Bretain History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
Bretain is a name of ancient Norman origin. It arrived in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Bretain family lived in Essex. The name is a reference to the French province of Brettagne or Brittany. Families from this area largely consisted of the descendants of Celtic tribes who were originally forced to flee ancient Britain from the Roman Tyrant, Maximus, around 384 AD, and settled across the Channel. When the Romans left, the settlement remained, and carries the name to this day. From about 950 onwards, the Dukes of Brittany became closely related to the Dukes of Normandy, and even accompanied them at Hastings in 1066. Many of the Brettagne families who were granted land by William, Duke of Normandy had come in a complete circle, settling again on their former homeland in Powys, on the English- Welsh border.
Early Origins of the Bretain family
The surname Bretain was first found in the Domesday Book of 1086 where "no less than nine of this name appear: all of them probably Breton knights that had followed the fortunes of Alain-le-Roux or his kinsmen. Alured Brito held of the King a barony of twenty-two lordships in Devonshire: Gozelin another in Bucks, Gloucester, and Bedfordshire; Oger one in Leicester and Lincoln; Rainald one in Sussex; Tihel one in Essex and Norfolk; Waldeve one in Lincoln and Cheshire; and Maigno or Manno Brito one in Bucks and Leicestershire. Two others, Roger and William, were mesne-lords in Somerset and Huntingdon." 
"The manor of Kenardington [in Kent] formed a portion of the lands assigned by William the Conqueror for the defence of Dover Castle, and came by marriage in the reign of George I. to the Breton family, with whom it has since remained. " 
The name occurred many times throughout the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273: John de Brytaygn in Cambridgeshire; Giffard le Bretun in Buckinghamshire; Hugo le Bretun in Suffolk and more. The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 listed Alicia de Britten; Elias de Britton; and Ricardus Britton. 
John le Breton (d. 1275), was Bishop of Hereford and was chosen bishop about Christmas 1268, being then a canon of Hereford, and was consecrated 2 June 1269. For about two years before this he was a justice of the king's court. He died 12 May 1275. 
Ranulph Brito or Le Breton (d. 1246), was Canon of St. Paul's and is first mentioned in the year 1221 as a chaplain of Hubert de Burgh. "During the administration of his patron he stood high in the favour of Henry III, and became the king's treasurer. " 
William Briton or Breton (d. 1356), was an early English "theologian, described as a Franciscan by all the literary biographers. No fact is known of his life." 
Early records of Warwickshire also found the family in the hamlet of Marston. "This place, anciently called Breton's Mannour, was held by Guido Breton in the reign of Henry IV.; the manor has since gone with that of Wolstan." 
Early History of the Bretain family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bretain research. Another 322 words (23 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1295, 1164, 1273, 1273, 1296, 1275, 1545, 1626, 1499, 1607 and 1618 are included under the topic Early Bretain History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Bretain Spelling Variations
It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, Anglo-Norman surnames like Bretain are characterized by many spelling variations. Scribes and monks in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find several variations that refer to a single person. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages such as Norman French and Latin, even literate people regularly changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Bretain include Breton, Britain, Britayne, Briton, Brittain, Brittaine, Brittan, Britten, Brittenie, Brittin, Britting, Britton, Brittone, Brettain, Bretaine, Bretayne, Brettin, Bretin, Brettan, Brettinie, Brettony, Brittany, Brettany, Britteny, Brittiny and many more.
Early Notables of the Bretain family (pre 1700)
Outstanding amongst the family at this time was John de Breton (died 1275), medieval Bishop of Hereford, royal justice and sheriff, generally attributed to the term "Britton," the earliest summary of the law of England, written in French; and Nicholas Breton (1545-1626), English poet and novelist, from an old family settled at Layer-Breton, Essex. "His grandfather, William Breton of Colchester, died in 1499, and was buried there in the monastery of St. John. His father, also William Breton, was a younger son, came...
Another 82 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bretain Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Bretain family to Ireland
Some of the Bretain family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 35 words (2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Bretain family
Faced with the chaos present in England at that time, many English families looked towards the open frontiers of the New World with its opportunities to escape oppression and starvation. People migrated to North America, as well as Australia and Ireland in droves, paying exorbitant rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, but those who did see the shores of North America were welcomed with great opportunity. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Bretain, or a variant listed above: Widow Breton and son who settled in Charles Town [Charleston], South Carolina in 1732; J. Breton settled in New Orleans in 1820; Elizabeth Breton settled in New York in 1820.
Related Stories +
The Bretain Motto +
The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.
Motto: Cassis tutissima virtus
Motto Translation: Virtue is the safest helmet.
- ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 1 of 3
- ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
- ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
- ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print