Fortescue Surname Genealogy
surname derived from a martial nickname for a doughty, valiant warrior,
from the Old French fort, meaning “strong”
or “brave” and escu, meaning “shield,”
from the Latin scutum.
family named Fortescue is traditionally thought to have been
a strong Norman warrior who carried a massively heavy shield in the
service of William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings.
Fortescue Resources on
England. The Fortescue family was first found in Devon,
Radulfus Fortescu being recorded there in the Domesday Book of 1086,
before branching out elsewhere in England and then to Ireland and
earliest surviving record of the Fortescue family relates to its 12th
century holding of the manor of Wimpstone in the parish of
Modbury. Other historic seats of branches of the Fortescue family
have been at Weare Giffard, Buckland Filleigh, and Spriddlestone in the
parish of Brixton and Fallapit in the parish of East Allington.
Fortescues rose to national prominence when Sir John Fortescue
became Lord Chief Justice and Chancellor to Henry VI in 1442. He
managed to survive Henry VI’s deposal by the Yorkists but did not live
to see the victory of the Lancastrians in 1485. His son
Martin married the heiress Elizabeth Denzell, thereby bringing the
Filleigh estates and Buckland House into their possession.
Buckland House remained a family seat until it burned down in
By the 18th century these
Fortescues had become Earls. They built a new home for themselves
at Castle Hill
in the 1730’s and they have been living there for a subsequent
fifteen generations. The last of the line was Lady Margaret
Fortescue who was known for her prowess in hunting.
rode side-saddle, she was known as a ‘thruster,’ a member of the field
who rides closest to the hounds.”
inherited the estates in 1958 and held them until her death in 2013.
A history of the family entitled A
History of the Family of Fortescue
was written by Thomas Fortescue, who became Lord Clarmont, in 1869.
line of Fortescues was based at Bosworth Hall in Leicestershire, which
bought by Lady Grace Fortescue at the time of Henry VIII. She was
recusant who refused to join the new Church of England faith. The
Fortescues at Bosworth Hall have remained
Catholic to this day.
a courtier at the court of Henry
refused to join and was executed for his beliefs in 1539. He was later
beatified as a Roman Catholic
martyr. But this mishap apparently did his family little
son Sir John Fortescue rose to become Chancellor of the Exchequer in
the latter part of Queen Elizabeth’s
reign. Later descendants have included the Rev. Edward Fortescue,
well-known High Church Anglican
in Victorian times, and his son Adrian a noted Catholic priest.
Fortescue from Buckland Filleigh in
Devon came to Ireland in the early 1600’s with his uncle Sir Arthur
Chichester on the latter’s
appointment as Lord Deputy of Ireland. His
position gave him access to much land that the
From this adventurer who died in 1666
came the Fortescue landowners and governors in county Louth during the
century. The Fortescue presence at Stephenstown
began in 1740 and continued until 1914.
Fortescue was in the early 1620’s the first Fortescue to step ashore in
but he died at sea on his way back to England. However,
he did leave a wife and at least one child
on the eastern shore of Virginia. The name there became Foscue. Simon Foscue
acquired the family’s first plantation in Northampton county in 1691.
Foscue purchased the plantation or “divident
of land” called Nevilles Neck with a partner for 32, 400 pounds of
tobacco. There is a story that, about 200
years ago, it
was lost in a card game played in front of a mirror in which Foscue’s
The later Foscue plantation was
located outside of New Bern in North Carolina. The
antebellum house there, built in 1824 by another
Simon Foscue, has been in the family for eight generations.
The Fortescue name did appear in America, although initially it was a fictitious
name devised by Teddy Roosevelt’s uncle to cover an illicit
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Select Fortescue Names
Sir John Fortescue became Lord Chief
Justice and Chancellor to Henry VI in 1442.
Sir Adrian Fortescue was a Catholic
martyr who was executed for his beliefs in 1539.
Select Fortescues Today
- 500 in the UK (most numerous
- 200 elsewhere (most numerous in America)
Leave a Reply