Medieval “Spelling”: Butler vs. Boteler

Boteler vs. Butler

If the article on Wikipedia for the Lady Eleanor Talbot, daughter (in-law) of her father (father-in-law) shows that his “surname” is “Boteler” — why is this not used in this article? The Butler family and the Boteler family were completely different; it’s a HUGE difference. The Boteler’s are quoted as such in plenty of sources including the official site for Sudeley Castle; Lord Boteler of Sudeley to be specific. What sources are being used to confirm that Butler should be used in this article? The Oxford DNB article for her father states Boteler, Ralph, first Baron Sudeley (c.1394–1473). The Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley by Emma Dent (Lady of Sudeley), which is kept at Sudeley Castle, also states Boteler. — User X

“The Butler family and the Boteler family were completely different; it’s a HUGE difference”. I’m sorry, but that’s utter nonsense. There was no such thing as “correct” spelling at this time in history (see for example Spelling of Shakespeare’s name). Boteler and Butler are the same name (in the Titulus Regius her name is spelled “Elianor Butteler”). Such names only become differentiated when a standard spelling gets established, but that’s not until centuries after this period. Most sources referring to her spell the name “Butler”, so per WP:NAME that’s what we should use. The quotation at the end from Michael Hicks’s, English Political Culture in the Fifteenth Century uses the spelling as he publishes it.
In the 19th Century it was common for posh families to adopt a more unusual spelling to differentiate them from the common herd. A famous case is the Wellesley family, who were previously called “Wesley”, a name associated with lower-class nonconformism. It would not surprise me one bit if the Butlers decided they were really Botelers to avoid the horrifying suggestion that they descended from servants! I agree that this sometimes produces odd anomalies – if one family member is typically spelled one way while their brother or father is spelled differently, it can cause confusion. I had a similar difficulty deciding on the spelling for the recently created Lewes Lewknor article. See the Talk:Lewes Lewknor page. — user Y

Update – using the online academic research library Questia I found a total of one reference to her as “Eleanor Boteler” in the whole library. There were numerous references to “Eleanor Butler”. Some were to different women with the same name. Using combinations with “Edward” I found eight clearly referring to her. There may be more in which the name Edward does not appear on the same page. — user Y

This is a bit of a digression, but I knew someone surnamed “Butler” whose family name had been changed from “Le Boteler” by his father and was changed back by his brother! — user Z

Ah yes, slipping in a “le” helps to give it that Norman-knight quality. Of course the Brontë family were the masters of name gentrification, managing to mutate their moniker from Irish to English and then up again from Brunty to Brontë with that hard-to-place diacritic creating an air of vaguely continental but undeniable gentility. User Y
BTW, even your own source, The Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley by Emma Dent, spells it Butler! See p.128. User Y
I already looked at that book — Emma Dent uses “Butler” for Ralph Boteler, 1st Lord? No she doesn’t. The name is CLEARLY spelled Boteler. A recorded close role from Edward IV’s reign in that book clearly states that the family name is Boteler on pg 124. The Boteler’s and Butler’s don’t even have the same ancestry. At the point of 1270 — the ancestor of the Butler’s of Ormonde was Sir Edmund of Carrick Butler. The Boteler’s ancestor at that time was Sir William Boteler, 1st Lord Boteler. Their coat of arms are also completely different. That can be seen on Sudeley Castle’s own timeline. Actually on page 128, if you actually read it, it states Lady Eleanor Butler, the widowed daughter-in-law of James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire — the Boteler’s didn’t hold that title and if we are talking about the same Eleanor Talbot, her father-in-law was not James Butler; it was Ralph, Lord Sudeley! As for Sudeley’s page — It was a pre-contract of marriage between Edward IV and Boteler’s widowed daughter-in-law Lady Eleanor Boteler (formally Lady Eleanor Talbot) which Richard III relied on to declare Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous and their children illegitimate leading to the imprisonment and disposal of the Princes in the Tower. There are a lot of sources, and one from that time period, that states Boteler.

And to end the debate — “John Ashdown-Hill’s book about Lady Eleanor doesn’t mention any connection between the families (at least from what I can tell from looking at the index). I think it’s fine to use the “Boteler” spelling–that’s how Eleanor spells it in a deed that A-H quotes….She describes herself as “lately the wife of Thomas Boteler, knight, now deceased.” It’s on p. 140 of his book “Eleanor, the Secret Queen,” if you need a reference.” (Thanks to author Susan Higginbottom) It’s quite interesting to note that someone has ALREADY used the book as a source for a few citations! I’m guessing USER Y doesn’t have the book. Huh!

Specials thanks to Susan Higginbotham for the reference to John Ashdown-Hill’s book and quote.

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