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.
The English
family named Fortescue
is traditionally thought to have been
descended from
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

Fortescue Ancestry

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

Devon. The
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.

“A tiny birdlike figure who invariably
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.

Leicestershire. One
line of Fortescues was based at Bosworth Hall in Leicestershire, which
had been
bought by Lady Grace Fortescue at the time of Henry VIII. She was
a Catholic
recusant who refused to join the new Church of England faith.
Fortescues at Bosworth Hall have remained
Catholic to this day.

Adrian Fortescue,
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
. But this mishap apparently did his family little
harm. His
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.

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
Government was
handing out.

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.

America. Simon
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
were seen.”

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
devised by Teddy Roosevelt’s uncle to cover an illicit

Fortescue Miscellany

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
    in London)
  • 200 elsewhere (most numerous in America)





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