was aimed at preserving the dynastic succession and the legitimization of power. For achievement of a goal of research, we use the etymological, structural and semantic analysis of the first Frankish and Anglo-Saxon kings’ names and nicknames.

The image of power, as it is given in the anthroponomical system of French and English royal dynasties, shows that institutional leadership of the first Frankish and Anglo-Saxon kings was already established through a name.According to M.M. Bakhtin (1992) “in its essence a name is profoundly positive,it is the positivity itself, the assertion (to name is to assert in eternity, to fix in existence for ever, it has a tendency to immortality)… Therefore, a name becomes the centre of all positive, assertive, praising and glorifying forms of a language life. As long as the name (memory) is preserved, the person continues his life through this name” (Bakhtin, 1992). A proper noun was a verbally compressed, but conceptually unfolded and significant characteristic of a person (Fomina, 2009). For the Medieval worldview, an onomastic aspect has a great significance because a name was not just a name, but also a symbol, which had a relevant meaning.

Data, Analysis, and Results

The name analyses of the Merovingian kings shows that their names are mostly of Germanic origins and have two roots. For instance, the name of the Frankish king Charibert (Caribert) consists of roots hari “army” and berth“glorious, famous”, and king’s Gontran name includes gundi “war” and chramn “crow”. According to A.V. Superanskaya (1998), dibasic name is a word, which has a different purpose in comparison with its linguistic source material. Its aim is to name people and glorify them through their names. In addition, a tradition of ancient Germans becomes visible in the principles of naming rulers. According to this tradition, names of parents and their children often included the same roots, which showed that they were relatives. This tradition is defined as “conaming”.

Longhaired Merovingian kings / Creative Commons

The reign of the Merovingians is shrouded in myths and legends. They were considered knowledgeable in occult sciences and able to heal by a touch of a hand. Imitating biblical Samson, they used presentational means of coding their power as monarch’s attribute – long hair falling to shins, hair that supposedly possessed miraculous power. It is not a coincidence that the Merovingians were called “longhaired kings” (Latin “reges crinite”). In Gaul, only servants or slaves had short hair and it was a sign of a low social status. It was a grave insult to cut Merovingian’s hair and in reality, it meant losing claims to power. Clodoald (Chlodovald 520–560) from the Merovingian dynasty exemplifies such a situation. He managed to save his life by renouncing all claims to the throne and cutting his long hair (Tursky, 2009).

According to the Russian medievalist historian and culturologist A.Y.Gurevich (1984) in the Middle Ages, “a name was considered to be not an external feature of a person but an intrinsic part of a human being”. It is noted that in the Early Middle Ages the population of Western Europe held a belief that giving Germanic names to children with such meanings as “conqueror”,“warrior” etc. meant delegation of respective qualities. Scandinavians had a similar practice. They used to name newborns after Thor, the god of justice and law, and other pagan gods, thus establishing mutual connections and patronage between gods and name bearers (Gurevich, 1984). The name analysis of the Merovingians shows that male names were based on nominations dating back to Germanic roots, which reflected military values such as hold “fame” and wig“fight, battle”. Researching the problem of individual and society in the medieval West, A. Y. Gurevich (2009) noted that for Germans the foremost value, above life itself was glory, which set a highly ethical behavioral pattern within the context of the epoch (Zheltukhina et al., 2016). Since the key element of culture at the time was fate it is natural that Frankish dynasties chose fateful names for their heirs.

One of the brightest representatives of the Merovingian dynasty was Clovis I (c. 465 – c. 511), king of the Salian Franks and the first king of the Franks. He was baptized with his retinue on a Christmas day, 496, in Reims. The etymology of his name originates from Germanic name Hlodwig. According to S.V. Sannikov (2009), Hlodwig is a representation of an ideal ruler whose public authority is legitimized by king’s sacral luck in his fight against other Frankish kings.

The name of Chlothar I, Clovis’s son, is based on a similar logic and has its origins in Germanic name Chlodhar which consists of two elements chlod or hold (glory), and hari (army). The Germanic element hold is also apparent in the name of another son, Chlodomer (Clodomir; c. 495-524). His name has two roots hold (fame) and mari (great, famous).

The nomination of Chlothar’s elder son Charibert (Caribert, c. 561 – c. 567),who ruled the kingdom of Paris, is based upon two roots of Germanic origin hari (army) and berth (brilliant, famous). Another Frankish king Childebert I (c. 511– c. 558) had a combination of child (battle) and berht (glorious) in his name.

Statuette of Childebert from his abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés, 13th century / Photo by Jebulon, Louvre Museum, Wikimedia Commons

According to the French researcher B. Bienfait (2009), Germanic conquerors had names with military or laudatory meanings. It is also noted that, although the language of the Franks did not manage to establish itself in the conquered Gall, proper names of the Franks became widespread. Parents from upper classes often chose a renowned name of a powerful person, the name of a saint, a king etc (Bienfait, 2009). It was considered that giving Germanic names with such meanings as “brave” (bald), “brilliant, famous” (berth) to children would pass on the qualities of a chosen name to an heir. In addition to that, names with such meanings as “army” (gundi), “battle, fight” (child), “glory” (hold),“victory” (sig), “folk” (theod) pointed to the king’s sons destiny which was to fight victoriously and protect their country. Thus was created a background semantic of a name with ameliorative sign. The dominant semes were those that actualized courage, heroism, bravery. In this case, S.V. Sannikov’s (2009) idea,that in this particular context it is possible to speak about the mythological archetype of a hero, seems relevant. According to S.V. Sannikov (2009), such archetypical hero affirmed his charisma by going through a number of trials and had potential and intention to exercise public authority.

The second group of proper nouns belonging to the Merovingian dynasty has a descriptive nature connected with the idea of heroism. It is based on such semes as courage and victory. The nomination of the bastard Theodoric I (Thierry I or Theodoric), who ruled Austrasia (c. 511 – c. 534), has Germanic elements peud “folk” and rik “powerful”. The name of another Austrasian king Sigebert I (Sigebert I; c. 535 – c. 575) also consists of two roots of Germanic origin: sig “victory” and berth “glorious, famous”.

The third group of proper nouns relies on the usage of the root theod “folk”and an ameliorative epithet, for example, berht “brilliant, famous” or bald“brave”. Such nominations are used in the name of Austrasian ruler Theudebert I (Théodebert Ier; c. 504 – c. 548) and in the name Theudebald (Théodebald or Thibaud, the king of Austrasia; c. 548 – c. 553).

Such names in Wessex dynasty as Edward (Edward the Confessor, Edward the Elder, Edward the Exile, Edward the Martyr), Edmund (Edmund Ætheling, Edmund I, Edmund Ironside), Alfred (Alfred Aetheling, Alfred the Great), Edith(Edith of Wessex) originate in Old English language. Old English personal proper names can be divided into two groups, according to their structure: unary (one subject) and two-component (two subjects) proper names.

Some of components could be used only as the first nominal subject (for example, such components as Æthel- (Aethelbald, Æthelburg, Aethelfrith, Aethelheard, Aethelhelm, Æthelstan Ætheling, Æthelweard (historian), Aethelwold, Aethelwulf, Athelstan of Kent, Athelstan), Os- (Osburga), Cyne-(Cynegils), etc.), others were used only as the second components of a two-member name: -swith (Ealhswith), -frith (Aethelfrith), etc.

Æthelbald in the early fourteenth century Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England / British Library, Wikimedia Commons

While the main part of components could be used both on the first, and on the second places in a two-member Anglo-Saxon name: bald (Aethelbald), gar (Edgar, Edgar the Outlaw), helm (Aethelhelm, Cwichelm), red (Coenred, Cuthred, Edred Aetheling, Edred, Ethelred I, Ethelred II), weard (Aelfweard, Æthelweard (historian), Edward the Confessor, Edward the Elder, Edward the Exile, Edward the Martyr), wulf (Aethelwulf, Ceolwulf), etc.

Two-component names could be both male, and female. They differed in nothing from each other on structural and semantic components. Thus, the sort of the second component of a proper name was the only distinction between male and female names. Male names had the second subject of a name of a masculine gender: -gar (Edgar, Edgar the Outlaw), -helm (Aethelhelm, Cwichelm), -red (Coenred, Cuthred, Edred Aetheling, Edred, Ethelred I, Ethelred II), -weard (Aelfweard, Æthelweard (historian), Edward the Confessor, Edward the Elder, Edward the Exile, Edward the Martyr), -wine (Centwine, Cuthwine), etc. Female names respectively had the second subject of a name of a feminine gender: -burg (Æthelburg), -burh (Seaxburh, Cuthburh), etc.

Discussion and Conclusion

Using A.Y. Gurevich’s terminology (Gurevich, 2009) it is possible to say that“a generative model” was being created, a model, which established patterns of behavior for the nobility and for the object of nomination, the chosen name indicated a proper conduct in public.

What is obvious here is the sacralization of a ruler’s name. The potential of a proper noun is based on the words “connected with a favorable omen” (Proskurin, 2014) and also on the “euphemisation of reality” (Stepanov, 2003),when the first word is a proper noun indicating a victorious action, and the second word is an epithet emphasizing a particular trait of character of an individual. A.N. Veselovsky (1989) in his work “From the history of epithet”says: “Behind every epithet, which we perceive impartially because we are used to it, there is a long historical and physiological background, accumulation of metaphors, comparisons and abstractions, an entire history of taste and style given in its evolution from the idea of being useful and necessary to becoming an ideal”.

According to a specialist in social anthropology R. Le Jan (1995), a hereditary character of a name or its part was established in Gaul in the IV-V centuries. While in Rome the naming process, which relied on the usage of different elements, was not pervasive, it was widely spread among the royal Frankish families of IVth-Vth centuries. A name with two elements was based on a variety of combinations, which created new names (see Table 1).

As Table 1 shows, such roots as chlod and wec in the name Clovis, chrot and child in the name Clotilde are traceable in Clodomir, Clotaire, Childeric, Childebert (Le Jan, 1995). The most popular roots in the Merovingians dynasty were chlo (“fame, glory”) and bert (“brilliant, glorious”).

Originally, every onomastic element had a precise meaning and a two-part name played a role of a personal totem. R. Le Jan (1995) quotes a medieval historian Ermole Le Noir who wrote about the meaning of the emperor Ludovic’s name. He emphasized that the name chosen by king’s parents prophesied that he would be a prominent and powerful king, militarily strong and pious as well.Bearing the name Hludowicus (Latin “ludus”), he prompts his subjects to rejoice at his benefactions; or, should we refer to Frankish language and its etymology, hluto means “prominent” and wicgh is an equivalent to Mars.

The variation of elements in conjunction with the hereditary nature of names is traceable in the first four generations of the Merovingians. The rootschlod, mer and wech, which comprised the names of either real or legendary ancestors of Clovis – Chlodio and Merovech – are found in such names as Igomer, Clodomir, and Clothaire. At the same time the root child, which originates from Chlideric, is visible in the names Lantechild and Childebert.

Starting from the VIth century a name was passed from father to son thus establishing name’s hereditary nature, whereas the principle of nomination through the variation of elements ceased to be used. Sigebert I (c. 535 – c. 575),who was the king of Metz (Austrasia), had two daughters and a son. They were called respectively after their grandmother Ingonde, aunt Chlodoswinde andgreat-uncle Childebert.

Giving names of ancestors to children was a commemoration of the dead,which was tantamount to their participation in social life: “For a person from the Middle Ages memory was a literal revival of the past… memory was the fundamental element of a social group” (Fomina, 2009). It is highly probable that name giving was one of the basic elements of dynastic power.

Coin of Childeric II / Wikimediua Commons

The newly established system of naming was in accordance with the organization of royal kinship, which was based on the patrilineal descent. The fundamental connection between the name and ability to rule was established quite soon along with clear differentiation among relatives. There existed a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate sons as the Merovingian’s name guaranteed legitimacy and hereditary right to the throne. The illegitimate son of Childeric II Daniel was sent to a monastery at the age of five. A couple of years later he was returned to be crowned and Daniel was renamed into Chilperic. This episode from the Merovingian’s history shows the importance of a name and its connection with royal power. In addition to biological kinship, the name served as paternal expression of recognition of a son and granted right to the throne.

In the second dynasty, which received the name Carolingian (c. 751 – c.987), the name-giving process represented a system based on a number of principles. According to A.F. Litvina & F.B. Uspenskiy (2003), “in the patrimonial world, notwithstanding the culture, the choice of a name relied on a number of rules, but the basic one was to name a newborn after an ancestor”. In the Carolingian dynasty, the dominant rule was a literal reproduction of ancestor’s name. In most cases son would be named after his father or grandfather.

The name “Carolingian” derives from the name Charles that in Frankish language meant “strong, courageous”. The first representatives of the dynasty,Charles Martel and his nephew Charles the Great (lat. Carolus Magnus, Charlemagne; c. 768 – c. 814), bore this name. Charles Martel (lat. Carolus Martellus; c. 688 – c. 741), Mayor of the Palace from the Carolingian family, was de facto ruler of the Frankish state from 715 at the time of the last Merovingian kings. He received his by name Martel (“the hammer”) for his military achievements, courage and determination at the battle of Tours against the Moors in 732.

It would be appropriate to point out that the belief in divine origins of public authority was still in the centre of political thought. Thus, the American professor of philosophy G.H. Sabine (1966) notes “When Louis the Pious in the year 817 wished to provide for the succession of his sons, he set forth his decision and the grounds for it as follows. He first recited how “holy assembly and totality of our people” had met according to custom, and how “suddenly by divine inspiration” his loyal subjects advised him that the succession of the kingdom should be settled while God granted peace. After three days of fasting and prayer, it was brought about, “by the will of Almighty God, as we believe,that our own wishes and those of our people agreed in the election of our beloved Lothair, our oldest son. Therefore it seemed good to us and to all our people that he, being thus indicated by divine direction, after being solemnly crowned with the imperial diadem, should by the common desire be made our consort and successor in the empire, if God shall so will”.

According to J. Nelson (1997), the firm belief that power came from God was the central political idea of the Carolingian period: “The king acted as his deputy in securing justice and peace for the Christian people”.

Carolingian family tree, from the Chronicon Universale of Ekkehard of Aura, 12th century /  Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Wikimedia Commons

The name-giving process in the Carolingian dynasty relies largely on patronymics, when the representatives of the dynasty bore their fathers’ or grandfathers’ names. Charles the Great was named after his grandfather Charles Martel. The name Charles was given to the nephews of Charlemagne –Charles the Bald (Charles le Chauve, c. 823 – c. 877) and Charles the Fat (Charles le Gros, c. 839 – c. 888). The same procedure was repeated with the great grandson Charles the Simple (Charles III le Simple, c. 898 – c. 922). The name “Charles” is considered as an onomastic legacy of the Carolingians, however by the X century the idea of inheriting Carolingian’s names wanes. The popularity of the name “Charles” is replaced by the name “Louis” which revived the memories of a heroic ancestor Clovis through a changed form of the name“Hludovicus” (Dictionnaire du Moyen Âge, 1998). The heroic name Ludwig(Louis) was widespread in the Carolingian dynasty. Seven heirs to the throne had this name. The name “Louis” has Latin etymology – Ludhovicus, Lodhuvicus, Chlodovicus – and it stems from a Germanic name “Hlodowig” (hold– fame, wig – battle).

Starting from the Carolingian dynasty, king’s name was usually supplemented by a by-name. According to French researcher Daniel Appriou (2002), the addition of a by-name was aimed at solving the identification problem among the members of society. In Rome the choice of names was limited;therefore one and sometimes more by names were added to the original name,for example, Caïus Superbus Maximus. This kind of peculiarity is especially pervasive among rulers who used to inherit their fathers’ names. Thus, the by-name allowed people to distinguish namesakes by focusing specifically on their character or appearance (Appriou, 2002). Quite significant is the fact that kings of almost all European countries had by-names: England, Germany,Denmark, Scotland, Sweden etc. (Prirodina, 2011). For example, Charles I or Charlemagne (Charles Ier, Charlemagne, Charles le Grand from Latin Carolus Magnus) received an ameliorative epithet Grand (the Great) which depicted his dominant qualities as a warrior and a ruler. Sacralization of such a charismatic name as Charlemagne becomes apparent when we look at the epic French literature of the XIth century, which turned the emperor, who was brought up in Germanic world and culture, into its central figure. Starting from the XIIIth century Charles’s poetic image appears in European legends and tales, for instance, in Icelandic “Karalamagnus Saga”, Dutch “Karl et Elegast”, German Karl Mainet (Dictionnaire du Moyen Âge, 2002).

The genealogical tree of the French kings shows that almost every Carolingian king had a by-name ( Their by-names were formed by either a substantive or an adjectival way. From the semantic point of view, these by-names had both positive and negative connotations. The portrayal of ruler’s negative traits of appearance was one of the principles that determined the choice of a by-name: Charles the Bald (Сharles le Chauve), Charles the Fat (Сharles le Gros). Another principle was the emphasis on a characteristic trait as in Charles the Simple (Сharles le Simple), or on the lifestyle not typical of the militant Frankish elite, for example, Louis the Pious (Louis le Pieux). The kings’ by-names, being one of the types of anthroponyms, performed nominative,identifying, emotional and expressive functions.

There are some principles of Old English naming. So, the child could be named by the principle of repetition, that is, to call it in honor of the ancestor(more often already dead). The name was considered as a symbol of soul and thus the child called in honor of the glorified person as if would gain his qualities: -swith “strong”, -heard “brave”, Aethel- “noble”, etc. As an example, it is possible to tell the name Cutha in Wessex dynasty (Tsventukh, 2014). As the similar principle was connected with superstitions, it carried rather ritual, than practical character. It is also worth noting that this principle of naming is characteristic more for unary names and much less often meets among two-component names.

Other principle of Old English naming is the alliteration. Many families, in particular, noble families, used this principle throughout generations. In the dynasty of Wessex initial alliterations with C- (Cerdic (519 – 534), Cynric (534 –560), Ceawlin (560 – 591), Ceol (591 – 597), Ceolwulf (597 – 611), Cynegils (611– 643), Cwichelm (626 – 636), Cenwalh (643 – 645) was replaced by tradition of naming of kings with Æ- / E- (Egbert (802 – 839), Æthelwulf (839 – 858), Æthelbald (858 – 860), Æthelbert (860 – 865), Æthelred (865 – 871), Ælfred the Great (871 – 899), Edward the Elder (899 – 924) (Searle, 1879).

Statue of Alfred the Great (Ælfred) by Hamo Thornycroft in Winchester, unveiled during the millennial commemoration of Alfred’s death / Photo by Odejea, Wikimedia Commons

The third principle of Old English naming is called a variation. Its essence is that the name for the child was formed from subjects of names of parents or other relatives that on the one hand, showed the child’s belonging to a concrete family, and, on the other hand, was the individual, not repeating name. So in the 10th century Eadweard from Wessex called his sons Eadred and Eadmund, and his daughters – Eadburg, Eadgifu and Eadgyth. Also, as well as the father of Alfred the Great by the name of Aethelwulf named his sons Aethelstan, Aethelbald, Aethelbert and Aethelred, and his daughter – Aethelswyth. Only Ælfred, one of his children, has not in his name the first root from a name of the father.

In the Wessex dynasty king’s name was usually supplemented by a by-name, e.g. Ælfred the Great (871 – 899), Eadweard the Elder (899 – 924), Æðelweard (924), Æðelstan the Glorious (924 – 939), Eadmund I the Magnificent (939 –946), Eadred (946 – 955), Eadwig All-Fair (955 – 959), Eadgar the Peaceable (959 – 975), Eadweard II the Martyr (975 – 978), Æðelred II Unræd (978 – 1013,1014 – 1016), Eadmund II Ironside (1016), etc. Therefore, Ethelred II, the son of Edgar the Peaceable by his second marriage to Elfrida, succeeded to England’s throne at ten years old. Ethelred II acquired the epithet the Redeless or Unraed (Æðelræd Unræd) because of his repeated failure to follow wise counsel. This may have been a pun on the name of Ethelred, which in Anglo-Saxon meant noble counsel ( Harold Harefoot (1015 – 1040) was King of England from 1035 to 1040. His by-name / cognomen “Harefoot” was for his speed, and the skill of his huntsmanship (

Therefore, the name was of great significance in the Merovingian, the Carolingian and the Wessex time. It is not known whether the name was endowed with totemic power. However, it was either conducive or not to the exercise of power; and it meant – as long as the name was chosen among relatives – belonging to a certain group. Anyway, it embraced both the meaning of the past and of the future. The choice of a name was an intentional and deliberate act, which put a weight of responsibility not only on the bearer of a name, but also on the whole family. In addition, the chosen name made royal power legitimate.

Names and by-names of the Merovingian, the Carolingian and the Wessex kings demonstrate the heterogeneous structure of the monarch’s image, in whose own personality are demonstrative of two different natures: one of a man in flesh subject to diseases, emotions etc., and a divine one of a public figure vested with power, divinity being connected with the king’s social mission(Khachaturian, 2008). In other words, according to E.H. Kantorovich (2013), it is possible to speak about the two bodies of the king: a physical one and a public or political one. The name analysis of the Merovingian, the Carolingian and the Wessex dynasties shows that the name giving process was not a chaotic one, but that it relied on a number of principles. The list of names for the would-be kings was changed completely only in the Carolingian dynasty, with the exception of the name Louis, which represented a Latinized version of a German name Hlodwig.


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Originally published by the International Journal of Environmental and Science Education (IJESE) 11:14 (2016, 7195-7205), republished by LOOK Academic Publishers under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.