GEN-MEDIEVAL-L Archives

Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 1999-01 > 0917725149


From: "D. Spencer Hines" <>
Subject: 'Plantagenet' --- An Explanation
Date: 30 Jan 1999 19:39:09 GMT


'Plantagenet.' This matter comes up regularly in both
soc.genealogy.medieval and soc.history.medieval, as well as in
alt.talk.royalty. The periodicity seems to be about every four
months, in all three newsgroups.

We usually hit it a glancing blow, questions are asked --- some,
tentative, partial answers are given. Misimpressions are created and
locked in and we move on. Typical newsgroup behavior. Similar to a
singles bar in South Philadelphia, with hard rock drowning out any
serious conversations --- as the body exchange rolls on.

Gentle Readers and Serious Scholars deserve a more complete
explanation. So in the spirit of Henry V [1387-1422] at Harfleur,
"Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more; Or close up the
wall with our English dead!" [Henry V, III, i, 1-2.] I humbly provide
the following explanation of the History of 'Plantagenet' as a
sobriquet transformed into a surrogate surname. [N.B. Henry V is the
7th great-grandson of Geoffrey, Comte d'Anjou et Maine.]

Geoffrey V "The Fair" [1113-1151] Count of Anjou and Maine was Duke of
Normandy 1144-1150. Plantagenet, used as a surname, is commonly
applied to members of the Royal House of England between 1154 and
1485. Members of that house were descended from the union between
Geoffrey, Count of Anjou and Maine, and the Empress Matilda,
[1102-1167] daughter of the English King, Henry I "Beauclerc"
[1068-1135] --- he who supposedly died from a "surfeit of lampreys."

Although the practice is well-established, it has little historical
justification. The name Plantagenet seems to have originated as a
sobriquet or nickname for Count Geoffrey. It has variously been
explained as referring to his practice of wearing a sprig or branch of
yellow broom (Latin: [planta] genista; Old French: plante genet (with
a 'circonflexe' over the final "e.")] in his helm, or more probably to
his habit of planting brooms to improve his hunting cover. [N.B.
Birds will nest under the small broom bushes or shrubs and hunters may
hide behind them.]

"Plantagenet" was not, by any means, a hereditary surname and
Geoffrey's progeny remained without one for more than 300 years,
although surnames became common outside the Royal Family.

Henry II Curtmantle FitzEmpress [1133-1189] [son of Geoffrey and
Matilda The Empress] and his own sons, Richard I and John I, are now
generally styled by historians as the Angevin (from Anjou) kings. For
want of a better name, their successors, notably Henry III, Edward I,
Edward II, Edward III, and Richard II are still described as
Plantagenets.

Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI may properly be called the House of
Lancaster; while Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III constitute the
monarchs of the House of York. Edward V, of course, is a quite
special case who hardly "reigned" as king and reportedly died in the
Tower of London at 12, one of the two 'Princes in the Tower.'

The first official use of the surname Plantagenet by any descendant of
Count Geoffrey was in 1460, when Richard, 3rd Duke of York
[1411-1460], claimed the throne in the name of "Richard Plantaginet."
[N.B. Yes, there was no standard spelling in English in 1460.]

Richard, 3rd Duke of York, was Protector of England, Earl of March and
Ulster, and Earl of Cambridge. His attempts to gain power for his
House of York, coupled with many other personal, dynastic and
historical factors, precipitated the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485).
The House of York was later identified with the White Rose and the
House of Lancaster with the Red Rose. As noted above, Richard, 3rd
Duke of York, was the first to adopt the surname of Plantagenet.

The legitimate male issue of Count Geoffrey and Matilda The Empress
became extinct with the death, in 1499, of Edward, [1475-1499] 18th
Earl of Warwick, grandson of Richard, 3rd Duke of York. He was the
son of George [1449-1478], Duke of Clarence, who allegedly met his end
in the Tower of London as did his son, but George was supposedly
drowned in the famous butt of Malmsey. The Madeira Wine, "Duke of
Clarence" is named after this event. It is quite palatable, with good
body and a bit of a nose.

Henry VII resented Edward, 18th Earl of Warwick's proximity to the
throne and he was executed at the Tower of London on 28 Nov 1499 .
Edward was imprisoned for many years and not allowed to have a tutor,
according to some accounts. Therefore, Henry VII allegedly kept him
ignorant and uneducated----by design. Clever fellow --- and
Machiavellian Prince indeed --- was that Henry Tudor.

Vide the second edition of George Edward Cokayne's [1825-1911]
*Complete Peerage*, Volume I (originally published in 1910), p. 183,
note (c):

"It is much to be wished that the surname "Plantagenet," which, since
the time of Charles II, has been freely given to all the descendants
of Geoffrey of Anjou, had some historical basis which would justify
its use, for it forms a most convenient method of referring to the
Edwardian kings and their numerous descendants. The fact is, however,
as has been pointed out by Sir James Ramsay and other writers of our
day, that the name, although a personal emblem [N.B. Latin *planta
genista* = broom --- DSH] of the aforesaid Geoffrey, was never borne
by any of his descendants before Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
(father of Edward IV), [N.B. and also of Richard III --- DSH] who
assumed it, apparently about 1448. V.G."

"V.G." is Vicary Gibbs, one of the Editors of the Second Edition of
the Complete Peerage.

This is obviously a quite complex and multi-faceted account ---
subject to differing interpretations and shadings. Corrections,
additions and clarifications are most welcome.

D. Spencer Hines

Fortem Posce Animum
Exitus Acta Probat
Lux et Veritas
--

D. Spencer Hines --- "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For
he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er
so vile, This day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in
England, now a-bed, Shall think themselves accursed they were not
here; And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought
with us upon Saint Crispin's day." William Shakespeare [1564-1616]
Henry V, Act IV, Scene 3, Lines 60-67.

Copyright @ 1999 by D. Spencer Hines, All Rights Reserved

wrote in message
<>...
>On Thu, 28 Jan 1999 21:38:15 -0500, "Todd A. Farmerie"

<snip>

>>I have two comments on this. The first regards the surname given
gens.
>>5-7. While the Kings of England descended from Geoffrey Plantagenet
are
>>often asssigned [sic] his nickname as their surname, none of them
used it
>>until the 14th century.

Actually, the 15th Century ---- specifically 1460. If Gibbs is
correct, Richard assumed it about 1448. But he did not use it
officially until 1460. Vide supra.

>>I can understand (though it is less than
>>accurate) the retroactive use of the name being applied to earlier
>>members of the family who otherwise are left nameless, this should
not
>>be done when the individual had a byname which was used in
contemporary
>>documents. #5 above was known during his life as William Longespee
>>(Longespee being a nickname), and this name was used by all of his
sons,
>>and thus became an inherited surname. Since they actually used the
>>name, Longespee should take precidence [sic] over Plantagenet, which
was not
>>used as a surname or nickname by any descendant of the Kings of
England
>>prior to the father of Edward IV, 250 years later.

Actually, 300 years. Vide supra. This then creates a situation
whereby William Longespee has a brother named Geoffrey Plantagenet, in
many accounts, who was also a bastard son of Henry II, and later
became Archbishop of York. But I see no problem with that
nomenclature, if one understands the rules of play.

>>
>Noted. I have a great affection for good scholarship (else I
wouldn't
>be here), but the Plantagenet surname seems to be a bit of a bte
>noire for TAF. In the practical world of genealogical software which
>generates indices by surnames, "Plantagenet" turns out to be a handy
>handle for keeping a grip on descendants of Geoffrey, at least down
>through the Wars of the Roses; and so I at least, with a nod in the
>direction of better scholarship, consign the better surnames of
>Geoff's descendants to the AKA field.

--

D. Spencer Hines --- "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For
he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er
so vile, This day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in
England, now a-bed, Shall think themselves accursed they were not
here; And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought
with us upon Saint Crispin's day." William Shakespeare [1564-1616]
Henry V, Act IV, Scene 3, Lines 60-67.

This thread: