Page:The Ancestor Number 1.djvu/247

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ALTHOUGH it is now some time since this important family history made its appearance,[1] there are more reasons than one for reviewing it in the opening number of The Ancestor. In the first place, it was issued so privately that copies were only obtainable by subscription, and consequently no review of it has hitherto appeared. Secondly, it deals with a house of quite exceptional antiquity, whose tenure of their ancestral lands is, in some respects, unique. Thirdly, as a genealogical undertaking, it deserves a leading place among the works that have appeared of recent years in this department of research.

The most notable features in the Gresley descent are the origin of the family as a branch, it is believed, of the Norman Toenis; their tenure in the Conqueror's days, as barons or tenants-in-chief, of Drakelowe, which is still their seat; and their possession of one of the surviving baronetcies of the first creation (1611). As to the last, one may fairly say that their inclusion in the ranks of the baronetage reflects distinction on that degree, and is an interesting testimony to the character of the class from which it was originally recruited. And although, as compared with their Norman descent, a title which is not yet three centuries old may appear but modern, it must be remembered that even in the peerage the number of titles which have now been held so long in the male line is by no means large.

The two first of the interesting features we have mentioned above are precisely those, unfortunately, which occasion the two difficulties in the history of this family. It was asserted in the Duchess of Cleveland's Battle Abbey Roll that 'One branch of the royal Toenis still flourishes in the male line; Nigel de Toeni, or de Stafford, a younger brother of the standard bearer's, held Drakelowe … at the date of Domesday.' And even Mr. Eyton, who mentioned this belief, did not reject it. Mr. Madan, we think, is the first to admit—and the admission is a proof in itself of his praiseworthy

  1. The Gresleys of Drakelowe by Falconer Madan (privately printed.)