Most people know that the creator of Jane Eyre was named Charlotte Bronte. Considering how freedom is one of the novel’s most important themes, it is interesting that “Charlotte” means “free man”–it is the feminine form of the name Charles. That’s why Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge named their little princess Charlotte, to honor William’s father. In 2015 Charlotte was ranked The #1 Most Popular Girl’s Name by Nameberry (#1 boy’s name: Ezra–yes, Ezra).
Below Jane Eyre fills us in on some Charlottes that are more obscure:
Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte: 1964 film directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Bette Davis and Joseph Cotton. An elaborate Gothic plot involving murder, madness, and an inheritance up for grabs is enhanced by artsy black and white photography. It’s as much fun as you can have without a mimosa, and deserves to garner a new audience.
Charlotte Russe: not to be confused with the juniors’ clothing line, is a dessert made out of Bavarian creme set inside a mold of ladyfingers. Invented in the 18th century, Charlotte Russe was once extremely popular at debutante balls. There are many imitators such as sponge cake and jam rolls. But the real thing always involves ladyfingers, possibly why this confection’s appeal has waned. When was the last time you saw ladyfingers in your grocery aisle? Rest assured they are still available at Walmart. Now all you have to do is figure out how to make Bavarian creme.
Frozen Charlotte: a tiny, mass-produced doll that cost a penny in the 1800s. Made either of china or bisque, the dolls often had unglazed stoneware backs, which enabled them to float in a bathtub. (The male versions, known as Frozen Charlies, had boyish, painted-on hairstyles.) The dolls were inspired by Fair Charlotte, an American ballad based on a poem called A Corpse Going to a Ball. In this poem a vain girl won’t wear a cloak over her beautiful gown when she goes for a sleigh ride. Consequently, she freezes to death. Indeed, some Frozen Charlottes came with their own teeny coffins. It became a fad to bake Charlotte dolls, minus the caskets, inside Christmas puddings, resulting in their finders having a year of good luck or chocking to death (whichever came first).