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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

My ancestors - The Whitney lineage

I hadn't intended in writing about the Whitney family line at this point in my family research but all week I have been fascinated by what I've found. My great whatever grandmother Eleanor Whitney married John Puleston, son of Madog Puleston, who was the son of Lowri sister to Owain Glyndwr. Her father was Robert Whitney, so I was intrigued by what I could find on his family. A family tree can be seen here from my website. Robert married twice, which has been firmly established, to a Constance Touchet and Elizabeth the daughter of Sir Thomas Vaughan of Hergest. In what order is still undetermined but research tends to lean towards Constance being the first. The most frustrating aspect of research into this particular Robert Whitney is the fact that it can't be assertained which of his children are attributed to the wives. Eleanor was definately Robert's daughter but who was her mother? It is such a shame because Constance's ancestry leads directly to King Edward III!

Apparently a crusading family (members of the family went on crusades that is), and the use of the name Baldwin as a christian name (no pun intended) is certainly a clue. A Sir Randolph de Whitney went with Richard I on a crusade and was attacked by Saladin's brother and 2 others. By some miricle he survived which he attributed to the virgin Mary, and when he got home he built a chapel dedicated to her at Whitney in Herefordshire. He probably wasn't a direct ancestor but a fellow called Thurstin the Fleming was. According to 'A Book of the Wye' he was involved in the Battle of Hastings and was given Wigmore and inherited Pencomb in Herefordshire by marrying Agnes, daughter of Alured of Merleburgh, as well as Whitney, which became the surname of Thurstin's decendants.

One of those decendants was a Sir Robert Whitney, born 1348 at Whitney who certainly led an eventful life. In 1368 he accompanied the Duke of Clarence, with an entourage of over 200, for his marriage to the daughter of the Duke of Milan. He was also sent to France to meet the King of Navarre In the political turmoil that engulfed England in the latter years of the 15th century, Sir Robert, a supporter of Richard II, decided to abandon him for Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV). This decision led to his death against the forces of Owain Glyndwr(a proponent of Richard) at the Battle of Bryn Glass (Pilleth) in June 1402, along with his brother and other relatives.

There was a Eustace de Whitney, born ?, who was married to Elizabeth de Freville, daughter of Sir Alexander de Freville, and researching her has opened up a lot of connections, and she can be regarded as a mini gateway ancestor. Elizabeth's mother was Joan de Cromwell (now there's an interesting name!) whose ancestry I haven't looked into yet, and her mother was a Margery de Marmion. She is often mentioned as Mazer. This connection opens up my ancestry to the Marmion family, descended from the Norman lords of Fontenay le Marmion. They were hereditary champions of the crown, which as far as I can make out is a role that is filled tb those who occupied the manor on Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire. It required the holder to challenge anyone who protests to the coronation of the new king. It is purely ceremonial and not been actually acted out as far as I know. The Marmion family carried it out in Normandy and they carried it on in England until 1377 when the male Marmion line died out. An earlier Marmion, Robert, had made an enemy of the earl of Chester, and whilst surveying the approaching earl's forces towards his castle fell and broke his thigh. Prostrate on the ground and obviously in pain, he was despatched by being beheaded by one of the earl's men.
They also gave away lands and became patrons of various abbeys, mainly because as atonement for the wrongs they committed. More than once I have read about monks being turfed out off of their land so that the new landlord can build his castle as a means of defending his new aquired land. Pretty much after they realise that what they've done isn't going to make God happy, so they quickly try to make up with the clergy and give them money to build monastries and abbeyies on the land that was theirs in the first place. Of course these buildings would occupy a small part of the land gained, most of it was still in the lord's possession. It's a con trick that still occurs today.

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