The Mansell branch of my family tree begins with Philip Mansell, born c1040 in Normandy. Philip arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror in 1066 and established a manor in Buckinghamshire.
In 1067, Philip married Demoiselle de Mountsorrell, whose family had settled in Leicestershire. The marriage increased Philip’s lands and also blessed him with five sons, including my direct ancestor Henry.
Philip was cup-bearer to William the Conqueror, a responsible position – Philip had to ensure that no one poisoned the Conquerer. His name was recorded on the Roll of Battle Abbey, confirming his participation in the Conquest. Indeed, Wace in his Chronicles of the Conquest wrote: ‘Then the Duke called in his good neighbours, the Britons, the Mansells, and Angevins, and those of Pontif and Boulogne.’
The surname Mansell originates from La Manche or Le Mans, with arguments in favour of either option. From Normandy, the name and family spread and within 200 years they reached my corner of Wales.
The Mansell branch of my family continued with Henry born in Buckinghamshire, c1068, who married Emma de Lucy. Emma’s brother, Sir Richard de Lucy, was Chief Justice of the Realm. Henry and Emma produced John Mansell who married Elaine de Lutterell. Their son Ralph married Cecilia Pagnell and they produced my direct ancestor, Sir Robert Mansell.
At this time, 1136, the family were still based in Buckinghamshire with estates in various corners of the country. In 1163, Sir Robert attacked and defeated Sultan Nouradin at La Bochen near Tripoli. On his return from the Crusade he married Joyce de Alneto.
The Alneto branch of my family connects with Charles Carolingian – Charles III King of Western France – Godefrid of Denmark and Arnulf of Flanders, c890 – 28 March 965.
The son of Count Baldwin II of Flanders and Ælfthryth of Wessex, daughter of Alfred the Great, Arnulf, also known as the Great, was the third Count of Flanders. He ruled the County of Flanders, an area now in northwestern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands.
Through his mother, Arnulf was a descendant of the Anglo-Saxon kings of England, and through his father, he was a descendant of Charlemagne. Presumably Arnulf was named after Saint Arnulf of Metz, a progenitor of the Carolingian dynasty.
At the death of their father in 918, Arnulf became Count of Flanders while his brother Adeloft or Adelolf succeeded to the County of Boulogne. However, after Adeloft’s death in 933, Arnulf took the countship of Boulogne for himself, although later he conveyed it to his nephew, Arnulf II.
Arnulf greatly expanded Flemish rule in the south, taking all or part of Artois, Ponthieu, Amiens, and Ostrevent. He exploited the conflicts between Charles the Simple and Robert I of France, and later between Louis IV and his barons.
The southern expansion resulted in conflict with the Normans who were trying to secure their northern frontier. In 942 this led to the murder of William Longsword, the Duke of Normandy, at the hands of Arnulf’s men. With William Longsword’s death, the Norman/Viking threat receded and during the later years of his life Arnulf focused on reforming the Flemish government.
In genealogy, a question arises: how far back is relevant to the people we are today? In some respects you could argue that there is no relevance, yet these people are our ancestors and we are only here because of them. Relatives we enjoyed direct contact with nurtured us. However, through our DNA our natures and personalities are formed and I feel that all our ancestors are relevant to the people we become.
The Mansell branch of my family continued with Walter who married Hawise de Somerie. Walter held the sergeantry of Little Missenden as Napkin Bearer to the King, Henry III. You might recall that Philip, the progenitor of the Mansell line, performed a similar duty for William the Conquerer, which underlines the long and close association this branch of my family enjoyed with the rulers of England.