I was reading up on Richard the III, and his exploits just now in Wikipedia — as is the nature of Wiki, that further me led to stumble to Stafford, Duke of Buckingham's page, where I learned that one of the motivations he might have had to kill the Princes, Richard III's nephews, was his inheritance of an estate from his great-great-great grandfather, Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton.
Most of that is besides the point. But note these words: 'Ereford and North 'ampton. In My Fair Lady, one of the sentences the protagonist, a linguist, uses to illustrate Eliza's h-dropping is to have her repeat these sentences:
In 'artford, 'ereford, and 'ampshire, 'urricanes 'ardly ever 'appen.
Now, it's well known that for a long time among the English people, French held a privileged position as a language indicating education and class; it was even spoken as a primary language in lieu of English amongst the upper class, for a couple hundred years after the Norman conquest. More "prestigious" words in English often come from the French; it's where we get lots of words for governmental and legal bodies, words like conveyances and attorneys general. Moreover, I believe that h in French is rarely aspirated, and those words where it is pronounced are often descended from the Germanic, which English would likely have cognates to, and might have been looked down upon.
So what I'm wondering is: Would French pronunciations of English place names and estates, which perhaps might have included h-dropping, have percolated in a similar way amongst the population as a result of their prestige? If your lord, your bishop, and your judge pronounce Hampton with a French-affected 'ampton, would you have been likely to have pronounced things in the same way yourself? I tried checking Wiki for dates, which would helpful to verify this hypothesis: I know that French died out as a basic communicative language amongst the English in the 15th century, but really have no clue when h-dropping entered the language. Any comments or insights as to its origin would of course be appreciated.