Britain History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Britain arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Britain 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 Britain family

The surname Britain was first found in Essex where they had been granted lands by King William for their assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

"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. " [1]

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. [2]

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. [3]

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. " [3]

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." [3]

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." [1]

Early History of the Britain family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Britain research. Another 259 words (18 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1164, 1273, 1273, 1296, 1275, 1545, 1626, 1499, 1607 and 1618 are included under the topic Early Britain History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Britain Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled 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 Britain 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 Britain Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Britain family to Ireland

Some of the Britain 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.


United States Britain migration to the United States +

Because of the political and religious discontent in England, families began to migrate abroad in enormous numbers. Faced with persecution and starvation at home, the open frontiers and generally less oppressive social environment of the New World seemed tantalizing indeed to many English people. The trip was difficult, and not all made it unscathed, but many of those who did get to Canada and the United States made important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers with Britain name or one of its variants:

Britain Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Richard Britain, who arrived in Virginia in 1659 [4]
  • Kendall Britain, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1682 [4]
Britain Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Anne Britain, who landed in Virginia in 1714 [4]
  • Charles Britain, who arrived in Georgia in 1738 [4]

Australia Britain migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Britain Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • John Britain, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Mariner" in 1847 [5]
  • James Britain, who arrived in Port Phillip aboard the ship "Madawaska" in 1849 [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name Britain (post 1700) +

  • Calvin Britain (1800-1862), American politician, Delegate to Michigan State Constitutional Convention, 1850; Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, 1852-53 [7]
  • Brigadier-General Edwin Britain Howard (1901-1993), American Commanding Officer 23rd Infantry Regiment (1948-1949) [8]
  • Britain H. Bryant, American Democrat politician, Member of Virgin Islands legislature, 1973-78; Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Virgin Islands, 1980 [9]


The Britain 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.


  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  4. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  5. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) MARINER 1847. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1847Mariner.htm
  6. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) "MADAWASKA" 1849. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849Madawaska.htm
  7. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, December 11) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  8. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2012, March 30) Edwin Howard. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Howard/Edwin_Britain/USA.html
  9. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, February 2) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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