Thursday, August 26, 2021

Hyphenation, or How Eleanor Got Her Name

“Eleanor” has been my favorite girl’s name ever since I read about twelfth-century diva Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 – 1204). When her father the Duke of Aquitaine died, Eleanor inherited half the territory of France. After the Pope annulled her first marriage to King Louis VII, Eleanor eloped with Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy, a great-grandson of William the Conqueror. Two years later, Henry II and Eleanor were crowned King and Queen of England. 


Eleanor was described by her contemporaries as perpulchra – more than beautiful. In an era when women had limited autonomy, Eleanor carved out an extraordinary career as a political player and as a patron of the arts. 


Many folks encounter Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 1968 movie The Lion in Winter, which depicts a stormy Christmas gathering of Plantagenet family and friends. Katharine Hepburn won her third Oscar for playing Eleanor. (Technically Miss Hepburn tied with Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl). Peter O’Toole played Henry II. In their youthful film debuts, Anthony Hopkins played King Henry’s heir Richard the Lionhearted, and Timothy Dalton played the family’s political rival (and Richard’s secret ex-lover) Louis successor King Phillip II of France. 

However, I first learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine from the charming biography A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, by beloved children’s author E.L. Konisburg.

Fig. 1:  My favourite book by the author of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerThe two shields on the bottom left of the book cover display the traditional royal arms of France (gold fleur-de-lis on a blue background) and of England (gold lions on a red background).

When Eleanor was born my ex and I gave her the same middle name as both her grandmothers:  Eileen.  And we hyphenated her surname: Leishman-Lehmann. 


As a result, my daughter’s full signature – Eleanor Eileen Leishman-Lehmann – is an endless whorl of L and E. 

Fig. 2:  Tomb of Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt. (1555 - 1628) at St. Giles Wimborne Church

Hyphens have been on my mind lately because I was researching the history of my middle name. “Ashley” first become popular as a male given name during the eighteenth century for two related reasons:  (1) the distinguished public career of Anthony Ashley Cooper, the first Lord Ashley; and (2) zealous efforts by Lord Ashley’s gay maternal grandfather, Sir Anthony Ashley, Bart., to preserve his family name. 

It’s a hyphenated heraldry story. 

Fig. 3:  Classic heraldry reference textbook by the second son of ironmonger Tom Davies and Maria Jane Fox, the daughter and coheiress of Alderman John Fox, JP

I’ve always been fascinated by the rules for designing and describing coats of arms. As I previously confessed, the book that has survived the longest on my shelves is a battered pocket Manual of Heraldry that I found in a used bookstore in Vancouver while still in elementary school. 


My ancient primer still covers all the basics. But fortunately for readers – or unfortunately – nowadays I also have desktop access to Google Images, Wikipedia, and the exhaustive Complete Guide to Heraldry by eminent Victorian Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, Barrister-at-Law.

Fig. 4:  Azure, a cinquefoil ermine within a bordure engrailed ermine

When a family obtains their first coat of arms, they usually start with something simple. Then as descendants proliferate, different branches of the family can distinguish themselves by adding additional features. For example, the emblem of an ermine cinquefoil (a five-petaled flower) on a blue background has long been associated with English names like Ashley and Astley. The gentleman represented by the Ashley arms pictured above has added an ermine border. 

In the shield below, another Ashley branch has instead added three gold stars, which are called “mullets” in the strange Franglais of medieval heraldry:

Fig. 5:  Azure, a cinquefoil ermine between three mullets or

In addition to increased complexity as descendants divide, family unions also can complicate a coat of arms’ design. One of marriage’s primary purposes is to consolidate wealth. A lucrative merger justifies commissioning a new shield that highlights both families’ contributions. Family arms can be combined in various arrangements depending on aesthetics and emphasis, such as side to side, top to bottom, superimposed, or quarterly. 

For example, Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt. had a younger brother, Sir Francis Ashley, MP. Sir Francis’s daughter and heir Dorothy Ashley married Denzil Holles, 1st Baron Holles of Ifield. Their son Francis Holles, 2nd Baron Holles, was born a year before the death of his great-uncle Sir Anthony. Lord Holles chose a coat of arms that combined the Holles family shield, in the top left and bottom right quadrants, with the Ashleys’ cinquefoil in the top right and bottom left corners:

Fig. 6:  Stamp with the arms of Francis Holles, 2nd Baron Holles (1627 - 1690)

Quarterly, 1st & 4th ermine, two piles in point sable with a crescent as a difference (for Holles); 2nd & 3rd azure, a cinquefoil ermine within a bordure engrailed ermine (for Ashley)

In heraldryspeak the term “quartering” is not literal. To the contrary, quartering can refer to any number of individual “fields” added to a shield. 

During a remodel of the Temple family seat at Stowe, Sir John Soames designed an Armorial with 726 quarterings that represented the distinguished ancestors of the Duke of Buckingham & Chandos. The Armorial combines the arms of the Temple, Nugent, Brydges, Chandos, and Grenville families, which include ten variations of the English Royal arms, as well as the shields of other famous nobles from English history like Spencer, Mowbray, Mortimer, Percy, and De Grey.

Fig. 7: Detail from plans for the ceiling of the Gothic Library at historic Stowe House (1805)

The name Ashley is an example of a “topological” or geographic surname because it was first used by Anglo-Saxon families who lived near ash trees. Other English surnames reflect occupational, patronymic, or descriptive origins, like “Smith,” “Johnson,” and “Short.” Regardless of the original source of a surname, however, family history often focuses on real property. Plus sexism. 


The lavish seventeeth-century tomb of Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt., Figure 2 above, is topped by Sir Anthony’s coat of arms at the time of his death. The thirteen fields on his escutcheon collectively tell the story of historic St. Giles House and its attached 5,000 acres of Dorset, sort of like a visual title search report. Despite passing through the grip of various profligate gamblers as well as a few distinguished statesmen, for over a thousand years the property has changed hands only by inheritance and never by purchase. 


Early records show the property was owned by a family named Malmayne. However, the Malmaynes eventually ran out of male heirs, and the property passed to the Plecy family when Matilda Malmayne married Sir John Plecy. By 1375 the manor was known as St. Giles Upwymbourne Plecy. The Plecy arms feature six red “annulets” or rings arranged on a silver background (argent, six annulets gules three two and one).


Unfortunately, Sir John’s son Sir Edmund died without a male heir. The property passed to Joan Plecy, who married Sir John Hamelyn, Sheriff of Somerset. The Hamelyn arms consist of three bulls on a silver field (argent, three bulls passant sable armed and unguled or). John’s only heir, the euphoniously named Egidia Hamelyn, married Robert Ashley in 1438. It was a well-timed and lucrative merger. Robert brought wealth. Egidia brought the St. Giles Wimborne house. The estate has belonged to the Ashleys, Ashley Coopers, and Ashley-Coopers ever since. 


With the benefit of Egidia and Robert’s combined fortunes, the family thrived under the Lancasters, Yorks, and Tudors. When Robert’s great-great-great grandson Sir Henry Ashley III died, St. Giles House passed to his cousin Anthony Ashley, a gay government bureaucrat.

Fig. 8:  Detail from the tomb of Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt. (Fig. 1)

By the time of his death in 1628, the new owner of St. Giles House had married, produced a daughter, and been named a knight-baronet by James I. Sir Anthony’s family escutcheon became cluttered with a total of nine non-Ashley quarterings on the shield. There’s also a superimposed miniature “inescutcheon” featuring one red hand, which is the arms of Ulster (argent, a hand couped gules). All baronets are allowed to add the Ulster shield as an “honorable augmentation” to remind everyone the fees from the crowns initial creation of the rank of baronet went to King James’s efforts to subdue Northern Ireland and fill it with Protestants.


A quartering containing the traditional Ashley cinquefoil-on-blue has the prime position in the top left corner of the shield, and is repeated in the bottom right corner. Two of the other fields on the top row each shows three black bulls. The bulls represent Sir Anthony’s Hamelyn ancestors. The first herd, in the top left corner, is set against a silver background, while the second threesome cavorts on a gold field. Between the bulls is a quartering representing Sir Anthony’s wife Jane Okeover, the mother of his daughter and sole heir Anne: an ermine background topped with three gold coins on a red band. Like the Ashley quarterings, the Okeover arms repeat in the bottom row (ermine, on a chief gules three bezants or). 


Presumably the remaining quarterings on Sir Anthony’s shield represent other brides whose dowry justified a trip to the College of Heralds to update the family arms, including the Malmayne family who originally bought or stole the St. Giles Wimborne estate.

Fig. 9:  Detail from John Guillim’s A Display of Heraldrie (1660) 

Gules, a bend engrailed between six lions rampant or, as an Honourable Distinction the arms of Ulster

“Cooper” originated as an occupational surname for someone who made barrels. Sir Anthony Ashley’s grandson and namesake Anthony Ashley Cooper inherited the Baronetcy of Rockbourne when young Anthony’s father Sir John Cooper, Bt. died in 1629. 

The younger Sir Anthony also inherited his father’s simple Cooper coat of arms, Figure 9. He used dads red-with-gold-lions-and-wiggly-stripe shield until King Charles II elevated Sir Anthony to the peerage in 1661.

Fig 10:  Arms of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722). Rachel Weisz played his wife Sarah in the 2018 art house favorite The Favourite.

Sable a lion rampant argent, in a canton as an Honourable Distinction the Cross of St. George, argent, a cross gules

As Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt.’s tomb decoration exemplifies, what starts as a simple family coat of arms – like the Ashley ermine cinquefoil on a blue background – can easily become cluttered by strategic mergers among the nobility. 


Few families generate anything like the hundreds of quarterings on the Gothic Library Armorial at Stowe House that is depicted in Figure 7. That took centuries. Nevertheless, look what happened in only three generations between the arms of the 1st Duke of Marlborough, who died without heirs through a male line (Fig. 10), and the arms of his grandson the third Duke:

Fig. 11:  Arms of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706 - 1758)

Eventually someone has the bright idea of consolidation. A similar process happens with law firms. For example, after a series of earlier mergers and renamings, Seattle’s Davis, Wright, Jones & Todd merged with Portland’s Ragen, Tremaine, Kreiger in 1990. Their combined name was selectively pared down to Davis Wright Tremaine  my former firm.


As you can see from Figure 17 below, at some point between the tenures of the third Duke of Marlborough and his grandson the fifth duke, someone quietly deleted all their ancestors’ quarterings except for Spencer and Churchill. Then in 1817, the Prince Regent authorized George Spencer, 5th Duke of Marlborough, to “use the surname Churchill, in addition to and after that of Spencer.” The purpose of the crown’s license was to perpetuate the surname of the duke’s “illustrious ancestor” who “by long series of transcendent and heroic achievements” had added “imperishable lustre” to the Churchill name.

The Prince Regent also directed the College of Arms to register a quarterly shield that reversed the positions of the Churchill and Spencer arms, and added the Honourable Augmentation of a superimposed royal shield representing the former royal manor of Woodstock, now Blenheim Palace  the gift of Queen Anne and a grateful nation after the first dukes dazzling military victories. 

The fifth Duke of Marlborough’s descendants have used this shield as their coat of arms ever since:

Fig. 12:  Detail from gates of Blenheim Palace, originally displayed in the Crystal Palace at the Great Exposition (1851) 
Fig. 13:  Arms of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874 – 1874)
Fig. 14:  Arms of Sir Winston's cousin Lord Charles James Spencer-Churchill, 12th Duke of Marlborough (born 1955) 

Shield in Figures 12, 13 & 14:  Quarterly, 1st and 4th sable a lion rampant argent, on a canton argent a cross gules (for Churchill); 2nd and 3rd quarterly argent, gules a fret or, on a bend sable three escallops argent (for Spencer); over all in the centre chief point an inscutcheon argent charged with the Cross of St George surmounted by another escutcheon azure charged with three fleur-de-lis two and one or

As with merging law firms and royal licensees, when families level up they have the opportunity to tidy the letterhead. After King Charles II promoted Sir Anthony’s grandson Lord Ashley from a baron to an earl in 1672, the Earl of Shaftesbury asked the College of Arms for a family shield that simply combined Ashley with Cooper:

Fig. 15:  Bookplate of the 4th Earl of Shaftesbury (1711 - 1771) 

Escutcheon: Quarterly, 1 & 4, argent, three bulls passant sable, armed and unguled or (for Ashley); 2 & 3, gules, a bend engrailed between six lions rampant or (for Cooper). Crest: On a chapeau gules, turned up ermine, a bull sable ducally gorged, armed and unguled or. Supporters: On the dexter, a bull sable, armed, unuguled ducally gorged and chain reflexed over the back or; on the sinister, a tablot azure, ducally gorged or. Motto:“Love, serve.”

During the family’s heraldic consolidation, Lord Shaftesbury abandoned his grandfather’s Ashley cinquefoil-on-blue shield. Instead, out of all his maternal forebears, the earl chose the Hamelyn triple bulls to represent the Ashley side of his family. Then he doubled down on the new theme by adding a black bull with gold horns and hooves as his crest on top, as well as yet another bull as one of the supporters holding up the shield. (The second supporter is a tablot hound, a predescessor of the beagle.)


Perhaps his lordships choice was purely artistic, or it reflects an allergy to the fur or flower in the traditional Ashley shield. Sometimes you’re in the mood for something more butch. Or maybe he wanted a reminder that the best thing the Ashleys ever did was marry into the Hamelyn family and acquire lovely St. Giles House. As someone who happens to be both an Ashley and a Taurus, I’m glad he picked the bulls.

Fig. 16:  Detail from the Ashley Cooper arms
Argent, three bulls passant sable, armed and unguled or

In addition to simplifying his family coat of arms, the Earl of Shaftesbury also formally adopted the double name that his descendants continue to bear today:  Ashley Cooper. 


In the Anglo-American tradition, a “double name” is a surname that consists of two separate words as a single unit. They’re pronounced with a single primary emphasis, like “Mayflower’s” rather than “May flowers.” In contrast with your first and middle name or names, a double surname automatically passes to your descendants.

The practice was particularly common in Wales because the Welsh only had a handful of surnames to choose from (Jones, Lloyd, Davies, Williams, etc.). You can therefore safely alphabetize each of the following personnel files under the letter that begins the “penultimate” or second-to-last word:  David Lloyd George, Ralph Vaughn Williams, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.


In England, double surnames are generally referred to by the intimidating nickname of “double-barreled” names. Double-barreled surnames resulted from a shotgun wedding of sorts among the gentry. An expanded surname can preserve to some extent an illustrious family name that would otherwise have gone completely extinct along with the last male descendant bearing the name – just like so many of the family names represented by the quarterings illustrated in Fig. 7 and Fig. 8 above. 

Triple surnames are possible but uncommon. The five-hyphenated record is usually credited to the nobleman whose heritage inspired the extravagant armorial in Figure 7:  Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 3rd (and last) Duke of Buckingham & Chandos, 2nd (and last) Marquess of Buckingham, 3rd Earl Temple of Stowe, 5th (and last) Earl Nugent, 7th Viscount Cobham, and 10th Lord Kinloss.


Sometimes when a man marries an heiress he has enough confidence in his masculinity to append her surname to his own. Or at least to add it to his children’s surname.

Fig. 17:  Pre-1817 bookplate of George Spencer, 5th Duke of Marlborough (1766 - 1840)
Shield:  Quarterly, 1st and 4th argent, gules a fret or, on a bend sable three escallops argent (Spencer); 2nd and 3rd, sable a lion rampant argent, on a canton argent a cross gules (Churchill)

In the United Kingdom, double-barreled names can be either hyphenated or unhyphenated, which easily causes confusion. File Kristen Scott Thomas under S, Phoebe Waller-Bridge under W, and Helena Bonham Carter under B (although Ms. Bonham Carter has been quoted as saying her hyphen is optional). Autism researcher Sir Simon Baron-Cohen hyphenates. His Kazakhstani cousin Sasha does not. 

Modern Ashley-Coopers now insist on hyphens. In contrast, as Fig. 17, Fig. 13,  Fig. 14, and Fig. 15 suggest, dropping the hyphen can be the final step before switching to a favourite single surname. 

Fig. 18:  Leishman family mug available for purchase online
Shield: Gules, three swans argent; Motto: Industriae manus (“hands of industry”)


Here in the States, double-barreled surnames are generally called “hyphenated” names. Our modern phenomenon uses sheer punctuation to unite two families, without any cash or real estate directly involved. Just the names, and the families, and the rest of their baggage.

Fig. 19:  Or, rose gules, seeded or, barbed vert. Aber auf Deutsch.

As Arthur Fox-Davies noted in A Complete Guide to Heraldry, traditionally the most important name in any double-barreled surname was the last name in the series, like placing the verb at the end of a German sentence: 


In the coat of arms for a double name, the arms for the last and most important name are the first and fourth quarterings. By a rare exception Lord Shaftesbury bears the arms of Ashley in the first and fourth quarters, and Cooper in the second and third. 


Before literacy, elementary school queues, phone books, and the internet, no one really made alphabetizing a priority, and husbands called all the shots. Things are very different nowadays. Google any random bridal website and you’ll learn “there are no set rules or etiquette when it comes to deciding exactly how your hyphenated last name will read.” According to Brides magazineThe only decision is which surname sounds better before the hyphen and which should come after.

Fig. 20:  Quarterly, 1 & 4 gules, three swans argent (for Leishman); 2 & 3 or, rose gules, seeded or, barbed vert (for Lehmann)
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If we knew then what we know now, we probably would not give Eleanor her hyphenated surname. “Leishman” and “Lehmann” are too similar, yet no one can remember which ends with the double nn. Regardless of word order or hyphenation, our combined surnames sound like they belong in the PBS sponsorship for a Wall Street brokerage firm. 

In any event, filling out forms with a long hyphenated name is an invitation to a lifetime of own-goal confusion. Let’s just say that after a few years’ real world experience we gave both of the other kids the plain surname “Leishman.” Eleanor’s unique double surname gradually disappeared as a practical matter, with no sign of the Lehmann barrel except on formal documents. A few years later my ex got married and changed his surname anyway. 

Fig 21:  Quarterly, 1st gules three swans argent (for Leishman); 2nd argent, three bulls passant sable, armed and unguled or (for Ashley); 3rd or, rose gules, seeded or, barbed vert (for Lehmann); 4th sable, a lion rampant argent, on a canton argent a cross gules (for Churchill)

Despite my personal preference for keeping things simple, I hope Eleanor marries some earnest hippie boy who insists on keeping both his parents surnames. For example, Figure 21 represents what a joint coat of arms would look like if my daughter married someone named “Harry Ashley-Churchill.”   


I look forward to spoiling my quadruple-hyphenated grandchildren. Tom Daley can teach me to knit heraldic onesies. Nevertheless, in contrast with the demands of my seventeenth-century namesake and fellow homosexual Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt., no one will need to be named Roger, Ashley, or Leishman as a condition of staying in the will.

Fig 22:  Arms of the last Duke of Buckingham & Chandos (1823 – 1889), located in the ceiling of the Headmaster’s Study at The Stowe School

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

How Roger Got His Middle Name

You can call yourself whatever you want, unless you’re trying to commit some kind of fraud. But certain professions have jealously guarded the power to assign real names: clerics, lawyers, parents, and physicians. 

Even before I became an English Major, then a lawyer, then a father, then a cluster of DSM-5 mental illness symptoms, I already knew names have magical power. As a child I was drawn to Ursula K. LeGuin’s Wizard of Earthsea books. LeGuin described a world of dragons and islands where merely knowing someone’s true name gave you power over them. In the real world, naming someone is an extraordinary privilege. It’s one of the challenging blessings of being a parent. 


I’ve finally found a mobile voice recognition app that fits into my writing process. Walking on the Boardwalk the other day you would have seen me pretending to be Dick Tracy, or a normal person with a job or friends, as I whispered to my wrist:


“Roger” is my name. “Papa” is my title. “Leishman” is my clan. “Gay” is my tribe. “Vancouver” is my home. “English Major” is my philosophy. “Writer” is my vocation. “Lawyer” is my profession. “Mormons” are my people. “Jews” and “Anglicans” are my ‘people. LGBT or “Queer-identified” is my community. “Disabled” is my new community…. 

Bear interrupted me. “What’s ‘Ashley’?”


Nothing came to mind immediately. I thought for a couple of seconds.


“‘Ashley’ is just my middle name.”

St Giles House, the home of the Earls of Shaftesbury 
The Ashley-Coopers, Earls of Shaftesbury, came to prominence after the Industrial Revolution when they were involved in bettering the conditions for labourers.” 
[Ed. Note: After only a thousand years of privilege. Noblesse oblige.]

“Ashley” originally was a topographical Anglo-Saxon surname. It comes from the Old English word aesc, which means ash.” When folks started using last names during the Dark Ages, the original Ashleys probably lived near ash treesThe Ashleys in the earliest historical record were a wealthy family that owned Ashley Place in Wiltshire even before the invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066. However, some Ashleys may also have a Norman connection. A 1198 census identified a Walter de Esseleia” as residing in both Normandy and Gloucestershire. In 1273, the second edition of the Domesday Book listed Robert de Aslegh of Devon; Henry de Assele of Norfolk; and Walter de Asseleghe of Somerset. 

“Ashley” showed up for the first time as a male given name in sixteenth century documents. A female variant appeared three centuries later, but was spelled “Ashleigh.” The boy’s name Ashley became popular during the eighteen century after the career of Lord Ashley, the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury. We share the same middle name, and fathers named John. 

Anthony Ashley Cooper was born exactly four hundred years ago, in July 1621, to John Cooper and Anne Cooper, née Anne Ashley. John was a landowner and a Member of Parliament. As a fundraising deviceKing James I had recently created the new hereditary dignity of knight-baronet, a category below nobles but above knightsIn 1622, toddler Anthony’s father became Sir John Cooper, 1st Baronet of Rockbourne.   

Sir John’s wife Lady Cooper was the only child of Sir Anthony Ashley, the 1st Baronet of Wimborne St. Giles, and the sole heir to St. Giles House and the ancient Ashley family fortune. Lady Cooper’s grandfather, also named Sir Anthony Ashley, had been a mere non-hereditary knight. He was one of a long line of wealthy Ashley gentlemen who served the Plantagenets, Tudors, and Stuarts. In 1622, King James named Anne’s seventy-year-old father a knight-baronet in the same round of desperate royal fund-raising as his son-in-law’s title. Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt., the first and last Baronet of Wimborne St. Giles, was evidently gay. His contemporaries described Grandpa Ashley as having “never loved any but boyes.” See Young, “James VI and I: Time for a Reconsideration?” Journal of British Studies, 51(3), 540-567 (2012).

As a condition of their marriage, John and Anne agreed if the family were ever raised to the peerage it would take the Ashley name. The couple also agreed to name their son after his maternal grandfather. When young Anthony became an orphan at age eight, he inherited both the Ashley and Cooper fortunes, and succeeded to his father’s non-peer title as Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, 2nd Baronet of Rockbourne. Sir Anthony enrolled at Oxford at age 15. Despite his privileged station he never graduated, leaving the university after fomenting what Wikipedia describes as “a minor riot.” Instead, Sir Anthony became a lawyer.


Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, Bt.’s five-decade career in politics began with his election to Parliament at age 19, and spanned the entire English Civil War. Sir Anthony initially supported King Charles I. He raised a regiment of infantry and a troop of cavalry and personally led them in the royalist army, as well as accepting various governmental positions from the crown. A few years later Sir Anthony switched to the winning parliamentary side, claiming that he’d become concerned about the king’s increasingly papist tendencies. He served on Oliver Cromwells Council of State before eventually switching back to the royalist faction a decade later. 

Sir Anthony was one of the twelve Members of Parliament who traveled to Holland to offer the crown to Charles II. Upon his coronation, King Charles elevated his loyal subject to the peerage as the first Baron Ashley of Wimborne St. Giles. Lord Ashley. All his gay grandfather’s dreams came true.

Anthony Ashley Cooper (1621-1683)

For the most part, Lord Ashley successfully timed his flip-flops between royalists, puritans, restorationists, and rebels – other than a brief stint in the Tower of London, and a final exile to the Continent.

During the reign of Charles II, Lord Ashley was one of England’s leading statesmen. He served as Lord Chancellor, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Privy Counsellor, Lord President of the Council, and First Lord of Trade. He was also the Chief of eight Lords Proprietors granted the original Province of Carolina, which according to the king’s patent conveyed to them all the land between Virginia and Florida, plus Barbados, and stretched across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. In Lord Ashley’s honour, the Ashley River and Cooper River join at Charleston Harbor.


Have you political history buffs heard of the “CABAL ministry,” a group of five powerful ministers under Charles II who represented an early example of cabinet-style government? The CABAL also introduced into common usage the word “cabal,” which means a secret clique. The five-letter word actually entered English from the Hebrew kabala, via French and medieval Latin, well before the seventeenth century. But the word conveniently corresponded to the five members of the CABAL ministry:  Lord Clifford, Lord Arlington, Lord Buckingham, Lord Ashley, and Lord Lauderdale. 


As a member of the House of Commons and then the House of Lords, Lord Ashley was at the center of numerous parliamentary debates, often taking progressive positions. He founded the Whig Party. He authored numerous important public documents with the “assistance” of his secretary John Locke. Ultimately Lord Ashley was outmaneuvered by his peers, lost favor with Charles II, and broke with the Stuarts. He started plotting with the posh freedom fighters who brought us 1688’s Glorious Revolution, William & Mary, and eventually die Windsor dynastie


Unfortunately, victory for the Revolution came five years too late to vindicate the first Lord Ashley’s final flip-flop. He died in Amsterdam in 1683, two months after fleeing England in poor health.

Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt. (1551-1628)
Grandpas fabulous tomb at Wimborne St. Giles Church

In 1672, when Lord Ashley was in both royal and political favour, Charles II announced a new round of honours. In addition to remaining the 1st Baron Ashley of Wimborne St. Giles and the 2nd Baronet of Rockbourne, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper became the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury. As a bonus, the king also named him the 1st Baron Cooper of Paulet.


Each eldest son in the family has been christened Anthony in honour of the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury’s gay maternal grandfather. Only two out of twelve earls had other first names. Both were second sons who unexpectedly succeeded their childless elder brothers:  the 6th earl, playground bully victim “Cropley”; and trendily named but strangely fated “Nicholas,” who is the current Earl of Shaftesbury, etc. 

To commemorate the first earl-baron-baronet’s straight grandfather, the multi-hyphenated peer also has the title “Lord Cooper,” although generally he goes by “Lord Shaftesbury.” His daughters are referred to by their first names as “Lady _____.” Any younger sons are referred to as “The Honorable ______.” Since 1672, “Lord Ashley” has been the title of the earl’s eldest son and heir apparent.

Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Picadilly Circus
Like nearby Shaftesbury Avenue, the fountain is named for distinguished Victorian philanthropist Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, etc.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, the first Lord Ashley, died in Holland in 1683. He married three times. His first wife, the daughter of a well-connected baron, died childless. His second wife, who died at age 19 shortly after their son Anthony’s birth, was the daughter of the Earl of Exeter, and the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth’s chief advisor. Lord Shaftesbury was survived by his third wife, née Lady Margaret Spencer, who came from the same ultra-rich-and-blue-blooded family as Princess Diana.


A couple of centuries later, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, 11th Baronet of Rockbourne, etc., married his third wife in Holland in 2002. Like his illustrious progenitor, the 10th Earl also died on the Continent, in 2004. However, this was not the death of a distinguished statesman and freedom fighter.

Lady Frances Ashley-Cooper; her nephew Lord Nicholas Ashley-Cooper, 12th Earl of Shaftesbury; and his mother Christina, Dowager Countess of Shaftesbury (2007) 

Nowadays the family uses a hyphen in their surname. Just like the Mountbatten-Windsors. 

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, etc., was twenty-two years old when he inherited various titles from his grandfather in 1961. Although descended from the oldest of English families, Lord Shaftesbury was only attracted to foreign women. According to his obituary, as a student at Eton he described English debutantes in the school magazine as “round-shouldered, unsophisticated garglers of pink champagne.”


The 10th Earl met his first wife, Bianca Maria de Paolis, on a skiing holiday when he was twenty-seven. Although they divorced ten year later, she continued to use the name “Contessa Bianca Shaftesbury” until her death four decades later. 


Lord Shaftesbury’s second wife was the daughter of the Swedish ambassador to Germany. Christina, Countess of Shaftesbury, bore two sons during their twenty-five year marriage. However, in 2000 the earl had a midlife crisis. He divorced the countess, abandoned the family business, left England, and embarked on an impressive career of playboy debauchery.


The 10th Earl met his third wife in 2001 at a tawdry establishment on the French Riviera. The former Jamila Ben M’Barek, who was born in Paris to Tunisian-Moroccan parents, became another Countess of Shaftesbury when the couple married in November 2002. But the couple soon separated, and Lord Shaftesbury found a new exotic girlfriend by April 2004.


In November 2004, Lord Shaftesbury traveled to the Riviera to meet with his estranged wife and discuss their pending divorce. He was last seen checking out of his Cannes hotel on November 5, 2004. The earl’s girlfriend and lawyer eventually reported his disappearance to the police. The family and authorities originally assumed he’d been kidnapped, but there were no clues about his whereabouts. 


In February 2005, after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital, Jamila confessed that her brother had bludgeoned the earl to death. The 10th Earl’s decomposed corpse was found in a ravine near Cannes on April 7, 2005.

Anthony Cooper-Ashley, 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, etc. (1938 - 2004)
and Jamila MBarek Cooper-Ashley, Countess of Shaftesbury 

“Prostitute wormed her way into Earl of Shaftesbury's life then killed him for his millions. 

Now his son vows to strip her of the family title.” Daily Mail

Technically, twenty-seven-year-old Anthony Nils Christian Ashley-Cooper – Lord Ashley – became the 11th Earl of Shaftesbury, etc., when his father died in November 2004. But no one knew for sure until the body was discovered in April 2005. In any event, the unmarried and childless 11th Earl enjoyed the title and estate for only few weeks. He unexpectedly suffered a fatal heart attack on May 15, 2005 while in New York City


Lord Shaftesbury was visiting his younger brother Nicholas, who had moved to the East Village several years before to become a successful “techno disc jockey going by the handle Nick AC.” Apparently the taste for foreign women is hereditary. Nicholas Edmund Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, etc., subsequently married a German veterinary surgeon. Together the couple restored St. Giles House. They have two daughters and a son. The only person in the line of succession to the earldom is ten-year-old Lord Ashley, whose full name is Anthony Francis Wolfgang Ashley-Cooper.

The Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury and their son Anthony, Lord Ashley (2016)

Photographed in the library of St. Giles House

with a portrait of the first Earl of Shaftesbury

“Ashley” is indeed my middle name. But it’s also part of my own family’s heritage.

Our Mormon pioneer ancestor John Campbell Leishman was born to John Leishman and Jean Campbell Leishman in 1807 in Shield Hill, a small town in Stirling, Scotland. Diligent genealogist relatives have traced our Leishman forebears back to Stirlingshire during the sixteenth century and even earlier. Most were farmers who shared common pastures with the rest of the community. Salt of the earth. Unimaginative name-givers.


Unfortunately, miners displaced farmers during the Industrial Revolution when coal was discovered near Shield Hill. By the time John’s younger sister Mary was born in 1816, the Leishman family had moved to Johnstone, a mill town outside of Glasgow. John married a local girl named Jane Allan. In the 1850s the family encountered Mormon missionaries. They were inspired to sail across the Atlantic, walk across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, and join the Saints in Utah. Brigham Young sent the Leishmans north to settle Wellsville in Cache Valley.


John Campbell Leishman and Jane Allan Leishman gave each of their sons the blandest of first names (James, David, John, Robert, William, and Thomas), and identical middle names (Allan). Their youngest son, my great-great grandfather Thomas Allan Leishman, was born in Scotland in 1843, a few years before the family emigrated to Zion. In 1864, Thomas married Elizabeth Cameron Adamson, the daughter of another Scottish family in Wellsville. They gave four of their daughters and seven of their sons all the same middle name: Adamson. But Thomas and Elizabeth named their eldest daughter Ellen Cameron Leishman, and named their second son John Allan Leishman after Thomas’s father. My great-grandfather was born in Wellsville in 1869, just two months after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in the neighboring Utah valley where I went to high school. 


John Allan Leishman married Ellen Maria Perkins in 1890. Congenitally lacking imagination, John and Ellen gave their four boys and three girls all the same middle name, including my grandfather Ernest Perkins Leishman, who was born in 1907. His older sister Rosella Perkins Leishman and his older brother Pvt. Carl Perkins Leishman both died in the 1918-19 flu epidemic. Grandpa married Marjorie Sutton in 1932.


My grandparents named my father John after his grandfather, who had died a couple of years earlier. Following family tradition, my grandparents gave three of their sons the middle name Sutton. But they   wanted to give my father a middle name that started with an “A” to match his namesake. Rather than recycle “John Allan,” in a surprising burst of creativity my grandmother instead chose “Ashley” – after Ashley Wilkes, Scarlett O’Hara’s gallant suitor in Gone With the Wind. Matinee idol Leslie Howard played Ashley in the blockbuster 1939 movie. Howard died in June 1943 when his commercial airline flight from London to Lisbon was shot down by the Luftwaffe. 

Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard)
and Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland)
Gazing up at the Ashley-Leishman forehead

I don’t know what magical influence movies have over baby naming nowadays, but most people in North America think “Ashley” is a girl’s name. 

Before the release of Gone With the Wind, the last time Ashley cracked the list of Top 1000 boy names was in 1927. Barely – it was #990. Then in 1940, the year my father was born, Ashley reentered the charts at #904, and began a gradual climb. In 1960, the name was #808. When I was born in 1964, Ashley had inched up to the #735 boy name. By 1980 we made it to #282. However, boy Ashley fell out of the Top 1000 list forever in 1995.


What happened? Girl cooties.


Girl Ashley first appeared in the American Top 1000 the year I was born, at #771. In 1970 Ashley was the #305 female baby name. By 1980 the name reached #40, and kept climbing. Ashley remained one of the top three girl names from 1984 through 1997 – even longer than subsequent streaks by “Jennifer,” “Sophia,” and “Emily.” But parents are fickle. Girl Ashley last made the Top 10 in 2005, the year my daughters were born. By 2020, girl Ashley had fallen all the way to #154. Nevertheless, that’s twice as high in the USA popularity rankings as boy Ashley ever reached.


Meanwhile, across the pond “Ashley” remains prominently a male name. A butch one. Most of the famous Ashleys in the U.K. are soccer players. The less uncommon British female name is generally spelled “Ashleigh.”

I’m the eldest of four boys. When I was born in 1964, my parents gave me my father’s middle name. When my oldest nephew was born on my father’s birthday, my brother and his wife named him Michael Ashley Leishman.


By the time my daughter Eleanor was born in 2005, “Ashley” was definitely a girl name. Nevertheless, I thought it would be confusing to use her fathers, grandfathers, and cousins middle name. Instead, we named her Eleanor Eileen – because “Eileen” happened to be both her grandmothers’ middle name


In 2011 we adopted a son. I’ve already told the story of how Oliver got his new first name. Like my Leishman grandparents, we decided to give him a middle name that started with A. We chose my favorite boy’s A-name:  Alexander.

Sometimes baby names simply disappear from fashion, often forever. I don’t expect a fresh crop of Gertrudes. Other baby names become nonbinary, or they transition between genders. The only male “Ashley” in my personal circle of acquaintance sings in Vancouver Men’s Chorus. As with so many other aspects of my life, my middle name is a family-centered outlier. 

Ashley as a percentage of boy and girl baby names

Up next:  "Hyphenation, or How Eleanor Got Her Name" (8/26/21)