N is for Names

Just a really quick blog today to talk about the historical names I use in my stories.

If you’ve been following along, you may have picked up that my first two novels are partially set in Bologna between 1576 and 1579. While a couple of my characters were historical figures, I had to create all the others. Therefore, I had to find names for them.

A couple were based on famous people from the period. My darling Renaissance man Niccolo was named after Niccolo Machiavelli. No, that was not an accident. You’ll see why when you read about him.

Another important character was Baldassare, who is named after Baldassare Castiglione, author of The Book of the Courtier, which is one of my favorite pieces of research reading. Written as a conversation among courtiers and ladies, it is a dialogue discussing ideals about behavior. Its opinions about love and marriage in particular informed some of the characters in my novel.

Beyond Niccolo and Baldassare, I had to depend on another source for my historical character names, The Academy of Saint Gabriel.

This site is used by the Society for Creative Anachronism and other historical reenactment groups to document historical names from the early middle ages. Most of the members are from the SCA, in fact, and have done painstaking research verifying that names and spellings are correct for various places and times from approximately 500 to 1600.

Having had the pleasure of researching authentic names for members of the SCA, I take great delight in ensuring that the names I’m using in my stories are a reasonable attempt at being historically accurate. Put another way, I find myself mildly irritated at inaccurate names in historical fiction.

Yeah, I went there. I’m a purist. Don’t ever see historical movies me. Ever. Seriously.

Anyway, I wanted to share this website with you all because I do get asked about Medieval name conventions now and then, and this is where I send people. And this is where I go when they come back to me saying, “I can’t figure that site out. Maybe I’ll just check this baby name book here–”

No! Step away from the baby name book! Don’t make me yell!

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