Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Plantagenet, Family of

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PLANTAGENET, Family of. Inveterate usage has attached the surname Plantagenet to the great house which occupied the English throne from 1154 to 1485, but the family did not assume the surname until the middle of the fifteenth century. It was originally—under the form Plante-geneste—a personal nickname of Geoffrey, count of Anjou, father of Henry II (cf. Wace, Roman de Rou, ed. Andresen, ii. 437; Historia Comitum Andegavensium in Chroniques d'Anjou, pp. 229, 334), and it is traditionally derived from Geoffrey's habit of adorning his cap with a sprig of broom or planta genista. This explanation cannot be traced to any mediaeval source (cf. Bouquet's Recueil, xii. 581 n.) According to Miss Norgate, 'the broom in early summer makes the open country of Anjou and Maine a blaze of living gold;' but tradition hardly justifies an association of the name with Geoffrey's love of hunting over heath and broom (Mrs. Green, Henry II, p. 6). Another version ascribes it to his 'having applied some twigs of the plant to his person by way of penance' (Vestigia Anglicana, i. 266). There is, it should be noted, a village of Le Genest close to Laval in Maine (cf. Du Cange, s.vv. genesteium, geneta, and planta).

Geoffrey transmitted no surname, and Henry II, his son, the founder of the 'Plantagenet' dynasty, took from his mother the name Henry Fitz Empress, by which he was commonly known when his titles were not used. His descendants remained without a common family name for three centuries, long after surnames had become universal outside the blood royal. They were described by their Christian name in conjunction either with a title or a personal epithet, as John 'Lackland,' or Edmund 'Crouchback;' or with a territorial appellation derived from their place of birth or some country or district with which they had connections, as John 'of Ghent,' Richard 'of Bordeaux,' Edmund 'of Almaine,' Thomas 'of Lancaster.' If the younger branches had been longer-lived, these latter would no doubt have passed into surnames, as that 'of Lancaster' actually did for three generations (Complete Peerage, v. 5). In the early part of the fifteenth century the king's sons were often referred to simply as 'Monsieur John' or 'Monsieur Thomas.'

Matters stood thus when Richard, duke of York, desiring to express the superiority of his descent in the blood royal over the Lancastrian line, adopted Plantagenet as a surname. It makes its first appearance in formal records in the rolls of parliament for 1460,

when Richard laid claim to the throne, under the style of 'Richard Plantaginet, commonly called Duke of York.' He is described in the 'Concordia,' which recognised him as heir-apparent, as 'the right high and myghty Prynce Richard Plantaginet, duke of York' (Rot. Parl. v. 375, 378). A passage in Gregory the chronicler (p. 189) implies that York assumed the name as early as 1448, when he did not venture to emphasise his dynastic claims more openly (Ramsay, Lancaster and York, ii. 83). The pedigrees given by the Yorkist chroniclers, and evidently those which York laid before parliament, are all carried back to Geoffrey 'Plantagenet' and the counts of Anjou. None of them applies the name Plantagenet to any member of the family between Geoffrey and Richard (Hardyng, pp. 16, 258, 260; Worcester, ed. Hearne, p. 527; Chron. ed. Davies, p. 101; Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 170). The distinction is preserved by the Tudor historians and in the dramatis personæ of Shakespeare's historical plays. But Shakespeare in 'King John,' and one passage of the first part of 'Henry VI' (act iii. sc. 1,1. 172), uses the word as a family name of the whole dynasty (cf. Ramsay). The last legitimate male bearer of the name was Edward Plantagenet, earl of Warwick, grandson of York, executed in 1499. The last illegitimate bearer of the name is usually supposed to have been Arthur Plantagenet, viscount Lisle [q. v.], a natural son of Edward IV (Complete Peerage, v. 117; Fœdera, xiv. 452). But an entry (not original) in the parish register of Eastwell, Kent, states that a 'Richard Plantagenet died here on 22 Dec. 1550,' and according to a circumstantial story related by Peck in his 'Desiderata Curiosa' (1732), on the authority of Heneage Finch, earl of Nottingham, this Richard was an illegitimate son of Richard III, who was born in 1469, and, after the accession of Henry VII, worked as a bricklayer at Eastwell until about 1547. The story cannot be regarded as established (Gent. Mag. 1767, xxxvii. 408; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. viii. 103, 192, ix. 12; Walford, Tales of Great Families, 2nd ser. vol. i.; William Heseltine, Last of the Plantagenets).

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The sovereigns of the Angevin dynasty appear in this dictionary under their Christian names. Other members of the family are noticed under the following headings: Arthur, Viscount Lisle (1480?-1542), see Plantagenet, Arthur; Edmund, surnamed Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster (1245-1296), see Lancaster; Edmund, Earl of Cornwall (d. 1300), see under Richard, Earl of Cornwall (1209-1272); Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent (1301-1329), see Edmund; Edmund de Langley, first duke of York (1341-1402), see Langley; Edward, 'The Black Prince' (1330-1376), see Edward; Edward, second duke of York (1373?-1415), see 'Plantagenet,' Edward; Edward, Earl of Warwick (1475-1499), see Edward; {{sc|Geoffrey, Archbishop of York (d. 1212), see Geoffrey; George, Duke of Clarence (1449-1478), see Plantagenet, George; Henry of Cornwall (1235-1271), see Henry; Henry, Earl of Lancaster (1281?-1345), see Henry; Henry, first Duke of Lancaster (1299?-1361), see Henry; Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (1391-1447), see Humphrey; John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall (1316-1336), see John; John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399), see John; John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford (1389-1435), see John; Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence (1338-1368), see Lionel; Margaret, Countess of Salisbury (1473-1541), see Pole; Richard, Earl of Cornwall (1209-1272), see Richard; Richard, Earl of Cambridge (d. 1415), see Richard; Richard, Duke of York (1412-1460), see Richard; Richard, Duke of York (1472-1483), see Richard; Thomas, Earl of Lancaster (1278-1322), see Thomas; Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk (1300-1348), see Thomas; Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester (1356-1397), see Thomas; Thomas, Duke of Clarence (1387-1421), see Thomas.