Aristocratic Nicknames

If found these stories during my research in Judith Schneid Lewis's In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860. All quotations come from pages 11 and 12.

Lewis's work discusses the rise of the ideal of domesticity in the aristocracy as the nineteenth century progressed, with the institution going from a very formal, business-like model of family, to the more intimate nuclear family structure that we currently experience today. Obviously, I'm simplifying this a great deal, but it gets us where we need to be.

Lewis writes, "[T]he use of the formal mode of address was more common before 1800 . . . . In 1792 Lord Gower still referred ot his wife appropriately as Lady Sutherland, and in the 1780s and 1790s his parents always referred to each other as Lord and Lady Stafford".

"In 1805 the elderly Duchess of Grafton still referred to her daughter as 'Lady F. Churchill'".

However, the younger generation at about this time was really loosening up and more willing to call their spouses by their first names or (heaven forbid!) even by nicknames.

The Marquess of Anglesey, for example, married his first wife Caroline in 1795 and called her "Car". After fourteen years of marriage and eight children, he scandalously eloped with Lady Charlotte Cadogan, divorced "Car", and married his new mistress, calling her "Char",. which I'm sure wasn't confusing AT ALL. I suppose if he called out the wrong name in bed, it would be easy enough to cover it up.

As a fun side-note, they popped out ten children in fifteen years, which leads me to believe that early nineteenth-century women had iron-clad uteruses.

BUT BACK TO THE NAMES. Not only did people start getting more familiar with their spouses, but they also started getting more inventive with their children's nicknames. I'm going to bullet-point this stuff:

-"The Earl of Scarborough referred to his wife, the Countess Frederica, as 'dearest Freddy'".

-"In 1803 the Duchess of Bedford called her husband 'Johnny' to the amazement of her guests."

-"Lady Augusta Fox called her father-in-law 'pappy' in 1833".

-"Elizabeth, Lady Holland, called her husband 'Holly' while their daughter-in-law nicknamed her spouse 'Buz'.

-"Two daughters of the Duke of Rutland were called 'Katty' and 'Bibi'."

-"The Duchess of Devonshire's daughters were called 'G' and 'Hary-O'. Hary-O's three children would be called 'Dody,' 'Sukey,' and 'Grink'".

Both the Duchess of Devonshire and her daughter, Hary-O, could really give Frank Zappa a run for his money.

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2 Responses to Aristocratic Nicknames

  1. All I can think of is how horrified Lady Violet would be in real life over Sybbie calling Lord Grantham “Donk.”


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