ABBEN

This widespread English, German, French Catalan, Italian, Spanish and Hungarian name was originally derived from a Germanic personal name ALBRECHET, which was composed of the elements ADAL (noble) and BERHT (bright and famous). This was one of the most common Germanic given names, and was borne by various medieval princes, military leaders and great churchmen, notably St. Albert of Prague (Czech name Vojtech, Latin name Adalbertus), a Bohemian prince who died a martyr in 997 attempting to convert the Prussians to Christianity; St Albert the Great (?1193-1280) Aristotelian theologian and tutor of Thomas Aquinas; and Albert the Bear (1100-70) Margrave of Brandenburg. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.

There are many notables of the name including Albert I (1255-1308) who was the king of Germany, the son of Rudolph I of Habsburg. He was elected king of Germany in opposition to the deposed Adolf of Nassau, whom he then defeated and killed in battle at Gollheim (1298). He proceeded energetically to restore the power of the monarchy and reduce that of the electoral princes, but was murdered while crossing the River Reuss by his disaffected nephew John. Albert, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria (1819-61) born at Schloss Rosenaux, near Coburg. He was the younger son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 1840 he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria, a marriage that became a lifelong love-match. He was given the title of Prince Consort in 1857. Throughout their marriage he was, in effect the Queen's private secretary. Ministerial distrust and public misgivings because of his German connections, limited his political influence, although his counsel was usually judicious and far-sighted. He died of typhoid in 1861, occasioning a long period of seclusion by his widow. The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens was erected in his memory in 1871.

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