With the arrival of Snooki’s little Lorenzo, my mind has been wandering to Renaissance Italy and to the Medici dynasty. The Medicis ruled Florence. Their members were dukes and popes, bankers to all of Europe. Medici daughters married into ruling families across Europe, and Powerful doesn’t quite begin to describe them. Without their patronage, it is possible that some of the greatest works of Michelangelo and DaVinci might never have been created.
They also had some seriously great names. Snooki stunned me when she announced her baby-on-the-way would be called Lorenzo Dominic. No sooner had I read the official birth announcement than I was off imagining a beach house filled with little Polizzi-LaValles, all with names at home on a Renaissance prince.
One note: some of these names come from those related to the Medicis by marriage, including fathers- and mothers-in-law, and middle names are included, too. This means that a search for, say, Piccarda Medici might come up empty, because she’s a member of the Orsini or Sforza families, or even a foreign aristocracy. The Medicis were big on recycling names, though, so it isn’t unusual to see a name pop up in the next generation.
Masculine Medici Monikers
Carlo – The Italian form of the evergreen Charles, Carlo fits in with Leo and Milo.
Cosimo – A Scottish duke introduced a variant of this name to English when he named his son Cosmo after one of his friends, Cosimo III.
Garzia – A rarity that appears to have been used just once, probably because it was more common as Garcia. A common Spanish surname today, Garcia comes from a very old personal name of uncertain derivation. Garcia does appear elsewhere on the extended family tree, so it is a safe bet that this is a variant.
Gastone – Better known as the French Gaston, a seventeenth century Medici received this name thanks to a French maman.
Ippolito – The Italian form of Hippolytus, a named borrowed from Greek legend and worn by a third century saint. Together, it made for a logical name for a Medici prince.
Leopoldo – If Leopold seems over the top in 2012, then Leopoldo is probably much too much name. Except it isn’t so far from Leonardo, another Italian appellation that has fared well in recent decades, and shares the short form Leo.
Lorenzo – The question on my mind is this – will Lorenzo get a boost from the Jersey Shore birth announcement? Laurence has faded, but Lorenzo has hovered around the 300 mark consistently over the decades.
Pierfrancesco – Don’t you just love the way the Italians smoosh together names? Peter Francis is just as enduring, but doesn’t have quite the same charm.
Bartolomea – Yes, there is a feminine form of Bartholomew. I don’t know how well she’d wear circa 2012, but I love her clunky sound.
Contessina – She sounds extravagant, like calling a daughter Duchess. The Italian version of the title countess is Contessa, sometimes heard as a given name. Contessina de Bardi married into the Medici family early days, when they had amassed cash but little else. The de Bardis had a long history and plenty of connections, but not much cash. The match was a logical one, and Contessina was admired by the Medici family. Her name appears several times in successive generations.
Dianora – You won’t find this one on a birth certificate. Instead, it was one of the names that Eleanora, the wife of Pietro de Medici, preferred.
Eleonora – One of the more common names amongst Medicis, this might be a distinctive choice in 2012, a cross between Francesca and Eleanor.
Elisabetta – She’s a valid Italian variant of Elizabeth, but she would not have been very common in Medieval or Renaissance Italy. That distinction belonged to Isabella.
Ginevra – Today’s kids would recognize her as the given name of Ginny Weasley.
Laudomia – Another borrowing from Greek myth, this name appears in Chaucer’s writings and is still used in modern Italy. She’d been terribly surprising in the English-speaking world today.
Lucrezia – Better known when spelled Lucretia – and more strongly associated with another Renaissance princess, Lucretia Borgia.
Margarita – Unusable in English today thanks to the drink, Margarita is a romance language spin on Margaret.
Porzia – Like Lucrezia, she’s more familiar when spelled with a t. Portia also gives her a Shakespearean vibe.
Semiramide – She’s tangentially related to the family, but her name is so fabulous I couldn’t keep her off the list. Semiramis was the name of more than one Assyrian queen, including one mentioned by Dante in his Divine Comedy. More evidence of the deep influence of antiquity in the Renaissance.
Violante Beatrice – A Bavarian princess by birth, and the youngest of eight, Violante’s exotic name has an interesting backstory. Possibly related to Viola or maybe Yolanda, she has a history of use in various European ruling families.
Vittoria – Want to ensure that no one will call your daughter Vicky? The Italian form of the name omits the c.
What do you think of Italian names? Would you use any of these for a child?