She’s not just a queen, she’s an era.
Thanks to Kristin for suggesting Victoria as our Baby Name of the Day.
Before the longest reigning British monarch ascended to the throne, Victoria was the name of the Roman goddess of victory. Nike was her Greek equivalent, but while Nike embraced the sporting life, the Romans associated their goddess with triumph in war.
After the pantheon came the saints. In the first century AD, Victoria was a servant martyred with her master. Then two sisters, Anatolia and Victoria, both refused marriage to non-Christians and eventually died for their faith, too. Another Saint Victoria appears in 304, also martyred.
Victoria goes royal pedigree early days, too. Victoria – or maybe Vitruvia - was the de facto ruler of a breakaway kingdom from the Roman Empire in the late 200s.
Victoria filtered into use through the Germans. The future queen’s mother was born Princess Marie Luise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Sallfeld, but known as Victoria. Victor also surfaces in various branches of the family tree.
The name was very rare in English until Victoria’s reign. Princess Alexandrina Victoria, daughter of the Duke of Kent, was fifth in line to the throne when she was born in 1819. In the next dozen years, a series of deaths and the birth of no new heirs meant that the princess became the queen in 1837. It was her wish to drop her first name in favor of her middle.
And so an era was born. Victoria reigned for over 63 years, gave birth to nine children, and oversaw an empire. In her six and a half decades on the throne, England experienced increasing prosperity, and while Victoria was not always popular, she is generally credited with presenting a more approachable version of the monarchy, one centered on family values.
Her legacy is considerable. Plenty of places bear her name. The Victoria Cross is the highest military honor in Great Britain. And the general air of moral restraint associated with the era gives Victorian another meaning – a synonym for prudish, though that’s an oversimplification for a time of complex social change.
As a given name in the US, Victoria has always ranked in the US Top 1000. The name has always fared well, bolstered by various events:
- In the year of Victoria’s death, the name charted at #143.
- In 1945, at the conclusion of World War II, Victoria jumped to #106.
- She entered the US Top 100 in 1949, possibly boosted by 1948′s ballet-centered film The Red Shoes, starring Moira Shearer.
Victoria has remained in or near the Top 100 ever since. She slipped to #131 in 1963, but quickly recovered. From 1993 through 2000, she ranked in the US Top 20. Today she stands at #23 – a well-established staple.
Victoria also ranks in the Top 100 in Argentina, Chile, and Spain; Russia and the Ukraine; Denmark, Norway, and Sweden; and Belgium and France. That’s quite the global profile, before adding in Viktoria - huge in Austria and Hungary; Italy’s Vittoria; and Poland’s Wiktoria.
Possible nicknames abound, from the obvious Vicky to Ms. Spelling’s Tori to contracted forms like Vika and Vita.
If you’re after a classic appellation that feels both strong and feminine, it is hard to top the regal Victoria.