This post was originally published on March 1, 2009. It was substantially revised and re-posted on September 29, 2014.
Matilda is a stylish choice, migrating from the hipster list to a mainstream favorite. So what’s a true trend-setter to do?
How ’bout using Matilda’s medieval counterpart instead? Thanks to Lola for suggesting Maud as our Baby Name of the Day.
The link between Maud and Matilda isn’t obvious.
Matilda comes from the Germanic Mathilidis – maht, or might and hild, or battle. In the tenth century, Mathilda of Ringelheim became a queen, and later a saint.
Royals continued to use the name. Matilda of Flanders was a descendent of the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great of England and wife of William the Conqueror.
Not surprisingly, it was among the many Norman names adopted in England.
Mahald was an informal version of Matilda. In French, it became Mahaut. Shorten them both a little more, re-import into English and voilà – Maud.
For centuries, the two names were interchangeable.
William’s queen consort was known by both names. Plenty of women were listed as Maud (Matilda) or Matilda (Maud). Or Maulde or Maude.
William’s last surviving granddaughter was called Maude. Betrothed as a child to the Holy Roman Emperor, she was known as Empress, despite never having been officially crowned.
Maude briefly ruled England in 1141, but lost the throne to her cousin, Stephen. On the few surviving coins from her brief reign, she is called Regina Mathild.
Regina Mathild’s son, Henry II, eventually became King of England and founded the Plantagenet line. He named his firstborn daughter Maud – or Matilda.
And so the name continued to be used in tandem, something like Jim/James or Bill/William in more recent years.
By the 1400s, the name was out of fashion.
But then came the Victorian era, when historical names were in vogue. The name returned, bolstered by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s romantic 1855 poem “Maud.”
In the US, Maude and Maud both ranked in the Top 1000 in the nineteenth century:
- Maud peaked at #68 in 1883, leaving the rankings entirely after 1933.
- Maude ranked as high as #20 in 1882 and remained in the Top 100 until 1905.
Today, the ‘e’ spelling feels slightly more complete – possibly because it is shared by many a feminine names, like Brooke, Claire, and Sloane.
But is this name ready for revival?
Today’s parents might think of Bea Arthur’s character, the star of CBS’s All in the Family spin-off Maude.
Or maybe Amy Irving as one of Dudley Moore’s two wives in 1984 comedy Micki & Maude.
And then there’s the spirited, vivacious – and 79 years young – Maude of enduring 1971 dark comedy Harold and Maude. In this case, Maude is short for Marjorie.
None of that makes the name feel like a revival possibility. And yet, this name is making a slow comeback. Design Mom Gabrielle Blair is mother to a teenaged Maude. Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann have a 15 year old Maude, now an actress in her own right.
The numbers still show both spellings in fashion limbo – with the ‘e’, just 17 newborn girls in 2013. Without, just six.
And yet, this regal rarity could be set for a comeback – as spare as Blair, as feminine as Anne, as unexpected as Matilda was just a few short years ago.
Do you think Maud is due for a comeback? Do you prefer Maud or Maude – or maybe Matilda?