Show ContentsFiennes History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 added many new elements to an already vibrant culture. Among these were thousands of new names. The Fiennes family lived in Fiennes, in the region of Pas-de-Calais, Normandy. [1]

Early Origins of the Fiennes family

The surname Fiennes was first found in Kent where they held a family seat as Lords of the Manor, Lords of the Cinque Ports, and Constables of Dover Castle. They are said to be descended from Conon de Fiennes, the Earl of Boulogne, of the county of Boulounais in Normandy. [2]

John de Fiennes accompanied William, Duke of Normandy in his conquest of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. In England, William was the 1st Baron de Fiennes (circa 1160-1241). The family also remained in France where Robert de Fiennes was constable of France from 1350 to 1370.

Early History of the Fiennes family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Fiennes research. Another 80 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1405, 1450, 1472, 1496, 1534, 1539, 1541, 1557, 1582, 1594, 1595, 1602, 1606, 1608, 1613, 1625, 1657, 1660, 1662, 1669, 1674 and 1676 are included under the topic Early Fiennes History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Fiennes Spelling Variations

Norman surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are largely due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England, as well as the official court languages of Latin and French, also had pronounced influences on the spelling of surnames. Since medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings. The name has been spelled Finnes, Fienne, Fiennes and others.

Early Notables of the Fiennes family

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was

  • James Fiennes Lord Say (or Saye) and Sele (d. 1450), the second son of Sir William de Fiennes (d. 1405) and Elizabeth, daughter of William Batisford, a great Sussex heiress
  • Thomas Fiennes, 8th Baron Dacre (1472-1534), an English peer and soldier; and Richard Fiennes, 7th Baron Dacre 'of the South' (c. 1557-1613) born at Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex, England, English peer
  • William Fiennes, 1st Viscount Saye and Sele (1582-1662), was an English nobleman and politician, who helped establish a company for the settlement of the Providence Island colony and later established...
  • James Fiennes, 2nd Viscount Saye and Sele (c.1602-1674), was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1625 and 1660; and Nathaniel Fiennes (ca.1608-1669), was Com...
  • Anne, Lady Dacre Fiennes or Fienes (d. 1595), was daughter of Sir Richard Sackville, Treasurer of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth, and Steward of the Royal Manors in Kent and Sussex, who was the son...
  • Gregory Fiennes or Fienes, 10th Lord Dacre of the South (1539-1594), was the younger son of the unfortunate Thomas Fiennes, Lord Dacre , executed at Tyburn 1541. [3]

United States Fiennes migration to the United States +

Many English families emigrated to North American colonies in order to escape the political chaos in Britain at this time. Unfortunately, many English families made the trip to the New World under extremely harsh conditions. Overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the stormy Atlantic. Despite these hardships, many of the families prospered and went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the United States and Canada. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the name Fiennes or a variant listed above:

Fiennes Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Hon. Charles Fiennes, (Clinton) (1604 - 1672), British settler son of Thomas Clinton 3rd Earl of Lincoln, who sailed as part of the Winthrope fleet to Salem, Massachusetts in 1630 with his Sister Lady Arbella, he had her children with him aboard the ship. [4]

Contemporary Notables of the name Fiennes (post 1700) +

  • Nathaniel Thomas Allen Fiennes (1920-2024), 21st Baron Saye and Sele, DL, (né Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes), styled as Lord Saye and Sele, was an English peer, businessman, chartered surveyor, and British Army officer
  • Lady Virginia Twisleton Wykeham Fiennes (1947-2004), English explorer best known as Virginia Frances. a Deep sea diver and the first woman to be awarded the Polar Medal, invited to join the Antarctic Club in recognition of her research for the British Antarctic Survey and University of Sheffield. In 1968 she organised the first navigation of the Nile, the worlds longest river. She organised four expeditions to locate the lost frankincense city of Ubar, in Dhofar which was a success 20 years later in the 1990's. She was an important part of the Transglobe Expedition which took place in 1979 to 1982.
  • Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wkyeham Fiennes O.B.E. (b. 1944), known as "Ranuplh Fiennes" English polar explorer and endurance record holder, wirter and poet, trekked the Transglobe Expedition between 1979 and 1982
  • Ralph Fiennes (b. 1962), award-winning English actor
  • Susannah Fiennes (b. 1961), British artist and writer
  • Martha Maria Fiennes (b. 1964), award-winning British film director, writer and producer
  • Sophia Victoria Fiennes (b. 1967), English filmmaker
  • Joseph Fiennes (b. 1970), English film and stage actor
  • Mark Fiennes (1933-2004), English photographer and illustrator
  • Admiral Sir Cecil Fiennes Thursby KCB KCMG (1861-1936), Royal Navy officer, Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth

The Fiennes 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: Fortem posce animum
Motto Translation: Wish for a strong mind.

  1. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  2. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  4. Pilgrim Ship's of 1600's. Retrieved January 6th 2023 from on Facebook