Beaufort or Badminton

On February 15, 2015 · 2 Comments

Two towns sharing the exact same name sat not too far from each other in the Carolinas. Colonial settlers arrived on various points along that swath of coastline at around the same time, increasing the odds of a relationship between identical names. That was the case albeit with a twist.

Beaufort to Beaufort

The Beauforts

Beaufort, North Carolina came first, founded in 1709. The town of the same name in South Carolina arrived a couple of years later, 1711. Both Carolinas also have counties named Beaufort. The South Carolina town is the seat of government for Beaufort County. North Carolina was a bit more complicated. The town of Beaufort was the seat of government for Carteret County. Beaufort County was a completely separate place and representative of a peculiar naming trend in North Carolina.

They all commemorated the same man, Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort (1684-1714), a minor nobleman. He wasn’t responsible for any noteworthy feats so his only significant New World namesakes happened to be a couple of coastal towns and a couple of counties.

Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort
via Wikimedia Commons, in the Public Domain

He was Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners (1712–1714), Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire (1710–1714), and Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire (1712–1714). Via his mother’s second marriage to John Grenville, 1st Baron Granville of Potheridge, Henry Somerset inherited this share of Carolina upon Grenville’s death in 1701. Upon the death of William Craven, 2nd Baron Craven on October 9, 1711, Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort was named the eighth Palatine of Caroline. Dying at the age of thirty, on 24 May 1714… His share of Carolina was left in a trust to his two living minor sons…

Here was the twist: In spite of being named for the exact same person, the location in North Carolina was pronounced BOW-fert and the one in South Carolina was pronounced BYOU-fert. I think the Duke himself would have pronounced it something closer to the North Carolina interpretation although I’ll leave that to 12MC’s UK audience to confirm.

Beaufort Origin

Charles II created the Duke of Beaufort as a Peerage of England in 1682. The name derived originally from a castle in Montmorency-Beaufort (map), France (apparently a beautiful fortress if one translates it from French to English literally), "the only current dukedom to take its name from a place outside the British Isles… Beaufort Castle was a possession of John of Gaunt, and the surname Beaufort was given to Gaunt’s four legitimized children by his mistress and third wife, Katherine Swynford."

The castle was reduced to rubble long ago. That didn’t stop the various Beaufort locations from reaching out to each other though, with the one in North Carolina taking a particularly active role:

The International Association of Beauforts was established in 1995 when Beaufort-en-Vallee, France hosted the first reunion of Beauforts. The Beaufort, North Carolina organization seeks to promote international cooperation, understanding and development through a variety of dynamic exchanges with cities and towns with whom Beaufort maintains active sister city partnerships.

The Badminton Connection

Badminton House
Badminton House by Graeme Churchard, on Flickr (cc)

The Dukes of Beaufort resided at the palatial Badminton House and Estate (map) in Gloucestershire. It may be known best today as the site of the Badminton Horse Trials held annually most years since 1949. The event has become immensely popular.

… the biggest day in the British sporting year. It is an event that brings in a crowd of 200,000 annually — a quarter of a million and more on a nice day. This makes it the third-biggest annual event in the world, after the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis 500 practice day. It is the third day of the Badminton Horse Trials, when the cross-country is held.

With a peculiar name like Badminton, the estate seemed to beg for a connection to the sport of the same name featuring small racquets, net and shuttlecock.

Badminton by gregouille, on Flickr (cc)

It did connect. At the very least, the sport took its name from the estate. Badminton House claimed the sport originated there in 1863. Other sources claimed the sport originated elsewhere before arriving at Badminton House:

Versions of the game had been played for centuries by children in the Far East, and were adapted by British Army officers stationed in Pune (or Poona), India in the 1860s. They added a net and the game became a competitive sport called "poona", with documented rules in 1867. In 1873 the sport made its way back to England and gained its current title after guests at a Badminton House lawn party held by the Duke of Beaufort introduced it to their friends as "the Badminton game".

The final mystery entailed the origin of the word Badminton. The Online Etymology Dictionary traced it to "Old English Badimyncgtun (972), ‘estate of (a man called) Baduhelm.’."

Beaufort, North and South Carolina, made the right call. It was much easier to deal with Beaufort than Badimyncgtun. Imagine the mispronunciations with the latter alternative.

On February 15, 2015 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Beaufort or Badminton”

  1. David says:

    The different pronunciations of Beaufort remind me of the county of Buena Vista, Colorado. I noticed when I visited there that the locals all pronounced it “BYOON-a Vista” instead of the expected Spanish pronunciation, which is more like “BWAY-na Vista”. Of course, I say that as a native of Los Angeles, which we gringos pronounce with a soft “g” instead of the “h” sound it actually makes in Spanish. Darn white settlers and their pronunouncing things the way they’re spelled!

    Also, badminton was my sport in high school, so it was nice to see an article on its origins. Most of my Asian-Americans teammates back then were quick to remind me that while the British invented the sport, the Chinese perfected it.

  2. Fritz Keppler says:

    The independent city of Buena Vista in Virginia is also pronounced as in Colorado. Same for Iowa.

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