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In the book Emily Fox-Seton by Frances Hodgson Burnett, there is this line in chapter nine:

There had been noble Hyrsts in the reign of Henry I.

When I look up what hyrsts refers to, the dictionary says that it is the type of wood. But in the context of the book it is referring to the ancestors of a Marquis, who are being viewed with reverence, so it seems like that would be a strange comparison to make.

Does anybody have an idea what the term could mean in this context?

  • Is it just a family surname? Modern spelling likely to be Hurst. – Spagirl Sep 19 '17 at 10:24
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    Surrounding text includes the surname 'Walderhurst', therefore it's saying the family has been noble since at least the reign of Henry I. – Spagirl Sep 19 '17 at 10:30
  • That does seem likely now that I think about it. I mis-read the word, which I think is why I was confused. – KittenWithAWhip Sep 19 '17 at 10:52
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    I'm not going to write it up as an answer, but you could do so yourself if you wished. – Spagirl Sep 19 '17 at 11:05
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In context, it refers to the family which is now called Walderhurst.

Here's a longer quote from the passage you're asking about:

She cherished a touching secret desire to know what might be discoverable concerning the women who had been Marchionesses of Walderhurst before. None of them but herself, she gathered, had come to their husbands from bed-sitting rooms in obscure streets. There had been noble Hyrsts in the reign of Henry I., and the period since then elapsed had afforded time for numerous bridals.

This is saying that the family of Walderhurst, formerly Hyrst (perhaps Hurst in between), has been counted as nobility since the reign of Henry I - namely, the early 1100s - and that due to their long pedigree, they have always been married to women from other wealthy families, not a single one from "bed-sitting rooms in obscure streets".


Hat tip to @Spagirl for pointing to this in comments; but as she said she wasn't going to post an answer, I went ahead and looked up the passage in order to do so myself.

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