Royal Great Britain
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska

Music in the background is Spagnolette XXVII
by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)

Visit the Internet Renaissance Band for more midis.

Medieval/Renaissance Society:

Medieval Society was meshed together by the web of personal relationships between kings, princes, noblemen, knights, and the clergy. Many royals and nobles sent their sons and daughters to become monks, nuns, or in the case of many sons, knights, as part of their tradition, since the first born males inherited the wealth. Service to God and country was the rule of the time and their destiny.

Kings ranked first, then peerage, then clergy, and the knights in influence. This left the guilds and farming for the poor.

For example, Denis Bond was Mayor of Dorchester, England in the 1630's. His family held an estate on the Isle of Purbeck. His father, John Bond first possessed this land in 1616. John was Mayor of Weymouth in four different terms of office. His son, Denis, submitted his pedigree to the Heralds in 1623. They were then known as Bond of Lutton.

"Though lineage was desirable, some standing could be constructed out of wealth and consolidation by the holding of acres: first riches, then honor. Reputation was measured by acre" (Adams, Thomas, 17th century).

Humanists liked to think "true nobility is made by virtue rather than a long pedigree." Others felt blood lineage and the ability to exercise martial skills remained the foundation of true nobility. Noble is as noble does.

The king or lord granted a unit of land, or fief, to another nobleman or freeman, in return for military or other services. This feudal system was from the Latin feudum meaning fief.

Knights were professional warriors. At age seven a knight wannabee became a page, he then joined a noble household where he learned the martial arts. From there he would go to war as a shield bearer, or esquire for his lord.

Knights were associated with a code of behavior known as chivalry, derived from the French word for knight (chevalier). Chivalry was about loyalty. It was interwoven with Christianity. Knights were to respect the church and defend the faith.

Growth in the Gentry Class:

John Ferne in his book Blazon of Gentrie (1586) deffered to the humanist sentiment about virtue, but also talked of the generation of blood." He thought merchants should be excluded from gentle status unless they did some virtuous act.

In the sixteenth century there was a growth in the total numbers of families in the gentry class. The dissolution of the monasteries (by Henry VIII) and the expansion of the land markets are cited as a cause for this growth.

In the later seventeenth centuries houses were built larger. Much like the newest trend here in the United States.

Surrey had the most gentry, while Pembrokeshire had scarely any Great Houses. Suffolk had a large gentry population. In the Tudor period wealth was the major criteria for the creation of Knights. In 1520, knights had the medium income , from their lands, of 204 British pounds per annum; esquires had 80 and gentlemen has 17. In contrast, peers income, at this time was between 800 British pounds to 900.

At the close of the fifteenth century, a landowner stood only a 70% chance of having a male heir. At the end of the thirteenth century this figure was much lower (50%) because of infant motality rates and the Black Death (plague). Genetic misinformation or inability to produce a male heir was an always present danger in gentry families. Using Henry VIII as an example shows us that the XY chromosones were the factor they knew nothing about in that time. Henry VIII went through six wives and never received a male heir that could live to adulthood. Henry Fitzroy and Edward both died early in life. Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn (wife #2) was the healthiest of the lot. That is why I have featured the Tudor family on these pages.

Gentry who had no male heirs had to offer their land to their daughter's husbands or if no heirs exsisted, their lands were sold to those who had the money to pay for the estates.

Henry VIII favored the honoring of men of "good reputation." He did not issue lands to his peerage by what he called "vile blood." Basically, he gave land to those who did service to their king, and if that service waned, Henry VIII either had them executed, shamed, and freed of their estates.


Because of the new attitude of gentry being made by kings, often they (the new gentry) did not have the pedigrees they would have liked. Claimants to arms (in Heraldry law) were to bring their pedigrees and proof of their families' ancient use of arms to be scrutinized by the Heralds.

In 1623, the gentry of Shropshire protested the knighting of Sir Thomas Harris by the king, because Harris' grandfather was a yeoman. Sucessful yeoman could make a lot of money and apparently his grandfather did. His sons were well educated. One son made money as a mercer in Shrewsbury. Another son was a unscrupulous lawyer. One of Sir Thomas' heirs also married a female from the Duke of Buckingham's family.

Under Elizabeth I, her Secretary of State (in 1583) was Sir Thomas Smith. Smith lived his life as a gentleman and acquired all the trappings of a gentleman. If a man wanted a coat of arms bad enough, and could pay, he could quite literally buy his arms and titles. The new rich replaced the old blue bloods.

The Lambert Family (of my own tree) was thought to have forged documents to glorify their own medieval deeds. My branch of the Lamberts relate to the Dickinson/Dickerson family and they link up to the line of Edward I and beyond. Modern day genealogists have written about certain members of the family as being hoaxes, as recently as the last ten years. However, my own branch has not been under scrutiny as yet.

Many point here is to be sure to look at both old and new reocrds and writings to be in the know.

The Wellesbourne family of Hughenden, Buckinghamshire were descended from a Wycombe clothier. They added a previously unknown son called "Wellesbourne de Montfort" to their tree (apparently this was to make a Norman connection?). They also added his illegitimate brother, Earl Simon. These were the progenitors of their lineage at Hughenden. They even went so far as to have fictitious deeds with forged medieval seals. They found a tomb at the local church and had their coat of arms carved there, along with a series of effigies, which repesented their 13th and 15th century ancestors. If you have enough money this is possible. This reconstructing of effigies was no doubt kept hushed by the fact that the family gave the church monies for remodeling? It was a good trade off to get the church updated, so the clergy turned a blind eye to the other changes. Few families went to these lengths.

Other families thought to have practiced these deceptions were the Stantons, Wodehouses, and Churchills. The Churchills claimed descent from the companion of William the Conqueror. The family had an epitaph placed on their contemporary tombstones to this end.

No one will argue that Winston Churchill was great historical figure. Perhaps they needed that genealogy to boost soemone's self image? Whatever the motive is is not a new one. Rich Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians did the same thing. They even thought themselves related to the gods.

Sir Edward Dering took his ancestry back to the fourteenth century by means of a heraldic coat of arms on his wax seal, and a stained glass version was added to his manor house. Sir Edward hired a genealogist to bring his family tree to pre-Conquest origins. A mythical Saxon thane sprang into his family tree. Deringfound the son of Sired was his Saxon. To validate this coat of arms, Sir Edward Dering had the font in Puckley Church re-cut to incorporate his arms, and laid a series of forged family brasses, in the style of the late medieval period, in the church chancel.

John Philipot, a Somerset Herald (in 1624) helped the Fitch and Pelham family to their series of pedigrees. He was thought to have tampered with the records so the required genealogy would be found upon examination. Today's DNA testing and comparison of writng inks might uncover this addition. Modern genealogists have written articles in various genealogy journals regarding these forgeries of the past.

This practice was throughout Europe, and even today titles can be bought and sold in England for cash. Non-believers can pick up copies of REALM magazine and surf the web for proof of this claim.



Knight, the Protectors of the Realm The Knights Templar The Crusaders (Under construction) Scotland and the Holy Grail (Sinclairs) Heraldry Table of Contents
Peter Bartholomew - French Crusader (NEW)


Ancient Egypt Cleopatra VII Alexandria, Egypt


Royals and Peerage Saints Edward I: His Descendants and Ancestors The British Crown Jewels(NEW)
The Significance of the Crown (NEW) Crowns of the World(NEW)


The Spencer Family Table of Contents

In the early sixteenth century, in the midland counties, there was the usual practice of the conversion of the lands to pastures for sheep grazing..."Sir John Spencer who had flourished as a grazier on rented property in south-eastern Warwickshire ... [he] purchased Wormleighton, Warwickshire, and Althorp in Northamptonshire" (Heal, 108).

Between 1500-1509 and 1590-1599, wool prices tripled. Sheep farming did not need many hired hands, only one or two shepherds were needed. Thus profits were high. The sheep rancher built a few buildings to house the sheep during cold weather and storms. Their land provided much of the food, and the sheep kept the lawns well-trimmed. Their shepherds were given living quarters on the estate or if they preferred worked in shifts from their own homes. One shepherd working nights and one working daytime.

On the other hand, profits could be made by land titlers by renting out housing to their tenants with a one and one-half plot of land. These tenants fed their own families and gave the excess to their landlords. In order to get this deal, they were required to sign a long-term lease with low rents as the incentive. Most landowners treated their tenants with compassion, but some let the tenant houses turn to ruins. This would eventually cause civil disturbances.

ROYALS: The Tudors, plus awards I have won