Few names in history shine with so consistent a lustre as that of Richard; at first the little Duke, afterwards Richard aux longues jambes, but always Richard sans peur. This little sketch has only brought forward the perils of his childhood, but his early manhood was likewise full of adventures, in which he always proved himself brave, honourable, pious, and forbearing. But for these our readers must search for themselves into early French history, where all they will find concerning our hero will only tend to exalt his character.
Charlotte M. Yonge 1872), pious children’s writer
aux longues jambes = long-legged
sans peur = fearless
The name Richard is a French baby name. In French the meaning of the name Richard is: Powerful; strong ruler. A Teutonic name from the European Middle Ages. England’s King Richard Coeur de Lion was a crusading knight.
In children’s literature from the 1900s and the first half of the 20th century, Dick was a fairly common name for a boy character. Obviously the word then grew another meaning and started to be avoided by children’s writers, and at the same time embraced by adults’ writers.
Children’s writers also started avoiding the names Titty and Fanny, as did parents.
Take Dick from Famous Five. He is the beta-dog, second-in-line to Julian, who has the more regal name, but still above the girls in the pecking order.
There’s another Dick in Blyton’s Faraway Tree series. He comes to visit from the city in the second in the series. Although he’s a bit hapless and incredulous, he is treated with far more empathy by the author than Connie, who is depicted as a prissy, spoilt brat in Folk Of The Faraway Tree. In an updated version, the characters Dick and Fanny have been updated to Rick and Frannie. While Frannie seems to work still, Rick is a glaring anachronism; were any Richards shortened to Rick until recently?
There’s a Dick in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Dick Callum is similar to the Famous Five Dick. He is a young astronomer, scientist, naturalist and master of the Scarab. Dick and his sister Dorothea Callum are often mentioned as a pair, the Ds.
Do you know who Poor Richard was?
In adult fiction there’s the Martha Grimes detective series, with the title character named Richard Jury.
But otherwise, it seems to me you’re far more likely to find a Richard as a writer, illustrator, historical king or movie director than as a fictional character in a book these days.