Thanks to Shan for suggesting Eustace as our Baby Name of the Day.
I would be shocked to meet a baby boy Eustace.
But very, extremely, astonishingly surprised.
Eustace hasn’t cracked the US Top 1000 in over a century. You’d have to go back to the 1920s to find a year when more than a dozen newborns answered to Eustace.
Eustace comes from a Greek name meaning fruitful, or more generally, good fortune.
There’s the inevitable second century martyr saint and Latin form of the name: Eustachius.
The saint was a Christian convert, and because he was inspired to convert after a vision during a hunting trip, he’s the patron saint of hunters. He suffered like Job but held fast to this faith. There’s a gory story about Eustace his death by fire.
It may be nothing but legend, but he was a big deal in the Middle Ages.
- The Counts of Boulogne from the eleventh through twelfth century used the name frequently. The fourth Eustace would have been king of England – his dad, Stephen, had claimed the throne. But he died before his father.
- A twelfth-century Bishop of London wore the name.
- Then there’s Eustace the Monk – though he was mostly an outlaw. Born near Boulogne in the thirteenth century, the stories about him are incredible. He studied black magic, became a monk – briefly, left the monastery to avenge his father’s death, quarreled with the local Count, and generally caused a ruckus.
- Despite a respectable family, Eustace Folville became a notorious criminal in the 1500s. His exploits included murder, theft, and kidnapping, to name a few. Folville was never brought to justice, and he ended his days as a respectable member of the community. Some accounts give him a Robin Hood-like status.
- An eighteenth century writer wore the name, Eustace Budgell, though he lost his fortune and ended badly. (I mention him only because that his picture above.)
So Eustace was a hero and a scoundrel, a ruler and a saint. The name must have been thoroughly wearable in the day.
In the twentieth century, Eustace was anything but.
Scrubb starts out an arrogant, whiny brat. He spends some time as a dragon. If you read to the end of the series, you’ll know that ultimately Eustace proves himself heroic – it’s the kind of redemption that could make Eustace a Neville name – but most of us think of the character from the early books.
Then there’s Eustace Tilley, the monocle-sporting dandy who has graced many a New Yorker magazine cover. The humorist Corey Ford gave the character his name in the 1920s, inspired by a maiden aunt’s surname and a Columbia classmate’s first name.
Lastly, I think of Eustace Bagge, the crotchety, cruel senior on Courage the Cowardly Dog.
Speaking of courage, it would take a lot to revive Eustace. Still, if Trace is hot for boys, does the prospect of Stace – combined with his rich history – offer any hope for Eustace?
Original photo: Eustace Budgell Esqr., via Library of Congress