John, Lord of Gray

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REV 28 DEC 1995

From a Boston Transcript clipping in the Durfee film 804977, “Clarkes Genealogies” and “A History of Wales” by John Davies.

The name Gray is of local origin, or, it follows the name of a place in Bergundy, France. In the Department of Haute-Saone, there is now a town called Gray. The name was originally Croy. A Norman chief, whose name was Rolf, Rollo or Raoul (son of Rognwald, Jarl of Mori in Norway) invaded France in the 9th century with his Norwegian followers and established himself there. A descendant or member of the same family became Chamberlain to Robert, Duke of Normandy. He received from Robert the Castle and honor of Croy. From this his family assumed the name of DeCroy, which was later changed to DeGray and then to Gray.

Gray instead of Grey is almost universally used in the different branches in the United States. In England and Ireland Grey is still used, in Scotland it is Gray. This is detail between different branches of the same family all apparently descended from one parent stock and one origin.

The family of Gray or Grey, says Burke in his peerages, claims descent from Rollo (born 860 A.D.). John, Lord of Gray, whose son Anschetil de Gray was one of William the Conquerors companions in arms at the battle of Hastings, and was recorded in the Domesday Book (a record complied by a royal commission set up by William in 1085-86), as lord of many manors and lordships in the counties of Oxford and Buckingham. Anschetil de Gray had two sons, both named John. The elder John de Gray had a son, Henry de Gray, who was in high favor with King Richard I and King John.

Henry de Gray had several sons; (I) Robert of Rotherfield, (II) Richard de Gray, (III) John from whom the most illustrious branches of the house of Gray have sprung, (IV) William de Grey and (V) Henry de Grey. Descendants of John included John Lord Grey of Groby who married Elizabeth Wydville, afterward queen of Edward IV; Thomas Grey, created Marquis of Dorset in 1476; and Lady Jane Grey who was queen of England for a few days.

The Grays were in Wales by 1283 when King Edward created new Marcher Lordships. In that year he gave Rhuthun to Reginald de Grey. In 1402 Owain, a Welch leader, was having a dispute with another Reginald de Grey, and captured Reginald. Owain received 10,000 marks (L6,666) ransom for him. Not an insignificant sum!!

A Marcher Lordship passed from an Owain to son-in-law John Charleton. From the Charleton family it passed by marriage in 1421 to John Grey. It remained in the hands of the Grey family until the Marcher Lords were abolished in 1536. By 1509 an Edward Grey was one of only three remaining powerful Marcher Lords.

Among the names inscribed at Battle Abbey, after the Battle of Hastings, as being worthy to be remembered for valiant services rendered, was J. de Gray. According to Nesbits Heraldry: “In an old manuscript of Arms in the Reign of William the Conqueror, are the Amoreal bearings of Paganus de Gray, equitum signifer to King William”. Also, it says, “Gray, Earl of Kent, Chief of the ancient and illustrious house of Gray, so dignified in the reign of Edward IV., from whom are descended and branched the Barons of Rotherfield, Codmore, Wilton, Rhuthun, Groby and Rugemont, the Viscount of Lisle, the Earl of Stamford, the Marquis of Dorset, and the Duke of Suffolk, all of that surname derived from the honor and Castle of Gray, (or Croy as some write), in Picardy, their patrimony before the Conquest.”

Regarding the Grays of Scotland being of the same family, Nesbits says, “Gray Lord Gray in Scotland, same arms as My Lord Gray of Wark and Chillingham, England, Motto, Anchor Fast Anchor. The first of this line was a son of Gray in Chillingham, Northumberland, England, who came to Scotland in the reign of Alexander II, (about 1130), and gave his allegiance to that King, receiving possessions in Roufield shire of Roxburgh. His issue has continued in Scotland.” His son, Sir Andrew Gray, joined King Robert Bruce when he ascended the throne. The Grays in Ireland, usually described as Scotch-Irish, are doubtless the descendants of that branch of the family.

The Grays were closely allied with the Royal house of England and were near the throne. Edward IV married Elizabeth Gray, the widow of Sir John Gray who was slain at the second battle of St. Albans, 1461. On the death of King Edward, her son the young Prince Consort, and her son Lord Gray, were both executed in 1483, by the notorious Richard III.

Burkes Peerage says: “The family of Gray is of great antiquity in Northumberland. Henry de Gray obtained from King Richard I (1190), the manor of Turoc in Essex. Sir John Gray, Knight of Berwick, 1372, was father of Sir Thomas of Berwick and Chillingham. Sir Edward de Gray married daughter and heiress of Henry heir apparent of William.”

The union of the Grays with the royal line of Tudor was by the marriage of the duke of Suffolk, with Mary, daughter of Henry VII and the sister of Henry VIII. Mary was the widow of King Louis XII of France, who had died January 1, 1515. The tragic fate of their daughter, Lady Jane Gray, who reigned briefly as an unwilling Queen, has attracted the attention and enlisted the sympathies of the world. The story of her pure and beautiful life and of her heroic death will long illuminate the pages of one of the most eventful periods of English history. Her execution, 1554, was soon followed by that of her father, the Duke of Suffolk, and his brothers, Lord John and Lord Thomas Gray.

The Grays were not restored to their rights and court favor until the accession of James I, 1603. Since then they have repeatedly distinguished themselves in politics, literature, and the learned professions and still continue prominently represented among the titled nobility in England, Scotland and Ireland. In modern times they have contributed poets, statesmen and military commanders in the British realm.