It’s not so bad, really, if you pronounce it the British way. – Quote from the morning of the princess’ birth.
Thanks to JNE for suggesting the royal Eugenie for today’s Name of the Day.
Princess names fall into a few categories:
- Evergreen classics like Elizabeth and Mary;
- Fictional choices like Disney’s Jasmine and Aurora;
- Frilly, feminine picks like Arianna or Gabriella.
But there’s one more category, and it is an undiscovered trove of appealing options – the names worn by real-life princesses and aristocrats, a quirky and historic bunch.
When Prince Andrew, Duke of York and his wife Sarah welcomed their second daughter, this name caused quite a lot of comment. One of my favorite royal watchers uttered the quote above and then attempted to pronounce Eugenie in an upper-crust English accent.
28 years later, I’m still not certain whether it is yoo jzay NEE, yoo JZAY nay, yoo jzeh nee or something slightly different.
What is certain is that Eugenie is thoroughly royal. The three famous bearers, in reverse order, are:
- Princess Eugenie Victoria Helena of York, granddaughter of the reigning Queen of England and presently sixth in line to the throne;
- Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena of Battenberg. She later married King Alfonso XIII of Spain, becoming a queen herself. Mom was the baby of Victoria and Albert’s brood, Princess Beatrice; dad was Prince Henry of Battenberg. The exiled Empress Eugénie was her godmother. Like her godmother, she’d spend much of her adult life in exile. While she was formally referred to as Victoria Eugenie, it isn’t quite accurate to think of her wearing either name. Her mother had included the Gaelic name Eua on the original birth certificate; when the officiant at the princess’ christening mangled Eua as Ena, the nickname stuck;
- But the original royal Eugenie was María Eugénia Igancia Augustina de Palafox de Guzmán Portocarrero y Kirkpatrick, wife of Napoleon III and thus, the last French Empress. Dad was a Spanish Duke and passed on titles aplenty to his daughter, though big sis Francisca became the Duchess. Eugénie was dispatched to France for a proper – and fashionable – education, where she caught the eye of Prince Louis Napoleon. He’d been the market for a bride. Eugénie stepped into the role, becoming quite the nineteenth century fashionista – and an empress, too. She’s been portrayed on film from the 1930s right up through 2007’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Appropriately enough, the name derives from the Latin Eugenius, from the Greek eugenes – well born.
While the masculine Eugene is more geek than chic, he continues to rank in the US Top 1000, coming in at #691 last year. But never say never to a revival – in the Roaring 20s, he reached as high as #20.
Feminine version Eugenia is more common in English, though she last appeared in the US Top 1000 back in 1984. Boosted by the stylish empress, Eugenie also appeared in the rankings from 1880 through 1920. Her fortunes fell along with the French empire.
Today, if Vivienne and Genevieve are too common, Eugenie might provide an appealing choice for your petite mademoiselle – assuming, of course, you can decide how to pronounce it! And if it leaves your little one tongue-tied, there’s always Genie or the français Gigi for a nickname.