WELSH ORIGINS OF THE PEVEREL FAMILY
By Darrell Wolcott
(Note: much of the genealogical
data contained herein is of late, unproven origin and should not be relied upon. The purpose of this paper is primarily
to examine what others claim to be true about the family, and create a timeline which will show the chronological errors contained
in those accounts, and suggest a pedigree which eliminates earlier anachronisms.)
A William Peverel is listed
in the Roll of Battle Abby as a companion of William the Conqueror at Hastings in 1066, and the Domeday Book
of 1086 mentions a Ranulph Peverel as holding many tracts of land throughout England. Other Peverel's are associated
with the castle at Whittington in the 11th and 12th centuries. Historians claim the family derived from a "Wrenoc" and
identify him with the clan of Tudor Trevor.
One persistent but unverifiable tradition
holds that the earliest William Peverel was the son of William the Conqueror by a Saxon princess, born before his marriage
to Matilda of Flanders. And says Ranulph was the husband of that Saxon lady who fathered several half-siblings
of her first child. Most would identify this Ranulph as identical to "Wrenoc" (which they claim is the same name
as "Gronwy" in Welsh) and a son of Tudor ap Rhys Sais. And the Saxon princess is usually called Maud, daughter of
Ingelric; the latter supposedly being a base son of Aethelred the Unready. While Rhys Sais did hold Whittington
before the conquest and his son Tudor appears in the Domeday Book as a tenant of lands held under Earl Roger de Montgomery,
the chronology connecting that Welsh family to the Peverel's is flawed.
Gronwy ap Tudor ap Rhys Sais
(the earliest of that name) would occur c. 1085. No son of his could have either married a granddaughter of Aethelred
(born c. 968) nor have appeared in Domesday as a large land owner. If Ranulph Peverel had a Welsh father named either
Gronwy or Wrenoc, it had to have been one born nearer 990/995. Ranulph himself should date from c. 1020 since a
son credited to him (Payne Peverel) was old enough in 1086 to be mentioned as holding land on that date. And
a Saxon lady born c. 1030 could have borne the William Peverel of 1066 who was supposedly fathered by William the Conqueror.
The extant pedigrees say Payne had older brothers Hamo and William in addition to the half-brother also named William.
The following chart shows a workable timeline to accomodate all these claims:
Ingelric Gronwy 995
1024 King William I==/==Maud========Ranulph Peverel 1020
l l l
William Hamo William
We are also told
that all 4 of these sons of Maud were called by the Peverel surname, including the one not fathered by Ranulph. To extend
our workable timeline, we shall consider his descendants first. His wife is cited as Adelise, some say a daughter of
Roger of Montgomery, who bore him a son called William Peverel the Younger. That man supposedly married a first cousin,
Avice the daughter of Roger II, and had a daughter Helen who married William fitz Alan. Thus:
1000 Roger de Montgomery
daughter Earl Roger 1030
Warin "Bald"====Aimeria 1058 Roger II
1040 l 1050
1055 l 1045
Alan====daughter 1075 Avice==========William
1095 William======================Helen 1105
These marriage connections also introduce
two other powerful families who were retainers of Earl Roger of Montgomery and held land and offices in the territory once
held by the Welshman Tudor Trevor. Warin the Bald de Metz was father to Fulk, the first in a long line of Fulk fitzWarin's.
And William fitzAlan was the first of that family of Shropshire barons. Many family pedigrees show another daughter
of William the Younger, Margaret, who married Robert de Ferrers and carried her father's lands to her spouse. Most agree
all later members of the Peverel family descended from the half-brothers of William Peverel the Elder.
now to William Peveral's half-siblings, the sons of Ranulph, we are told the eldest was Hamo or Hamon who held land in Whittington.
In 1086, Whittington was held by Earl Roger of Montgomery, but populated by "15 villagers" and for which "some Welshmen pay
20s". A larger apparently adjacent tract was held by "Tudor, a Welshman" who can safely be identified as
Tudor ap Rhys Sais. Most believe this Hamo Peverel died without issue leaving his lands to the next eldest brother,
William of Dover. The extant pedigrees identify a wife of "William Peverel" as Oddona, daughter of Earl Hugh Avranches;
she is usually cited as a second wife of William the Younger but such a lady would occur c. 1060 and the marriage probably
belongs to a William born nearer 1050 than 1080. We assign it to the son of Ranulph named William of Dover. The
youngest brother of Hamo and William was Payne who is also said to have died without male issue.
The son of William fitz Ranulph, we believe,
was also named Payne and born c. 1080. He married a "de Metz" lady who was probably a daughter of Warin the Bald de
Metz and sister of the first Fulk fitzWarin. By this lady, Payne had sons Hamo and William and a daughter, Miletta.
Hamo had only a daughter (who some say married Iorwerth Goch ap Maredudd ap Bleddyn of Powys) and his brother William
was killed in 1148 leaving no issue. As "sole heiress" of her father Payne's land in Whittington, Miletta married Warin
fitz Fulk fitz Warin who claimed the land "et uxor". The traditional tale says she insisted a tournament be staged,
with the winner being the only knight suitable to claim her hand in marriage. Since Warin was also her cousin,
the story was probably devised by someone excusing her from marrying within the degree of sanguinity proscribed by the
Church. A chart of this part of the Peverel family would look like this:
1030 Earl Hugh Avranches
1052 William of Dover=====Oddona
1060 Warin 1040
1080 Payne===============dau Fulk 1070
William 1115 Miletta=====Warin 1105
Fulk II 1140
1120 Iorwerth Goch
thinks Miletta was the sister of Payne who had been the heir of Whittington; perhaps she did have another brother of that
name, but it seems more likely she was heiress of her father Payne after her brothers had died without sons. In any
event, claims to Whittington arose from another "heir". After the death of Payne, the de Metz lady must have married
Gronwy ap Tudor ap Rhys Sais, a man who inherited whatever part of Whittington that Tudor had held. By that marriage,
he had sons Sir Roger of Powys and Jonas. Morris apparently knew these latter men were half-brothers to Hamo and William
Peverel but confused both the chronology and the parentage. First, he makes Gronwy another name for the Ranulph of c.
1020 who also had sons called Hamo and William. Secondly, he says the Peverel brothers were half-brothers to Sir Roger
and Jonas from a second marriage by Gronwy. In fact, we believe it was a mother which the two sets of brothers shared...the
widow of Payne Peverel. Frederick Suppe, in his paper on Sir Roger of Powys, comments on those boys being given
Norman, not Welsh, names but apparently did not guess their mother was also mother to the Peverel siblings. Thus:
1080 Payne Peverel=====lady de Metz======Gronwy
Hamo William Miletta
Sir Roger 1120 Jonas 1122
In 1156, King Henry II
confirmed possession of Whittington to Sir Roger and it was again confirmed to his son Meurig and grandson Gronwy before Fulk
fitzWarin III persuaded King John to honor his claim in 1204. Whether it was the validity of his grandmother Miletta's
inheritance, or the 200 marks Fulk offered to the king which decided the issue, is left to your imagination.
Since neither history
nor extant pedigrees offer a chronologically possible ancestry for Ranulph Peverel, our solution is necessarily
conjecture. Unlike J.R. Planche, we do not agree the family name is merely a corrupt spelling of the Latin "puerilis"
or "child". Rather we think it was the Normanization of the Welsh "Pefr" meaning "radiant, bright". Phonetically,
that word is "pever" and is a descriptive nickname sometimes added to Welsh given names. Nor do we find any justification
for thinking that "Wrenoc" is another word for "Gronwy". We would trace it to the Welsh word "gwreng" or "one of the common
people". The following chart posits our ancestry of the Peverel family:
900 Tudor Trevor
Y Gwreng 970
Cuhelyn ap Ifor Gronwy Pefr
Elystan Glodrydd Ranulph Peverel
We suggest that Gronwy ap Tudor
Trevor fathered a base son by an unidentified Saxon lady and that whatever birth name that child was given, he was simply
called "Y Gwreng" by the noblemen of Wales who considered his mother a "commoner". The son of that child was perhaps
called "Pefr" not because he was actually "radiant", but as a means of rehabilitating his reputation; Gronwy Pefr was a character
in the Mabinogion tale "Math vab Mathonwy", and while not cast in a hero role, at least he was considered a noble Welshman
and not a commoner. The son of this Gronwy was probably referred to as Ranulph Pefr until he was approached by the young
Duke of Normandy, William the bastard in 1051. The latter was betrothed to marry a Flanders princess, a connection vital
to his standing in Normandy. But in his negotiations with Edward the Confessor regarding his succeeding the childless
king as King of England, it was suggested William required a Saxon connection as well. His great aunt Emma had married
Aethelred the Unready and now had a granddaughter, Maud. Both a comely and wealthy young lady, William agreed to bear
her a son which would be his first-born and whom he would reward handsomely when he became King. But to keep the boy
from bearing the bastard stigma he himself wore, William convinced the part-Welsh, part Saxon Ranulph Pefr to marry the pregnant
lady and give his name to her child. As evidenced by Ranulph's extensive holdings cited in the Domesday Book, he was
well rewarded for this act. Since the Welsh Pefr was not a suitable family name for the first-born child of William
Duke of Normandy, it was given a Norman look as Peverel. And while this covering marriage "legitimized" the king's son,
persistent rumors continued as to who was really his father. Having no way to be certain, historians are wholly silent
on the matter. Nor do they offer any explanation how both Ranulph Peverel and his "son" acquired their extensive
lands all across England or why the early Marcher Barons would freely give their daughters in marriage to Peverel
men. Our conjecture is offered as one possibility. We doubt that William Peverel went to live in Normandy
and returned with the 1066 invasion, but may well have joined Duke William in the battle at Hastings as a "Norman" already
As a final note, we should point out
that Rhys Sais and several of his descendants were closely identified with the Earls of Mercia and subsequent Norman Marcher
Lords. Rhys Sais, Tudor and Gronwy are believed to have served as "latimer" or interpretor for their non-Welsh neighbors;
it is not a surprise that a member of this clan would be referred to Duke William of Normandy when he sought a man
to marry his Saxon mistress.
 John Burke "The Roll of Battle Abbey", 1848; the name appears on Hollinshed's
list as "Pevrell, on Duchesne's list as "Peverell" and on Leland's list as "Peverelle"
 In Shopshire alone, "Ranulf Peverel" held 4 tracts of land from Earl Roger
being Cressage, Lacon, Weston and Whixall. Some 60 other holdings are recorded in other shires as held by this Ranulph.
 Archaeologia Cambrensis, 1852, pp. 285
 ibid note 3
 Many family pedigrees cite this ancestry for Ingelric, but no ancient authorities
are cited to support that claim. His holdings as recorded in the Domesday Book suggest he was both wealthy and well-connected
to the Saxon kings which may have led to the belief he was a base son of Aethelred.
 The Buckingham Domesday cites the holder of Tochingeuuiche (Tetchwick) as
"Payne from William Peverel". Susan Edgington published a paper on "Pagan" Peverel at http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/articles/edgington.htm but fails to distinguish between Payne son of Ranulph and his nephew Payne son of William of Dover.
 G.E. Cokayne "The Complete Peerage", Vol 4, Appendix 1, pp 761-700 but note
that some wives are identified only by their given names. Their further identification is made only by modern family
histories without ancient source authority, but are not chronologically impossible.
 Domesday Book for Shropshire published by Phillimore & Co Ltd in 1986,
4,1 items 12 and 13
 ibid note 7
 Most pedigrees cite the wife of Iorwerth Goch ap Maredudd as Matilda,
daughter of Roger de Manley of Cheshire; the Peverel marriage was claimed by Frank Gooch in "History of a Surname-the line
of John Gooch in New England", 1926, pp 38. Gooch would assign the de Manley lady to Iorwerth Goch ap Bleddyn
 "The Family of Fitz-Warine" by Joseph Morris in Archeologia Cambrensis,
1852, pp 282-291
 "Roger of Powys" by Frederick Suppe in The Welsh History Review, vol 21,
no 1, pp 1-23
 J.R. Planche "The Conqueror and His Companions", 1874 as reproduced at
 The initial "g" in the Welsh "gwreng" is silent. Unfamiliar with the Welsh
letter "ng", English sources may have inserted a vowel trying to pronounce it; if so, the suffix "og" is phonetically identical
to "oc" and even common names such as Madog are often spelled Madoc.