Monday, December 25, 2006

Chapter 3 - The Chauncy Family

Charles Chauncy (1592-1672)

Several years ago I began researching Charles Chauncy, my great (x9) grandfather. He was an interesting family ancestor for three reasons all of which made him a candidate for another chapter in our family history.

First, Charles Chauncy is notable because he was an early settler in the Plymouth Colony arriving in the year 1638, only 18 years after the landing of the Mayflower. Secondly, he is notable because he is listed in the Who’s Who of early American settlers, and thirdly, he is notable because of his family pedigree which we share in common.

We are fortunate to be able to trace Charles Chauncy’s ancestors back over 900 years from our present day for much has been written about him and his ancestors. Our common ancestors played a major role in English history and to fully understand this role it is worth providing a brief history of early England.

The period before the arrival of Julius Ceasar and the Romans in 55 AD is referred to as Prehistoric Britain. This is the time of the stone, bronze, and iron ages, the construction of Stonehenge in 2000 BC, the Druids and warring tribes of Celts, and of St. Patrick. There is essentially no recorded history from this period but it is know that man occupied the land from as far back as 5000 BC. The timeline of the Roman occupation of Britain spans from 55 BC to approximately 410 AD. During this period the Romans conquered most of Britain with the exception of Scotland. The famous Hadrian’s Wall was completed in 130 AD built to keep out the barbarians from Scotland. The Romans constructed engineered stone roads, fortifications, and cities throughout the land and introduced government and civilization. In doing so, they replaced the warring tribes and their primitive fortifications and villages constructed mostly of dirt and wood. Ultimately however, the Roman Empire declined and almost everything that the Romans had been built in Britain during their almost 400 years of occupation fell into ruin.

The time period between 410 through 1066 is referred to as the Anglo-Saxon period. During the 5th century, large waves of immigrants called Angles invaded Britain from the Schleswig area of southern Denmark and northern Germany. Additional westward movement by the Saxon peoples from the northern German coasts occurred during this same time period. Constant power struggles, intrigues, and alliances continued into the 6th century resulting in the native Britons falling back and losing almost all control in the southern regions of Britain. It was during this period that King Arthur (Artorius), a Briton, became a legend in English history as a result of his struggles against the Saxon invaders. It is doubtful that life in prehistoric Britain was anything like a “Camelot”.

Over the next 600 years, the Anglo-Saxons cemented their hold over Britain and by 1066 most of Britain was a unified kingdom. Besides having to almost exterminate the native Britons to gain power, the Saxons were exposed for over 100 years to constant raids of hostile Vikings from Norway and Denmark. By the end of the 9th century Alfred the Great finally stopped the Danes in a decisive victory. While Danish raids and invasions did not stop completely, and in fact for a period of several decades a Danish King actually ruled Britain, by 1042 an Anglo-Saxon king, Edward the Confessor, was once again in control and ruled until his death in the year 1066. He did not leave a clear successor and this was to lead to a power struggle. Edward was to be the last Anglo-Saxon kings, for at his death an event occurred that was to change the course of English history.

As a young Canadian schoolboy in the late 1950s, I was keenly aware of the importance of a special date in English history: October 14, 1066. I still remember that date 50 years later. I suspect even now that if a British grade school student can not recite that date and know its significance, he or she will be expelled from school and forever humiliated. In 1066, Duke William of Normandy invaded Britain and at the Battle of Hastings on October 14th, his Norman army destroyed the English army and effectively conquered England and ended the rule of the Anglo-Saxons. On Christmas day in 1066 at Westminster Abby, William had himself crowned King of England, thereby changing the course of English history forever. He was henceforth called King William I but he is more commonly known by the name of William the Conqueror. William began his reign quickly, brutally, and decisively by removing all Anglo-Saxon’s from power and from their land. He redistributed the land to all of his commanders and allies who were the elite who had provided the ships, horses, men and supplies for the invasion. They were granted the Lordships and huge estates. This dramatic change in power and control of England ultimately affected the English political and military systems, the language, the architecture, and much of the English culture. This change was obviously not well received by the Anglo-Saxons. The tale of Robin Hood is a product of their struggle as told in the story of the evil future King John, a Norman, and his pawn the Sheriff of Nottingham vs. Robin Hood, whose noble Anglo-Saxon father was killed by the Normans and his land stolen. In time however, the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans through intermarriage and cultural changes became one nation of people and their language which originally consisted of Norman French which the Normans spoke and the Anglo-Saxon dialect became one common language, English.

Now what does this have to do with our Charles Chauncy? It seems that the ancestors of our Charles were on the winning side at the Battle of Hastings. Many of them including his great (x 14) grandfather Chauncy de Chauncy were part of the invasion and received titles and land in England. I have identified from the list of known Norman commanders listed in the “Battell Abbey Rolls” at least eight of our ancestors including Roger Arundel, Hugue de Beauchamp, Guillaume Bigot, Robert Bigot, Gilbert de Neuville, Roger de Montgomerie, Hubert de Rie, and Ivo Taillebois who served William during the invasion. Roger de Montgomerie is particularly noteworthy as he was the cousin of Duke William’s, his childhood friend, and a close confidant. Roger was granted a huge estate in England in Sussex and credited with the construction of Arundel Castle, as Earl of Arundel (and later, Earl of Shrewsbury). Kathy and I visited the castle on a 1972 trip to England totally unaware that it was constructed by our great grandpa. We can now proudly that note that since our ancestor, Roger de Montgomerie, was William the Conqueror’s cousin it means that our family has the blood of William the Conqueror flowing in our veins. Wow!

Charles W. Brewster, a Portsmouth columnist in the mid-1800s, wrote the following about the pedigree of Charles Chauncy:

“Probably no family in Portsmouth can trace its pedigree beyond that of the Chauncy. Chauncy de Chauncy came into England with William the Conqueror in 1066, from Chauncy, near Amiens in France. The female branch goes back directly to Charlemagne and Egbert, about the year 800. The descendants occupied the estates in England, making but one change, up to the birth of President Chauncy in 1592.”

Charles Chauncy was born on November 5, 1592 in Yardleybury, Hertfordshire, England and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge where he graduated in 1613. He became a fellow of the college and for a number of years served as a professor of Hebrew and later Greek. In 1630, he married Catharine Eyre, daughter of Robert Eyre, one of England prominent surgeons. In 1626, Charles Chauncy was appointed vicar of St. Michael’s in Cambridge, and subsequently from 1627 through 1633, as vicar of Ware. From 1633 through 1637 he served as the pastor of Marston-Lawrence in Northamptonshire. Charles was obviously competent and highly intelligent. Unfortunately, he suffered some serious personality flaws. He was very opinionated, arrogant, outspoken, intolerant of the views of others, and short tempered. These were flaws that were to haunt him for the rest of his life. Twice he was called before the “high commission court” by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1630 and again in 1634, for refusing to follow the ecclesiastical regulations. On the second occasion he was suspended and imprisoned. In both instances he recanted, but then later formally withdrew his recantations which caused him for the rest of his life self-reproach and humiliation.

Following orders in 1637, he emigrated to America and from 1638 until 1641 he served as an associate pastor at Plymouth and from 1641 through 1654; he served as pastor at Scituate, Massachusetts. Even in the new world his eccentric beliefs continued to get him in trouble. For example, in Plymouth he was an unspoken advocate of requiring that infants be totally immersed in water when baptized. The Pilgrims replied, mildly but sensibly, that total immersion in water was not really convenient in their climate and they requested his departure. His service in Scituate was no less tumultuous and by 1654 he resolved to return to England. He relocated to Boston to facilitate his return. Fortunately, however, Harvard College was in immediate need of a new president. He was elected the second President in 1654 under the condition that he kept his views on baptism to himself in the future. He accepted the position and he remained President of Harvard until his death in 1672. As president, he seemed to have been eminently successful and due to the responsibilities of his workload, it seems he was able to curb the flaws of his personality. Taken all things into consideration, it is not too shabby a resume.

Charles Chauncy had six sons all of whom graduated from Harvard. One of his sons, the Rev. Israel Chauncy, is credited with being one of the founders of Yale. His great grandson, Charles, graduated from Harvard in 1721, and is credited with being the pastor of the first church in Boston, a prolific ecclesiastical writer and prominent cleric, and an earnest patriot during the American Revolution. We are related to Charles Chauncy through great grandfather Ferree’s mother’s side of the family, the Hutchinsons.

1 comment:

Raindancer1 said...

Very interesting blog article. I came across it while working on my Chauncey line and found it quite in line with my research..quite likely where my grandmother got some of her stubborn disposition from!