OUR VIKING - NORMAN - ENGLISH ORIGINS
“Generally, it is agreed and conceded that the organization of the surname, as we know it today, can be ascribed to the Norman race about 1120. The inspiration for this monumental event was not a whimsical cultural or spiritual happening. It was an economic necessity. And if you're going to consider "surnames" THIS IS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN throughout most of Europe. This is not an attempt to justify, excuse, criticize, praise or condemn the Norman race. It is a study of surname origins.
The Normans were primarily of Viking origin, descended from Duke Rollo and his Viking pirates, Rollo being a one time Jarl or Earl of Orkney who had been kicked out of northern Norway by the King. Rollo landed in northern France and claimed a chunk. From the mid 10th century, this new and ambitious race ravaged all Europe down to the tip of Sicily, quickly. thoroughly and effectively, despite (or because of) having been converted to Christianity. The powerful land hungry Normans spread themselves thinly but with great determination and ruthlessness. This was a feudal society. Family possessions, land acquisitions, required and acquired an urgently needed identity tag for posterity, a little more sophisticated than Tyson the Terrible, an actual Norman name of great renown, as we shall see. Heritable family ownership and dynasty continuity was paramount, and became the prime motivation for the surname, a tag which followed its own set of crude rules from its inception, and the protocols changed, became more refined, adapted on the fly. These emerging social, quasi-legal rules were vital to domain ownership in this exploding feudal empire.
The Normans started seeding the British Isles about 1002, way before the Battle of Hastings, but the Anglo records are scanty. They're busy justifying a rather ordinary Saxon race with its chronicles. A much more comfortable ancestry of Norman chronicles reveal much more. The islands to the north had already been devastated by the invading ripples of Danish and Norwegian Vikings who now held much of the land, particularly in the north of England. The Orkneys, Hebrides and the Isle of Man, which had been well settled by the Vikings. Weak Saxon kings had found it more convenient to pay bounties and to demand hostages from the Viking marauders, buying short-lived peace for the islands. But King Cnut was smart, in his own way. He also had Denmark and Norway to look after, and the Swedes were pounding on his back door. This King of Denmark and Norway left government in England to the Saxon Witan, the ruling body. suitably seeded with Danish Earls from the north. He milked the Saxons with kindness, and left them and the Witan, more or less, to their own devices, but very, very poor.
Now, the Normans of mainland France also cast their beady eyes on this island paradise so full of promise, an island base often envied and sullied by the Vikings. But, not wanting a direct confrontation with Cnut, a fellow Viking, they bided their time, and infiltrated with friendly implants. The surnaming system was already under way in Normandy. For instance, Robert Guiscard, the Norman who had conquered practically all of Italy, used the simple surname of Guiscard in 1045, this in addition to all his many other later titles, including Duke of Sicily. Other Norman houses followed suit in this simple identification of their patrimony, and though the prefix "de" frequently preceded the locative domain name, it would be eventually and attritionally be dropped as clumsy by most families. Some few even retained it until the 14th and 15th centuries but mostly for affectation and distinction. Some just blended the 'de' or 'd'' into the surname, as in Defoe.
The table was set for the Norman invasion of England. The justifications, sometimes hotly argued, are not as important to surnames as the fact of it. One must wonder whether the Battle of Hastings was just a formality, a showcase of power. The Pope, recently having been saved from almost extinction by Norman Robert Guiscard in Rome, heartily favored a re-statement of the extension of the Holy Roman Empire northward and gave Duke William his blessing, and his papal ring. The Pope owed the Normans one.
The compact relationship between the Normans to the north and the Normans to the south in Italy has never really been fully explored. We do know that Duke William made several visits to Rome. Whether he met Guiscard, this dynamic Lord of all southern Italy, whose status was almost equal to that of Duke William, is not known but all signs point to a very close and friendly liaison. Guiscard actively recruited Barons from the north with very generous offers of land to help him control southern Italy and individual family relationships were strong. Amongst others, Roger Bigod's brother went south with the Riddels to Apulia and fought alongside Guiscard. Another Norman, Ansold de Maule of the Vexin, the seignor of Maul outside Paris and a rich Parisian magnate, also fought with Guiscard in Greece in 1081, possibly along with his two brothers, Theobald and William. The close relationship continued when Prince Tarentum (Guiscard’s son, known as Mark Bohemond in the 1st Crusade) left his nephew Tancred in charge of Jerusalem, in 1100, under King Baldwin. Trancred, in turn, delegated command of Jerusalem to Bigod d'Ige, nephew of Roger Bigod, the great northern Earl who was at the Conquest and received grants of 123 lordships in Essex and whose descendants played such a prominent role in the later Magna Carta at Runnemede. Similarly, some of the knights at the Conquest undoubtedly moved up from Italy to seize the opportunity for the land grab in England during or after the Conquest at Hastings although it must be admitted that Guiscard was creating lots of opportunities to the south.
Anyway, the presence of Innocent's papal banner at Hastings must have given King Harold a partial seizure. There can be no other excuse for he and his brother's inept and apathetic generalship at Hastings. Claims that he was surprised are nonsense; he was simply out maneuvered, probably by Norman treachery. He'd been waiting on the south coast through the long hot summer.
The timing of the invasion was impeccable. The long summer defense of the south coast by the shire fyrd (militia) was such that they had to depart their defensive positions to return to reap their autumn harvest. Strangely, the Norman monks of Fecamp had been parked on the cliffs near Hastings for some time. Nobody seemed to notice them. And significantly, Harold was otherwise preoccupied in a major action to the north at Stamford Bridge. Whether there was any grand Viking scheme, was anybody's guess. Handshakes are not usually recorded in history.
In essence, the Normans took over from Cnut, and the later King Edward the Confessor, himself half Norman, was a 26 year product of the Norman court at Rouen, carefully schooled in the Norman culture (son of Emma daughter of Duke Richard 1st Duke of Normandy). In the overall scheme of things, in the post-Conquest period, this intrusion left the Normans with almost as big an empire as the Romans 1000 years before, not controlled by insular, non fraternizing legions of well trained and disciplined warriors and walled cities, but by a system of 'hands on' feudal domain ownership, and, since King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland finally declared himself to be Duke William the Conqueror's man in 1072 after the Duke had ravaged as far north as the Forth, the Norman empire would stretch from the Orkneys to the tip of Sicily, later to Greece and Jerusalem.
This explosive Norman race, little more than a century old, was very unlike Cnut, who had just milked the land, and whose head was administratively elsewhere. The Normans, on the other hand, jealously ensured clear title and occupation of all its conquered feudal domains. It found no joy in sharing government with the reigning Saxon Witan as Cnut did. Hence, the urgency of surnames, and hereditary entitlement of domains. This particular phase of history found the Saxon influence considerably diminished, virtually landless, and many returned to the land as agricultural slaves, or camped around the walls of the great Norman castles for protection, small services and trade, and survival. The government and ownership of domains was, for all intents and purposes, Norman. The Witan was in abeyance, gone forever. In 1172, the same Norman Conquest and ownership would also be so of Ireland when Strongbow, the Earl of Pemroke engineered the occupation of Leinster for Henry II. The seeding of lowland Scotland followed the same pre-Conquest Norman pattern. It would be 150 years after the Conquest before England would experience its first resident Norman King, the unfortunate King John, who lost his castle home and his rule over Normandy to the French and departed to England. So, during this crucial period which coincided with surname development, the Norman influence on surnames, ownership and title in Britain and throughout Europe (by 1072 they'd also beaten up the Fresians, the Germans (Emperor Otto of Germany was a nephew of the Norman King John in 1215) and even their friends and kin the Flemings) and surname became an organizational necessity in an emerging world of domain possessions, posterities and their hard fought physical and legal entitlements.
History then pursued its complex course. The Anglo/French rivalry still predominated. The Plantagenets took over from the Angevins and subsequent Kings of England gradually faded their Norman identity. After victories at Agincourt and Brecy the memory of Norman heritage gradually became misty, more proudly anglicized, an insular island outpost of independence. Edward III became King of France by marriage but ruled from his base in England. There was a growing compulsion in England to find a past less connected with their deadly adversaries across the Channel, the French, even though France frequently became a refuge for royalty in trouble. The legends of domestic history now came to the fore, as England sought its own historic heroes. King Arthur burst out of the closet of knightly chivalry in his shining armour, but strangely, a Briton not a Saxon. The Order of the Garter regained the dignity of knighthood and became the shining image of chivalry and honor. Henry VII even named his first born, Arthur, supporting his claimed relationship to this legendary ancestor. Mallory in Newgate prison wove even more fantastic tales of Arthur's castles and his exploits in Mort d'Arthur, one of the first printed books that became a best seller. And Ireland dug up its own hero, Niall of the Nine Hostages with far more historic justification. Scotland, adopted Kenneth MacAlpine. Then came the empire builders, incited by Elizabeth's Spanish Armada victory, and the outreach to the world and great riches. But England found its own inner turmoil. The monarchy lost its grip, and Cromwell became Lord Protector and took over in the name of the people. Recovering, the Crown became Dutch, then German, and with Queen Victoria, reached its heyday. Meanwhile, the great adventure to the colonies, freedom from tyranny and search for opportunity, began to take shape.
For most surname research we are "indebted" to the many overly simplistic books written in the 19th century when the British class society reached its zenith. Even some of the Scottish chiefs abandoned their castles and built town residences in London, joining the galas and festivities of the worldly rich and famous. This was an era of great pomp and prestige. Britannia ruled the waves. The class society prevailed, and was pursued to almost absurd and ridiculous extremes. The search for surname identity followed class lines that perpetuated the establishment, the aristocracy, rank and position. Commoners were Saxons and Boozers, literally, which, of course, the latter surname had nothing to do with the Norman name Beuzie. Not wishing to follow the example of France, Britain almost idolized the Victorian monarchy, and wars were fought valiantly on her behalf, even, some say, WWI, long after she was dead. Meanwhile, the German aristocracy, the Russian, Hungarian, Spanish and Polish monarchies were a network of royal intermarriage. Even Italy, hitherto a conglomerate of city-states, doges and nations, became unified under one King around 1870. France was an island republic enjoying a less stratified, but bloodied democratic administration after the revolution along with her very distant neighbor, the United States of America.
In this European environment, then, small wonder that authors and researchers of surname origins set out to be self-serving and Saxon. It was difficult to explain that the Duke of Norfolk might have the surname Howard, along with his chauffeur in the same car and no discernible relationship at all. Not only difficult to explain, because probably both had a common Norman heritage from D'Acres, they didn't even look alike, mostly because observers preferred the differences rather than the similarities. So, except for the aristocracy and the titled, many of whom ironically claimed 800 year Norman pedigrees, surnames were more or less rationalized as a random gift to the commoner, a coincidence, an assumption, or a wild misinterpretation of some ancient ritualistic activity, many of which were explained with some very imaginative creations. The major anomaly of course, was the aristocracy's great delight in proving a Norman heritage.
It was more important during this Victorian period to keep the rank and file guessing, or to be misleading, than to examine historic reasons for surname development, whether they are racial, demographic, linguistic, economic or social. The upper class, and anyone who aspired thereto, needed to distance themselves from the cannon fodder. The playing field(s of Eton and Harrow) was/were not very level/ They were tilted in favor of the ennobled, and the wannabees, whoever they were, and, Lord knows, there are a lot of us. Additional to the class thing, other factors entered into the algorithm of surname analysis and research. National psyche played a big role. Continuing this denial of early Norman influence, what right minded commoner Brit would be proud to have a surname in England that was anything but WASP, Scot or Irish in origin. After 800 years feuding with those dastardly Frenchman across the Channel, including a 'hundred year war', who wanted to have a surname which could be remotely considered as being of Norman origin. Yet the best assumption is that so many are.
For instance, the surname Cartwright. On the surface, this name seems to be as basic Anglo trade-type-person as you could get. Yet at least two, possibly up to seven of the invaders of Britain in 1066 and later, were Norman nobles of the house of Carteret, Lords of Carteret in Normandy. Read it quickly, and it's not very far away, even now. Despite the fact that, then, it was probably pronounced Carterai. On paper, on a deed or charter, however, it could be read as Cartwright, or very close thereto. Coming full circle, descendants of early Boston settlers of the name around the turn of this century still pronounced the name Carteret, and some still do. What goes around comes around. From the ridiculous to the sublime, we have the name Twopenny, and lots of other pennies, including Moneypenny. Twopenny was ascribed to a trade name for a money changer, rather than the Norman Tupigne, and so also Magnapeigne, Norman surnames which settled in England and Scotland. And who could associate Taylor as a big Norman name, a hero at Hastings, Taillefer, instead of the obvious Saxon tradesperson? While a Norman origin is arguable, up to this point in time the Norman side of the argument has not been fully presented because of the fixation on a need for a Saxon origin, somehow remotely connected by distant mind-set to "King Arthur?” a person who receives scant mention in the Saxon Chronicle, (not that this many versioned document can be commended for its impeccable accuracy) and who found fame with early historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, and the Welsh Triads, legends of the Welsh race.
Unthinkable that a commoner name such as Cartwright or Carter could be associated with Norman nobility. Perish the thought. It was obviously a trade name, and Saxon to boot. However, if it was a trade name there are a few arguments "au contraire". We are reasonably agreed that surnames took shape progressively between 1020 and 1300. In England, trade occupations such as carters and cart wrights, were largely associated with the delivery of stone and other materials for the erection of Norman castles during that period. These castles were being demolished almost as fast as they were erected. This was by far the biggest 'industry' of the time if we remove agriculture and ship building. Wales is known for the highest saturation of castles (and their ruins) per square mile in the world. And the re-construction exercise provided the Normans with advanced architectural skills, in a big hurry. These many minor Saxon entrepreneurs, carters, etc., were mostly one man, one ox or, (unusually) horse operators, and generally landless, usually penniless, little above a slave. The Saxons of this time had a long way to go before any real recovery of lands was effected. Taxation caused a need for surname identification, but land rights, fishing rights, and their produce were much more tangible as taxable assets to the King. Taxation on services was much more complex and entrepreneurial, and an administrative problem which crossed many boundaries. The tax collector had not yet learned to effectively deal with the complexities of profit and loss. The Domesday Book of 1086, the prime basis for taxation, was solely domain oriented and very focused on which Norman (90%) noble held English lands and other rights other than the King himself, or the Church.
Other goods being hauled by carters (under escort) at the time were the luxuries demanded by the wealthy Norman settlers, thus creating a new society in London, the importer/businessman, many of them Jewish, people who would scour the world for anything from spices to swords, tapestries to fexcotic wines, furnishings for the fine new Norman domains and arms for their personnel. Some say this expanding trade was the real inspiration for the first Crusade, largely a Norman effort. It is most likely that most of these 'carting' operators in this distribution network throughout England were still on a 'font' (first) name basis, and also most likely for them to have been lost in history as a genealogical chain. The larger businesses of haulage contractors did not arrive until centuries later. Perhaps, the only exception might be that when a cartage operator was brought before the courts, his trade might describe him, but this was not usually the custom, since a trade was a poor identification, easily forged. In the absence of a surname, far better to describe the person as being from a town or village, but this identification would most usually only be used for court purposes. It would not have any relationship to a domain name; a jealously guarded entitlement of the Norman settler and his bloodline, and any unauthorized use of that name may diminish his entitlement, both to himself and his successors, and result in putting the offender to the gallows. And in 1170, according to the Justicair of England, 'every little knight in England had his seal" which protected those domain rights.
In reality, it is difficult to accept the simplistic explanation that services or trades played a very important role in the creation of surnames, if surnames went hand in glove with domain ownership for the King's taxation purposes. Of course, we cannot discount the later copy-cat evolution of surnames as a social custom but the acid test at this time was ownership of land, largely Norman, including a sizable contingent of Breton, Flemish and French. The very few nominal Saxons, who retained their lands, usually had a strong Viking or Danish heritage, and had become allied to the Norman way of life in one way or another.
However, it should be remembered the seeding of England by Normans since the year 1000 could give many records a distortion by describing Domesday (1086) holdings as being held by the 'the pre-Conquest holder" and actually still be Norman, or even Danish, rather than Saxon. But some of this carefully planned, what is now believed to be extensive pre-Conquest Norman recruitment backfired. For instance, before the Conquest, Edward the Confessor recruited Gilbert Tesson (Tyson) (note the use of the pre-Conquest family surname) one of the most powerful Barons of Normandy, and offered him the great barony of Alnwick in northern England that he accepted and brought with him many knights. It may be suspected that this was King Edward's method of neutralizing the influence of the two northern Earls, Edwin and Morcar. Ironically, by the time Hastings rolled around, Gilbert had switched allegiances, and fought alongside King Harold and his Saxons. His fellow Normans killed him, Gilbert, and many of his knights. This, however, did not prevent Gilbert's son William from later becoming the Lord of Alnwick and Malton, such was the power of this family who were distant kin of Duke William. Meanwhile, in Normandy, the head of the family, Ralph Tesson, aging scion of the family, which is said to have at one time held 1/3rd of the Duchy of Normandy, was represented at Hastings by his son Ralph Tesson II, with his large company of knights, and the latter may not have survived the battle either. Brother against brother. His, Ralph Tesson's, considerable English domains in York, Lincoln and Nottingham granted by Duke William, eventually went to Ralph Tesson's young grandson, Gilbert, through his son, Ralph Tesson II. His grandson became known as Ralph Tesson III despite whatever surname he had used in the meantime.
Here we find the beginning of a crude Norman surnaming protocol. This protocol, by a quantum space/time leap, would be adopted by upper class North Americans in the 19th century. The immediate descendent was never allowed to use the scion's surname during his lifetime. This might jeopardize the old man's rights to his crown jewels and estates. So, Ralph Tesson must have been alive at the Conquest and shortly thereafter, but he must have been a very old man. His son added the numeric II. The grandson, the III. All with the continuity of the same surname but distinguishable one from another. This was a far better procedure than the Fitz protocol that we will discuss later, and which was also used by some Norman families of the time. The Normans even introduced the Sr. and Jr. suffix to distinguish father and son but it was not popular.
Many have questioned the disproportionate distribution of surnames. So how, you might ask, and why, did there get to be so many Carters or Cartwrights in this present day world of ours? Why shouldn't the Plunks, and many other 'one-off surnames' be right up there with them? Why the disproportionate representation? And this is the 64K question everybody wants to avoid. We can call it inexplicable, accidental human evolution, and leave it at that. In the interests of the equality of the human race, and the complete anonymity of humanity, perhaps we should leave it right there. On the other hand, the differentials might be important to our genetic composition. Theoretically, one person living at the time of the Conquest, over thirty generations, could produce millions of descendants of the same surname and, although we are not suggesting this happened in any ordered fashion, the possibility exists. Robert the Bruce of Scotland (Norman heritage) was a good example of the latter. He is said to have had 28 children on the right side of the blanket, as they say, and an equal number 'outside the blanket'. His descendants are said to number over two million but, obviously, not necessarily the entire surname Bruce.
On the other hand, it is equally preposterous to claim a single source origin for all surnames. Even O'God, (maybe Irish) George Burns, changed his Jewish name to Burns. But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater with this and other glaring, well-publicized examples. Two of the first identifiable relics of surname association were the family seal (the knight's legal bank card) and the Coat of Arms. The latter was recorded for posterity much more than the former. For the sake of simplicity, let's consider the surviving Coat of Arms for the family name Stapleton, for instance, a reasonably common surname, which reveals over 30 Coat of Arms, registered to different people of that surname, different branches of the family name throughout history. All but two carry the main theme device, a silver field charged with a black lion rampant. This 800 year historical time span of the surname records would have been huge demographic phenomena of random coincidence if purely accidental. Foreign intruders into the surname over this 800 year period would surely have been expected to have a been strongly represented by "foreigners", Burns-like renegades who changed their name to Stapleton. So let's consider this surname Stapleton. Nowadays it seems like a very ordinary surname that thousands enjoy. It was big in the 14th and 15th centuries, Barons, Lords, knights, and the like, but all that's passed into history. Few remember, or care to. Nevertheless, maybe there is a much stronger argument for kinship within a family surname than we care to acknowledge.
As mentioned previously, modern research is proving we have more identifiable differentials in the genetic blueprint in general than we have similarities, or equalities. In fact, one of the prime objectives in genetic research and the DNA is to isolate these differences. The larger question is "Are these differentials governed more closely with "family name" relationships, history and origins than we care to admit?” Even in the 19th century, one author, perhaps more of a maverick than the rest, did become curious about the obvious population differences in surnames. He ran a check with the Public Records Office and found the top fifty most populous surnames. He found that from the earliest records, a century before, and these surnames had a growth rate that far exceeded the average for the population growth for the whole country. This growth rate was carried consistently from year to year by family surnames. The narrow time frame, the number in the sample, mostly eliminated the possibility of the assumption of a surname for any particular or peculiar reason.
How do we explain the gross variations in the populations of different surnames? Leaving Smith and Schmidt out of the discussion for a moment, other surnames have growth rates far in excess of national averages. Incidentally, even the Smiths, who have been clocked with a 38% annual growth rate, don’t make sense. In those olden days the Farmer outnumbered the Smiths about ten to one. With apologies, what happened to those Farmer guys? Here was a trade name that bit the dust. Many other surnames die on the vine, and have been doing so for centuries, ever since surnames came into being. And there are other people whom, when on vacation, open the hotel phone book in a compulsive search to find another of the same name. Or, we could close our eyes, chalk it down to accidental marital relationships, and leave it at that. Possibly we could suggest that there may be more to this genetic blueprint than meets the eye. Maybe it carries an innate compulsion to procreate which is a variable within each surname. Once we admit this, however, we get beyond the mere physical composition of the genetic blueprint, genetic codes and the DNA as a one-dimensional flat profile. We now have to admit that the surname carries with it many more intangibles than the straight physical blueprint of the human body, and we open a can of worms that would not be socially acceptable, not even for a sly peek at this point in time. Perhaps, some time in the not too distant future, there'll no such thing as a generic drug, and that each will be tailor-made to one's own genetic line and eliminate many of the sometimes-dangerous side effects of the generic prescription drug.
The "family name" commonality suggestion becomes almost imponderable. It deals with genetic survival rates baked into the genetic blueprint, and the impact of the environment. The plagues, the pox, cholera, and bunch of other deadlies, including the soldier's deadly enemy, dysentery, have hammered away at the human race. Pandemics from the first known big plague in Athens in 400 B.C, to the English historian Bede's reported plague of England about 440 A.D when he states *There were not enough living to bury the dead", to the Justinian plagues of the 542 which started in Constantinople and took 5 years to reach England in 547, killing fields all the way, to the 9th century devastation in England and Europe, and to the Black Death of 1348, the sweating disease of the early 1500's, the 1665 plague which devastated London, and thousands of other lesser ripples barely recorded in history, plagues which caused 1000 villages in the midlands of England to be ploughed over, and which have pruned and refined the human race. Lesser waves of the pestilences eroded perhaps many more of the human race. Some of these pandemics killed as much as one third of the world's population at the time, particularly the Justinian event. The 1918 flu bug was no slouch either; it killed well over 20 million in the U.S. But these ancient pestilences hit the poor the hardest. They had no place to run, no place to hide. The wealthy, even moderately well heeled, moved ahead of the pestilences. They let the castle portcullis down, and nobody entered. They built barges on the rivers, and took the gangplank away. They moved to 'clean villages' and quarantined, a practice started in Italy in the 15th century. Some of the pestilences had different blends, grew stronger, endemics which returned with even more power, and survival almost became synonymous with the strength of their immunity and the degree of a person's wealth. Antonia Fraser's well-written and excellently researched "The Weaker Vessel" is recommended and gives a clearer, more detailed picture of 15th, 16th and 17th century hysteria. It describes the desperate drive to produce heirs at all costs, and, one suspects, even to the implied murder of an infertile wife, not just by Henry VIII, but also by lesser lights. The fertile woman became a baby factory from the age of 15 through 38 or so 'enjoying' an annual pregnancy ritual. Very few landowners relished the idea of their estates reverting back to the King. Survival, then, was to slip through the mini-mesh screen of life pestilential hazards, and produce a line of winners. And there, we'll leave you with that thought. You piece it together. Those of you who are still amongst us can stand up and salute the innate strengths of your ancestors. We made it here at this time. Millions, billions, didn't, exponentially.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. If these Normans handed us the surnaming protocols and played such a prominent role in our surviving Anglo and European races, we'd better understand a bit more about them, the Normans, that is, even at the risk of repetition. Unlike the previous Viking bounty hungry marauders who flitted around the oceans with fleets of up to one hundred ships, stinging here, ravaging there, wintering, gathering treasures which would help them gain power in their home domains, the Normans had achieved a new territory, converted Vikings who had firmly planted their roots in northern France. They became skilled military commanders who did not confine themselves to naval warfare and allied strategies, although these basic skills never left them. On land they were as dangerous as they were on the sea. They developed a hierarchical network of top down intermarriage, betrothals and cross-pollination that always seemed to work to their advantage.
As we have said, the Norman seeding of Britain took place over 50 years or more from about 1000 A.D. Elaborating, perhaps one of the most significant early seeds was Emma. Emma was the daughter of Richard 1st, Duke of Normandy, born 986. When fellow Viking and ex-pirate, King Of England, Denmark and Norway, Cnut (Canute) ascended the throne he was 'persuaded' to take Emma as his wife and Queen of England in 1017. He was only 21, she a 31-year-old 'veteran', and already had three children by her first husband, Aethelred of England, a weak King, probably totally dominated by Emma, and who had died the previous year. One of those children was the future King of England, Edward the Confessor. Both he and Alfred went off to Normandy, an investment in futures.
Emma had commenced the seeding of England with Normans in 1002, by inviting Hugh, a Norman adventurer, and endowed him with the city and castle of Exeter. There followed many more examples that can be found in the Norman chronicles. At this time Emma must only have been a young girl of 16, but she was a Norman who knew where she was going. Although Cnut, her new husband was a tyrant (he extracted the huge sum of 80,000 pounds from the Saxon people in his first year of reign) his new wife was even more ruthless.
Emma continued her Norman ways. During the reign of Cnut, and her son Harthacnut, she had amassed many estates and domains and held a fair chunk of the English treasury. When Harthacnut was having difficulty establishing his claim to the throne, her youngest son Alfred suddenly appeared on a visit from Rouen, Normandy. This didn't work out so well. Earl Godwin the leading Saxon Earl, decided enough Normans were enough. He trapped Alfred and his 600 mercenaries at Guildford, and that was the end of Alfy. Alfred had tried once before with the help of Robert, Duke of Normandy when they had gathered a fleet to invade England but got caught in a storm that washed them up in the Channel Islands. When Hathacnut was eventually crowned, Edward (the Confessor), Emma's other son, arrived from 26 years exile in Normandy but probably not with Emma's approval. Not all Normans got along with each other, either. Edward must have been Emma's least favored son. Harthacnut died. Following year Edward was crowned. 10 days after he received his "hallowing" of the English throne in Easter 1043, after Harthacnut's sudden and unaccountable death in June the previous year, marched from Gloucester to Winchester with his earls and relieved Emma of her and England's accumulated treasury and her lands. Not a very gracious act from one who was to be sanctified as England's only Saint/King. But Emma was allowed to live on in peace. Later, Edward, in an act of repentance, restored some of her estates and a small pension. One of the last recruitments Emma made before her death in 1052, was one Adam de Brus (Bruce) in 1050 of the Castle of Brix in Normandy. His successor would eventually become King of Scotland. Although he officially and ostensibly 'attended' the Queen, he went to Scotland almost immediately. Nevertheless, he managed to get back to the Conquest and join his Norman father and elder brother, William, at Hastings, 16 years later. But the Bruce had already acquired estates and a significant presence in Scotland before the Conquest. And Emma, a Norman, had played a dominant role in English and Scottish history almost continuously for 50 years from the turn of the millennia, but receives scant mention in that history except as the mother and wife of Kings. Concomitantly, Margaret, King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland's queen, was of the same ilk and also recruited her Norman friends to Scotland.
Similarly, Edward the Confessor himself felt more comfortable with the Norman side of his house. As previously mentioned he had recruited Gilbert Tesson amongst others, including the Earl of Hereford. He recruited fellow Norman William of Jumieges as Bishop of London, one of the most influential clerical positions in all England and it should be noted that Stigand, Emma's man, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1052, the year of Emma's death, against the wishes of the pope. Historians have contested the extent of this pre-Conquest Norman infiltration. Some claim it to be minimal, others claim that Edward was active in recruitment but was careful not to offend the Saxon Witan, the governing council. Obviously, some infiltration took place but nobody can be sure of the extent except from isolated and representative references in the Norman chronicles. From the growing body of evidence the implantation was more than enough.
So now the banquet was set, the menu set in print to receive in England this massive invasion of Norman magnates, knights, freemen, and men-at-arms from Normandy who would receive domains granted by Duke William for their participation at the invasion of England and join the Battle of Hastings. Many of these Norman families and their followers had provided ships, horses, and all the military accoutrements necessary for the success of the venture, and they carried their greed with them in huge expectations of their domain rewards. At this point in time there is very little evidence of the existence of any surnaming procedures in Saxon or Danish England.
The Battle of Hastings is dealt with elsewhere on this web site. Our interest in this event in this context is only one of numbers. Modern students of history, calculating the size of the promontory, which Harold and the Saxons chose to defend, shoulder to shoulder, and the depth of the available support platoons, the Saxon horde maxes out at about 10-12,000. The Normans, probably at something less, 8-10,000, including only about 20-25 house banners. After the victory, and with Harold suitably consigned to his place in history, Duke William and his fellow Normans, after wasting the Pevensay and Hastings area, moved eastward along the coast to Romney and Dover within the week, dismantled the castles and began to consolidate their bridgehead. Here he hesitates, calls for re-enforcements from over the channel (the numbers of reinforcements are questionable, but may be very significant in estimating the influence of Norman domain surnames in English (and Scottish) history). Let's face it, if Duke William amassed an army of 40,000, a reasonable number, in his devastation of the north 3 years later it would mean that this force was 4 times larger than his Hastings army, unless, of course, the pre-seeding of pre-Conquest England had been larger than even the Norman chronicles claim. To mobilize reinforcements Duke William could repair his fleet to the west at Pevensay and return it to Rouen or St.Valery. This seems more likely, rather than start building a whole new fleet at Rouen which would have taken months, perhaps a year.
In the meantime, Duke William moved his army north to Canterbury, then settled into a holding pattern for a month before London, more than likely to await the reinforcements. Some say he was sick (may have been dysentery which caught up with him in 1087 in a horrible death which caused his mourners to depart the Abbey at Caen because of the stench) but that's less likely than merely waiting to size up the situation in London and his reinforcements to arrive. Two or three parties were jockeying for power in London, including the northern Earls Edwin and Morcar, even the mayor of London, and Edgar Atheling who'd already been nominated the new King by the London element.
Duke William made his move from Canterbury at the beginning of November. He wheeled his army to the west in a wide circling movement of London to Wallingford, north west of London then to the east, north of London, to Little Beckhamstead. Surrounded, the citizenry of London capitulated without resistance. Edwin and Morcar, however, had slipped away to the east and the coastal north. The Atheling also escaped north to York.
The bridgehead now included most of the Home Counties. William was crowned King of England and began the huge political task of measuring and negotiating rewards to the magnates of his invasion army, using Edward the Confessor's tax rolls as a base for the then current land values. His first cut at the division of spoils was a greedy one, which did not rest well with many Norman magnates who had made huge investments of ships and knights to the invasion fleet. He gave almost all of the land south of London to the coast, and as far west as Winchester, to Bishop Odo, his half brother, who became Earl of Kent, and his #2, head honcho of all England. His other half brother, the Count of Mortain, got most of the western counties of Cornwall, Somerset and Devon, after some loitering in front of Exeter castle with the pesky Welsh. The eastern counties held many of the Norman nobles who were champing at the bit for more lands to the north. Most of the treasures in the London archives went back to Normandy along with important hostages To buy peace and loyalty amongst his followers, Duke William began to realize he had to make many compromises to his own greed, vis-a-vis that of his Norman magnates. But he still had the whole of the north to dole out to his waiting barons in Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.
William's plan of containment for England was very unlike that which grew attritionally in the Duchy of Normandy where principalities had emerged geographically and attritionally, enclaves which would become very powerful, and a constant challenge to central government. His new distribution plan for the occupation of England gave certain trusted magnates large territories but not absolute control. Each territory was seeded with lordships, either by chief-tenancy or under-tenancy, which were cross weaved by Earls, Barons or knights from distant territories, thus achieving a complex network of dispersed and diversified interests. Much land was given to the Church in the same fashion. The King himself held many of the strategic and valuable domains, which were operated by, trusted stewards, freemen or even men-at-arms. He had introduced a spy network, which, in the event of disloyalty, the incumbent had to consider allegiances which might be very unfavorable to him if his treasonable activities became known. In this mad scramble for turf, it is inconceivable that William, burdened with jealous Norman magnates still under arms, would give much long term consideration to Saxons, who were about as low in the pecking order as they could be, unless of course, they had been adopted in marriage to the Norman element.
In the ensuing five years, Duke William set about implementing his plan. He gradually removed most of the remaining Saxon interests and by 1068 he had marched north from the Home Counties with his huge army as far as Wocestershire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire. In each county he installed his own Norman Earldoms, Sheriffs and Reeves. He was relatively kind to Chester, where, in a city of 400 houses, he reduced 200 to rubble and installed Hugh Lupus (Norman house of Avranches and his nephew) as Earl of Chester. Hugh Lupus brought with him from Lincolnshire many of his knights. They presumably brought with them some of their newly adopted domain names. Hence, we find villages renamed in Cheshire with villages in Lincolnshire such as Irby, Croxton, etc. He also installed Roger de Montgomery as Earl of Shropshire and established many other Earldoms. After his wastage he planted the border of Scotland with trusted Norman families who gave us many notable reiver surnames today such as Cummings, Bruce, Nixon, Armstrong, Elliot, Graham, etc.
Duke William wasted the north it is said with an army of 40,000, mostly Norman and some few converted Saxon and Breton mercenaries. These were the reinforcements, which swarmed over the channel in the post-Conquest period. He then built his own castles. From 1069 to 1070 he burned, raped and pillaged Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria, leaving little of value standing, with some strategic exceptions which were garrisoned by Normans, Bretons and mercenaries. To Count Alan of Brittany he gave much of Yorkshire. In 1072, he marched north into Scotland to the Forth and pillaged. He was given fealty by King Malcolm and took hostages. The whole campaign had not been without some small resistance and casualties had been high amongst the still land holding Saxons of the north, and some of his rebellious Norman Barons. Again, significant hostages were taken back to Normandy. William, in 1071, was now undisputed King of England. In 1075, a minor uprising of Roger, Earl of Hereford was quelled.
From 1071 to 1086 there was relative peace in the land administratively. Attempts by the Danes to regain their foothold on the island were thwarted. The Norman magnates jockeyed for power, even the King's own half brother, Bishop Odo, was imprisoned for life after making a play for the throne of England. He was released only when William Rufus, William's third son became King of England after his father's death in 1087.
William spent much of his time in Normandy dealing with his Norman affairs. In each country, England and Normandy, he had installed governing bodies, Regents, constantly changing personalities who eventually outlived their loyalties. The traffic between Normandy and England was reasonably heavy, Normans returned briefly to their own or family domains with their war chests, greeted their wives and families, usually leaving their eldest sons to run the family domains in England or sometimes reversing the procedure, depending on the size of the spoils acquired in England.
In 1086, the Domesday Book came into being. William in one of his visits to England in the autumn of '85 took his travelling court to Gloucester. For a month he sat and listened to the claims and counter claims of rightful Norman ownership of English domains. Enough was too much. He instructed commissioners to organize teams to go forth and record every domain in England, its taxable value, and who was adjudged to be the holder of those domains. He gave them one year to complete the mammoth project. He declared that these records would confirm those rights 'in perpetuity', till the end of time, hence this huge survey was called The Domesday Book, now in the U.S spelt Doomsday. Whichever way it's spelt, this final penultimate act of Duke William, a year and half before his death, caused major legal land claim headaches, power struggles, minor rebellions, even wars, for centuries to come. But the Domesday Survey at least went on record for the greater part of England in establishing the incumbents at that time in the year 1086. England and much of lowland Scotland was jealously Norman owned and settled by domain entitlement and would be for centuries to come.
In Normandy, well before the Conquest of England, the surnaming protocol had been born of the feudal system. In Saxon England, surnames had not entered the social scheme of ownership and title and first (font) names only were used, with some very rare exceptions. In Normandy, the scion of the family generally adopted his domain name as his own surname. The de (of) prefix was being dropped by attrition, although, by exception, some notable families would retain the prefix through until the 14th and 15th centuries.
There could only ever be one person identifying himself (sometimes, but rarely, herself) with entitlement to the Norman domain. Along with that entitlement of domain, he was also the custodian of the family seal, the banner, which represented the family in battle, the Coat of Arms, and any other family heirlooms, which were carried with his dynasty. None of his progeny were ever allowed to use or copy those family relics during his lifetime. However, this created a problem, perhaps more of a problem than it was worth. If the old man lived to a ripe old age, and many did, there might be sons, even grandsons, requiring to be identified with their posterity and probable hereditary rights of their own new domains at some time in the future. What name would they use? The first answer was Fitz, meaning the 'son of'. This did not mean, as was commonly supposed in earlier times, an illegitimate son. The Viking society rarely made any distinction between descendants in or out of wedlock. And if this argument held, why didn't the Duke call himself FitzWilliam. Duke William himself was a bastard who had achieved the Duchy of Normandy. And already the Danish Vikings were adopting the tag 'son' on the end of font names for distinction such as Ericson, Estrithson and others to overcome the problem of the continuity of the posterity. Hence, 'son' names are to be found mostly in northern England. Similarly, at this time or later, the prefix Mac was adopted by the Scottish, the "O" by the Irish, and the Ap or Ab by the Welsh. But no such prefix or suffix was adopted in the Saxon naming protocol as far as can be determined.
Curiously, in the Norman culture, it meant that a man, Robert de Mortimer, for instance, might have two names during his own lifetime, a confusing headache no historian should need. If the eldest son, by primogeniture, the beneficiary of his father's estates, hung around for his inheritance he might assume the name, say, Robert FitzHugh, if his father's name was Hugh de Mortimer. On his father's death Robert would then revert to and inherit the old domain name Robert de Mortimer, and all its entitlements. In other words, Robert FitzHugh and Robert de Mortimer were one and the same person. This was very confusing to the record books. And most Fitz names were of a temporary nature until such time as they were changed to a new heritable domain name, or one was acquired from the main hereditary family estates. Younger sons might be given a place name, a domain within the father's domain, which in turn would become their own lifetime domain/surnames. This made the establishment of a genealogical link from the younger sons to their father very difficult, and each of the younger sons grew within their own orbit with a different surname from the father. If they moved, to say, Norman settlements in England, tracing back, linking the younger son relationship to the main stem became an assumption, or was almost impossible. However, it shouldn't be assumed that this was a rigid procedure by any means. It was the beginning of a naming custom, and subject to personal interpretation or family convenience. Sometimes the suffix I, II, or III was used and the eldest son's name could be the same as that of the father, so long as the suffix followed. But it was still domain driven, particularly for the younger sons, of which there were usually many.
There were many loopholes in this early system, nor was the procedure followed assiduously. For instance, the son of Robert Guiscard, whom we mentioned previously in his Italian campaigns, was Mark Bohemond, Prince Tarentum, an inconsistency. Similarly, the Norman ranking of titles, was not as clearly defined as it was in the late Middle Ages, or is today. William generally assumed the heritable title of Duke, most likely in deference to the French King, to whom there was a vague suzerainty relationship. But there was no question of his absolute monarchical rule. Lesser nobles could be styled counts, countesses, bishops, seigniors, sires, lords, masters, constables, sheriffs, even princes, and the laws of precedence seemed to evolve more on the size of a noble's estates, and his influence in the royal court, rather than any precise ranking protocol. Duke William made an attempt to straighten this mess out in England when he elected just one controlling and administrative head, an Earl, to each county. Other lesser officers such as Sheriffs, taxmen, the King' stewards and Reeves administered the King's (very ill-defined) Law. Lordships were granted for domains, large or small, and each carried variable rights and powers in his local court and justice system, powers that were often meted out in abstentia, since the magnate's domains were usually widely scattered through several distant counties, or he might even be back in Normandy. This was a first crude attempt at administrative organization, by no means perfect, but at least it changed the complexion of the land and was not a replication of the loose structures in Normandy. Nor was it inherited from the Saxon system in which there was an earldom consisting of many counties strung together, such as Wessex, thus making the Earls what amounted to petty kings. But the new system would inherit its own problems.
Meanwhile, younger sons were a problem in the emerging surnaming protocol and record keeping. Sometimes landless, these budding knights or even men at arms, had little to call their own, or if they had, the size of their holdings did not support their ambitions. Restless at being indented to knight's service to his distant lord, perhaps an elder brother or father, they honed their skills and many became mercenaries, finding the highest bidder for their services, as they had done in Normandy before the Conquest. The whole world out there was free for the taking. This in preference to sitting in a small manor house little better than a multi-roomed shack, twiddling his thumbs and becoming poorer as the days went by. Many pillaged the local countryside. Jousts, lists, fairs, melees were planned and they became footloose, moving from event to event, battle to battle. And between 1066 and the first crusade in 1096 the ravages, plunder and rapine of the far from gallant and chivalrous knight was continued ferociously. Since they fought for hostages, possessions, riches, rank, and their own form of honor, there developed a crude code. In combat or skirmishes the objective was to obtain hostages, not to kill. A dead opponent was worthless. In one melee in Normandy before the Conquest, 500 knights skirmished in planned combat. Only three died. Many were unhorsed. And under the rules of combat, to the victor went the spoils. The more important and richer the family relationship of the loser, the more bountiful the rewards. The victor could claim not only ransom in coin, but the knight's domain name, his Coat of Arms, his banner, his sword and armour, and his horse, even his wife and squire. Troubadours adhered as camp followers, and twanged their knight’s exploits with songs of their courage. To many they became the heroes of their time. To many others they were the major scourge of any land on which they visited their very doubtful charms.
On the continent in particular, there had been and was more alarm about an emerging way of life which was leading to absolute and unchecked pillage, or anarchy, so much so that the Church had pronounced the Truce of God at the Council of Nice in 1041. This, in effect, protected the public at large by prohibiting plunder, murder and rapine by Barons and their knights from Thursday to Sunday inclusive. However, even if those same laws had been effective, which they weren't, they tacitly allowed, maybe approved, said uncontrolled plunder on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It was from this source of restless, rapacious knights, squires and men at arms, mostly Norman, Flemish and Frankish, that many of the rank and file of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 and their subsequent reinforcements was drawn. Fathers recalled recalcitrant sons from all over Europe.
Later, it was also of this lawless source that Pope Urban II at Clermont in France recruited many of the European knights of all nations in his well-advertised appeal for the first crusade in 1095. It is not clear why this was called the first Crusade, there'd been many before. Anyway, Urban, Duke Robert of Normandy and his kinsman Robert Count of Flanders had received a very urgent appeal in 1093 from the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comenus for help in quelling the Seljuk Turks and "retrieving the holy relics from Jerusalem" the latter an obvious appeal to the Pope. However, Alexius' main enticement in his letter was the beautiful women of the East, a magnetic attraction to our lustful, footloose knights. Alexius made several more appeals. Finally, after much deliberation, perhaps even consultations with the Normans to the south, Prince Tarentum, Guiscard's son, the green light was given.
Pope Urban had promised his assembly in 1095 complete redemption for their previous sins. His opening address to the multitude at Clermont "You, girt about your badge of knighthood, are arrogant with great pride, you rage against your brothers and cut each other to pieces" was one version. Another "You oppressors of orphans, robbers of widows, you homicides, blasphemers and plunderers". The assembly of knights replete with their surnames and their house Coat of Arms from all over Europe were more impressed with the offer of pardons for their past sins, and the prospect of untold riches and the good life in the "Holy Land'.
Cash-rich Duke Robert of Normandy in August 1096, left his young brother King William Rufus of England in charge and collected Normans Stephen of Blois, Eustace III, Count of Bolgne, Godfrey (Geoffrey) Duke of Lorraine, and Count of Vermandois, and knights from England, including the Percy's of the north, from Normandy, Germany, France, and proceeded to southern Italy and jumped off from the Italian south eastern coastal cities of Brindisi and Bari. Here he met the main contingent, "25,000?" Vikings who miraculously arrived on the scene from Scandinavia and who stopped off at Sicily for a visit with Prince Tarentum. This event is not even reported in popular history, only in the Norwegian Sagas. And the Viking ties were upheld. Once a Viking, always a Viking.
However, this organized, and well-equipped battle force had been pre-empted the previous April by an over-anxious monk who was anything but a general. Peter the Hermit preached to the poor, the faithful and fearful masses and started from the Rhine Valley overland, a rag and bob-tailed mass, estimates ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 man women and children supported by a few knights. They needed money so they murdered local rich Jews in what has been called the first Holocaust. This huge band of footloose coversions and opportunists would play little part in the battles of the 1st Crusade and would suffer badly at the hands of the decadent tribesmen of Hungary, the Byzantines and eastern European tribes who strangely got the notion that this mob was invading their turf. Finally arriving on the southern side of the Bospherous with a remnant force of less than 15,000 they were annihilated at Civetot and never reached the Holy Land. Peter escaped however. So there were really two, separate, quite independent Crusades, one starting in April, the other in August of '96, and both under the banner of the 1st Crusade.
After a successful "pilgrimage” to the Holy Land, the main Norman contingent of knights returned to Europe with their domains much richer than before. Baldwin of Boulogne was crowned King of Jerusalem in 1100. They set up a Norman system of counties and fiefs. As previously mentioned they left Norman Bigot d'Ilger of the Bigod or Wigot dynasty and Tancred in support of Norman King Baldwin of Jerusalem with 200 knights. The crusader "Princes" returned home minus a few casualties, notably Stephen Henry Count de Blois, father of Stephen de Blois who would become King. Stephen of England. The father was "son-in-law" of William the Conqueror by his daughter Adela but this relationship is not acknowledged in history. Stephen Henry de Blois' third son, Stephen de Blois, would become King of England renouncing all of the Blois fortunes, but for his surname.
So, in post Conquest England, in Europe, the Anglo domain name created new surname identities for younger Norman sons in particular, taking all the trappings of this vicious art form into their pastoral settings. The Normans overran Europe like a plague unto themselves. The domain surname became more firmly established as a protocol. Undoubtedly, their ancient Coat of Arms also found new roots. But this did not prevent them from tripping off to the fairs and jousts, particularly at Bruges, in addition to plundering the English countryside. They continued the Norman practice of contributing to Abbeys, monasteries and churches to atone for their sins.
It was in this environment that the surname was born, a symbol of ownership, possessions, pride and greed. It would carry the posterity of the family name down though the centuries from the Orkneys to the Holy Land. The Norman surnames would have more opportunity for growth since they represented wealth, ownership and title, and were more motivated to establish posterities, which would continue well into the distant future, for their dynasties and their descendants. They would fare better through the pestilences simply because they would be better equipped to resist. And the Norman strain bred like rabbits. They were accustomed to breed sons for the battle, and a little on the side for their own posterity. Many of these warriors died young, but surprisingly, many lived to be very old. Nevertheless, the spirit of the ancient family names prevailed. To quote noted anthropologist Erik Trinkaus ‘It takes only a very subtle difference in life style to make a big difference in terms of success’.”