You’ve probably never met one in person, but perhaps you’ve encountered an Ermengarde in books, movies, history, or video games.
Ermengarde is a character (and chapter!) in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess and is also the second love of the narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s Eleonora. Both are at least somewhat obscure as references, though the former is probably better known. A Little Princess is a widely-read children’s classic and has several movie renditions (my personal favorite is the 1990s version that Alfonso Cuarón directed). As far as character names go, Ermengarde isn’t unheard of.
There were a number of Ermengardes through medieval European history, as well. William the Lion (Scottish king) married Ermengarde de Beaumont in the 12th century. Centuries earlier, Ermengarde of Hesbaye was the first wife of Louis the Pious (son of Charlemagne). There were even more in years between. Funnily enough, this name must have been common enough that whenever I play Crusader Kings II (a medieval history PC sandbox game with extensive genealogies of actual royal and noble families…not always accurate, but definitely fun for name enthusiasts), I see female characters named Ermengarde all over the French or Frankish section of the map. I’ve even seen Hélie-Ermengarde used in-game…
As to modern usage, I’m really not aware of any. Ermengarde is an extremely rare name that has never once appeared in the SSA birth data. And despite a long recorded history, Behind the Name doesn’t even give Ermengarde her own page (but there’s a fairly decent user-submitted description). The name means “universal protection” … lovely, isn’t that? The ‘ermen’ part is the very same root that gives us mega-popular Emma, which would make a really good nickname for an Ermengarde. There is also the adorable Ermentrude.
What do you think of Ermengarde? Could it work today?