Tancarville and Tankerville

The modern town of Tancarville lies within the Seine-Maritime department in Upper-Normandy in France but in the eleventh century Tancarville boasted its own line of counts who held the position of hereditary Chamberlains to the Dukes of Normandy. One of their number William, Count of Tancarville came into England with William the Conqueror, but returned shortly afterwards to Normandy.

The Greys were an old Northumberland family originally from the town of Croy, (or Gray as it is now called) in Picardy, one of whom a Sir Thomas Gray of Berwick and Chillingham married Jane Mowbray (daughter of John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk). Their son John Grey became a soldier of some distinction and fought at the siege of Harfleur and the battle of Agincourt and campaigned in the Cotentin in 1418. On the 31 January 1419 he was made Chamberlain of Normandy and Earl of Tankerville in 1419, the choice of title no doubt being determined by knowledge of the prior connection between Tankerville and that office.

John Grey was killed at the battle of Beauge in 1421 and succeeded by his two year old son Henry born at Tancarville in Normandy, who also inherited the title of Baron Powis from his mother Jane, daughter of Edward Cherleton. Henry married Antigone, an illegitimate daughter of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and was known as the "double tongued Earl" for his murder of Gruffudd Fychan in 1477 after promising him safe conduct. He died on the 13th January 1449 and was followed by his son Richard Grey, who held on to the title until the year 1459 when he was attainted for "adhering to the house of York".

Although his son, John Grey was later restored to the title of Baron Powis, that of Earl of Tankerville was withheld and therefore became extinct.

Note that this creation of the title was one of a number of Anglo-Norman earldoms created by Henry V during the period of his conquest of Normandy in the years 1415-1421. It remains a matter of opinion as to whether these creations are to be properly regarded as English peerage titles. Some sources omit this creation altogether, some refer to it only under the heading of the 'Count of Tankerville' or 'Tancarville'.

Grey and Bennet

Forde (or sometimes Ford) Grey was the 3rd Baron Grey of Werke and descended from a Thomas Grey of Werke, brother of the John Grey the 1st Earl referred to above, who had inherited the ancestral home of Chillingham Castle.

This Forde married Mary Berkeley, a daughter of the Earl of Berkeley, but caused an allmighty scandal by abandoning his wife and running away with her sister Henrietta Berkeley. (The ghost of Mary Berkeley is said to haunt Chillingham Castle to this day, still searching for her errant husband.) Not content with achieving notoriety for his private life, he was also one of the main conspirators in the Rye House Plot, and on its discovery in 1683 fled to the continent. He subsequently returned with James, Duke of Monmouth in an attempt to overthrow James II in 1685 and was captured after the Battle of Sedgemore.

He appears to have largely escaped punishment by means of turning informant against his old conspirators and disappeared from view for a few years taking no part in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It was not until 1694, when the country appeared assured of a Protestant monarchy that he re-entered politics and rapidly rose to become one of the leading Whig politicians of his age. On the 11th June 1695 he was granted the titles of the Viscount Grey of Glendale and Earl of Tankerville and subsequently held the offices of First Lord of the Treasury and Lord Privy Seal. He held this latter office until his death on the 24th June 1701.

The Bennets were a family originally from the Ripon area although one of their number a Sir John Bennet, established himself in Middlesex and was created the 1st Baron Ossulston in 1682. His son Charles Bennet married Mary Grey, only daughter and heiress of the aforementioned Forde Grey in 1695, and was subsequently created Earl of Tankerville on the 19th October 1714.

The 1st earl died on the 21st May 1722 and was succeeded by his son also Charles Bennet. The title subsequently passed from father to son in an entirely unspectacular fashion. The first four earls were politically active in a small way and the 4th Earl was notable for accumulating a famous collection of shells which was put for sale at Sothebys after his death. The Bennets were probably most famous for the herd of wild white cattle which they kept on their estate at Chillingham - Charles Darwin once noted his thanks to the Benets for supplying information regarding his cattle. (Which remain to this day, although the ownership of estate and castle passed out of the family's hands in the 1980s.)

The current holder of the title, the tenth of his line is Peter Grey Bennet, who is unmarried, but there appears to be a sufficiency of male cousins to keep the title going for a while yet.


THE EARLS OF TANKERVILLE

GREY (First Anglo-Norman Creation)

GREY of the Second Creation

BENNET


SOURCES

  • Charles Littleton Ford Grey, 3rd Baron Grey of Warke and Earl of Tankerville - Commons Sense History Today 31 January 2004
  • Charles Darwin The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication http://charles-darwin.classic-literature.co.uk/variation-of-animals-and-plants-under-domestication-v1/ebook-page-54.asp
  • Grey genealogy at http://www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/british/gg/grey04.htm
  • Grey family of Northumberland at http://www.geocities.com/layedwyer/grey.htm
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
  • THE ENGLISH PEERAGE or, a view of the ANCIENT and PRESENT STATE of the ENGLISH NOBILITY London: (1790)
    see http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/History/Barons/
  • A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com

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