The Origin of the Name Lyon
Information from the letters written to me from the late Ronald Iles, secretary of the One Name Study Group
for the Names De Lisle, Lyle, Lyon and Iles
Letter dated 10th August 1991.
"Many thanks for your letter of the 8th August, would you believe it, the first I have ever had from the Lyon branch of our family, most people who write are members of the ‘Lyons’ family and although they too are a Anglo-Norman family, they are nothing to do with us, taking the name from the French city of that name, and in fact now looked on as an Irish family. I will enclose a copy of my ‘Short history of the Iles family’, this will tell you where we came from and our 1st roots, you will see mention of a Gerard de Lisle, who went with King Richard I. on his Holy Crusade in 1191, it seems the herald who collected the names and blazons of those who wished to accompany the King, having come to London, called on Robert de Lisle in Bedfordshire, before arriving in Wiltshire, so Gerald found his cousins name with the de Lisle coat of arms on the heralds list, so to different himself he changed the spelling of his name to de Lyle and his blazon to a white lion capped with a vicomtes crown, all on a red field, both survived the Crusade and returned to live to old age, in 1199, Sir Robert was created Baron de Rougemont for his services, Gerald in the meantime had inherited the title, Vicomte de Cotentin. According to Dr P H Reaney in his dictionary of British surnames, Lyon was a nick name but I believe it was taken from Gerards coat of arms.
The other branches of the ‘Family’, include Lisle, Lyle, Lile, Lell, Lyall, Lyell, all of course are cousins, my aim at first was to research all the branches, but I have now realised I have too many years on the clock to be able to complete such a task, when I tell you that there is some 21 different branches/spelling just from the descendants of Richard Eylles of 1562, you will see that I have my hands full, working on my own branch, rather strange for my eldest grand-daughter Sarah Iles, at present a student at Cardiff University, will in September be going on an exchange visit for a year to Vannes University in Brittany, so the wheel will have turned full circle, as she returns to our ancestors country. She has been a great help to me in translating the many French books on our ancestors including ‘Famille de Lisle’ printed in Vannes in 1898, also books by our famous French cousin ‘Leopold de Lisle’, the 19th century historian, who wrote on the history of the St. Sauveurs and erected a marble tablet, engraved with over 350 names of those knights we know accompanied William the Conqueror in 1066, in the little church at Dives where William prayed.
The senior member of the Lyon family is the Queen Mother, who was born to the 17th Earl of Strathmore, Claude George Bowes-Lyon, there is some mystery as to why this branch added the name Bowes, certainly not for the usual reason. Of the few pedigrees I hold of the Lyon family is a George Lyon, b.1806 in Kent, William Lyon b.1858 in Eccleston and Mary Lyon, married John Kewcut in 1735. Also a William Paige Lyon, b.1840 and his brother George, b.1842, both in the City of Guildford in Surrey. I would be pleased for any further information you may hold on your branch of the Lyon family".
Letter dated 20th August 1991.
"Many thanks for your interesting letter and information, the coat of arms you describe in Rampton Church, Cambridgeshire, is certainly that of one of our ‘de Lisle’ ancestors, I’m not sure which one, I know they were the owners of estates there, that simple blazon is still in use today, after all these years, my branch, the French-Breton line carry a small upturned gold crescent in the centre of the fesse, this denotes the line of a second son, rather strange because the line of the Barons de Rougemont and the Lords de Lisle of Kingston Lisle (Berkshire) were of a second son but never carried this distinction, the only thing I can think is that this rule came in after the year 1199, when the Baron de Rougemont was created and before the start of the French branch in 1248. On a T/V programme I once watched, on I think Glamis Castle, seat of the Earls of Strathmore in Scotland, I saw a coat of arms on a wall, with what is called an eschuteon, (a small shield in the centre of the main coat of arms) this was the same two chevrons interspaced with a fesse, black on a field of gold (or).
Is your family affected with what we call the curse, viz, outstanding ears, it only affects the male line and even then not every generation, H.R.H Prince Charles has it, but it seems both his sons have missed it, I had it bad as a boy got into more fights than I care to remember, my father missed it, as have my five sons, Ben Lyon the radio and film star had it bad, Sandy Lyle the golfer to a lesser degree, some of my cousins had it worse than me, I wonder sometimes just how long it will go on for, most of the Normans took their name from whence they came such as Exeraux and Montgomery, but there were a few who took their name from their appearance, ie. Rous (meaning of red hair) this became Russel and I believe most people of this name still have red hair.
I will write to S H ILes of Aberdeen, the only contact I have had in Scotland is an Eyles, so this will be welcome addition to my vast collection of contacts, I don’t know if I mentioned it but the ‘Lyons’ family are nothing to do with us, though they were a Norman family, they took their name from the city of that name and are now looked on as Irish".