She’s a Golden Girl name with French flair.
Thanks to Kimberly for suggesting her great-grandmother’s name as our Baby Name of the Day: Blanche.
She appears to be an affectionate nickname that stuck, almost as if we named girls Pretty. (Which, actually, we sometimes do.)
The first Blanche was also Blanca, born in the 1130s. Daughter of King García of Navarre and Maguerite de l’Aigle, she’s referred to by both the Spanish and French versions of her name.
Plenty of well-born women wore the name after her, including:
- Blanche of Navarre, Countess of Champagne, born 1177
- Blanche of Castile was born in 1188 and became Queen of France
- Blanche of Artois, born 1248
- Blanche of Namur – that’s in Belgium – was born in 1335. She married the King Magnus Eriksson, King of Sweden and Norway and was known as Queen Blanka.
- A fourteenth century Blanche of Navarre, or Blanche d’Évreux, also became Queen of France.
She quickly became an established choice for girls. The name also appears in medieval England as Blanch and Blanchia. The Italian version is Bianca, embraced by Shakespeare for not one, but two characters.
It’s likely that we liked her because of her meaning. White equated with beauty – pale skin was in, in a big way – but also purity.
She literally means white in French – Snow White answers to Blanche Neige – in the US, Blanche has a very different reputation.
A few of us might think of Jane Eyre. Her rival for Mr. Rochester’s affections is, briefly, the beautiful, but cruel, socialite Blanche Ingram.
Chances are that you’ll think of:
- Southern belle Blanche DuBois is the invention of Tennessee Williams for his 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire. She’s a wreck, and she unravels over the course of the story. Vivien Leigh played the role in the 1951 movie, nabbing an Oscar for Best Actress. Since the tale is set in New Orleans, this makes the name Southern as well as French, a blend that could appeal to modern parents.
- A second Southern belle may be keeping Blanche in style limbo. From 1985 through 1992, we all tuned in to watch the exploits of The Golden Girls. Retirees Rose, Dorothy and Sophia, all moved in with Blanche Devereaux. (That’s pretty close to the French queen’s name.) Blanche was flirtatious and charming, and even though all of the women were in their golden years, it was easy to envy their Miami lifestyle.
It was a Top 100 pick from 1880 into 1919, and real life Blanches were a bold bunch.
- Blanche Stuart Scott may have been the first American woman to fly an airplane solo, and became the first female test pilot in the US. Only Blanche answered to Betty.
- There’s also Blanche Leathers, the first woman to captain a steamboat on the Mississippi, back in the late nineteenth century.
- Blanche Calloway was Cab Calloway’s big sis, an established jazz singer before her brother got his start.
- Blanche Bates was a successful stage actress in the earliest years of the twentieth century.
All of this could – should – make her a candidate for a comeback, especially considering our affection for French names and shorter appellations. But so far, she’s stuck in style limbo. She last appeared in the US Top 1000 back in 1964. Just six girls were given the name in 2011.
Still, if you’re after a rare, retro choice that is nickname-proof and bold while still retaining a feminine sensibility, Blanche might make for pleasing possibility. Or not. But something tells me that Blanche will be back – eventually.