A History by F Lawrence Fleming




                The Fleming surname occurs often in medieval records. Indeed, the name is so eye-catching in the rolls and charters of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries that modern historians and genealogists have been led to believe that it was essentially an ethnic name; that it was the adopted name of a number of unrelated families that originally came to the British Isles from Flanders. This assumption, I have found, is supported by virtually no evidence beyond the obvious fact that natives of Flanders are called Flemings. If we demonstratively assume the opposite—that the name was not ethnic, but that practically all the “Flemings” occurring in medieval records were related and that they had a single ancestor in common who came to England from the continent in the time of the Norman Conquest—we are led in a direction in which we can effectively consult the oldest records, many of which have been available for more than a century as printed, indexed transcriptions. Do the primary sources of medieval history support the hypothesis that the Flemings belonged to a single extended family? Upon browsing through the indices of the earliest publications of the Record Commissioners of Great Britain and the Pipe Roll Society it becomes immediately apparent that the occurrence of surnames is not that common in the older records—most individuals obviously did not have a surname but were identified by an epithet or by their father’s personal name—and also that the Fleming surname was no more common numerically than any of the other early Norman surnames, for example, Beaumont, Beauchamp, Aincourt, Tracy, Ferrers, Lacy, Lucy, Granville, Mortemer, Neville, Poher, Mandeville, Aubigny, and Courcy, among others.

                Establishing from the records plausible lines of descent for the earliest members of our hypothetical Fleming family is not difficult. The surname itself, of course, is the key. The scribes spelled it in various ways, depending, as we may suppose, upon how the name sounded to them when it was spoken by court officials. Le Flemeng and le Flemyng seem to have been the correct Norman-French spellings, but the following variations in spelling among others, with or without the definite article, are evident in medieval records: Flemmeng, Flammeng, Flameng, Flemang, Fleamang, Flemmyng, Flamenc, and Flemanc (in extended Latin: Flemmengus, Flammengus, etc.). Some of the more exotic versions were probably written by scribes who were native English speakers. It is important to observe that three or four of these different spellings could be used on as many separate occasions in reference to a single individual. Now, if we work from the hypothesis that the various spellings listed above in most cases signify individuals belonging to the same extended family, it is a fairly simple matter to compile from the printed transcriptions a chronological list of the earliest “Flemings”. One difficulty, however, is that practically all of these individuals were also recorded using the Latin sobriquet Flandrensis instead of the surname. Flandrensis is equivalent to “the Fleming” in English. It may in these cases have been a convenient Latin translation of the Norman-French le Flemeng or le Flemyng. But Flandrensis was also a word that was used by the scribes to identify anyone of Flemish descent; thus we must attempt to ascertain which of the individuals recorded as Flandrensis in the oldest records were also in some instance recorded by their surname or had descendants recorded in later documents by that surname.

                In the Domesday inquest of 1086—the original records of which are preserved at the National Archives of Great Britain and also in the treasury of Exeter Cathedral—only one of the eight Flandrenses recorded can be shown to have descendants bearing the Fleming surname in later medieval documents, which, of course, makes this individual, Erchenbaldus Flandrensis (Erkenbald the Fleming), an obvious choice when searching for the progenitor of the Fleming family. Erkenbald, alone among the Flandrenses of the Domesday inquest, was not actually from Flanders, but was born in the vicinity of Rouen in Normandy. He is called “the Fleming” by the Domesday commissioners who executed the survey in the five southwestern shires (i.e. in the Exon Domesday Book), while in the Great Domesday Book, which was compiled in Winchester from the feudal returns prepared by the various commissioners, he is simply called Erkenbald. (Erchenbaldus). It would seem that he was a Flandrensis of a very special kind.

                There is a span of forty-three years between the Domesday inquest and the next surviving set of Exchequer records: the pipe roll of the thirty-first year of King Henry I (1130). Of the Flandrenses that occur in these records, three are possible members of the family. The others are quite clearly shown by the records to be individuals from among the Flemish immigrants who came to England during the first decade of the twelfth century and eventually settled in Pembrokeshire in Wales. It is interesting to note that the eldest son of Erchenbaldus Flandrensis is recorded in these records not as Stephanus Flandrensis, but as Stephanus filius Erchembaldi (Stephen, son of Erkenbald). Willelmus Flandrensis, recorded in Northamptonshire, is almost certainly a younger son of Erchenbaldus Flandrensis. Baldwinus Flandrensis, recorded in London, is probably the young grandson of Erchenbaldus Flandrensis, and Adelulfus Flandrensis, who occurs in records on this single occasion, would possibly be another grandson, although there are no later records of any descendants he might have had that would link him to the Fleming family.

                The next surviving set of Exchequer records is the pipe roll of the second year of the reign of Henry II (1153). From this year, the rolls of the Exchequer survive in their entirety, although the pipe rolls of Henry II (1152-1189) are by far the most important when it comes to understanding the dispersion of the Fleming family from the original Domesday estates in Devonshire and Cornwall. In these pipe rolls, most of the numerous Flandrenses recorded would appear to be members of the Fleming family, the exceptions being Tankardus Flandrensis (Suffolk 21-22 Henry II), who was likely a younger son of Tankardus Flandrensis (Tancred the Fleming), an ethnic Fleming and the builder of Haverford Castle in Wales (1110); Rohelin Flamenc (Northumberland 16-17 Henry II), who, despite the scribe’s use of the surname, was probably an ethnic Fleming who also held lands near Canterbury (Ruelinus Flandrensis in a Canterbury charter from 1178); and Hugonis and Boidinus Flandrensis (Northumberland and Colchester 24-29 Henry II), who were either brothers or father and son. Boydin was reeve of Colchester 1181-1183. Johannes Flandrensis, probably a descendant, was bailiff of Colchester in 1269. Five other Flandrenses were recorded in Colchester during the thirteenth century, but apparently none of them nor any of their descendants bore the “le Fleming” surname. Basilius Flandrensis (London 15-19 Henry II) may or may not have been a member of the family. As in the case of Adelulfus Flandrensis in Pipe Roll 31 Henry I, later records give no evidence of any descendants he may have had.

                The genealogy below, which concerns the first five generations of the family, is offered as a reasonably well-grounded suggestion. I have endeavoured in this introduction and in the following genealogy to make notice of every Flandrensis or le Flemeng/Flemyng that occurs in English rolls and charters prior to the reign of Richard I. I do not insist upon all of the family connections proffered in the genealogy. The point I wish to stress is that, barring any mistakes I may have made, all of the Flandrenses enumerated in the genealogy also shared the Fleming surname. The ancient Flemings of the British Isles belonged to a single extended family. Members of this family appear so often in medieval records because the various branches of the family were for many centuries after the Conquest closely allied to the Crown. As King Charles I wrote in a writ of 30 October 1629 directed to William Fleming of Slane: “Wee takeing into our princely consideracon, the maney services in former times donne to our crowne, by the ancestors of the said William; and to nourish still that good disposicon in him of whom we conceive good hopes, we are therefore gratiously pleased, and doe hereby declare our Royall will and pleasure to bee, that the said William and the heirs male of his body, shall be, from henceforth, during the life of his said brother, reputed, stiled, and called Barons of Slane...”

                It is very important to remember that the historically famous families of the Middle Ages were propagated in both paternal and maternal lines of descent. It was, for example, not unusual for the eldest son and heir of a woman of gentle birth to take the surname of his maternal grandfather if his biological father was of humbler origin and the landed estate had originally been the dowry of his mother. This practice among the gentry ensured the propagation of an illustrious surname despite any generation gap in the line of male heirs. A modern consequence of this practice is that Y-chromosome analysis of the DNA from persons bearing some form of the Fleming surname is of limited value in determining a common descent. Some paternal lines in the family have become extinct because of a lack of male children while some maternal lines have proliferated because of an abundance of male children, thus persons descended along these maternal lines still bear the surname today. However: social convention has always frowned upon the adoption of an established, well-known surname without some right of birth. Flemish ancestry has never given anyone a right to the Fleming name. A blacksmith family of Flemish descent in the fourteenth century would possibly have become known as the Smith family but never as the Fleming family.

                Despite the name, the only connection with Flanders any of the Fleming family ever had, as far as I know, was the name itself. We must surmise that the father of Erchenbaldus Flandrensis had once come to Normandy from Flanders, because otherwise the surname would not make any sense at all. The members of the medieval Fleming family of the British Isles were paradoxically not Flemings, even in their own view. They were Normans.




Note: The number before a name in the genealogy indicates the generation to which that specific individual belongs; the small letter following the number identifies him within his generation. Flandrensis followed by /le Flemeng indicates an individual who in at least one instance was recorded by some form of the surname. An entry in which the Latin word filius and the father’s personal name are enclosed in parentheses signifies that the father-son relationship is not substantiated by any specific document, but is rather a conclusion made on the basis of circumstantial evidence. It is possible, however, that some of these entries document an avuncular relationship, by which I mean that the proposed father was in reality a maternal uncle. English name forms common to historical and genealogical literature are also given within parentheses. Individuals in bold type are progenitors of historically important Fleming lineages.


1a. Erchenbaldus Flandrensis (filius Erchenbaldi vicecomitis) (Erchembald, son of Erchembald vicomte)

                2a. Stephanus Flandrensis (Stephen Flandrensis)

                                3a. Erchenbaldus Flandrensis/Flemengus/le Flemeng (Archembald le Fleming)

                                                4a. Ricard Le Flemmeng (Richard le Fleming)

                                                4b. Stephanus Flandrensis (Stephen le Fleming)

                                                                5a. Baldwin le Flemeng

                                                                5b. Archebaldus Flandrensis/le Flemeng (Sir Archibald le Fleming)

                                                                5c. Phillipus (filius Stephani) Flandrensis

                                3b. Robertus Flandrensis

                                                4c. Ricardus (filius Roberti) Flandrensis/le Flemeng (Richard Flandrensis)

                                                                5d. Willelmus filius Ricardi (William le Fleming)

                                                                5e. Ricardus filius Ricardi

                                                                5f. Henricus filius Ricardi

                                                                5g. Laurentius filius Ricardi

                                                4d. Robertus Flandrensis/le Flemeng


 3c. Baldwinus Flandrensis/Flamingus (Baldwin the Fleming of Biggar)

                                                4e. Walderus filius Baldwini (de Bicre) (Waldeve of Biggar)

                                                                5h. Robertus filius Walderi (de Bicre)

                                                4f. Jordanus (filius Baldwini) Flandrensis

                                                4g. Willelmus (filius Baldwini) Flandrensis (William Flandrensis)

                                                                5i. Malcolmus Flemyng (Sir Malcolm Fleming)

                2b. Willelmus (filius Erchenbaldi) Flandrensis

                                3d. Willelmus (filius Willelmi) Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                4h. Gilbertus (filius Willelmi) Flandrensis

                                                                5j. Walterus Flandrensis

                                3e. Reinerus Flandrensis/le Flemeng (Reiner le Fleming of Beckermet)

                                                4i. Willelmus Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                                5k. Reinerus Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                4j. Walterus Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                4k. Hugonis Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                4l. Reginaldus Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                3f. Michaelis Flandrensis/le Flemeng (Michael le Fleming of Aldingham)

                                                4m.Willelmus Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                                5l.Willelmus le Flemeng

                                                4n. Michaelis Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                                5m. Anselm le Flemeng

                                                                5n. Marcillius Flandrensis

                                                                5o. Jordanus Flandrensis

                                                                5p. Daniel Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                4o. Ricardus Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                2c. Johannes (filius Erchenbaldi) Flemingus (Sir John le Fleming)

                                3g. Willelmi filius Johanni Flandrensis (William le Fleming of St George’s)

                                                4p. Ricardus Flandrensis de Glamorgan

                                                                5q. Willelmus Flandrensis/le Flemeng de Glamorgan

                                                4q. Thomas (filius Willelmi) Flandrensis (Thomas le Fleming)

                                3h. Fleming Melyn (Fleming the Yellow)

                                3i. Amicius (filius Johanni) Flandrensis


                                                4r. Ærnulfus( filius ?) Flandrensis

                                                                5r. Rogerus Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                4s. Galfridus( filius?) Flandrensis/le Flemeng


                                                4t. Alardus( filius ?) Flandrensis

                                                                5s. Hugonis Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                                5t. Henricus Flandrensis/le Flemeng

                                                                                6r. Alardus Flandrensis (Alard le Fleming of Sapperton)

                                                                                6s. John le Flemeng


1a. Erchenbaldus Flandrensis (filius Erchenbaldi vicecomitis): Strong circumstantial evidence indicates that Erkenbald the Fleming, a substantial Domesday tenant in Devonshire and Cornwall, was the son and namesake of Erkenbald (the vicomte) of Rouen, Normandy. He is recorded in several charters of the abbey of Holy Trinity, Rouen, and also in Domesday Book for Devonshire and Cornwall. It is generally acknowledged that he came to England with William the Conqueror and fought at Hastings (see bibliography below: A Genealogical History of the Barons Slane). According to my research, he had at least three sons: Stephen (2a. Stephanus Flandrensis), William (2b. Willelmus Flandrensis), and John (2c. Johannes Flemingus).


                2a. Stephanus Flandrensis: Stephen of Bratton (Bratton Fleming in Devonshire) or Stephen Flandrensis, as he is usually referred to, is recorded in the pipe roll of the 31st year of Henry I as the son of Erkenbald. He is also recorded in several English charters, once together with his father and also once together with two of his sons, Erkenbald and Robert. He had a third son, Baldwin, who went to Scotland during the latter part of the reign of David I of Scotland (1124-1153). Stephen Flandrensis was apparently baron by tenure of the Honour of Launceston and may well have been an itinerate justice during the reign of Henry I, but unfortunately the Exchequer rolls of this reign, with one exception (31 Henry I), have not survived.


                                3a. Erchenbaldus Flandrensis: Erkenbald le Fleming merited four entries in the Cartæ Baronum of 1166, but under four variations of his name: Erkenbaldus filius Simonis, Archebaldus filius Stephani, Erkenbaldus Flandrensis, and Herchembaldus Flemeng. The first of these entries is obviously an illicit extension made by the scribe who copied the original document (now lost) in which the father’s name, Stephanus, was probably illegible except for the capital ”S”. The last entry, Herchembaldus Flemeng, is one of the earliest recorded examples of the Fleming surname. (The earliest example of the surname is in 1162: Willelmus Flameng, who was Erkenbald’s first cousin.) Erkenbald was one of the more prominent barons in the court of Henry II and probably a close advisor to the king. He was involved in the court intrigues that led to the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 (see bibliography below: The Cartularies of the Benedictine Abbeys of Muchelney and Athelney in the County of Somerset). He is mentioned by Gerald of Wales, who was also a member of the king’s household. He died before 1175. He had an elder son, Richard (4b. Ricard Le Flemmeng), who was killed in Ireland in 1175, a younger son, Stephen (4a. Stephanus Flandrensis), and also two daughters: Rose, who as her dowry received the manor of Meshaw in Witheridge (near South Molton in Devon), and Joan, who first married William de la Brewer, receiving the manor of Trent (near Sherborne in County Somerset) from her father. After the death of Brewer she married Walter Brito, who was related to Richard Brito, one of the murderers of Thomas Becket.

                As a member of the royal court of England, Erkenbald accompanied King Henry II to Ireland in October 1171 and was by the king granted the manors of Newcastle and Slane in County Meath, and Astmayn and Eskertenen in County Tipperary. He was accompanied to Ireland by his younger brother Robert (3b. Robertus Flandrensis), his elder son Richard, and perhaps other members of the Fleming family who were in the service of the king. Erkenbald’s estates were apparently left in the control of his son and heir, Richard, when the king and his court departed from Ireland in April 1172. Henry hurried to Normandy the following month and did not return to England until July 1174. Robert Flandrensis, who probably returned to Devonshire from Ireland in 1172, is recorded yearly in the piperolls of Henry II until 1182, while the last record of Erkenbald in England is in 1171. It is thus probable that Erkenbald died on the continent while in the service of the king. It is an illuminating fact that Hugh de Lacy, Erkenbald’s immediate superior in the royal court, despite the fact that Henry had appointed him to justiciar of Ireland and also lord of Meath, was nevertheless in Normandy in the spring of 1173, when he defended Verneuil against the forces of Louis VII of France.


                                                4a. Ricard Le Flemmeng (filius Erchenbaldi): Richard le Fleming is a difficult man to come to terms with. I have not been able to find his proper place in the Fleming pedigree until recently. He is mentioned in an early thirteenth-century manuscript as having received twenty knight’s fees in County Meath, Ireland, from Hugh de Lacy. (This would likely have been in 1174 when de Lacy returned to Ireland and could report the death of Erkenbald le Fleming.) There are also entries concerning him in the Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters (see bibliography below). He was not—as has often been supposed—the father of Richard Flandrensis (5c. Ricardus Flandrensis filius Roberti), who was justiciar under Richard I and John, and who is first recorded in Devonshire near Exeter in 1182, at which time he apparently was already a favourite of Henry II and possibly a close friend of both Prince Richard and Prince John. The puzzling placename “Crandone” in the entry concerning Richard le Fleming in the thirteenth-century manuscript referred to above would possibly relate to Crandon (near Bawdrip) in County Somerset, which in the early thirteenth century was still considered to be a part of “the [knight’s] service of Erkenbald de Craudune” (see bibliography below: A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds A.10384). The Erkenbald referred to is 3a. Erchenbaldus Flandrensis, not 5b. Archebaldus Flandrensis. The Flemings are recorded here and there in County Somerset during the twelfth century, for example in Dinder, Wells, and Nettlecombe. Richard le Fleming may have resided at Crandon Manor before he went to Ireland, for there are no records of him in Devonshire or Cornwall. According to the Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters, the Fleming fortress on the Hill of Slane, reputedly built by Richard in 1175, was in 1176 taken and destroyed by native Irish forces and all of the Norman defenders were killed, including, perhaps, several members of the Fleming family besides Richard. According to Pipe Roll 22 Henry II, this massacre must actually have occurred early in 1175. Apparently, he either died without issue or perhaps the son and heir he may have had was killed in the same attack as he. Thus it was the younger son of Erkenbald, Stephen, who succeeded to the Fleming estates in Devon, Cornwall, and Ireland.


 4b. Stephanus Flandrensis: Stephen le Fleming accompanied Prince John to Ireland in 1185. He succeeded in 1175 to the ancestral estates in Devonshire and Cornwall, and also to the estates in Ireland, although all of his inheritance was held in custody until he came of age in 1178. He was a prominent member of the courts of Richard I, John, and Henry III. He had at least two sons: Baldwin (5a. Baldwinus le Flemeng), from whom the Barons Slane of Ireland are descended; Erkenbald (5b. Archebaldus Flandrensis), who remained in Devonshire and Cornwall; and perhaps a third: Phillip (5c. Phillipus Flandrensis), who is recorded in Cornwall (Pipe Roll 33 Henry II), although chronologically this individual would more likely have been a younger brother. (A troublesome discrepancy is Baldwin le Flemeng who is recorded in a plea roll of 1201 as a tenant of Launceston in Cornwall. This Baldwin would seem to be too old in 1201 to be Baldwin, son of Stephen, who died after 1264. Could Baldwin of Launceston have been another young son of Erkenbald le Fleming and the namesake of Erkenbald’s brother 3c. Baldwinus Flandrensis?) Stephen was the builder of Slane Castle on the River Boyne in Ireland and also the builder of the manor house at Chymwell, near Bratton Fleming in Devonshire.


                                3b. Robertus Flandrensis: Robert is designated the son of Stephen Flandrensis in a confirmation charter from the reign of Edward III (see bibliography below: A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds C.4092). As a young man, he is recorded in an early twelfth-century charter from Steeple Bumpstead, County Essex (Robertus Flandrensis, see bibliography below: Stoke by Clare Cartulary). He is first recorded in the pipe rolls of Henry II in Devonshire in 1168. The last record is in 1181. He is named along with Hugh de Lacy in a confirmation charter of Prince John (Dublin 1185) as having bequeathed land to Mellifont Abbey in County Meath, Ireland. It is apparent that he accompanied Henry II to Ireland in 1171. He may have had several sons who accompanied him to Ireland or, more likely, who came to Ireland after his death (abt. 1182). Robert le Fleming (5d. Robertus Flandrensis), recorded in a Dublin charter of 1197, would possibly be one of these.


                                                4c. Ricardus Flandrensis: Richard Flandrensis was justiciar under Richard I and John and also sheriff of Cornwall for two years in the reign of John. He was likely the eldest son of Robert Flandrensis (3b. Robertus Flandrensis). He is first recorded in Devonshire in 1182, the year after the last notice of Robert Flandrensis. As a very young man, he may have been to Ireland in 1171. He would seem to have been about five or six years older than 4b. Stephanus Flandrensis, who was 18 years old in 1175. (Both Richard and Stephan Flandrensis were members of the courts of Richard I and John.) Richard Flandrensis has been wrongly identified as the son of Richard le Fleming (4b. Ricard Le Flemmeng) and also as the son of Stephen Flandrensis, both of whom in reality were his cousins. He died before 1219, when his widow, Rosamund, is recorded as having remarried. He held manors in Devonshire and Cornwall, some of which he may have inherited from his father. By King John he was also granted custody of the extensive lands of Richard de Grenville in Devonshire, Cornwall, and Gloucestershire. His Devonshire and Cornish manors went upon his death to his eldest son William le Fleming. Richard le Fleming, possibly the son of Richard Flandrensis, was bishop of Leighlin (Ireland) 1217-1226.


                                3c. Baldwinus Flandrensis/Flamingus: Baldwin the Fleming attested charters together with his brother Erkenbald (4a. Erchenbaldus Flandrensis) in Cornwall and Somerset. He is possibly the man recorded in 31 Henry I as Baldwinus Flandrensis (London). If this is the case, he was a very young man at the time. Baldwin is not recorded in any of the pipe rolls of Henry II, presumably because he settled in Scotland during the reign of Stephen, probably about 1147. In Yorkshire, he witnessed charters of Alan, Earl of Richmond (1145 and 1146). This would be about the time he married the young widow of Reginald fitz Alan. Later in Scotland, he was appointed sheriff of Lanarkshire by Malcolm IV. Baldwin Flandrensis is the (relatively) undisputed ancestor of the prolific Fleming “clan” of Scotland. (Besides Robert le Fleming de Lenzie, grandson and heir male of 5i. Malcolmus Flemyng, nine other knights of the Scottish Fleming family attested the famous—or rather, infamous—Ragman Rolls of 1296, thereby swearing [falsely, as it turned out] fealty to Edward I of England: William le Fleming de Seton del counte de Edeneburgh; Aleyne le Fleming del counte de Are; Johan Fleming del counte de Peebles; Dominus Johannes Fleming, chevaler; Michael le Fleming del counte Kincardyn; Patrick Fleming de Dunbretan; Wautier le Fleming de Lenark; William le Fleming de Dunbretan; and William le Fleming [Willelmus Flandrensis], chevaler de Lanark.)


                2b. Willelmus (filius Erchenbaldi) Flandrensis: William the Fleming is recorded in 31 Henry I as accountant for the widow of Richard de St Medard (Cottesbrook, Northamptonshire). He is also recorded in the register of the abbey of St Werburgh as a witness to the reputed foundation charter of Ranulf le Meschin, Earl of Chester. He was likely the William Flandrensis who died during the siege of Arques, Normandy in 1145. I believe that this William Flandrensis is the long-missing link in Fleming genealogy to the Flemings of Hampshire (mainly Isle of Wight and the city of Southampton) and also the numerous Flemings of Cumbria, Lancashire, and Yorkshire.

                                3c. Willelmus (filius Willelmi) Flandrensis: This William the Fleming would likely be a son of the above William the Fleming. He is first recorded in Sussex (7 Henry II) as Willelmus Flameng, and then in Northamptonshire (9 Henry II) as Willelmus Flandrensis, and again in Sussex (11 Henry II) but as Willelmus Flandrensis. From 22 to 28 Henry II he is recorded in Hampshire as Willelmus Flandrensis. Gilbert Flandrensis (5h. Gilbertus Flandrensis) of Southampton would likely be his son, and Walter Flandrensis his grandson.


                                3d. Reinerus Flandrensis: Reiner le Fleming is first recorded in 1122 in William le Meschin’s foundation charter for St Bees Priory, Cumberland. He was the steward (dapifer) of William le Meschin, brother of Ranulf le Meschin. His sons are all recorded in the pipe rolls of Henry II. He had numerous descendants in Cumbria, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. I believe that at least one line of descent from Rainer can be traced in documents, generation for generation, to Flemings living today, mostly thanks to the groundwork done by the antiquarian Sir Daniel Fleming of Rydal Hall in the late seventeenth century. Sir Daniel made some quite understandable mistakes which are not that difficult to rectify. It is, however, important to point out that there are no surviving documents which unequivocally show that Reiner was the son of 2b. Willelmus Flandrensis. He could have been the son of a sister to William the Fleming who nonetheless bore the Fleming surname.


                                3e. Michaelis Flandrensis: Michael le Fleming was almost certainly the brother of Reiner le Fleming, although he was never recorded as such. He is first mentioned in 1127 in Stephen of Boulogne’s founding charter for Furness Abbey, Cumberland. He had numerous descendants in Cumbria and Lancashire. Unfortunately, he was named in the late seventeenth century as the progenitor of the Fleming family by Sir Daniel Fleming, who maintained that Michael le Fleming was related to Baldwin V of Flanders and came to England with the Conqueror. This has caused centuries of confusion concerning the genealogy of the Flemings. Sir Daniel considered himself to be a descendant of Michael le Fleming, but a careful examination of the records shows him to have been descended from Michael’s brother, Rainer, through Richard le Fleming, lord of Beckermet and Coniston in the fourteenth century. Other antiquarians have correctly claimed William le Fleming to be the father of Michael le Fleming but have made William a companion of the Conqueror instead. The true progenitor of the Fleming family, however, was Erchenbaldus (Flandrensis) filius Erchenbaldi vicecomitis of Rouen, companion of the Conqueror and the father of William le Fleming and the grandfather of Rainer and Michael in Cumberland.


                2c. Johannes (filius Erchenbaldi) Flemingus: Sir John le Fleming is another difficult individual in the Fleming pedigree. He is not recorded in any surviving medieval documents, but seems to have maintained his position in Welsh tradition as one of the twelve knights of Robert fitz Hamon who participated in the conquest of South Glamorgan in Wales during the reign of William Rufus. He is referred to in several manuscripts from the late sixteenth century. Ancient pedigrees claim that he married Amicia, a daughter of Baldwin de Whitney (an ancestor to the Dukes of Buckingham), and that he had two sons by her, William, who inherited the castle and manor of St George’s, and Fleming Melyn, as the Welsh called him, the younger son who received the castle and manor known as Flemington (present-day Flemingston). The first Fleming to appear (abt. 1205) in surviving records of South Glamorgan is Richard Flandrensis, sheriff of Glamorgan (4p. Ricardus Flandrensis de Glamorgan). He was likely the eldest son or possibly grandson of William le Fleming of St George’s. It was apparently Richard Flandrensis de Glamorgan and not Richard Flandrensis, the famous judge, who with his knights accompanied King John to Ireland in 1210. (King John was in Glamorgan in 1210 before crossing over to Waterford.) By a rather confusing coincident, this Richard Flandrensis’s heir was a William le Fleming, who is recorded in 1237. (The judge’s heir was also a William le Fleming.) Flemings are recorded at St George’s until the failure of the male line after Sir William le Fleming, sheriff of Glamorgan and perhaps the grandson of William le Fleming, who was executed in Cardiff in 1317. Flemings are recorded at Flemington as late as the seventeenth century. I think that we may conclude that Sir John did actually exist and that he must have been a younger son of Erkenbald the Fleming (1a. Erchenbaldus Flandrensis), although no tradition concerning this has survived. Another knight of Fitzhamon was Richard de Grenville (Fitzhamon’s younger brother), with whose family the Flemings in Devonshire were associated for more than a century. I have made Amicius (3h. Amicius Flandrensis), who is recorded in County Somerset in 15 Henry II, a son of Sir John, simply because of the striking resemblance of his name with that of the supposed wife of Sir John. Chronologically, he would more likely be a son of William, son of John, and thus the brother of Richard Flandrensis de Glamorgan and Thomas le Fleming (4p. Thomas Flandrensis).


                                                4p. Thomas (filius Willelmi) Flandrensis: Thomas le Fleming is recorded in the pipe rolls of Henry II in Wiltshire between 16 and 21 Henry II. As far as I have been able to discover, he is the only Wiltshire Fleming during the Middle Ages. He accompanied Raymond le Gros and Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare to Ireland in 1170. He received lands from Richard de Clare along the River Barrow where he also built a castle. De Clare, better known as Strongbow, inherited wide lands in Leinster through his marriage with the daughter of Dermot MacMurrough. Because of his clear association with Strongbow, I have made Thomas a son of William le Fleming of St George’s. Although he was probably a household knight of Henry II, he had no known association in Ireland to Richard le Fleming in Slane. Upon his death, his lands in Ireland were divided between his two married daughters, Margery and Avicia.


                                                4q. Ærnulfus Flandrensis: Ernulf is recorded in Northumberland in the pipe rolls of 29 and 33 Henry II. He is perhaps the Ernauld Flamang of the Worksop Abbey charters, who seems to have been the first of the Flemings in Nottingham. His most likely descent is from either Reiner le Fleming of Beckermet or Michael le Fleming of Aldingham.


                                                4r. Alardus Flandrensis: Alard Flandrensis was a knight of Richard I to whom that king granted the manor of Fordham in Cambridgeshire in 1194. He died while on crusade in 1220. He would possibly be a son of William Flandrensis (3c. Willelmus filius Willelmi Flandrensis).




A Genealogical History of the Barons Slane. F. Lawrence Fleming. Paragon Publishing, 2008. (This is my revision of the Slane peerage. Preview at


Libri consualis vocati Domesday Book additamenta: ex codic. antiquiss. Exon Domesday, Inquisitio eliensis, Liber Winton, Bolton Book. Volume IV of the Record Commission’s edition of Domesday Book. London, 1816. (The Exon Domesday contains more information that concerns the feudal tenants in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, and Wiltshire than is to be found in the Great Domesday Book. Unfortunately, it has never been translated into English. This transcription from 1816 is difficult to source. I use the volume that is kept at University College, Dublin. Hopefully, a scanned version will soon be available on the Internet.)


Magnum Rotulum Scaccarii vel Magnum Rotulum Pipæ de Anno Tricisium-primo Regni Henrici Primi. ed. Joseph Hunter. London, 1833. (This is the pipe roll for 31 Henry I. Available for download on


The Great Rolls of the Pipe for the Second, Third, and Fourth Years of the Reign of Henry the Second. ed. Joseph Hunter. London, 1844. (Available for download on


Publications of the Pipe Roll Society. 94 volumes. London, 1888-2007. (The importance of the pipe rolls as a source of family history cannot be overstressed. The collection at the National Archives is complete from the year 1155 until the year 1833. Unfortunately, the work of transcribing these records has proceeded only as far as 7 Henry III. Once the remaining rolls (if ever) have been transcribed, several complete Fleming lineages should become discernable. The pipe rolls of the reign of Henry II are available for download at


A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds in the Public Record Office. 6 volumes. London, 1890-1915. (All six volumes are available for study at


Stoke by Clare Cartulary: Bl Cotton Approx. xxi. Christopher Harper-Bill and Richard Mortimer. Boydel and Brewer, 1984.


The Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters. translator John O’Donovan. AMS Press, 1966.


Two Cartularies of the Benedictine Abbeys of Muchelney and Athelney in the County of Somerset. ed. Edwin Harbin Bates. Harrison and Sons, 1899. (Erkenbald le Fleming is named in an early thirteenth-century grant by Maud de Ouvre to Woodspring Abbey. This abbey was founded and maintained through grants by descendants of three of the four murderers of Thomas Becket in expiation for the crime. “Grant by Maud de Ouvre by the consent of her sons, Gerard son of Gerard and Robert de Ouvre for their good and her own as also for the souls of her two husbands; her father, Richard Brito; her grandfather, Simon Brito; and Archibald le Fleming.” The actual murderers are known to history by their names: Reginald fitz Urse, William de Traci, Hugh de Morville, and Richard Brito. Thus Erkenbald was not one of them. He is not mentioned by William fitz Stephen, one of Becket’s biographers, an eyewitness to the murder and one to whom the Fleming family would have been well-known. Had Erkenbald been in the church on the twenty-ninth of December 1170, Fitzstephen would certainly have reported the fact. Nevertheless, Erkenbald must have been involved in the political machinations against the archbishop. The following is a thirteenth-century charter from the Canterbury Cathedral Archives (CCA-DCc-ChAnt/E/156): “From Elias, chaplain of the church St. Mary Northgate (Canterbury), son of Geoffrey de Marisco, of the holding of Eastry, to the prior and convent of Canterbury Cathedral Priory, an annual payment of 5d., payable as specified by Stephen Flandrensis of Sandwich [etc.].” Apparently, Erkenbald le Fleming held lands in and around Sandwich in County Kent which went upon the death of his elder son Richard to his younger son Stephen. [Stephen le Fleming and Geoffrey de Marisco were both prominent barons in Ireland during the reigns of John and Henry III.] The specified annual payment to Canterbury Cathedral Priory was undoubtedly initiated by Stephen le Fleming in expiation for whatever part his father had played in the plot against Archbishop Becket. Eastry Manor, near Sandwich, belonged to the monastery of Christchurch in Canterbury. In 1164, Thomas Becket used Eastry as a hiding place before fleeing to France.)