A Brief History of Baron Edouard and "The Jutes"</EM>
A Brief History of Baron Edouard and "The Jutes"

  by Jacqueline Chute, 2001

We Chutes have at least three oral traditions we keep passing along to each other: one is that we all descend from a Norman noble named "Baron Edouard LeChute" who came over the English Channel with William the Conqueror, distinguished himself admirably in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and proceeded to lay down stakes around his newly acquired British property. The property he acquired, located in Taunton, was handed down through the family until Robert, his grandson, built a manor house there; this manor house was inherited by his son Alexander, identified as a "Chewte" by this time, and there our documented history began. This tale would be a delightful one, if anyone could find the documentation to support it.

Unfortunately, there is no one by the name of Edouard LeChute, LeChoute, LeShoute (or any number of our usual variations) on either the Battle Abbey Roll, the list of nobles who accompanied William the Conqueror, or the Domesday Book - which was written down some years later, listing everyone who had property before and after the Invasion. Now, not every Norman who settled in England after the invasion was listed in these rolls, that is true. However, a Baron isn't just "anyone". A Baron is nobility, and, as we would say, "at the very top of the food chain". Nobles tended to get mentioned. Others were. Ours wasn't. So, already we have at least some reason to begin questioning our own oral tradition.

The other difficulty with Baron Edouard is his title. Throughout his reign, William the Conquerer held two distinct titles: after the invasion he was crowned King of England, but he also retained his Norman title, Duke of Normandy. Throughout his reign he traveled back and forth between France and England, as ruler of both areas, and in fact died while in Normandy. The most powerful Normans affiliated with William, and who received grants of land from him as reward for their support and participation in the Battle of Hastings were vassals and (generally) kinsmen of William, Duke of Normandy. A quick perusal of the history of William the Conquerer will reveal a plethora of Counts (comte), viscounts (viscomte) and knights (miles or chevalier) - along with other dukes, but the title "Baron" was not commonly used in French Normandy at that time. The term "barons" has been used by historians to generalize "men of nobility", but is not often seen as a specific title. And the title of Baron didn't exist in Briton until 1264.

Another problem is the surname itself. Surnames did exist, but it was far more likely for someone to be known by their estate, place or origin, or identifying characteristics (i.e., William the Conquerer, Charles the Bald, Odo of Bayeux, William of Eu). Someone with the actual surname of Edouard LeChute would stand out in this crowd. It is not as though time has erased all records, if they existed, from that era. There are numerous charters and other historical texts from that period of time in Norman and Anglo-Norman history.

The first time we read of our elusive Baron is in William E. Chute's Genealogy of the Chute Family in America (1894), and, unlike many of his other pieces of information, this one is not attributed to any specific source. We've all assumed that this pedigree is the one which Lionel Chute first brought with him to North America, and, in fact, that may still be true. But as explicit as he is with other sources, it is uniquely unusual that this piece is missing. This doesn't mean that there wasn't a "Baron Edouard LeChute" who came over the Channel with William the Conqueror, but the entire story is looking a little questionable by this point. There are several reasons why this might be so:

(1)   He wasn't a Baron at the time, but was later elevated to Baron, after the Battle of Hastings.

If he wasn't a member of an established noble house or family, he would have no doubt been aligned with one, in an administrative or military capacity. The years prior to the Battle of Hastings are marked by a considerable swelling in the aristocratic ranks, in Norman France. Historian Donald E. Davis attributes this to, among other things, the ruling style of the young Duke William ("The Conquerer") of Normandy, who cemented the loyalty of the ruling families under his rule by rewarding them with the land of his fallen enemies, enriching them as well as himself in the process. It was this great loyalty which enabled him to assemble the force he needed to subdue Britain in the Battle of Hastings, and it also created some extremely powerful families. These families were also rewarded with huge areas of land in Britain after the Battle of Hastings. A mere cursory scan of the document will reflect repeated listings of many such names. It was not uncommon for a noble who had inherited land from William after the battle, to in turn bequeath it to someone who had performed a valuable service for that family during the Battle, or as a reward for long-standing loyalty, while he himself remained in Normandy.

But the elevation to the rank of Baron presents a bit of a problem. Baronetcy's are traditionally given out only by monarchs, and needless to say, as neurotic as the British traditionally are about their pedigrees, even at that time, some sort of record of the bestowal of such a baronetcy would have shown up somewhere. But not during this period of time. In "View of the Extinct Peerage of England", we find, regarding the rank of Baron, "There are no titles of this class chronologically ascertained till the parliament called by Simon Montfort, earl of Leicester, in the reign of king Henry the third." That Parliament convened on 24 December 1264.

(2)  He wasn't a Baron at all, but a knight.

This is the more likely of the two possibilities, but would be disheartening from our point of view - he'd be much harder to trace. If Edouard actually were a knight, and his descendant Alexander a "Lord of a Manor", the problem would be with the generally stable nature of the old British "caste" system. The "Old Manor House" in Taunton, in which Alexander, according to oral tradition, lived, was reported (also by oral tradition) to have been built by the grandson of Baron Edouard. One generation (between Edouard and his grandson) seems a very short period of time to have elevated family fortunes from the status of a knight to the status of a wealthy landowner and resident of a "Manor".

But ... more bad news ... Alexander Chewte couldn't have been the owner of a manor. Not in Taunton and not in 1238. Why? Because, according to British records, including the Domesday Book and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, all of the property in and around Taunton at that time was owned not by laymen, but by the Bishops of Winchester. This is borne out by local historians as well. Unless Alexander was a descendant of a Bishop of Winchester ... and we're not about to venture down that thorny and unlikely path just yet ... he wasn't a "Lord of the Manor" in Taunton.

Another stroke against poor Alexander is the collation of other documents - such as the Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs,(3) covering the same period of time as the Domesday Records through the 13th century, and drawing upon charters issued by the monarchs over those periods as primary records. Being granted the right to host a market or a fair (which generated substantial revenue to whoever received the charter) would have been granted to the owner of the manor of the surrounding area. Here is the entry for Taunton during the period of time when Alexander was probably alive:

TAUNTON 3225 1244. Borough 934x51 (BF, p. 158). Mint c.979-1154. 1334 Subsidy �101.67. Borough in Domesday Book (Darby, p. 367). Market town c.1600 (Everitt, p. 471). M (Prescriptive: borough, mint) mercatum, recorded 1086. Market rendered 50s (Darby, p. 370). F (Charter) vf+2, Trans of Thomas the Martyr (7 Jul); gr 1256, by K Hen III to Amaury, [bp] elect of Winchester, brother of the king (CChR, 1226-57, p. 452). To be held at Mill Lane ('Millelane') at the manor of Taunton.

The web site itself contains the legend for translating the entire entry, but for our purposes: in 1226, the right to hold a fair commemorating the Transfiguration of Thomas the Martyr on July 7th was granted by King Henry III to Amaury, the Bishop Elect of Winchester, to be held at the Bishop's residence at Mill Lane, at the manor of Taunton. Recall that ownership of this property did not change hands, before and after the Norman Invasion. The Normans did not confiscate lands from the Church of Rome.

Could Alexander have lived in a home on the Bishop's property? Certainly, but not without the Bishop's leave. Could the house he lived in have been built by the grandson of one of his ancestors? Also possible, but not without permission. Was he the "Lord of the Manor"? Not unless one of the Winchester bishops went by the name of "Alexander" and begat some descendants. Which - given the time - is always within the realm of possibility (priests being married and having children was not unusual at the time; this began to change during a period of ecclesiastical reformation during William the Conquerer's lifetime) - but very unlikely in our case: the lives of the various Bishops of Winchester are generally too well researched and documented for such unexpected surprises at this late date. Could he have lived in an area NEAR Taunton, but not directly within its borders? Also possible, but he hasn't been found in surrounding areas, either - yet.

(3)There's plenty of evidence supporting the existence of Baron Edouard; we just haven't found it yet.

This would be absolutely wonderful, and if anyone is in possession of this documentation, hoarded away in their attic along with their collection of old tax records, bronzed baby shoes and ugly floor lamps, do please feel free to share it with the rest of us.

So here's another question that might arise: if Alexander couldn't have been "Lord of the Manor" in Taunton when oral history says he did, what did Edmund Chute sell to Lord Denham in 1502?

The answer is: he didn't sell him anything. There was a Lord Denham in 1502, but just barely, as we find in "Extinct Peerages" that "The title [of Lord Dinham, the earlier spelling of Denham] became extinct upon the death of John, lord Dinham, 1502." This title was extinct as late as 1790, but was re-created since then, as there is now a Lord Denham in Parliament. It seems awfully coincidental that the sale of the manor took place to a man in the exact same year that he died and his title evaporated - and in Oxfordshire, not Taunton.

Until then ... if Edouard the Baron can't be found, and Alexander Chewte couldn't have been a "Lord of a Manor" in Taunton ... who are we? Where does our genealogy really begin? And why the misinformation?

(4)   Somebody did some creative genealogy in order to avail himself of a title?

That would be at least one of our first guesses. Possible suspects: the Chutes around the time of Philip of Appledore, Sir George Chute/Choute of Surrenden, or the Challoner Chute line, esconced in the Vyne. If the pedigree reported by William Edward Chute was the pedigree Lionel brought with him, there would be few other choices than those. Lionel was closest, genealogically speaking, to the Surrenden group.

You might argue that most "Chutes", "Choutes" or "Chewtes" that we know of, traced their ancestry back to the Chewtes identified as Alexander, and before him to Edouard, whoever they were. If "Chutes" perhaps didn't arrive with William but in fact existed in England before the Battle of Hastings, why aren't there more lines of them, in Great Britain? Good point. On the other hand, if they did indeed arrive from Normandy, why aren't there more of them in France? The absence of "Chutes" and "Chewtes" prior to Alexander would almost make you suspect that Alexander had suddenly appeared out of nowhere. But, before you announce to your dismayed family that we're all descendants of an alien race who arrived, dumped Alexander on English soil along with a crop circle or two and then disappeared ... you might consider the other more realistic possibility that we can't find other lines of "Chewtes" because the name wasn't always "Chewte". As to whether this ancestor with the other name arrived with William the Conqueror, or was already living on British soil, is still open to debate.

Tuites, Jutes and Chutes

As to that "other name", the two leading contenders are the Norman origin of the Irish "Tuite" surname, and the oral tradition (also not attributed, and also unusually so) reported by William E. Chute. This was his suggestion that the name was descended from the word "Jute".

The surname "Tuite" in Ireland has two separate origins: the Norman "de Tuit", and the English version of the Gaelic "Mac Con Fhiacla" - "fhiacla" meaning "tooth", which, pronounced in English, became "Tuite". Fionnán de Tiúit, in an e-mail answering the question of pronunciation, quotes Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges in their A Dictionary of Surnames (Oxford University Press, 1987), who note that a Richard Tuite came to Ireland with Strongbow in 1170 from Normandy (Hanks and Hodges cited Burke's Peerage as their reference source), and that the Irish "Tuite" surname also derived from the Norman "de Tuit".

He pointed out that "it is correct to say that the Norman "de Tuit" is derived from a place in Normandy. However, that precise place is unknown, as the "tuit" suffix is recorded in 73 placenames in Normandy. A scholar at the University of Bergen in Norway has managed to make an entire PhD thesis out of the Tuit suffix in place names."

In other words, the original Chewte we're looking for may have been actually been an "Edward de Tuit" out of Normandy, rather than a "LeChute".

As for "Jute", there is at least one point in favor of this interpretation: the spelling of the name of our first recorded direct ancestor, Alexander Chewte.

Even by the time of the emigration of the American Lionel, the name was still often being spelled this way. And the spelling of his name at this point is interesting, because "Chewte" is an early anglicization of the word "Jute". For example, the town of "Chewton" in England comes from the word "Jute", or "Iute". There were a good many "Jutes" in England at the time of the Invasion. Many more of them did accompany William the Conquerer in the Battle of Hastings - Normandy was in fact land granted to the Viking Rollo (later Robert) by the French King; William the Conquerer was a descendent of Rollo. That we don't recognize Jutes as such no doubt had to do with the surname development process. "Mortimer the Jute" who was also a barrel maker could easily have become "Mortimer the Cooper", or "Mortimer Cooper" over time. In that case, a possible "Edouard the Jute" may designate us as one of the few Jute familes who kept their heritage and roots intact with their last name, which might also suggest that our earliest ancestors took a certain amount of surreptitious pride in their "Jute" heritage, even during a time when it was unpopular and sometimes even rather dangerous to do so.

So, whatever is a "Jute", anyway?

The Jutes were one of the three Scandinavian tribes which invaded Great Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire. The three tribes were the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes -- in fact, the word "England" comes originally from "Angle-land". The Jutes themselves originated from Jutland, a large area of southern Denmark. There are times when an author will be referring to the "Jutes" when he or she uses the word "Vikings". And while all three tribes pushed the occupants of Briton north (into what is now Scotland, Wales and Ireland), only the Jutes settled primarily in the Kingdom of "Caint" in southern England, in the area now known as "Kent".

You are already familiar with the "Jutes", without perhaps being aware of it. Hamlet, the Danish prince made famous by Shakespeare, was actually "Amleth", a Jutish prince. There are Jutes in "Beowulf". Historically, two of the more famous Jutes were the fraternal twin brothers, Hengest and Horsa (translation: "Stallion" and "Horse") who led a Jutish invasion into Briton. The entire Royal House of Savoy traces its legitimacy back to "Hengest the Jute", King of Kent, or (as he alternatively called), King of Saxony. Many of the tales of King Arthur and his court at Camelot talk about their battles with Danish knights, who would have been "Jutes".

Were we originally "Jutes"? Was "Edouard LeChute" actually "Edward the Jute"? Or were we Norman-French? (It should be noted that there are a considerable number of "Juteau"s in France, although one is not sure what to make of that. Same origins? Different origins?). Is it possible that both are correct, as Jutes did settle in Normandy and did accompany William the Conqueror. Or were we already in Briton when the invading Normans arrived?

Okay, you admit. (Grudgingly, because you took no small amount of pleasure in informing your snooty neighbors that you were descended from a French Baron. Don't worry. Now you can mention theories of descent from Danish Kings, and mumble about the early roots of the Royal House of Savoy.) Suppose we were "Jutes", as William E. Chute has suggested. Why would we pretend we were descended from a French nobleman named "LeChute" from Normandy? Our first answer would be: perhaps we did, although, again, we haven't found record of him yet.

If not, one very good reason might have had to do with the implications of living in the medieval Europe, and identifying yourself as a Jute. In both England and France, Scandinavian settlements had long been absorbed into the prevailing cultures of the lands they invaded. In Norman France, this absorption took the form of adopting first names that cut the ties of Scandinavian heritage - the very first duke of Normandy, Rollo (Rolf), a direct ancestor of William the Conqueror, had changed his name to Robert, for example, and adopted the Christian faith in place of his pagan beliefs. For an individual to separate himself from the rest of his countrymen by self-labeling himself as being of Danish descent took a certain degree of obstinance. To identify oneself as a Jute reminded others that the Jutes were not of the Christian faith, and even today are remembered - although not necessarily accurately - by many Celtic and Anglican Christians as being particularly brutal and vicious pagans, who all but singlehandedly wiped early Christian settlements, such as they were, off of English shores. The Jutes were, in short, the "bad guys", as far as the later Christians were concerned.

"About the middle of the fifth century the Saxon ships of Hengist and Horsa reached the British coast. They completely defeated the Picts and Scots. But now they in turn became the conquerors and masters of the ill-fated Britons. The Angles and other tribes poured in on the country; and although the Britons did not yield without a severe struggle, the Saxon power prevailed, and reduced the natives to entire submission, or drove them to seek shelter in the mountains of Wales, Cornwall, and Cumberland. The Saxons and Angles were not only wild warriors, they were savage and merciless. They exterminated Christianity wherever they conquered. According to Bede, the bishops and their people were indiscriminately slaughtered with fire and sword, and there was no one to bury the victims of such cruelty. Many emigrated, and some settled in Armorica, (Brittany), France. However, the Celtic Church survived in the northern and western districts. Britain, after this event, relapsed into a state of obscure barbarism, was withdrawn from the view of the civilized world, and was sunk down to the depths of misery and cruelty. In 563 Colum Cille arrived in Iona and brought the Gospel back again to (mainly northern) Britain."

Yikes. Well, before you start considering the various forms of penance necessary to assuage the guilt of such a history, remember the saying about history always being written by the victors. That isn't always true. In this case, history was in fact written by the vanquished, for one simple reason: the Jutes had a very strong oral tradition, but not a literary one that people familiar with the Roman alphabet could understand. They used runic symbols, probably acquired much earlier from Greek or Etruscan symbols. They carved most of their lettering into wood or stone; the earliest inscriptions found date back to the late 3rd century AD, although certainly they were in use much earlier. Unlike our alphabet, which becomes meaningful only when combined in a set order into words, each symbol or "rune" had "esoteric meanings and properties associated with it, beyond its mundane meaning and phoenetic value", and had a story, or a fable attached to it. Today you normally see runes only in conjunction with games of divination. Their style of communicating was very different than that of the people they vanquished. If any of them have written down their version of these events, archeology has yet to find it, so we have no sources to rely on, other than the perspective of the people they vanquished, and the tales they have passed along orally. And while the intruder is burning down your farmhouse, you're generally not running for pen and paper to capture his finer points of heroism and military strategy for posterity; and reporting enthusiastically on how well he treats his soldiers. No, your view is going to be somewhat skewed in your own favor - which is to say, you're going to depict your enemy as the most evil, brutal and vicious creature God ever made, while you, of course ... poor, innocent, saintly victim that you are ...

One version that was handed down to us was written by Christians such as the "Venerable Bede", who, having had his faith run out of town, was not kindly inclined towards the Danish Jutes. Were the Jutes brutal and vicious? Oh, no doubt. But then, so were the later Crusaders, wading in corpses all the way to the Holy Land. So were the Jesuits during the Inquisition. So were the British and United States armies, at one time or another. "The Jutes", says Greene, were doing nothing differently than any other man at the time - they were just doing it better." No doubt the Jutes themselves had an entirely different view on the matter. Other historians point out that the reasons the Jutes did as well as they did was due to the suffering of the Britons under Celtic and post-Roman rule. Slavery and serfdom were common. As to the Christian version of life after the Vikings arrived, other historians would disagree. The imposition of "Danelaw", many aspects of which exist to this day, were much more humane than laws under the early Roman and Christian law, which supported slavery and serfdom.

They would have perhaps appreciated Dr. Viggo Starcke's version of their history. Starcke wrote "The Viking Danes" for the National Travel Association of Denmark, in association with the "Viking-Expedition 1949", marking the 15th centenary of the arrival of Hengest and Horsa in England, 449 A.D.

"It was on [the British Island of] Thanet that the new-comers first pitched their tents. But after a few years fight broke out with the Britons. "They revolted over a matter of food supplies and overran the land." Food is always an important concern for human beings, and for the Jutes, too, it had its significance. It is said that when God first created a Jute, the first thing the Jute said was, 'Here I am!". The next, 'There is North." And thirdly, "But where is my food-wallet?" This shows his self-esteem, his shrewdness concerning nature and his sense of reality: all of which is quite reasonable, since he belongs to that race which later on was to furnish the best foodstuffs for British markets."

Were they as despised as the Bede suggested? Again, Viggo Starcke has a different view. He points out that the institution of Danish law, or Danelaw, on the Britons resulted in the abolishment of slavery, the institution of trial by jury, and numerous other advances in civilization:

"The Scandanavians were not barbarians. They merely had a different culture from that of Christian lands. Dirty and unwholesome they were not; but at first they were by no means liked. One explanation of why the Anglo-Saxons hated them is suggested by the Anglo-Saxon chronicler John of Wallingford, who says, "The Danes combed their hair every day, took baths every Saturday and changed their underclothing frequently, so that they were held in high favour by the ladies." Of course they were hated!"

(Those of us lounging around unwashed and wearing yesterday's Fruit-of-the-Looms, take note.)

If the Jutes, as was stated, relied on oral tradition more readily than written documents, we now may have the reason why we've been unable thus far to locate any written records of an "Edouard LeChute". Oral traditions are another matter. You might find it interesting (or not) that the entire history of story-telling in England is tied up with "Jutes". According to the "Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" (a bit of a misnomer since, once published, things are generally no longer considered secrets, are they?), the character of Ogdier the Dane was a mythical poet-king of medieval romance, a patron of bards, who attained a sacred marriage with Morgan le Fay, and was given, at the age of 100, a Crown of Oblivion to erase the memory of his former life. Okay, we're not completely sold on the "sacred marriage" and "Crown of Oblivion" end of it (even if many of us Chutes may have inherited that "Crown of Oblivion" ourselves on occasion), but if an "Ogdier the Dane" did, in fact, exist, he would have been a Jute. Certainly, Medieval bards who kept the oral traditions alive in the form of songs and ballads had their origins in the traditions of the Jutes. And, with possibly the sole exception of those pesky "Chewtes", it does appear as though every other "Jute" managed to somehow erase the "history of their former life".

It seems that perhaps eventually solving the mystery of "Edouard LeChute" may lie in paying a bit closer attention to the oral histories that have been passed down over time, via those songs, ballads, myths and fairy tales. Some historians are firmly convinced that the legendary King Arthur did exist, and are finding historical documentation of individuals who may have been the basis for the myths and legends which evolved from that time. More and more, historians are discovering that oral histories, myths, legends and stories sometimes do contain nuggets of historical gold. Perhaps we should start delving more deeply into the early origins of those Arthurian legends, into the stories Shakespeare used to create his Hamlet, into Danish folklore.

Bottom line? Pay close attention to the bards, and be careful not to boo at the black knights while engrossed in your favorite King Arthur story. First of all, King Arthur may have been a Saxon Hatfield to our Danish McCoy, and second, if you lift the surly knight's black helmet, you might find your own DNA in there. Thirdly, you've just been handed a genetic predisposition to both dramatic story-telling (any fishermen Chutes out there? Your "one that got away" stories no longer have to be ridiculed as "big fat lies", but as your hereditary imperative) and surliness on a silver platter, so use them wisely.

3. http://ihr.sas.ac.uk/cmh/gaz/somer.html#

Your opinions? Comments? Questions? Personal theories? Thoughts? Send them to: [email protected]
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