CLARENCE (m): This first name, often but not exclusively bestowed on male protagonists, has a fine aristocratic ring which echoes the name of George, Duke of Clarence (1449–1476), middle brother of Kings Edward IV and Richard III; Clarence's mysterious death has inspired literature, both greater (Shakespeare's Richard III) and lesser (The Last of the Barons , by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Lord Lytton). Beginning in the mid- and late eighteenth century, the name became popular for men actual and imaginary. Clarence Hervey, hero of Belinda (1811) by Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849), bears for good measure the family name of the earls and marquesses of Bristol. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, when the name was popular, the contemporary Duke of Clarence was George III's third son Prince William Henry (1765–1837), subsequently King William IV (1830–1837).
Here at NEHGS we see the name frequently in connection with the compiler of the massive bibliographic index, “New England Marriages Prior to 1700,” Clarence Almon Torrey (1869–1962). Torrey, born in Manchester, Iowa, was a descendant of an old New England family that had moved west. Another Clarence, Clarence M. Averill, the son of Moses (b. Olney, Maine) and Mary J. (b. New Sharon, Maine), was born July 28, 1840, in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts (Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850, on AmericanAncestors.org).