Da Braose Past: Part 2

Black Will de Braose earned his lasting nickname in a couple of ways.  He had black hair, which did not come from his Swedish ancestors (but we’ll try to figure out how he came by it, it won’t be too hard).  But, it was rascal nature and his slyness that made the nickname stick.  He was apparently very handsome, and more than charming.

His illustrious ancestry (going back to Ymir the Frost Giant) came to England and Wales by a circuitous path (see my earlier blog post on Braose Part One).  For many generations, Will’s ancestors were blonde-haired, blue-eyed Norsemen, living in primarily Sweden, Norway and Denmark, but also representing Goths, Fins and Gutlanders.

Just after the fall of the Roman Empire, Will’s ancestors included Rurik Skane von Holland, through Rurik’s great grandson, Rorik Slingeband, King of Lethra.  His patrilineal Swedish ancestors managed to marry a 4X great granddaughter of Slingeband himself.  The name Harold was given to Slingeband’s son, a name that would remain very popular in the Scandinavian lineages and, of course, the Rurikids who founded Russian Kiev were of the same lineage.  The actual Rurik who went to Russia came later, the name was very popular and was certainly a dynastic name.

Well before the Norman conquest, the daBraose line had ties to the British Isles – to Celtic Britain.  The offspring of the Swedish nobility and Slingeband’s lineage would go to marry into the lines of the first King of Scotland and, apparently, the first person to claim title to Ireland.   This occurred not by moving to Ireland or Scotland, but by importing spouses, mainly women from Scotland and Ireland.

The Scottish import was Grelod of Caithness Duncansdottir, born around 898 A.D., and already the “Ness” of Scotland is imported into Nordic vocabulary, with this bride.  Her grandfather was Kenneth MacAlpin, 1st King of Scots.  She must have brought prestige with her, and her son, Hlodvir, married the Princess of Ireland, Audna Kiarvalsdatter, obviously another Norse clan member.  So, at this time, the Norsemen were already claiming Ireland, while Scotland was still fiercely held by the Picts.  Looking over MacAlpin’s Pictish ancestry, we see mostly generations of Picts and other Celts, with perhaps one or two previous drops of Scandinavian ancestry.

The island kingdoms of Ireland and Scotland, therefore, began to be influenced by Scandinavia and other Norse cultures (and vice versa).

Sigurd Holdvirsson, therefore, was Irish-Norse, Pictish and Norse.  His fortunes were about to rise.  His descendants would sit on the thrones of Scotland and marry into the family of Vladimir I, Saint Vladimir, of Kievan Rus, not to mention other aristocratic families of Europe.

We can see this as a kind of geographical-marital breakthrough.  Up until the times of Sigurd (who was born around 970 A.D.), Scandinavian Norsemen sought some marital alliances with Goths and Gutlanders, and the occasional Fin, but mostly married within their own lands of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.  As they cast their marital/political alliance nets further, they manage to marry into the nobility of both Ireland and Scotland.  Obviously, boats played a huge role in this type of courtship and marriage.  A peninsula-bound people, the northern Scandinavians managed first to grab and hang onto Denmark, then to gradually spread their influence.  At the same time, one of Sigurd’s ancestors, Harold Hilditton, King of Lethra, had an ambitious grandson, Rurik of Novgorad, who was brought into what is now Russia by locals seeking to hire strong men to civilize and quell local disputes and rebellions.  Since no one could manage to emerge as head of all the small Russian and Prussian groups, it took a strong man – Rurik – to accomplish that.  Within a few generations, his descendants were marrying all over Europe and into the best families.

It is from this Russian connection that part of the de Braose family name arises, even though the family had little Russian blood, they were Rurikids themselves, cousins of the Russian lord, as shared descendants of Harold.

Sigurd’s son, Bruce/Brusse, would end up taking the Caithness lands in Scotland as his demesnes, thus bringing Black Will’s patriline onto the soil of the British Isles, finally breaking the connection with Scandinavia, at least in terms of geographic residence.  This was accomplished when Sigurd himself, whose grandmother was the Scottish lass from Caithness, took a Scottish wife, Anleta MacKenneth of Scotland.  He moved to Scotland and prepared the way for Bruce to become the lord of Caithness.  Bruce married well, and from Scandinavia:  a Gotland princess.  Notice the similarity between the names Scotland and Gotland.  Clearly, at that time, the Scandinavian and Celtic languages and customs were close together, probably due to common ancestry, but also due to continual melding through marriage.

Bruce’s son, Ragnvald Brusse/Bruce, was elevated to the title of 19th Earl of Orkney, a thoroughly Scottish position, even though not part of the Scottish mainland – instead, Orkney is an archipelago leading back to Scandinavia.

It is Rognvald who married the Russian princess.  Remember, they share a common ancestor.  Her 4 times great grandfather is King Harold is his 10th great grandfather). How could this be?   Well, it might not be.  On Rognvald’s side, there are some suspect connections, in particular, the bastard son of King Harold (with so many intervening generations).  The fact is, Rognvald’s family claimed descent from the King of Lethra, and everyone believed it so.  The fact that their genealogy had so many extra generations hints that, perhaps, it is not quite accurate.  The bastard son, Thrond, does not have historic dates that are firm.   Harold himself though certainly existed and died in a sea battle, the Battle of Bravik around 770.  Thrond may well have been his first son, while the Russian princess descended from one of his younger sons, Halfdan of Frisia.  It’s clear that Harold’s progeny spread out through the Nordic world, and remained in powerful positions.  Thrond started having children early in life, while Halfdan did not.  Halfdan had at least two sons, one early (by a concubine) and one late (by a wife).  This pattern of waiting until late in life to marry and produce legitimate offspring is seen throughout the Norman world.  Rurik of Novgorod was the son of Halfdan.

Now, it’s possible that Rurik is the one whose line is fictionally related to Harold, as opposed to Rognvald’s.   Thrond is shrouded in mystery, but a person named Thrond did exist and was progenitor to the de Braose line, and his son was called Eystein Throndheim, a man who was also known by the Nordic title Jarl (Earl), indicating a man who had land and vassals.  Since Eystein died in 710 (and there are historic records to support this), it’s not possible that Eystein is the descendant of Harold.  

When Rognvald arranged his marriage to the Princess of Kiev, Vladimir I’s daughter, it’s possible that his family made up the connection to Harold and were able to get away with it, since no one at the time would have known that Thrond was born too early to be the properly connected ancestor.  By the time Black Will lived, the entire family would have been taught the whole story.  Fictive ancestors are, it turns out, as important in constructing relationships as actual ones.

But here’s the amazing part.  Did you catch the name “Bruce” up above?  Bruce or Brusse, it was (same pronunciation, different spelling).  Everyone thinks of Scotland, nowadays, when they hear this name (or of some boy born in 1950’s America).  But B’Roos probably meant “Born of the Roos.”  You see, the Kievan Rus and the Scots B’Roos families were closely related, linguistically and genetically.  Whether or not Harold of Lethra was ancestral to anybody, all of these males (all R1a1a Y chromosomal pattern) shared a common ancester – and they knew it.  So, for Rognvald B’Russi (another spelling) to marry Ardogia Vladimirovna de Russia was nothing less than a standard distant cousin marriage, and one that, as everyone always hoped, spanned the breadth of the ancestral domains (from Scotland to Russia).

It’s not that the Scottish came from Russia, or the Russians from Scotland but that both groups share common ancestry and knew it, in the late 9th century anyway.  B’russi because Briouze, which became Braose within a few generations.  By marrying into the Royal Family of Kiev, who was certainly descended from Harold of Lethra, the family thereby insured that the family myth became true:  all future sons and daughters were, in fact, descendants of Slingebland and Harold – and Vladimir I.

Rognvald’s son, Robert, was not quite as farflung in his quest for a bride, but he didn’t settle for a local girl.  Robert, now a descendant of Norsemen, Picts and the Rus, sought to unite himself with another Celtic people:  those of Brittany.  Brittany’s language was probably closer to that of the Picts at that time, but it’s possible that the Swedes and Danes didn’t see themselves as speaking a language that was all that different from Celtic.

At any rate, Robert married the daughter of Alan, the Duke of Brittany (a vast and powerful kingdom compared to Orkney or Caithness), a girl named Emma.  The fact that all of a sudden we have Bruces, Roberts and Emmas (as opposed to Rognvalds and Thonds and Eysteins) is a testament to how historically influential the rising and expanding Normans would become.  Whether we call them Norsemen or Normans, they are moving southward, into the vacuum left by the fall of the Roman Empire, and with techniques that are perhaps even more enduring than those of the Romans, at least in terms of our current names for persons.  There are lots of living Roberts, Emmas and Bruces.  There are quite a few Harolds as well, and some Vladimirs.  But hardly a Rognvald or Hlodvir or Grelod to be found in the English-speaking world (and I assume you’re English-speaking, because you’re reading this).



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Camille De BRAOSe
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 11:54:08

    Ceci est un tout petit aperçue de la très longue lignée des De BRAOSe, que s’évertue de faire disparaitre l’élite mondial depuis les 11 e et 12 e siècles. Pourtant les plus grands de ce monde sont tous cousins depuis cette époque justement, vous avez dit bizarre ?
    Que le monde serait beau sans ces « spédolites»
    Ces 20 dernières années de travail généalogique mon conduit au-delà de TROY à + de 2600 ans AVJC, lignée des Dragons


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