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THE SINCLAIRS OF CORNWALL

The parish of St.Cleer is very well known by the strange stones so interesting to antiquaries and all others called “The Hurtlers and Wringdon Cheese”.

It took its name from the family which were its proprietors.
At the time when The Domesday Book was written, the place was still called Treloen (from which the Trelawney, beloved of 40,000 Cornishmen), Niveton, or Trethac; but in 1288 till 1291, when Pope Nicolas had sent a commission over England for his taxatio ecclesiastica, or annates to the full value without escape, the family had its church of St.Clair in full order, which meant that its mansion there was equally perfected, giving the name to the whole district. The annate or yearly tax to Rome was 10 marks for the church.
It had all the peculiarities of construction by a Norman family.
The massiveness of its doorway of Norman architecture was celebrated, and this part of the building remained for ages to attest the wealth and civilisation of the men of the period.
St.Cleer is pre-eminently a mining parish, and this most ancient of all British industries made the proprietors of it then of similar weight to those who now have minerals in their estates.
The Ferrers earls of Derby had their names from being iron-masters, and were for this the first barons of Normandy.
There is, or was, a chapel also of fine building in St.Clear, and the carefully built well a little north of the church, attached to it, was one of the wonders. The well and chapel were connected with a great ancient nunnery here also. The baptistery of St.Cleer and the wayside cross are remnants of a state of things once very imposing and brilliant in that end of the island.

Some think that the “Schloss Stamm” of all the south-western families was situated thus in Cornwall, and one writer expressly says that the Somerset family of Stapleton, Somerton, and other manors, and the Devon houses, the principal and side, were all branches of the original Cornwall lords of the parish of St.Cleer, Cornwall.
A suggestive fact is that the heralds have bracketed Cornwall and Essex Sinclairs as having the same arms, Azure a sun in its glory or; on a canton gu. a lion pass, ar., which is somewhat different from the Kent family.
This Essex family must have been from Hamo de St.Clair of Colchester Castle, fee-farmer of Colchester, the signer of Stephen's charter in 1146; and thus the heroic Hubert, his son, could be considered of the Cornwall branch as well as the Essex. But the Essex men who succeeded to Eudo's extinct male line were seen to be of the Hamoes, and this paves the way to what appears the origin of the branch, namely, that they were the descendants of Richard Sinclair of Granville in Normandy, of Biddiford in Devon, of Neth in Wales, and of various other estates in England and France, the brother of Robert of Thorigny, the “knight of Rye”.
They are certainly of the same lineage thus, directly or indirectly, and it may not be of great difference whether the Sinclairs of St.Cleer, Cornwall, be accepted as his descendants, or of some member of the second Essex family, of the nearest consanguinity to Richard. Richard de Granville was his local name, and the history of his successors is by no means lost. Other descendants of the Cornwall house are difficult to find.
Had we the remarks of Leland on the Cornwall branch, which were originally in the MS. of his Collectanea, there might be full knowledge; but the indexes to such information remain, while the text is gone, like the tantalising abstracts of the lost chapters of Livy's history.
An entry in The Great Rolls of the Pipe, 4 Henry II, 1158, Nova Placentia 7 Nov Conventiones, shows a Hugo Sinclair, it may be, the king's butler, doing business with Cornwall: ‘The same sheriff accounted for 20 marks silver for Roger, the fisher of Moneth, Cornwall, paid to Hugo Sinclair for king's tax’.

A Peerage, published in 1710 at London, throws light in the quaintest style on these affairs. Under the heading “Granville, earl of Bath”, the author's account comes.
Says he, ‘This ancient and noble family takes its descent from Rollo, the first duke of Normandy, which Rollo had two sons, William his eldest, surnamed Long Espee, who succeeded to his dukedom, and Robert his second son, who was the first earl of Corboile; Richard, fifth earl of Corboile; Hamon surnamed Dentatus, sixth earl of Corboile.
The said Hamon Dentatus had two sons, the eldest called after his own name Robert Fitz-Hamon; the second, as it is still the custom of those countries, after the name of one of his lordships, Richard de Granville, which surname of Granville, or by corruption Grenville alias Greynville, Graynfield, and Grana-villa has remained to his posterity ever since.
The said brothers, Robert Fitz-Hamon and Richard de Granville, accompanied William the Conqueror in his expedition into England, and were present with him at the great battle of Hastings in Sussex, where King Harold was slain, and for their signal services the Conqueror bestowed on them very large gifts and honours, particularly to Richard de Granville the castle and lordship of Biddiford, with other lordships lands and possessions in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, and Buckingham, many whereof remain to his posterity to this day.

After the death of William the Conqueror, the said Robert Fitz-Hamon choosing twelve knights for his companions, of which his brother Richard de Granville was one, entered Wales with an army, and defeating the Welsh slew Rhese their prince; made an entire conquest of Glamorgan, and made the rest of Wales pay tribute to the king of England. Wherefore King William Rufus, in consideration of these and other great services of the said Fitz-Hamo, and being likewise his near kinsman, created him a free prince in all his conquered lands in Wales, holding the same in vassalage of the king as his chief lord: which the said Fitz-Hamon divided between himself and his twelve knights, his companions.

King William Rufus dying, the said Fitz-Hamon, who by his great exploits had now gained himself the name of The Great Fitz-Hamon, was sent by King Henry I as general of his army against France, when he received a wound by the push of a pike upon his temples whereof he died. The style of the said Robert Fitz-Hamon ran in this manner, Sir Robert Fitz-Hamon, by the grace of God, prince of Glamorgan, earl of Corboile, baron of Thorigny and Granville, lord of Gloucester, Bristol, Tewkesbury and Cardiff, conqueror of Wales, near kinsman to the king, and general of his highness' army in France.

Robert Fitz-Hamon thus dying, and leaving issue, one only daughter, Richard de Granville his brother, as the nest heir male, inherited by the Norman laws all the estate and honours of his family in Normandy, and thereby became earl of Corboile, baron of Thorigny and Granville. At his town of Keith in Glamorganshire he founded an abbey for religious monks, and endowed the same with all those lands he held in Wales.

In his old age, according to the devotion of those times, he took upon him the sign of the cross, and setting forward to Jerusalem died in his journey; leaving issue his son Richard de Granville, earl of Corboile, etc., who married Adelyne, widow to Hugh Montford, and elder brother to Robert de Bellemont or Beaumont, earl of Mollent in France and the first earl of Leicester in England after the Conquest, by Elizabeth, daughter of Hugh, the great earl of Vermandois, son of Henry, king of France; mixing thereby with the blood of the house of Normandy the blood-royal of France; from whose loins are directly and lineally descended this family, and the ancient family of the Granvilles seated in Devon and Cornwall.

No subjects ever surpassed them in valour and nobleness of birth, nor in loyalty and fidelity to the crown, which they have most eminently shown in all ages since the Conquest; amongst whom must be always remembered that famous Sir Richard who in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, being then vice-admiral of England, with a single ship encountered the whole armada of Spain, and with 100 men fought against 10,000, of which memorable action Sir Walter Raleigh has written the relation in a particular treatise; and Sir Bevill, who so generously lavished his blood and substance in defence of his king and country in the civil wars, dying like his great ancestor Fitz-Hamon fighting with his pike in his hand at the battle of Lansdowne.
He left issue by Anne his wife, eldest daughter and coheir to Sir John St.Leger, knight, John, his son and heir, who by an immediate succession from father to son beginning at the year of our Lord 876 from Robert the son of Rollo, being upwards of 800 years, was the thirtieth earl of Corboile, baron of Thorigny and Granville. He was created by King Charles II, anno 1661, the 20th April, earl of Bath, viscount Lansdowne, baron of Biddiford and Kilhampton, groom of the stole, first gentleman of the bedchamber to his majesty, lord warden of the stannaries, lord lieutenant of the counties of Cornwall and Devon, governor of Plymouth, etc., and one of the lords of his majesty's most honourable privy council.
This addition of honours he got by his signal services and sufferings in the civil wars, having upon the death of his father Sir Bevil taken upon him the command of his regiment, being then but sixteen years of age, and being present in several battles and sieges, particularly in the fight at Newberry, where he was left among the dead.
But he was happily preserved for an action of the greatest glory and importance to his country; being the first and chief instrument of that famous negotiation with his kinsman, General Monk, by which the royal family was re-enthroned without conditions.
In memory of which, besides the aforesaid additional honours, his majesty King Charles II did pass a warrant under the privy seal, whereby he obliged himself, and recommended it to his successors, that in case of failure of male issue to General Monk, the title and dukedom of Albemarle should descend to the said earl, and be continued in his family.
His said majesty did likewise pass to the said earl another warrant for the earldom of Glamorgan, it being the first title enjoyed in England by his great ancestor Fitz-Hamon’.

But enough of this somewhat frantic eulogist. He is, however, supported with most of his facts by genuine historic and even by poetic records.
In Banks' Dormant and Extinct Baronage, Granville, who was created earl of Bath, is described as having descended in a direct line as heir male from Robert Fitz-Hamo, lord of Gloucester and Glamorgan under William the Conqueror, Rufus, and Henry I, son and heir of Hamon Dentatus, earl of Corboile, lord of Thorigny and Granville in Normandy.
The most valuable evidence is to be found in the words of his creation as earl in 1661, where Charles II says of the new earl that he has his ‘descent from the youngest son of the duke of Normandy as we (the king) from the eldest’.
The promise of the dukedom of Albemarle and earldom of Glamorgan is also authenticated in a similar way.
The third and last of these earls of Bath died in 1711, but some of the present greatest houses have their chief distinction by being married with the females of these Granville Sinclairs, as for example the duke of Bridgewater and his nephew George Granville Leveson-Gower, the first duke of Sutherland, the earls Granville, the dukes of Buckingham and Chandos, with others such.
Nicolas in his Extinct Peerage also goes over the same ground.
John Granville, the first earl of Bath, died, he says, in August 1701, his son Charles the second earl twelve days after his father, and the third and last of this noble, or, by Charles II's own decision, royal line, died unmarried in 1711.

There is a small literature in the library of the British Museum on these Granvilles.
Tennyson in his poem in The Nineteenth Century of March 1878, The Revenge: a Ballad of the Fleet, has revived, almost to the very words, the story of Sir Richard as told by his friend Sir Walter Raleigh. He has done little more than to cut the prose into lengths to give it the appearance of verse, and yet the inherent interest of the tale made it successful and popular.
Sir Richard fought fifteen hours with his single vessel, “The Revenge”, fifty-three Spanish “armadas”, as Sir Walter calls them, doing their utmost to destroy him. He wished, and tried all he could, to blow up his vessel when he had not a man able to fight longer, but being wounded he did not carry out his determination, and borne on to the Spanish admiral's ship he died admired as much by those enemies as by his nation. His ship had so shattered several of the Spanish vessels that a storm next day destroyed them.
It was to save his own men of Biddiford, Devon, who were seeking food and water at Flores, an island of the Azores, that Sir Richard imperilled “The Revenge” against the whole Spanish fleet.
The love of Cornwall and Devon men to each other, is considerable explanation of the extraordinary gallantry they showed in the Spanish naval wars of Elizabeth's reign.
In the collection of Hakluyt's Voyages, vol. iii., his writing faculty is shown by an account of his voyage for Sir Walter Raleigh to Virginia in 1585, settling that famous colony.
Raleigh, Drake, Granville, Hawkins, are names to conjure with in affairs of the sea.

There was another Sir Richard famous as a general. In 1644, when Charles I went to Cornwall and Devon, it was chiefly Greenvil who so thoroughly beat the earl of Essex out of those counties, as can be read in Rapin or any other historian of that period.
His stubborn siege of Taunton in 1645 is one of the features of the royalist successes in the Cornish, Devon, and Somerset districts, which alone fairly met and beat the parliamentarians.
But earlier than this, in 1642, Sir Bevill Granville, a member of parliament, had been distinguishing himself as a royalist in Cornwall.
Of Sir Ralph Hopton, sent by Charles with 150 horse, Rapin says, ‘Hopton was well received in Cornwall, and seconded by Sir Bevil Greenvil, a Cornish gentleman, who so ordered it that the county declared for the king’.
Lord Clarendon's History of the Rebellion tells of him.
Sir William Waller, the parliamentarian general, was defeated at Lawnsdowne Hill 5th July 1643, but Sir Bevil was slain in the battle.
He was one of the great civil and military heroes of the royalists. So much was this the case that Oxford university published a volume of verses by thirteen different hands, in sorrow for his death and eulogium of his noble character.
Its title runs, ‘Verses by the University of Oxford 1643 on the Death of the Most Noble and Right Valiant Sir Bevill Greenvil alias Granvil Kt., who was slain by the Rebells at the Battle on Lansdowne Hill near Bath July the 5, 1643’.
The preface of the book, which is still extant, says that such academical honours were never before given even to royalty; and undoubtedly the writers each excel the other in the graphic art of highest panegyric. There is a portrait of his line thoughtful regular manly face, his hair over his brow short, and otherwise long, after the Cavalier fashion. It was taken at the age of 39 in 1640. The inscription is, ‘The magnanimous Bevill Granvil of the English, a Cornishman, and a golden-spurred knight’.

But, perhaps, after all, none of the line deserves more honour than John the son of Sir Bevil, who on the death at Lansdowne of his father, though only a boy, took his place, and fought as heroically as man or hero could. At Newbury he was all but killed, as has been noticed. Charles II's dark fortunes he followed throughout, and there is a grant of 1660, before the restoration, showing the great love between the two, both well aware of their kinsmanship.
Besides the offices described, there was a gift of property to the value of 3000 a year made to him, if the king should get his kingdom again.
It is history at one of its greatest crises how John Granville actually made Charles II king of England, after a manner which seems hereditary in the lineage, from Eudo Sinclair's management for William Rufus downwards.
Monk was perhaps less the real cause of the restoration than John, who for his services was created earl of Bath, lord Lansdowne, etc., and loaded with all kinds of additional honours and promises.
Nothing shows more the bitter state of feeling which James II induced in the noblest hearts of England, than that this John is found making himself master of Plymouth in 1688, so that the Dutch fleet may ride secure there for the purposes of the revolution under William, prince of Orange, and his wife Mary Stuart, daughter of the runaway king.
Such a change of attitude is tribute to the ability and judgment of John Granville, who evidently had not lost his head to mere royalist toryism, as the weak souls do to whatever side they go.
There is a preface addressed to this earl of Bath in one of the books, still to be seen, from which the writer of the Peerage of 1710 must have taken several of his passages; and in it there is a general of the lineage, who did various brilliant actions in Continental warfare.

Volumes could be written about these gallant Granvilles, who, though they kept this their local name of Normandy, were of the very same blood as the St.Clares of France, as has been shown in many ways.
It has not been fixed, however, that they were the only Cornwall Sinclairs; for the Complete Parochial History of Cornwall may not be wrong in making those of St.Cleer of the same branch as those of Tudwell, in Devon, and of Martock and Somerton, in Somersetshire.
Indeed, in the fourth parliament at Westminster, an. 2 and 3, Philip and Mary (1555), the member of parliament for West Loe, Co. Cornwall, was John Seyntclere or St.Clere, esquire. This may be seen in Brown Willis's Notitia Parliamentaria.
Westloe on the south coast is about ten miles from St.Cleer, which is due north from it, near Liskeard; and this John may have been the head of the Cornish family at that period.

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