The most popular names in Medieval England

If you lived in 13th-century England, there would be a good chance that William or Alice would be your first name. 

Those are the results of a study of personal names recorded in the Fine Rolls, a set of documents kept by the English Chancellory during the Middle Ages. Thousands of entries exist just for the period 1216 to 1242, which allowed Beth Hartland, one of the Research Fellows at the Henry III Fine Rolls Project to compile a list of the personal names.


Top Ten Male Names

1. William
2. John
3. Richard
4. Robert
5. Henry
6. Ralph
7. Thomas
8. Walter
9. Roger
10. Hugh

Top Ten Female Names

1. Alice
2. Matilda
3. Agnes
4. Margaret
5. Joan
6. Isabella
7. Emma
8. Beatrice
9. Mabel
10. Cecilia


Hartland’s study found 14.4 percent of men mentioned in these records were called ‘William’. The second most popular name – at 7.9 percent – was ‘John’, while the names of other English kings can also be found at the top of the list.

With women, ‘Alice’ and ‘Matilda’ are almost tied for the most common female name. Alice comes from the Old French name Alis, while Matilda has its origins in the Old High German words for maht (might or strength) and hild (battle).

“Though fewer women occur in the Fine Rolls, they reveal a greater diversity of names,” explains Hartland. “Compared with 57.8 percent of the men, only 51.8 percent of the women had one of the top ten names. And 9.44 percent of the women had names that occurred only once, whereas 3.38 percent of the men had names that occurred only once.’

Click here to learn more about Henry III Fine Rolls Project

See also: Elizabeth and John were the most popular names in 16th-century England

Top Image: British Library MS Additional 42130, fol.76v