ERRAND DE HARCOURT
"The Sire de Herecourt was also there riding a very swift horse, and gave the Duke all the aid he could." Rom. de Rou, l. 13,769. La Roque, the French historian of the house of Harcourt, names the member of that family who accompanied William to England, Errand, and he has been followed by Père Anselm and other genealogists. Le Prévost views him suspiciously, and calls him a person little known, and much less authentic than his father, Anchetil, or his brother Robert, the first Sire d'Harcourt of that name. I do not participate in these suspicions. I believe him to have been a veritable companion of the Conqueror, and shall adduce my reasons presently for taking a particular interest in him.
The family of Harcourt, illustrious on both sides of the Channel, is fairly enough shown by La Roque to have descended from Bernard the Dane, Governor and Regent of Normandy, A.D. 912, and from the same stock he derives the Sires de Beaumout, Comtes de Meulent, the Barons of Cancelles and St. Paer, the Lords of Gournay and Milly, the Barons of Neubourg, the Viscounts of Evreux, the Earls of Leicester and Warwick, and many other French and English noble houses.
Turketil, Seigneur de Turqueville and de Tanqueraye, named circa 1001 in several charters concerning the Abbeys of Fécamp and Bernay, is identical according to La Roque with the Thurkild or Thorold, Lord of Neufmarché-en-Lions, the governor of the boyDuke William, who was treacherously assassinated by the hirelings of Raoul de Gacé (vide vol. i, p. 16), and was the second son of Torf, the son of Bernard. The wife of Turketil was Anceline, sister of Toustain, Seigneur de Montfort-sur-Risle, and their issue two sons, Anchetil and Walter, and one daughter, Leceline de Turqueville, who married William, Comte d'Eu, the natural son of Richard I, Duke of Normandy.
Anchetil, the eldest son, was the first who assumed the name of Harcourt, from the bourg of Harcourt near Brionne, and was present with his father, Turketil, at the confirmation of the foundation of the Abbey of Bernay, by Judith, Duchess of Normandy, in 1014. By Eve de Boessey, Dame de Boessey-leChapel, he had seven sons and one daughter, the eldest son being the Errand de Harcourt asserted to have been the companion of the Conqueror.
We have no dates of births, marriages, or any other events which would assist us to form an idea of the age of Errand at the time of the Conquest. His father Anchetil must have been a mere child when he witnessed with his father the confirmation charter of Bernay.
His father was murdered shortly after 1035, and Anchetil must therefore have been of mature age in 1066. Still, according to the genealogy, he survived his eldest son, and was succeeded by his second son Robert, who was living in 1100; and father of Philip Harcourt, Bishop of Salisbury, 1140.
From Robert all is clear, but it is with his eldest brother Errand and his younger ones that we have to do. Why Errand should have been selected as the Sire d'Harcourt who fought at Senlac, if Robert had really been the man, is incomprehensible. The vice of ancient genealogists was the endeavour to exalt the character and exaggerate the valorous achievements of the ancestors of the family, to the extent even of inventing stories to account for armorial devices which they could not comprehend, or sobriquets they took no trouble to trace to their origin. Had Robert, who was Sire d'Harcourt when Wace wrote, been present in the battle, some tradition would surely have been preserved in the family and eagerly recorded by its historian.
That Errand "is little known" is no reason for doubting his presence at Hastings. How many were there of whom we know nothing at all? How many, I grieve to say, are named even in these pages of whom we know next to nothing? That he should be less known than his father and brother is not at all surprising, as it is evident from the fact of Robert's succession that Errand died during his father's lifetime, leaving no male issue by his wife, who was of the family of Estouteville.
Jean le Feron informs us that he returned to Normandy in 1078, and probably died soon after, as from that period we hear no more of him. But I must have yet another word with M. le Prévost. He accuses the English genealogists of having fabricated an apocryphal affiliation in order to show that the English branch of the Harcourts came in with the Conqueror, and for this purpose have created a Gervase, a Geoffrey, and an Arnold de Harcourt, whom they pretend were all three present in the battle of Hastings; and he adds, that according to La Roque it was Raoul, second son of Robert II, Baron de Harcourt, who being attached to King John, quitted France and became the second ancestor of the Harcourts of England.
"We will not," he says in conclusion, "guarantee this assertion of a not very scrupulous historian, but we can affirm that those of the English genealogists are utterly false."
Now disregarding the very strong language in which this learned and generally courteous gentleman has pronounced his opinion, he has made a singular mistake in accusing our genealogists of having created Harcourts in order to fabricate a pedigree.
If there be any fabrication it is the work of his own countrymen, and we can only be blamed for believing them. Père Anselm, following La Roque, states that Anchetil had by his wife, Eve de Boessey, seven sons, Errand, Robert, Jean, Arnoul, Gervais, Yves, and Renauld de Harcourt.
Here are two, at any rate, out of the three laid at the door of the genealogist, and what proof that they are apocryphal? What evidence to show that they were not at Hastings with their brother Errand? That an Arnoul de Harcourt was in England, and killed in a skirrnish with the Welsh either in the mysterious battle of Cardiff in 1094, according to the Welsh Chronicles, or in some one of the other frays which have been mixed with it by the Norman historians, I think there can be little doubt. At all events, the name is not likely to have been invented by the Welsh, and there is nothing in the date to prevent his being the son of Anchetil, recorded by La Roque. It may be quite true that the Harcourts did not settle in England before the reign of John, but how does that prove that none of their ancestors fought at Senlac?
Added to this site through the courtesy of Michael Linton, who provided scanned text.