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Archiver > TMG > 2004-06 > 1088537807

From: Tim Powys-Lybbe <>
Subject: Re: [TMG] Spouses even though no marriage shown?
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 20:36:47 +0100
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In message of 29 Jun, "Bob Craycroft" <> wrote:

> I would be careful with "Assume Parents Are Married" for medieval
> relationships. Bastardy was a common occurance and many a man sired
> childred with two, three, or more women, one of whom was his "legal" or
> recognized wife.
> I have more than a few men back up my tree with the prefix of "Fitz" on
> their surnames (actually the father's name), i.e. William Fitz Ragemar.
> The Fitz, at that time, was commonly used to denote an illegitimate birth
> that was recognized by the father.

Fitz was a Norman word meaning "son". In the early days when people
did nof have surnames, it was useful to identify them by calling them
"John son of William". Usually in those times they used the latin
"filius", also meaning son. And, of course "filia" for daughter.
(Many of the Welsh continued this practice until late in the nineteenth
century, though they used "ap" for son and "ferch" for daughter.)

So in no way was "Fitz" used in those times as meaning an illegitiamte
birth, even one acknowledged by the father.

However the use of "Fitz Roy" was used occasionally to refer to a
bastard of the king; these bastards were invariably given a higher
status. But other royal bastards were known by other types of names,
for instance Henry I's bastard, Robert de Caen, earl of Gloucester
and Henry II's bastard, William Longspee, earl of Salisbury.

It was only in later Stuart times that "Fitz" became the standard way of
referring to the king's bastards. I do not think that any other family
of Stuart times used Fitz to refer to their bastards.

> As a matter of fact, William the Conqueror was a Fitz, but I don't
> recall off the top of my head who Daddy was.

In his own times he was frequently referrred to as William the Bastard.
His father was Robert I, duke of Normandy and he appointed William to
be his successor Duke as a child and then went off on a pilgrimage,
never to return. So William would also be referred to as William son
of Robert, William Fitz Robert; remember that not many had surnames in
those times. William's mother was Herleve.

> So for this reason I would be hesitant to generally assume a
> marriage-type relationship between parents.

As your premise is wrong, the conclusion is also. The number of
couples in medieval genealogy who were not married and where the names
of both are known is really quite small. Quite frequently, though, some
fellow sowed his oats, acknowledged some at least of the resulting sons
and daughters, provided for them but usually nothing is known about the
mothers of such children.

Tim Powys-Lybbe
For a miscellany of bygones:

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