Coat of Arms - The Medieval Baron de Welles Family

Coat of Arms
The Medieval Baron de Welles Family

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This is one of the best known Wells coats of Arms. It has been used (and abused) by so many Wells families that it has become almost the Wells family Coat of Arms. This has shown up in or on the cover of probably more Wells family genealogies than any other. Not only is it the best known, but variations of it have been used on the majority of other coats of arms granted to various Wells families over the centuries (including the 20th).

It is very possible that this coat of arms could be legitimate for living members of various Wells families, but as you will see in this article, you will have a devil of a time proving your direct lineage back to the family which originally used it and to whom it was granted.

If you see one of those advertisements for a Coat of Arms for the Wells family that you can buy and hang on your wall this is most likely the one you would receive, although "artistic license" may provide a slightly different rendition than the original, and this rendition cover is probably not exact.

You can also see this coat of arms in the original "Disneyland Castle" in Germany built by Kaiser Ludwig (the "Mad King"). In the castle Neuschwanstein there is a room depicting King Arthur's round table and the walls of the room are adorned with shields which supposedly belonged to the Knights of the Table Round. This room was constructed near the end of the 19th century and really has little basis in authenticity. A replica of The Baron de Welles Shield is among those adorning these walls.

This Coat of Arms was used by the medieval Baron de Welles family of England. You can read much on the theories of the origin of this family, but we have yet to see anything that is substantiated in fact other than the following which comes from a number of different books, articles and other sources on the subject including our own research at the British Library and Museum in London where we examined several early manuscripts on the family. None of which, by the way, were very impressive documents.

Due to uncertainty of this origin and the obvious "creative writing" that has been applied to the subject over the years, we will simply avoid any reference to the early origin of the de Welles specifically and the Welles/Wells family in general and simply discuss what appear to be some of the "facts" on the family at hand.

The medieval Baron de Welles Family

The first mention that we have seen of the Coat of Arms being discussed here is in a reference to the siege of Carlaverock in July of 1300 "Adam de Welles la Portoit, Jaune o une noire Lyon rampant, Dont la coue en doubles se espant". This reference is from Nicolas', Siege of Carlaverock, page 32. It describes the coat of arms as bearing a black lion rampant, with a double tail and that it is on a gold field.

The english equivalent of the description of this coat of arms is:

On a field of Gold, a black double tailed lion attacking. The crest (not shown on our cover) is a black demi lion (half lion) with double tail rising out of a knight's helmet. The motto most often attributed to this coat of arms is "Semper Paratus" or Always prepared (sound familiar? - "be prepared" is the motto of the Boy Scouts).

The official terminology is:

Or, a lion rampant, double-queued, sable, armed and langued gules. (The tongue of the lion is depicted as being red.)

As stated above, the first reference is in conjunction with Adam de Welles (spelled that way when he was summoned to Parliament 06 Feb 1298/9 by writ and served until 16 Jun 1311). Through this he was deemed to have been granted Barony by Writ. Specifically as the Baron de Welles (or de Welle). Adam de Welles apparently fought in many battles for England and was often among the forces combating the Scots. He was also Constable of Rockingham Castle and Keeper of the forest between Stamford and Oxford (1298-1307). 12 Feb 1300/1 he joined in the Barons' letter to the Pope sealing it with his seal bearing "a lion with a forked tail - bore the legend: Sigillum D'ni Ade de Welle" (Ancestor, vol. vii, p. 259).

According to a pedigree in "The Complete Peerage" by Geoffrey H. White, 1959, Vol. XII, part 2, pages 436-450 the family leading down to Adam is as follows. We have not checked out the references here and make no claim that any of it is correct. We only present it here as something for further research if someone feels it is worth looking into. We suggest you start with the work indicated.

"Ravemer, Ravemer, or Ragemer was a tenant of Gilbert de Gant in Claxby St. Andrew, Withern and Weil, Lincolnshire when the "Domesday Book" was compiled. He is said to have died before 1115-1118 when he had been succeeded by his unnamed sons.

"Walter, s/o Ragemer", held of Walter de Gant 1115-1118.

"Walter, son of Walter, witnessed deeds of the Gant family in the middle 12th century. In 1166 he was tenant of Simon, Earl of Nottingham, for 6-1/2 knights fees. He married the sister of Gilbert de Gant, Earl of Lincolnshire, daughter of Walter de Gant, by Maud, daughter of Stephen, Count of Brittany. Walter died before 1198.

"Robert de Welle son and heir of Walter farmed the " Honor of Haughley", Suffolk, also known as the "Honor of the Constable". {WFRA Editor's note: I can't see the positive connection between Walter and Robert in this text, but there are several references that, if checked, might prove the connection.} "Robert is mentioned often in the Pipe Rolls {which have been suspected as being largely false - WFRA Editor} where he was mentioned as being the surety for the debts of Simon, Earl of Nottingham (see above); and was also himself in debt to the Jews and assumed the burden of his father's debts to the Crown {This might prove the link! If anybody ever checks it out, please let us all know - WFRA Editor}.

"He made grants to Greenfield Priory {see further on this under Adam and later}, to Bardney Abbey and to William Rufus called his kinsman. He married Maud and died before 'Mich. 1206'. His widow survived him.

"William de Welle, son and heir of Robert, served on the expedition to Ireland in 1210. In March 1215/6 he paid 20 marks fine to buy the King's favor, but in May 1217 his lands were granted to Fulk d'Oyri. His fortunes rose and fell through the years as witnessed by several records. He was appointed January 1240/41 to view the royal castles in Lincolnshire. He married in or before 1207, Emma daughter and heir of William De Grainsby. William died 1241-42 as his lands were held by his son, Robert de Welle in 1242-43.

"Robert de Welle, son and heir of William married Isabel, daughter and coheir of Adam De Periton of Ellington, Northumberland, Faxton, Northants, and Rampisham, Dorset. She was "probably" daughter of Sarah. Robert died shortly before 24 Sep 1265. His widow married after 25 Jul 1266 and before 1269 William (De Vescy), Lord Vescy, died shortly before 5 Jan 1314/15 and was buried in Malton Priory, County York.

"Philip de Welle apparently 1st son and heir of Robert, was a minor at his father's death and was living in 1276 when his name appears as Robert's heir on the Hundred Roll in 1275 and 1276. A curious footnote to the next two entries is that a Philip de Welle described as the brother of Adam de Welle appears at the battle of Falkirk in 1298 (Gough, Scotland in 1298, p. 172). He died without offspring.

"William de Welle, brother and heir of Philip paid 40 marks for respite from knighthood in 1279 and was in possession of his lands by March 1280/1. He married Helwise and died without offspring. On 10 Oct 1283 he was granted a weekly market at Alford, Lincolnshire.

"Adam de Welle (or Welles), was a brother and heir of William. He was sued in 1290 concerning the new market mentioned above in Alford, Lincolnshire where he was described as brother and heir of William, who maintained the market. Adam had two sisters Cecily de Welles and Aline de Welles who did not marry. He married on or before 18 July 1310 Joan, widow of Walter FitzRobert and daughter and heir of Sir John Engaine of Laxton and Blatherwycke, Northants by Joan, daughter and heir of Sir Gilbert De Greinville, of Hallaton, county Leicester. Adam died 1 Sep 1311 and was buried in Greenfield Priory which, according to his son's will, was built by him, and Joan died 1 Jun 1315 and was buried with him:

Robert de Welle m: Isabel De Periton

{WFRA Editor's note. When I first learned that several members of this family were buried at Greenfield Priory in Lincolnshire, in my ignorance I decided in 1986 to search out the Priory and see if any of the tombs or tombstones were still readable. I obtained an old map of the 1700's which showed Greenfield Priory and traveled to the place where it was shown on the map. What I found was an old farm house in the middle of "nowhere" and absolutely no sign of any Priory. The woman who rents the farm told me that the only sign of any earlier structure that they had ever seen was the faint outline of the old moat that once surrounded something on the property. A local "historian" told me that King Henry VIII had done a good job of destroying as many Catholic buildings as he could. Apparently Greefield Priory was one of them.}

"Robert de Welle the second Lord Welles was the son and heir of Adam and Joan. He was born 1 Jan 1296/7 at Blatherwycke and baptized in the church of the Holy Trinity there. According to some records he had two younger brothers, Adam de Welle and John de Welle. He succeeded his grandmother, Isabel shortly before 5 Jan 1314/5 and was given seisin of his lands on 9 Feb 1318/9. He was summoned against the Scots in 1319 and served at the siege of Berwick in 1319. He died shortly before 29 Aug 1320. {one wonders if as a consequence of a battle- Ed.}

"Adam de Welle, the third Lord Welles, brother and heir of Robert, was born 22 July 1304 and given seisin of his lands 22 Aug 1326. he also was summoned for service against the Scots (1333-1340) and in France and Brittany. He was summoned to Parliament 1332 to 1344. He married before 1334 Margaret. She died before him and was buried in Greenfield Priory. He died 24-28 Feb 1344/5 at age 40 and was also buried in Greenfield. His will is dated 24 Feb 1344/5 and proved in Lincolnshire Cath., 4 Apr 1345.

{WFRA Editor's note: In Adam's will are mentioned his brother Sir John de Welle, his two sisters Margaret de Welle and Cecilia de Welle who were nuns at Greefield Priory, and his son and heir John de Welle. A reference to his nephew Robert de Malberthorp implies that there was a third sister. Other information indicates that there was an Aunt Margaret de Welle who was Prioress of Greenfield who was probably the sister of Adam. The importance here is that if Sir John de Welle left descendants, they would also be entitled to the family coat of arms, but John may also have had is own. This is something we do not know at this point.}

Adam de Welle - First Baron de Welles m: Joan

"John de Welle, son of Adam de Welle II and Fourth Baron de Welles was born 23 Aug 1334 at Bonthorpe, Lincolnshire and baptized that day in the church of St. Helen, Willoughby. He was given seisin of his lands 27 Aug 1355. He too was summoned to fight the Scots ( 1355) and for other battles. He was summoned to parliament 1357 to 1360 as Johanni de Welle. He married Maud who was "probably" the daughter of William de Ros, 2nd Lord Ros of Helmsley by Margaret sister and coheir of Giles de Badlesmere, 2nd Lord Badlesmere and daughter of Bartholomew, 1st Lord Badlesmere. {The post nuptial settlement was made in 1344/5 when he was 10! - strange marriages were made in those days.} John died 11 Oct 1361 at age 27. Maud died 9 Dec 1388. John and Maud are known to have had at least one son.

John de Welle - Fourth Lord Welles m: Maud

"John de Welle (afterwards de Welles), son and heir of John and Fifth Lord Welles was born 20 Apr 1352 at Conisholme, Lincolnshire and was baptized that day in the church of St. Peter. He was summoned into parliament 1375 to 1420 as both Johanni de Welle and Johanni de Welles. In may 1390 he and Sir David Lindsay, afterwards 1st Earl of Crawford, performed a notable feat of arms on London Bridge, where Welles was unhorsed at the third course. John married 1) before May 1368 Eleanor, daughter of John de Mowbray, 4th Lord Mowbray; and 2) before 13 Aug 1417 Margery {Neither of these marriages seem confirmed.} The only known child of John seems to be:

"Ives (or Eon) de Welles, son and heir of John by his first wife. He was fined 100 marks and pardoned for taking part in the rebellion of 1405. He married Maud de Greystoke daughter of Ralph de Greystoke, 3rd Lord Greystoke. He appears to have died prior to his father, John. His only known son (a daughter supposedly married John Lawrence of Brixton) was:

"Lionel de Welles, grandson and heir of John, Sixth Lord Welles, was born 1406. He was knighted in the Parliament at Leicester 19 May 1426 by the infant King Henry VI, and had seisin of his lands on 5 Dec 1427. He was summoned to parliament from 1432 to 1460 as Leoni de Welles. Lionel was killed at the battle of Towton on 29 Mar 1461. He married 1) 15 Aug 1417 (age 11) Joan or Cecily Waterton, daughter and heir of Robert Waterton of Methley. He married 2) 14/20 Apr 1447 Margaret Beauchamp, daughter of John Beauchamp of Bletsoe and widow of 1) John Beaufort, first Duke of Somerset, and widow of 2) Sir Oliver St. John. Lionel died 29 Mar 1461 aged about 55 and was buried with his first wife at Methley. His will is dated 7 Oct 1457 at Wakes Colne, Essex. After his death he was "attained" by Act of Parliament whereby all his honors were forfeited.

Lionel de Welles m: 1) Joan or Cecily Waterton

Children of Lionel and Cecily were:

Lionel de Welles m: 2) Margaret Beauchamp. Children of Lionel and Margaret:

"Richard de Welles, son and heir of Lionel by his first wife, Joan, and Seventh Lord Welles was born cir 1428/30. He was knighted shortly before 31 Jan 1352/3 when he had seisin of his wife's lands. He was present in Parliament by consequence of this marriage in 1453 as Ricardo Welles de Willughby, thus becoming Lord Willoughby on or before 15 Mar 1453. He was also at Towton where his father died and was wrongly reported killed. 9 Oct 1646 he was granted all his father's goods forfeited by the attainder and had seisin of his paternal estates 11 July 1465 by Act of Parliament. June 1467 he was restored as the Seventh Lord Welles. Richard and his only son Robert de Welles became involved in the schemes of Warwick and Clarence against King Edward IV and Richard was beheaded by the King's order 12 Mar 1469/70 at the Queen's Cross, Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Richard married 1) probably by 1446 Joan Willoughby, Baroness Willoughby, daughter and heir of Robert Willoughby 6th Lord Willoughby. Richard married 2) 10 Aug 1468 Margery Strangeways daughter of Sir James Strangeways of Harlsey Castle in Osmotherley, County York and widow of John Ingleby. Richard's only son:

"Robert de Welles son and heir of Richard by his first wife and Eighth Lord Welles and Willoughby was arrested and beheaded at the king's order on 19 Mar 1469/70 at Doncaster.

Robert de Welles married Elizabeth Bourchier, daughter of John Bouchier 1st Lord Bouchier. He died without heirs.

"Richard de Welles had also a daughter Joan de Welles who, after the death of both her father and brother, inherited the property and title of her father as Baroness de Wells after the parliament reversed the attainders on same. She married Sir Richard Hastings who, for a time, became the Ninth Lord Welles and Willoughby until the death of his wife shortly before 1475 at which time the titles and property reverted to her uncle:

&Quot;John de Welles also known as Sir John de Welles who had also received the title of Viscount Welles and was summoned as such to parliament 1 Sep 1487. John was the second and last son of Lionel de Welles by his second wife. John married about 1487 Cecily 3rd daughter of Edward IV by Elizabeth Wydvill daughter of Richard Wydvill. She was sister of Elizabeth, the Queen Consort. John became the Tenth and last Lord Welles on the death of his niece Joan. John died without children and the male line of this family (as documented) expired, taking with it the titles to the Barony of Lord Welles and the rights to the Coat of Arms. The Barony was declared extinct in the 1800's.

There were four daughters of Lionel by his first wife who inherited some of the properties of the last Lord Welles. These were:

  1. Cecily de Welles (d: 1480) m: Sir Robert Willoughby.
  2. Margaret de Welles (d: 3 Jul 1480) m: Sir Thomas Dymoke
  3. Eleanor de Welles m: 1) Thomas Hoo, 1st Lord Hoo; 2) James Laurence; 3) Hugh Hastings (not proven)
  4. Katherine de Welles m: 1) Sir Thomas de la Laund 2) Robert Tempest

From the above it can be seen that it is not likely that anyone can trace their heritage directly back to this family via the male line. However, it is very possible that there were sons of some of the earlier male members of this family that did indeed leave descendants.

The problem is that they may not be documented and it is going to be a very difficult job for anyone to prove such a line. We would be very interested in seeing the material from anyone who has accomplished this. In principle, anyone who can prove a direct lineage to a son of any of the men who carried the title of Lord Welles would be authorized to use the coat of arms.

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