Thanks to Nicole for suggesting Cressida as our Baby Name of the Day.
Cressida has quite the literary pedigree.
The name appears in the The Iliad as Chryseis, from the Greek chrysos – golden. But the doomed romance was invented many centuries later.
Cressida is a Trojan woman, and she’s in love with Troilus, a prince of Troy, a romance assisted by a match-making uncle. Her dad is a priest, and he defects to the Greeks. During the war, Cressida becomes a prisoner of the Greeks – and betrays Troilus with the warrior Diomedes. Troilus dies, heartbroken, in battle.
The story first appears in a twelfth century collection by Benoît de Sainte-Maure, though he calls her Briseis.
Others picked up the tale:
- In Boccaccio’s il Filostrato she is renamed Criseyde.
- Chaucer called her Criseida in a poem written around 1380. His poem is among the more sympathetic accounts of Cressida.
- Another well-known version is by Scottish poet Robert Henryson. His Testament of Cresseid gives a tragic ending to Cressida’s story.
All of this brings us to 1602 or 1603, and Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. Normally a name borrowed from the Bard is a seal of approval, but there are problems with this one. First, for all that we love most of Shakespeare’s works, this is often considered one of his not-so-masterful pieces. And his depiction of Cressida paints her as fickle, duplicitous, somewhere between a scheming opportunist and a flighty child.
Poet John Dryden re-wrote it later in the seventeenth century. He made Cressida faithful to Troilus throughout the play.
Other adaptations include a William Walton 1954 opera, and several television movies, the most recent in 1981.
But what about the name? If parents have avoided it, that might be more to do with the popularity of Toyota’s mid-sized sedan called the Cressida than any awareness of the character’s possible shortcomings. It’s barely used in the US, though there are a few references you might recognize:
- The name has been given to a butterfly, and a moon of Uranus.
- Cressida Cowell is the author of How to Train Your Dragon.
- A minor character in The Hunger Games universe is a rebel filmmaker by the name.
- In the 2005 Will Smith film Hitch, Cressida is the girlfriend who broke his heart – and started him on his path as a “date doctor.”
But the Cressida on all of our minds is British socialite Cressida Bonas, the granddaughter of an Earl and current girlfriend of Prince Harry. Cressida’s mum went in for the mythological monikers – she has an older half-sister called Pandora. Reports tell us that she answers to Cressie.
Will the royal couple tie the knot? No one knows. But either way, the name is in the news.
Cressida has a crisp and lovely sound, and despite a patina of tragedy, I think she’s wearable in 2013. Cress brings to mind Bess and Tess – the latter of which is quite stylish in recent years. And Cressida is the kind of elaborate and feminine name that doesn’t require a nickname – a substitute more popular elaborates like Alexandra and Isabella.
Whether we hear wedding bells or not in 2014, we might hear just a little bit more of this pretty name.