Saturday, July 28, 2012

King of Jerusalem, Emporer of Constantinople - Jean de Brienne

Leo's Tree

Jean de Brienne, 1170-1237, Comte of Eu. His shield of arms above are blazoned as:
                                                          azure a lion rampant Or

Shown above, the arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, blazoned as:
             argent a cross potent between four crosslets Or

Jean de Brienne was King of Jerusalem 1210-1229 by right of his wife, Maria de Montferrat, (who inherited the kingdom from her mother). After his wife died in 1212, Jean de Brienne was regent for their daughter who later became Isabella, Queen of Jerusalem. 

Shown above, the arms of the Latin Kingdom of Constantinople, blazoned as:

       gules crusilly a cross between four annulets within each a crosslet Or

Jean de Brienne was Emporer of the Latin Kingdom of Constantinople, regent for Baldwin of Courtenay until Baldwin reached the age of twenty. Then they were co-rulers in the last two years of Jean's life.

Chosen by fate to play a role which the size of his armies denied him, Jean nevertheless was King of Jerusalem and Emperor of Constantinople and left one of his daughters Queen of Jerusalem and one other daughter the Empress Consort of Constantinople.

He was a Crusader who declined to sack Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, and went home with his men. He also quit the Crusade against the Albigensians of the Languedoc after the bloodbath at the first city, Beziers.  By his deeds he was known as a ferocious fighter and leader of knights, but also known as a man who chose to not wage war against women and children.  He was trusted by his peers and by the kings, Popes and Emperors of his day with two of the most important thrones of his era, and with two of the most vulnerable royalty.

For a mere second son, destined to become a clerk, he didn't do too badly.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Already? Book stack for this week...

Some people like to take things apart to analyze them. I like to analyze things to put them together differently.

William Marshall (1147-1219), who I have mentioned before, is the subject of four biographies sitting on my desk, which I am reading concurrently.

William Marshal by Sidney Painter, c. 1933

William Marshal: Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby, c. 1984

William Marshall: Knighthood, War and chivalry, 1147-1219, by David Crouch, c. 1990, 2002

William Marshal Earl of Pembroke, by Catherine A. Armstrong, c. 2006

and coming soon to a library near me, a book on lives that overlapped the Marshall's:
The Beaumont Twins" The Roots and Branches of Power in the Twelfth Century, by David Crouch, c. 2008

I am to the point where Richard Lionheart has just returned from the Holy Land - in all four books.  I read a section in one, read the same material, written from a different perspective in another, then in the next and so on.  Since much of what is written is drawn from documents created during William Marshall's life or shortly thereafter, there is repetition in reading this way.  However, I like to be able to compare what different scholarly authors think important to emphasize, or not, and what slant - if any - they give it.

Since William's is the best-documented life of his times in the knightly class, much of the culture - the expectations and requirements, comes through the long expanse of years from then to now.  I find myself pondering weapons in the Middle Ages, and how it took years of training and mentoring before a man was allowed to don a sword. Once a sword was earned, the right to carry it came with clear accountability to someone with higher power - someone who would chastise the knight if he misused his weapons.

I think about how in my own era of freedom, any adult with a little money can purchase a deadly weapon with less training and testing than it takes to get a license to drive a car.  It is as if in William's day, if they had tested and trained the squires on how to ride a horse for months, and then just handed them a big sword at the end with a wink and a nod, "oh, we know you will use it responsibly!".

I believe William and his peers would find my world quite terrifying - rampaging anarchy.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Oh Yes! Another Magna Carta Surety Baron - the 11th

Just when I think there couldn't be any more - I discover yet another member of that exclusive group on Leo's Tree:

Sir William d'Aubeney (d'Aubigny; d'Albini) 1147-1236  Magna Carta Surety Baron, Lord of Belvoir Castle, Sheriff of Rutland, 1195; Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, 1197; Sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, 1197.  The arms he bore are blazoned as:

gules a lion rampant Or

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Magna Carta Surety Baron Sir Henry de Bohun - tenth of ten

Leo's Tree

 Azure a bend argent coticed Or between six lions rampant Or

 The above blazon is from the Herald's Roll, number 46 for the Count of Hereford, Humphrey Bohun, at

Thanks to Brian Timms for his comprehensive collection of Shield of Arms, and his generosity to share it.

Our tree is a work in progress, and today I discovered another Magna Carta Baron on Leo's branches:
Sir Henry de Bohun, 1175-1220, 5th Baron of Hereford, 1st Earl Hereford, Constable of England, Sheriff of Kent. He died in the Holy Land, 1 June 1220.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Middle Ages were Not at all What I Thought

When the subject of Knights in armor, castles and tournaments - the way life was in the Middle Ages is considered, what do people of our age think it was like?

I for one, had thought it would be a simple society with very few social divisions, and those would be highly stratified.  I thought people would be illiterate, untraveled, unwashed and ignorant - totally unsophisticated - except for a few centers of learning, a few merchants and knights.

I could not have been more wrong in my opinions.

Untraveled? Perhaps the people who worked the fields stayed in one place, but my reading shows that merchants and from the knightly class and upwards, people traveled a great deal.  They went back and forth across the English Channel like we go back and forth across a street.  They visited Ireland, Scotland, Wales, like neighbors dropping in for tea (except they often dropped in for a battle).  It was a part of their of culture for the men, who sometimes brought their wives with them, to take out some time to go to Jerusalem, or at least make a pilgrimage to a shrine in Spain, Italy or Germany.

Illiterate?  although writing was most often practiced by scholars, lawyers and priests, the upper classes were fluent in two, and often three, languages. Well educated barons might also read Greek. Their libraries, though small, might contain books in three languages, all of which they read. High Norman French was spoken at court in England, Latin was spoken when dealing in diplomacy and legal affairs, including the transfer of property, and Anglo-Saxon was spoken with farmers, servants and merchants.  Depending on where their seat of power was located, the ruling class might also be fluent in Cymric (the language of Wales).

Consider my amazement when I discovered that castles often had bathing rooms, and some rulers even ported a large bathing tub with them when they traveled.  Bathing never went out of fashion, but the devastation caused by the extreme famine in the 14th century, followed by nearly half the population dying of the plague, left the remaining people too weakened to do more than just barely survive.

Most of all, I am astonished at the complexity and sophistication of the culture and society of the Middle Ages.  There was a body of laws which were enforced in courts at various levels of power.  There was a highly developed system of trade not only within the borders of a country, but across borders and seas.  There was a rapid progression of development in architecture and art, and in the mechanics of offensive and defensive warfare - armour, weapons, siege engines and the like.

While most people did spend their lives in the class into which they were born, there was also a certain amount of upward mobility, and everyone who was freeborn had certain rights in the law and in custom.

It was a world quite different from ours, and yet I have found more points of similarity than I expected. While women had less freedom than we do now, it was not only women who had to live according to narrow rules and expectations. Everyone including knights had lives more circumscribed by custom, rules and law than people these days.

Scholars have said the mindset, the assumptions and expectations of people living in the Middle Ages is so different from ours as to render it impossible for us to understand them.  No doubt they are right, but that doesn't keep me from exploring what I can find, and reorienting my view accordingly.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"But how do you know you have the right people?"

The latest post by Dick Eastman "Barking Up the Wrong Tree", reminded me about the question a relative asked me when he saw my notebook full of ancestor records; "But how do you know you have the right people?"  As Dick pointed out, it isn't enough even to check original records: people in the same town may have identical names.

The answer is in more research, as Mr. Eastman shows - getting the whole picture: not only the person's vital dates, but the names of all associated family - spouse, children, etc. In cases where it is possible to discover the person's employment it can differentiate two otherwise similar people: someone who is a farmer/blacksmith in one census is not likely to have sold the farm and become a pastor or a hat maker in the next.

Beyond checking facts that can be found in contemporary records - original sources, I have found that there is a great variation in the accuracy of secondary sources. It helps to know the reputation of book or writer, and to weigh their information accordingly.

Haste does make waste, and like Dick Eastman, I have lopped off branches from my family tree after finding my research was not thorough enough to discern between my own ancestors and those of someone else.  The only thing worse would be to never discover the error, and go blithely on, recording more and more wrong leaves on the branches of my family tree.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pembroke Castle - home of William Marshall [Leo's Tree]

Pembroke Castle as seen from across the Pembroke River, nearly as it might have looked in 1200 when William and Isabel were in residence.

William Marshall Earl of Pembroke by Catherine A. Armstrong is a recent biography of the undefeated knight, the flower of chivalry, counselor to four kings, Regent of England, a legend in his own time. Sir William is Leo's 23rd great-grandfather.  His shield, below, is blazoned as follows:

per pale Or and vert a lion rampant gules

Shield of William Marshall picture thanks to Reed M. W. Wurts for furnishing of the correct shield to the Brookfield Ancestor Project - Surety Barons [these arms for William Marshall Jr. are the same as those of his famous father] - see also 'Some Feudal Coats of Arms' etc. by Joseph Foster, pub. 1902.

Pembroke Castle picture thanks to Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.  Picture uploaded 2007-9-23 by Monkeyrustler.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I heard Florence Nightingale Speaking today

Florence Nightingale lived from 1820 to 1910.  She established principles of nursing during her work in the Crimean War (1853-1856).  She is considered the mother of the nursing profession.

Hear her recorded voice at the British Library.

I'm deeply into research this week, and will continue with our ancestors in Pandababy's blog soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

9th out of 9 Magna Carta Surety Barons: Sir Robert de Vere

Leo's Tree:
Above are the arms of Sir Robert de Vere, circa 1164-1221; Magna Carta Surety Baron 1215, 3rd Earl of Oxford, hereditary Master Chamberlain of England; Chief Justice Itinerant in Herefordshire. His blazon is:

quarterly gules and Or in the first quarter a mullet argent.

Sir Robert de Vere died in Italy returning from a crusade.  His body was brought home and buried in the Benedictine priory  founded by his grandfather, Hatfield Priory at Broadoak, Essex. The arms of Sir Robert de Vere are carved into the shield with his effigy on his tomb, created within fifty years of his death by order of his son Robert.  The tomb effigy is currently in the parish church, where it was moved from the priory circa 1546, after the dissolution of monasteries ordered by King Henry VIII.

Sir Saher de Quincy also went on crusade after 1215. He died after the siege of Damietta, Egypt and is buried in Acre.  Sir John de Lacy was also at the siege of Damietta (1218, part of the 5th Crusade). Sir John returned home to England, married and raised a family and died twenty-two years later.  Another Magna Carta Baron (although not our ancestor) who was with Sir Saher de Quincy at Damietta was Sir Robert Fitzwalter, who returned safely to England with Sir Saher's ashes of viscera.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Magna Charta Barons - eighth out of nine - Saher de Quincy

April's Tree
Sir Saher de Quincy is believed to have borne the above arms:

  Or a fess gules  a file of eight points azure.

Reed M. W. Wurts, who is considered an authority, gives this as Sir Saher's arms at The Magna Charta Barons at Runnymede Home Page

The Baronial Order of Magna Charta gives the above arms for Sir Saher de Quincy:

  Or a fess gules a file of eight points argent

 The BOMC, founded in 1898 is definitely an authority.  Sir Saher de Quincy, 1st Earl of Winchester, Magna Carta Surety Baron 1215; he lived circa 1150-1219.

 The coat of arms directly above may or may not the arms for the Magna Charta Baron Sir Saher de Quincy, but they are found in many rolls of arms for the de Quincy surname:  gules seven mascules Or.  They are found in one instance with his wife.  The most knowledgeable sources I can find do not credit him with these arms. Some believe that Sir Quincy adopted these arms later in his life and the other arms were his in his youth. I'm not even an amateur herald and can not possibly say.  The arms directly above did belong to other de Quincys, and these have been adopted by many family tree enthusiasts for Sir Saher (sometimes written Saer).

People who spend their lives studying arms and titles and the rules governing them, may be officially recognized as heralds.  Even heralds, recognized as experts in this field, may disagree on fine points of heraldry.  There are a few basic rules, however, that can be understood by those of us who are enthusiasts but not experts.

The rule I would begin with is that arms are for a specific individual.  Only consider - a knight on the field of battle with his armor and helm concealing his features was identified by the arms on his shield, on his banners and pennants, on the caparisons on his horse, and by his sleeveless coat depicting his arms, (by which we have the term 'coat of arms').

What knight would want his feats of valor to be credited to someone else?  What knight would want someone else to carry his personal insignia - suppose they were cowardly and fled the battle?  It is not difficult to see that practical concerns required knightly arms to be personal.

A device such as a label (shown in an earlier post) would be removed from the shield, coat, pennants, etc. of the eldest son  when he inherited the full honors of his father's title - that is, when his father died.

In certain instances, a young knight might adopt the arms which had belonged to his grandfather, perhaps with the permission of his mother if she were the only surviving heir of her father. Arms could signify what place a man held in his family: whether he was the 'son and heir', or a younger brother, or a cousin.

Sons did not always adopt the coat of arms that was borne by their fathers. Sir Gilbert Segrave carried a shield with three silver wheat sheaves on a black ground. His son Nicholas kept the family colors but changed to a silver lion rampant on a black ground.

Certain devices were added to the shield signifying honors won at specific battles. The arms a knight carried were a sign of his authority, accomplishments, lands, power and wealth. 
We cannot claim these arms of our ancestors, any more than we can claim the honors and lands they once held. We can take note of them and study to understand the meaning and symbolism, and we can make an effort to discern which arms belonged to which ancestor.