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The Origins of the Coat of Arms of the Family of Grace


Michael Russell Ian Grace



ARMS (ancient)—Gules, a lion rampant per fess Argent and Or, a crescent for difference

CREST—A demi lion Argent, a crescent for difference

MOTTOS—EN GRACE AFFIE (On Grace depend). CONCORDANT NOMINE FACTA (Our deeds agree with our name)


Heraldic artist: Ljubodrag Grujic


The origins of the Grace coat of arms have been a subject of fascination for the armiger for years. The long accepted view, put forth in Sheffield Grace’s Memoirs of the Family of Grace (1823) was that Raymond Le Gras (Cambro-Norman commander during the Norman invasion of Ireland) was the primogenitor of the Irish family of Le Gras (anglicised into Grace).


This theory has long since been dispelled (Langrishe, 1900 and 1902; Flanagan, 2004) as it has been acknowledged that he had no known legitimate heirs. Richard Langrishe, in his articles The Origin of the Grace Family of Courtstown, County Kilkenny, traces the origins of the Grace family back 1100 years to the representatives of the House of Blois (French pronunciation is blwa), of the Loir-et-Cher department in central France.


The House of Blois was closely aligned with the French Royal family during the latter part of the 10th century. Theobald ‘the trickster’, second Count of Blois, married Luitgarde, a daughter of the great house of Vermandois and Champagne and widow of William I of Normandy. Theobald’s son and successor, Odo I, married Bertha of Burgundy, daughter of Conrad the Peaceful, King of Arles. However foremost among this family of feudatories was Odo I’s eldest surviving son, Odo II of Champagne, Count of Blois, ‘Tyrant of Burgundy‘ and claimant to the Kingdom of Arles. Odo II spent the majority of his life in endless feudal warfare with his neighbours and suzerains. He never succeeded in his quest for the Kingship and was slain in 1037 in combat near Bar-le-Duc during an attack on Lorraine.


Odo’s grandson and namesake, Odo, Count of Champagne (ca. 1040 – 1096) was Count of Troyes and of Meaux from 1047 to 1066, then Count of Aumale (otherwise known as Earl of Albemarle, in right of his wife) from 1069 to 1096. Odo was the son of Stephen II of Troyes and Meaux, and Adele. He was still a minor at the death of his father (1047), and his uncle Theobald III of Blois acted as regent of Troyes. In 1060, Odo married Adelaide of Normandy, sister of William the Conqueror and in 1066 Odo accompanied his brother-in-law in the Norman conquest of England. His uncle (grandfather of Stephen, King of England) then seized Odo's counties in the Champagne region.


Some time after the invasion King William granted Odo the manor of Sodbury (Gloucester) for his good services, and he was also rewarded with the territory of Holderness in Yorkshire. By Adelaide, Odo had one son Stephen, Count of Aumale and Lord of Holderness (died 1127). It is around this time that the origins of the name Grace appear. Stephen’s eldest son, William, was sometimes referred to as Crassus and his second son, also named Stephen, was called Le Gros. William Crassus, Earl of Albemarle, had no male heir and so the Earldom passed to his daughter, and eventually to the de Fortibus family. It is thus through Stephen Le Gras that the family of Grace descends.


In 1283 William Le Gras formally exchanged the family’s lands in Sodbury for Tullaroan, and other lands in Ireland, with the Welond family. His son, Edmund Le Gras, security for John Fitz Thomas of Desmond, 1296; summoned to Parliament in 1302, is the first generation to be styled Baron of Courtstown and Lord of Grace’s County.


The origins of the coat of arms of the Barons of Courtstown, Gules, a lion rampant per fess Argent and Or, are unknown. However Langrishe (1900, p.322) suggests that having been cut off altogether from their succession to the Earldom of Albemarle, they may have considered it unacceptable to use the coat attributed to the Earls. Furthermore, the fact that the Grace family arms are similar to those borne by the Marshals, Earls of Pembroke, could be attributed to the fact that it was common for the knightly tenants and followers of a great house to adopt arms modelled on those of their over-lord. Thus it is suggested that they retained the original tincture of the field of the Earls of Albemarle, Gules, and that it was most probable that they chose a rampant lion (differenced) in allusion to their association with the Earls of Pembroke.


Michael Russell Ian Grace lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His direct paternal family derives from Sir Oliver Grace (b.1505), the second son of John Gras (b.1475), Baron of Courtstown. Morgan Stanislaus Grace (1837–1903), CMG, MLC, established the New Zealand branch of the family, arriving in Auckland on the Nugget on 21 June 1860 as a staff assistant surgeon with the British Army.


Rather than create a new coat of arms (without authority), or deface the shield through a strict adherence to the rules of cadency (rightly or wrongly), the armiger decided to retain the arms of the younger branch of the Grace family, that is, differenced with a crescent Azure.



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During his visit to Bali, Mr Grace sourced a wood carver and had my emblazon of his arms carved. He informs me he would be happy to assist any of the interested Armigers in acquiring similar piece of art for them.