Fitz

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Fitz (pronounced "fits") is a prefix in patronymic surnames of Anglo-Norman origin, that is to say originating in the 11th century. The word is a Norman French noun meaning "son of", from Latin filius (son), plus genitive case of the father's forename.[1]Whilst Fitz is now the standard form used by modern historians the word appears in ancient documents with various spellings such as fiz, filz, etc. The word has developed in modern French to fils de, with which it is thus cognate.

Origin[edit]

Norman gentry and noble families under feudal society held one or more manors from an overlord, who himself held directly from the Duke of Normandy, the sovereign. Such families took their surnames from their principal manor on which they resided and which formed their seat. This was the case for example with William the Conqueror's great noble adviser Roger de Beaumont (c.1015-1094), ("Roger from Beaumont"), who took his surname from his manor of Beaumont-le-Roger in Normandy. His eldest son was called Robert de Beaumont, again after the family seat.

However, where a distinguished Norman warrior perhaps held no land, and thus was not an established member of feudal society, or was from an obscure family, such a naming convention was unavailable. In such families therefore the word Fitz was preposed to the fore name of the warrior's father to give the warrior and his further descendants a surname by which they could be known. Thus Fitz Gilbert, meaning "son of Gilbert" would be adopted as a surname by the warrior christened "Baldwin", giving "Baldwin FitzGilbert". If we assume Baldwin's son was christened "William", his name would become "William FitzBaldwin FitzGilbert. However it is rare to find this naming practice extending beyond two generations and eventually the family name became "FitzGilbert" alone, the name of the patriarch, with the name of the patriarch's son being dropped. It must be asked why the father, in this case Gilbert, was not himself Fitz of his own father, the answer seems unclear. The Domesday Book of 1086, written in Latin, names a few examples such as Turstin filius Rolf,[2] who was known in Norman-French documents as Turstin FitzRolf.

Norse origins[edit]

The Normans were descended from Norsemen or Vikings and the usage appears to reflect the Scandinavian tradition of adding -son after (usually) the father's name. There are, however, exceptions in which the name of a more noteworthy mother (Fitz Wymarch) or a parent's title (Fitz Count, Fitz Empress) was used instead. Such surnames were later created for illegitimate children of royal princes.[3]

Decline/abolition[edit]

The Devon historian Tristram Risdon (d.1640) wrote: "From the Conquest unto the time of King Edward the First" (i.e. reigned 1272-1307) "the addition of 'Fitz' was so frequent with the Normans that to avoid confusion in that kind men were commanded to assume unto themselves local names".[4] Thus for example the ancient Anglo-Norman Devonshire family of "FitzBarnard" assumed the surname "de Speccot", from the name of their Devon seat,[5]Speccot in the parish of Merton.

Revival[edit]

From the Stuart era (1603-1714) and later, a pseudo-Anglo-Norman usage of Fitz was adopted for younger sons of the British royal family who lacked a legal surname, and particularly for illegitimate children of kings and princes, for example Fitzroy, (meaning "son of the king", from the French fils du roy); Fitzjames, son of king James II (1685-1688); and FitzClarence, son of the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV (1830-1837). From this later use, it is frequently assumed erroneously that the name Fitz indicates illegitimacy. More generally, in literature the prefix Fitz has been used to connote nobility, for example in Anthony Trollope's 1862 novel Orley Farm which features the fictional rakishly aristocratic figure Lord John Fitzjoly.

Irish usage[edit]

The Irish surname FitzGerald is thought to derive from Gerald de Windsor, a Cambro-Norman nobleman whose son and grandson were involved in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

The Irish name Fitzpatrick does not indicate a Norman origin of the family; it is the translation into English of the Gaelic surname Mac Giolla Phádraig. Other surnames beginning "Mac Giolla" were made into "McGilli-" (e.g. McGillicuddy), but the Fitzpatricks claimed Norman heritage in a time when the Normans dominated much of Ireland.

Examples[edit]

Historic persons[edit]

Mediaeval[edit]

Prominent families[edit]

(Names are variously spelled with or without capital letter after "Fitz-")

Other uses[edit]

Fitz is also a stand-alone German surname originating in the Palatinate region of Germany.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Thus Robertus, latinised form in the nominative case of the father's forename suggests his son's name in Latin as Filius Roberti ("son of Robert")
  2. ^ Thorn, Caroline & Frank, (eds.) Domesday Book, (Morris, John, gen.ed.) Vol. 9, Devon, Parts 1 & 2, Phillimore Press, Chichester, 1985, part 1, chapter 37
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, "Fitz", sense a. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
  4. ^ Risdon, Tristram (d.1640), Survey of Devon, 1811 edition, London, 1811, with 1810 Additions, p.249
  5. ^ Risdon, Tristram (d.1640), Survey of Devon, 1811 edition, London, 1811, with 1810 Additions, p.249

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.