John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

County names

My DC-area pal Molly was complaining the other day about the monarchistic place names in that neck of the woods:

     Prince George. Later, King George. I'm not a fan of this.

Personally, I didn't have a problem with such names when I lived out there, which is a good thing, because they're pretty thick on the ground in the mid-Atlantic. 35 of the 95 counties in Virginia are named after English nobility, as is the state itself. (It's a reference to Elizabeth I, the "Virgin Queen, who issued the original colonial charter.) It's even worse on the other side of the Potomac River; 13 of the 23 counties are named for royalty or members of noble families, and the state was named for Queen Henrietta Maria, whose husband, Charles I, signed the charter establishing the Maryland colony.

Here in Wisconsin, the number of counties named for English nobility is, as you might expect in a state formed from territory that wasn't even part of the United States until 1812, zero. We do have Lafayette County, named after Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, but that's French nobility, plus he fought on our side in the American Revolution. My native state of Illinois has a Fayette County named after the same guy, plus Effingham County, named for Thomas Howard, 3rd Earl of Effingham, who resigned his commission in the British Army rather than take up arms against the American colonies.

But as I say, it makes no difference to me. Personally, I'd gladly see every county in Virginia renamed for English nobility if they'd do away with everything they have named after Confederate generals or politicians, like the Jefferson Davis Highway or Robert E. Lee High School. I suppose it's hypocritical of me to be willing to let Virginia embrace their colonial heritage but not their Confederate heritage, but I think I can live with it.
Tags: history, illinois, maryland, virginia, wisconsin

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