Probably the first emigrant Gherardini was Otterus, or Othoer, son of Mathias, a son of Cosmus, the great Duke of Florence. They were also of the Ferrara-Modena branch of the House D'Este, the younger branch penetrating to the Teutonic domains of Charlemagne to found the royal families of Brunswick and Hanover in what is now Germany. Some records say that Otho went to Normandy in the caravan of King Canut of England who had passed through Florence on his way home from a pilgrimage to Rome. It is said that he came into England later with Edward the Confessor when he was called back from exile to be King of England. There is an old lyric quote in English records which says "the Earldom which to Otho brave, the Saxon sainted Edward gave". His son, Otho Fitz-Othoer appears in 1058 in the Domesday Book as a baron of England.
This man, Otho, was the ancestor of Gerald de Windsor. Gerald was the ancestor of the Fitzgeralds, Fitzmaurices, Carews, Redmonds and Keatings of Ireland, among others. Otho was so powerful that his favor with the King was greatly resented by the native Norman nobles. He possessed three lordships in Surrey, three in Buckinghamshire, two in Berkshire, four in Middlesex, nine in Wiltshire, two in Hampshire, three in Dorset, and one in Somerset. With him, the family name was changed to Geraldini. Otho's son, Walter fitz-Otho Geraldini, was treated as a fellow countryman by the Normans after the conquest of England in 1066. He succeeded to all of Otho's estates and his name is shown in the Domesday Book of 1087 that listed all the landholders of England. Windsor Castle, a great gray pile overlooking the Thames, had just been built amid the forests of Berkshire, and Walter was appointed its first castellan, as well as warden of the forests. He was, it is clear, one of the most Norman of the Normans -- a race renowned for its adaptability, no less than for its valor and ferocity.
Windsor Castle continued as a baronage for Otho's descendants for centuries, until it passed out of existence due to lack of male heirs in the direct line. An interesting footnote is the story of how the current English royal family, the House of Windsor, took their name from this vacated baronage. During the First World War, there was enormous anti-German sentiment in England, and the king wanted to distance himself from the German House of Hanover, their name at the time. Since the Gherardini family can be traced as the founders of the House of Hanover, it was very convenient that Gerald de Windsor, baron of England, was related both to the English royal family and the Florentine Gheradinis, and hence the House of Hanover (see above). This provided justification (after much research) for the German House of Hanover to become the more politically-correct English House of Windsor, which they remain to this day.
The Normans at this time were the foremost race in Christendom. Their courage and ruthlessness had made them conspicuous among the rovers from Scandinavia who ravaged Western Europe. They conquered and settled in Gaul (Normandy, means Northmen-land or land of the Norsemen). In Normandy, they founded a mighty state that terrorized every land from Spain to Germany. They embraced Christianity, adopted French and Latin as languages, and set up a feudal system. They were born soldiers, and their conquests extended to southern Italy, Sicily and the British Isles.
Having defeated the English at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and placed their leader, William the Conqueror, on the throne of England, the Normans were not content with just subjugating and portioning out England among the captains of the invaders. They proceeded to invade Wales and conquered it within a year. Here they were purely conquerors, since William had some claim to the English throne, and he had none to Wales. His barons went there simply to seize and possess the land. The methods they adopted were not wholly military; they were also matrimonial.
The most ancient documents on which I have relied are the Domesday Book (A. D. 1086) and the writings of Gerald of Wales (c. 1146-c. 1223). They say nothing about the ancestors of Lord Other, the father of Walter fitzOther (aka Walter de Windsor or Gualterius filius Otheri).
There were many people named Other or Otho in the 10th and 11th centuries. Otho I, Otho II, and Otho III were the first three Holy Roman Emperors (962 — 1002). They ruled Lombardy from A.D. 951. All three emperors were Saxons. Among the contemporary variations of the name "Otho" or "Other" were "Oitir" (Old Irish), "Ottar (Old Norse), and "Ohtere" (Anglo Saxon).15 Bishop Odo (c. 1030--1097) of Bayeux, a half-brother of William I, fought at Hastings and commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry.
Because the name "Other" (with variations in spelling) was so common, it is not surprising that several speculative legends evolved concerning the ancestors of Lord Other. There are three legends (first printed several centuries after the death of Lord Other) which state respectively that the ancestors of Other came from Tuscany, Helgoland, and Spain.
Legendary Tuscan Ancestors According to a popular legend unsubstantiated by any know contemporary documents, in the direct male line of the FITZMAURICE Lords of Kerry, there was the Gherardini family of Florence, Italy. This legend was published in 1655 by a Dominican scholar, Father O'Daly, at the beginning of a history of the Geraldine earls of Desmond.232 Father O'Daly wrote that the family was descended from the ancient Trojans and had fled to Florence from Troy.
The legendary ancestor memorialized by the family name was said to be Gherardo, who was said to have held the land on which Florence now stands. The Gherardini were one of the seigniorial families that fell when the Republic of Florence was founded circa A.D. 1250.211
The emigrant Gherardini who was ancestor to the FITZMAURICE families was said to be Otho or Odher (probably pronounced as "Oh-tair" with the accent on the first syllable).
The legendary Other is said to have gone to Normandy with King Canute of England who passed through Florence on his way home from a pilgrimage to Rome.
This legendary Other subsequently went to England. According to one story16, 56, this was about the time of King Canute's marriage with Emma, daughter of Richard Second, Duke of Normandy, and widow of King Ethelred, who died in A.D. 1016. Another account says that Other went to England with Edward the Confessor when the latter was called back from exile to be King of England. That would have been circa A.D. 1042. Since A.D. 1016 and A.D. 1042 were only 26 years apart, the two stories are not contradictory.
As a supporter of King Edward during his exile, Otho Gherardini would have had great power in England.
While the Tuscan origin of the Geraldines is supported by the Royal Genealogical Data Base205 maintained at the University of Hull in England, some other genealogists reject all details of this legend. Absent documentation, I have no opinion.