Port Eliot: Marriage Connections — Introduction & 16th Century

This study memorializes 330 years of marriage connections for the Eliot men (and their children, male and female), in a direct line of inheritance to the present Port Eliot family. Through the marriages listed on these pages, the Eliots of Port Eliot were connected to many of the most influential families of their own times. Until the end of the 17th century, religious conviction and non-Royalist political status factored as heavily in the coupling of Sir John Eliot's children and grandchildren as did the economics aspect of each "marriage settlement". With the transfer of ownership from Daniel Eliot's line to that of William Eliot's line in 1702, the Puritanical nature of the family character faded, replaced by the less controversial (but just as politically motivated) focus on empowering the name of Eliot of Port Eliot and enlarging the estate. While the 18th century brought the vast wealth of the Craggs and Elliston estates into the Eliot coffers, the honorary government posts and titles which the Eliots held were not sufficient to support a large estate – and the Eliot estate had grown very large. Over the years, as the number of Eliot properties and holdings increased, so also grew the need for an occasional influx of capital, and the Eliot tradition of making an "advantageous marriage" changed in nature from political to financial. Regardless of the century, though, or the reason for the match, the Eliots of Port Eliot have always held these relationships in high regard, and cousins have often remained close for as many as three or four subsequent generations.

Original Marriage Settlements for many of the Port Eliot family marriages were deposited at the Cornwall Record Office in 2002, as part of the Port Eliot Collection. The last couple known to have recorded an official Marriage Settlement was Edward Granville Eliot and Jemima Cornwallis (1824). The next two Eliot marriages did not take place until 1850 and 1865, neither of which has left a surviving Marriage Settlement on file. While more recent marriages of the late-19th and 20th centuries would continue to link many influential names to that of the Port Eliot family, the Marriage Settlement seems to have passed by then into the realm of "historical document".

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John Eliot and (1) Mary Bruin, (2) Grace Fitz
BRUIN of Plymouth, Devon
FITZ of Tavistock, Devon
The two marriages of John Eliot remain mysteries of history. Many of the parish registers belonging to West Country churches have been lost or destroyed, or the records had never been kept in the first place. It is very likely that John's first wife, Mary Bruin, had died prior to his purchase of Port Eliot in 1565.

John Eliot's second wife, Grace Fitz (widow of John Langsford), survived her husband and was given the mansion house of Port Eliot, orchards, gardens and about fifty acres as her jointure. There is no evidence that Grace actually lived at Port Eliot after her husband's death. She died at the house of one of her children in Tetcott, Devon, in 1596. By 1609, the Port Eliot property reverted back to John's nephew and heir, Richard Eliot.

Richard Eliot and Bridget Carswell (pre-1592)
CARSWELL of Hache Arundell, Devon & Careswell of Staffordshire
PAWLET of Hinton, St. George, Devon
FORTESCUE of Weare Giffard, Devon
Very little is known about this marriage, though it may be assumed that it happened in 1591. There is a portrait at Port Eliot, dated 1591, considered by the family to be a picture of Sir John Eliot's mother, Bridget. The woman is marked as being in her thirties and is wearing a white and black dress (common wedding attire for this period). It is possible that this portrait was made near the time of her wedding to Richard Eliot.