On medieval genealogies

Gee, why on earth did I decide to write a 12th century story! I know, lazy me thought “I won’t find much, I’m free to invent a lot!”. How wrong I was! There are many chronicles from that time and there are many online genealogy sites where you can find something on real people who lived back then. Cool.

BUT – there’s always a “but”, right? Sources are often contrasting. They didn’t record years of birth, and sometimes even the year of death was not sure. Take Raoul II de Fougères, my protagonist’s father. A chronicler says he died in Palestine in the third crusade, another that he died a monk at an abbey he founded three years later. Who is right? Who knows.

One site says his wife was called Mathilde, another says he married Jeanne de Dol… which is? Both sites say he had five children, but only on the firstborn they seem to agree. One gives dates of birth, the other mentions charts where these people appear. So one says his children are

– Guillaume III De Fougeres, born Abt. 1159 in , France; died June 07, 1187; married Agatha Du Hommet Abt. 1178.
– Henri II De Fougeres, born Abt. 1162.
– Juhel De Fougeres, born Abt. 1165.
– Geoffrey De Fougeres, born Abt. 1170.
– Marguerite De Fougeres, born Abt. 1174; married Galeran V De Meulan, Comte 1189; born Abt. 1167; died Abt. 1191 in killed in action on Crusades.

The other says his children are called Guillaume, Juhael, Henri, Mathilde and Mabile without dates of birth, but adding charts and dates of those charts. Now I know for sure that Juhael and Guillaume were given as hostages in 1173 during a rebellion, I don’t think that Juhael at 7 would have been given as hostage. And he’s also in a chart dated 1163, therefore the aforementioned DOB is obviously wrong. On the other site, Mathilde is married first in 1179 (at 4? Anything is possible, but still…) and then again in 1189 as above.

Edimburg - no, they don't go to Scotland, but it's medieval all right!

I’ve considered writing to the town and asking them if they have any kind of records of the time, but then decided against it. It’s a novel, after all! Raoul appears twice, Marguerite the same. As long as I know when the heir died and that his son took Raoul’s place, who cares? Robert is gone from Fougères anyway! 😉

So I’ll stop researching that part now. I also spent some time on the Domesday Book to give convenient ancestors to Brithwen and find places in Lincolnshire that are “lost” today, so nobody can tell me they don’t look like that! 😉 I’ve reached the wedding and almost the end of part 1… the fun is still going, I hope to be faster in part 2, then I’ll have to slow down again for part 3, as it wasn’t included in the screenplay versions… Off to writing, folks! 😀

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  1. Viv

     /  03/02/2011

    Ok, so who is going to shoot you if you get something, “wrong”?? Much of this time period is not only confused but sometimes entries were made much later to further someone’s claim to an inheritance.
    And remember: you are writing fiction.
    It never seems to bother film makers. The first time I saw, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, I almost choked. Nottingham from Dover, via Hadrian’s Wall, all in a day??? Why not send your characters on a day trip to Edinburgh?
    Don’t get bogged down in details that are not relevant to the story YOU want to tell. Invent the whole lot and just set it at that time.


    • tee-hee! Well Hollywood is very good at flashing forward events (the war against Troy in 15 days instead of 10 years? Please, Homer must visit the screenwriter every night, since!) and reducing distances (and they should know more about big distances than us Europeans, or at least so I was told in my GoNativeAmerica tour… ;-)).
      Yes, I will stick to my original idea, although a couple of things that popped out were an interesting addition… like now I can have Marguerite’s husband die in the battle of Arsuf, which is pivotal to my story anyway… 😀


  2. Viv

     /  03/02/2011

    Oh and concerning hostage taking? Yes, indeed, children were frequently given as hostages and some spent so many years with their ‘guardians’ ended up regarding them as parents rather than their actual parents. And many were killed when their families broke the terms of agreement. The death of prince Arthur at the hands/orders of King John is not unusual; children had less of the status we moderns would expect.


    • Let’s not forget Alys of France who was so long with King Henry they said she had bored him a child and for that reason Richard refused to marry her… yeah, the hostage thing will be there too, although Robert’s son will be older (probably Arthur’s age) when King John demands him as hostage!


  3. What a fascinating look at the in-depth research you’re involved in , Barb! I’m sure all this care and love for authenticity comes through in your stories! Love the picture of the Edinburg castle!!


    • I know that some expert of the period will find faults, but I’m doing my best! 😉



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