To all Maitlands:

As you read these articles about historic Maitlands, remember that they are your kinsfolk - we are not writing about strangers, but members of your own family. You may not know exactly how you relate to them, but that does not matter - records were scanty until recently for all the population, apart from landowners, and even then it was the land which was recorded, not the owners.  But the land records included information about the people who lived on it, and from these we derive much of our early history. Gifts to the Church were especially informative because the clergy used to include details of the donors' wife and eldest son in the deed of gift. This was not out of kindness, or interest in the family, but to associate both wife and son with the decision to give the land, so that they could not challenge the transaction after the donor's death.

Read on, and learn about your forefathers.... 


Sir Richard Mautalent

Sir Richard Mautalent,– lived say 1230 – 1296 ? -  the earliest undoubted ancestor of the family of whom any substantial amount is known, probably came from ‘Chivington’ (Chevington), in Northumberland. He married Avicia, daughter and heiress of Thomas de Thirlestane and thereby acquired the lands of Thirlestane, Hedderwick and Blyth  before 1258. The area has has long been known as Lauderdale, a valley running south-east of Soutra Hill, south of Edinburgh

Sir Richard defended his castle against English invaders including Edward I of England (1272 — 1307). He married Avicia, daughter of Thomas de Thirlestane, from an old established Northumbrian family, whose wife Agnes had held Thirlestane, and another castle at Abertarff on Loch Ness for about twenty years after her husband's death until her daugher was old enough to marry Richard.

William Mautalent

William Mautalent of Thirlestane - before 1258 - 1315 - was a follower of Robert the Bruce (1276 — 1329).William called Burd—alane, eldest son of Sir Richard, referred to himself as ‘Willelmus Mautaland filius Ricardi Matalent'. He was in possession of Thirlestane by 1293. Note the variant spellings - Mautaland & Matalent in one sentence.

Robert Mautalent 

Robert Mautalent ca 1290 - 1346 is traditionally the eldest son of William Burd-alane. He had from King David II of Scotland (1329-1371) a charter of the lands of "Ladystoun, Bagvie and Boltoun juxia aquam de Tyne’ and confirmation from the same King in 1345 of lands of Lethington which he held from Giffard of Yester. From the terms of a charter to their son, his wife appears to have been a sister of Robert Keith, Marshal of Scotland.

With his brother, Robert was killed at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, near Durham on October l7th, 1346. Twelve thousand Scots were defeated by an English army led by King Edward III. Approximately seven years later King Edward invaded Berwick; a campaign of flame that was called the Burnt Candlemass. The tallest candle was the abbey church of Haddington. This was at the very doorstep of Lethington (now Lennoxlove) which was also a Maitland stronghold.

Sir Robert had four sons, John, William, Robert and Alexander. The eldest, John Mautallent, died in 1395. He and his younger brother was the founder of the two earliest Maitland lines as these are now known.

The Aberdeenshire Maitlands

The Aberdeenshire Maitlands stem from Robert Matilland who married the daughter and heiress of Schivas of that Ilk: he was alive in 1380:and is described in 1417 as "Dominus de Schewes" near Aberdeen (i.e. Lord of Schivas).  The Maitlands of Balhalgardy, near Inverurie live close to the site of the Battle of Harlaw (July 24, 1411). 50,000 highlanders fought against 10,000 defenders of Aberdeen. The conflict was bloody and indecisive, as both parties retreated under the cover of darkness. Maitlands have farmed this area since that battle in which their forebear left his plough to join the conflict.

John Mautallent of Thirlestane and Lethington

John Mautallent of Thirlestane and Lethington  ca 1330 – ca 1380  married first Felicia in 1350 and secondly Agnes. Agnes was the sister of George Dunbar, Earl of March; from whom John had a charter dated August 23rd, 1369 for the lands in Dumfriesshire of Tybres (Tibbers) excluding the castle. 

Sir Robert Mauteland

Sir Robert Mauteland, Knight of Thirlestane   before 1364 – about 1434. He was knighted by 1390, and in 1401 obtained a crown charter of the lands of Tibbers, less the castle formerly held by the Earl of March. In 1422 he is described as Lord of Lethington. Robert married Marion Abernethy in 1392. They had three sons: James Maitland of Auchenbreck in Dumfriesshire; Robert Maitland, one of the hostages for the ransom of King James 1st in 1424; and William Matelande of Thirlestane. James Maitland of Auchenbreck was the forebear of the Maitlands on south-west Scotland,  including later on the Fuller-Maitlands and the Maitlands of Loughton in Essex. Some fifteen generations later the family live at Cumstoun, Kirkcudbrightshire in the south-west of Scotland. Robert died without issue. His son William became Matelande of Thirlestane.

William Matelande de Thirlestane and of Ledington

William Matelande de Thirlestane and of Ledington after 1392 – after 1464   mortgaged Thirlestane in 1450 (old Thirlestane, the peel tower two miles south of the present castle) to Alexander Forrester of Corstorphine whose family retained technical possession until the debt was cleared by Sir Richard Maitland in 1586. By 1404 he is described as "of Ledington" and married to Margaret Wardlaw. His son, John Maitland, is described as heir apparent in 1404.

William Maitland of Lethington

William Maitland of Lethington
William Maitland of Lethington

William Maitland of Lethington  before 1471 - 1513  was heir to his grandfather William of Ledington. His Aunt Margaret Edmonstone who sought to bastardise him, but he maintained his claim to Lethington and recovered his inheritance. He married Martha or Margaret, daughter of George, 2nd Lord Seton.  William was killed alongside King James VI of Scotland and twelve Scottish Earls, when they were defeated by the forces of King Henry VIII at Flodden, near the River Tweed, on September 9th, 1513.














A Castle in Brittany in 1355

We found at the museum at Landevennec a copy of a report made in 1296 by the Vicomte d'Avranches.  He reported on Landevennec   "I went to Saint Grimolei due Bois" - so we can be confident that the castle was indeed at the Abbey of St Guénolé de Landevannec. See below


            A newly found charter dated 1355 is a highly significant document relating to our family history. The Editor has worked with Francis Mautalant of Caen to interpret the significance of the charter. 

Records of our family in Normandy in the mediaeval period are scarce – there are only four:

            1066  -  Roll at Battle Abbey recording a Mautalent as a combatant at Hastings

            1274     Record of a Mautalent who gave up two fiefs in Guernsey in 1204

            1355     Charter granting Johannes Mautalent the fief of Saint Grimolino in the Woods in Brittany

            1492     Richard Mautalent transfers land at Les Moitiers d’Allonne to a vassal  of the d’Anneville family.

                        The Seigneurs d’Anneville are one of the oldest noble families in France, and were dominant

                           in the Cotentin.


The Charter

            The 1355 charter gives Johannes Mautalent command of a small castle in Brittany. 

Francis Mautalent of Caen found this charter in the archives:

Rex [Angliae] omnibus, etc. Sciatis quod, pro bono servicio quod dilectus noster Johannes Mautalent nobis impendit, concessimus ei custodiam castri de sancto Grimolino de Bosco in Britannia, una cum patria de Penmark ac parochiis circumadjacentibus, quse per conquestam lucratus est, habenda et tenenda usque ad íinem sex annorum proxime sequentium " ;

 quoted by de la Borderie (III. 540) from a MS. in the Moreau collection in the Bibliothéque National.« 

And translated it means

King [of England] to all etcKnow that for good service and our choice Johannes Mautalent has paid us, we grant him custody of the castle Saint Grimolino in the Woods in Brittany with the country of Penmark [Penmarch] and the neighbouring parishes which were won by conquest, to have and to hold and for the next six years…

The charter is dated  7thJuly 1355 

Now this raises all sorts of questions. 

What was the King of England – Edward III -  doing in Brittany in 1355 ?

Where is the castle of Saint Grimolino in the Woods ?

How large was this fief?  

And who was Johannes Mautalent ?

What was King Edward III doing in Brittany in 1355 ?

This charter was issued during the early stages of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France which lasted from 1337 until 1453. Intermingled with this was the War of the Breton Succession between the Counts of Blois (supported by the Kings of France) and the Montforts of Brittany. Initially supporting the Montforts, King Edward finally acknowledged Charles of Blois as Duke of Brittany in 1353, on condition of paying a ransom of 300,000 crowns and making a perpetual treaty of alliance with England. In1355 when the charter was issued, Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent was commanding in Brittany.

It looks as though the Duke of Brittany had ceded powers of granting fiefs, or the fief itself to King Edward.   We don’t know. 

Note the use of Britannia – this exclusively meant Brittany, because Great Britain was created by the Treaty of Union of 1707. 

Where is the castle of Saint Grimolino in the Woods  ?

Two sites are suggested. One is on the site of the Abbey of St Guénolé de Landevennec on the Penfeld river estuary in the Raz de Brest, and the other, the district of St Guénolé in Penmarch.  Francis is confident that the correct site of the castle is at Landevennec where abbey buildings were fortified, and could be described as “in the woods”.  Penmarch is a rocky coast with a small harbour.

The charter grants Johannes Mautalent the country of Penmark [Penmarch] and the neighbouring parishes about 100km to the south. If the grant had included all the land from Landenvannec to Penmarch the territory granted would amount to about 1,000 square kilometres – or say 400 square miles from the Penfeld estuary to the southern point of Brittany.    If a Mautalent had held 400 square miles of Brittany, surely he would have been a baron at least, and we would know of him through other charters.  So this seems unlikely.

St Guénolé on the coast in Penmarch has a small harbour and fortifications but cannot be described as “in the woods”.  

On balance, since Johannes Mautalent is not otherwise known to us it seems more likely that he held a castle and a separate fief than a 1,000 square kilometre fief, so the inference must be that Penmarch alone was granted to provide financial support for the castle. Why the abbey lands were not granted for the support of the castle is another mystery.  

Who was Johannes Mautalent ?

            Did Johannes Mautalent come from England, Scotland or Normandy?  It is difficult to envisage Edward III granting a castle of any sort to a Scotsman after the unsatisfactory (from his point of view) conclusion of the wars with Scotland which had ended with the Battle of Bannockburn forty years earlier.

            John Mautalent of Howick in Northumberland left England in a hurry in 1317 after being charged with rebellion against King Edward II and the Bishop of Durham in addition to the even greater crime of robbing a Cardinal. His land was forfeited and granted to the Grey family which still hold it. There is no report of his execution, whilst his associate Gilbert de Middleton was hanged, drawn and quartered on the site of the robbery. We do not know of any Mautalents in England outside Northumberland at this period.

            So is the John Mautalent of the charter the one who lost his land in Northumberland in 1317?  We can reasonably assume that John Mautalent of Howick was about 20 or 30 in 1317 – so 38 years later in 1355 would have been in his late 50s or older. People did live to advanced ages at this time if they survived childhood. 

After the Black Death plague of 1346 -1353 which killed about half the population, there was a shortage of men at arms to hold castles, so an efficient but elderly vassal might have been better than none at all. 

            The papal registers relating to Great Britain record John Mantalent donsel  [ a young nobleman] in Durham in 1354.

                We reckon that it was improbable that a military fief in time of war would be given to a man in his 60s in the middle ages, so was the fief granted to John Mantalent of the Durham registry ?  Spelling variations were frequent at this period, so the difference between John Mantalent and Johannes Mautalent is not significant.


The inspection made by  Vicomte d’Avranches in 1296

The castle of Sancto Grimolino de Bosco was indeed at Landevennec.  The Vicomte d’Avranches was sent to inspect Landevennec in 1296, to check if the abbey was trading with the English, and reported on the 17 May:

       From this place (Quimper), I went to Saint Grimolei des bois (Landevennec), a city where there were many riches and which was owned by the abbot of the place. I inquired as instructed and could not find anything. I saw the city that had been burned by enemies (the English) who had twice come in large numbers and had taken wheat, salt and wood to build boats. They had burned two large nefs (double ended boats) and stormed the abbey twice. They demanded that the abbey be surrendered to them. The monks defended themselves so that (the English) did no harm to it.

            Records show that the abbey was fortified by towers and a moat on the seaward side in the 14th century. It seems probable that fortifications were built after the Viking raids of the 9th century. The abbey is in a good defensive position, with marshes on the seaward side, which make attack impossible through the marsh or by water. We so far have no evidence of ramparts on the landward side to complete the defences, but the report of 1296 shows that the abbey could be and was defended against attack. It is probable that masonry from the defences on the landward side of Landevennec was used for building works in the abbey from the 16th century onwards and that the ramparts were obliterated by building in the village. (Most of the defensive walls of the Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen have also vanished.) Monasteries were well built and enclosed, and were thus defensible. Until the development of artillery they could resist attacks by anything apart from a royal army.   

            On the 29th May 1356 Pope Innocent VI authorized the bishops of Angers, Quimper and Leon to excommunicate anyone who committed violence against the religious of Landevennec and of their goods.

The abbey buildings were occupied in the 14th century by mercenaries – routiers  -  and English pirates.  So regrettably, we have to acknowledge that Johannes Mautalent was probably an English pirate.

            Since we hear no more of Johannes, it seems likely that he died during the Breton wars.