Guiscard of France & Italy

The name Guiscard, or Wiscard, was a Norman epithet used to designate an adroit or cunning person.  One theory is that it was conferred on a Danish soldier named Tancred Visk Hard, probably for distinguished service in Rollo’s army in the 11th century.  He took a fief at St. Lo and married twice into the French nobility, and thereafter he was known as Tancred de Hauteville La Guichard of St. Lo.  Another theory is that he was born in Normandy about 955 and died about 1041.  He married Fredistina de Normandie who was born about 960 in Normandy.

The Guichard (or Guiscard) family owned estates at Coutances in Normandy where there are still to be found the ruins of their residence and a cathedral that contains Guiscard statues.  The name Guiscard became common in Normandy and throughout France, and there is small town called Guiscard near Noyon, north of Paris.  Tancred’s son Robert Guiscard, afterwards Duke of Calabria, founded the Kingdom of Sicily and his descendants were the Norman kings of Apulia (Sicily and Southern Italy) in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The family was also known as Hauteville, meaning high village or town in France, or Alta Villa in Italy.  This was because they were a noble family who built their castles on high ground.

The Guichard coat of arms is understood to contain two thunderbolts (white) on a red background.  With a little imagination the ancient Wishart arms of “three piles meeting in point” is of similar design.  However, this possible link between the two families needs further research.

There are many beautiful remains of European and Arab architecture in Sicily and Italy that were built by the Guichard monarchs.  One theory is that a Guichard (or Guiscardo) migrated from Sicily to Scotland in the 13th century, when the family was routed by Henry VI of Germany.  However, we think it is more probable that a Guiscard came to Scotland from Normandy before the 13th century, pehaps following the Norman Conquest when it was commonplace for the junior sons of French noblemen to be granted titles and lands in Britain.

On a modern note, the former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, known simply as Giscard (pictured above), is descended from the Guiscards of Normandy and therefore with the Wisharts of Scotland.We invited le Président to wear the Wishart (Giscard) Hunting Tartan , and he graciously replied in person as below.

Le Président
la Convention Européenne

Brussels, 3 June 2003

Dear Cousins,

I was delighted to receive your letter of 21st May.  I think you are quite right about the travels of my ancestors: from Normandy they went South to Sicily and North to Scotland, for reasons which were, I am sure, always selfless and pure: in both cases they were attracted, no doubt, by reports of fine weather.

I shall wear my Wishart (Giscard) tie with pride.  And the Convention Secretary-General confirms that nothing in our draft Constitution could in any way affect the rights of Scots to kilts or bagpipes.  Since we also have in the Convention not only a Maclennan but also a McCormick, who wears a kilt in our debates, I am sure he is right: the Wisharts have nothing to fear!

Very sincerely yours

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing

Dr. David Wishart