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What Does Joe Biden’s Middle Name, Robinette, Mean?

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Inauguration Day 2021 featured dozens of memes with memorable performances, monochromatic outfit inspiration and lining, and for some viewers January 20 was the first time they heard the 46th Middle-Name President of the United States. Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. shares both his first name and middle name with his father, Joseph Robinette Biden Sr., who died in 2002 at the age of 86. Robinette was the maiden name of Joseph Biden Sr.’s mother, Mary Elizabeth (née Robinette) Biden, who died in 1943 at the age of 48 when Joe Biden Jr. was less than a year old.

Joe Biden Jr.’s maternal grandmother was born in Maryland in 1894, although she took her husband’s last name, Joseph Harry Biden, when they married. She kept the name Robinette alive, however, by passing it on as the middle name to her eldest son when he was born in 1915, and 27 years later Joe Biden Sr. passed the middle name on to his eldest son as well. It is unclear how Mary Elizabeth died, as Joe Biden Jr. never spoke about her death in interviews, but he once explained where “Robinette” came from.

When asked about the unusual nickname, the POTUS stated that the name had its origin in France. “It’s my grandmother Biden’s maiden name,” he explained on a C-SPAN clip from the early 2000s New York Magazine. “It’s French. And it’s a long, long way back. Apparently the Robinettes came over with Lafayette and never went home. I don’t know. We can’t guarantee that.” Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, known simply as Lafayette in the United States, was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War and commanded American troops in several battles, including the siege of Yorktown.

Joe Biden Jr. and his late father aren’t the only ones sharing the unique middle name. The eldest son of the POTUS, Joseph “Beau” Biden III, also received the middle name Robinette. Unfortunately, Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. The POTUS’s second son, Robert Hunter Biden, got his middle name from his late mother Neilia (née Hunter) Biden, who tragically died in a car accident in 1972 along with her and Joe Biden’s daughter Naomi. Hunter named his son Beau (born 2020) in honor of his brother and his eldest daughter Naomi (born 1993) in honor of his sister.

There may be a lot of tragedy in the Biden family, but time and again the family honors the legacies of those who lost them by keeping their names alive.

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Robert Dunfee