Were our ancestors Crusaders or Conquerors?

On the Raitt Context page I have discussed extensively the significance of the cross on the coat of arms of Gervase and Andrew de Rait and I speculated that they may have gone on a crusade and thus became “entitled” to adopt it for their shields. I didn’t follow up on this too much at the time, but I have just come across a bit about the 9th Crusade to the Holy Land in 1271-1272 to support the beleaguered remnants of Christian Outremer, principally Acre and Tripoli. It was led by Prince Edward of England who responded to a call for a crusade by King Louis IX and was inspired to take the cross. On learning of the death of his father, Henry III, Edward was forced to return to England in September 1272, arriving there in August 1274 where he was immediately crowned as Edward I. Edward had French knights in his employ - but is it not outside the realms of possibilities that he had the two de Rait brothers (and maybe the other de Rathes) in his crusading entourage? And this is why they may have been rewarded with positions of authority in Nairn and “allowed” to build Rait Castle and why Andrew de Rait became in essence the King’s messenger. We still don’t know, though, whether they may have been indigenous Scots or imported Normans.  

On the other hand, if Gervase died in 1297 and was third generation (as possibly indicated by the engrailed cross - page on see Heraldic Symbolism at bottom under Differencing of Arms), then his grandfather was probably born no later than about 1200. (Assuming Gervase was say at least 47 when he died, then he would have been born c 1250; say his father was in his early twenties when Gervase was born, then he would have been born c 1225; and if his (Gervase’s) father was also in his early twenties when his son was born, then he himself was born about 1200.) If this scenario is reasonable, then it just might be that the grandfather (or possibly the father) who took the cross and went crusading - there were several crusades in the early 13th century.

But here is another thought - Jordan de Raat owned lands in Lincolnshire in the time of Henry III (Edward I’s father) i.e 1216-1272. Henry does not appear to have gone on a crusade - he, like his father John before him, was occupied with his French territories. However, John’s brother, Richard, was active in the Third Crusade. Jordan is an odd name for a child in early days, but the name was apparently taken from the River Jordan - perhaps pointing to the fact that he was named by his father who had been on a crusade - and who was thus rewarded with lands on his return. Jordan may then very well be the father or grandfather of Gervase and Andrew! Incidentally, the name Rait is listed in the Battle Abbey Roll as a Norman knight who came over to England with William the Conqueror in 1066 and fought at the Battle of Hastings. The entry mentions Jordan de Raat, as well as others such as Gervase and Thomas, but clearly it was none of these who were there in 1066 - though it was probably one of their ancestors.

Tuesday 18 February 2014