Classic baby names: Cornelia

This article is reprinted from a series on names originally published in the year 1922. This one appeared in The Red Cloud Chief in Webster County, Nebraska, on November 16, 1922. For more stories from yesteryear, check out our ClickAmericana.com site!

What’s in a name? Cornelia

Facts about your name: Its history, meaning, whence it was derived, significance, your lucky day and lucky jewel.

by Mildred Marshall

Fortunate is she who bears the name of Cornelia, which through the centuries has been symbolic of all that is beautiful and reverent in motherhood. Not only has Cornelia a heritage worthy of an empress, coming as she does from the distinguished old Roman gens of Cornelius, but her memory is immortalized by Latin legend, which makes her the mother of the Gracchi and the heroine of one of the most beautiful tributes to motherhood.

Some etymologists endeavor to trace Cornelia back to the two words cornu belli, meaning “a war horn,” but the consensus of opinion is that she had no existence previous to the first woman so called, who was the daughter of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus I, and the mother of the Gracchi. She seems to have inherited from her gallant warrior father a spirit of pure, lofty dignity which made her the highest type of Roman motherhood.

When, according to the legend, the matrons of the most fashionable circle of Roman society were gossiping over the ancient Roman equivalent for tea and exhibiting their gem collections for the edification and envy of each other, Cornelia alone had no glittering display. But, summoning a slave, she had her 12 beautiful children brought to her, and, laying her hands on the shoulders of the Gracchi, proudly said: “These are my jewels.”

The great historians of ancient Rome have carefully recorded the incident, making Cornelia superior to all the noble Roman ladies of her time.

   

Cornelia’s popularity as a feminine name throughout Europe is due to the martyred Pope Cornelius, whose relics were brought to Compeigne by Charles the Bald. In the Low Countries, Cornelius became Keetje or sometimes Kee, Nelson is a Dutch rendition of Cornelius.

But though Cornelia’s jewels may have been her children, she had a talismanic stone, the turquoise. It is said to protect its wearer from the danger attendant upon travelers and to bring them good fortune when they see the new moon reflected on its surface. Saturday is her lucky day and one her lucky number. Holly, signifying foresight, is her flower.

Image: Cornelia Mother of the Gracchi, c1785, by Angelika Kauffman

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