Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another Companion of William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror is thought to have invaded England with an army of no less than 5,000 (some estimates are from 7,000 to 11,000). The number of proven "Companions of the Conqueror" ought to be large; however, many have claimed to have ancestors who were at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when an analysis of their family tree proves that to have been impossible.

The names of the known companions are no more than fifteen from 'unimpeachable sources', (with six names added by more recent historians studying the best secondary sources).  Twenty-one out of over five-thousand isn't much, but then, it was nearly a thousand years ago, plus the natural confusion in the aftermath of a major battle and years spent subduing the countryside.

So I find it quite amazing that Leo and I are both directly descended from six of the companions of William the Conqueror, from the list of fifteen; Leo alone is descended from a seventh companion.

Here is a link to the coat of arms for one of them - Walter Giffard. It is an excellent website with the symbolic meaning of the colors and charges on the shields, and some history of the person.

Genealogy Ancestral Family Trees

Blazon:  gules three lions passant gardant in pale argent

Described in the classic The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and wales: by Sir Bernard Burke, copyright 1864, are the arms of Walter Giffard, Seigneur de Longueville, circa 1015-1085. He received fame for his valor at the seige of Barbastro in Aragon, Spain, part of the Reconquista. Sir Walter Giffard is a direct ancestor of both Leo and April.

Some of the early known rolls of arms I have found for England begin circa 1270-1280. The Bayeux Tapestry, woven soon after the Battle of Hastings (1066) shows some arms on shields, so we know that at least some arms were displayed as early as 1066.

About 1245, a monk called Matthew of Paris wrote and drew pictures of some of the arms borne by the great men of his time and prior to his time. Here is a link to digitized parchment image, courtesy of the British Library. I am still searching the pages for the shield of Walter Giffard.

[A slight detour here, just because it is so fabulous to have the only copy of Matthew Paris' "Historia Anglorum" available on the Internet!]  The link opens to the page recording the crowning of King Henry III (age 9) following the death of his father, King John (previous page). Notice in the second column, tenth line from the bottom, the script concerns "Willi comits Penbroke-magni" and goes on to record that William earl of Pembroke has become the Regent of England for the young king. (I don't read Old Latin - but I think that is the sense of the text.)

So with the authority of Sir Bernard Burke, we can be confident that the above image is similar to that borne by Sir Walter Giffard.

I must apologize for having earlier posted the image for Walter Giffard prematurely, which I  have discovered with more research was for a cadet branch of the same Giffard family.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sir William de Huntingfield - Magna Carta Surety Baron

Or on a fess gules three plates

The above Shield of Arms, borne by William de Huntingfield, 1165-1221 is from the Brookfield Ancestor Project - Surety Barons Magna Charta Baron for William De Huntingfield, A feudal baron in Suffolk, as seen here.

Sir William de Huntingfield was made Constable of the legendary Dover Castle in 1204. It was the beginning of many such honors and responsibilites that he was awarded up to 1215.  Because he joined the Baron's revolt against King John, all of his lands were confiscated and he was briefly imprisoned. Like the rest of the Surety Barons, he was excommunicated by the Pope.

He went on the 5th Crusade around 1219, and died circa 1221, before  he could return to England.

Sir William is an ancestor of Leo, and the twelfth Magna Carta Surety Baron in our family tree.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Parliament of Fire and Faggots

The Parliament of 1414 was held at Grey Friars Priory in Leicester, so that they would not be hindered by the mobs which might have shown up in London. In his last appearance at Parliament, Walter Hungerford (Leo's 19th gr-grandfather) was elected Speaker. In an effort to control the Lollard rioting, Parliament quickly passed two acts which did more damage to the nation than all the previous riots (in my opinion).

From Wikipedia, here is an excerpt of The Suppression of Heresy Act which they passed:

that whoever should read the Scriptures in English, which was then called Wicliffe's Learning, should forfeit land, cattle, goods, and life, and be condemned as heretics to God, enemies to the crown, and traitors to the kingdom; that they should not have the benefit of any sanctuary, though this was a privilege then granted to the most notorious malefactors; and that, if they continued obstinate, or relapsed after pardon, they should first be hanged for treason against the king, and then burned for heresy against God.

The freedom to write and publish any document or book they so desired was severely curtailed with the following act:

 no book ... be from henceforth read ... within our province of Canterbury aforesaid, except the same be first examined by the University of Oxford or Cambridge ... and ... expressly approved and allowed by us or our successors, and in the name and authority of the university ... delivered unto the stationers to be copied out.

The Suppression of Heresy Act was revoked under Henry VIII and Edward VI (1509-1553) but was revived the first year of Queen Mary (1554).

For the eschewing and avoiding of errors and heresies, which of late have risen, grown, and much increased within this realm, for that the ordinaries have wanted authority to proceed against those that were infected therewith: be it therefore ordained and enacted by authority of this present Parliament, that the statute made in the fifth year of the reign of King Richard II, concerning the arresting and apprehension of erroneous and heretical preachers, and one other statute made in the second year of the reign of King Henry IV, concerning the repressing of heresies and punishment of heretics, and also one other statute made in the second year of the reign of King Henry V, concerning the suppression of heresy and Lollardy, and every article, branch, and sentence contained in the same three several Acts, and every of them, shall from the twentieth day of January next coming be revived, and be in full force, strength, and effect to all intents, constructions, and purposes for ever.

Our ancestors who settled America 78 years later left England in revolt against such laws as these.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Parliament of Bats and other strange nomenclature

The Parliament of Bats was called in 1426. When I first noticed the name, I pictured this:

but naturally, it was not a batty Parliament.

It was an argument about freedom to carry weapons for self-defense.  The Duke of Gloucester had made a rule that members of Parliament were not allowed to carry swords. So they armed themselves with clubs (bats) instead. 

I started noticing some of the strange names that various sessions of the English Parliament acquired throughout history.  The Mad Parliament, called in 1258, brought to mind this:
but naturally, the Parliament was not nutty, or crazy.

They were very angry (mad, in fact) and they summoned the King (rather than the other way around) to Oxford, where they imposed what became known as the Oxford Provisions, limiting the arbitrary power of the king. The Provisions specified that King Henry keep to the agreement signed by King John known as Magna Carta [now you just knew we'd be getting back to Runnymede with this, didn't you?].  Well, like Magna Carta, the Provisions of Oxford were undone in short order - but the English are a stubborn bunch, and it didn't matter what they named it, they kept telling the king they had rights and would insist on them.

So the Parliament of Bats wasn't batty, and the Mad Parliament wasn't nuts. Next: a more ominous name "The Parliament of Fire and Faggots". 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sir Nicholas de Segrave - 1238-1295

                                     sable a lion rampant argent

Sir Nicholas de Segrave changed his arms from those his father bore to those pictured above

                               sable three garbs argent

 The arms borne by Sir Nicholas' ancestors are pictured above. They represent three sheaves of wheat.
They were borne by Gilbert de Segrave who was Nicholas' father.

Sir Nicholas de Segrave fought by the side of Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham in 1265.  He was severely wounded.  Later he withdrew with a group holding out on the Island of Ely, and was still carrying on the struggle against tyranny in 1267.  He was excommunicated three times between 1263 and 1267 for fighting against the king. Eventually he reconciled with Henry III and his son Edward.

The Segraves are direct ancestors of April.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sir Hugh le Despenser and Sir Ralph Basset

When Sir Simon de Montfort saw the overwhelming array of force that Edward had brought against him, he is reputed to have said, "Now let us commend our souls to God; for our bodies are our enemies." (1)

He also urged those with him to flee and save themselves for better service to England, but the only deserters were the foreign troops who had made common cause with Montfort.  Simon and those around him fought to the death.  The shields of two who fought and died next to Simon are:

Leo is a direct descendant of (2) Sir Hugh le Despenser (1223-1265), whose arms above are blazoned as:

Quarterly argent and gules fretty Or overall a bendlet sable

Leo and April are both related, though not in direct ascendency, to (3) Sir Ralph Basset (-1265) who might have borne the arms, below, which are blazoned as:

Or three piles meeting in base gules, a canton ermine

(1) Life of Simon de Montfort, Mandell Creighton, D.D.; c. 1895 London, England.
(2) Dering Roll #214 Thanks to Brian Timms for sharing his fabulous collection of shields
(3) Foster Roll #47 Thanks to Brian Timms for sharing his fabulous collection of shields

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Some random thoughts on blazon, and a new series of Shields

Arms were not always carried down through a family in the same form as they were originally.  If that were the case, the study of heraldry would not be nearly as interesting as it is.  Finding a family name that is carried down to fourth 'Ralph' or the tenth 'William' creates additional complexity, for most armorial rolls span several decades, prompting the question - which arms go with which knight, when they are all named Robert and their lifespans overlapped closely?

This is why in the following series of arms, some are modified with "Might have been" borne by....  Although I make every effort to correctly match the arms to the correct knight, there is room for confusion. Anyone who can offer positive identification with sources is very welcome to comment -- please!

The five knights in this series were connected through common cause against King Henry III and the foreign clerics of the Roman church, who were violating tradition and law and enriching themselves with taxes meant for the benefit of the kingdom and the people.

Leo and April
are both related, though not in direct ascendency, to Sir Simon de Montfort, 2nd Earl of Leicester.  He might have borne these arms at the Battle of Lewes in 1264  --

gules a lion rampant argent
Simon had an older brother who probably bore these arms until he died in 1241, and then his eldest son would have the same arms until his death in 1249. Simon's nephew left no male heir so Simon might have rightfully borne these arms from 1249 until his death 4 Aug 1265 at the Battle of Evesham. The double tail on the lion is an unusual difference on Simon's family shield.

Tomorrow: Sir Hugh le Despenser

Image from Wikipedia at,_6th_Earl_of_Leicester
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License;
Origin of picture
Its description comes from La banque du blason et Armorial de J.B. RIETSTAP
Picture drawn by Odejea on October 2005, the 22nd

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Throwing the Climate Dice

James E. Hanson is the Director for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  In 1988 he testified before Congress and showed how, using a mathematical probability program based on throwing 'climate dice', weather patterns could be modeled and predicted.

He is back again, this time to tell us that THE DICE ARE LOADED!

I found his article in the Washington Post easy to understand and vital to know.  If you would like to read it for yourself, the link is here.

I never thought that Mother Nature would cheat and use loaded dice, but it appears to be the case.  We'd all like to have a peek into the future and see what it has in store for us.  Here is your chance - go ahead, peek. I won't tell.

Friday, August 3, 2012

News of the World

We interrupt this genealogical blog with an urgent news bulletin:


Yes, the Teddy Bears have reverted to their aggressive origins and have launched a massive air attack on the country of Belarus.  The President of Belarus recently bragged about his country's impenetrable air defense system.  The Teddy Bears, in retaliation for his hubris, parachuted into Belarus by the thousands, launched from a single small airplane.

The bears, known and loved for their peaceful, friendly ways, have shocked the world.  They have particularly shocked the two Belarusan generals who were fired as a result of the assault.

Although the President of Belarus at first denied the invasion, the bears collective messages of Democracy and hope were too much for him.  He admitted the bears had landed, and waving his fists in the air, he declared, 'We shall get those bears!'  He also ejected the Swedish diplomats from their embassy, for their part in the bear conspiracy.  It seems the plane that carried the Teddy Bears was launched from Sweden.

Sweden retaliated and expelled the Belarusan diplomats from Sweden.

Stay tuned for the latest developments.  We are holding our breath, waiting to see if the Panda Bears are going to join this war of nerves, and if so, to which side they will lend their support?

Signing off for Pandababy, I am your reporter on the front lines of the news!

BREAKING!  BREAKING!  This just in -

After meditating on an especially juicy piece of bamboo, Pandababy asked,

 "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

"It is obvious that bears must stand united, or fall individually.  We shall, of course, support the brave and reckless actions of our cousins, the Teddy Bears."