Fitz... Wrong Side of the Royal Blanket?

Is it true that Fitz was commonly used as a prefix on the surnames of illegitimate children of royalty?

If true, does it apply to all people with the prefix Fitz? By which I mean, was Fitz applied exclusively to royal indescretions, or did the royal offspring mingle in the company of non-royal Fitzs?

A book I once read suggested that names like Fitzwilliam would suggest a child was an illegitimate descendant of a royal named William.

No, it didn’t always indicate illegitimacy, but it sometimes did. Fitz is just the Norman form of the French fils (“son”), so it isn’t inherently any more scandalous than Richardson (son of Richard), MacHenry (son of Henry), O’Malley (descendant of Malley), or Mendelssohn (son of Mendel). It was, for a while, sometimes used for the illegitimate or morganic children of royalty, but not exclusively. (Morganic offspring are legitimate but not elligible to inherit the father’s position).

Then there’s FitzRoy. It could mean “[probably illegitimate] son of the king” or “son of some guy named Roy”.

“Fitz” as a prefix just means “son of” - same root as fils modern French (from Latin filius). Of course, a mediaeval bastard might have no other way of asserting his descent than calling himself “FitzWhoever”, or a father might acknowledge a bastard by bestowing the surname - but it’s not necessarily linked to either bastardy or royalty (though it’s more often found in aristocratic names, because it’s in the aristocracy that line of descent is important - you don’t go around naming aristocrats after their professions - therwise, the House of Lords would be full of people called Fatgitdoesnothingforaliving.) Quick Google search (on “fitz illegitimacy”) turned up some details, among the the comment

And calling Henry II a bastard would not have been a good move…

Up to a point, yes. “Fitz” does indicate bastardry (from the Norman French, I believe, cf. modern “fils”) but not necessarily royal. Certainly, however, upper-class. It dates from a time (c. 900, but it’s a big c.) when dynastic politics was the name of the game. If you’re a well-set up member of the aristocracy who can trace your ancestry back to royal blood, and owe your current position to the sterling work of your forefathers, you want to continue the family tradition. So, you do your bit - take some land, accuse a fellow aristo of treason etc, and you also provide for the succession. Now, if you have some really weird ideas about chivalry and the sanctity of marriage, you could of course have all your children by your wife. This is kind of a “all your eggs in one basket” deal. You might get a strapping son who inherits your family’s gifts for well-directed violence, political scheming and peasant exploitation or you might get a moon-faced, lute-strumming poet or, even worse, you might get a girl. Disaster. So you spread yourself around a bit, to make sure that whatever gets thrown out of the genetic pool inside the family home (and pray you get a boy or your bloody cousin will take over) you’ve got a good chance of turning out a chip off the old block somewhere amongst your offspring. This chip, in the fullness of time, although he can’t inherit, will end up doing a lot of practical ruling, if you got a half-wit for a son, or will combine with full-blooded successor to make your family a force to be reckoned with. Note that the inability to inherit land tends to make bastards really hungry.

On the whole, this policy works better for nobles than kings, because kings have to produce legitmate successors, and if they’re weak, they’ll be toppled (by someone else’s bastard, most likely). A classic early medieval bastard would be Richard of Gloucester (a FitzHenry, I seem to recall) who was (ahem) cousin to one of the claimants to the throne during England’s first civil war. Rich and powerful and damned good at what he did (war), just technically banned from inheriting.

Wasn’t Richard of Gloucester aka Richard III?

I’m guessing – since amrussell said early medieval – that the Richard of Gloucester in question wasn’t the one who became Richard III, and the civil war referred to is probably the one between Stephen and Maud in the twelfth century. In any case, Richard III was the (third, I believe) legitimate son of Richard of York.

“Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother?”

There’s a Shakespeare quote for every occasion…

Katisha, I’m shocked - shocked, do you hear! How could you forget Edmund of Rutland??


Montfort wrote:

>>>Wasn’t Richard of Gloucester aka Richard III?<<<

No, I think amrussel confused Robert of Gloucester with Richard of Gloucester.

Richard of Gloucester was a perfectly legitimate descendant of King Edward III (several times over, in fact) who probably bumped off his nephews after the death of his brother, King Edward IV, so he could inherit the throne. He became Richard III, but was then outsed himself by Henry Tudor, who was a descendant (somewhat legitimate, through John of Gaunt’s Beaufort children) of Edward III, and an illegitimate great-grandson of crazy old King Charles IV of France. On of my ancestors was John Howard, the 1st Duke of Norfolk, one of Richard’s closest friends and rumored to have killed the princes in the tower himself. He died at Bosworth field fighting for Richard agaisnt Henry’s forces.

Robert of Gloucester (also Robert de Caen) was the bastard son of King Henry I Beauclerc, and thusly a grandson of William the Conqueror. He was daddy’s favorite child, but ineligible for the throne, which was to go to his legitimate half-brother, William. But the ill-fated William drowned at sea in the Wreck of the White Ship, so the crown was to go to Henry Beauclerc’s only surviving legitimate child, Maud. She was the youthful widow of Emperor Heinrich of Germany, but childless. Her father married her off to Count Geoffrey of Anjou (probably the handsomest man in France, and the most vain) who was eleven years younger than she was. They hated each other on sight, but somehow produced three sons who’s paternity is unquestionable. When Henry died, Maud and Robert’s cousin, Stephen of Blois, seized the throne and the three of them got embroiled in a cival war that went on for twenty years. Robert was Maud’s most ardent suporter, but died before he could see her eldest son take the throne as King Henry II – who himself married the infamous Eleanor of Aquitaine and was father of Richard the Lion-Hearted and the “evil” prince John.

Richard III didn’t need to have his nephews killed. His succession to the throne was legitimized by the Titulus Regis, passed by the English Parliment, at a time when the boys were known to be alive and well. Furthermore, killing them wouldn’t have done much good since there were several other claimants to the throne who would have had precedence over him, all of whom survived his reign.

Henry VII, on the other hand, had very good reasons for needing both boys dead. In order to secure his claim to the throne he had the bastardy of all of Edward IV’s children reversed so that marrying Elizabeth (Edward’s eldest daughter) would strengthen his “legitimate” claim to the throne. Reversing that bastardy, of course, meant that Edward (Edward IV’s eldest son) would automatically become king, which was NOT in Henry VII’s interest.

Note that while many of the Lancastrian heirs lived peaceful, successful lives during Richard III’s rule, ALL of the Yorkist heirs were systematically eliminated during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII.

Richard was a good king whose people sincerely mourned his death and who said so, in official public records, even though that could have gotten them killed.

Fitz fitz fice fitz fatz sfitz
fitz! fitz fix fice fitz. Fats sfitzes
Fitz fixes fyce fits. Fats suffices.

True, but the murder of the princes was still more likely done by Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who claimed the throne about the same time they disappeared, and had access to the Tower.

*Originally posted by Morgyn *

Another quick question…other than Henry IV, what Lancastarian heirs were alive during Richard III’s rule? The Dukes of Sommerset were all killed by Edward IV. Who was left? Also, wasn’t the young duke of Clarence left alive by Henry VII, even though he was imprisoned.

I didn’t forget him so much as get the order confused in my Shakespeare-addled brain. In Henry VI Shakespeare portrays him as the youngest son – his death scene in the recent RSC production was very harrowing. I certainly didn’t forget that! I’m an English major, not a historian! :wink:

Though I do know that Richard certainly didn’t kill Clarence (that was Edward IV’s doing) and probably didn’t poison his wife. Still, I’m not certain he was as good as his apologists claim… :wink: but then, if you study the Wars of the Roses, nobody really comes out looking all that good.

And yeah, I think Clarence’s son was imprisoned by Henry VII…I don’t think he was killed, but I might be wrong on this. Anyway, most of the Lancastrian heirs were already dead when Richard’s reign started…

Oh, goodie! a simple inquiry about nomenclature has spawned a debate on Lancaster and York! yay!

Katisha, you should have wasted hours as a teenager playing “Kingmaker,” like I did. :smiley: Then you would automatically know that on the Yorkist side, Edmund was third in succession after Richard of York and Edward of March (when playing the long version, of course).

With respect to the Lancastrian heirs, I think that the whole point of Henry VII’s claim was that there weren’t others left.

Henry IV had four sons: Henry V, Thomas, John and Humphrey.

Henry V died in 1422, leaving only one son, who became Henry VI. Henry VI in turn had only one son, Edward, Prince of Wales, who died in 1471. Henry VI died (likely murdered) shortly therafter.

Of the younger sons of Henry IV, Thomas died in 1421, John in 1445, and Humphrey in 1477. So all the clearly legitimate Lancastrians were dead by the time Edward IV died in 1483.

There were also the dubious Beauforts, sons of John of Gaunt, Henry IV’s father. Their claim to the throne was murkier because they were born illigitimate and subsequently legitimated. The first generation of Beauforts died out long before the Yorkists came to power: John in 1410, Henry in 1447, and Thomas in 1427. John had two sons: John, died 1444, and Edmund, who died in 1456. The second John’s daughter was Margaret Beaufort, who married Edmund Tudor, and was the mother of Henry VII. Margaret lived to a ripe old age, dying in 1509, the same year as Henry VII himself.

So, of all the Lancastrians, it looks like the only one alive in 1483, other than Henry himself, was his mother Margaret.

(Note: the above is based on Chambers Biographical Dictionaryand the genealogies in my Kitteridge Shakespeare. I hope it’s accurate, but would be pleased to hear if I missed someone.)

Morgyn, let’s not get into an argument over whether or not Richard III killed his nephews or not. By all accounts, Richard was a rather nice man, who was not hunchbacked, was a decent father and husband, and was not sexually preying upon his niece. I’m not questioning that. But you know what?

I still think he killed those little boys. And I’m sure there’s already a topic on this subject that would be more appropriate than this one.

As for the Beauforts, they had numerous descendants. Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (quasi legitimate grandson of John of Gaunt) had two daughters, Eleanor and Anne, both of whom were ancestresses of mine. Joan Beaufort, the only daughter of Katherine Roet and John of Gaunt married Ralph Neville, and her daughter Cecily was Richard III & Edward IV’s mother. Even Joan’s brother, Henry Beaufort, sired an illegitimate daughter of his own, despite being a bishop. Say what you will about the Beauforts, but they were a fecund lot.

Oops. My bad. I was remembering that a goodly number of heirs to the throne survived Richard and was thinking of Margaret Beaufort being released into her husband’s care. The two conflated. You are quite correct, and in fact I was thinking of the other Yorkist heirs.

I’ve never even heard of “Kingmaker,” but it sounds fun. :smiley: And as I said, most of what I know about the Wars of the Roses I learned either from Shakespeare, or from people writing about the historical accuracy of his treatment of it. (I read Norwich’s Shakespeare’s Kings – apart from the wacky timeline, the plays will actually put you in decent standing as far as knowledge of fifteenth-century English history goes.)

I’ll have to look for a topic about Richard III, though. FWIW, I tend to agree with Phallyn, based on what I know.

Katisha, Kingmaker is a multi-player board game (remeber those? pre-computer?), set in the Wars of the Roses. Each player represents a faction of nobles, like Scrope and Percy, Bourchier and Norfolk. Aim of the game is to collect and crown the heir to the throne of either the York or Lancastrian lines, while eliminating all the others. Good clean fun.

It’s still available: type “Avalon Hill, Kingmaker” into Google and you’ll get some hits.