By John S. Plant
Roots and Branches, Issue 32 (2006)
Introduction: The nickname Plante Genest of Geffrey, count of Anjou is generally taken to have inspired Plantagenet even though this is not in evidence as a royal surname until three hundred years after his death. In the intervening years, it seems that the Plant surname could have been inuenced by Geffrey’s fame. This Chapter outlines some information for count Geffrey and his illegitimate descendants who may have helped to transmit the culture of his nickname to the formative Plant surname for which there was also a likely Welsh inuence, giving it an `offspring’ meaning. More generally, Plant-like names such as Plantapilosa, Plante Genest, Plantefolie, Plente and Plante can be related to a `growing shoot’ metaphor, to which a bawdy sense can be attached which, in particular, may have delayed the adoption of Plantagenet as an ofcial royal surname. This was eventually overcome, it seems, by a developing philosophy of sacred creation competing with baser generation as is evidenced by Robert Grosseteste’s thirteenth-century efforts to elevate the vegetable soul to divine status in opposition to some others’ views.
Most people who have considered origins for Plantagenet have ignored a tradition of similar Plant-like names though that context leads to further insights for the meaning of the Plantagenet surname. In the first century AD, Julius Planta is recorded in the Italian Alps though it is not until the thirteenth century that there is evidence for the noble Swiss Planta family. By that time Bernard Plantevelu had founded a new Duchy of Aquitaine in what is now SW France and, just to the north, Geffrey Plante Genest in the twelfth century had germinated the shoots of the Angevin Empire.