J.H. Round: The Origin of the Stewarts: Part 1

Of the problems upon which new light is thrown by my Calendar of documents in France relating to English history, none, probably, for the genealogist, will rival in interest the origin of the Stewarts. It has long been known that the Scottish Stewarts and the great English house of Fitz Alan possessed a common ancestor in Alan, the son of Flaald, living under Henry the First. This was established at some length by Chalmers in his Caledonia (1807) on what he declared to be "the most satisfactory evidence."1 According to him, "Alan the son of Flaald, a Norman, acquired the manor of Oswestrie, in Shropshire, soon after the Conquest," and "married the daughter of Warine, the famous sheriff of Shropshire." Mr Riddell, the well-known Scottish antiquary, followed up the arguments of Chalmers, in 1843, with a paper on the "Origin of the House of Stewart,"2 in which he accepted and enforced the views of Chalmers, including his theory that Walter Fitz Alan brought with him to Scotland followers from Shropshire and gave them lands

1 Vol. I, pp. 572-575.
2 Stewartiana, pp. 55-70.


there. But research has hitherto been unable to determine the origin of Flaald father of Alan, or even to find, in England, any mention of his name.

No less an authority on feudal genealogy than the late Mr Eyton devoted himself to a special investigation on the subject of Alan "Fitz Flaald,"1 and arrived at the conclusion that, after all, he was a grandson of "Banquo, thane of Lochaber,", whose son "Fleance" fled to England. "My belief is," Mr Eyton wrote, "that the son of Fleance was named Alan ... and that he whom the English called Alan Fitz Flaald was the person in question."2 He admitted, however, of the priories of Andover, Sele, and Sporle, cells of the Abbey of St. Florent de Saumur, that he could "show a connection between Alan Fitz Flaald or his descendants and each of these cells3, which suggested an Angevin origin, and for which he could not account. But where he really advanced our knowledge was in showing that Alan Fitz Flaald married, not (as alleged) a daughter of Warine the sheriff, but Aveline daughter of Ernulf de Hesdin, a great Domesday tenant. I have now been able to trace Ernulf to Hesdin (in Picardy) itself, in connection with which his daughter 'Ava' also is mentioned.4 In 1874, an anonymous

1 History of Shropshire (1858), VII. 211-232.
2 Ibid, p. 227. It is essential to bear in mind that the old Scottish writers made Walter, the first Steward, a son of 'Fleance', wholly ignoring Alan his real father (see p. 119 below). This invalidates their whole story.
3 Ibid, p. 219.
4 See Preface to my Calendar, p. xlvii.


work, The Norman People, approached the problem from the foreign side, and adduced evidence to prove that Flaald was a brother of Alan, seneschal of Dol. But there was still not forthcoming any mention of Flaald in England, while the rashness and inaccuracy which marred that book resulted in his being wrongly pronounced a "son of Guienoc." The great pedigree specially prepared a few years ago for the Stuart exhibition by Mr W. A. Lindsay (now Windsor Herald) still began only with Alan son of Flaald, to whom a daughter of Warine the sheriff was assigned as wife. Moreover, in the handsome work on The Royal House of Stuart (1890), which had its origin in that exhibition, Dr. Skelton could only tell us that "there was (if the conclusions of Chalmers are to be accepted) an Alan son of Flathauld, a Norman knight, who soon after the Conquest obtained a gift of broad lands in Shropshire" (p. 5). Alan, we shall find, was not a Norman; the lands he was given were widely scattered; and he did not obtain them "soon after the Conquest."

The latest authoritative statement on the subject is that, it would seem, of Sheriff Mackay in the Dictionary of National Biography (1896).1 He tells us, of the House of Stewart, that

1 This passage is found in the biography of the first Stewart king, so that I only lighted upon it after this paper was written. It gave me the clue to Mr. Hewison's book, of which I had not previously heard, but which I have now read just in time to add his results to this paper (24th Jan., 1900).


Its earlier genealogy is uncertain, but an ingenious and learned, though admittedly in part hypothetical, attempt to trace it to the Banquho of Boece and Shakespeare, Thane of Lochaber, has been recently made by the Rev. J. K. Hewison (Bute in the Olden Time [Vol. II] pp. 1-38, Edinburgh, 1895).1

Mr Hewison's volume opens with the words:-

The origin of the royal house of Stewart has long remained a mystery, perplexing historical students, who feel tantalized at knowing so little concerning the hapless victim of the jealousy of King Macbeth - Banquo, round whom Shakespeare cast the glamour of undying romance, and to whom the old chroniclers of Scotland traced back the family of Stewart.

The author's 'glamour' augurs ill, and in spite of the unique advantage he enjoyed in having access to the late Lord Crawford's MS. collections on the subject, we soon find ourselves wandering, alas, with Alice in Wonderland.

It may be concluded that Walter, the son of Fleadan, son of Banchu, is identical with Walter, son of [A]llan (or Flan), son of Murechach of the Lennox family, if not also with Walter, son of Amloib, son of Duncan of the other genealogy. Chronology easily permits of the equation of Murdoch, the Maormor of Leven ... with Banchu ... who might have survived even his son Fleance -- we, meantime, only assuming that Fleance was slain in Wales. Ban-chu, the pale warrior, would be his complimentary title; the old surname of his family ... also descended to his son, Flan-chu, the red or ruddy warrior, known to his Irish kinsmen as Fleadan.

We are surely coming to the Man-chu dynasty. But no.

This Irish form of the name Fleadan tan (i.e. either Fleadan the Tanist or Fleadan the younger) imports a significant idea -

1 Vol. XLVIII, p. 344.


namely, flead ... a feast, which corresponds in signification with Flaald ...

Then there bursts upon us yet another discovery:-

Fleanchus ... is the Latinised form of Flann-chu, the Red or Ruddy Dog ... and is also a sobriquet - the Bloodhound. ... This nomenclature is evidently a reminiscence of the dog-totem or dog-divinity, etc., etc.

There remains, however, the standing puzzle1 why Walter the first Stewart was made by the old romancers a son of Fleance son of Banquo, though his father was indisputably Alan son of Flaald. One solution offered by our author is that "Ailin or Allan may have become the family name"; but his own view is that

The native name of Banquo's son would be the common Goidelic one Flann, which signifies rosy or fair, and has an equivalent in Aluinn, beautiful, fair, to which the word Alan, both in Britanny and Ireland, may be traced.

Thus it was that 'Flann' would become 'Alan' in Britanny, "more especially when, in the vulgar tongue of Dol, the former, denoting a pancake, would sound like a nickname." And if we should still have our doubts, is there not, at Dol, to this day -

an imposing edifice, built of granite, in the purest Norman style of architecture of the twelfth century, which tradition names 'La maison des Plaids,' and avers was the revenue office and court-house of the archbishops. this name, "the House of the

1 See p. 116, note 2, above. It will be seen that to assert, as here, that Alan and 'Fleance' were the same will not overcome this difficulty.


Plaids," is touchingly significant of Fleance with the royal wearers of the tartan ...

But I really cannot pursue further these "ingenious and learned" new lichts. A dreadful vision of dog-totems, arrayed in the Stewart tartan, and feasting, with fiery visage, on pancakes in the streets of Dol, warns me to leave this realm of wonders and turn to the world in which we live. From "the House of the Plaids" I flee.1

Fortunately Flaald is a name, for practical purposes, unique; and we need not, therefore, hesitate to recognize in "Float filius Alani dapiferi" who was present (No. 1136) at the dedication of Monmouth Priory (1101 or 1102) the long-sought missing link. We thus connect him with the fourth, the remaining cell of St. Florent de Saumur in England. But we have yet to account for his appearance as a 'baron' of the lord of Monmouth, William son of Baderon. The best authority on Domesday tenants, Mr. A. S. Ellis confessed that he had failed to trace the lords of Monmouth in Britanny.2 The key, however, to the whole connection is found in the abbey of St. Florent de Saumur and in its charters calendared in my work. In the latter half of the eleventh century many Bretons of noble birth were led to

1 It is positively the fact that the author so renders the name of the 'Maison des Plaids' where the (Arch)bishops are supposed to have held their pleas ("plaids").
2 Domesday Tenants of Gloucestershire, p. 46.


take the cowl. Among them was William, eldest son of that Rhiwallon, lord of Dol, whom, on the eve of the Norman Conquest, Duke William and Harold of England had relieved when he was besieged by his lord. Rhiwallon's son William, who was followed by his brother John (No. 1116), entered the abbey of St. Florent de Saumur, and became its abbot himself in 1070. Zealous in the cause of the house he ruled, he clearly urged its claims at Dol, receiving not only local gifts, but also, as its chronicle mentions, the endowments it obtained in England. Of the two families with which we are concerned the lords of Monmouth can, by these charters, be traced to the neighbourhood of Dol, for William son of Baderon confirms his father's gifts at Epiniac and La Boussac (No. 1134), which places lay together close to Dol. The presence among the witnesses to these charters of a Main or La Boussac and a Geoffrey of Epiniac affords confirmation of the fact. Guihenoc, the founder of the house in England (probably identical with "Wihenocus filius Caradoc de Labocac"),1 undoubtedly became a monk of St. Florent,2 and resigned his English fief to his nephew William (son of his brother Baderon), who is found holding it in Domesday.

Some charters were specially selected by me from the Liber Albus of St. Florent (Nos. 1152-4) to illustrate, about the end of the Conqueror's reign,

1 Lobineau, Histoire de Bretagne, II, 219.
2 Calendar, Nos. 1117, 1133.


the little group of Dol families who were about to settle in England.1 Among the witnesses to one of them are Baderon and his son the Domesday tenant. But the one family we have specially to trace is that which held the office of "Dapifer" at Dol. "Alan Dapifer" is found as a witness, in 1086, to a charter relating to Mezuoit2 (a cell of St. Florent, near Dol). He also, as "Alanus Siniscallus," witnessed the foundation charters of that house (ante 1080) and himself gave it rights at Mezuoit with the consent of "Fledaldus frater ejus," the monks, in return, admitting his brother Rhiwallon to their fraternity.3 He appears as a witness with the above "Badero" in No. 1152, and in 1086 as a surety with Ralf de Fougères (No. 1154). Mentioned in other St. Florent documents,4 he is styled in one, "Dapifer de Dolo"5. And it is as "Alanus dapifer Dolensis" that he took part in the first crusade, 10976. This style is explained in a charter of 1095, recording a gift to Marmoutier by Hamo son of Main, with consent of his lord "Rivallonius dominus Doli castri, filius Johannis archiepiscopi", in which we read:-

1 It would, no doubt, be a rash conjecture that the "Herveus botellarius" of these charters (Nos. 1153, 1154) was the ancestor of those Herveys, from whom the Butlers of Ireland are descended. But if it should eventually prove to be no mere coincidence, the Butlership of Ireland would have had an origin curiously parallel to the Stewardship of Scotland.
2 Lobineau, p. 250.
3 Ibid, 137, 138, collated by me with the Liber Albus at Angers.
4 Ibid 232, 234.
5 Ibid 310.
6 Ordericus Vitalis (Société de l'histoire de France), vol. III. 507.


Hoc donum factum est per manum Guarini monachi nostri de Lauda Rigaldi tunc temporis prioris Combornii, testibus his: Alano siniscalco Rivallonii predicti, etc.1

His brother's son, Alan fitz Flaald (ancestor, as has been seen, of the Stuarts) also occurs, in these Breton documents, as releasing his rights in the church of "Guguen"2 to Bartholomew abbot of Marmoutier;3 while two charters of Henry I confirming the foundation of Holy Trinity Priory, York, as a cell of Marmoutier, and prior to 1108, contain his name as a witness (No. 1225). Again, a charter of donation to Andover Priory reveals him as present in the New Forest with William son of Baderon and "Wihenocus monachus" (William's uncle) early in the reign of Henry I4. It was Alan also who founded Sporle Priory, Norfolk (No. 1149), on land he held there, as another cell of St. Florent, the Bretons who witness his charter further attesting his origin. Among them is seen Rhiwallon "Extraneus," the founder of the Norfolk family of Le Strange, which, more than five centuries later, was so ardent in its loyalty to Alan's descendants, the Stuart kings of England.5

It will have been observed that "Float filius Alani dapiferi" is assumed above to have been the

1 Transcripts from (Bretagne) cartulary of Marmoutier in MS. Baluze 77, fo. 134, and in MS. lat. 5441 (3) fo. 343. Alan is also brought into conjunction with this Hamo son of Main in No. 1152.
2 Cuguen, near Dol.
3 Lobineau, II. 310; MS. lat. 5441 (3) fo. 235.
4 Mon. Ang. VI. 993.
5 His name has hitherto remained doubtful, and is given as Roland in the Dictionary of National Biography.


brother, not a son, of the crusader. This assumption is based upon the facts that the crusader's gift at Mezuoit was 'conceded' by his brother 'Fledald,' who was, therefore, his heir at the time, and that his office of "dapifer" at Dol was afterwards held -- a fact hitherto unsuspected -- by descendants of Alan fitz Flaald. The crusader, it must therefore be inferred, left no heir.

The sudden rise of Alan fitz Flaald and his evident enjoyment of Henry's favour from the early years of the reign, were thought by Mr. Eyton to be due to his (fabulous) Scottish origin. But it might, with some probability, be suggested that his Breton origin accounts for the facts. When Henry was besieged in Mont St. Michel, he is known to have had Breton followers ("aggregatis Britonibus") and, after his surrender, "per Britanniam transiit, Britonibus qui sibi solummodo adminiculum contulerant, gratias reddidit" (Ordericus)1. Dol was his nearest town in Britanny, and Alan may thus, like Richard de Réviers, have served him across the sea, when he was but a younger son.

It would seem, indeed, although the fact has been hitherto overlooked, that a group of families whom Henry had known when lord of the Côtentin were endowed by him when king with fiefs in England. In addition to Alan fitz Flaald, founder of the house of Stewart, and to Richard de

1 Elsewhere, Orderic observes that Henry, "dum esset junior ... ut externus, exterorum, id est Francorum et Britonum auxilia quaerere coactus est."