Leo is a lion of a name, a stylish nineteenth century favorite parents are rediscovering today.
This medieval rarity shares some of his sounds. Thanks to Katherine for suggesting Leofric as our Baby Name of the Day.
A child named Leofric would probably answer to Leo, but the names are actually unrelated. Leofric comes from leof – beloved – combined with the popular ric – power. Both elements appear in plenty of Anglo-Saxon names, like Leofwine and Wulfric.
There were two famous bearers in pre-Norman England. First is Leofric, Earl of Mercia and builder of monasteries. He’s best known not for his achievements, but for his wife – Lady Godiva. The Danish prince Cnut conquered England in 1016, and became King Canute of England. Mercia was one of four mighty provinces established by the new ruler, with each of the districts was given to an Anglo-Saxon noble. This gift made Leofric wealthy, powerful, and loyal to the new regime. When he was ordered to levy hefty taxes in his lands, he did so – and here comes the Godiva legend. The story goes that she stripped naked and took to her horse, with only her hair to shield her, in an effort to convince Leofric to lift the taxes.
History finds fault with many details of Godiva’s ride, but her tale is the best chance for a revival of Leofric. Movie versions were filmed in 1928 and 1955. A 21st century revival would help boost the name, but alas, nothing is in the works.
The second Leofric is more obscure. He was the Bishop of Exeter at the time of the Norman invasion, a powerful landowner thanks to gifts from a grateful king, and the proprietor of a large library.
Most Anglo-Saxon names were forgotten after the Norman invasion, with only a few revived thanks to literature or a passion for history. I found just a few sprinkled amongst aristocratic nineteenth century families:
- Archibald James Leofric Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, the Earl of Ava, born in 1863.
- Charles Leofric Thomas Temple-Richards, who passed the middle onto his son, Alec Thomas Leofric, born in 1995.
Whether you’re impressed by the historical figures or not, there are plenty of parents looking for a Leo- name these days. From 2010’s Top 1000 list:
- Hollywood-fueled Leonardo ranked #150
- Leo came in at #193
- Knox Jolie-Pitt’s middle, Leon, came in at #417
- Then there’s Leonel at #448
- Leonard at #628
- And the ancient warrior Leonidas, ranked #927
Add in Leopold, Leobardo, Leondre, and a bunch of other Leo- names in some use, and the return of Leofric wouldn’t be the strangest thing to happen in 2012.
If you’re looking for a dashing middle, or an unusual, medieval appellation with an easy short form, Leofric has a lot of possibility.