Funery enamel of Geffrey Plante Genest in Le Mans Cathedral
What can be said is that, though there is no known evidence for a male-line genetic connection, there is some evidence for an association dating back to the 13th century between the English Plants and an illegitimate line of descent from the so-called Plantagenets. Following on from investigations starting around 1999, I (JSP) initially published this finding in, for example, the academic journal Nomina [John S Plant (2005), Modern methods and a Controversial Surname: Plant, Nomina, vol. 28, pp. 115-133 ]. Though Plantagenet was not used as a royal surname until the mid-15th century, there were several similar names in proximity to some illegitimate descendants of Geffrey Plante Genest (sic) who was given this name "Plante Genest" (hence Plantagenet) as a nickname.
Initially, I investigated claims of a proximity of the Plant name to a noble line of descent from an illegitimate half-brother of Henry II, to wit Hamelyn de Warenne. However, as further early data for the Plant name accumulated, it had become more convincingly clear by 2015 (to the extent of 20 coincident locations) that the feudal lords over the early Plants were a Longspée-Audley noble line, starting with an illegitiame son of Henry II, called William Longspée (ca.1176-1226). The balance of the evidence is presented in more detail elsewhere on this website. Though this heavily favours the Longspée-Audley hypothesis, for essentially all of the early Plant records, I shall here include an overlap whereby the earls Warenne also were not very far distant from some of the evidence for the early Plant name. Much more detail of the connections of early Plants to the Longspée-Audley lords is given here.
In 1164, Geffrey Plante Genest's illegitimate son, Hamelin (1130-1202), married Isabel de Warenne and thereby acquired the title of the earldom of Surrey, becoming the 5th earl. Their son and heir William de Warenne (1166-1240), married Maud (Matilda) Marshall of Pembroke in 1225 who was the widow of Hugh le Bigod, earl of Norfolk, whose son and heir had a butler and serjent who was called Roger Planteng' or Plantyn or Plantin in Norfolk records (1254-68). However, this connection to the "Plantagenets" of such names as Plantyn is also duplicated through William Longspée's mother, Ida de Tosny, who subsequently to being Henry II's mistress, went on to marry the earl of Norfolk. Early spellings of the Plant name occur nearby: Plente (1272-84) and Plauntes (1275) in Norfolk; Plante in Cambridgeshire (1279); and, de Plantes in Huntingdonshire (1282). William Longspée had become sheriff of Cambridge and Huntindonshire in 1213.
The Plant name is found for example near de Warenne lands in Somerset. However, the formative Plant surname could have begun earlier when William Longspée held Charlton in Somerset. This proximity can be outlined more fully as follows. In ca.1280, `Robert Plonte of Saltforde, once bailif of Marsfelde' is mentioned in records for Bath: Maresfield adjoins the de Warenne honour of Lewes in Sussex but this reference to `once balif of Maresfeld' probably relates instead to Marshfield near Saltford; Saltford adjoined the Longspée manor of Charlton in Somerset which then subsequently passed into de Warenne hands.
In the late-thirteenth-century Welsh Wars, William's son and heir, John de Warenne (1231-1305), who had become the 7th earl at the age of 5, was assigned responsibility for the commissariat; and, in 1301, Richard Plant was granted a license to dig coal at Eweloe, near the de Warenne land of Bromfield and Yale near Chester. The 8th and last de Warenne earl, grandson of the 7th earl, died in 1347 without legitimate heirs, and his illegitimate son, Sir Edward de Warren, settled at Poynton in east Cheshire, not far from the main homeland of the Plants. However, the Audley descent from William Longspée held land still nearer to the main Cheshire-Staffordshire boundary, where the main homeland of the main Plant family was found. Also, the Audleys of Heleigh castle were about 40 miles from Eweloe and they, as well as the 7th earl Warenne, might have mustered near Eweloe for the aforesaid Welsh War.
There is a 1352 complaint about the removal of goods by James Plant and thirty others from the erstwhile de Warenne hundred of Gallow and Brothercross in north Norfolk; these thirty-one had twenty-six different surnames, seven of which subsequently appear around Macclesfield manor between the new de Warenne seat at Poynton and the longer held Audley lands at Leek. These seven surnames, spanning both locations, were: Plont; Halle; Kent; Knyght; Lovell; Nichol; and Bataille or Batiller. However, this linkage for the Plant name need not necessarily have involved the Warrens since this 1352 compaint also involved Ralph, first earl of Stafford who had married an Audley heiress.
According to nineteenth-century claims, the Plants could have been the illegitimate offspring of the Longspée or de Warenne family; but that would be entering the realms of fantasy. In particular, Y-DNA shows that the Plants are not male-line related to Richard III. With academic discipline, what can be said is:
We might surmise that there could have been a cultural influence from the name Plante Genest on the subsequent surname of the main Plant family; though that would not be necessary if the Plant name derived simply from some `planted place' such as a garden or a vineyard. This does NOT, of course, prove that the Plants were lesser offspring of Geffrey Plante Genest, as was claimed in the nineteenth century, though that is true of the feudal lords Hamelin de Warenne and William Longspée.
- the meaning of Plant might have been `offspring' (cf. offshot) or living near or from `a planted place' (cf. French planté) - the meaning gardener has also been proposed but that is just a more specific example of living near some such `planted place' as a garden or vineyard for example;
- there is an indication of illegitimacy in the Plant heraldic blazon;
- the DNA evidence shows that there is an abnormally large main Plant family which might relate to an early origin for the Plant name, perhaps reaching back to the French origins of the Longspée-Audley noble line, with the French Longspées becoming associated with the main Plant family's homeland by 1224, intermarrying into the Audleys by 1244, around when they could have ascribed the Plant surname to a peasant in the Plants' subsequent main homeland;
- an early Plant, Robert Plonte of Saltforde, had been the bailiff of Maresfield, a title which places him in the `franklin class' of status which would probably have brought him into contact with a major local land-holder; and,
- the early Plants are found in proximity to the Longspées and, to a lesser extent, to the de Warennes who descended from Plante Genest; the earliest known late-medieval form of the name de la Planta (alias de Plant') is found in Plante Genest's Angevin homeland; this is followed by de la Plaunt (alias Plaunt) in Normandy and de Plantes in England (perhaps from le Plantis in Normandy).
There is evidence of geographical coincidence for a link between the Plant surname and illegitimate descendants of Plante Genest. This is only to a debatable extent in the case of de Warennes but to a much more convincing extent in the case of a Longspée-Audley feudal line. The relatively strong evidence of a Plant connection to the latter is described in considerable detail elsewhere. Here, I simply add a bit of detail concerning the less well evidenced connection of the Plant name to de Warennes. That there was a genetic link, between Hamelin de Warenne and Geffrey Plante Genest, has the authority of the Complete Peerage, XII/1 pp. 499-500, where an article begins with:V. 1164 Hammel illegit s. of Geoffrey V, styled `Plantagenet'(b) Count of Anjou, Touraine and Maine, sometime Duke of Normandy, by an unknown woman, held lands in Touraine, presumably the gift of his half-br. Henry II, and appears to have been styled vicomte of Touraine(c). He became Earl of Surrey in consequence of his marriage to the Countess Isabel in 1164;(d) in which year he attended the Council of Northampton.(e) ...The footnotes (b), (c), (d), (e) ... give fuller references: footnote (b) refers to an earlier article in the same volume which details how Geffrey's nickname was initially spelled Plante Genest or Plantegenest. The usual explanation of this nickname is that Geffrey wore a sprig of broom in his cap, though the significance of this sprig or shoot is not elaborated.
The sprig of broom is hairy, and I have conjectured [John S Plant (2007) The tardy adoption of the Plantagenet surname, Nomina, vol. 30, pp. 57-84 ] that it may relate to the earlier name Plantapilosa (translated as Plantevelue into French) which means `hairy shoot'. This seems far better evidenced than a fiction that is currently circulating in popular culture that it was the name Plantard that led on to the Plantagenet family name:
The evidence that Hamelin de Warren was Geffrey Plante Genest's son comes partly from the expression Hamelinus Comes de Warren Regis Henrici Frater (i.e. Count Hamelin de Warren brother of King Henry), which appears in contemporary acta, according to Count Raoul de Warren though he does not specify whether these are acta of the Privy Council of Henry, Richard, or John.
French origins of Plant Name