The Bertie Legend
THE BERTIES HAVE GENUINE CLAIMS TO FAME. Not only did they produce successful soldiers, but they produced also Lady Priscilla ~ whose adolescent passion for a landed gentleman of small estate, Peter Burrell, Member of Parliament for Haslemere (she was then 17 and he 23), forced her father, the 3rd Duke of Ancaster (one of the kingdom's richest noblemen), to persuade the reportedly reluctant groom ("a young man of the most graceful person and the most engaging manners" and reputedly the best cricketer in England) to marry her. Earlier, the family's most famous member was probably Richard Bertie, accused by the Earl of Arundel of being "no gentleman" (by ancestry, that is), who in 1553 married Katherine, the widowed Duchess of Suffolk, and produced the following narrative of his ancestral origins.
Arms of the Earls of Erroll from Debrett's Peerage 1823
This Family originally came into England from Bertiland in Prussia, when the Saxons invaded this nation; and by the gift of one of the Saxon Kings had a castle, and also a town, which was denominated from them Bertiestad, now Bersted, near Maidstone in Kent; Sted and Stad denoting in the Saxon language, a town.

It appears from an old manuscript in the Cotton Library, that Leopold de Bertie was Constable of Dover Castle in the reign of King Ethelred, from whom descended Hieronymous de Bertie, founder, or at least a great benefactor to one of the monasteries in Kent, the north part of which he built at his own expense, and himself was buried in a chapel there, where these arms were put against a pillar, viz., Three Battering Rams in Pale.

The said Leopold quarrelling with the monks of St Austin at Canterbury, about tythes, and the monks endeavouring to carry them off by force of arms, a fight began, wherein a son of Leopold's was slain; of which he complained to the King, but receiving no satisfaction, he flew to Swain, King of the Danes, for to aid him, who invaded the kingdom with a powerful fleet, which was divided into two Squadrons, one steering towards Northumberland, and the other for Kent, where they joined Leopold's Forces, and laid siege to Canterbury, which they took in the year 1014, leading the Archbishop away captive. But Swain dying, the scale soon turned, for Ethelred miserably persecuted the Danes, and Burbach Bertie, the only surviving son of Leopold, conscious of his father's actions, went to Robert, King of France, who received him honourably, and taking to wife a French woman, settled there, where his posterity continued till the year 1154, when Philip Bertie, with his family, accompanied King Henry II into England, and by that Prince's favour, recovered his patrimony in Bersted.

This Philip had issue Martin, who was father of Robert, who had issue William, who had issue Edward, who was father of Jerome Bertie, who lived at Bersted aforesaid, in the reign of King Henry V.

This Jerome, one Sunday in Lent, hearing a monk in a church exclaiming against the murder occasioned by his ancestor, rushed in upon him, and slew him; for which rash act he was excommunicated by the Archbishop, from which he could not be absolved at any rate; so he went to Rome, where he obtained absolution with this injunction, viz., To hear in the monastery of Canterbury, mass publickly on a Sunday; then to ask first of the archbishop, and thenof the monks, pardon; then to be absolved, and to receive the sacrament, and to give to the convent two pieces of gold, as the fruit of his repentance, and for the souls of his ancestors. He afterwards became a benefactor, by new building, at his own charge, their church, by which (as my author saith) he much impaired his own fortune on earth, but by it obtained a greater in Heaven.

To this Jerome succeeded Robert de Bertie, his son and heir, who had issue a son of his own name, Robert, father of William Bertie, who by his wife, a daughter of ....... Pepper, had issue Thomas Bertie, of Bersted in Kent, Esq.; who was Captain of Hurst Castle, in the Isle of Wight, the latter end of the reign of Henry the Seventh, and was living in the reign of King Edward the 6th, as appears in a grant of his arms, and crest, bearing date 10 July, 4 Edward VI by Thomas Hawley, Clarenceux King of Arms; wherein he certifies, That he was descended of an House undefamed, was then Captain of Hurst Castle for the King's Majesty, and had of a long time used himself in feats of arms and good works ; so that he was worthy in all places of honour to be admitted, numbered and taken in the the company of other nobles, &c. By his wife, a daughter of ....... Say, of the county of Salop, he had issue Richard Bertie, Esq., who married Catherine Willoughby, Baroness Willoughby, daughter and heir of William Willoughby, X Lord Willoughby, widow of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, K.G.

He died in the 64th year of his age, on the 9th April 1582, having survived his Duchess two years, she deceasing on the 19th of September, 1580, leaving issue by him an only son, Peregrine Bertie, XI Lord Willoughby.
The reflexes of our regular readers doubtless flicked immediately they recognised the invitation to draw the inference that this "ancient" family gave its name to an old (and unknown) province of Prussia at a time long before hereditary surnames existed.

(The Saxons began their invasion of England in the 5th century.)
Here is a quick jump of some 500 years, so fast indeed that perhaps it was intended not to be noticed, not to be allowed to impede the smooth flow of data.

(This King Ethelred would be Ethelred II, known as "the Unready" because he attempted to govern without a "Raad" or Council. He succeeded to the throne in 966 and was murdered in 1016.)

The shield bearing these three battering rams no longer exists. Nor does the pillar.
Sweyn, King of Denmark and Norway, conquered England in 1013 and, Ethelred having fled to Normandy, was proclaimed King by right of conquest.
"Burbach" (Burbachius in the Latin version of the text ~ an extraordinary name) does not go to Normandy, from where he or his sons might somewhat embarrassingly be expected to return in 1066, but to Paris. This ensures he has an excuse for the family lands not to be included in the Bertie name in 1086 when the great Domesday work was completed. The document from which the extract printed here (copied from Collins's Peerage 1800) was taken then gives a continuous lineage down to Philippe de Bertie who apparently returned to England with King Henry II in 1154 and recovered his patrimony as a royal gift for his valour in battle.
This Jerome, incredibly spelt "Jherosme" in the French version of the story, is the Hieronymous de Bertie of the first paragraph (although Collins's Peerage may not have recognised the name in this form).
This English version varies substantially from the Latin and French versions in which no mention is made of a monk's murder in the fracas four hundred years earlier, and suggests only that a murder might have been done this time "se il ne eust este empesche de ceulx qui estoient presents."
For the murder of a monk only "two pieces of gold"!!!
and "the souls of his ancestors" thrown in, as it were, for free.
Now with this Robert, the son of Robert, we at last reach authentic history, for he was indeed the father of William Bertie who married a daughter of a man surnamed Pepper, but the Thomas said to be William's son was actually William's elder brother.

Thomas began his professional life in 1532 earning 13 shillings and 4 pence per annum maintaining the fabric of Winchester Cathedral. He was a mason and this was a time when the building trade was flourishing, primarily because the dissolution of the monasteries released vast amounts of building materials for the "new men" to build the fine houses we now so readily associate with the late Tudor reigns. Then in 1539 King Henry VIII decided to erect blockhouses for coastal defence and Thomas Bertie as "Mr Bert" was the master mason for the project. The rise of the Berties had begun, and in 1550 "Thomas Bartue" was designated as Captain of Hurst Castle when he received a grant of arms in which the text noted that he had "of long tyme used himself in feates of armes and good works" ~ Elizabethan hyperbole used when a man could afford to "bear the port, charge, and countenance of a gentleman, he shall for money have a coat and arms bestowed upon him by the heralds (who in the charter of the same do of custom pretend antiquity and service, and many gay things)."

Thomas sent his son Richard to read law at Oxford University, from which he entered the service of the Duchess of Suffolk as her gentleman usher. When he married her in 1552, his father having been granted arms two years earlier classed Richard as a noble (but by the custom of the time, a gentleman of coat armour, not a gentleman of blood) which, while society disapproved of the wide difference in rank, allowed the duchess to escape the ignominy inflicted on her stepdaughter, also a Duchess of Suffolk, who took from her household as her second husband an unarmigerous usher (gaoled for his presumption).
The Bertie arms flanked by the Willoughby supporters and with the crowned saracen's head crest on the helm



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