NORSEMEN & TANCARVILLE ON THE SEINE
(canton of Saint-Romain-de-Colbosc, Seine-Maritime)
Tancarville castle ruins
on the banks of the River Seine
AND THE NAME CHAMBERLAIN
Over a thousand years ago, in the ninth and tenth century many ships crewed
by Norsemen or Northmen, raided the shores of England and France from “Northmanna land” (Norway) and “Scania”
(Scandinavia). These Sea-Kings from the North were usually kinsmen of the northern “land sovereigns”. They were
a race of beings however, without a square metre of territorial property, without towns or visible nation, with
no wealth or dominion but their ships, no force but their crews, and no hope but their swords, who swarmed down
the western coastlands of Europe and into the Mediterranean every summer raiding and plundering in every
district they could approach.
One of the most prominent of
these Norse sea-kings was a Danish Viking, Ganger Hrolf (860-927), whose name was Latinised to 'Rollo'. Rollo
was born at Fakse (Faxe) on the island of Sjaelland, some 50 kilometres south-west of Copenhagen, Denmark where
today the ‘Rollo Stone' at Faxe commemorates his fame. Rollo and his followers seized, or extorted from the
Frankish kingdom, the coastal area of northern France and named it “Northmandi/Nordmandi” (Normandy). Their
possession of the land was formalized by the Treaty of St. Clair-sur-Epte between the Frankish king Charles III
of France and Rollo in the year 911. In truth, Rollo and his crew were being used by the Franks as a buffer
against other marauding ships appearing on their beaches. Through his family connections in Dan’s Mark
(Denmark), Rollo took the title of Duke of Normandy.
A thousand years later in
June 1944 these same Normandy beaches became the location for the ‘D-Day’ invasion and landings by allied troops
fighting in World War Two to bring Hitler’s Nazi plans for Europe to an end.
A foremost Norseman under
Rollo was Tancred who was with Rollo at St. Clair-sur-Epte, in 911, and began building a fortified castle, on
the first promontory guarding the mouth of the Seine River. (Picture above). Château de Tancarville was extended in the 11th century by his son Rabel or
Raoul, the chamberlain of Dukes of Normandy. In the 12th century the square tower was built with 1.65m thick
walls. In 1418 at the time of the conquest of Normandy by Henry V of England, the title of Earl of Tancarville
was given to John Grey. After the Hundred Years War the Harcourt family restored the castle. The ballroom was
built in 1468. In 1709 the castle was partially rebuilt by the Count of Evreux. After 1789, the castle was
plundered and partly burned. In the 1960s, the castle served as a summer camp for children. Today,
visitors to Tancarville may see the Castle ruins including the Eagle Tower atop the hill, and the Church of St.
Jean d'Abitot at the foot of the hill. 'Abitot' is Scandinavian - the ending 'tot' is old Norse for hill.
Variations of the spelling include Abbetot, Abetoth (Domesday book) and Dabitot.
Depending on who is
recording the information, Tancred's son was either Raoul or Rabel. 'Rabel's Isle' in the Seine and 'Rabel's
Foss', a moat around the Castle, are named for him. Rabel's son was Geraldus of Tancarville, who married
Helendis. Geraldus and Helendis had two sons –Raoul or Rabel II of Tancarville and Almericus d'Abitot. Raoul II
became Chamberlain to Robert the Devil, or Robert the Magnificent, no doubt depending on your interpretation of
history, who was Duke of Normandy from 1010 to 1035. Duke Robert, a fourth-generation descendant of Rollo, was
illegitimate father to William the Conqueror (1028-1087), who as a child was placed in Rabel II's care to raise
and mentor. Raoul continued to oversee William’s domestic affairs throughout his conquest of England in 1066. In
the same way that Rob the Baker became Rob Baker, or Rob the Farmer became Rob Farmer, the English descendants
of Raoul or Rabel II the Chamberlain, have used the surname ‘Chamberlain’ to this day.
A recent aerial
view of Tancarville Castle and suspension bridge built in the 1950’s crossing the Seine River.
|| It was fashionable in the 1500s and 1600s to spell surnames in several different ways.
Although common, the practice was not necessarily connected with migrating to a new location or
||Chamberlaine, Chamberlane, Chamberlayn(e), Chamberlaen, Chamberlen, Chamberlin, Chamberlyn,
||Chambellan(d), Cambreleng, Chamberland, C(h)amberlin,
||Camerlenghi, Ciamberlini, Camerlingo, Camerlengo, Camerlinghi, Ciamberbellani,
Today the Chamberlain family are spread far and wide across
the globe and I find myself living today in the twenty-first century, on a Ferny Creek hillside of the Dandenong
ranges looking out across Port Philip Bay where cruise ships bring their countless tourists to ‘raid and
plunder’—in the nicest possible way—the city of Melbourne and swarm across the Victorian country side.
FERNY CREEK IN THE
A home among
the gum trees with Koala bears. Lyre-birds and a Kangaroo--or
Creek, an outer suburb in eastern Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, is
33 km from Melbourne's CBD. It is part of the Local Government Shire of Yarra Ranges, and until the
tourists and visitors arrive has a population something less than 2000.
The suburb is built around but mainly to the south of Dunns Hill (height 561m)
with most of Ferny Creek lying between 400 and 550 metres above sea level. It is named for the stream running
through it, Ferny Creek. The suburb is largely surrounded by conservation zones and national parks, with the
Dandenong Ranges national park on its northern and west sides, the Upwey habitat corridor to the south and
Sherbrooke Forest to the east.
From early in its European history the area was used by
Melburnians as a place to get away from the maddening crowd. People came for weekend and summer camps and to gain
some relief from the oppressive heat. As a result, gradually over the years, simple "weekender" cottages developed.
As the city grew, all of the original forest was felled to build the many timber-framed, weatherboard clad
structures that still make up much of Melbourne's suburbia. All of the forest now to be seen is "regrowth" that has
happened since that early denuding process.
Today the area still attracts many visitors and tourists who
come to enjoy, amongst other things, the beautiful scenic drives and many walking tracks that are an integral part
of the local parks. One well known and very popular track quite close to Ferny Creek is called "The Thousand
Steps". This particular track has also become a local memorial to Papua New Guinea's infamous "Kokoda Track", and
the bloody battles fought there by Australians during WWII.
Dandenong Ranges in Autumn
Living in Ferny Creek, I am a fifth generation part of a pioneering family of
six who left their home in Preston Capes, Northamptonshire and sailed from Gravesend, England with 297 other
immigrants on Sunday 2nd January 1842. Enduring four months of very cramped conditions, aboard
the "London", and losing Edwin to bronchitis,
they were like so many other families, who lost the youngest members of their families to the cruel
conditions of that early migration (And when considering the plight of boat people migrating to our
shores in the twenty-first century, one is forced to ask, "What has changed?"). On their arrival at Port
Nicholson, an early name for Wellington, New Zealand, they were quite literally dumped on the
beach, and left to fend for themselves as they started a complete new life. The New Zealand
Company was very good at promoting the scheme under which so many migrants came, but was very poor in the
support they provided once these travellers had arrived.
This site is dedicated to the pioneering members of my
family, in all of their many branches. Their strength of character, fortitude and their vision has left a
magnificent legacy, a foundation on which we in subsequent generations can only hope to continue the building
process, and thereby pass the baton on to future generations. Today this family number in their thousands
across New Zealand and beyond. This is why I have used the word "Destiny" as the title for this
started, follow this link to the - Foreword & Table of Contents
enjoy - Ian
If you wish to search for a particular family, try typing the name into the
search-field in the top right corner and click "GO".