He’s been worn by princes, saints, and one unmistakable red-headed actor.
Thanks to Fran for suggesting Rupert as Baby Name of the Day.
Name aficionados will recognize Rupert as an older version of the classic Robert, derived from the Germanic elements hrod – fame – and beraht or peraht – bright. You can find the pieces smooshed together in various forms over the years; Hruodperht looks the closest to Rupert, but spellings abound.
A seventh century saint and reformer wore the name. He’s considered the founder of Salzburg.
Rupert first appears in his modern form around the 1300s. Ruprecht I became Count Palatine of the Rhine in 1353, and founded the University of Heidelberg in his spare time. His nephew inherited his title; the nephew’s son became Rupert III in 1398, and two years later was elected King of Germany.
The trio of Ruperts explains how the name entered into broader use amongst the many German aristocrats, but it doesn’t answer this riddle: why does Rupert conjure up images of high tea and tweed, the quintessential British name?
In the 1600s, one of those Germanic Ruperts – Prince Rupert of the Rhine – made waves in England. Born during the tumultuous Thirty Years’ War, the prince watched his parents lose their lands. He grew up a refugee, but one with friends in high places – his uncle was Charles I of England. After the death of Rupert’s father, Charles extended his protection to the family. Rupert repaid his uncle’s generosity as a Royalist commander during the English Civil War. His dashing image became synonymous with the term cavalier.
Parents today might think first of Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch – born Keith Rupert Murdoch. But there’s also:
- Poet Rupert Brooke, known for his World War I-inspired sonnets;
- Actors Rupert Everett – he’s the voice of Prince Charming in the Shrek franchise, as well as veteran actor Rupert Graves;
- Since 1920, Rupert Bear has been a staple in British newspapers, where the animated ursine’s adventures have been handed down from one animator to another over the decades. Book collections and television adaptations have appeared, too. On a slightly less innocent note, Rupert is also the name of Stewie’s teddy bear on Family Guy.
In the US, Rupert was never popular. But he was steadily in use from the late nineteenth century into the early 1900s, slowly falling out of use. By the mid-1950s, he had disappeared from the US Top 1000.
These days, though, a future generation of parents is very familiar with Rupert, thanks to one red-headed teenaged actor. Rupert Grint graduated from school plays to the big time when he was cast as Ron Weasley for 2001’s adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. That’s the actor pictured above, at a movie premiere, somewhere after his first year at Hogwarts but before the last installment.
Rupert is not quite as hipster as Rufus, but he shares the first syllable. And in an era when many parents prefer nickname-free choices, Rupert’s lack of an easy short form isn’t necessarily a problem. Rupert makes an intriguing option for an Anglophile, or for anyone looking to reboot Robert.