Anchitel [1] de Gray only appears in Domesday as a small sub-tenant of William Fitz Osborne's in Oxfordshire, and "the first mention of this family in public records is temp. Ric. I."—Sir Egerton Brydges. Yet, when it became great and illustrious, genealogists busied themselves in devising for it a magniloquent descent from a maternal uncle of the Conqueror's, who received from Duke Robert the castle of Croy in Picardy, and assumed its name, which was afterwards converted into Gray. Dugdale wisely ignores this pedigree, and we learn from the Recherches sur le Domesday, that Anchitel in reality belonged to a family of considerable note in the Bessin, who were Sires of Luc (a village near Caen) and inhabited a parish in the arrondissement of Bayeux, to which they either gave its name of Gray, or whence they perhaps themselves derived it. In 1082, Gisla, daughter of Turstin de Gray, Sire de Luc, entered the convent of the Holy Trinity at Caen, of which she was a benefactress: and four years later, her brother Robert Fitz Turstin occurs in Domesday (fo. 160). Their father was one of the two sons of Turgis, Sire de Luc and de Gray. Hugh, the other son, and apparently the elder brother, was the father of another Turstin, and of Anchitel, the founder of the English house. This second Turstin remained in Normandy, and though his descendants cannot be very distinctly traced, they were certainly to be found there till the end of the thirteenth century. Their names occasionally appear as benefactors of religious houses; and among the last mentioned are Richard and Roger, who, in 1260, granted lands to the same convent where, nearly two hundred years before, Gisla de Gray had taken the veil.

The first few descents from Anchitel de Gray are variously given. M. de Ste. Marie believes that he had a son, grandson, and great-grandson who all bore the name of John. On the other hand, "Columbanus de Grae, the son of Anchitel, witnessed a charter of Ralph de Limesi in the time of Henry I. (Mon. i. 331). He had issue, 1. Robert; 2. Roger, a tenant of the See of London in 1165, father of Henry de Grey, first Baron of Codnor, ancestor of the Lords Grey of Ruthyn, Wilton, Codnor, and Walsingham, the Earls of Kent and Stamford, Marquesses of Dorset, and Duke of Suffolk.

"Robert, the elder brother, was of Rotherfield in Oxfordshire" (the Redrefeld held by Anchitel in Domesday), "and in 1165 held lands of the barony of Windsor (Liber Niger). His son Robert was the father of 1. Walter; 2. Robert.

"Walter was Chancellor 1205, Archbishop of York 1216, and in 1245 resigned his barony of Rotherfield to his brother Robert, who had issue;

1. Walter, ancestor of the Lords Grey of Rotherfield, Barons by writ 1296:
2. Richard;
3. William, of Langley, Northumberland (Testa de Nevill, 388);
4. Hugh, ancestor of the Barons Grey of Scotland.

"Richard, the second brother, was Viscount of Northumberland in 1236: and from him descended the Greys Earls of Tankerville, and the Earls Grey."—The Norman People. Dugdale's account is, however, altogether different; for he asserts that both the Archbishop and his brother Robert were the younger sons of Henry de Grey.

With this Henry he commences the long and superb pedigree which it is my ungracious task to endeavour to compress into a few short pages. The glories of the great historic house that stood so near the throne, with all its multiplicity of branches and centuries of splendour, can hardly be summarily dealt with, and I will attempt no more than a glance at its history.

Henry de Grey received from Coeur de Lion in 1195 a grant of Thurrock in Essex—since known as Thurrock-Grey—which was confirmed to him by King John; and married Ysolda, one of the co-heirs of Robert Bardolfe, who brought him the honour of Codnor in Derbyshire. Richard, his eldest son, was Baron of Codnor; and John, the second, Justice of Chester, was the father of the first Lord Grey de Wilton, to whose descendants the principal illustrations of the family belonged.

Richard "stood firm" to King John, from whom he obtained various grants; and was Governor of the Channel Islands, Constable of Dover, and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports under Henry III. But he fell into disgrace in 1257, for allowing an obnoxious emissary of the Pope's to come on shore at Dover: and Hugh Bigot the Justiciar took from him the custody of the castle and ports, with the bitter words, "Have you been trusted by the People of England, as a faithful Warden of the Ports, and suffered this Person to Land, without our knowledge, to the manifest violation of your Oath?" His grandson Henry had summons to parliament in 1299; and, like most of his contemporaries and his three immediate successors, was a sturdy soldier diligently employed in the French and Scottish wars. One of these Lords Grey of Codnor was Seneschal of Gascony and Steward of Acquitaine: another, Admiral of the Fleet from the mouth of the Thames northwards; while a third—the hardest fighter of them all—was "in such great Esteem" with Edward III., that he received at his hands the extraordinary gift of "a Hood of White Cloth, embroidered with Blue Men, dancing, button'd before with great Pearls." The seventh Lord, with whom the line expired in 1495, was a chemist, who obtained from Edward IV. "a Licence to practise the Transmutation of Metals, by his Philosophical Skill. How he sped therein," cautiously adds Dugdale, "I cannot say." He left only two base born sons, and his aunts, Elizabeth, wife of Sir John Zouche, Eleanor, married to Thomas Newport, and Lucy, wife of Sir Rowland Lenthall, were his heirs. "These three," says Leland, "had the Lord Greyes Londes in copartion, whereof the lordship of Ailesford, in Kent, and How Hundred, was parte. There were some of the Lord Greyes of Codnor byried at Ailesford Freres." The castle and manor of Codnor fell to the share of Elizabeth.

The next in order of succession was John, Justice of Chester and Steward of all Gascony, a knight "much esteemed for his civility and valour, as also Chief of the King's Council," whose son Reginald married Maud, daughter and heir of William Fitz Hugh, by Hawyse, the heiress of Hugh (or Henry) de Longchamp, a great Herefordshire baron seated at Wilton Castle, and was summoned to parliament as Lord Grey de Wilton in 1295. He succeeded his father as Justice of Chester, and "merited so well" that he received, among other rewards, the castle and barony of Ruthyn, in the marches of Wales, from which one of his grandsons took his title as a baron of the realm. His line was of far longer continuance than his elder brother's, for he was the first of fifteen Lords Grey de Wilton, of whom the second was Justiciary of North Wales. Their records are uniformly military; a succession of writs of summons to attend the King "well fitted with horse and arms," and due retinue of men-at-arms and archers; and they played their part gallantly in most of the home and foreign wars. One above the rest, William, thirteenth Lord, who joined the Duke of Northumberland in his attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne, was renowned for his services, and esteemed "the greatest soldier of the nobility." He commanded the victorious army that invaded Scotland in 1547; and though thrown into the Tower as an adherent of the Protector in 1551, "yet," says Dugdale, "this Storm, when the Duke of Somerset's head was off, lasted not long:" and in the following year we find him Deputy of Calais, and Governor of Gisnes in Picardy. Here he was besieged by the Due de Guise, and after a long and stout defence, forced to yield himself prisoner, and pay a ransom of twenty-four thousand crowns, "which did much weaken his Estate." His grandson Sir Thomas was involved in what has been called "Raleigh's conspiracy," and tried for his life with Lord Cobham in 1603. Cobham made an abject defence, but Grey spoke boldly and fearlessly, and when sentenced to die, refused to plead for mercy. "I have," he declared, "nothing to say, yet a word of Tacitus comes in my

"'Non eadem omnibus decora.'

The house of Wilton have spent many lives in their prince's service, and Grey cannot ask his." He was not, however, executed, and died in the Tower eleven years afterwards. His barony had expired under attainder, and he left no children. But he had two sisters; Elizabeth, born of his father's first marriage, and the wife of Sir Francis Goodwin; and Bridget, married to Sir Rowland Egerton, who, as his sister of the whole blood, became his heiress. Five generations afterwards, her descendant, Sir Thomas Egerton, received, first the barony, and then the Earldom of Wilton, with remainder to Thomas Grosvenor, the son of his daughter Eleanor.

Roger, the founder of the house of Grey de Ruthyn, was the second son of the second Lord Grey de Wilton, and was summoned to parliament in his grandfather's barony in 1325. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Lord Hastings of Abergavenny, by his wife Isabel, one of the sisters and co-heirs of Adomare de Valence Earl of Pembroke; and his son and successor Reginald was, on the premature death of John Hastings, the last Earl of Pembroke (killed at seventeen by an accidental lance-thrust in the tilting-yard), found to be his heir of the whole blood. This decision was disputed by his heir of the half blood, Sir Edward de Hastings; but after a contest carried on for twenty years in the Court of Chivalry, "the right and title to the name and arms of Hastings was adjudged to him and his heirs for ever, as Lord Hastings;" and in 1425 he is styled, in the Rolls of Parliament, Lord Hastings, Weysford, and of Ruthyn. It was a quarrel of his about a common lying between Ruthyn and Glendower that led to Owen Glendower's formidable insurrection in 1401. At the accession of Henry IV., "as better Friended than Owen," who had adhered to the dethroned King, he seized upon the disputed land, and Owen vainly sought redress from. Parliament; some of the barons declaring "That they did not at all fear those rascally bare-footed People." The Welsh prince then resorted to arms; and his countrymen, believing their deliverance from the English yoke to be at hand, flocked round him from far and near. He met and routed Grey in the field, took him prisoner, and exacted a ransom of ten thousand marks, "handling him strictly" until it was paid.

This Lord Grey was twice married. By his first wife, Margaret de Ros, he was the ancestor of the Earls of Kent; by the second, Joan, daughter and heir of Sir William de Astley, son and heir of Thomas, seventh Lord Astley, of the Marquesses of Dorset, Duke of Suffolk, and Earls of Stamford.

The first wife, Margaret, brought him an only son who died in his life-time, leaving issue Edmund and Thomas. Thomas was created Baron of Rougemont-Grey by Henry VI., with various grants conferred for special services in the Wars of the Roses; "but for this his Fidelity to the House of Lancaster he paid dear," being attainted on the accession of Edward IV. Edmund, on the other hand, was never likely to suffer from any changes of dynasty; for he is said "to have reposed with equal security on a bed of white and red roses." He was high in favour with the new Yorkist King; became Lord Treasurer in 1464, Earl of Kent in 1465; and was confirmed in his new title alike by Richard III. and Henry VII. In point of fact, if we may credit Leland's account, he had begun life, as he ended it, a Lancastrian. "In the time of the Civil War betwixt King Henry the Sixth and King Edward the Fourth, there was a Battel fought without the South Suburbs of Northampton. The Lord Fanhope took totally King Henry's part. The Lord Grey de Ruthyn did the same in countenance; but a little afore the field, he practised with King Edward. Others saying, that he had a Title to Lord Fanhope's Lands at Antehille, or thereabout, or depraving him with false Accusations, so wrought with King Edward, that he, with all his strong Band of Walschemen, fell to King Edward's part, upon promise, that if Edward won the Field, he should have Antchille, and such Lands as Fanhope had there. Edward won the Field, and Grey obtained Antehille, cum pertinentiis."

His house continued for nearly two hundred and eighty years. There should have been in all twelve Earls of Kent, but one of them declined to take the title, his predecessor having "much wasted his Estate by gaming, and died in poverty at the sign of the 'George' in Lombard Street." However, it was "much recovered by the wise Frugality" of the next Earl, with whose nephew Henry the direct line terminated in 1639. The barony of Grey de Ruthyn then passed to the sister of this eighth Earl, Susan Lady Longueville; and the Earldom devolved on Anthony Grey, a Puritan divine,[2] who was "parson and patron" of Burbach. He refused to take his seat in Parliament "by reason of age and infirmities, but did not abate the constancy of his preaching, so long as he was able to be led up into the pulpit. Such his humility, that honours did not change manners in him. Thus a mortified mind is not more affected with additions of titles, than a corpse with a gay coffin."—Fuller. Yet this "mortified" Earl had a long struggle with Charles Longueville for the barony of Grey de Ruthyn. His great grandson, Henry, who had inherited from his mother the title of Baron Lucas, was created in 1706, Marquess of Kent, Earl of Harold, and Viscount Goderich; and three years afterwards Duke of Kent. But the line ended, as its honours had culminated, with him. He survived both his sons, and both died childless; the elder choked by an ear of barley that he had inadvertently put into his mouth; the second before he had completed his twenty-first year; and his granddaughter Lady Jemima Campbell, the only child of his eldest daughter, Amabel, Viscountess Glenorchy, became his heir. The Duke arranged her marriage with Philip, second Earl of Hardwicke; and in 1740—the year before he died—obtained a fresh creation as Marquess de Grey, with remainder to her and her heirs male. But a strange fatality seemed to pursue the family. She left none, and the new title died with her. Her eldest daughter, Lady Amabel Yorke, who inherited the barony of Lucas, and was created in 1816 Countess de Grey, married Lord Polwarth, but had no children; and it was her second daughter, Lady Jemima, who became the mother of the long expected heir. She was the wife of Thomas Robinson, Lord Grantham, and brought him two sons; of whom the younger was created Viscount Goderich and Earl of Ripon, and the elder succeeded his aunt as Earl de Grey. But here again the line failed, with two sons who died in their first youth; leaving their eldest sister, Anne, Countess Cowper, to succeed to the barony of Lucas, and the ancestral seat of the Earls of Kent, Wrest in Bedfordshire (mentioned by Dugdale among the possessions of the first Lord Grey de Ruthyn); while the Earldom devolved on their cousin, the present Marquess of Ripon attend upon her father and mother. They were "sharp and severe parents. When I am in their presence, whether I speak, keep silence—sit, stand, or go—eat, drink—be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else—I must do it even so perfectly as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened—yea, presently sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs, and other ways which I will not name, for the honour I bear them—so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell till I go to Master Aylmer, who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing while I am with him."

Her brief and joyless life had been twice attempted before its tragical end. "Once," she tells us, "I was poisoned in my mother-in-law's house, and once in the Tower. So powerful was the venom, that all the skin came off my back." Yet she had hardly completed her seventeenth year when she was beheaded on Tower Hill:—

"Seventeen—and knew eight languages—in music
Peerless—her needle perfect, and her learning
Beyond the churchmen; yet so meek, so modest,
So wife-life humble to the trivial boy
Mismatch'd with her for policy!
I have heard She would not take a last farewell of him,
She fear'd it might unman him for his end.
She could not be unmann'd—no, nor outwoman'd—
Seventeen—a rose of grace!
Girl never breathed to rival such a rose;
Rose never blew that equall'd such a bud."—Tennyson.

The story of her two younger sisters, now so perilously near the throne, is only one degree less melancholy. On her own infelicitous wedding day, Lady Katherine had been married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke; and Lady Mary—then only eight years old—betrothed to their kinsman, Lord Grey de Wilton. But, after her execution, "when what was the Highway of Honour turned," in Fuller's phrase, "into the ready Road to Ruin," Lady Mary was cast off by Lord Grey, and Lord Pembroke procured a divorce for his son, and turned poor Lady Katherine out of his house. Their mother, within a fortnight of her widowhood, re-married an equerry almost young enough to have been her son; and the two forlorn girls were taken into Queen Mary's household, and continued maids of honour after the accession of Elizabeth. But the new Queen "could not well abide the sight of Lady Katherine, who lived in great despair," and at last resolved, at all risks, to marry. She had formed a passionate attachment to Lord Hertford; and one day that the Queen went to Greenwich, complained of a terrible toothache, tied up her face, and, having thus contrived to be left behind, stole out with his sister, Lady Jane Seymour, to his house in Cannon Row, where they were married. No one gave her away, and no one was present but Lady Jane, who died shortly afterwards, and the priest, who took good care never to be forthcoming. She concealed her marriage till, finding herself with child, she was driven to confess it to the Queen, who forthwith sent her and Lord Hertford to the Tower. At first, by the connivance of the Lieutenant, she was allowed to see her husband; but when, in 1562, a second son was born to them in their captivity, Elizabeth's wrath literally knew no bounds. "She committed her own Lieutenant prisoner in his own Tower," and sent Lady Katherine to her uncle's house at Pirgo, where she remained till his death in 1564. She was then transferred to the unwilling custody of strangers, each in turn receiving her under protest; and so passed on from house to house, a burden and incumbrance wherever she went, helpless, sickly, and very poor. In vain, with sad insistence, she constantly implored the Queen's mercy; in vain she conjured and coaxed Cecil; in vain the old Duchess of Somerset pleaded for "this young couple, waxing old in prison "—Death alone was to break her bonds, "This Heraclita, Lady of Lamentation, was seldom seen with dry Eyes for many years together, sighing out her sorrowful Condition." At last, in 1567, she died of atrophy at Sir Owen Hopton's house in Suffolk. On her death-bed. she desired that her wedding ring and "ring of assurance" (betrothal) should be sent to her husband; and taking out another on which was enamelled a death's head, with the legend, "While I lyve yours;" "This," said she, "shall be the last token to my lord that ever I shall send him: it is the picture of myself." As she looked down at her hands, she perceived that her nails were purple, and cried with a sudden smile, "Lo, He comes! Yea, even so come, Lord Jesus!" adding—as well she might—"Welcome, death!" Then, closing her eyes with her own hands, she passed away while the words "Oh Lord, into Thy Hands I commend my spirit," were still on her lips.

The last sister, Lady Mary, warned by the example of her elders, chose a husband "whom she could love, and none need fear," and was secretly married to Martin Keyes, Sergeant Porter of the Watergate at Westminster Palace, a burly Kentishman known as the "biggest gentleman of the court."[3] He was, according to Fuller, "a Judge at Court (but only of doubtful Casts at Dice)," who had held his office for twenty-two years, and was then a widower of forty or fifty, with several children. Yet even this humble happiness was denied to Lady Mary. No sooner was the marriage discovered, than Martin Keyes was consigned to a noisome prison at the Fleet, whence he vainly sought release by offering to renounce his unlucky bride, and permit his marriage to be annulled. Lady Mary was despatched on a pillion to Mr. Hawtrey's house in Buckinghamshire, and was kept in confinement there and elsewhere till her husband died seven years afterwards. She was then set free; and the heiress of the Greys and Bonviles passed the remainder of her life in poverty and obscurity, subsisting on a pittance of £80 a year.

The father of these three ill-fated princesses perished on the scaffold five days after his daughter's execution; having been sentenced to death for high treason by his peers in Westminster Hall. He had sought to save his life by hiding himself in a hollow oak in his park of Astley, but was betrayed by a faithless keeper. All his honours expired under attainder; but the barony of Grey of Groby was revived in 1603 in favour of the son of his only surviving brother Lord John, Sir Henry Grey of Pirgo. Twenty-five years afterwards, the grandson and successor was created Earl of Stamford by Charles I. Nevertheless, he commanded the Parliamentary Army in the West during the Civil War; and his son sat in judgment on the unhappy King, and signed his death-warrant. The fifth Earl, whose mother, Lady Mary Booth, had been the sole heiress of the last Earl of Warrington, received his grandfather's title in 1796; but it expired with the seventh Earl in 1883. By the will of this last Lord Stamford, the great heritage of the Greys was divided; for their beautiful ancestral domain of Bradgate was left to Mrs. Arthur Duncombe, the surviving daughter of his only sister, Lady Margaret Milbank: Enville, with its princely gardens and treasures of silver plate, to an utter stranger in blood, who was his wife's niece; and Dunham-Massey, the Booth estate in Cheshire, and the only one to which his successor could have no possible claim—to the very distant kinsman on whom the older Earldom devolved.

I have left myself little or no space to deal with the other titles pertaining to the name of Grey. That of Viscount Lisle, granted in 1483, lasted for less than thirty years; that of Grey of Rotherfield, dating from 1297, had passed to the D'Eyncourts in 1387; while the more modern barony of Walsingham, bestowed in 1780 on Sir William de Grey, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, still continues.

The Northumbrian Greys, whose arms are wholly different, and similar to those borne by the Scottish house, are represented both in the male and female line. Their common ancestor, Sir John de Grey, a famous soldier in Henry V.'s wars, received in 1418 a grant of the French Earldom of Tankerville, and married the eldest coheir of Edward de Cherlton, Lord Powis. The third Earl was attainted as a Yorkist under Henry VI.; but his son had summons to Parliament in 1482 as Lord Grey of Powis, and left two successors in the title. The last died without legitimate issue in 1552.

From Sir Thomas, a younger son of the first Earl of Tankerville (according to Burke, for Dugdale makes no mention of any relationship), descended William Grey, created by James I. Lord Grey of Werke; whose grandson Ford became Earl of Tankerville in 1695. But he died s. p.; and his brother Ralph, the fourth and last baron of Werke, left only a daughter, Lady Mary Bennet, whose husband received the Earldom of Tankerville in 1714, and was the ancestor of the present Earl.

An uncle of the first Lord Grey of Werke, Sir Edward Grey of Howick, had, however, descendants in the male line, and one of them was created Earl Grey in 1806. Between these two families the great Northumberland estate was equally divided.

The Scottish Grays—still represented in the female line—have held their barony since 1445.

  1. Anchitel, according to M. de Ste. Marie, signifies in the Northern tongue Petit Jean, or Johnnie.

  2. The names of his twelve children are cited among the 'Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature:' one of them (a daughter) was christened "Faith-my-Joy."

  3. They were ill-matched, for Lady Mary, "the least of the court," was a dwarf. Lady Jane, too, was very short, and wore gilt chopines (a sort of cork shoe, four inch es high) to appear taller.

-- Cleveland

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