With Tristan gone mainstream, how would this similar choice wear on a boy today?
Thanks to Mneme for suggesting Tarquin as Name of the Day.
He’s an authentic name borrowed from history, but uses of Tarquin are exceedingly rare.
Perhaps that’s because the best known bearer was a spectacular villain.
Before the days of Empire, Rome was ruled by a series of seven Kings. The fifth was Tarquin I, who came from Tarquinii at the urging of his clever wife Tanaquil. He rose up the ranks and by 616 BC made it to the throne itself. He ruled until his 579 BC assassination.
But the throne stayed in the Tarquin family. Tarquin had sons, as well as at least two daughters. (Both called, as custom dictated, Tarquinia.) One of this boys became Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the seventh -and last – King of Rome.
Tarquin II took the throne in 535 BC and ruled until 496 BC – quite a run. He spent much of his rule at war, annexing neighboring territories. But his kingdom came crashing down in 496 thanks to his son, Sextus Tarquinius.
The Roman prince is known not for noble deeds, but for his rape of Lucretia.
In the aftermath of the attack, the aristocratic Lucretia took her own life, and Tarquin II’s enemies seized the opportunity to overthrow not just the king, but the monarchy. The Roman Republic was born and the Tarquin family fled Rome in disgrace.
Artists and writers have been inspired by the story for generations. William Shakespeare penned The “Rape of Lucrece” in 1594 and mentioned the incident briefly in Macbeth. Rembrandt and Titian pained her sufferings, as did Dürer, Boticelli and many more. There’s an opera, too.
Two pronunciations are possible – tar KWIN and tar KIN. The first is a little bit awkward in American English, but leads to the nickname Quinn. The second sounds quite current, but leaves you calling your kid Tarkie.
Sir Laurence Olivier named his son Simon Tarquin back in 1936, and called him by his middle name. Fictional Tarquins include:
- Anne Rice named one of her vampires Tarquin Blackwood. He answered to Quinn. But he’s later in the vampire series, and not nearly as well known as, say, Lestat;
- In the Shopaholic series, Sophie Kinsella’s Becky Bloomwood’s BFF Suze ultimately marries the fabulously wealthy Tarquin. In the books, it’s a logical name for an aristocratic Englishman. The movie recasts them all as Americans, and I always wondered why they didn’t rename him Tim.
For better and for worse, we don’t know our ancient history as well as we once did. And it is possible that your son could make it well into his 20s before realizing that his given name is closely connected to a famous rapist.
But if you’re looking for a formal name for Quinn, it is probably one of the more interesting choices. And you could always insist that you’d name your son after the first royal Tarquin, the ambitious one, not his dastardly grandson.