Normandy and Before

From about the 17th century it was thought (and recorded by scholars of the time) that in about the mid 800’s AD the Percy family came to North Western France, as invading Viking pirates when accompanying their chieftain and leader Rollo. It has been written that one of Rollo’s brothers and captain, a grand Viking warrior named Mainfred was given land and titles as a part of that granted to Rollo by the French Crown in an area called Auge around the village of Perci in what is now known as Normandy, and made it his home. Mainfred was consequently named as the originator of the Percy family.

The native French called these invaders Normans, or men from the North. The village of Perci had already been named by Roman conquerors some centuries earlier, whose legion had settled there after completing a campaign in Persia when they headed North to conquer Gaul and Britain. Hence the new colonists derived the name Perci from the old Roman Latin ‘Persia-cum’ (from Persia). The French name Perci became Percy.

At the time of the Norman (men from the North) invasion the custom of surnames was almost unknown. It was only when the Viking victors hired the expert agriculturists from Flanders to make the barren land of Normandy good, did they learn of the noble art of the surname. The Noble Flemish family’s who were given land in exchange for expertise brought their heritage with them and so the title holder who gained the lands around the village of Perci was to be known from whence he lived – de Perci (of/from Perci) and used the Flemish insignia in recognition of their landowning prowess and power.

When Rollo  threatened to invade the French Capital ‘Paris’ and surrounds, the French King went to negotiate a deal with Rollo to fend him off. King Charles the Simple offered Rollo the hand of the daughter of Count Balwin of Flanders and negotiated a truce with Rollo (on his acceptance) that included the inhospitable sandy coast of the area of what is now know as Normandy. It worked. Rollo accepted, married Matilda of Flanders and immediately with Baldwins assistance employed the aristocratic land owning farming families of Flanders (in exchange for land and rights) and so bringing their wealth of military and agricultural knowledge with a view to turning this desolate sandy coastline into a secure, defensive area and a region of unsurpassed agricultural richness as they had successfully achieved in the preceding centuries in the North of France in Flanders.

The acknowledged and recognised link to the Percy family’s history before their arrival in Normandy is all to do with the bearing of their arms. This is reflected in the actual coat that was used by the family as can be seen from the Norman charters of the time which are in existence today.

The Normans did not use heraldy at this time but the Percy family certainly did. They bore a coat then (as shown here below), which can be traced to those previously used by the Aristocratic families who inhabited the region to the North of France known as Flanders.
That the Baronial family of Percy took their name from their fiefdom in Normandy is also true but the notion of their Viking ancestry and Norman heritage  may have been correct in some way but it seems to have arrived via Flanders either by marriage or via conquer of land and assimilation into the Aristocratic Flemish families. 

What follows here is a description kindly offered by Baronage Press Magazine, who have spent much time and effort researching this very same subject in detail.

“The known marital alliances of the Percies during the centuries succeeding, shouts aloud their Flemish origin. The arms used by the Percies in the late 11th century are not Norman (for the Normans, unlike the Flemings, then had no heraldry), and in accordance with the manner in which early heraldic symbolism operated strongly suggest a connection with Bethune (a few miles west of Lille in what was then the county of Flanders).

Ancient Bethune arms C 1000 AD. See Heraldry Menu.

That the western part of Normandy had in the middle of the 11th century a strong representation of the Flemish aristocracy tends to be overlooked by those English writers who have not examined the “Norman” charters of the period. This is especially true of the Cotentin Peninsular, a desolate area of infertile ground that had been a French Princess’s dowry when she married Baldwin of Flanders. (It had previously appeared to be Norman, because Duke Richard III had received it as that same Princess’s dowry when he was supposed to marry her, and had returned it to her when the marriage failed to proceed.) Baldwin populated the area with Flemings who knew from their own experience in northern Flanders just how such a bleak coastal area could be defended militarily and exploited agriculturally, and it is from this heritage that such great families as Bruce, Ferrers, Haig, Hay, Mandeville, Morville, Percy and Vere emerged, most taking their names from their Norman fiefs (and their arms from their origins in Greater Flanders).

Link to Baronage Press.

Percy Colours C 1067

The village of Percy (Perci) en Auge is in existence, as is another village of Percy in the Department of Manche nearby. French relatives of the English Percies live in the region today as well as in an area of Belgium and France once known as Flanders. The Percy village en Auge is close to Rouen where William the Conqueror was born and was buried.

Evidence suggests the original Viking invaders into Flanders merged with the local families (as they did) and were then invited or claimed Normandy as there own. The specific DNA from families in this area tells us that there was a merger of Scandinavian invaders in Flanders which matches those samples from Normandy and Northern England.

PERCY ANCESTORS

Mainfred.

Galfred de Perci.

Geoffrey de Perci.

William de Perci.

Geoffrey de Perci.

Alan de Percy.

Baron William de Perci (Algersnons), had brothers Serlo and Picot de Percy

The next we know is that Edward the Confessor, King of England (circa 1040) hired Alan de Percy of Normandy to assist him in defending England, North of the Humber against the invading Vikings. But when Harold became King he was suspicious of the connection between Alan de Percy and Duke William of Normandy and expelled Alan from England. A son was born to Alan de Perci near Alnwick before 1066.

William de Perci was wild and adventurous and wore a great beard (which was apparently unusual at this time). For this he was known as Al-gers-nons (meaning with whiskers) and the name of Algernon has followed the Percy race to this very day.

There seems not to be any proof that William de Percy accompanied William the Conquerer at the battle of Hastings in 1066 . It is more likely that he was deliberately stationed in Normandy to protect the rear should the invasion of England not succeed. In fact records show that William (Algernon) de Percy was in England in 1067 to assist the Conquerer mop up remaining resistance in Yorkshire (harrying of the North) and to shore up the defenses against the threat from Scotland and from the possibility of further Viking invasion from the East.

For his trouble and success, William de Percy was given knights fees and land in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire initially under Earl Hugh of Chester. By 1086 William’s family (including brothers Serlo and Picot) is charted as owning various estates in Yorkshire and the surrounding counties as is recorded in the detail of the Domesday Book.