Norman aristocracy in the British Isles

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The Norman aristocracy in the British Isles played a significant role in Great Britain and Ireland after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Commonly sweepingly referred to as "Norman", some of the new aristocracy were also Breton, Flemish or French in ancestry: the House of Normandy, House of Plantagenet, House of Blois, House of Bruce, House of Balliol and House of Stuart were kings of either England, or Scotland, or both at some point, but they were not all "Normans". In Scotland at least three aristocratic Houses were from Hungary: the Carnegies (Earls of Southesk and Northesk), Drummonds (Earls of Perth), and Borthwick (Lord Borthwick), the latter family being suggested that before Hungary they were from Kurland[1].

Normans were already in England from 1002 and Scotland's King Malcolm III 'Canmore' employed them in the reconquest of his Kingdom from Macbeth (k.1057).[2] The Duke of Normandy conquered England in 1066, and the various token principalities of Wales; as well as many of the so-called 'kingdoms' of Ireland from 1169[3] The process in Scotland was somewhat different, as they came by invitation of monarchs there (notably Malcolm Canmore's son David 1st who reigned 1124-53), and a few also intermarried with the native aristocracy.

With the Reformation and the advent of Protestantism, and a further cultural shift back to Northern Europe with the religious wars and following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, there was a minor influence of some Dutch and Germans into the aristocracy.


Arms House Title Origin Reign Details
Normandy King of England
Duke of Normandy
Normans 1066–1141 A Danish patriarchy, they conquered Normandy 890-900. In 1066 Duke William also became King of England.
Blois King of England French 1135–1154 Culturally Franco-Norman, they were also Counts of Blois. Only one King, Stephen.
England COA.png
Plantagenet King of England
King of France
Lord of Ireland
Prince of Wales
French 1154–1485 Originally from Anjou they also competed with the Capetians for the French crown; some of their relatives were Kings of Jerusalem. An illegitimate line continues to exist in the peerage of England as the Dukes of Beaufort.
Balliol COA.png
Balliol King of Scotland French 1292–1332 Origins in Bailleul-en-Vimeau, (canton of Hallencourt, Somme), Picardy. In 1292 John de Balliol was crowned King of Scotland, in right of his descent through his mother from King David 1st. He abdicated in 1296. His son Edward (d.1363-65, s.p.), was briefly also King, Sept - Dec 1332.
Bruce COA.png
Bruce King of Scotland
King of Ireland
Anglo-Norman 1306–1371 Original surname de Brus, from Brix, Manche, in Valognesand canton, and said to have come to England with The Conqueror. Received lands in Yorkshire. 2nd son went to Scotland.[4] Surname spelling altered to Bruce under King Robert 1st.
Stuart COA.png
Stewart King of Scotland
King of England
King of Ireland
King of Great Britain
Anglo-Breton 1371–1707 This family are descended from Walter FitzFleald and his spouse Christian, daughter of Alan IV Duke of Brittany, 'Fergant' (d.1119). He or his son Alan came to England where they had a grant of the castle of Oswestry, in Shropshire. Alan's 3rd son, Walter FitzAlan (d.1177) "a Norman by culture and by blood a Breton"[5], went to Scotland about 1136 where he became High Steward, from whence the surname Stewart derives. It appears that King Robert II (1316-1390) formally adopted the spelling of Stewart.[6]

Kingdom of England

Arms House Premier title Origin Titled period Details
Spencer Duke of Marlborough
Earl Spencer
Earl of Winchester
Baron le Despenser
Anglo-Norman 1200–present Surname originally le Despenser. Origins obscure and possibly native English, although they were Dispensators (Stewards), hence the surname, to the Norman Earls of Chester in the early 13th century, from whom they held manors.[7] Descendants include Winston Spencer-Churchill and Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.

Kingdom of Scotland

Arms House Premier title Origin Titled period Details
Sutherland Earl of Sutherland Flemish 1160–present Original house is said to be descended from Hugh Freskin de Moray (d.before 1171)[8], said to be Flemish (or possibly Frisian). His grandson, who became Bishop of Caithness, was cannonised as St. Gilbert Moray soon after his death, 1 Apr 1245.[9]
Arms House Premier title Origin Titled period Details
Lauder Arms (only).jpg
Lauder Feudal Barons Norman 1056–present Original house descended from Sir Robert de Lawedre, a Norman who entered Scotland in Earl Siward's army on behalf of King Malcolm 'Canmore' in 1056.[10][11][12][13][14] His grandson, another Sir Robert, appears in a list of donors to the foundation of the Abbey at Haddington, founded no later than 1159, in the reign of King Malcolm IV.[15] His son was a Crusader.[16] They acquired great estates and were Justiciars North and South of the Forth[17]; member of the King's Council held by Robert The Bruce on 7th June 1323[18]; "The family of LAUDER are recorded amongst those "below the rank of Earl who have been considered as belonging to the Scottish higher nobility between 1325 and 1349".[19]; Chamberlain of Scotland 1333[20]; Chancellor of Scotland 1423-5[21]; frequent Ambassadors and Privy Councillors; successive Governors of Berwick-upon-Tweed Castle[22], and of Lochmaben Castle 1509-1518[23]; sat on the governing Crown Council following the Battle of Flodden, 1513[24]; with Queen Mary at Carberry Hill and at the Battle of Langside 1568[25]; et al.
Arms House Premier title Origin Titled period Details
Gordon arms.jpg
Gordon Duke Norman 1156–present Original house is said to be descended from a Norman named Gordon, who entered Scotland in Earl Siward's army on behalf of King Malcolm III 'Canmore' in 1056. For his reward of that service and merit he was granted the lands in Berwickshire subsequently called Gordon (after his name), Stitchell and other lands in the Merse, and Huntly. Sir Adam Gordon was killed, alongside King Malcolm, at the siege of Alnwick.[26] Subsequently the family became very numerous and were given many peerages.[27]

Lordship & Kingdom of Ireland

Arms House Premier title Origin Titled period Details
De Clare.png
de Clare Titular Lord of Leinster Norman 1169–1318 Richard FitzGilbert or de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, 'Strongbow' (d.1176), arrived from Wales and married into the MacMurrough dynasty, claiming Leinster for a short time.
FitzGerald Barons of Kerry and Lixnaw, Barons of Offaly, Earls of Kildare[28] Norman 1169–present Commonly known as The Geraldines, descendants of Gerald of Windsor, arrived with 'Strongbow' and were granted land by him in co.Kildare. A branch fought with the MacCarthys for Desmond. Some were involved in the Desmond Rebellions during Tudor times.
de Burgh Earls of Ulster Norman c1200–present This family descended from Walter de Burgh, Lord of Burgh-next-Aylsham, Norfolk. His son William de Burgh (d.1205/6) was Governor of Wexford for King Henry II, and in 1179 he obtained a great part of the province of Connaught, becoming Lord of Connaught, which remained in his family for generations. His son Richard was Justiciary of Ireland 1228-32.[29] The modern family of Burke claim descent.
Hamilton Duke of Abercorn Anglo-Norman 1608–present Original family were presumably Anglo-Normans as they held the manor of Hambledon in Leicestershire, the origin of their surname. A younger son, Walter, settled in Scotland in the later 13th century.[30] The Hamilton of Innerwick family in Haddingtonshire, Scotland, had very large grants during the Plantation of Ireland, and are represented by the Hamilton Baronets of Castle Hamilton.[31] Also, James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Abercorn, a 3rd-great grandson of Scotland's King James II, received large grants of land in the Barony of Strabane, co.Tyrone, c1615, where he built a castle. They also became members of the Irish Peerage.[32]
Lynch Lynch-Blosse baronets Anglo-Irish 1500s–present Stephen FitzArthur Lynch was Mayor of Galway in 1546 & 1560. His grandson Henry was made a Baronet of Ireland 8 June 1622. The 6th Baronet (d.1775) assumed the additional surname of Blosse having married an heiress.[33]


  1. Anderson, William, The Scottish Nation, by William Anderson, Edinburgh, 1867, vol.ii, p.338.
  2. Ritchie, Prof. R.L. Graeme, The Normans in Scotland, Edinburgh University Press 1954, firstly: p.xi -xx.
  3. Orpen, Goddard Henry, Ireland Under the Normans vols 1 & 2, 1169-1216, (4 vols), Clarendon Press, Oxford, England.
  4. Farrar, William, D.Litt., editor, Early Yorkshire Charters, vol.iii, Edinburgh, 1916, p.457.
  5. Mackenzie, A.M., M.A., D.Litt., The Rise of the Stewarts, London, 1935, pps.8-9.
  6. Simpson, David, The Genealogical and Chronological History of the Stuarts, Edinburgh, 1713, p.22.
  7. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by the Hon. Vicary Gibbs & H. Arthur Doubleday, vol.iv, London, 1916, p.287-9 and notes.
  8. Maxwell, Sir Herbert, Bt., M.P., LL.D., A History of the House of Douglas, London, 1902, vol.1, p.6-11, where it is suggested that Freskin is also a very close relation, possibly a brother, of the first recorded Douglas.
  9. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by Geoffrey H. White, vol. xii, part 1, London, 1953, p.537-8 and notes.
  10. Lauder, 7th Bt., Sir Thomas Dick (1784-1848), Scottish Rivers.
  11. Anderson, William, Scottish Nation, Edinburgh 1867, p.629.
  12. Young, James, Notes on Historical References to the Scottish Family of Lauder, Glasgow, 1884, pps:30-1.
  13. Burke, Sir Bernard, The Peerage & Baronetage of the British Empire, 32nd edition. London, 1870.
  14. Stewart-Smith, J., The Grange of St.Giles, Edinburgh,1898, p.153.
  15. Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists' Society 5th volume, Haddington, 1952, p.4, in 'The Cistercian nunnery of St. Mary. Haddington'
  16. Nisbet, Alexander, Systems of Heraldry, Edinburgh, 1722, vol.1, p.344.
  17. Mackenzie, Sir George, Precedency, page 39; and Alexander Nisbet, Systems of Heraldry, vol.ii, part 4, p.63, 1722/1984.
  18. The Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol.1, 1124-1423, London, 1844, p.110
  19. Stringer, K.J., Essays on the Nobility of Medieval Scotland, Edinburgh 1985, p.225.
  20. Burnett, George, Lyon King of Arms, editor, Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol.ii, 1359-1379, Edinburgh, 1878
  21. Innes, Cosmo, Early Scotch History Edinburgh, 1861, p.57
  22. Exchequer Rolls
  23. Livingstone, M., editor, The Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol.1, 1488-1529, Edinburgh, 1908, number 1799, pps: 273/274; Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland vol.1, no.2383.
  24. Hannay, Robert Kerr, editor, Acts of the Lords of Council in Public Affairs 1501-1554, Edinburgh, 1932, page 1.
  25. Donaldson, Gordon, D.Litt., editor, Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland 1567 - 1574,, Edinburgh, 1963, numbers 502 & 503, p.102.
  26. Macfarlane, Walter, Genealological Collections made in 1750-1751 by, edited by James T. Clark, Keeper of the Advocates' Library, Scottish History Society, Edinburgh University Press, 1900, pps:409-423 "The Gordons".
  27. Leeson, Francis, A Directory of British Peerages Revised edition, 2002, p.68. ISBN: 1-903462-65-7
  28. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by the Hon. Vicary Gibbs, H. Arthur Doubleday & Lord Howard de Walden, vol.vii, London, 1929, pps:200-216 and 218-245.
  29. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by Geoffrey H. White, M.A., &c., and R.S.Lea, M.A., vol.xii, part 2, London, 1959, p.171-2n.
  30. Anderson, William, The Scottish Nation, Edinburgh, 1867, vol.v, p.415.
  31. Hamilton, Lt.-Col. George, solicitor in England, The History of the House of Hamilton, Edinburgh, 1933, p.500.
  32. Anderson, RCS., Dr. John, Memoirs of the House of Hamilton, Edinburgh, 1825, who claims there is no evidence that this family's origins are anything but Scottish.
  33. Townend, Peter, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, London, 105th edition, 1970, p.286.