Name of the Week: Henrietta – British Baby Names

Name of the Week: Henrietta – British Baby Names

Names like henrietta



Henrietta is the Latinised form of Henriette, a French feminine form of Henri (or Henry in English).

Henri itself derived from Henricus, the Latinised form of the Old Germanic name Heimerich, composed of the elements heim “home” and rīhhi “ruler.”


Henriette was first used in France in the 16th century as a feminine form of Henri. It was famously borne by Princess Henriette Marie of France, daughter of King Henry IV of France and Marie de Medici. Her marriage to Charles I in 1625, and accession to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland, brought the name to Britain, where it was latinised as Henrietta Maria.

After 1625, several members of the public (especially those in the peerage) were keen to name their daughters in honour of the new queen, and as such we find several Henrietta Marias during the queen’s lifetime. Examples include Lady Henrietta Maria Howard (b.1628), Lady Henrietta Mary Stanley (b. 1630), and Lady Henrietta Maria Blount (b. 1632).

George Redmonds notes that this double name became more popular after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, particularly among the gentry, but generally across all classes. He also argues that this may have set a precedent for the general adoption of two names by members of the gentry and aristocracy.*

It is interesting to note that, while Henrietta was the Latinised form of Henriette, the familial vernacular form in Britain was Harriet.

Evidence suggests that at first Henrietta and Harriet were interchangeable. Baptism and marriage registers recorded Henrietta, but familiarly they were ‘Harriet’ to their friends and family. This was certainly the case of Lady Henrietta Cavendish (later Countess Granville), daughter of 5th Duke of Devonshire and the famous society beauty Lady Georgiana Spencer, who was known as Harriet (or “Harryo” to her family). She was named after her maternal aunt Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough who was also known as Harriet. Other examples from the peerage abound, making it difficult to distinguish between the two forms.

With Harriet firmly established, Henrietta came back into use in its own right in the 19th century.

Some of this may have been due to Henrietta’s adoption by the Jacobites in honour of Henry Benedict Stuart, the last male heir of the Stuart line. The three names James, Charles and Henry were common names for Jacobites to give their sons, as were the feminine forms Jamesina, Jacobina, Carolina, Charlesina and Henrietta. After Henry Stuart’s death in 1807, the Jacobite claim to the throne then passed to the senior heir of King Charles I, descended from his youngest daughter Henrietta Anne – yet another Jacobite link to the name Henrietta.

In the 19th century, Henrietta became a top 100 staple in England and Wales:

1860: #531870: #601880: #691890: #811900: #95

Data from the 1881 UK census shows – when population is evened out per 100,000 people – that Henrietta was especially popular in the Highlands of Scotland (where Jacobite names still held sway) and also in the south of England.

Though Henrietta reached a low of #95 in England and Wales by 1900 (and fell out of the top 100 soon after), it was still strong at #55 in Scotland in that year, though it had fallen out of the Scottish top 100 by 1950.

Henrietta’s popularity in England and Wales declined across the 20th century as shown by the number of birth registrations per decade:

1910s: 3418 births1920s: 1709 births1930s: 569 births1940s: 310 births1950s: 280 births1960s: 529 births1970s: 291 births

Though it generally declined over the century, there was a noticeble spike in the 1960s. This may have been inspired by Henrietta Tiarks, “the best-known debutantes of the Fifties” who became a society ‘It-girl’ and model, appearing in the prestigious Country Life in 1960. She married the then Marquess of Tavistock, in 1961 and later became Duchess of Bedford.

Births for HenriettaSince 1996, Henrietta has, on average, been registered between 40-60 times per year (ranking between #500 and #700). In the last four years however, Henrietta has seen a rise in usage, reaching #427 in 2014 with 102 babies.

In Scotland, however, Henrietta has been registered no more than three times in any given year since 1975. In 2014, Henrietta ranked #1534 with 1 birth in Scotland.

Famous Bearers:


* Queen Henrietta Maria of France (1609-1669), queen consort of England, Scotland, and Ireland as the wife of King Charles I.* Princess Henrietta Anne of England (1644-1670), daughter of King Charles I of England.* Henrietta Godolphin, 2nd Duchess of Marlborough (1681-1733), a princess of the Holy Roman Empire and a Princess of Mindelheim* Henrietta “Harriet” Leveson-Gower, Countess Granville (1785-1862), British peeress and society hostess.* Henrietta “Jetty” Treffz (1818-1878), well-known Austrian mezzo-soprano.* Henrietta Hooker (1851-1929), an American botanist.* Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921), an American astronomer.


* Henrietta Russell nee Tiarks (b.1940), Dowager Duchess of Bedford and former fashion model and society belle. * Dame Henrietta Louise Moore (b. 1957), British social anthropologist.* Henrietta Ónodi (b. 1974), an Olympic gold medal-winning Hungarian gymnast.

Literature and Other Media:

* Henrietta (1758), a novel by Charlotte Lennox.* Henrietta Musgrove, a character in Jane Austin’s novel Persuasion (1818).* Henrietta Petowker, a character in Charles Dickens’ novel Nicholas Nickleby (1839).


Henrike (German, Scandinavian), Enrica (Italian), Henriikka (Finnish), Hendrika (Dutch)


hen-ree-ET-a [key]

Possible diminutive:

Hen, Henny, Hetty, Ettie, Etta, Hattie, Ren, Retta, Rena, Henry, Harriet, Harryo, Jetty, Hero

Sibling Names:

Florence Arabella Verity Caroline Alexandra Cecilia Sebastian Fergus Rupert Barnabas Roderick Louis

Name Lists:

Upright Elegance Latinate Lovelies Gorgeously Georgian Victorian Darlings Royal British Names Jane Austen Names Dickensian Names Enid Blyton Names Inspirational Women of Science

If you like Henrietta you may also like: Georgiana, Cordelia, Rosalind, Theodora, Cassandra, Ophelia, Clementine, Juliana, Philippa, Letitia

Thanks to Minnie for requesting this post.