The Grace coat of arms is thought to be of
ancient origin. The long accepted view, put forth in Sheffield
Grace's Memoirs of the Family of Grace (1823) was that Raymond Le
Gras (Cambro-Norman commander during the Norman invasion of Ireland)
was the primogenitor of the Irish family of Le Gras (anglicised into
Grace). This theory has long since been dispelled (Langrishe, 1900
and 1902; Flanagan, 2004) as it has been acknowledged that he had no
known legitimate heirs. Richard Langrishe, in his articles The
Origin of the Grace Family of Courtstown, County Kilkenny, traces
the origins of the Grace family back 1100 years to the
representatives of the House of Blois, of the Loir-et-Cher
department in central France.
Odo, Count of Champagne (ca. 1040-1096) was Count of Troyes and of
Meaux from 1047 to 1066, then Count of Aumale (otherwise known as
Earl of Albemarle, in right of his wife) from 1069 to 1096. Odo was
the son of Stephen II of Troyes and Meaux, and Adele. In 1060, Odo
married Adelaide of Normandy, sister of William the Conqueror and in
1066 Odo accompanied his brother-in-law in the Norman conquest of
England. His uncle (grandfather of Stephen, King of England) then
seized Odo's counties in the Champagne region.
Some time after the invasion King William granted Odo the manor of
Sodbury (Gloucester) for his good services, and he was also rewarded
with the territory of Holderness in Yorkshire. By Adelaide, Odo had
one son Stephen, Count of Aumale and Lord of Holderness (died 1127).
It is around this time that the origins of the name Grace appear.
Stephen's eldest son, William, was sometimes referred to as Crassus
and his second son, also named Stephen, was called Le Gros. William
Crassus, Earl of Albemarle, had no male heir and so the Earldom
passed to his daughter, and eventually to the de Fortibus family. It
is thus through Stephen Le Gras that the family of Grace descends.
In 1283 William Le Gras formally exchanged the family's lands in
Sodbury for Tullaroan, and other lands in Ireland, with the Welond
family. His son, Edmund Le Gras, security for John Fitz Thomas of
Desmond, 1296; summoned to Parliament in 1302, is the first
generation to be styled Baron of Courtstown and Lord of Grace's
The origins of the coat of arms of the Barons of Courtstown, Gules,
a lion rampant per fess Argent and Or, are unknown. However
Langrishe (1900, p.322) suggests that having been cut off altogether
from their succession to the Earldom of Albemarle, they may have
considered it unacceptable to use the coat attributed to the Earls.
Furthermore, the fact that the Grace family arms are similar to
those borne by the Marshals, Earls of Pembroke, could be attributed
to the fact that it was common for the knightly tenants and
followers of a great house to adopt arms modelled on those of their
over-lord. Thus it is suggested that they retained the original
tincture of the field of the Earls of Albemarle, Gules, and that it
was most probable that they chose a rampant lion (differenced) in
allusion to their association with the Earls of Pembroke.
Michael Russell Ian Grace lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His
direct paternal family derives from Sir Oliver Grace (b.1505), the
second son of John Gras (b.1475), Baron of Courtstown. Morgan
Stanislaus Grace (1837-1903), CMG, MLC, established the New Zealand
branch of the family, arriving in Auckland on the Nugget on 21 June
1860 as a staff assistant surgeon with the British Army.