Links to Hinx
 Is our surname connected with Southwest France?


Les Hinx Francaises

Sited in the sunny southwest corner of France, the old Duchys of Aquitaine and Gascony were long ago reshaped into the modern region of Aquitaine.  Within this region lies an ancient puzzle for the HINXMANs.

For towards the southwest corner of this region, in the department of les Landes (part of old Gascony), is a town and commune named Hinx - with the same spelling as part of our surname.

And 45km (28 miles) further southwest, towards the city of Bayonne, is another town and commune with the clearly related name of Saint-Martin-de-Hinx.

How did these two towns apparently come to share the same word element as our surname?  Were they named after the Henxmen?  Did our HINXMAN family, and our surname, come from here?  Or are the words quite unrelated?

This page explores the French placename element of Hinx, and some theories regarding links to the HINXMAN family.

Illustration:  D32 Road Sign: Hinx, France.  2015.
For picture details, see footnote.

The Henxmen
It was the Henxmen, members of the mediaeval English Royal Household, who gave us our family name.  So could Hinx, and Saint-Martin-de-Hinx, have also gained their names from some association with these Henxmen?

That does seem quite possible, as for nearly 300 years Aquitaine and Gascony were English possessions.  The duchies passed into English control in 1154, when the famed Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine (c.1123-1204) married King Henry II of England (1133-1189).  Aquitaine & Gascony remained the property of successive English monarchs until they were annexed by France in 1453, at the close of the Hundred Years War.

Members of the English royal family, and their henxmen, certainly visited the region during this long period of English rule.  For instance Edward Plantagenet (1330-1376), known as the Black Prince, was also the Prince of Aquitaine from 1362 to 1372 and served there as the official representative of his father King Edward III (1312-1377).

The Black Prince is known to have had at least 1 Henxman in his household, who accompanied him on his many travels through Aquitaine.  Perhaps they visited Hinx and Saint-Martin-de-Hinx too – in which case these towns might have been named for the Prince’s Henxman.  But no hint of a record has yet been discovered
to confirm this idea - or even to prove that the Black Prince and his Henxman ever visited these particular places.

The HINXMAN Family

It was Roger Victor HINXMAN (1942-; West Dean branch), who first drew attention to the similarity between the names.  In 1984 he wrote: ‘Given that this area of France was occupied by the English in the Middle Ages, I really did wonder whether the English surname HINXMAN came from a returning soldier – the man from Hinx.’

This hypothesis seems attractive – but turns out to be incorrect.  Roger himself admitted ‘We tried to look around the church and churchyard, and visited the Mairie (Mayor’s office), but we couldn’t come up with anything’.  We now know from further research, that the HINXMAN surname arose from the ceremonial duties of our Henxman forerunners in the English Royal Household – not from a placename in distant Gascony.

But could the connection be the other way around?  Perhaps the name of Hinx commemorates someone from the HINXMAN family?  Certainly the HINXMEN have spread far around the world.  Maybe the good deeds of one are remembered in France, enshrined in the name of Hinx?

Again, it’s an attractive suggestion – but again, without any documentary or historical foundation.  The proven use of HINXMAN as a family surname appeared only after the post of Henxman was abolished in 1565.  Yet the French towns of Hinx and Saint-Martin-de-Hinx are much older – Hinx even had a mediaeval castle.  So it seems almost certain that the towns were not named after a HINXMAN after all.
Illustration:  Le Mairie: Hinx, France.  2015.
For picture details, see footnote.

The Origin of Hinx
The above theories are certainly tempting, and worth testing – but they do not convince.  The truth appears to lie elsewhere, and a clue lies in the words themselves.

We know the spelling of HINXMAN, and especially the mediaeval spelling of Henxman, has varied greatly in the past.  So the adoption and survival of our particular spelling owes a lot to chance.  But a lasting characteristic of our HINXMAN name is that however it has been spelt over the years, the sound remained very similar.  It seems that words sounding like our name, are actually more likely to be related than words that just look alike.

Applying this test to the French Hinx, we find its sound equates roughly to ‘Anks’ in phonetic English.  This quite different sound suggests that Hinx and HINXMAN sprang from different origins, and just happen to look alike.

This is confirmed by an Internet search of French websites, which provides the following explanation (here translated):  ‘Fairly rare, the name is used in les Landes and corresponds to various placenames, notably the commune of Hinx and that of Saint-Martin-de-Hinx. The placename corresponds to the Latin “finis” (= limit, frontier), with a change of the initial “f” to the habitual “h” of the Gascon dialect.’

This solution to our puzzle seems to offer the most convincing explanation, fitting all the known facts.

Conclusion

So, these similar spellings appear to be a case of convergent evolution.  Two different words in different languages, with different origins, meanings and sounds, have come by chance to share the same modern spelling.  Their similarity almost certainly has no more significance than that: there is quite simply no meaningful link between them at all.  

Nevertheless, the towns of Hinx and Saint-Martin-de-Hinx will probably continue to attract occasional HINXMAN visitors, who come to enjoy a very unusual roadside photo opportunity.

Next . . .

-  Click on Beginnings, to learn about the origin of our distinctive surname.
Webpage version 2017.1.  First version 2015.
Webpage copyright © Richard HINXMAN, 2015.

Illustrations

1.  Road Sign: Hinx, France
Digital photograph.  Richard HINXMAN.  06 Sep 2015.  D32 Road Sign.  Hinx, les Landes, Aquitaine, France.  Collection of Richard HINXMAN. Copyright © Richard HINXMAN 2015.

2.  Le Mairie: Hinx, France
Digital photograph.  Richard HINXMAN.  06 Sep 2015.  Mairie.  Hinx, les Landes, Aquitaine, France.  Collection of Richard HINXMAN. Copyright © Richard HINXMAN 2015.


3.  Wall Sign: Hinx, France

Digital photograph.  Carole BARBIER.  06 Sep 2015.  Richard HINXMAN with Wall Sign.  Hinx, les Landes, Aquitaine, France.  Collection of Richard HINXMAN. Copyright © Richard HINXMAN 2015.

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