The Edwardian era, though short, brought us many names that had hardly ever charted prior to the turn of the last century. Beginning in 1901 with the death of Queen Victoria, the end of this period is often disputed, but it’s assumed to have ended sometime around the First World War.
Namesake King Edward VII was known to be particularly stylish, influencing art and fashion across Europe, some of which can be seen in the first season of Downton Abbey, which depicts the tail end of the era.
With the high fashions of the period, names were changing, just as quickly as the times were. Unfortunately, name data from England and Wales before 1996 only exists in ten-year intervals; the following names were gaining popularity in 1904 and 1914 in England and Wales.
Audrey – Though it would gain more popularity in later years, Audrey first appeared in the Top 100 in 1914. Starting with Saint Audrey (also known as Etheldreda), a historic princess and queen in the 600s, this Anglicization of Etheldred would sit comfortably in England’s Top 100 for four decades. The currently most popular choice on this list; sweet, feminine and elegant, Audrey is currently ranking at #37 in the US, 30 on Nameberry, and #298 in England and Wales.
Betty – The most common Elizabeth nickname of the 1920s and 1930s, Betty came onto the scene in 1914, effectively replacing Victorian favourite Betsy. Betty may still be closely linked to a number of personalities, from Betty White, to Betty Cooper of the Archie comics and now Riverdale, though her skyrocketed popularity dates back to the earlier period (a la Shirley in the 1930s). Though Betty has since fallen out of favour in the US, having not ranked since 1996, she is still currently at #349 in England.
Bridget – While this name is now probably most tightly tied to the comical Bridget Jones, Bridget charted at #92 in 1914. The name originates from the Irish Gaelic noun brigh, which means “power, strength, vigor, virtue.” Spelled Brigid, she was an early Celtic goddess of agriculture and healing, which provides a rich history for the name. Bridget, its most popular spelling, currently ranks at #735 in England and Wales, and #537 in the US.
Doris – Once reaching as high as #3 in England, Doris still clings on with an average of 90 births in the US every year, and about 10 in England and Wales. Meaning “gift of the sea,” Doris is the name of a Greek Oceanid, the name given to daughters of Oceanus. Many fans of classic Hollywood will tie it to Doris Day, but more recently, Doris is the name of One Direction star Louis Tomlinson’s sister (born 2014). Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is a noted bearer.
Edna – Similar to Doris, Edna has not been in the Top 1000 for decades in the UK or the US. Peaking at #22 in 1914, the Hebrew meaning for the name is “pleasure, delight.” Edna can also be an Anglicized form of Eithne, an Irish name meaning “kernel.” Used sparingly today, Edna could be revived to fit in with classmates Dorothy and Edith, Ella and Emma.
Kathleen – Though viewed somewhat as a classic today, Kathleen only gained popularity for the first time at the end of the Victorian era. A Gaelic form of Katherine, Kathleen has a bit more of a sassy Gaelic feel than her classical sister. Sharing the –leen ending with new favourite Emmeline, Kathleen has the potential to become used once again. Now at Number 830 in the US and 271 on Nameberry, Kathleen was a Top 10 name in the late 40s and early 50s.
Marjorie – A Scottish name derived from Margaret, Marjorie has not seen regular usage in England and Wales in several years, however, she currently sits at #799 in the US. Falling out of favour after the Middle Ages, she was then revived in the late 1800s, holding her own throughout the Edwardian era. Marjorie, and the less popular spelling Margery, both appeared in the Top 100 in 1904 in England.
Nora/Norah – Nora and alternate spelling Norah both appeared in 1the 1904 and 1914 charts. Both still appear in today’s US Top 100, however, neither has reached its previous peaks in the UK, with Nora hovering at #305 and Norah at #473. Originally a short form of Eleanor or Leonora, Nora and Norah are both lovely revival names that are perfect for those who want something classic but not boring or fusty.