Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Yes, Virginia

While working on my next chapter of my textbook, on Virginia and Maryland, I wrote about "Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in the land, and the first child to be named for the land." But then I got to wondering: is that actually true? Was Virginia Dare the first person to be named for the land of Virginia?

A little cursory research sent me to Wikipedia's page on the given name Virginia. Apparently there is a historical Virginia, a Roman girl whose father killed her rather than let Appius Claudius ruin her virtue. But clearly her name has nothing to do with the New World.

The name of the land of Virginia dates to 1584, when Sir Walter Raleigh received his charter from Queen Elizabeth I to set up a colony, and, being a brown-noser, made the sweeping gesture of applying the name "Virginia" to any part of the New World not claimed by the French or Spanish. Virginia Dare, the first person of European descent born in North America, was born in the Roanoke colony in August 1587.

However, there is an obscure saint named Virginia Centurione Bracelli. She was Italian, the daughter of the Doge of Genoa, and born in April, 1587 -- a few months before Virginia Dare. Is it so implausible that three years after Virginia was named for the Virgin Queen, the Doge of Genoa could have heard of England's claim in the New World and named his daughter after this exciting new land?

Well, so I thought.

It turns out that Virginia is not unheard of as an Italian name before 1584. Indeed, the famous Nun of Monza, born Marianna de Leyva in 1575, took the religious name Virginia Maria. Why Virginia? Because it was the name of her mother, Virginia Maria Marino (d. 1576). Alessandro Monzoni based the character of the nun Gertrude in his novel The Betrothed on Sister Virginia de Leyva.

So, another line of text needs to be altered to maintain historical integrity. My friends, I'm writing a chapter about Maryland. I started several days ago with King Henry VII, and I haven't even reached Maryland yet. Either I'm doing things all wrong, or I'm doing them all right.

No comments: