Can entitled English today trace their origin back to Normans? Linschoten, how do you know about your case, do you judge from your surname? |
The surname does provide a link (though it origin would not be apparent to most people from its present form because it has become altered over time because the English found it difficult to pronounce!), but a couple of my relations have been interested in genealogy and have traced the family history in some detail from records of various kinds. There are a village and estate in the SE of the country which have carried the family name (in its original form) since the 11th Century.
Very few of the titles carried by aristocratic English families date back any earlier than the 17th Century, and in general the nobility has not formed a closed caste as in some Continental countries, but has constantly been renewed from below, as Toltec remarks. No surviving titles at all date back to the time of the early Norman kings, even if there may have been continuity of landholding in some old families. The oldest surviving barony, that held by Baron de Ros, was granted in 1264, the oldest earldom in 1183 (that held by the Earls of Arundel, now a subsidiary title of the Dukes of Norfolk, who have their main home at Arundel Castle, and are themselves the oldest ducal family, dating back to the latter part of the 15th Century in the present line).