Genealogy: a hobby of mine…

My dad and my mom used to tell me family stories, some of which I used to think were tall tales…

I eventually found out they were mostly true, only the details being slightly bent in the oral history.

I found out, for instance, that my father came from a family that had been very determined to keep family records, before and after coming to America.

And that my mother had a grandmother who’d lived a real western adventure.

And that my parents both grew up in Oklahoma during the wild days, just after the state came into the Union.

The outlaw Cole Younger, associated with Jesse James, had a nephew who worked on my mother’s parents’ farm. And it was this gentle-spoken young man who introduced my mother to my father. Cole Younger himself had been in prison in Stillwater, MN, and had been released, to spend his final years in Missouri. Most of Cole Younger’s family had been killed in the violence of the post-Civil War period in Kansas—it was a bad place and a bad time. But one of his brothers or sisters apparently lived long enough to have a son, whose name was Bill or Bob, as my mother recalls, who worked on the family farm in Anadarko OK, and who apparently visited his uncle in Stillwater. When my father admired my mother from a distance, Younger, acquainted with both, managed an introduction. My father worked at the Anadarko ice house, and my mother began to insist on doing the drive into town after ice that summer. They were secretly married in El Reno OK, and didn’t tell relatives on both sides until some months later.

My maternal great-grandmother was the survivor of an accident that drowned or separated her family as they were crossing a major river on the move west. Her name was Missouri Duff. But in my searching census records, I found her on an old census report from before the accident, and I found, in the next census, her mother and a brother living in a town near the Missouri river. Evidently they’d survived, her father and other children had drowned—and she’d survived, taking the name of Missouri and moving first to Kansas and then to Oklahoma, to grow up and marry with never a notion she had living relatives.

My grandfather was a cowboy turned salesman as Indian Territory became settled towns. His mother was Louisiana Carolina Boone, and my father named me after her. She was one of those Boones, and she came into Indian Territory out of Texas with her husband, my great-grandfather, and ended up living with my grandfather, then taking care of my father when he was very small.

When she died, my father went to live with other relatives, an uncle, and only came home to live with my grandfather when he married my step-grandmother, a spectacularly gracious lady, in every sense of the word.

Well, I got all the family stories—including the night St. Elmo’s fire turned up on a herd of cattle when my grandfather was riding herd in an impending thunderstorm: horns and hooves glowed—the herd spooked, and if you remember the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” it must have been like that.

A part of my family is Dutch, and used to own a major slice of New Jersey and Manhattan: they became bankers, and one a Supreme Court judge—but half that family broke off and went down to Virginia and the Carolinas. That was my half, poor as church mice, and working in farming, from Virginia to Nebraska during the Civil War and down to Kansas in the Bleeding Kansas days, then on into Oklahoma.

But when I got seriously into genealogy, I began to fill in the pieces of various things. I found Missouri Duff’s missing family. I found how we connect to Daniel Boone’s father, Squire Boone, and how we connect, though part of the Boone family fiercely disputes it, through a dubious union, to the de Bohuns, one of the kingmaking families in England. Whether or not the Boone line does connect—I’m related to the de Bohuns down another line as well. And here’s an interesting point: these families keep connecting and reconnecting: geographical closeness, and social circles: availability of potential good matches, strengthening economic and political ties, in an era of arranged marriages. When you have a nest of connections that keep reiterating, I think it likely that relationship is true.

A great number of my forbears came over from England: read: ran for their lives to get out of England during the English Civil War. A lot of them were Charles I’s supporters. My ancestors were not fans of our Pilgrim fathers, quite on the other side of the political fence.

I’ve been able to trace relations  going back and back and back…a lot of lines through those English emigres…

And here’s the kicker. It turns out Jane and I are related to each other—back in England. One of her folk married one of the de Bohuns,  both of us in direct descent.

One of the really fun things is going through Wikipedia finding out about these people. Mine had a penchant for getting involved in royal politics and getting caught on the losing side—many were very creatively executed in a very brutal age.

Fortunately, they managed to reproduce before meeting their nasty end.

Not all were saints. I’m related to Hugh the Despenser—-reputed as one of the most corrupt men in England. And to William Marshal, reputed as one of the most honest.

I’ve found answers to family mysteries: the family story is that we came over from Ireland, when most geneologies try to make us German. Well, we’re right: our guy, John Cherry, married to Bridgett Haney, was of British origin, but had been living in Ireland, and his wife was apparently Irish—when they, or he, immigrated to the states. And that was the origin of the story. That family came over from Normandy, but not in the invasion: the name(of, originally de Cerisy, has a ‘de’ (of)—which is the sort of thing that ordinarily denotes some lordly family, but in this case I think it simply means “from the village of Cerisy”, a little place in Normandy, France, no nobility involved, and not one of William the Conqueror’s lot, just a guy from a French village who came to England.

And—a very interesting update: research in French records gives another story—not de Cerisy, ‘from the village of Cerisy’, but de Chery, from the town of ‘Chery,’ in the Centre district of France. It seems that one Jean de Chery held property in Normandy, or had some ancestral rights in William the Conqueror’s land, but that one could not at that time enter Normandy from the rest of France without a royal permit—which Jean de Chery sought from his king, Charles. King Charles, now called Charles the Mad, had once been known as Charles the Good, but he had had a mental breakdown, what they call the glass syndrome, becoming convinced he could shatter, literally, and convinced that assassins were on his track.

Actually, re Charles’ paranoia, it’s not paranoia if they’re really after you, and it wasn’t a bad guess. There were three contenders for the French throne: the Capets, descended from Charlemagne, the Burgundians, who claimed southern central France as their ancestral domain, and had allies clear across France; and the de Courtenays, who contended they should be kings of France. Burgundy was assassinating people who stood in his way.

And there is a document which indicates that the de Cherys were a) in charge of the substantial town of Chery, and b) closely tied to the de Courtenays who were c) increasingly split as to where their fortunes would best advance, in William’s enterprise, or in France, trying to succeed the failing Charles Capet the Mad…that Burgundy was intent on killing and supplanting. There was a de Courtenay branch, the lords of Arrablay, one of whom, I think also named Charles, is documented to have married his neighbor, one Jeanne de Chery; so there were marriage ties between the de Cherys and the vastly powerful de Courtenays.

Burgundy began to gain ground, and while the de Courtenays didn’t sail with William the Conqueror, a number of them went over to England after the Conquest—possibly because they were feeling the heat from Burgundy and Charles the Mad was, well, mad…

The de Courtenays who emigrated to England set up a castle with William’s permission, in Leicestershire, central England.

Well, now we have one Jean de Chery (the male form of John/Jeanne) who at a certain point seeks the permission of Charles the Mad to go visit his properties in Normandy, after which he vanishes from history, and the de Chereis turn up in Leicestershire…attached to the de Courtenay branch that had established in England. It was, thanks to William, *no* trouble to get ship from Normandy to England in that time.

And Burgundy was busy assassinating his rivals, and King Charles was getting crazier, and the de Courtenays in France finally dwindled down to a few, one female unable to pass the title, and virtually powerless, though they still existed.

Part of the de Chereis family moved from Leicestershire and set up in the south, at Maidenhead and Bray, in Berkshire, and those folk by then are spelling it Cherry, and still marrying people of some substance, to judge by the graves, the literacy, and the constant interweaving of spouses of some indication of wealth, even title. Then from Bray, a Cherry (they all tended to be named John and David and Thomas) went over to northern Ireland, and after a few generations, a John and his son David emigrated to Virginia, in a time of religious unrest and civil war. So my little guy from de Cerisy may instead be a much more politically connected guy skipping out of the town of Chery, in central France to go join the de Courtenays in Leicestershire, before the king who was his patron went entirely over the brink.

Jane’s family name, possibly originally Faucher, may, according to one name-origin, have come from the Limoges area of France, then to London, then to the Americas, which is kind of generic information and not easy to attach to individuals, but there is new information, too—indicating a substantial house in England, the house at Fanshawe Gate, which is now a beautiful garden showplace in Derbyshire—and a connection of her very definite ancestor, via records in Massachusetts, to a Fanshawe from the house at Fanshawe Gate who went from that Derbyshire hall down to London: that ancestor married one Eunice Bouton, who seems like a quiet New England lady of French ancestry—until you get into her past, and figure that—ironically enough—that lady’s ancestors run back to the dukes of central France, back before the Norman Invasion. Both these possible connections are still under investigation—but they do answer some interesting questions and fill in some gaps; and they are better connected to specific individuals whose time and place we can say match and intersect. It’s worth more study, at very least. The de Chereis are in Burke’s Peerage.

Anyway, hunting ancestors one of my favorite winter-evening hobbies. I was amazed that I could trace anybody by real, checkable records, but the computer age has made it an easy-chair kind of hobby; you can access, almost instantly, every digitized census report and village record, not just in the States, but in Britain, Italy, France, and now apparently into Japan and Germany, the Netherlands, you name it. They open up more of these every month, and if they ever digitize Creek County, OK, I may be able to open up a whole new part of the tree by finding my paternal great-grandmother. That could happen.

The software system I use  is and if you’ve ever wanted to get into this, it’s a marvelous way to learn history: it gets pretty personal when  you know it was your great-great-great-great grandfather in that battle…

For any of you who are in the Ancestry network, our tree is “It’s the Eleventh Century and We’re All Barbarians…”, a quote from our favorite Christmas movie, The Lion in Winter, which is appropriate on so many grounds.


  1. GreenWyvern

    Another interesting article:

    Austrian scientists have found that 19 Tyrolean men alive today are related to Oetzi the Iceman, whose 5,300-year-old frozen body was found in the Alps.

    Their relationship was established through DNA analysis by scientists from the Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University.

  2. paul

    Mary Perkins Bradbury (yes, ancestor of, ahem, The Illustrious Man, 😉 ) my sister tells me is our 9th GGM. My sister has taken to calling her, “the family witch”; for she was accused, found guilty, and sentenced to hang in Salem in 1692. She escaped, though there was perhaps bribery involved, to die in her own bed in 1700.

    Some thirty years ago, when I was still a member of the AAAS, there was a quite persuasive article published in Science that showed meteorological conditions, the location of the victims and who sold rye to whom, pointed to ergot poisoning. Of course they were hallucinating, ergot was the source for an agent developed by the Army, lysergic acid diethyl amide, LSD. Tripping and took it for witchcraft. Many years later there was a PBS show about the same claim.

  3. CJ

    Old Otzi is, at the report I have, G in Y-DNA. My father was a G M-201 In the post-ice-age, the workup says that this batch tended to live in the mountains, notably the Caucasus and the Alps. My mum’s folk weathered the ice age in Asia Minor, and then took to the Caucasus and the Alps. So looks as if mum’s folk and dad’s in prehistoric times had this penchant for mountain living…
    Dad’s DNA is kind of an odd one for Britain, where his lines all come from: clearly his crossed the Channel, but they don’t turn up too much in France either, but rather in Germany, around old Aachen. Mum’s folk are clearly Protestant Dutch on one side, but the other is Puritan English, crossing one of Jane’s lines at the 8th-cousin level…while Dad’s Catholic English also crossed Jane’s batch back before 1600 in England. I have an unguessed Italian strain: Lombard Italian, ie, northern. And Jane has an unexpected Spanish line, back to Leon, Castile.

    But mostly we don’t have a family line: we have a braid…

  4. ryanrick

    Here’s what popped up on History regarding Otzi. Of course it doesn’t prove that they are his descendants, only that they had a common ancestor — they could be descended from a brother or uncle. I remember several years ago DNA testing in Cheddar England using a 9000 year old skeleton from a local cave showed a link with one of the school teachers.

  5. CJ

    Had a bit of fun last night after the hellish day: seems I have a 23rd-great grandmother named Emma Fitzhelte, m. to 23rd-great grandfather Robert Septvans, in Kent and Essex. She was born in 1129.
    Her father was Helte FitzRichard [you know that fitz- means ‘son of’]—who was [obviously] in Kent, born around 1087. We do not know Emma’s mother…his only recorded wife was late in his life, younger than Emma. And it’s reasonable [on the surface] why he was called FitzRichard, since HIS father was…
    Richard Fitzmalger, born in 1060. Now, Malger is a name that’s a variant spelling of Mauger. And Mauger rang a bell. There was a Malger/Mauger in history. The name’s roots seem to mean ‘pitiful’ or ‘thin’…related to the root of ‘meager’. Not the sort of name you give a favored son. We don’t know this Richard Fitzmalger’s wife, either, but his father is recorded as:
    Mauger Fitznorman. Born in 1041. Well! Poor fellow: his name in modern English would be Poor son of a Norman. Sounds like an alias to me.
    So I looked up the Mauger *I* know. Archbishop of Rouen. Born before 1037, when we have him politically involved. Mmmn. So adult enough to be mentioned in history, and not an inconsiderable person even young. More to the point, he’s the Archbishop of Rouen. Who else is he? Turns out his birth-name is also Mauger Fitzrichard…but a very different Richard: Richard II of Normandy, who at his death was succeeded first by Mauger’s half-brother Richard III and then by William I the Bastard. Mauger was appointed Archbishop of Rouen probably as a child. Mauger’s half-brother Richard III succeeded the short-lived Richard II—but also died at 26. Since Richard III had taken out his full brother Robert, they were down to William the Bastard as heir. “William of Talou, Mauger’s brother, was defeated in a failed rebellion against their nephew Duke William II [the Bastard] in battle near Arques in 1053, after which Talou fled into exile at Boulogne. Because of a perceived connection to his brother’s rebellion, Mauger was deposed from his archbishopric at the council of Lisieux.” Mauger was banished from Rouen to the Isle of Guernsey. Mmmm. And William was so peeved the two remained enemies. Mauger, who was not notoriously religious, was ousted as Archbishop of Rouen, but not killed…seems William *WAS* highly religious [he was rigidly faithful to Matilda and unlike most men of his age, had one wife and no children out of wedlock]—and declined to kill a former Archbishop. So Mauger was exiled to one of the Channel Islands, Guernsey, where he continued a relationship with his commonlaw wife, studied the occult, hawked for amusement, and had a raft of kids before he drowned, still fairly young, in 1055.

    Now could Mauger Fitznorman be a son of Mauger Fitzrichard the defrocked and occult-studying ex-archbishop? Mauger Fitzrichard ex-archbishop was living, ca. 1053, on Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, and here is Mauger Fitznorman, born circa 1040, turning up as the father of a guy in 1060 whose son and granddaughter were born and lived in Kent, which is the projection on the south side of England, as Guernsey is an island beside the small projection on the north shore of France…ie, as they say in the aishidi’tat, a determined man in a rowboat could make that crossing.

    Mauger Fitznorman used a name that was not much of a name, died young, at about 19, and managed to have a son who begat a daughter in Kent, all in the times surrounding ing the Norman Invasion of England in 1066. One doubts Mauger would have trotted up to William the Bastard on the beach in Normandy and said, “Hi, Uncle! I’d like to come with you.” But show up in southern England after people of kindred language and blood had shown up massively in England, when they were rummaging around England taking over villages and marrying noble Saxon daughters in hopes of inheritance…

    Yep, Mauger Fitznorman could have wanted a piece of that action.

    The Septvans (pronounced Set-vas [nasal a]) into which Emma Fitzhelte married were not to be THAT prominent: they were sheriffs, notably, in Kent, and the name mutated slowly into Sa-vans, and then into Savage, where it stuck.

    Another little tidbit: Emma was the name of Richard II’s sister: Emma of Normandy was a wife of English King Ethelred: so ‘Emma’ in this line would be a traditional name, and the Fitzrichard name a bit of double-entendre, since it would refer to *two* Richards, and Norman names frequently refer not to the most recent father, but to the most famous of a set of forefathers

    The official genealogies don’t remotely suggest what I’ve suggested re Mauger Fitznorman…I fenced him off with a great big note saying CONJECTURE STARTS HERE…so it will copy with his other info on Ancestry.

    But it’s kind of a fun speculation.

  6. joekc6nlx

    one wonders about the mindset of the common soldier in a war of succession. Were they so naive as to believe that a mere infantryman would suddenly ascend to the nobility, riches, political connections, trophy wife, etc.? Most common soldiers, if I recall correctly, were pretty well uneducated, were beneath the notice of the nobles, and if a common soldier DID somehow manage a heroic feat that saved some noble’s bacon, the noble would hardly be willing to acknowledge it, unless it happened in front of every fighting man in the battle. It’s not like Uther tossing his sword to the young unproven Arthur, thereby acknowledging him as his son (and heir).
    I suppose I should really start delving further into my own genealogy, but so far, I can only go back 3 generations, even with my cousin’s help. My grandfather was born in Green County, Missouri, to a white man and a Native American woman. I have no idea of either of their names, as it was around 1900 when he was born. Records from that time are spotty in the library, and I haven’t gotten in touch with their county genealogical society, yet. I’m in Ohio, they’re in Missouri, but that’s really no excuse these days. I just can’t afford the software account costs right now……

  7. P J Evans

    I’ve got a couple of ‘de Septvans’ (AKA ‘de Wadham’) in the early 15th century. Haven’t gone back on them, because I’m mostly looking at more recent people.

  8. BlueCatShip

    Mauger —

    My French is both better and worse than I’d thought. Lately, I’ve been able to read it better than I expected, but my “generate and output” (speaking or writing) skills are weak from lack of practice.

    “Mauger” looked to me like it could be «malgré,» but then I couldn’t remember it exactly, except that it was a word used to introduce a clause or sentence. A brief lookup says it means “despite,” which caught up my memory. So no, mauger couldn’t be a variant of malgré, (ahem) despite that French was sometimes turning (V)+L into (V)+W/U.

    But “mauger” as an odd variant of French maigre, borrowed from the Normans and then with altered meaning into English as meager, would fit. Modern French has maigre as thin, skinny, perhaps with that “meager, badly thin or small or skinny, pitiful” connotation.

    …Oh, blasted browser upgrade has *again* turned its auto-incorrect feature back on. Do not want! I know how to spell, in English, French, Spanish, et al., thanks…grumble…. Now where did they move the setting to turn it off, this time, once again, encore une fois? (Non, ne pas “encore use foie,” I have no intention of using any goose liver paste at the moment! :rotfl:

    — On the other hand, since the Normans were ultimately Vikings, Northmen, and Franks who’d become Gallic, Caulish, French-ified — Could “mauger” (blast, no, I don’t mean “mauler,” gods-rotted rag-eared browser) — Sorry — Could “mauger” be a Northern or Western Germanic word, and if so, what does “mauler” or “malger” look like in German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, or Icelandic? (I’m assuming it isn’t an Anglo-Saxon word, but should not assume that.)

    Hmm… On the third hand, 😉 , if “mauler” is taken with soft G, instead of, say, maugre or mauguer, hard G, then mauler would look like “manger,” either in the Norman French sense of “to eat” or the Saxon English sense of “food trough, shed, or lean-to for feeding and sheltering farm animals.” — That actually would fit scribal copyist errors, old-school typos, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as a given name, nickname, or surname. — So I like your theory better, CJ. — The soft-G option didn’t even occur to me, though it should, since the Normans would’ve (usually) used GE as soft-G and GUE as hard-G…usually.

    Modern English would sure be simpler if the Normans had left Saxon H alone, instead spelling it GH, since CH was taken. Ah, well. Fuss, fuss.

  9. ryanrick

    I got this ranked list of genaelogy sites a couple of weeks ago and promptly saved it for rainy day exploring. But Joekcnlx, there are a lot free geneaology sites! Family Search if very good and a lot of folk get quite a bit of info thru the site. Here’s what I got:

    Every year, Genealogy In Time magazine ranks the top 100 genealogy websites. For those of you researching in countries other than the U.S., note that this list is international. This list for 2013 is dominated by websites run by the big three companies, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and BrightSolid. For those of you not familiar with BrightSolid, it is the online publishing and technology arm of British publishing group DC Thomson. Their companies include, Friends Reunited, Genes Reunited,, and Newspaper Archive.
    It is interesting to see that FTDNA is the highest ranked DNA website at number 17. You may also find the genealogy search engines of interest, the last two free: Mocavo (25), Steve Morse (56), and Access Genealogy (71). The top 30 genealogy websites on the list are below.

    Rank; Webiste; Country, Free/Pay; web address:

    1 records USA pay
    2 family tree USA pay
    3 Find A Grave cemetery USA free
    4 FamilySearch records USA free
    5 family tree USA pay
    6 records UK pay
    7 records USA pay
    8 GeneaNet forum France free
    9 records USA pay
    10 MyFamily forum USA pay
    11 Genealogy Bank newspapers USA pay
    12 Arkivverket Digitalarkivet records Norway free
    13 Newspaper Archive newspapers USA pay
    14 FindMyPast UK records UK pay
    15 Ancient Faces forum USA free
    16 records Australia pay
    17 Family Tree DNA DNA testing USA pay
    18 family tree Norway pay n/a
    19 records Canada pay
    20 Fold3 records USA pay
    21 GenealogyInTime Magazine magazine Canada free
    22 Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter blog USA free
    23 family tree France pay n/a
    24 Genes Reunited records UK pay
    25 Mocavo search engine USA pay
    26 USGenweb Archives records USA free
    27 Deutschen Genealogieserver forum Germany free n/a
    28 articles USA free n/a
    29 World Vital Records records USA pay
    30 records USA free

    • joekc6nlx

      thank you. I’ve had an account on for a while, but it’s lapsed until I can afford to pay the fees again. I’ve opened an account at, and while I have some of the paperwork (buried) for my father’s side, my mother’s side is a bit more obscure. There’s a discrepancy between what she always thought was her birthday and what’s on her certificate. Well, at least, I know my own generation in my own immediate family…..after that, well, the water gets very muddy.

  10. CJ

    THe Norman invasion was the movement of a military machine that was used to keeping order in the Normandy area, and that knew its targets on the other side…but once the invasion had swept William into power in the south, there are numerous local situations on the fringes where a small band of Normans moves in, and there follows a marriage with a Saxon gal. If you can rely at all on the genealogies of the period, most of the Saxons nobles who feared they would be targeted or who just weren’t going to give up headed up north to Northumberland, which had a very fuzzy border with Scotland. There were marriages of alliance with Scottish leaders; and Northumberland probably stood for a while as an area the Normans weren’t anxious to plunge into, and likewise Wales was another area that had a natural wall (its mountains and hill country) dividing them from more easily managed southern England. The Welsh ties with Devon were strong, a lot of back-and-forth movement of families.

    • paul

      Interestingly, linguistics shows these effects. Modern English can be said to be a gloss of some French vocabulary on a fundamentally “platte-deutsch” language. When the Normans became powerful, the Saxons wanted to appear “with it” by salting their language with occasional words of the new rulers. But the reservoir 😉 of the language didn’t change.

      Something similar happened with the Irish. Maybe the Norse second sons came a-viking and took Irish girls, but Mom taught the kids how to talk, so Celtic remained!

  11. BlueCatShip

    I wonder who we’d have more in common with, the Saxon English or the Norman French, or would both be too estraunge et foreigne, too outlandish for us.

    We’d have to learn both languages, even if we’ve studied Middle English in college or know something about French.

    It’s been roughly 947 years since the Norman Invasion. If I live a few months past my 100th birthday, my century mark will see the Norman Invasion’s millennium mark. But I won’t get to see the double, 1066 * 2 = 2132.

    • paul

      Ever read Chaucer? 🙂

  12. GreenWyvern

    I don’t think we would find much in common with either Normans or Saxons. The culture and attitudes were too different.

    Paul is right about reading Chaucer. The only way we can ever get a real feeling for any period of history is by reading what was written at the time – not by reading what modern historians say about it. For medieval non-fiction reading there’s the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, the Chronicles of Froissart, and many others.

    Here’s a first-hand description of the character of William the Conqueror:

    “If anyone would know what manner of man King William was, … then will we describe him as we have known him, we who had looked upon him and who once lived at his court.”

    The description is rather critical of his character, notwithstanding his support of the church, and that the writer is a monk.

    There are many other interesting extracts from primary sources on the same website.

    There’s really no substitute for reading eye-witness accounts of history. To me, it’s still a thrill to read in Josephus (1st century AD), “I myself was a priest at the Temple in Jerusalem”. Or to read Apuleius’ description of a 2nd century procession of worshippers of Isis through the streets, knowing that Apuleius was a priest of Isis himself.

    Or Froissart giving an account of the battle of Otterburn in 1388, from personal interviews with knights from both sides who had actually fought in the battle, or describing his own interview with Richard II.

    The same is true for all periods of history. First-hand accounts are the most interesting, and give the most insight.

  13. CJ

    William’s reign would have been more brilliant had he had immediate successors of his calibre. There’s kind of a cycle in history: conqueror, lawgiver, and idiot grandson. IE, first you have the war-time martial law of the conqueror, in which the system is set up to run: in William’s case, he imposed a strong central government over a batch of warlords who otherwise would have run roughshod over the country, fallen into petty war with each other, wasted the natural resources, and generally have made a mess of the kingdom. Following the conqueror in the course of things is the guy who inherits the kingdom and looks at the places where the iron single rule doesn’t work well, and starts laying down specific exceptions and refinements in a codified set of rules. Unfortunately Wm II was assassinated.

    The Lawgiver in this case was Henry I. From Wiki: “Considered by contemporaries to be a harsh but effective ruler, Henry skilfully manipulated the barons in England and Normandy. In England, he drew on the existing Anglo-Saxon system of justice, local government and taxation, but also strengthened it with additional institutions, including the royal exchequer and itinerant justices. Normandy was also governed through a growing system of justices and an exchequer. Many of the officials that ran Henry’s system were “new men,” relatively low-born individuals who rose through the ranks as administrators. Henry encouraged ecclesiastical reform, but became embroiled in a serious dispute in 1101 with Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, which was resolved through a compromise solution in 1105. He supported the Cluniac order and played a major role in the selection of the senior clergy in England and Normandy.

    Henry’s only legitimate son and heir, William Adelin, drowned in the White Ship disaster of 1120, throwing the royal succession into doubt. Henry took a second wife, Adeliza, in the hope of having another son, but their marriage was childless. In response to this, Henry declared his daughter, Matilda, as his heir and married her to Geoffrey of Anjou. Relationships between Henry and the couple became strained, and fighting broke out along the border with Anjou. Henry died on 1 December 1135 after a week of illness. Despite his plans for Matilda, the King was succeeded by his nephew, Stephen of Blois, resulting in a period of civil war known as the Anarchy.”

    In England, the ‘idiot grandson’ was the fact that there was no heir, due to the White Ship sinking. And chaos and civil war resulted: the Matilda/Stephen mess. England suffered. The poor definitely suffered. Peace in Europe suffered.

    So you start the cycle over with the Plantagenets.
    Henry II, who ruled from Normandy [which itself was being viewed with lust by Burgundy] was the ‘conqueror’ figure, bright, energetic, and wived by another remarkable woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

    Henry had a co-regent, Young Henry, who didn’t get a number, but who was in on-the-job-training, but he died before reigning alone: caught dysentery on campaign, and he was gone: the monarchs of England were not doing well in the ‘sons’ department.

    So Henry II’s actually reigning successor was Richard I, Lionheart, who was not exactly the lawgiver…and who was a Norman king, but who largely plundered England, IMHO. For an actual English king you have to step down to John, who fulfilled the Lawgiver role, but not the way he’d planned. The barons got together, put together the Magna Carta, and made John sign it, thus setting up a local/central structure that also guaranteed royal behavior. John fought it, but it stuck, more or less. Compare the trouble the French kings had, between the Capets, the Duke of Burgundy, and the Courtenays, and the lack of definition of the royal power, and the lack of baronial consensus: the comtes of this and that region were, as I see it, intermittently unregulated, to the grief of the common people. The kings of France ruled through the aristocracy, got all their information from them, and had zip contact with or concern for the countryfolk, until famine and problems brought the whole house of cards down. I don’t think the British monarchy would have fared as well as it did without one line of officials whose influence is, again my opinion, vastly underrated in the history books: the mayors of London.

    John was succeeded, yes, by a relatively weak, but long-reigning king, his son Henry III. The barons got out of control, the king did their bidding (the idiot grandson role).

    He was succeeded by Edward I, Edward Longshanks, who spent his life fighting—his father, the Scots, the Welsh, and the Middle East….

    That at least is the 3 by 3 history of England…

    • paul

      John Lackland wasn’t a good man, but neither entirely a bad king. Our view is colored by the modern takes on the Robin Hood legend. He took an interest in the administration of the realm, which is more than one can say for Henry VIII.

      You’re descended from Edward III, are’t you? Checkout his wife, Philippa of Hainault’s ancestry. Her maternal, mt-DNA, GGM was Elizabeth the Cuman. 🙂 Then see where the Cuman came from. 😉 “The Cumans originally lived east of the large bend of the Yellow River in China.” I make that somewhere around Wuhai. Di’ja know there were Chinese/Mongols behind the Royal House of England? 🙂

  14. GreenWyvern

    What changed Britain and the British monarchy, compared with France, was the century from the mid 1600s to the mid 1700s. First the Civil War and abolition of the monarchy under Cromwell, then later the Glorious Revolution, and the Hanoverian succession. What emerged was a constitutional monarchy, rather than an absolute monarchy as in France. Parliament made the laws and controlled the purse strings, and the monarch had limited power. Ultimately parliament was in charge, but the monarchy ensured stability.

    This, along with the Protestant emphasis on individual effort and merit, and Britain’s increasing status as a trading nation and commercial hub, led to a very strong and prosperous middle class. In France there was virtually no middle class.

    There was also a lot more social mobility in England than in France. In France a member of the lower classes had little chance of raising his status. In England it happened fairly often that someone who started out life in poverty managed to accumulate wealth and become a land owner. For most practical purposes he would have become a gentleman. His sons would be sent to good schools and then to Oxford or Cambridge. They would become members of parliament, lawyers, military officers, etc. In another generation, if they were successful, they might be raised to the peerage.

    This could never, ever happen in France. French people visiting England were always very surprised that wealthy men engaged in business and commerce were treated as gentlemen and equals by those born to high rank.

    This was even true in the arts. For example Fanny Burney, in her diary (which is well worth reading) records staying at an inn near Bath. The innkeeeper’s family were a bright and talented lot, the daughters played the piano and sang and the 10 year old son had a great talent for drawing. 40 years later this boy was Sir Thomas Lawrence, President of the Royal Academy. He was unquestionably a gentleman, a knight, and a wealthy member of the upper classes, despite being born the son of an innkeeper.

    … and even someone born poor could become Lord Mayor.

    For your interest, here’s a video of the State Opening of Parliament 2013, a ceremony unchanged since the 18th century.

    • GreenWyvern

      Just to add to what I was saying about the British Parliament. For centuries there has been, and there still is, a tradition of highly robust debate in Parliament – very different from the sedate style of debate in the American Congress.

      Here’s an example from the House of Commons this past week, at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions. They are debating high energy prices, amongst other things.

      It’s interesting that at about 16:20+ the Speaker rebukes the Prime Minister quite sharply, almost in the manner of a school teacher rebuking a rowdy student.

    • paul

      If the question was us vs Normans or Saxons, can we really use France as a model though?

      1) Until John Lackland, The English Kings controlled Atlantic France, and the Burgundians were strong and had their own control in eastern France, and even a cadet branch in Spain. The Orleans/Parisian French Kings weren’t in control of much. By the time they did get control of what we call France today, we were loooong past the days of the Normans and Saxons.

      2) Being careful to not “nounify” the verb “viking”, in the days before the 11th century the “viking northerners” were raiding/invading in Normandy as well as the better know incursions into Ireland. So one wonders how the Scandinavian culture of those invaders was similar to the Saxons an influence in Normandy.

      • CJ

        What I know of the Burgundians (though, mind, my family tended to be on the side of the Capets and de Courtenays, so I know their view) the Burgundians were a ruthless lot, efficient, but tending to remove the opposition. Charles the Good who became Charles the Mad seemed like rather a nice fellow until he went over the edge, and even then his delusion was one of persecution and fragility. Burgundy was assassinating people in the streets. I think the Capets, who’d had some competent folk early in the Holy Roman Empire, got down to a lot who were not really suited to rule, and who took advice rather than giving it. The de Courtenays mostly headed for England, and somehow the Capets stayed in power: I haven’t researched how, yet. But it doesn’t seem to have been outstanding personal talent.

      • BlueCatShip

        To the question of how much alike, or how much influence, the Vikings had on Saxon and then Norman England:

        Consider that the Beowulf epic has the Danes important, crucial, in the story, along with the Geats. So there were enough ties that the Anglo-Saxon / Old English would record something of their neighbors, cousins, or allies, the Geats and Danes, dealing heroically (and not) with the fearsome Grendel. The Beowulf epic, though, was recorded in OE by an Anglo-Saxon, the Venerable Bede, if memory serves.

        The Vikings and Danes continued to be important as invaders, rulers, and settlers, to the extent that (Saxon) England had the Dane-Law, and Viking and Danish contact made such an impact that our basic pronouns “they, them, their, theirs” are from Danish or Viking sources, rather than the native Anglo-Saxon English pronouns they displaced, which were something like heo, hem, and heir or hir. That is, according to how I was taught, where we get the contraction or weak form, ’em, from the Middle English survival hem, and by analogy with the ascendant form, them. The Norman French tendency to drop H’s is probably also why we have things like ‘im, ‘er, ‘is, and even it/its, which started as hit and hits and hine. (I may be mixing which pronoun and case form hine belongs to, er, to which hine belongs. 😉 )

        We had to read Chaucer in the original, at least in class, though our prof let us refer to a translation too. He had us try to pronounce it one lecture, too. When I read it for a college friend who was German-American, 2nd generation, he claimed he was surprised at how German it sounded. To me, it sounded half-German and half-French, with a heavy French influence. — But I’m irritated. I though I’d still be able to quote the whole preamble, which we had to memorize, but I didn’t get too far. I’ll have to reread old Geoffrey. His tales were a great look at Middle English life.

        Given that, I’d think we’d find a lot in common with them, but they were so limited by superstistion and lack of knowledge and travel, and the confines of feudalism on their social structure. And yet, as GreenWyvern and CJC noted, the mix of free-minded Saxons and incoming Normans who stayed, had a more open way of doing things in their culture that led to English advances later.

        My question earlier was meant more as a what-if speculation than to be as naive as it seemed. — I got to sophomore level English classes and about the same, a two-semester survey of French lit., so althugh rusty, and although I was trying then to switch majors (to computer science), I did get a decent introduction. I wouldn’t claim that my knowledge of English history and literature goes much beyond freshman or sophomore level in the major, though. (For one, because I’ve always had a weakness for reading science fiction and fantasy in my spare time, rather than classics.)

        (For another, I was really hampered by dealing with (1) general growing up; (2) learning to separate work/study and personal life; and (3) my sexual orientation, which gave me the most trouble out of all that. If I could’ve accepted and dealt with that one, I think I would’ve graduated the first time, instead of later getting an associate’s degree. But hah, I have credits in English and French, and a fair bit of Calculus and (now outdated) Computer Science, but not enough in any one major itself. If I get the chance to go back (unlikely for at least the next few years), then I’d still have two to three years, and might as well go for a double major, if I do.

        Because of my interest in both English and French, I’ve always found it interesting how the Saxons and Normans managed to go from unwillingly conquered and in-over-their-heads conquerors, to a single merged people, the English they became, with a language and culture both Saxon English and Norman French, blended so much it became the English we know, with a different outlook from the people of the Continent. — Not that the English were (or are) perfect, nor are Americans.

        What’s also intrigued me, and what I know little about, is that from what I’ve read and viewed of Japanese culture and history, I see parallels (good and bad) with the English (good and bad). Two very different peoples yet with some curious similarities.

        “Fascinating,” dare I say.

        • purplejulian

          it’s more complex with the Vikings in the mix. they ruled half of england for quite a while, and where they put down roots there was less slave labour on the land, more independent small farmers, and that has left its mark on east anglia, lincolnshire and yorkshire (I live in East Anglia, in a village that was crown property)
          Michael Wood has written a couple of very interesting books on the social history of the pre and post conquest, looking at all the available evidence, I would recommend Domesday – A search for the Roots of England

          • BlueCatShip

            PurpleJulian, thanks, I will look for those. I’d bought a nice small book, the title of which was something like 1066: Before the Conquest. I can’t recall the author or correct title right off. I got through about half the book before life intervened. I think it’s time to pick that back up and restart. I loved what I read of that book.

            We didn’t get nearly enough of a look at Old English / Anglo-Saxon life before the conquest in my English lit or history survey courses. The lit. survey course was good, but really, how do you cram 1500 years of a major literary culture into one semester and not gloss over something? (I liked that prof, the same one who made us read and speak Chaucer in the original in class. But I can no longer remmber the man’s name, just his face and voice and manner.)

            I think I may’ve had a better summary in one of my high school history courses. (Bless that man, he was a stickler, but gave a very fine survey of British and early American history. He’s since passed to whatever’s beyond this “lytel globe.”)

            My college history courses were American History I and II, and so I didn’t get a nice detailed look at British, European, Ancient, or World Civ. history. You know, there’s too little time in life. I was and wasn’t suited to academia when I went, but now, I would be. — I am very glad i went for liberal arts, despite that it isn’t always kind toward job and income. For me at least, it’s been more fulfilling in the long run, and as I get older and broaden and deepen my interests.

            Life is finally starting to resemble former good habits. My reading habits still aren’t back up to speed, though. I have to get back into the habit and reserve the time at night as a relaxation before bed. I think that may lure me back into it on a regular basis. (Understand, that’s from an avid book lover who also had to read and edit for work. But between that and personal life going off the rails for so long, I got burnt out, and am just now getting back into the groove.)

          • BlueCatShip

            Howarth, David. 1066: The Year of the Conquest. Penguin Books. 1981 Ed. ISBN-13: 978-0140058505. ISBN-10: 0140058505.

            The PB edition I have, with a very fine cover design. Also available in HB. No ebook edition available as yet, per Kindle.

  15. CJ

    The House of Commons is quite a show. I’d trade them ours in a heartbeat, however. 😉

    I think the British notion of promoting for ‘worth’ came through Henry I, at least in terms of precedent…and even William had some inclination to regard worth over rank: considering his origins, perhaps…but he did have some pretty competent people around him, which made him different than some of the temporarily successful warlords who had rumbled around France and Belgium in previous decades.

  16. joekc6nlx

    I was discussing Congress earlier this week with a friend who’s an attorney. He said that he thought we should abolish Congress and revert to the Parliamentary system. I can see advantages, but also disadvantages. I recall when I was stationed onboard my first ship, homeported in Gaeta, Italy, that in 1978, Italy had just gone to its 44th government since 1945. I don’t think I want quite that much instability in the government. I still haven’t gotten past my maternal grandfather’s birth in Missouri. Nothing I’ve found yet lists him in Missouri, yet my mother said that his family traveled back to Ohio from Missouri on a farm wagon. My presumption would be it was either horse- or mule-drawn, but I don’t think she knows, either.

  17. CJ

    He may have been born in one place and recorded in another. Neither of my parents even had birth certificates, being born under near-frontier conditions.

  18. GreenWyvern

    Getting back to the Lord Mayors of London, they certainly played an important role in history, and London was always in a different category from the rest of the country. Since London wasn’t under the influence of any of the great lords who controlled most of the rest of the country, it was crucial to the monarchy.

    The Lord Mayor’s Show continues to this day. It has its origin in the decree of King John in 1215 (the same year as Magna Carta) allowing London to elect its own mayor, and specifying that he should show himself yearly to the people and swear an oath of allegiance to the crown.

    So the Lord Mayor’s Show is an annual parade through the streets, which has been held for many centuries. Samuel Pepys records watching it in 1660.

    Today it’s a huge, informal parade about three miles long. Practically anyone who wants can take part in it, so there is a mixture of professional military bands, high-school bands, samba bands, Chinese dragons, clowns, groups ranging from ancient London guilds to modern community organisations, and a carnival atmosphere. There are plenty of horses and vintage vehicles. The Lord Mayor takes his place right at end of the procession in a golden coach built in 1757.

    The Lord Mayor then proceeds to the Royal Courts of Justice where he swears the oath of allegiance.

    The modern Lord Mayor of London shouldn’t be confused with the Mayor of London. They are two different people, and two different jobs. The Lord Mayor presides over City of London, i.e. the 1 square mile historical centre of London, and today the world’s largest financial centre. The Mayor, on the other hand, (currently the colourful Boris Johnson) is the head of Greater London, and handles the day-to-day administration of the other 95% of the city, in a similar way to the Mayor of New York or other big cities.

    This amateur video gives a wonderful idea of the atmosphere and variety of the Lord Mayor’s Show.

    • GreenWyvern

      And here’s another video – I didn’t want to put more than one link in a post in case it got sent to spam.

      This is a better view of the Lord Mayor in his carriage at the end of the procession. He is preceded by the band of the Household Cavalry, a troop of the Life Guards (raised in 1660), and some Royal Watermen, and followed by the Company of Pikemen & Musketeers in the uniform of 1640.

      The Lord Mayor’s Show this year is in a couple of weeks time, on 9th November. I wish I could be there.

      • tulrose

        I really loved the band of the Household Cavalry, particularly that wonderful draft horse carrying the drums, one on either side. I don’t recognise the breed (not that up on horse breeds) but I want to say a Percheron. Whatever he is he is absolutely wonderful!

        • paul

          Hmmm, that’s interesting. ISTR that’s a “continental” breed, while the Clydesdale from the River Clyde would be a UK breed. But perhaps the breed is less importand than the horse? One moment, please. 😉

          The Percheron is a breed of draft horse that originated in the Huisne river valley in northern France, part of the former Perche province from which the breed takes its name. Usually gray or black in color, Percherons are well-muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work.

          I found an image here of a piebald horse in the role. This appears to be the same horse.

          Queen Elizabeth II saw a colorful Clydesdale pulling a milk cart and was so impressed with the animal she pressed it into royal service as a drum carrier to haul a 90-pound silver kettle used by the Household Cavalry band.

          Digger is a rescue Clydesdale that may grow into the role.

          • purplejulian

            the breed is actually quite important, because they want a horse with huge presence, as well as quiet personality for the drum horses. Percherons are compact and you would hardly see them for the drums and the caparisons, Clydesdales are enormously tall with huge feather as well as having spectacular piebalds in their breed. (percherons are only grey, usually) I remember seeing the household cavalry musical ride at our local county agricultural show as a kid in the 50’s – you could go round the stables and see the horses, so I actually took a photo of one of those gigantic drum horses at rest – Horatio, I think he was called!

  19. CJ

    Neat! I approve of a country that hauls its national treasures out for a public airing, so little kids can see them and understand what they were outside of a museum. Most of ours are paper or cloth, so too fragile. But if you have glitter and ponies, this is definitely what to do!

  20. purplejulian

    WOW Digger is 19 hh 3″, that is one big horse!
    and I got it wrong, it would have been in the early 60’s that I saw that horse, and he was called Horatius – here’s a potted history of drum horses in the Household Cavalry, with lots of nice pictures!

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