Post-England: Richmond, The Dane Law, Vicereines and No Worries

Post England: Richmond, The Dane Law, Vicereines and No Worries.


I’ve always liked the town name Richmond (as in Richmond-on-Thames and Richmond, Yorks) but have only recently delved into its etymology. The “rich” part is often misunderstood as “wealthy” but in fact the derivation is rather from “rich” in the sense of powerful (“rice” in Anglo-Saxon means “strong”, “powerful”, also “might”, power”, “authority” becoming “reich” in modern German). The “mond” is also interesting. It’s been interpreted as “mound” (as describing a strong fortification on a hill). I’m not completely convinced by this, however, as I’m having difficulty tracing “mound” so far back, even if Richmond Castle was definitely on a hill (been there, climbed that). Another possibility is that the Normans took the name with them – there is at least one “Richemont” in or not so far from Normandy. Dauzat and Rostaing’s “Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de lieux en France” gives the origin as the name of a German man, in this case an Old German “personal quality” name meaning “strong protector”, the “mond” in this case developing from “mynd” (as in the Swedish “formyndare”, person having authority, guarding interests etc. which has cognates in older/modern German).

I don’t yet possess a copy of the English Place Name Society’s North Yorkshire volume but I shall try to acquire it soon as it without doubt has a good history of the development of the place name.

The Dane Law

I’m interested in the Dane Law and the history and development of the Danish-speaking population in England before and after the Conquest (1066) but written sources seem tantalisingly few (Frank Stenton, a major figure in the development of Anglo-Saxon studies wrote (early in C20) a couple of volumes on the Dane Law though, which are listed in Libris). However, in a local studies library in Grimsby, I did find a reprint of the Domesday Book for areas of Lincolnshire, William the Conqueror’s detailed account of landownership of his conquered realm, listing former landowners and Norman replacements. The Lincoln volume is of especial interest as Lincolnshire was in the Dane Law but I believe less subject to the Harrying of the North when William laid waste large areas of recalcitrant Yorkshire, the general turbulence making it hard to draw firm conclusions from later sources about pre-Conquest conditions). The Scandinavian names in the Lincoln volume may therefore tell us more about land ownership etc. before the Normans arrived. The alphabetical list of landowners has a very satisfying Scandinavian feel “Sweinn, Svertingr….Thoraldr, Thorfrothr, Thorgils, Thorir, son of Roaldr…Thorsteinn, Topi, see Halfdan, Ulfr, Tosti..Ulfr, Svartbrandt’s father”. It would be interesting to plot the distribution of Scandinavian names on a map, comparing with place names, and looking at type of land ownership to see what one could find about the relationship between the Anglo-Saxons and Danes at this time.

Other bits and pieces

I learnt the word “Vicereine”, which is female equivalent of “Viceroy” or the wife of the Viceroy. This from a visit to Lord Curzon’s family seat in Derbyshire (Lord Curzon was Viceroy of India (the Sovereign’s representative in the late 19th, early 20th century).

Also amused to see “No worries” used on a railway poster explaining what to do in a particular situation. Interesting how some slang expressions make their way into the general language when their “bearers” grow older and put their own imprint on official language.

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