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De Havilland of Guernsey / Neustria: Deep Ancestry, Family Origins, and Heraldry

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Guernsey, Neustriamap
Surnames/tags: de Havilland Haviland
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Thomas, Sieur de Havilland is the earliest man to which a direct, connected descent can be traced to Havilands and de Havillands around the world, including England, France, the United States and Canada.

However, he was not the earliest record of the so-called "Guernsey Family." Variant early records of de Havillands exist, all individuals we cannot connect but who were very likely related. These include:

  • Robert, Baron of Haverland in 1130
  • Robert de Haverland the Deputy Governor of Guernsey in 1179
  • Phillipin de Havilland who was one of the nobles present at the dedication of St. Martins' church in Guernsey in 1199
  • William, Lord of Havilant, in the parishes of Golleville and St. Columba, near Valognes, who accompanied King Richard Coeur-de-Lion (the Lion Heart) to Palestine, and, in memory of this Crusade, added two martlets to his paternal arms
  • William's son Peter, Lord of Havilant, who, by a Charter dated the 1st of February 1260, ceded to the Monastery of Montisbourg his close dicto as Peissons in the parish of St. Martin of Golleville. (To this Charter is attached a green seal of his Arms, viz., a Castle triple-towered, and on each side-turret a Martlet, surrounded by--S’PETRI de HAVILANT. The seal, as shown below, was found in the archives of St. Lo in Normandy in 1850.)
  • Radulph de Haverland, a Jurat of Guernsey in 1254
  • Bernard de Haverland
  • William de Haverland (Bernard’s son)
  • Hamelin de Havilland

(The spellings "Haverland" as listed above are most likely not in the original record and should not be confused with the German family of Haverland.)

"S'Petri de Havilant"
(Seal of Peter, Lord de Havilant, of the Cursades)

Found in the archives of St. Lo in Normandy in 1850.
A seal was a signet that when pressed into hot wax
would leave the impression of its bearing.
The "S'" stood for sigillum (which means "seal").
"Petri" was a regional shorthand for "Peter."

The de Havillands are an old family from ancient Neustria, which, in the ninth century, was settled near Cereport, now Barfleur, where, according to Robert Wace, the poet, the Northmen, before the era of Rollo the Brave, in ravaging that coast, destroyed, among other castles, that of Abilánt. The family then, retiring to the interior, settled at their fief, in the neighbourhood of Valogeres, until the loss of Normandy by King John: which fief, among other properties, was assigned to the Count of Mortain. A Sieur de Havilland seems to have followed Duke William to the conquest of England; and in the twelfth century a Robert Haverland was deputy to Gislebert de la Hougue, the Governor of the Channel Isles. From that time to the present day this family has prospered in Guernsey, and many of its members have from time to time filled the most important offices in the island. ... The name of Havilland seems to have disappeared from Normandy in the fifteenth century, but by an emigration from Guernsey to England it has extended itself in the latter country, and thence to America. [1]

Neustria was the Western division of the Frankish kingdom, in the region we now call Normandy in France. (It was named Normandy after the very Norse conquerors who attacked and destroyed the fortress Abilant ca 888. The whole territory was soon thereafter ceded to Rollo, of the Normans, by King Charles III "The Simple" in 911, but became English territory after William the Conqueror in 1066. It was then annexed by Philip II in 1204, recovered again by Henry V of England in the early 15th century, and finally incorporated into France after 1450.) The river Saire is in the region we now call Cotentin, which is the Northwestern tip of Normandy that juts out into the English Channel.

Thus writes John V.S. de Havilland, a Herald with the College of Arms:

Although the great mass of the population of Neustria in the time of the Romans was Celtic, yet at a very early period of their domination the Saxons had made settlements at different points on the coasts, which had hence received the name of the Littus Saxonicum. This will account for so many places in Lower Normandy bearing names of pure Teutonic etymology, that sure evidence of the early and permanent occupation by a people.

On this Saxon coast, to the north-west of the Bayeux, lies the fertile valley of the Saire, in a country which excited the admiration of Master Wace, the Jersey chronicler, who, writing his Roman de Rou in the year 1150, describes it as full of beautiful woods and rivers; and relates that, about A.D. 888, the Norse Vikings, Hastings and Bier, attacked the strong castle of Haverland on the Saire but three flights of an arrow above its mouth, ravaged the surrounding country, and burnt the monasteries. This was before the treaty of Claire-sur-Epte: the duchy, however, ceded by Charles to Rollo, did not include this portion of modern Normandy, which was only acquired by a victory over the Armorican-Bretons in 931, when the county of Coutances was given to the victor Riulph, ancestor of the Vicomtes de St. Sauveur; and at the same time large possessions here were granted to a kinsman of the Duke, Bertrand the progenitor of the Barons of Briquebec, who is claimed by Mr. Wiffen as the stem of the Ducal house of Bedford. Attached to each of these important strongholds of the Province were certain fiefs intended for their maintenance, and held by their Châtelaines. Such fiefs were generally situated within the honour to which the Castle was attached, but often at some distance from its site, and were designated by the name of the Fortress. At a very early period, before the conquest of England, the Châtellenie of Haverland Castle was held by a Norman knight, who, in right of his office, possessed the fiefs attached to his charge situated in different parts of the Coutentin, which fees continued in the possession of his descendants long after the Castle had ceased to exist. The Barony being thus transmitted from generation to generation, the family derived not only its surname but its arms from this source.

As such offices were generally conferred on junior members of great houses, it is not improbable that the first Châtelain of Haverland was a scion of the powerful Viscomtes de St. Sauveur who, as before mentioned, were then, and long after, the governors of the County of Coutances. Of this honour of St. Sauveur the family of Havilland held fiefs near Barneville, at Golleville, and St. Colomba, all in the neighborhood of Valognes, down to the end of the 13th century. Now a high legal authority asserts, that 'the name of a barony was exclusively used by its possessors and their descendants; and the possession of a territorial name of a barony as surely makes out a descent from some of the ancient barons, as if every step of the genealogy could be proved.' Dignity among the Normans was territorial rather than personal. To have so much land was to be a Baron. And the Knight and Esquire holding fewer of these broad acres were less powerful, but not less noble. To this cause we owe the superior respect which to this day, in our country, is paid to the owner of the land, to that which is rendered to the possessor of any other kind of property. [2]

1792 Map showing Pt. Abilant
The Castle where the de Havilland family probably originated

Cotentin, Neustria (now Normandy) at the mouth of Saire River
Courtesy researcher Robert P. Haviland, from Heimdal #3 1976-1977, p. 5;
original at Biblioteque National, Paris

"Wace's Roman de Rou relates the origins of Normandy from the time of Rollo (Rou) to the battle of Tinchebray. It was commissioned by Henry II as a way of both celebrating the Norman past and justifying the right of Norman rulers to the throne of England: the accounts it gives of the early life of William the Conqueror and of the battle of Hastings, which occupy a substantial portion of the work, make it a valuable historical document as well as an important work of literature." [3] In the words of Wace himself:

In Le Ham there was a wealthy abbey, well situated and well equipped. Hasting the robber destroyed it; he took away its possessions and then set fire to it. In Saint-Marcouf, on the river, there was a wealthy and affluent abbey; at that time the region surrounding it was called Nantus. Hasting and Björn destroyed it, robbed it and then set fire to it. Regouminie and Abilant and the castle of Garillant — Abilant is situated beneath a harbour; he would go straight there, the castle was very strong and the region very fertile, with fine woods and a fine river. The man who first built it and who constructed the castle was very wise and courtly; it is now called Mont Hagneiz. Hasting came there, destroyed it and set light to it." [3]

(Mont Hagneiz is a hill above the valley of the Saire.)

Also see The Quest for Abilant: The Origins of the Haviland - de Havilland Family.

This history is therefore believed to be the explanation of the tincture in the achievements of de Havilland armigerous bearers such as Thomas de Havilland.

"In Heraldic language, our Arms, a sable [black] Castle in a silver field, denotes grandeur, dignity, magnificence, fame derived from a reliance on divine doctrine, and nourished by abstinence and chastity, which beget true wisdom. ... The adoption of such a coat, perpetuating the image of [Abilant] Castle, with its walls blackened by the incendiary fires of Hastings and Biorn, as they stood reflected in the silver waters of the Saire, was in itself both natural and appropriate; and the motto taken in after ages, from the Proverbs, breathes the same spirit of reliance on God alone: Dominus fortissima turris, (Prov. xviii. 10.) In this form, that of a single Castle, the Arms were used by the family from the time of the first general use of Coat Armour. ... To indicate, or difference, the several branches of the family, the Castles were increased to three." [4]



  1. Burke, Visitation, p. 64.
  2. de Havilland, Chronicle, pp. 1-2.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wace, Norman.
  4. de Havilland, Chronicle, pp. 6-7.


  • Secondary:Burke, John Bernard. A Visitation of The Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain. Vol. II. London, England: Hurst and Blackett, 1853.
  • Secondary:Burgess, Glyn S. (translator.) The History of the Norman People: Wace's Roman de Rou. Woodbridge, England: The Boydell Press, 2004.
  • Secondary:de Havilland, John von Sonntag. A Chronicle of the Ancient and Noble Norman Family of De Havilland, originally of Haverland, in the Cotentin Normandy, now of Guernsey. The Mekeel Press, 1895. (See Archive.org.)

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