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The Bracey Family

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De Bracy

Knights of Old, Knights of Literature

When Sir Walter Scott wrote his classic novel, Ivanhoe, in 1819, he chose Maurice de Bracy as the name for one of the Norman knights who fought for Prince John in 1194.  The knight unsuccessfully pursued the lovely Rowena, the Saxon ward of Cedric of Rotherwood.  He fought the Black Knight, who was, in truth, Richard I, Coeur-de-Lion, lately returned from the Holy Land, and who set him free from captivity by the outlaw band of Locksley, better known as Robin Hood.

Thus, the surname de Bracy was immortalized in English literature.  While the story of Ivanhoe is fiction, the selection of de Bracy as the name of a Norman knight was not by accident.  In 1166 Sir William de Bracy held the manor of Madresfield in Worcestershire. Another William de Bracy held it in 1250, and his son, Sir Robert de Bracy, fought against King Henry III at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. He was knight of the shire from 1300 to 1305.  Sir William de Bracy, his son, was a knight of the shire in 1361, and his son, also called Sir William Bracy, was succeeded by William Bracy, an esquire, who was called to attend the king with horse and arms in France in 1428-29, probably after Joan of Arc had captured Orleans in that year.

Sir Maurice De Bracy

"It was about the hour of noon, therefore, when De Bracy, for whose advantage the expedition had been first planned, appeared to prosecute his views upon the hand and possessions of the Lady Rowena.

"The interval had not entirely been bestowed in holding council with his confederates, for De Bracy had found leisure to decorate his person with all the foppery of the times.  His green cassock and vizard were now flung aside.  His long luxuriant hair was trained to flow in quaint tresses down his richly furred cloak.  His beard was closely shaved, his doublet reached to the middle of his leg, and the girdle which secured it, and at the same time supported his ponderous sword, was embroidered and embossed with gold work.  We have already noticed the extravagant fashion of the shoes at this period, and the points of Maurice De Bracy's might have challenged the prize of extravagance with the gayest, being turned up and twisted like the horns of a ram.  Such was the dress of a gallant of the period; and, in the present instance, that effect was aided by the handsomest person and good demeanour of the wearer, whose manners partook alike of the grace of a courtier, and the frankness of a soldier.

"He saluted Rowena by doffing his velvet bonnet, garnished with a golden brooch, representing St. Michael trampling down the Prince of Evil.  With this, he gently motioned the lady to a seat; and, as she still retained her standing posture, the knight ungloved his right hand, and motioned to conduct her thither.  But Rowena declined, by her gesture, the proffered compliment, and replied, 'If I be in the presence of my jailor, Sir Knight—nor will circumstances allow me to think otherwise—it best becomes his prisoner to remain standing till she learns her doom.'

"'Alas! fair Rowena,' returned De Bracy, 'you are in the presence of your captive, not your jailor; and it is from your fair eyes that De Bracy must receive that doom which you fondly expect from him.'

"'I know you not, sir,' said the lady, drawing herself up with all the pride of offended rank and beauty; 'I know you not—and the insolent familiarity with which you apply to me the jargon of a troubadour, forms no apology for the violence of a robber.'

"'To thyself, fair maid,' answered De Bracy, in his former tone—'to thine own charms be ascribed whate'er I have done which passed the respect due to her, whom I have chosen queen of my heart, and loadstar of my eyes.'

"'I repeat to you, Sir Knight, that I know you not, and that no man wearing chain and spurs ought thus to intrude himself upon the presence of an unprotected lady.'

"'That I am unknown to you,' said De Bracy, 'is indeed my misfortune; yet let me hope that De Bracy's name has not been always unspoken, when minstrels or heralds have praised deeds of chivalry, whether in the lists or in the battlefield.'"

Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (1819)


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Sunday, 20-Aug-2000 12:16:24 MDT