At first glance, she’s a clunky antique best left buried with Gladys and Myrtle. But there’s more to this regal appellation, and she might make a daring choice for a stylish parent.
Thanks to Katharine for suggesting our Name of the Day: Alberta.
Alberta comes to us from the same soup of Germanic elements that gave us Adelaide and Alice. The original masculine would’ve been something like Adalbrecht, composed of adal – noble – and beraht – bright.
A feminine version has been around for centuries. Saint Alberta died in Agen, France (then Gaul) during the Diocletian persecutions. She does not appear in the official Roman Catholic directory of saints; however, her son Caprasius and fellow martyr Faith are listed. The latter was especially popular in early medieval France.
The Normans probably imported Albert and Alberta to England, where they were influenced by the unrelated Anglo-Saxon Aedilberct. Neither the feminine nor the masculine were especially common back in the day, but Albert, at least, is traceable throughout the Middle Ages.
When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, the name went from obscure, German and unfashionable to the very heights of style. Style doesn’t necessarily mean popular; while Albert gets a statistical boost after their marriage, it’s a little more difficult to confirm if Alberta was truly embraced, or merely the equivalent of a modern day starbaby moniker. (Based on a review of current issues ofPeople Magazine and US Weekly, circa 2850 they’ll think that all of daughters were called Shiloh and Suri.)
But Alberta was used, and Queen V herself named their fourth daughter Louise Caroline Alberta. After Princess Louise’s husband was named governor general of Canada in 1878, the province Alberta was named in her honor. (She was never known by her third name, but Louisiana was already taken.) Rumor has it that the princess wasn’t a big fan of Ottawa, but the name stuck. It lends Alberta a rough’n’tumble cowgirl vibe that might otherwise be inconsistent with our image of a Victorian princess.
In the US, Alberta reached her zenith in 1910, stopping just short of the Top 100 at #104. Meanwhile, Albert was all the rage, ranking in the Top 20 from 1880 through 1923. He still places at a respectable #371 as of last year. Alberta, meanwhile, has not appeared in the rankings since 1970.
Back in her heyday, Alberta’s friends would have been named Mildred or Florence, Ethel or Gladys. The gently old-fashioned choices we prefer – Emily, Jane, Caroline – were all less popular than Alberta in the early 20th century.
Today, she has an unmistakable place name feel, along with some musical cred, thanks to Eric Clapton’s “Alberta.” (Of course, most Clapton fans probably call their daughters Layla.) With boy starbabies receiving names like Walter (Rainn Wilson) and Frank (Elvis Costello), it’s not unthinkable to imagine that some parents might dare revive Gertrude and Myrtle. After all, her three-syllable, ends-in-a construction is as popular as it gets. If Amelia and Antonia, Harriet and Beatrice can sound current, why not Alberta? With nickname choices like Albie, Abby and Bertie, it might wear reasonably well on a girl born in the 21st century.