House of Bethune

The House of Béthune, or House of Bethune as it is usually written in English, is a French noble house dating back to about 1000 CE. From Béthune in the former province of Artois in the north of France, they were traditionally Lords, in French seigneurs, of the town and castle of Béthune and Advocates of the Abbey of St. Vaast at Arras. Later branches included hereditary princes, dukes, marquesses, counts, viscounts and barons as well as cardinals and archbishops.

The original House of Béthune

Lords of Béthune and Advocates of Arras

Seal of Mathilde

Béthune of Palestine & Cyprus

Béthune of Loker and Meaux

Béthune of Baye and Rosny

Castle of Rosny, by J B C Corot

House of Sully

Maximilen de Béthune

Béthunes, Dukes of Sully

Castle of Sully



Arms of Philippe de Béthune
Philippe de Béthune



Béthunes in Poland and Lithuania

Other French branches

Béthune des Planques

Claiming lineage from the Lords of Carency, a disputed descent, a family called des Planques adopted the name Béthune. The first undoubted member was Michel des Planques (died before 1554), whose son Pierre had two sons. Jean, the elder, gave rise to the family of Béthune-Hesdigneul while Georges, the younger, led to the family of Béthune-Saint-Venant which later became Béthune-Sully.[3]


Princely arms of Béthune-Hesdigneul



Early Bethunes in England

In 1101 King Henry I of England, raised an army of 500 knights, two of its leaders being Robert IV of Béthune and his eldest son Baldwin, Lord of Chocques. When in 1104 the force was doubled to 1000 knights, Robert was again one of the most prominent.[6] Before his death in 1128 he had been granted the lands of Chedworth and Yanworth in Gloucestershire.[7] By 1165 his grandson Robert V was Lord of Gayton, Northamptonshire,[8] his principal seat in England, and held many other manors in Northamptonshire as well as lands in Hertfordshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. All were sold in 1242 by his grandson Robert VII.[9]

Baldwin of Bethune, the third son of Robert V, gained extensive lands in England, both in his own right as companion of successive kings and in right of his wife, the Countess Hawise of Aumale. On his death in 1212, his estates went to his son-in-law William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke while his wife's holdings went to her son William de Forz, 3rd Earl of Albemarle. After 1242, no mention of members of the Bethune family living in England is found until 1709.

Bethunes of Scotland

Further information: Clan Bethune

Early Bethunes in Scotland

According to Bishop John Leslie, there were members of the Bethune family in Scotland before 1093.[10] However the first surviving evidence is a century later, when around 1192 a charter of Lindores Abbey[11] mentions Robert de Bethune, probably Robert VI (died 1193) of the Artois family. Before 1210 the cartulary of Arbroath Abbey records a cleric John de Bethune. Around 1220 Robert de Bethune is mentioned in connection with St Andrews Cathedral Priory and Sir David de Bethune, a knight, in another Arbroath document. From then on the names of clerics and knights called Bethune occur increasingly in Scottish records, mainly in the counties of Angus and Fife, but it is not possible to link the scattered references into a family tree. For that one has to wait until the knight Sir Alexander de Bethune who, according to Hector Boece, in 1314 sat in the Parliament of Scotland held at Cambuskenneth and in 1332 died fighting for the Bruce legitimists against the Balliol rebels at Dupplin Moor. Tradition makes him the father of Robert, who married the heiress of Balfour.

Balfour House before demolition

Over the centuries the pronunciation of the family name shifted from the original French bay-tune to the Scots bee-tn, usually written Beaton. From about 1560, members of the family started using the French spelling again. In the funeral oration delivered for Archbishop James Bethune in 1603,[12] the Bethunes in Scotland are said to descend from a member of the French family who went to Scotland around 1449 and married the heiress of Balfour. The man in question is named as Jacques de Béthune, also known as Jacotin, whose father Jean died at Agincourt in 1415. No Scottish records bear out this assertion.

Bethune of Balfour

Balfour House before demolition
Cardinal Bethune
Memorial to Archbishop Bethune
Creich Castle

Bethune of Creich

Bethune of Langhermiston

Bandon Tower

Bethune of Bandon

Bethune of Craigfoodie and Rowfant

Craigfoodie House
Rowfant House
Denne Park

Bethune of Massachusetts

Mary Faneuil (1732-1797)
George Bethune (1769-1859)

Bethune of Blebo

Andrew Bethune of Blebo


Descendants of the Cardinal

Carving of the Cardinal's Arms
Melgund Castle before restoration
Melgund Castle before restoration

Bethune of Sweden

Arms of Bethunes in Sweden

Around 1630 a Scot named Hercules Bethune emigrated to Sweden, became an officer in the Swedish Army and married a Swedish woman. His descendants, who were naturalised and ennobled, provided generations of army officers until the last male died in 1800. The family, written Bethun in Swedish records, claimed descent from Archibald Bethune, second son of James (died 1618), 6th Laird of Creich, and used a version of the arms of Bethune of Balfour.

Arms of the Bethune family

Argent, a fesse gules
Bends or, on a field azure

Originally, the arms of the Lords of Béthune were the same as those of the town they ruled, that is Argent, a fesse gules. When at an early date they became Advocates of the Abbey of Saint Vaast at Arras, they adopted new arms suitable to their higher status, which were Bends or, on a field azure. After the marriage of Guillaume II to the heiress Mahaut, at her request their son changed his arms to those of her Dendermonde family. As it happened, these arms were the same as the old arms of Béthune, Argent, a fesse gules.[1]

Bethune of Balfour with mascles

When knights of the Bethune family started affixing their seals to documents in Scotland, they used the same fesse as their relations in France. Examples are Sir David de Bethune in 1286 and Sir Andrew de Bethune in 1292. Through marriage with an heiress, the Scottish family altered to Azure, a fesse between three mascles or and this shield was then quartered with that of Balfour to produce the arms used by the Bethunes of Balfour from about 1350 to 1672. By a law that year, all Scottish arms had either to be matriculated by the Court of the Lord Lyon or forfeited. Lyon then changed the ancient Bethune shield slightly to Azure, a fesse between three lozenges or. However, when Eleanor Bethune of Balfour matriculated her arms in 1837, Lyon changed them back to the original Azure, a fesse between three mascles or. Her descendants in the male line have not matriculated the arms.[23]

Junior branches of the Scottish Bethunes used the family arms with slight variations, three sets being matriculated in 1672: Bethune of Bandon, Bethune of Blebo, and Bethune of Langhermiston who died out in the male line almost immediately. The arms of Bethune of Blebo descended to the Bethune Baronets, who have also died out in the male line, while the arms of Bethune of Bandon descended to the Bethunes of Craigfoodie and Rowfant, who continue in the male line but have not matriculated the arms.[23]

Unrelated Bethunes

Medieval scholars called Bethune

No connection has been established with the grammarian Eberhard of Béthune, while Robert de Béthune, Bishop of Hereford, may be related but proof is lacking.

Béthune barons of Belgium

There is no known relationship with the Belgian family of de Béthune, made Barons of Belgium in 1855 and Papal Counts in 1866, which includes the architect Jean-Baptiste de Béthune, the artist Ade Bethune, and the politician Sabine de Béthune.

Bethunes of the Highlands and Islands

In 1778 a book by the Reverend Thomas Whyte, minister of Liberton, claimed that many families in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland called Bethune or Beaton descend from a Peter Bethune, said to be a member of the Bethunes of Balfour.[24] Nobody has yet produced any evidence for this link, which remains unproven and was almost certainly mistaken. Many of the people covered in his work were members of the Beaton medical kindred, an unrelated Scottish family commonly confused with the Bethunes of Fife.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 (French) André Du Chesne, Historiographe du Roy (1639). "Histoire Généalogique de la Maison de Béthune, Justifïee par Chartes de diverses Églises & Abbayes, Arrests du Parlement, Titres particuliers, Epitaphes, & autres bonnes Preuves". Aux Cicognes, Rue Saint Jacques, Paris: Sebastien Cramoisy, Imprimeur ordinaire du Roy. pp. 75 et seq. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 (French) de La Chenaye-Desbois; François Alexandre Aubert (1771). "Dictionnaire de la Noblesse, Contenant les Généalogies, l'Histoire & la Chronologie des Familles Nobles de France" (2 ed.). Paris. p. 418 et seq. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 (French) Baert, Philippe; Beydaels, Charles Jean; Cuypers, Joseph Ferdinand Ghislain (1779). "Suite du Supplément au Nobiliaire des Pays-Bas et du Comté de Bourgogne". Mechelen/Malines: P J Hanicq. pp. 178 et seq. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (French) d'Ursel, Comte Baudouin (2009). "Princes de Béthune-Hesdigneul". Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 4 (French) Favre, Jean Hervé. Retrieved 12 January 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Rymer, Thomas, ed. (1739). Foedera, Conventiones, Literae, Et cujuscunque generis Acta Publica, inter Reges Angliae, et alios quosvis Imperatores, Reges, Pontifices, Principes, vel communitates, ab Ineunte saeculo duodecimo, viz. Ab Anno 1101 ad nostra usque tempora, habita aut tractata (in Latin). 1. The Hague. p. 22.
  7. Hart, W H, ed. (1863). Historia et cartularum monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae (in Latin). I. p. 72.
  8. Adkins, W R D; Serjeantson, R M, eds. (1970). "The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Northamptonshire". London. p. 373. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  9. Black, J G, ed. (1906). "Calendar of the Patent Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office". London. p. 322. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  10. (Latin) Leslie, John (1675). "De origine moribus et rebus gestis Scotorum libri decem: e quibus septem veterum Scotorum res in primis memorabiles contractius: accessit nova & accurata regionum & insularum Scotiæ, cum vera ejusdem topographia tabula descriptio". Rome. p. 201. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  11. (Latin) Dowden, John, ed. (1903). "Chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores". Edinburgh: Scottish History Society. p. 17. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  12. (French) Cayer, Pierre (1603). "L'oraison funebre de hault et puissant Monseigneur Reverendissime l'Archevesque de Glasco, melort Iames de Bethunes". Paris: Bourriquant, F. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Burke, John; Burke, Bernard (1847). "A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, Volume 1". London: Colburn, H. pp. 90–91. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Clark, James Toshack, ed. (1900). "Genealogical Collections concerning Families in Scotland made by Walter MacFarlane". pp. 3 to 35. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  15. 1 2 3 Lyell, James Patrick Ronaldson (1894). Hallen, Reverend A W Cornelius, ed. "The Scottish Antiquary, or Northern Notes & Queries". Edinburgh. p. 189 et seq. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  16. England Marriages, 1538–1973 database, FamilySearch George Bethune and Catherine Bethune, 10 Jun 1771; Worth, Sussex, England, reference ; FHL microfilm 0919105-6, 0413753, 0919105-6, 0416753 Accessed 18 January 2016
  17. 1 2 England Births and Christenings,1538-1975, database, FamilySearch George Cuddington Bethune, 05 Apr 1807; Worth, Sussex, England, reference item 2; FHL microfilm 1,041,590 Accessed 18 January 2016
  18. England Marriages, 1538–1973 database, FamilySearch : Charles Goodwin Bethune and Ann Isabella Mary Eversfield, 08 Jun 1838; Warnham, Sussex, England, reference p.49; FHL microfilm 1,068,519. Accessed 18 January 2016
  19. 1 2 3 4 Weisse, Jane Lee Hunt (1884). A History of the Bethune Family Translated from the French of André Du Chesne, with Additions from Family Records and Other Available Sources Together with a Sketch of the Faneuil Family, with Whom the Bethunes Have Become Connected in America. New York. ISBN 978-5518624399.
  20. "Scotland Marriages, 1561-1910," database, FamilySearch Henry Paton and Mary Bethune, 25 May 1749, St Andrews And St Leonards, Fife, Scotland, FHL microfilm 1,040,175. Accessed 15 January 2016
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 Sanderson, Margaret H. B. (2005). "Ogilvy, Marion (d. 1575)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (subscription required (help)).
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Adelsvapens genealogi Wiki (in Swedish), retrieved 7 January 2016
  23. 1 2 Bethune, Alexander Sharp (1997). Bethune, Lucy Sharp, ed. Fife Sharps and Bethunes. London. pp. 49–56.
  24. Whyte, Reverend Thomas (1778). An Historical and Genealogical Account of the Bethunes of the Island of Sky. Edinburgh: Neill. Retrieved 30 December 2015.


NOTE: The cited sources vary in their accuracy and in places give conflicting information.

 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Béthune (family)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

  • Bethune, Sir Alexander Maitland Sharp, Baronet (1997). Fife Sharps and Bethunes. London.
  • Burke, John (1836). A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland Enjoying Territorial Possessions or High Official Rank but Uninvested with Heritable Honours. London.
  • Burke, John, and Burke, John Bernard (1847). A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland. London.
  • (French) Cayet, Pierre Victor Palma (1603). L’Oraison Funèbre du haut et puissant Monseigneur reverendissime l’Archevesque de Glasco, Melort James de Béthune. Paris.
  • Clark, James Toshach (1900). Genealogical Collections Concerning Families in Scotland Made by Walter Macfarlane 1750-1751. Edited from the Original Manuscripts in The Advocates’ Library. Vol 1, Edinburgh.
  • Conolly, M. F. (1866). Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Men of Fife, of Past ond Present Times, Natives of ihe County, or Connected with It by Property, Residence, Office, Marriage, or Otherwise. Edinburgh.
  • (French) De La Chenaye-Desbois, François Alexandre (1771). Dictionnaire de la Noblesse, 2nd ed, vol 2. Paris.
  • (French) De La Chenaye-Desbois, François Alexandre (1864). Dictionnaire de la Noblesse, 3rd ed, vol 3. Paris, Schlesinger.
  • (French) Denele, Gilbert (2007). La Maison de Béthune
  • (French) Denele, Gilbert (2007). La Famille de Béthune: Généalogie de la Branche de Bessan
  • (French) Denele, Gilbert (2007). Les Béthune en Angleterre et en Écosse: Les Béthune de Balfour
  • (French) Denele, Gilbert (2009). Conon de Béthune
  • (French) Du Chesne, André (1639). Histoire Généalogique de la Maison de Béthune. Paris.
  • (French) d'Ursel, Comte Baudouin (2009). Princes de Béthune-Hesdigneul
  • Farrer, William (1923) Honors and knights' fees : an attempt to identify the component parts of certain honors and to trace the descent of the tenants of the same who held by knight's service or serjeanty from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. Vol 3 London, Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co.
  • Gordon, John (editor) (1845). The New Statistical Account of Scotland, Volume 9: Fife & Kinross. The Society for the Benefit of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy.
  • Lennox, Charlotte (translator) (1756).Memoirs of Maximilian de Béthune, duke of Sully, prime minister to Henry the Great. Containing the history of the life and reign of that monarch, and his own administration under him, Vol 1. London.
  • Lyell, James Patrick Ronaldson (1894), in Hallen, Reverend A W Cornelius, editor The Scottish Antiquary, or Northern Notes & Queries, Vol 8. Edinburgh.
  • MacGeorge, Andrew (1834). Miscellaneous Papers Principally Illustrative of Events In the Reigns of Queen Mary and King James VI Presented to the Maitland Club. Edinburgh.
  • (French) Moréri, Louis (1731). Le Grand Dictionnaire Historique. Basel.
  • (German) Schwennicke, Reverend Detlev (1979). Europäische Stammtafeln, Band VII, Tafel 57-61. Frankfurt am Main, Vittorio Klostermann.
  • Weisse, Jane Lee Hunt (1866). Records, Genealogical Charts, and Traditions of the Families of Bethune and Faneuil from Authentic Documents including Records of the Families of Hunt and Weisse. New York.
  • Whyte, Reverend Thomas (1778). An Historical and Genealogical Account of the Bethunes of the Island of Sky. Edinburgh.
  • Wood, Reverend Walter (1862). The East Neuk Of Fife: History And Antiquities, Geology, Botany, And Natural History In General. Edinburgh.
  • Wood, Reverend Walter, and Wood Brown, Reverend James (1887). The East Neuk of Fife Its History and Antiquities. Edinburgh.
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