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Archiver > LEETE > 1999-04 > 0923428357


From: "Michael Leete" <>
Subject: LEETE family
Date: Tue, 6 Apr 1999 20:52:37 +0100


BEYOND THE FRINGE
Michael Leete

The two men in the first class compartment of the Delta Airlines flight into
Boston, Ma., had talked casually over a good dinner and a large digestif. As
the light came on telling them to fasten their lap straps, they decided to
exchange business cards. Not because either of them had any real intention
of seeing the other again but because it seemed a friendly thing to do. It
was, therefore, a total surprise to them to discover that they shared the
same surname. The four minutes to touch-down were hardly enough to explore
five hundred years of genealogy but, as they stood up to leave the aircraft,
one said to the other, "I suppose you know that there is a stone in
Hertfordshire with our family name carved upon it?"
"No. I had not heard of it."
"Oh well. It is supposed to have LETT written on it and to date from 400
AD."

The stone in Hertfordshire is as elusive as the stone in Vermont that is
said to commemorate a horse given by General Grant to Henry Leet, #976, at
the conclusion of the Civil War. No living person has seen either stone but
a memorial dating from 400 AD would put the antiquity of our family name
well over five hundred years earlier than the beginning of surnames. It
would put it into the early years of an epoch of chaos and turmoil
throughout the known world. Alaric the Goth sacked Rome in 410 AD, removing
once and for all the illusions of a revival of the Empire. Nomadic
barbarians from the east roamed at will in Europe and the Anglo-Saxon
mercenaries turned on the ill-advised Vortigern and subjugated the south and
east of England. Gradually, an uneasy peace was imposed so that Edward the
Elder could claim to be the King of all England but it took the ruthless
Cnut to weld the country into a Nation and to diminish the ceaseless raiding
by the Vikings. The last, significant Viking raid was in 1066 when the army
of the northern Earls was decimated by the Norsemen. King Harold defeated
the Vikings at Stamford Bridge but, in the same year, was himself defeated
at Hastings, heralding another epoch of massive upheaval in England as the
Normans enforced their supremacy.

It is not surprising that history recorded only the warriors during these
years of warfare. Two names are mentioned briefly in the Domesday Survey,
but so briefly that it is impossible to be sure that they belonged to our
family. In fact, the chances are that they, too, were warriors who lost
their lives and their property at Hastings.

A century later, the fighting men of Europe had a new project on their
minds. The Crusades fired their imagination and provided unrivaled
opportunities for both plunder and everlasting Salvation. Around 1215, four
warriors gained a mention in the English records. They were four brothers,
Knight Crusaders, and a thoroughly bad lot by all accounts. Their names are
variously rendered but 'de Lette' seems to average the different versions.
Joseph Leete, in his superb second edition of The Family of Leete, favored
'de Lete'. He wrote 'Judging from the dates of the Close and Patent Rolls,
in which the de Letes are mentioned, it is probable that they followed King
Richard to the Holy Land.'

Once again, the family connection is tenuous although one theory is that the
charges on the Leete Coat of Arms might be fuses, rather than matches,
deriving from the Greek Fire used by the Infidels.

As the stream of Time flowed on, the legendary family history returned to
Palestine with the ancestry of Ann Shute. It was claimed, on her behalf,
that she was descended from Charlemagne. Indeed, it is possible to construct
such a lineage, reasonably convincingly, entirely from published sources.
But why stop there? Charlemagne was descended from the same common ancestor
as the Merovingian Kings and they, in turn, had a lineage that beggars
belief. Several otherwise serious books have traced the descent of the
Merovingians to Mary Magdalen and one aspect of that descent, at least, has
a tiny hold on some of the oral history surrounding her.

Soon after the Crucifixion, Mary Magdalen, Joseph of Arimathaea and others
were bundled onto a boat, with neither sails nor oars, and cast adrift.
Tide, wind and just plain miracles put them ashore at Marseille. It is a
fact that, at the time of the Cathars, there was a Jewish community in the
Languedoc.

The Christianity of the Cathers, against whom Pope Innocent III instigated a
vicious and inexcusable Crusade on 10 March 1208, was gentler than the
orthodox variety that spawned the Holy Inquisition - a secret police more
terrible than anything Hitler or Stalin could dream up. The Languedoc was
ravaged and the Cathars were exterminated after an heroic last stand at
Montségur in 1243. Their treasure, possibly including an item that
threatened the very existence of the Pope, disappeared for ever.

Meanwhile, one of the Crusader Knights probably settled in or near
Montpézat, in the Languedoc, and his descendant, Nicolas de Lettes, became
Master of the household of the Duke of Anjou. Nicolas made his Will on 31
July 1383, naming his son, Jean de Lettes, Lord of Puechlicon. Jean died in
1444 and his son, Antoine de Lettes, married Blanche des Prez the eldest
daughter of the Lord of Montpézat. Their son Antoine assumed the surname des
Prez and became a Marshal of France.

Every family is unique simply because it is made up of individual human
beings. Nevertheless, the LEETE family can claim these three exceptional
connections from beyond the fringes of recorded family history. A Celtic
Stone that is some 1600 years old; four Crusaders and a Marshal of France.
How unique can you get?

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