Thursday, January 15, 2009

Some Britishfolk have really long names

Americans who are used to short pithy names as Anferny Jones, Ant'waan Xi or John Adams, are on occasion amazed (often for several seconds on end) at the incredible length of the epithets British parents sometimes bestow on her majesty's newborn subjects. Further investigation, at least of the cursory nature this subject demands, reveals that much of the name is frequently not name at all but various tit...tit...tituler...titular... titles that the (now adult) infant has received later in life.

Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), twice Prime Minister, comes to mind as an example. (Actually he didn't "come to mind"; I was Googling a passage in my friend Lord Likely's recent post and the name just sort of "popped up" as it were.)

Thoughts of merely gleaning enough Google material to make a simple lewd comment on Likely's blog quickly faded as I became entranced (perhaps that is not the precise word to describe my feeling) at the description of the former Prime Minister that unfolded before my eyes:

"Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, twice served as Prime Minister: 6 February 1855 to 19 February 1858 and 12 June 1859 to 18 October 1865. The eldest child of Henry Temple and Mary Mee in a family of two boys and three girls was born in Park Street Westminster on 20 October 1784."

First, can you even IMAGINE the insulting abuse his mother must have taken with a name like Mary Mee? What kind of sadistic creatures could Mr. and Mrs. Mee have been to look down at their newborn, lying peacefully in her pre-Victorian (some would say "Georgian") draped crib, and come to the conclusion: "Let's name her 'Mary', shall we?"

Well, "Mary" beats "Kick" or "Feed" or "Ignore" I suppose, though I myself might have chosen "Pity."

At any rate, one might rightfully assume that her supposed childhood taunting by the neighborhood [pre-Victorian] children is what led to her insistence that her own son be called "Henry John Temple" rather than, say, "Holy" or "Masonic" or some such.

Returning to the object of my post, now long neglected, I wanted to bring out some highlights of the esteemed Prime Minister's life if I could, please.

"It was well known (the Googled article continued) that Palmerston had affairs with Lady Jersey and Princess Dorothy de Lieven before he began his affair with Lady Cowper in 1810. Despite the affair with Emily (who the hell is Emily?), Palmerston made proposals of marriage to Lady Georgiana Fane, the younger sister of Lady Jersey: his suit was rejected on all three occasions."

Duh. Wonder why.

"On 1 April 1818 Palmerston was shot and wounded by Lieutenant Davis, an ex-officer who had a grievance over his pension. Palmerston financed Davis' defence out of his own pocket (because he enjoyed being shot?) and ensured that the man was well looked-after when he was sent to Bedlam. (Honest to God - I'm not making this up!) However, in 1822 Charles Smith was not so fortunate: he was caught poaching on Palmerston's estates and was executed. Palmerston refused to intervene on the grounds that it was not right to use private influence to affect the due process of law." (What a prince, eh? Would it be unseemly for us to jump to an assumption that His Lordship wanted a shot at Smith's wife? I am beginning to see why my friend Lord Likely chose the name Palmerston for his protagonist's ...ummmm.... prominence.)

The above doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the amazing (even astonishing) adventures of Lord Palmerston, as I'm sure you more astute British historians will quickly attest. But I must leave him now before I become overly excited. Suffice to say, you would not have wanted him as a landlord during the Irish Famine.

I am not sure who the record-holder is in the UK for the longest name (omitting royals, of course) but I think my vote might go to Mr. Horatio Nelson. God... it doesn't seem right to even call him that, does it? Let us take a deep breath and try, without taking a second breath in the middle, to speak his full name:

"Vice Admiral, The Most Noble Lord Horatio Nelson, Viscount and Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough in the said County, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty's Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean, Duke of Bronte in Sicily, Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, Member of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St. Joach...." ::Gasp:: Choke:: Sorry, couldn't get it all out.

Anyway, all his titles are inscribed on his coffin. Doubt if you'll ever get a chance to see it though.

If you are over 18 years of age, and staunch of stomach, you may want to visit the almost unbelievably vulgar chronicles of "The Astonishing Adventures of Lord Likely", a web-log consisting of the faithful transcriptions of the 19th century diaries of said Lord Likely, maintained, more or less, by my nameless young aforementioned British friend, who, though of obviously deranged mind and nature, remains nameless as a nod to his rather futile aspirations to become the future Prime Minister. Successor to his idol Lord Palmerston.

Unlikely. Pun intended.

Exclusive bonus post content for BritishSpeak "Stamina Club" readers appears below. Please do not look at it if you are not a clubmember. Thank you.
"Victory" needed no sails! This footage proves once and for all the REAL advantage the British had at the Nile and Trafalgar: Nuclear-powered "sailing" vessels! As soon as they were out of sight of land, the fake sails were taken down. The above is proof positive of this! Seeing is believing! Skeptics need even MORE proof? Note the speed of the "Victory" - No normal sailing vessel could possibly make 81 knots. Also note the rectangular "Nuclear Aura" that surrounds and follows the ship. Case closed!

(Next: Bedlam wasn't HALF as bad as you've heard.)

(Saturday: Why French is a foreign language.)



  1. I had a colleague called Carys Mee, which I always thought a little unfortunate. Another friends thoughtlessly married a Mr Dick and they have had to spend a lot of time thinking carefully. I forget all the unfortunate combinations possible, but one name they discarded was Ivor.

  2. For their five children.

    The art of the non-sequitur is clearly catching on, mutating as it goes.

  3. I am scheduled to debate "Which is best, the UK or the US" on BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday. The Richard Bacon Show. I am fighting in the UK corner and will try my best to steer the conversation round to the sense of humour question!!!!

  4. Ummm... whatever you say Sheila. :)

    @Expat mum - Let us know if you uncover a definitive answer, will you? I'll be rooting for you even though you have taken the wrong side. :)

  5. Lord Palmerston is a fine, upstanding figure.

    Hence why I named my gentleman's organ after him.



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