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Maud's best chance for a comeback lies with Hollywood

Maud's best chance for a comeback lies with Hollywood

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This weekend you can watch young Maude and old Maud.

“Shadow in the Cloud,” starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Maude Garrett, a World War II pilot who encounters a horrific presence on a B-17 flight, had its VOD premier Jan. 1. “Elizabeth Is Missing,” with Glenda Jackson as Maud Horsham, a widow with Alzheimer’s disease investigating why her best friend vanished, debuts today on PBS’s “Masterpiece.”

Maud is a medieval form of Matilda, a Germanic name linking words for “power” and “battle.” Brought to England by Norman conquerors, it was best known through Empress Matilda (1102-1167), daughter of King Henry I, whose title came from her first marriage to Holy Roman Emperor Henry V.

When Henry I died in 1135, he wanted his daughter to be Queen. The English weren’t ready to accept a woman monarch, so a civil war between Matilda and her cousin Stephen ensued. This was settled in 1153 by declaring Stephen king, but making Matilda’s son Henry Plantagenet his heir.

Though official records called her Matilda, in everyday English she was Empress Maud. Around 1380, “Matilda” was the fourth commonest woman’s name in English records, but was still “Maud” in spoken English.

By Tudor times, the link between Matilda and Maud broke, and Maud became an official form. One example was Maud Green (1492-1531), lady in waiting to Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and mother of his sixth, Katherine Parr.

Maud was rare for several centuries until the Victorian love of medieval chivalry revived it. In 1855 Alfred, Lord Tennyson published his poem “Maud,” about unrequited love. Composer Michael Balfe wrote “Come Into the Garden, Maud” (1857) using Tennyson’s poem.

In America, John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Maud Muller” (1856), with its lines “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”, was as famous as Tennyson’s work.

Tennyson and Whittier made Maud popular, though by 1875 Americans preferred the spelling “Maude.” The first nationwide baby name lists in 1880 showed Maude ranking 21st and Maud 70th. Combined they would have been 13th.

Among the most accomplished of these Victorian babies were Maude Adams (1872-1953), who originated the role of Peter Pan on Broadway; and Maud Powell (1867-1920), the first American woman concert violinist, posthumously granted a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

Despite that, Maude swiftly declined after 1900. Maud left the top thousand in 1934, and Maude in 1951.

Though the name was unusual for babies, Hollywood screenwriters often gave it to feisty independent older women, as played by Ruth Gordon in the cult movie “Harold and Maude” (1971) and Bea Arthur in the sitcom “Maude” (1972-1978).

Creative people are often first to revive names with clunky images. In 1997, only 10 American Maudes were born, but one was the daughter of comedian and film producer Judd Apatow and actress Leslie Mann. Apatow cast Maude in his films “Knocked Up” (2007) and “This Is 40” (2012). She now stars as Lexi Howard in HBO’s teen drama “Euphoria.”

In 2018 and 2019, 25 baby Maudes were born in the United States. Though still quite rare, that’s more than in any year since 1967. If Hollywood keeps naming babies and characters Maude, in another generation Maud will be battling toward the top of baby name lists again.

Omaha World-Herald: Inspired Living

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