The earliest evidence for the Plant surname in England is found in proximity to a Longspée-Audley line of descent from the royal son Henry II of Geffrey Plante Genest (1113-51), who was the eldest son of Fulk V, count of Anjou. Fulk V (1092-1143) had married the only daughter of Elias, count of Maine in 1109, thereby uniting Anjou and Maine; but Geffrey Plante Genest's mother, Eremburge died in 1126; and his subsequent step-mother, Mélisande, married Fulk V in 1129. It is Mélisande who provides the supposed family link to Plantard in the pseudo-history of the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (HBHG) by the British authors Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln.
HBHG draws heavily on the so-called Razes genealogy of Henri Lobineau, which includes Hughes de Plantard and which ends with Badouin (d 1118), king of Jerusalem as the brother of Godfroi de Bouillon. However, the authors of the HBHG then make a particularly inept family link to "the Plantagenet family", as indicated in the following extract from HBHG:In 1131, he [Fulk V] married Godfroi de Bouillon's niece, the legendary Melusine, and became King of Jerusalem. According to the `Prieuré documents', the lords of Anjou - the Plantagenet family - were thus allied to the Merovingian bloodline.Though there is a linkage through successive kings of Jerusalem, the statement that this involved a niece of Godfroi is erroneous as follows:
The "happy go lucky" approach of the HBHG can be contrasted with the more meticulous work of serious historians who have scrutinised the contemporary records for Geffrey Plante Genest and his relatives. A primary source is the Chronicles of the Counts of Anjou, which is the work of several writers including Thomas of Loches, a chaplain of Count Fulk V; and, this work was given its final form in the 1160s by John, a monk of Marmoutier Abbey. A paraphrase of the entries for the years 1128 and 1129 reads:
- Godfroi, who became king of Jerusalem in 1099, was succeeded by his brother Baudoin; but this Baldwin did not father Melusine who married Fulk V. It was the daughter Mélisande of king Baldwin II, a distant cousin of Baldwin I, who married Fulk V and became the step-mother of Geffrey Plante Genest.
The HBHG refers to Melusine; but she appears in a quite different story from this one about Fulk V and his marriage to Baldwin's daughter Mélisande. The story of Melusine is by Gerald of Wales who penned hostile and vindictive satire on the fate which would overcome a sinful ruler, with particular reference to Geffrey Plante Genest's son Henry II. Fuller details are given in, for example, The Plantagenet Chronicles, General Editor: Elizabeth Hallam (Tiger Books, 1995):
- 1128. While Fulk was ruling Anjou, Touraine and the county of Maine in prosperity, King Baldwin II of Jerusalem sent envoys who were to consult prudent men and then to persuade a suitable man to wed his daughter and accept the kingdom of Jerusalem. On the advice of King Louis VI of France, the bishops and many distinguished men, they chose Fulk V of Anjou who had lost his wife.
- 1129. Crossing the sea with a large force, Fulk consummated his marriage with the King's daughter and became King of Jerusalem in 1129.In Gerald's story, an early count of Anjou returned from a journey with a woman, Melusine, famous for her beauty, whom he married. There were many strange things about her, the most shocking of which was that she was always absent from Mass at the consecration of the Host. Her true identity was discovered when her husband forced her to stay and see the body of Christ - a sight no evil sprirt could contemplate. Melusine flew screaming out of the window and was never seen again. She left behind two sons, from whom the later counts were descended.This story was associated with the saying "From the Devil they came and to the Devil they will return".
Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the HBHG adds:The `Prieuré documents' furnished us with the most plausible - perhaps, indeed, the first plausible - genalogy of Godfroi de Bouillon that has yet come to light ... it convincingly bridged a number of perplexing historical gaps. According to the genealogy of the `Prieuré documents', Godfroi de Bouillon - by virtue of his great-grandmother, who married Hughes de Plantard in 1009 - was a lineal descendant of the Plantard family. In other words Godfroi was of Merovingian blood. ... In the ninth century the bloodline of Guillem de Gellone had culminated in the first dukes of Aquitaine. It also became aligned with the ducal house of Brittany. And in the tenth century a certain Hugues de Plantard - nicknamed `Long Nose' and a descendant of the bloodline of both Dagobert II and Guillem de Gellone - became the father of Eustache, first count of Boulogne. Eustache's grandson was Godfroi de Bouillon, Duke of Lorraine and conqeror of Jerusalem.Snippets of this are true; for example, it is generally accepted that Bernard Plantevelu of Aquitaine was a descendant of Guillem de Gelone [Nathaniel L Taylor (1997) in The American Genealogist, 72 pp. 203-221; see also J S Plant (2003) Plantevelu and the meaning of Plant in Roots and Branches, 26, pp. 23-41]; but, as the authors of HBHG themselves say, their account controversially bridges "a number of perplexing historical gaps".
There is considerable evidence of coincident locations to link the Plant surname in England to the Longspée-Audley descendants of Geffrey Plante Genest, though it should be stressed that there is no evidence of a genetic connection. On the other hand, the HBHG invokes a long and tenuous family route to link an English bloodline Planta in England with Plantard in France and, in turn, with the Plantagenet family. This latter tenuous linkage of family connections has rightly been debunked by serious academics, though perhaps the HBHG could be getting a little closer to the mark when it states: "And the name Plantagenet might even have been intended to echo the name `Plant-Ard' or Plantard". Even with this, the book seems to be missing the point however. There is a lack of evidence that the `Plantagenet family' were using Plantagenet as a surname before the mid-fifteenth century, though their forebear Geffrey had the nickname Plantegenest (or Plante Genest) by around the 1160s. It is specifically the name Plantevelu that may have come from the same culture as the later name Plante Genest (hence Plantagenet) [John S Plant (2005) Nomina, 28, pp. 115-133, esp. pp. 123-24]; but, that involves points of onomastics, semantics, and philosophy; and that is not the stuff of popular fiction.
The descent of Geffrey Plante Genest from the counts of Anjou is much less controversial:
- a precursor to Plant - Geffrey Plante Genest and the counts of Anjou
Modern myth and the Plant bloodline