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An historical precursor to Plant: Plante Genest and the counts of Anjou

A connection between the Plant surname in England and royalty was controversially made in the 19th century; it was then debunked in the 20th century; and now it has regained some degree of credibility in the 21st century, though the recent evidence I (JSP) have found remains absolutely inadequate for making any claim of a genetic connection.

In his A Dictionary of the Family Names of the United Kingdom (Lewes, 1860), p269, Mark Anthony Lower wrote:

A family in humble circumstanches at Kettering, bear the ancient royal name of Plantagenet, though now it is commonly corrupted to Plant.
Rather than being directly associated with the royal Plantagenets, diligent modern research shows that the first Plants were in proximity to the Longspée-Audley descendants of Geffrey Plante Genest, the forefather of the royal Plantagenets. What can be said with caution is that the Plant surname may have originated with some form of cultural influence associated with the famous nickname, Plante Genest, though it should be stressed that there is no evidence that the Plants were directly descended from him.

The legendary Angevin ancestry of Geffrey Plante Genest

The counts of Anjou rose from inauspicious beginnings as soldiers on the frontier between Brittany and Anjou where they were recruited by Charles the Bald (840-877) of France to help defend the West of his lands around Paris against incursions by Vikings. There is debated evidence, based on the 12th century document Gesta Consulum, which suggests that the beginnings of the male-line of the first Angevin counts was in the persons of Tortulfus and his son Tertullus, father of Ingelgerius.

An early historian of the house of Anjou, Count Fulk Rechin (1068-1109) admitted that he knew nothing of the first three of his line: Ingelgar; his son Fulk the Red; and Fulk the Good who ruled from 941 to 960. Chronicles survive from those times onwards, which suggest that the fortunes of the house of Anjou were founded on the prowess of Ingelgar, a semi-legendary soldier of fortune who carved out an estate for himself in the Loire valley. His son, Fulk the Red, built on these foundations and became count of Anjou by 941. The Chronicles of the Counts of Anjou, which was given its final form in the 1160s by John, a monk of Marmoutier Abbey, tells legendary tales of Fulk the Red's descendants, beginning with children of Ingelgar's grandson, Fulk the Good (941-960) under whom the region enjoyed a time of tranquil prosperity.

Fulk the Good had three sons. Geoffrey, the eldest, became count of Anjou; while the second, Guy, became bishop of Le Puy. Drogo the youngest and Fulk's favourite was educated in literature and the liberal arts and, through the kindness of king Hugh Capet of France, he succeeded his brother as bishop of Le Puy.

Fulk the Good's eldest son, Geoffrey, was known as Greygown after a witness to a contest picked him out at the French court. The miller, who had been summoned by the king for this express purpose, said to the king and the rest of those assembled, `This man, who wears a grey tunic, restored our honour when he slew the Dane and struck fear into their army'. In a single-handed contest Geoffrey Greygown had defeated Ethelulf the Dane, a Goliath-like figure. The Chronicles of the Counts of Anjou describe Geoffrey as `stout hearted and strong and most successful in battle'; he was count of Anjou from 960 until his death in 987.

Geoffrey Greygown was succeeded by his son Count Maurice who was `wise, virtuous and peace-loving and who ruled in peace more as a result of widom than of fighting battles'. On his death in 987 his lands went to his son Fulk Nerra who, although only about 17 years old, had already proved himself as a valiant soldier.

Fulk Nerra (972-1040), by turns a brutal monster and a pious pilgrim, was count of Anjou from 987 to 1040. He started his reign by seizing Chateaudun, to secure himself against his neighbours. In 992, after winning the battle of Conquereuil against the Bretons, he pillaged and devastated the area. He built many castles in Anjou, earning a reputation as an innovative strategist. He burned his first wife for infidelity, but also founded two abbeys and went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times (1002-3, c.1008, 1039). Fulk's wife gave birth to Geoffrey Martel and a daughter Adela.

Geoffrey Martel I, count of Anjou (1040-1060), is described by the Chronicles of the Counts of Anjou as `bolder than all the rest of his family'. In 1044 he took Tours and the county of Touraine, using the ring of castles his father had built around them as jumping-off points. He was seized by an unexpected illness, an incurable sickness which grew worse from day to day, and he suffered right up to his death dying in great pain amidst his family.

Geoffrey Martel I had no sons of his own, so he left his lands to his nephews; leaving Anjou and Saintonge to Geoffrey the Bearded, and Touraine and Château-Landon to Fulk Rechin.

The male-line forebears of Geffrey Plante Genest

The mother of Fulk Rechin was Ermengarde (Blanche) d'Anjou (c.1018-76) and his father was Geoffrey II "Ferreol" de Château-Landon, Count of Gatinais (c.1004-c.1044). Here begins the chronicled male-line ancestry of Geffrey Plante Genest.

Fulk Rechin, count of Anjou (1066-1109) was the initiator of the Chronicles of the Counts of Anjou in the 1090s. Having inherited the right to Touraine and Château-Landon from his uncle, Geoffrey Martel I, Fulk went to war against his own brother, Geoffrey the Bearded, captured and imprisoned him in 1066 and took Anjou and Saintonge into his domains. Fulk's son, Geoffrey Martel II, later freed his uncle Geoffrey the Bearded but, according to the Chronicles of the Counts of Anjou, his wits had become addled in prison and he did not live long after his release. Fulk took several wives: there was the daughter of Lancelin of Beaugency; then Ermengardin, daughter of Archenbaud the Strong of Bourbon, who bore Geoffrey Martel II. The lecherous Fulk fell passionately in love with the sister, Bertrade, of Amaury of Montfont, `whom no good man ever praised save for her beauty'. For her sake, he divorced the mother of Geoffrey Martel II; and Bertrade gave birth in 1092 to Geffrey Plante Genest's father, Fulk V. In 1107, Geoffrey Martel II was killed in an ambush at Candé castle, supposedly with the connivance of his father and step-mother, though the Chronicles of the Counts of Anjou disputes this. That same year, the lecherous king Philip I of France came to Tours and, having conversed with Fulk Rechin's wife, decided to make her his queen. After the death of Fulk Rechin, in 1109, his son Fulk V is said by the Chronicles to have abandoned the ways of his mother and father and led an honourable life, ruling his teritory wisely.

Fulk V (1092-1143), Count of Anjou (1109-29), king of Jerusalem (1131-43) married the only daughter of Elias, count of Maine, in 1109, thereby uniting Anjou and Maine. Fulk's wife, Ermengarde, heiress of Maine, bore Geffrey Plante Genest in 1113 and died in 1126. In 1120, Fulk V went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In 1129, he married Mélisande, daughter of king Baldwin II of Jerusalem; and he succeeded as king of Jerusalem in 1131. To defend the holy city from the Muslim champion, Zengi, Fulk allied with the emir of Damascus and the emperor of Constantinople during the early 1130s. Turkish raiders took him prisoner in 1137, but then freed him.

Geffrey Plante Genest

Geffrey IV (1113-51), count of Anjou (1129-51), bore the nicknames Plante Genest (cf. `hairy shoot') and `the Fair' and was said to be tall, handsome, graceful and strong. In 1128, aged 15, he was married to Matilda, daughter and heiress of king Henry I of England. They disliked each other, but maintained an uneasy political alliance and produced three sons, Henry (the future king Henry II of England), Geoffrey and William.

Geffrey Plante Genest spent much of his youth imposing order on his unruly vassals, including his own brother Elias, count of Maine, who rebelled against him in 1131. In 1135 Henry I died, and Matilda's cousin Stephen of Blois seized the English throne, together with Normandy, though Geffrey laid claim to the latter in his wife's right. The Norman barons opposed Geffrey, not through loyalty to Stephen, but out of hatred to their traditional enemy, Anjou. However, Norman morale was weakened when Matilda captured Stephen at Lincoln in 1141, and Geffrey was invested as duke of Normandy in 1144.

Geffrey joined Louis VII of France on the abortive Second Crusade (1147-49). In 1150, he ceded Normandy to his son, Henry, who had inherited his mother's claim to the English throne, becoming king in 1154.

By an unknown woman, Geffrey Plante Genest had also fathered Hamelin, who acquired the de Warenne earldom of Surrey through marriage in 1164. More particularly, Geffrey's son Henry II fathered William Longspée by his mistress Ida de Tosny; and it apears to be more than just an accidental coincidence that the widely-spread early records for the Plant name in England occur in proximity to an ensuing Longspée-Audley line of feudal lords. The link between the names Plante Genest and Plant, however, was more likely cultural than genetic. For example, it could have been that these feudal lords brought with them a French meaning of planté and the Plant name (with various spellings) could have been ascribed, by this noble affinity, to some peasants living near a planté (meaning a particular planted place).

Modern myth and the Plant bloodlineModern myth and the Plant bloodline