In The Name of Howell
by James Howell
Part 2

It was not only from the west that the Kingdom of Hywel Rhodi was threatened. By becoming the ruler of Powys, his mother’s land, he inherited the old struggle between that kingdom and Mercia. Although Offa’s Dyke has been constructed in order to define the territories of the Welsh and the English, this did not prevent the successors of Offa from attacking Wales. In 822, it was recorded that the English had taken Powys into their possession, but as the power of Mercia was in decline it would appear that Powys came only temporarily under English control.

Mercia became subject to the overlordship of Wessex in 829. Thereafter, it would be with the Kings of Essex of the line of Cerdic, that the Welsh would have to contend. The pressure upon Powys continued; after 855, Hywel Rhodi was its defender, and he and his son Gwriad, were killed in a battle against the English in 877.

About 904, Llywarch ap Hyfaidd, King of Dyfed died. His kingdom came into the possession of Hywel ap Cadell ap Rhodri, the ruler of Seisyllwg and the husband of Elen, Llywarch’s sister. It would appear that Hywel also took possession of Brycheiniog, for its Royal line ends with Tewdwr ap Grifihi, who died about 930. The enlarged kingdom came to be known as Deheubarth, a unit of central importance in the history of Wales during the following four centuries. Deheubarth was united with the territories of Idwal ap Anarawd ap Rhodri-Gwynedd and Powys-in 942, and Hywell died in 950 the ruler of a kingdom, which extended from Prestatyn to Pembroke.

The ancient history of the name Howell has emerged from these Welsh chronicles, woven into the prosaic tapestry of the ancient Welsh heritage. It was first found in Monmouthshire where they were seated from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066.

The Howell name was derived from Howel Dda or Howel, the Good. He became the King of Wales in 926. He was considered the Chief Glory of Briton. One of his descendants, Sir Howel y Twyall fought the Black Prince at Poitiers. He defeated the Black Prince and was knighted “Sir Howell of the Battle Ax.” Sir Howell of the Battle Ax was made governor of the fortified castel of Criecdaith, a contributory borough of Carnarvon.

Howel Sele, a descendant of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn was founder of the third Royal Tribe of Wales. He was Lord of the Nowvan in Merionethshire. Howel Sele fought Madog during the terrible insurrection of Owain Glyndur. Madog killed Howel Sele and put his body in the truck of a large hollow oak tree. Madog told this story forty-years later to some of his listeners. They went to the place where he had said the body was and there found a skeleton holding a rusty old sword.

Rt. Rev. Thomas Howel was a descendant of Howel dha; he was appointed Bishop of Bristol by Charles I in August, 1644. The Bristol was taken over by the Roundheads on September 10, 1645 and as a result he died in prison a year later.

Rt. Rev. Thomas Howel’s brother was James Howell who was the earl of Sunderland. James Howell was a member of Parliament for Richmond, Yorkshire and a clerk of privy council under James I and Charles I. He was the first to bear the title of”Historiographer Royal.”

When surnames came into existence, they were added to given names to make them more specific and to indicated family relationship. Most surnames fall into a few categories: (1) those formed from the given name of the sire; (2) those arising from bodily or personal characteristics; (3) those derived from locality or place of residence; and (4) those derived from occupation.

In the sense of hereditary designations, surnames in England date from about the year 1000. By the end of the twelfth century, however, hereditary names had become common in England, but were not universal even as late as the mid 1400’s.

Prior to 1942, the Media Research Bureau (no longer in existence) of Washington, D.C. produced brief genealogies in typescript form. From some of that material comes the following:

The name of Howell was originally derived from the Welsh personal name of Hoel or Howel and was first taken as a surname by the sons of those so named. It is found on the ancient British and early american records in the various forms of Hoel, Hoell, Hoelle, Howel, Howl, Howle, Howelle, Howells, Howell, and others.

Manuscripts such as the Domesday Book, the Pipe Rolls, Hearth Rolls, the Black Book of the Exchequer and Curia Regis Rolls, the name, Howell, occurred in many references, from time to time. The surname was spelt Howell, Howel, Howels, Howells, Hovell, Hovels, and many of these versions are still in use today. These changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. It was not uncommon for a person in his or her own lifetime to be born with one spelling, marry with another, and have still another on the headstone in his or her resting place.

It is generally believed that most, if not all, of the Howell were of extremely ancient lineage and of Welsh origin at a remote period.

Documentation of some of the early English and Welsh references to the name of Howell was given in the eys-Jordan Genealogy. Howell Dda (The Good), a king who lived m the tenth century is a well-known historical figure in Wales since he codified Welsh law under which Wales was governed for several centuries. His descendants, or at least some of them, may be known. One author states the following:

'Many Welsh pedigrees, traced back to the early kings of both North and South Wales, were handed down by trained bards for many generations before they were finally written down. Historical scholarship has found the documentary proof that substantiates the authenticity and accuracy of many of those ancient pedigrees.”

Source: Howell History: One Direct Line, by Opal D. Howell and Daisy S. Howell of North Carolina.

On the map of Wales nearer the border of England is a little town named Crickhowel, which appears to be in a National Park or in the Black Mountains, in or near Monmouthshire. It may be recalled that the Cozeir Coat of Arms was for Howell of Monmouthshire. Also, Monmouthshire was described as a Catholic stronghold. In or near Monmouthshire must surely be caves for hiding from persecutors.

The Norman Conquest of Wales was a disaster. A testimony to the indomitable Welsh fighting spirit is that there are more castles, or ruins of castles, to the square mile in Wales than anywhere else in the world. Border warfare against the Normans and their successors continued unabated until the end of the 14th century. The Welsh tactic was to thrust, then retire to their bleak mountain homes to plan their next attack.

As peace gradually returned to this picturesque country, the Welsh, attracted by the economic opportunities of England, moved eastward into the English cities. Hence, we now find Welsh surnames such as Jones, Price, Edwards, Phillips, Howell, Evans, Prichard, Morgan, Williams, Roberts and etc. to be amongst the most populous families in England at this time.

In this background of magnificent mountain greenery the Welsh family name “Howell” emerged as a notable family name in Monmouthshire where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in that shire. The first on record was of the Princes of Caerleon Upon-Uske in Monmouthshire. By the early 13 00’s the name had become firmly established in Monmouth and they acquired many estates on the English-Welsh border in Gloucestershire, Herford, Montgomery and Warwickshire.

David and Phillip Howel were Lords and Prince of the manor in Monmouth in 1313. Howel was the son of Oeni and he became known as the Prince of Caerleon-Upon-Uske in Monmouthshire. Prominent amongst the family name during the Middle Ages was Prince of Caerleon.

The first record of the family was a Welsh Prince Howel who was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086.

Howel was a son of Oeni and became known as the Prince of Caerleon-Upon-Uske in Monmouthshire. By the early 1300s the name had become firmly established in Monmouth and had acquired many estates on the English-Welsh border in Gloucestershire, Herford, Montgomery and Warwickshire. David and Philip Howel were Lords and Prince of the manor in Monmouth in 1313. Prominent amongst the family name during the Middle Ages was Prince of Caerleon.

King Charles I appointed the Reverend Thomas Howell, a descendant of King Howell, Bishop of Bristol in August 1644, but when Bristol surrendered to the Roundheads on September 10, 1645, he was so badly treated that he died the next year. His younger brother, James Howell, was the quaint and delightful author and was Secretary to Scrop Earl of Sunderland.

He also sat in Parliament for Richmond, was one of the Clerks of Privy Council under King James I and King Charles I, and subsequently Secretary to Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, was also the Ambassador Extraordinary from Charles Ito the King of Denmark. He later became the Historiographer Royal and was the first in England to bear that title.

Under most heraldic rules, only first sons of first sons of the recipient of a Coat of Arms are permitted to bear their ancestor’s Arms. Younger sons may use a version of their father’s Arms, but the rules of heraldry say that they must be changed somewhat. If the bearer of a coat of arms (called an Armiger) dies without male heirs, his daughter may combine her father’s Arms with her husband’s Arms. This process is called “impaling.” Although these principles seem very archaic, stiff and formal today, they do give us an idea of the rich, protective tradition, which surrounded heraldry through the ages.

There are over one million surnames in use throughout the world today. However, less than 75,000 of these names can be associated with a Coat of Arms. Coat of Arms were originally designed as a way of identifying knights in armour who, without their distinctive shields and surcoats, would have all looked alike on the battlefield or tournament ground.

Originally each knight probably chose or invented his own Coat of Arms, often proclaiming his own strength and bravery by depicting fierce creatures. Later, the right to bear the Arms became hereditary.

During the 13th century, a Herald sounding a trumpet would greet the appearance of a new knight at a tournament. The herald would explain the devices and symbols on the competing knight’s shield and Coat of Armour to the assembled audience, and this knowledge has become known as “Heraldry”

There seems to be several different Howell Coat of Arms. One dates back to 1250, when they were borne by Howell, Prince of Caerleon-Upon-Uske, in North Wales. These are carved on the Great Western Staircase in the Capitol in Albany in honor of the founder of South Hampton, Long Island, which was the first English settlement in the State of New York. The Howell Motto as quoted on the Coat of Arms is ‘Tenas Propositi,” meaning ‘Pirm of Purpose.”

Another listed in Burke’s General Armory depicts a different one for the Howell family and still another found in Scotland by the author indicates another. This one is very similar to the first, but the Howell Motto is different. It contains “Virtus in Ardue” meaning “Virtue in Difficulty.”

Howell: The Welsh origin is from the personal name ‘Hywel” - meaning "eminent"--popular since the Middle Ages in honor of the great 10th century law-giving Welsh king. In England the name originates from a place in Lincoinshire, probably so called from the old English personal name Huna (bear-cub) + Wella - spring/stream. A Howel le Waleys (the Welsh) is entered in the Write of Parliament in 1313. A similar Welsh name - Powell - is from the same source but originally rendered ap-Howell (son of Howell), the "a" being dropped, creating the new name Powell. The Clan MacDougall

This Scottish Clan, of which Howell is a Sept, takes it’s name from Dougall, Somerled’s son, who, after his father’s death in 1164, held most of Argyll and the islands of Mull, Lismore, Jura, Tiree, Coll and many others. The Celtic Christian name Dougall, or Dugald, is derived from the Gaelic ‘Dubh-Gall,” meaning “Black Stranger.” The King of Norway acknowledged his royal descent, and he styled him “King of the South Isles and Lord of the Lorna.” His son, Duncan, and his grandson, Ewan, built castles to defend their broad dominions, including Dunstaffliage, Dunollie and Duntrune on the mainland, and Aros, Cairnburgh, Dunchonnel and Coeffin on the islands. Dunollie, a Craig rising up over seventy feet, was probably fortified as early as the sixth century and was to become the chief seat. Duncan also built Ardchattan Priory, where the MacDougall chiefs were buried until 1737. Ewan held his island possessions from the King of Norway and his mainland ones from the King of Scots, and he found it hard to remain loyal to both. A choice was forced upon him in 1263, when King Haakon of Norway arrived off Oban with a huge fleet for his planned invasion of the West Coast of Scotland. Ewan declined to join the invasion and because of the old blood ties, Haakon left him in peace. However, Ewan saw that neutrality would ultimately lead to disaster, and attacked part of the Norse fleet near Mull. The Vikings were utterly defeated at the Battle of Largs, and three years later all of the Hebrides was ceded by Norway to Scotland.Their influence in Argyll brought them into conflict with the Campbell’s, and in 1294 John MacDougall, “The Lame,” led the clan against them. At the pass of Lorn, between Loch Avich and Scammadale, the MacDougalls were intercepted, and although Sir Cohn Campbell was killed, there was considerable slaughter on both sides. The marriage of the fourth chief, Sir Alexander MacDougall, was disastrous for the clan. His wife was the sister of John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, whose son, generally called the Red Comyn, was stabbed to death by Robert the Bruce in the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries in May 1306. This started a blood feud with Bruce’s family and the MacDougalls, who had supported Wallace and the cause of Scottish independence, now became implacable enemies. Shortly after his hurried coronation at Scone, King Robert was forced to retreat before the victorious English in Argyll, hoping to reach his Campbell allies. The MacDougalls surprised the king at Dairigh near Tyndrum. The king escaped, but it is said that on his discarded cloak was found a magnificent example of Celtic jewelry, which was later known as the “Brooch of Lorne,” and it became one of the clan’s greatest treasurers. Two years later Bruce led three thousand battle-hardened veterans into Argyll against them. John of Lorne set an ambush for the king’s army at the narrow pass of Brande, but after a savage engagement they were broken and forced to flee. The King formally forfeited the MacDougall lands, most of which passed to the Campbell’s in recognition of their loyalty.

The MacDougalls were never to regain their island possessions, but to a large degree their fortunes were restored when Ewan MacDougall married a granddaughter of Robert the Bruce. Most of the mainland estates were re-granted by a Royal Charter of David II. When the last MacDougall Lord of Lorne died, leaving an only daughter who married Sir John Stewart, the lordship passed to the Dunollie Castle, which the chief had forfeited in 1314.