Sunday, February 26, 2006

Glossary: Plantagenet

The word "Plantagenet" arises as a surname for a medieval dynasty originating from the county of Anjou (Angevins) in the 12th century.

The first mention of the surname comes from Archdeacon Ralph de Diceto of Middlesex. In 1150, he refers to Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, in Latin as "Gaufridus Plantegenest."

Plantagenet was also used by Geoffrey Plantagenet's son, Henry II, whose titles included, King of England, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou. The surname then apparently falls out of public use for about 350 years until the time of Richard III. It is, however, likely that it continued to be used within the royal house itself until resurrected publicly at that later period.

Different traditions and theories exist as to the meaning of the surname. It is a compound of the words "planta" and "genet" or "genest."

Planta in Latin means "shoot of a plant," or "scion."

The modern word clan is derived from Gaelic cland, which in turn is believed to originate from Latin planta. As Gaelic had no p-, a k- or c- was substituted in its place.

Genet and its variants genest and ginet refer to a small Spanish horse derived from the Barb breed of North Africa, and related to the Spanish Barb and Andalusian. In modern English, this horse is usually known as jennet.

Traditionally, genet or its variant genest has been interpreted as genista "the broom plant."

Surnames in this region were practically non-existent until the coming of the Normans. The Norman conquest saw the rise of both surname usage and heraldry not only in this region but throughout most of Christian Europe. In addition, genealogy becomes a much more serious practice during this period.

A number of surnames arise at this time compounded with "planta" or its derivatives. These names could have a meaning similar to "clan" or "clan of."

So, Plantagenet could mean "clan of the genet (horse)" or "clan of the broom plant."

Paul Kekai Manansala


Godefroy, Frédéric, Dictionnaire de l'ancienne française et de tous ses dialectes du IXe au Xve siècle, 1881-1902

Richardson, Douglas and Kimball G. Everingham. Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families (Royal Ancestry), Genealogical Publishing Company, 2004.

Stubbs, William. Hist. Works of Master Ralph de Diceto, Dean of London, 1 (Rolls Ser. 68) (1876): 293.