Clan Maitland
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The Origin of the Maitlands

We believe that all Maitlands are ultimately related.     

Why should this be?

The earliest form of our name is Mautalent. This gradually changed in Scotland to the present spelling of Maitland during the period from 1138, the first record of our name in Scotland to 1400 when the present spelling became fairly firmly established.

We know that the Mautalent name is associated with only two parts of France, the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy and the nearby Channel  Islands of Jersey and Guernsey  in the north and the Pyrenees near Pau in the south. The best indications are that the Mautalens of Pau are descended from the Mautalents of Normandy.

The Mautalents of Normandy derive their origin from two villages, Les Moitiers d'Allonne and Carteret, a few miles apart on the west coast of the Cotentin. They were settled by Normans around 1000 AD. Studies of Norman settlement indicate that this was not a movement of peoples, but rather a military conquest by small armed groups.

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The story starts with the invasions of Vikings or Northmen into northern France around the Seine estuary in the ninth century, around 856-891. In 911 Charles the Simple, King of the Franks, by the Treaty of Epte ceded the area around Rouen to Rollo, a Northman. This is regarded as the foundation of Normandy.

By about 1000 AD, the Normans had begun to settle the Cotentin peninsula, at that time almost an island with only one road leading into it through the west coast route via La Haye du Puits. Settlement was still by invasion. The Northmen came to Normandy because of violent upheavals in their homelands, which left many men without lands and obliged to leave their homes.  The area between Stavanger and Bergen was particularly affected. Near Stavanger in the small village of Matland. We have no evidence to support the thesis, but suspect that our forebear came from here. See derivation of the name, below.

Records are poor because of relatively lax administration in the Middle Ages, and destruction of records during the French Revolution in the 18th century, and war in the 20th century. Those which remain indicate that Mautalents were "habitually buried" inside the parish church of Les Moitiers d'Allonne by 1640.  

This infers two hundred years of burials in the church, taking the Mautalents back to 1440. Presumably, in order to be of sufficient local importance to be buried in the church, members of the family had lived in the area for some time, perhaps a further two hundred years. This takes us back to 1240, still leaving a gap of around 250 years to account for.

In 1114 James de Mautalle was a  witness to a charter given by Richard D'Anneville to a church at Lihou in Guernsey; a later survey of 1597 shows a Mautalent fief in Guernsey in 1331 as an Anneville vassal, and another of 1492 shows a Mautalent as an Anneville vassal in Jersey. The Anneville  family were overlords of Notre Dame d'Allonne from the 12th to the 14th centuries.

William the Conqueror now comes to our aid. Amongst his officers at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 was a Mautalent.

After the battle, William ordered two lists to be prepared, one of his "companions" who were present at the battle, and another of those who fell. A Mautalent or Montalent is listed amongst his companions.

This list, of about 330 names, must be those of his officers, because his army numbered many thousands. 

This infers that Mautalent was an officer in the army, and hence a man of some substance, able to equip himself with armour and a very expensive war horse. In turn this suggests that the Mautalents had been in Normandy for long enough to accumulate or control a manor, and supports the deduction that the original Mautalent reached the area near Les Moitiers d'Allonne around 1000 AD.

French charters confirm Mautalent allegiance to the lords of Allonne - the D' Anneville family in the early mediaeval period. 

 

 

But why the name Mautalent? In old French this means "foul tempered" or on some interpretations "evil genius". Why would a man want such a pejorative name?

This was a period of nicknames. We speak of William the Conqueror, who was also known as William the Bastard. Other men were known as Howard Bloodaxe and Harold Skullsplitter, as well as Philip the Fair, Ethelred the Ill-advised, and Charles the Bald.

Archie McKerracher, in his book Normandy Roots comments as follows on nicknames:

"One such was nicknamed 'Le Gros Venoir' - The Fat Hunter. His present day descendant, the Duke of Westminster, reputedly Britain's richest man, still lives there and his family name of Grosvenor derives from his ancestors nickname. Similarly, the very English Christian name of Algernon comes from the Norman-French 'Al Grenon' - The Moustached One.' Another nickname 'le Grand' - the Big One - was given to a knight who held land in Lincolnshire and whose descendants later moved to Scotland where "le Grand" became altered to 'Grant'. Sir Laurence le Grant was Sheriff of Inverness in 1258. The Normans delighted in nicknames and puns. Robert de Comines, who sailed with the Conqueror in 1066, and was created Earl of Northumbria in 1069, took his name from his fief in Comines in Flanders. Other Normans soon punned his territorial title into 'Cummin', an aromatic herb, and from this comes the surname of Cumming. The three apparent wheat-sheaves on the Cumming coat of arms were originally supposed to mean bundles of the herb. William de Comyn married the granddaughter of King Donald III in 1144 and thus his descendant became one of the competitors for the Scottish throne in 1291. The Comyns became the most powerful family in Scotland in the 13th century, and nearly a quarter of all Scottish earls were Cummins. Their power was destroyed by King Robert the Bruce after he won the Battle of Bannockburn 1314, although the Badinoch family survived to be become a Scottish Clan in its own right. Sir William Gordon Cumming, chief of the clan, still holds the ancestral lands of Altyre.

Some of the Normans took their titles from their newly acquired estates in England. One Anglo-Norman knight styled himself 'de Graegham' after his new manor which derived from the Anglo- Saxon words meaning Gray Home. His descendants moved to Scotland where the name became altered to Graham. Another Norman took his title 'de Ramesai' from his new estates in Huntingdonshire and when his descendants moved to Scotland this became Ramsay. Another took his title from the manor of Hambledon in Leicestershire, and became altered to the historic Scots name of Hamilton. Walter de Hamilton being first recorded in Scotland in 1200. The present Duke Hamilton is head of the family."

People often gloried in bloodthirsty nicknames, as these were of considerable benefit in establishing an ascendancy over opponents, and the assumption is that our original forbear adopted or enjoyed this name because of the advantage it gave him.

If he came from Matland, he might well have been known as, say, Roger de Matland - Roger of Matland. The locals, being French speakers, could not pronounce this, but there was a French word which sounded similar, and may also have described him well - mautalent - meaning foul tempered, or evil genius. Probably they called him this behind his back, but as Normans liked nicknames, the more bloodthirsty the better, he probably adopted it, ad became known as Roger Mautalent.

"I am known as the evil genius, why don't you do it my way?"

So, there was a Mautalent at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, but there is no indication that he received a fief because there is no mention of the name in the 1087 Domesday Book which was a record of all the land holdings in England together with their owners and the tax due on that land.

Why should Mautalent have received a fief, or land grant? William the Conqueror rewarded his followers with grants of land on condition that they performed military service for him. They were obliged to provide an armed knight with a horse and appropriate followers for forty days a year for each village or manor which they received. As one of William's officers, Mautalent would have received at least one village or manor. The fact that no Mautalent is listed in Domesday Book suggests that our forbear did not survive the campaign. Therefore we do not seem to be descended from the Mautalent who fought at Hastings.

From whom are we descended?

During the early years of the 12th century, from around 1120 to 1140, King David of Scotland was recruiting Norman knights and barons to hold fiefs (land holdings) in Scotland in return for military service. David had been brought up with King Henry I of England, and was not only his most important baron in England, but also a good friend. During the period 1087 to 1100, Henry who had bought the Cotentin from his brother the Duke of Normandy had kept a low profile as the younger son of the king and had lived quietly as the Count of the Cotentin. It is probable that during this period he came to know his vassals in the Cotentin very well.

On becoming King of Scotland, David asked Henry for help in recruiting suitable Norman vassals for the border country between Scotland and England. His interest was to recruit younger sons of Norman knights, who would have no prospects of holding land in Normandy, and would therefore be completely loyal to the King of Scotland. Henry who knew the people in the Cotentin, recommended a number of Normans to David, who gave them fiefs and instructed them to choose their own vassals on the same principles - i.e. to select younger sons. Amongst David's leading vassals in England and Scotland was Hugh de Morville. He in turn chose his knights. One of them appears to have been a Mautalent.

Why should Morville choose a Mautalent? Morville is only about 20 miles from Les Moitiers d'Allonne, the home village of the Mautalents. Morville and Mautalent were neighbours.   See map above.

A Mautalent was established in a fief in Scotland. This was at East Chevington, a few miles south of Alnwick in Northumberland, at that time part of Scotland (devastated by William the Conqueror in 1087 after a revolt). We know this because a hundred years later the Mautalent of the day engaged in a legal dispute with his neighbour, called Hugh de Morewic, a common mis-spelling of Morville. (In the accounts of the action, names are hardly ever spelled the same way twice in five separate entries over a period of a few months). The most probable time for his settlement there was at the time of David's recruitment of Norman vassals around 1130.

In 1225, by the Treaty of York, the King of Scotland returned Northumberland to the English. Although the lands in Northumberland held by vassals of the King of Scotland remained in their hands, the King of Scotland wished to retain their allegiance, and seems to have sought to find them fiefs in Scotland. Sir Richard Mautalent married Avicia de Thirlestane before 1250. Avicia was the heiress of Sir Thomas de Thirlestane, another Norman knight. Thirlestane was one of the fiefs under the control of the de Morville family, with records showing grants of Thirlestane by  Morvilles to Elsi, Alan and later Thomas de Thirlestane (father, son & grandson) in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

There are a number of records of Mautalents in south east Scotland during the period 1138 to 1258, and in several cases they witnessed charters for members of the Morville and Valognes families (Valognes is close to Morville in Normandy). Typically, charters were witnessed by members of the lords household, and this information confirms the close links between the families.

Why do we think that all Maitlands are descended from one individual?

The pattern of settlement in Scotland was that of recruitment of individual soldiers or knights to hold fiefs and perform military service. It was not a movement of people, or of families. The Mautalents are clearly linked by historic records with the neighbouring families of Morville and Valognes in the Cotentin, and the pattern of settlement of Normans in southern Scotland in the 12th century was without question one of selection of individual warriors from the Cotentin, and for practical purposes, no other part of Normandy. Hugh de Morville was one of Scotland’s leading barons that that time, a neighbour of Mautalent in Normandy, and the overlord of Lauderdale, where Mautalents eventually settled. Mautalent's neighbour in Northumberland was Hugh de Morwic, a common mis-spelling of Morville, so this area also seems to have been a Morville barony.

Thus it seems most probable that the Mautalent to settle in Scotland was a great, great grandson or nephew of the Mautalent who fought at Hastings. Judging by the subsequent appearances of Mautalents in the records at intervals, they are probably his off-spring, rather than cousins who migrated to Scotland at the same time. Even if they were cousins rather than descendants, then they were almost certainly descended from the Mautalent who fought at Hastings, or his father.

Because the name is so rare, and its meaning in old French so pejorative, it is unlikely that it was used by any other family. Certainly, the name continues to be unusual in France to this very day.

We can therefore be reasonably certain that we are descended from a single individual, either in Normandy or in Scotland in the early Middle Ages.

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