The Earl of Cornwall –

King Henry I

Reginald de Dunstanville, or Reginald FitzHenry, or Rainald rather than Reginald, was one of Henry I’s illegitimate sons by Sybilla Corbet.  The Complete Peerage calculates Sybilla´s identity from the charter under which “Reginaldus, Henrici Regis filius, comes Cornubiæ” granted property to “Willielmo de Boterell, filio Aliziæ Corbet, materteræ meæ” which he had granted to “Willielmo de Boterells in Cornubia, patri…predicti Willielmi” on his marriage, witnessed by “Nicholao filio meo…Herberto filio Herberti, Baldwino et Ricardo nepotibus meis, Willelmo de Vernun, Willielmo fratre meo…Hugone de Dunstanvill…”.

He was born circa 1110 , so after Henry vowed to give up mistresses when he married Edith/Matilda of Scotland.  His path followed that of many illegitimate children of the monarchy – his title and wealth came through a marriage arranged to an heiress in this case Beatrice FitzRichard the daughter of an important Cornish landowner. Reginald became Lord of Cardinham through the marriage. Having said that most sources indicate that the marriage took place in 1140 – five years after the death of Henry I. In 1141 Reginald found himself stuck in his castle in Launceston whilst Alan of Richmond roamed the county at the behest of King Stephen. There was also the small matter of an argument with the Church which involved knocking down some building work at Launceston Priory paid for by King Stephen.

Launceston Priory https://launceston-tc.gov.uk/the-council/town-council-properties-services/launceston-priory-ruins

But I’m jumping ahead of myself. When Henry I died in 1135 Reginald was fighting in the Contentin and did not return to England until 1138. Reginald was a key supporter of his half-sister Matilda in her claim to the throne according to the Orderic Vitalis which identified him as “fratre suo Reginaldo comite Cornubiæ.”  She named him Earl of Cornwall in 1141.  The earldom of Cornwall had originally been given by William the Conqueror to Robert, Earl of Morteyne but the Morteyne or Moreton family lost the title in the reign of Henry I. Reginald certainly fought for his sister. His presence is recorded at the rout of Winchester when Robert of Gloucester was captured. Some historians identify Robert as being Reginald’s full brother but Weir identifies Henry I’s favourite illegitimate son as the child of an unknown woman from Caen. Whatever the case the number of charters identifying Reginald as the son of the king demonstrate that Reginald knew that it was important to emphasise that his power and his land ownership came from his blood and that which was given to him by his royal father.

Empress Matilda

Reginald wrested power in Cornwall back when Stephen’s alternative earl – Alan of Richmond – was captured at the Battle of Lincoln. He very sensibly opted to apologise to the Church as well. Ultimately Reginald served not only his sister but also his nephew Henry II. Records show that Reginald held 215 knights fees in Cornwall – manors capable of supporting a knight, his family, his staff and providing equipment necessary for war.

Reginald had five legitimate children and two illegitimate ones but like his father before him died with out legitimate sons so the title went into abeyance before Henry II passed it to his son John. For a brief time Reginald’s illegitimate son Henry Fitz-Count held the title but he resigned it to Henry III in 1219.  

In 1173 he was granted a charter to free burgesses of Truro. It was a this time he also became Sheriff of Devon. Launceston Priory benefited from links to the Dunstanville family as can be seen in its chartulary. The name Dunstanville is from Reginald’s grandmother Adeliza de Dunstanville. Reginald witnessed six charters for the priory.

Reginald died at Chertsey in 1175 and was buried in Reading Abbey where his father was buried.

And as a complete aside the ruins of St Stephen’s Priory Launceston were completely lost after the dissolution until they were uncovered during the Nineteenth century when a railway was built.

 ThompsonKathleen. “Affairs of State: the Illegitimate Children of Henry I.” Journal of Medieval History 29 (2003): 129-51.

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