Gilbert de Lyvet
Gilbert de Lyvet (died ca. 1244) was an early Anglo-Norman nobleman and merchant who became one of the earliest Mayors of Dublin. He donated extensive properties to the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Dublin, acted as witness for early gifts to the cathedral, and was a partisan for the Bigods, the de Clares, the de Lacys and other Norman magnates.
The birthplace of Gilbert de Lyvet is unknown, although he was likely born in Sussex, England, where the Levett family had their seat from about the time of the Norman Conquest. The family later became Lords of the Manor of Firle, Sussex, and received extensive grants of land across the south of England. They were sublords of the de Ferrers family, originating from the village of Livet in Normandy within the original de Ferrers barony.
Gilbert de Lyvet was a citizen of Dublin from 1229-1244. He served as Mayor of Dublin for four one-year terms, 1233–1234, 1235–1236, and was re-elected for a third term from 1236-1237. de Lyvet was frequently engaged in business in the city, and was a partisan of the most powerful Norman lords of Ireland. He was a witness to a 1210 gift by Isabel de Clare, 4th Countess of Pembroke to The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, in honour of her father Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, whose 'Strongbow' tomb is within the Cathedral. de Lyvet was also a merchant with wide trading interests, and old Irish records note that he often traded with France using his own ships. He is frequently in Latin charters relating to church business in Dublin.
de Lyvet acted in state matters involving the King of Connaught, the De Clares, the le Bruns, the De Burghs, Dermot MacMurrough, the Marshals and others. In 1234, de Lyvet and his wife also made gifts of land, including a "stone hall and cellars outside the King's gate" to the Holy Trinity Church, today's Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. de Lyvet and his wife lived in a stone hall not far from the church itself, "without the King's Gate." de Lyvet owned land on nearby Castle Street as well.
de Lyvet founded a family which succeeded him in Ireland, and for a time his became among the most powerful Anglo-Irish families. The patriarch mayor died before 1244, and he and his wife Sibilla are buried within Holy Trinity Church. Their daughter Elena is mentioned in the Register of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist in Dublin outside the New Gate.
Philip de Livet, probably Gilbert's father but possibly a brother, was involved in a Dublin dispute in 1200 which escalated into violence. Involved were some of the most powerful Norman magnates including the le Brun Lusignan family, Robert de Winchester, William Warenne and others. A murder charge resulted from the fracas involving the group.
Geoffrey de Lyvet, likely Gilbert's son, owned a "great stone hall" in the city, according to contemporaneous records. Sir Philip de Lyvet, Knight, probably also a son of Gilbert, was identified in early records as a "kinsman" of William Brun, one of Dublin's most important citizens. In 1278, Sir Gilbert Lyvet, Knight, is listed in a petition of Maurice FitzMaurice to the King and Council. Sir Gilbert Lyvet was also an active businessman in the city. Reginald Lyvet, probably either a son or grandson of Gilbert, was named by Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk and marshall of England, as Bigod's Irish attorney for the year in which Bigod would be away in Wales on the King's business.
Documents from the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries show that the de Livet family was active in Ireland, frequently being named in Royal writs and orders. In September 1215, for instance, Gilbert de Livet was named in a Royal order requiring him and several others to go to the King of Connaught and collect fees and fines from him due to the English crown. Other documents from the same century show Philip de Livet, John de Livet and other members of the family frequently acting on behalf of the King, or deputized to adjudicate disputes. In one case, the King even commands Earl William Marshall of Ireland to permit a servant of Gilbert de Livet, citizen of Dublin, to retain a ship he had captured as part of the capture of La Rochelle, France.
Subsequent documents over the next century saw the family's influence still strong. After Gilbert de Roche was beheaded for his betrayal for siding with the Scots in their Ireland invasion, for instance, the King ordered that all Roche's lands be turned over to John Lyvet.
"Gilbert de Lynet (Lyvet) was of sufficient importance to be Sheriff of Connaught from 1287 to 1289," according to The History of the County of Mayo to the Close of the Sixteenth Century. "The family appear again as owners of half the castle and lands of Carn -- the other half owned by Carews -- and of the lands of Kincon, Ellagh, and Seehaunmore in Kilfian."
By 1302, John Lyvet was granted arms in Ireland, and in 1311 was appointed steward of Carlow with the keeping of Old Ros and the Isle of Hervey, as well as the Knights Templar's hamlet of Kilclogan in Wexford. (A branch of the Dublin Levett family apparently relocated to Waterford at some later date, as the first family member appears as mayor in the early seventeenth century.) In 1302 King Edward I of England issued a call to convene the magnates of Ireland to assist in an invasion against the Scots. John de Lyvet was one of the Irish nobles named in the writ.
The de Lyvet family were one of the earliest of the Anglo-Irish families, but unlike other early Normans like the de Burghs and the De Lacys, the Levetts seem to have been largely overlooked by historians. Perhaps the orthography made them difficult to trace: the spelling of the name varied wildly, including 'de Liuet,' 'de Lyvet', 'de Leuet', 'de Lyuet,' 'de Lynet,' 'Linet', and even 'de Yvet" and "Del Ynet." One historian assures us that "at the commencement of the reign of Edward II, the De Lynets were a powerful family in the south of Ireland." By the seventeenth century, an Irishman named Levett had registered his coat of arms, and it was distinct from those of his English brethren, which was unsurprising given that the first Levetts who came to Ireland did so as heraldry was only beginning to come into use.
- Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Royal Irish Academy, Hodges, Figgis & Co., Dublin, 1908
- Registrum Prioratus Omnium Sanctorum juxta Dublin, Richard Butler, All Saints Priory (Dublin), For the Irish Historical Society, Dublin, The University Press, 1845
- Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Hodges, Figgis & Co., Dublin, 1908
- Private Sources at the National Archives
- It is likely that some Irish descendants of Gilbert de Lyvet carry the name today in forms which are almost unrecognizable. The Lynott family of Connaught, for instance, were the owners of mass tracts of land for centuries, and are descendants of early Normans. Their progenitor was one 'Gilbert de Lynet' in the late thirteenth century. The family's coat of arms bears a startling resemblance to that of the Levett family of Sussex. (The coat of arms of the Connaught Lynotts also features a lion rampant on a field of cross-crosslets.) It is quite possible that the Lynott family descends from the de Lyvets, especially given the well-known role of the de Lyvet family in Connaught , as well as their documented close ties to the de Burgh (later Burke) family , among the most powerful of the Hiberno-Norman magnates. Thanks to the vagaries of medieval spelling, the early Lyvets may have ended up with the name we see today. The fact that in Connaught records, the names of Gilbert de Lyvet, Reginald de Lyvet, and other known members of the Dublin family were often spelled 'de Lyuet' demonstrates that the two families are likely the same. That the Norman invaders of Ireland were often seen as just that gives a clue as to the motives behind the change in spelling. Only DNA testing will likely reveal the truth.
- Calendar of Documents, Relating to Ireland, 1171 to 1251, Her Majesty's Public Record Office, H.S. Sweetman (ed.), Longman & Co., London, 1875
- Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin, Vol. I, John Thomas Gilbert, Mulholland Gilbert, Joseph Dollard, Dublin, 1889
- The Irish village of Lyvetiston (now known as Levitstown), in County Kildare, derived its name from the early Anglo-Norman family.
- Calendar of Documents, Relating to Ireland, 1171-1251, Vol. I, Henry Savage, Great Britain Record Office, Longman & Co., London, 1875
- Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, 1317-1321, Vol. III, Mackie and Co. Ltd., 1903
- Hubert Thomas Knox (1908). The History of the County of Mayo to the Close of the Sixteenth Century. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis & Co. p. 292.
- A Genealogical History of the Dormant. Abeyant, Forfeited and Extinct Peerages of the British Empire, Bernard Burke, Harrison, London, 1866
- An early charter in Latin included in the Chartularies of St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin, for instance, names Gilberto de Liuet as witness to a deed from Dermod, son of Gillemoholmoc. It dates from the end of the twelfth century or beginning of the thirteenth.
- All spelling varied during medieval times, but the difficulty of the original Norman-French names, often mispronounced or having to be transcribed from the original Latin documents, made them more subject than most to errors.
- Registrum prioratus omnium sanctorum juxta Dublin, All Hallows Priory (Dublin, Ireland), Richard Butler, Trinity College Library (Dublin, Ireland), Published by the Irish Archaeologial Society, 1845
- One heraldic reference shows the use of arms by Levett of Ireland as "three wolves pass. sa.," which was also used by an extinct branch of the Levett family in Derbyshire. But Bernard Burke identifies 'William Levett, citizen of Dublin' in 1619 as having this coat-of-arms: 'Ar. a chev. engr. paly of the first and gu. betw. three shovellers sa. beaked and legged of the second.' The standard comes from the 'Fun. Ent. Ulster's Office,' or the Ulster King of Arms (the Irish heraldic authority and successor to the Ireland King of Arms), according to Burke. These arms were strictly for an Irish branch of the family.