She’s a style icon, and tomorrow marks the anniversary of her film debut in the ever-charming Roman Holiday.
Thanks to JNE for suggesting Audrey as Name of the Day.
56 years after her starmaking turn as princess-on-the-lam Ann/Anya, Audrey Hepburn remains the most famous bearer of her name. But she’s far from the only notable Audrey.
You’ll hear this one on playgrounds today, and might find her on your family tree. She’s steadily ranked in the US Top 1000, appearing in the Top 100 back in the 1920s and 30s. (She peaked at #59.)
Audrey has fared even better in the 21st century, re-entering the Top 100 in 2002 and reaching #44 in 2008.
And why not? She fits right in with borrowed-from-the-boys choices like Ashley, Avery and Aubrey, as well as staples like Emily and Mary. Nursery schools are packed with little starlets called Ava, Natalie and Grace, too.
Speaking of stars, Roman Holiday was a smash back in 1953. Newcomer Audrey Hepburn nabbed the Oscar for Best Actress. Gregory Peck played journalist Joe, who knows Ann/Anya’s secret identity – but ultimately decides to keep their adventures to himself. Miss Hepburn’s star rose as she headlined Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady.
There’s also something ladylike about her. She’s brief, but complete – more Mary than Molly. And yet Audrey started out as a nickname.
The Anglo-Saxon Æthelthryt comes from elements for noble and strength; you’ll find Etheldred and Etheldreda in use during the Middle Ages. (Visit London and you can tour England’s oldest Roman Catholic Church, St. Ethelreda’s, built in 1290.)
Saint Æthelthryt was a seventh-century princess longing for the religious life. She agreed to a political marriage instead, but when things went whopperjawed, she ended her days at an abbey in Cambridgeshire.
The princess would probably have answered to Awdrey. And here’s one possible shortcomings. The annual fair near her abbey was called St. Awdrey’s Fair. Inexpensive lace goods – St. Audrey’s lace – on offer at the Fair are the origin of the word tawdry – cheap.
There’s also Shakespeare’s Audrey in 1599′s As You Like It. She was a none-too-bright goat-herd in the Forest of Arden.
By the seventeenth century, Ethelreda was long out of naming fashion. The Puritans dropped Audrey, at least partially because of her negative associations. (They weren’t big on bestowing saints’ names anyhow.)
Another Etheldreda/Audrey was the illegitimate daughter of King Henry VIII. Born in the 1520s, Audrey Malte served as one of the future Queen Elizabeth’s attendants while big sis – Queen Mary I – had her rival locked up.
There’s a shortage of Audreys between Tudor England and the nineteenth century. In 1902, bestselling author Mary Johnson released her novel, Audrey. It became a silent film in 1916. Johnson’s story ends tragically, but sold well – and could be the reason Audrey rose so dramatically during the early twentieth century.
Other notable Audreys include:
- Actress Audrey Meadows, best remembered as Alice on television’s The Honeymooners;
- French actress Audrey Tatou, known for her turn as Sophie in The Da Vinci Code and the title character in 2001′s Amélie;
- Some of today’s parents could’ve been influenced by Sherilyn Fenn’s wicked Audrey Horne on Twin Peaks;
- There’s also Kim Raver’s Audrey Raines from 24.
Overall, there’s much to recommend Audrey. She fits a variety of styles and manages to be both current and timeless. In fact, that’s her only drawback – she’s such a great name that your daughter would probably have to share it.