Who was Guy of Ponthieu

Guy_of_PonthieuGuy of Ponthieu captured Harold of Wessex he arrived from England in 1054  and his boat was wrecked off modern day Picardy– whether it was a fishing trip gone wrong or a diplomatic mission to have his brother and nephew released from the custody of Duke William or even on the orders of King Edward.  Guy based the capture on the laws of  Wreck.  Essentially any ship wrecked mariner could find himself sold into slavery, kept imprisoned or ransomed back to his family.  Guy liked, it would seem, to entertain his captives in the interval between capture and release by torturing them.  The Bayeux tapestry suggests that on receiving the news of Harold’s arrival Guy rode in person to view the sailors who had the misfortune to make land fall upon his coast.

BayeuxTapestryScene07

 

William upon hearing the news at Rouen from a messenger ordered Guy to hand the earl over into his custody.  Guy does this because he is a vassal of Normandy – which makes it all sound very straight forward and Guy’s part in the tale very small but as is the way of these things there is a back story.

 

Guy succeeded to the County of Ponthieu after the death of his brother Enguarrand (the second count of that name) who was William, Duke of Normandy’s brother-in-law.  The marriage with Adeliza or Adelaide, Daughter of Duke Richard, was annulled in 1049/50 on the grounds of consanguinity.  There was a daughter also called Adeliza from the marriage.

Just to make life that little bit more entertaining Enguerrand and Guy’s sister was married to William of Normandy’s uncle.  The uncle, William of Arques, had contested his nephew’s claim to the duchy of Normandy based on the fact that William of Normandy was illegitimate. By 1053 the two Williams had come to blows and the French had waded in on William of Arques’ side.  Enguarrand’s family ties with William of Arques not to mention the fact that his ex-wife had retained her dower despite their annulment goes some way to explaining why the Count of Porthieu fought against William of Normandy rather than with him.  He was killed in 1053 at the siege of Argues by William’s men.

 

Guy, the count on the Bayeaux tapestry, sought to be revenged for his brother’s death by joining forces against William.    Unfortunately he was captured following the Battle of Mortemer (6thFeb 1054) and spent the next two years in custody at Bayeux until he was released having sworn fealty to Duke William.  Consequentially when William of Normandy demanded the release of Harold Earl of Wessex Guy didn’t have a great deal of choice.

count guyGuy is shown on the Bayeux tapestry on four occasions. Harold is shown being captured by Guy mounted on a horse as he comes ashore; then on his throne – replete with a Norman looking hair cut and stipey socks (I know they’re not called socks but just roll with it.)  He’s shown for a third time when William’s men turn up demanding Harold’s release into their custody.  William’s men are all taller than Guy who appears to be wearing a rather colourful tunic along with a set of yellow and green hose. The final occasion for Guy to appear on the tapestry is when he takes Harold to hand him over to William.

county guy and duke william

Is it my imagination or is Guy riding a mule whilst William is riding a horse – either way Guy’s mount has a very small head?  The camels in the side panels above are interesting.  They are symbolic of something!  Endurance, lust or even humility …take your pick.

 

Robert, Count of Mortain

odo-robertIt’s odd how names echo through history.   Prince John was made Count of Mortain in 1189 when he married Isabella of Gloucester shortly before his brother Richard went off to the Crusades.  The move was designed to ensure that John towed the line whilst Richard was away.

The title and territory belonged to the Dukedom of Normandy and seems to have been given to family members.  William the Conqueror made his half brother Robert the Count of Mortain in about 1063.   William of Jumièges  records that William of Normandy appointed his brother to the plum title after he stripped his cousin William Wernlenc of the position.  The Orderic Vitalis tells the story of Wernlenc promising an impoverished household knight all the booty he could wish for from inside Normandy.  It smacked of treachery so William deposed Wernlenc.  Mortain was on Normandy’s border with Brittany and Maine.  William needed to trust the man in charge of the territory.

William and Robert shared a mother, Herleva.  William’s mother was eventually married to Herluin, Vicomte of Conteville. Odo was born in 1030, two years (ish) after William’s birth.  The year after that Robert was born. William of Malmesbury’s Gesta Regnum talks about Odo being astute and clever whilst Robert was dull and plodding – though I agree with Goulding’s analysis that it would have been unwise of Duke William to place such a man in charge of the vulnerable western border to Normandy.

Robert married Matilda de Montgommery, the daughter of Roger de Montgommery who would become the Earl of Shrewsbury.  The Orderic Vitalis identifies Robert’s wife and parentage.

Popular history tends to remember Odo because of his role in commissioning the Bayeux Tapestry – who can forget the club wielding bishop?  Robert was not only one of William’s companions but also helped his half brother to build and equip the invasion fleet. He provided 120 vessels.  He appears on the Bayeux tapestry along side William as depicted in the image at the start of the post. William of Poitiers confirms that Robert was part of the invasion planning council. Once the conquest of England was complete Robert was also made Earl of Cornwall and richly rewarded.

One key land holding was Pevensey and another was Berkhamstead.  Both locations were equipped with motte and bailey castles.  It is from the Orderic we discover that Robert was a key military commander when the Danes attempted to invade England in 1069 following Edgar the Athling’s rebellion. Robert was left at Lindsey to flush out the Danes whilst William went north.  The Vitalis goes on to describe the “harrying of the North.”

Robert remained loyal to William throughout his half-brother’s life. William died in 1087 – by then Odo was not only disgraced but imprisoned.  William wished to exclude the bishop from his deathbed amnesty but was persuaded by Robert to include their sibling.

In 1088, however,  he joined with his brother Odo in revolt against their nephew William Rufus.  William Rufus returned the earldom of Kent to Odo but it wasn’t long before his uncle was plotting to make Rufus’s elder brother, Robert Curthose, king of England as well as Duke of Normandy.  Rufus attacked Tonbridge castle where Odo was based.  When the castle fell Odo fled to Robert in Pevensey.  The plan was that Robert Curthose’s fleet would arrive there, just as William the Conqueror’s had done in 1066.  Instead, Pevensey fell to William after a siege that lasted six weeks.

William Rufus pardoned his uncle Robert and reinstated him to his titles and lands. He died in Normandy in 1095.

Golding, Brian. (1979) “Robert of Mortain,” in Proceedings of the Battle Conference

edited by Marjorie Chibnall (pp119-145) 

 

Domesday and the Salisbury Oath

william the conqueror. jpeg

William, Duke of Normandy raising his visor to show that he is unharmed. Depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry.

William the Conqueror died on 9th September 1087.  The years following 1066 had not been peaceful ones.  He may have secured the Crown with the death of Harold at Hastings but there was the small matter of resistance and revolt. In 1067 Eadric the Wild revolted, he was followed by the Northern earls and then in 1070 King Sweyn arrived from Denmark.

Let’s not forget Malcolm Canmore who made a bit of a habit of invading the North of England. In 1072 William returned the compliment by taking his army into Scotland

William’s family proved disloyal. In 1077 Robert Curthose – or Robert “shorty-pants” rebelled against his father because he wanted some real power.  Even worse William’s wife Matilda supported their son.    William’s brother Odo the Bishop of Bayeux who features on the tapestry as William’s right hand man found himself arrested and carted off to Rouen without trial in 1082. The following year Matilda died and Robert went on a European jaunt.  William must have felt particularly betrayed by his brother because he refused to include Odo in his death bed amnesty of prisoners.

 

So there’s the back drop.  The Danes were contemplating invading England and William’s son was endangering William’s position in Normandy by making an alliance with King Philip of France.  His brother, on whom William had relied, proved greedy, ambitious and untrustworthy.  In 1086, William’s health was failing, having been described by the French king as looking as though he was pregnant – William ordered an evaluation for tax purposes of his English territories.  He was expecting trouble and wanted to know how much revenue he could draw on.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle describes how the king sent men across England to find out how many hundred hides of land there were (120 acres) in each shire, what William owned and what his income ought to have been in terms of taxation.  He also wanted to know what his bishops and earls owned.   The result is unique.

In addition to taxation William wanted guarantees of loyalty.  With this in mind he summoned the great and the good to Salisbury in August 1087 along with a range of landowners.  Normally, in the feudal system, a king took oaths of fealty from his tenants-in-chief and they took oaths in their turn.  At Salisbury William extended the oath taking beyond his chief land owners.  There were one hundred and seventy tenants-in-chief

The ceremony took place at Old Sarum and included sub tenants as well as tenants-in-chief.  Essentially William understood that although the 170 chiefs owed their allegiance to him that their tenants owed their allegiance to the chiefs rather than to him – as in my vassal’s vassal is not my vassal!  This demonstrates that the centralised pinnacle of the feudal system wasn’t yet in place in England in 1087.  The Order Vitallis says that William  distributed land to some 60,000 knights – a huge number – and even if it is wrong (600 is rather nearer the mark) it is useful to demonstrate how the Oath of Salisbury changed things- At Salisbury William gained oaths of allegiance from everyone who held land – they were now all his vassals and owed him service not just the 170 bigwigs.

Cassady, Richard. The Norman Achievement

Viking rulers in England- the late tenth and early eleventh centuries

Harald_Blåtand_(Roskilde_Domkirke)

Harold Bluetooth -Roskilde Cathedral

Having completed a run through of the Anglo-Saxon kings in the run up to the Norman Conquest I thought it would be useful to cover similar ground for the Vikings.  I’m prone to describing them as freebooters – in order to demonstrate Æthelred’s lack of common sense in trying to pay them off.

During the reign of Edgar the Peaceful  who ruled from 959 until 975 it seemed as though England had got itself sorted.  It was effectively one kingdom and there was political stability. Edgar applied taxes and also reformed the coinage – which helped him to finance a naval force to deter would be raiders.

After Edgar died the Vikings returned. Æthelred was unable to repel them and all that lovely new coinage found its way into Viking hoards.  35,000 English coins from his reign has e been found in Scandinavia to date.  Martin and Hannah Whittock explain that it was Edgar’s reformed coinage with its high silver content that was the lure to the Vikings.  It turns out that the silver mines that the Islamic world had relied on until this point were exhausted.  Countries to the east were beginning to establish themselves and repel Viking raiders who had found easy pickings in the past.  These twin causes had the effect of the Vikings looking elsewhere to maintain their wealth.  By chance Western Europe had a new supply of silver – from the Hare mountains.

Part of Æthelred’s problem was that in Denmark King Gorm had managed to establish a more unified state.  This was followed up by Harold Bluetooth, Gorm’s son, who extended the range of his influence to Norway.  His first achievement is usually listed as uniting Denmark under a single ruler. Bluetooth constructed forts and united resources based on his expanding wealth – this meant he had a larger force of men to command and they were more organised.  Secondly he became a Christian and converted all the Danes and Norwegians – part of the reason for this was not just because Harold had been tolerant of Christians but because Otto the Great, the Holy Roman Emperor of the time had taken the opportunity to interfere in Danish affairs there was a war.  The outcome was a Christian nation. It’s a bit unclear as to whether it was Harold’s way of keeping Otto at arm’s length or that Otto won the war and insisted on Christianity.  in either event it had the effect of further unifying the Danes.

Meanwhile in Norway a similar story can also be told.  Harold Finehair dominated Norway following a sea battle in 872.  This unity fractured with his death and this was what allowed the Danes to dominate Norway through local earls.  However for a short while Olaf Tryggvason, who was apparently Harold Finehair’s great grandson if you believe the sagas,  was able to rule independently from the Danes.  He was an active raider prior to becoming King of Norway.

sweyn-forkbeard-invade-england

Sweyn from a 13th century illustration held by the University of Cambridge.

Sweyn Forkbeard was Bluetooth’s son. He ruled Denmark from 985 until his death in 1014.  He invaded England and dethroned Æthelred the Unready in 1014.   We know about Sweyn from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and from the later Icelandic Sagas that drew on the oral tradition.  According to the sagas Sweyn was a mercenary who deposed his father and started raiding England.  Bluetooth died in exile shortly after  Sweyn booted him off the throne.  At the beginning of Sweyn’s reign he formed a loose alliance with Olaf Tryggvason of Norway although this alliance would fracture in due course.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records the rise in number of Viking attacks throughout the 980s. In 993 the Earl of Essex – Byrhtnoth- wrought his own defeat by allowing the Viking army that he confronted at Maldon to access land on the same level as that as his own army – honourable but not tactically terribly helpful. Æthelred paid £10,000 to the Vikings so that they would go away.  The Vikings in question were Norwegians led by Olaf Tryggvason.

The following year Sweyn  Forkbeard of Denmark joined in the attack on England – a different confederation of Vikings who were looking to cash in on Æthelred’s inability to repel them.    In 994 it appears that Olaf was baptised at Andover.  He stopped raiding England.  It may have been part of a Danegeld treaty.  There was also the small matter of his move to become king of Norway and the imposition of unity upon the country – although admittedly this declined the further north he got.

swen_smrt-2Sweyn continued his campaign.  In 1002 Æthelred ordered the murder of all Danes on English soil on St Brice’s day – hardly a move designed to pour oil on a troubled situation.  It didn’t help that Sweyn’s sister Gunhilda may have been one of the victims.

Various annals record the raids which culminated in a successful invasion of England in 1013.  Forkbeard died five weeks after his conquest at the beginning of 1014.  Some sources indicate he fell from his horse at Gainsborough but the thirteenth century illustration along side this paragraph depicts the other version of his demise – at the hands of the ghost of St Edmund.

Edmund of course is the East Anglian king after whom Bury St Edmunds is named.  He died in 869 having been shot to death with arrows by an earlier wave of Vikings.  He was rather popular  during the reign of Æthelred as people prayed to the martyred king for salvation for the current crop of Vikings – which would account for Sweyn being skewered by a ghost.

Sweyn was succeeded by his son Cnut who married Æthelred’s widow, Emma of Normandy in 1016 on the understanding that any son that they had together would inherit the Crown upon Cnut’s demise.  Cnut was in his turn succeeded by  Harold Harefoot in 1035 and then Emma’s son Harthacnut in 1040.  Harthacnut, Emma’s son, had become king of Denmark upon his father’s death.


https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/11831753/The-oppressive-Danish-king-impaled-by-St-Edmund-of-the-East-Angles.html

Whittock, Martyn & Hannah. (2016) 1016 & 1066: Why the Vikings Caused the Norman Conquest. Marlborough: Robert Hale

 

Danish and Saxon Kings of England before the Norman conquest – an eleventh century game of thrones

Ethelred_the_UnreadyWe think of England before 1066, if we think of it at all,  as being Anglo Saxon with a large Danish contingent in the north.  Simple perhaps,  that’s the story most of us learn as children in primary school.  Unfortunately for the Anglo-Saxons and their Norse descended neighbours things were not that straight forward. England was a wealthy country and its inhabitants might have been forgiven for thinking that they were a tasty bone being pulled first one way and then the other by  opposing forces.

Æthelred the Unready, pictured at the start of this post,  ruled England from 996.  His predecessor was Edward the Martyr.  Edward died in uncertain circumstances in Corfe Castle- Suffice it to say that Edward’s death didn’t enhance the reputation of Æthelred’s mother. Æthelred was the three times great grandson of King Alfred.  He ruled until 1013.  During that time his biggest problem were the Danes.  Thanks to bad advice Æthelred’s response was to pay them to go away and when they kept coming back he ordered the massacre of all Danes in England in 1002.

The event is known as the St Brice’s Day Massacre. It wasn’t an unmitigated success Æthelred could only really expect the order to be carried out in the southern parts of England.  In addition to which Swein, or Sweyn, Forkbeard’s sister was amongst the victims of the massacre along with her husband and child,

sweyn-forkbeard-invade-englandSwein seeking revenge and revenue committed himself to invading England. The Chroniclers do not have much good to say about Swein.  Suffice it to say he became the first Dane who could claim to be king of all England in 1013.  The following year he fell off his horse and died.

There were now two possible contenders for the crown. Æthelred who had made himself scarce on the Isle of Wight during Swein’s period in power and Swein’s son Cnut (yup – the one who allegedly demonstrated that he couldn’t hold back the tide.) Æthelred now promised the nobility all sorts of things so that Cnut found that he didn’t have as many allies as he previously thought meaning that Cnut’s territory dwindled quite rapidly.

Edmund_Ironside_-_MS_Royal_14_B_VI.jpg

If this seems straight forward Æthelred’s son Edmund known as Ironside because of his warrior like tendencies now decided to revolt against his father.  It was only when Cnut came back to England in 1016 that Edmund returned to his father’s side.  By then Æthelred’s chief ally a Norwegian called Olaf Haroldson had taken himself off for a spot of light raiding in Europe. Æthelred died in April 1016.  The battle for England continued between Edmund and Cnut.  Cnut won a decisive battle in October 1016 and Edmund Ironside died at the end of November.

cnutCnut was now king of England.  He married Æthelred’s widow Emma.  Cnut the Great ruled England for the better part of two decades.  He died on 12th November 1035.  In Denmark he was replaced by his son with Emma – Harthacnut.

England was a less straight forward proposition.  Cnut had two sons by two different women – Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut.  The former found support in the north of the country – by which I mean north of the Thames- whilst the latter had more support in Wessex.  Eventually Harefoot was acknowledged king but not until 1037.  He died in 1040.

harold harefoot.jpg

 

Harthacnut_-_MS_Royal_14_B_VIHarthacnut then returned to England and became king without any difficulty.  Harthacnut celebrated his arrival by having Harefoot dug up, beheaded and dumped in a handy marsh.  He ruled until 8th June 1042 when he died having celebrated the wedding of Cnut’s standard bearer Tovi the Proud at Lambeth.  Harthacnut stood to drink a toast to the bride and promptly died.

 

England had been under Danish rule since 1016.  The House of Wessex now regained the upper hand.  Emma’s sons by Æthelred, Edward and Alfred, had grown up in Normandy.  They had attempted to regain the Crown in 1036 when Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut were at a standoff after their father’s death.  Edward had arrived at Southampton and then taken himself back to Normandy.  His brother Alfred had landed in Dover, been greeted by Earl Godwin, tricked into believing that Godwin sided with Æthelred’s sons, captured, blinded and left to died from his injuries at Ely.

Edward the confessor drawn

Now, in 1042, Godwin the most powerful of the earls supported Edward’s claim to the throne. It wasn’t long before Godwin’s family began to benefit from their father’s decision. Then in 1045 Godwin’s daughter Edith married Edward.  When Edward died on 5th January 1066 he had not children of his own.

Anyone with the blood of the Royal House of Wessex could have been king if they had sufficient support. Edward Ætheling, the son of Edmund Ironside, had returned to England from Hungary in 1057 but died, somewhat suspiciously, almost as soon as he arrived back in England with his three children.  Edward is also known in history as Edward the Exile.

Edward’s son Edgar was an Ætheling – i.e. throne worthy but he was not really old enough when Edward the Confessor died in 1066 to become king. The man who wielded the most political power in the country was Godwin’s son Harold, although Harold’s brother Tostig also fancied his chances.

There was also the small matter of a promise made to Duke William of Normandy by Edward the Confessor possibly in the winter of 1051-52 when he had been able to rid himself, albeit briefly, of the Godwin clan.  In 1064 Harold Godwinson had made a trip to Normandy and had not been allowed to return home until he had sworn to support Duke William’s claim to the throne.

And then there was the claim of  King Magnus I of Norway who said that Harthcnut had left the throne to him not to Edward the Confessor. He had been crowned king of Denmark in 1042 after Harthacnut’s death honouring the agreement made between the two men that which ever one of them who outlived the other would inherit the dead man’s kingdom.  Magnus had not pursued his claim to England but in 1066 his son Harold Hardrada in alliance with Harold Godwinson’s brother, Tostig, would make an attempt to secure the throne.

 

 

Danegeld and heregeld

King-Cnut-stowe_ms_944_f006r.jpgIn 1066 the total population of England was somewhere between 2 and 2.5 million.  North and East of the A5 – or Watling Street- a good chunk of the population was of Scandinavian (largely Danish) descent being in the Danelaw part of the country.  Localhistories.org state that the population was much smaller than it had been in Roman times given that they identify a figure twice that of Anglo-Saxon England. 90% of the Anglo-Saxon population  in 1066 were involved in agriculture.

We know that England was one of the wealthiest countries in Europe at the time – in part we know this because of the collection of Danegeld during the period when Ethelred the Unready was king. In 1018 the Saxons gave King Cnut £82,000 which is a staggering sum of money.  In total the Vikings netted something in the region of £137,000 between 991 and 1012.  Clearly things were going from bad to worse for the Saxons.

Essentially following the second wave of Viking incursions from 1012 onwards Ethelred paid the Vikings money to go away – not understanding that they were freelancers and that once word spread that the Anglo-Saxons were handing out cash that more Vikings would turn up to benefit from the bonanza.  In later years Danegeld became heregeld or Army Tax.  Somewhat ironically we know that one of Ethelred’s mercenaries was the very nordic Thorkell the Tall who signed up in 1014 for £21,000.

Since 90% of the population were required to work the land it stands to reason that the heregeld was not to pay for new weapons or to pay homegrown soldiers but to pay a largely mercenary force to send the Vikings on their way.  This was not an entirely successful policy on the Saxons part as the Danes led by Cnut occupied England between 1016 and 1042.   They continued to levy the tax. Cnut died in 1035 and was succeeded by his sons Harthacnut and then Harold Harefoot.

Notwithstanding the change in rulers from Saxons to Vikings to Saxons and then Normans, heregeld continued to be collected until 1162 with a slight interruption during the reign of Edward the Confessor who discontinued its payment in 1051.  It was noted by Florence of Worcester as paying for a vessel and eighty warriors.

It is not surprising that the value of a penny in terms of its weight declined until Edward the Confessor placed a halt, albeit a temporary one, on the tax.  Every village was required to pay.  Bartering and exchange of good was not an option.  Thus the mint had to produce more coins and didn’t have sufficient metal of the job.

Rather uncharmingly, heregeld was the first nationally collected tax in Europe.  It also demonstrated that Ethelred was capable of levying a tax because he had the necessary bureaucracy in place to do so.  It was during this time for instance that the office of sheriff first appears in the written record.  Unsurprisingly the Normans kept the system in tact.  We know that Norman sheriffs usually paid a fee in order to acquire the job – these so called “farms” demonstrate that not only was the sheriff an important administrative official representing the monarch but that it was a highly lucrative job.  The person who was sheriff could control the other local magnates because it was his job to collect the heregeld and could thus dominate his locality as well as pocketing part of the taxes that he collected.

One of the problems of the taxation during Saxon times was that smallholders often found it difficult to pay the tax so during this period the make up of Saxon hierarchy changed so that there were fewer free holders and more villeins.

The image at the beginning of this post comes from the British Library

 

Lambert, Tom. Law and Order in Anglo-Saxon England.

Lawson, M.K. The collection of Danegeld and Heregeld in the reigns of Aethelred II and Cnut  The English Historical Review, Volume XCIX, Issue CCCXCIII, 1 October 1984, Pages 721–738, https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/XCIX.CCCXCIII.721

The Norman kings of England family tree

Norman family tree

If ever there was a dysfunctional family – this is it.  There are sufficient tales of sibling rivalry, murder and kidnap to keep me out of mischief for weeks.

William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders had the following children –

Robert_Curthose_-_MS_Royal_14_B_VI

  • Robert Curthose (1052/4- 1135) who married Sybilla of Conversano.  He fought with his brothers, rebelled against his father and was denied the English crown by his youngest surviving brother Henry before losing the duchy of Normandy and being imprisoned for 28 years in England.  One story suggests that Henry threatened to put Robert’s eyes out to prevent him from escaping.  He married and had issue. William Clito was the only one of Robert’s two sons to survive until adulthood.  He became Count of Flanders by right of his grandmother but his struggle to regains father’s lands and titles resulted in much unpleasantness.

RichardofNormandy

  • Richard who died in a hunting accident in the New Forest by either in 1075 or 1081.

Cécile_de_Normandie

  • Cecilia born about 1054 who was entered into her mother’s abbey of the Holy Trinity in Caen and went on to become its abbess.  She died in 1126.
  • Adeliza born 1055.  She may have been promised in marriage to Harold when he was the Earl of Wessex but as events turned out she entered a nunnery.  Alison Weir states that she was probably dead by 1066.

king-william-rufus-william-ii-house-of-normandy-1087-1100-1351385894_b

  • William Rufus was born sometime between 1056 and 1060.  He died as the result of an ‘accident’ with an arrow on 2nd August 1100.

Constance_of_Normandy.jpg

  • Constance married Alan IV of Brittany.  She died in 1090, possibly poisoned by her own servants.

adela

  • Adela was born about 1062 and was married to Stephen, Count of Blois.  After his death she entered a nunnery.  She died in 1137 or 38. The lives of her children are interwoven into the story of England at this time – one became Bishop of Winchester, another – Stephen became king whilst a third drowned when the White Ship sank in 1120.

220px-Henry_I_of_England

  • Henry was born in 1068 in Selby, Yorkshire. He was crowned on the 5/6th August 1100 having purloined the English Crown from his older brother Robert who was traveling home from the First Crusade at the time William Rufus’s unfortunate accident. He died in 1135, his only legitimate sone having drowned in 1120.  His first wife was Edith of Scotland (daughter of St Margaret) she changed her name to Matilda which was much more comfortable on Norman ears.  After the death of his heir Henry remarried to Adela of Louvain who I have posted about previously. Alison Weir lists 25 children both legitimate and illegitimate.  Their story reflects the fact that legitimacy was not so important at this time in history.  One of Henry’s daughters married Alexander I of Scotland another married the Duke of Brittany.

white ship sinking

  • Agatha, born in 1064, was married by proxy to King Alfonso of León.  She died in 1074.
  • Matilda died in 1112 – and that’s more or less all that we know about her.

 

The family tree at the start of the post demonstrates the way in which William’s family was married into States which bordered William’s own territories. The extended familial relationships  then impacted on English politics and Church making England a very European affair.

Henry I  forced his barons to accept his daughter Matilda after the death of his son William in 1120 but Matilda’s cousin Stephen of Blois was male and on the scene so snaffled the job.  This resulted in the so-called Anarchy which lasted from 1135 until 1153. It was only after the death of Stephen’s son Eustace that a peace treaty between the two sides could be formally arranged by the Treaty of Winchester.  Matilda’s son Henry known as Henry FitzEmpress was recognised as Stephen’s heir.  His accession to the throne ended the Norman period of rule and began the Plantagenet line.

 

Many of the images in this post come from the Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings which dates from the reign of Edward I, is almost  five metres long, beginning with Egbert King of Wessex and concludes with Edward I.  Edward II  and Edward III were added at a later date.

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/genealogical-chronicle-of-the-english-kings

William the Conqueror’s sons

young-william-the-conqueror.jpgFor the most part when we think of William the Conqueror’s and Matilda of Flanders’ children we tend to identify William Rufus who got himself killed in the New Forest in 1100 and his little brother Henry who took the opportunity to snaffle the crown having secured the treasury in Winchester.

The death of William Rufus  is pictured below in an illustration from William of Malmsebury’s account of events in the New Forest.

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The English crown went to William Rufus as the second son surviving son whilst the more important patrimony – i.e. Normandy went to William the Conqueror’s eldest son Robert Curthose.    Henry, William’s youngest surviving son received money to buy land.Robert_Curthose_-_MS_Royal_14_B_VI

William and Robert hadn’t always seen eye to eye.  In 1077 Robert rebelled against his father following a prank played by William Rufus and Henry.  They thought it would be funny to up end a full chamber pot over Robert’s head.  Robert fought his brothers and the resulting brawl was only stopped when William the Conqueror intervened. Robert was so disgruntled when his two brothers went unpunished that he and his followers attempted to seize Rouen Castle the following day.  The dispute lasted for the next three years until Queen Matilda was able to bring both sides together having secretly sent money to her son behind William’s back during that time. As is often the case there is more to the tale than the story.  William left Matilda in Normandy acting as regent during his absence.  Not only was she acting on William’s behalf but she was also standing in for the young Robert.  This practice should have stopped as Robert grew up.  He demanded that he be allowed more responsibility, but William who appears not to have had a high opinion of his eldest son refused.  Robert’s resentment grew.

Matilda died in 1083 and Robert became something of a vagrant, travelling widely to avoid spending time in his father’s court.

220px-Henry_I_of_EnglandWhen William the Conqueror died in 1097 Robert gained Normandy and made William Rufus his heir.  William did like wise. However despite this agreement little brother Henry (pictured left) was able to claim the English throne  in 1100 because  Robert was on the return journey to Normandy from the First Crusade where he had proved himself to be an effective military leader which goes somewhat against the chronicles of the time which describe him at best as lazy, at worst as incompetent. At the time of William Rufus’s death  Robert not only had further to travel but he had interrupted his journey in order to marry a wealthy bride.  In order to pay for the crusade he’d mortgaged Normandy and now needed to find the funds to free himself from his debts.

His bride was Sybilla of Conversano  about whom I have posted before. The pair had a son called William Clito before she died in 1103. Like William the Conqueror, Robert had left his wife as regent during his absences and most chroniclers agree that she made a better job of the role than Robert.

Inevitably  Robert finally arrived on English shores with an army on July 21st 1101 but Henry  persuaded Robert to settle for a pension instead of a kingdom. This was recognised in the Treaty of Alton (Hampshire). Sooner rather than later Henry stopped paying the pension and punished the men who had supported Robert in his claim.

In 1105 Henry invaded Normandy and beat Robert at the Battle of Tinchebray.  The British contingent in Henry’s army  felt that Hastings had been avenged as the Norman army fled the field.  Robert spent the next 28 years in captivity.  He died in 1134 in Cardiff Castle where he’d passed the time learning Welsh and writing poetry. He is buried in Gloucester Cathedral. Robert’s incarceration did not mean that Henry was bale to rule both England and Normandy in peace. Robert’s son William Clito was recognised by many Norman nobles as their rightful duke.

 

RichardofNormandyAnd finally, William Rufus wasn’t the only one of William the Conqueror’s sons to die in the New Forest.  Richard  (pictured left) who was born some time between 1055 and 1059 died in a hunting accident by 1075. Orderic Vitalis says of him that “when a youth who had not yet received the belt of knighthood, had gone hunting in the New Forest and whilst he was galloping in pursuit of a wild beast he had been badly crushed between a strong hazel branch and the pommel of his saddle, and mortally injured.” He is buried in Winchester.

 

 

 

 

Aird, William. Robert ‘Curthose’, Duke of Normandy

Weir, Alison. Queens of the Conquest

 

 

 

 

Marrying Matilda

dun35zum_largeWilliam Duke of Normandy needed a bride.  He settled on Matilda of Flanders the daughter of Count Baldwin V of Flanders. The German emperor, Henry III, wasn’t keen on the match as in his mind it created an overly powerful duchy. Such was Henry’s clout that  Pope Leo IX forbade the pair to marry in 1049 when William began his negotiations with Flanders.

Matilda was born in about 1031, so about eighteen when the negotiations started.  She had a mind of her own.  It wasn’t just the German emperor and the pope who objected – Matilda wasn’t too keen on the idea either. Apparently being related to most of the royalty in Europe of the time she considered herself a cut above William. (she was also descended from King Alfred the Great). There was also the fact that she’d taken a shine to Brittric of Gloucester, Edward the Confessor’s ambassador in Flanders.

William, according to popular story, rode to Bruges, confronted Matilda and dragged her from her horse by her hair before throwing her on the floor – an unusual courting technique which seems surprisingly successful despite the risk of starting a war with Matilda’s outraged father. Matilda changed her mind and announced that she would have no one but William. Other versions of story are available.

Ultimately William married Matilda in 1051ish (depending on the source) but there was still a question mark over the marriage.  William’s uncle Duke Richard III had been married to Adela of France – who also happened to be Matilda’s mother so there was a degree of relationship. There was also the fact that they shared a common ancestor in Rolf the Viking.

Papal approval only came in 1059.  By that time Pope Nicholas II had replaced Leo who had been German which leads us neatly back to Henry III’s objections to the match. The only condition  to the backdated dispensation was that both William and Matilda had to found a monastic house each. The founding at Caen of the  Benedictine “Abbey aux Dames” dedicated to the Holy Trinity was Matilda’s penance for marrying William.  He founded the abbey of St Stephen’s also in Caen.

Leonie Hicks makes the point that William, who was some four years older than her and who had been duke since childhood, made himself more secure with his marriage to Matilda who brought with her an alliance with Flanders and undoubted royalty.

She would provide her spouse nine or ten children and enjoy a loyalty, unusual for the period, from William in return.

The statue of Matilda can be found in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.

 

Hicks, Leonie. Norman women: the power behind the thrones. History Extra,   https://www.historyextra.com/period/norman/norman-women-the-power-behind-the-thrones/

 

Egremont Castle – the de Lucys and the de Multons.

 

 

As some of you will have guessed I’m on one of my peregrinations resulting in random northern history, pleasant discoveries and battle with the Internet.  This morning for instance I have had to find a cafe and partake of a rather delicious walnut and raspberry scone….still, someone has to do it!DSC_0015.JPG

In 1092 William Rufus arrived in Carlisle and wrested it out of the hands of the Scots. Ivo de Taillebois, being a henchman of the king, received huge swathes of land in the northwest. Ivo died in 1094 and his wife Lucy (a lady with large parts of Lincolnshire to call home) acquired the huge swathes of land in the northwest, or rather her second husband did. He died shortly after and Lucy acquired husband number three – Ranulph de Briquessart who acquired the aforementioned huge swathes of land in the northwest including the barony of Copeland and Egremont Castle.

 

Briquessart changed his name to le Meschines or le Meschin and in 1100 was created earl of Chester – part of the price for his swanky new title his title was huge swathes of land in the northwest. Egremont passed back into Crown holdings for a while.

 

Twenty years later, King Henry I granted de Meschines’ brother William part of his brother’s former northwestern territories – basically imagine a square bounded on one side by the Irish Sea, the mountains of the Lake District on the opposite side and the upper and lower lines of the square being everything to the south of the River Derwent and north of the River Duddon. This area was the barony of Copeland.

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William decided to build a castle at Egremont overlooking the River Ehen. The remains of the early castle motte can still be seen (pictured left). Gradually a town complete with a market cross grew up around the castle and the castle grew to become an impressive stone structure with a great hall. The herring bone pattern in the brickwork is an indicator that the castle was built early in the Norman period so people who know these things conclude that Ranulph may have done some building in stone before his brother arrived on the scene.

 

William had a son who ruled the barony after him but no male heirs. The castle and barony was the inheritance of William’s granddaughter Alice de Romilly, Lady of Skipton.

 

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The barony and the castle were secured by Alice’s husband William FitzDuncan, earl of Moray (a title he gained circa 1130). FitzDuncan had an illustrious northern heritage. His mother was Earl Gospatric’s daughter and his father was the king of Scotland. The marriage between two such notable families must have had something to do with a Scottish bid to take over the whole of the northwest. Ultimately, during FitzDuncan’s lifetime the whole of Cumberland, more or less, was in the hands of the Scots, the English being busy arguing about whether Stephen or Matilda should rule England. According to legend FitzDuncan wasn’t necessarily a terribly warm and friendly chap – and given the age in which he lived that must have been saying something. One of his nicknames was the Butcher of Craven- though to be fair I’ve seen him described as “the Noble” elsewhere. Part of the reason for this was that when King David invaded England in 1136 FitzDuncan, a member of the Scottish royal family, became a key military leader in the area…for the Scots.

 

In any event he and Alice had only one son- William. The boy went out one day whilst staying in Craven and simply disappeared into the River Wharfe when he missed his footing sometime between 1163 and 1166. He became known in folklore as the “Lost Boy of Egremont.” – which was unfortunate because with his powerful dynastic connections had he survived not only would he have been a powerful northern magnate but also a possible contender for the Scottish crown. It should also be added that he was not the child that Wordsworth depicted in his poem of the story –rather he was about twenty or so years old.

 

William FitzDuncan died and the estates that he’d accrued over the years were divided between his three daughters:

  • Cecily married to the earl of Albermarle,
  • Annabel or Mabel depending on the source you read married Reginald de Lucy – offspring of Henry II’s justicar Richard de Lucy.
  • Alice married twice but died childless.

 

When Alice died her share of the estate was then divided between her sisters’ heirs. Egremont came to Richard de Lucy, son of Annabel- this happened in the reign of King John. He married Ada a co-heiress of Hugh de Morville Lord of the Barony of Burgh. Unfortunately the families who owned Egremont seemed to have a general shortage of sons. De Lucy had two daughters also named Annabel and Alice who, as a result of their father’s death in 1213, became co-heiresses. Richard was promptly buried in St Bees Priory and King John acquired two heiresses as wards. He sold their wardships on to Thomas de Multon of Lincolnshire (just in case you wondered where he popped up from)– he also married the girls’ mother, the widowed Ada de Moreville.

 

Inevitably the de Lucy girls were married into the de Multon family and the castle went with them. Annabel de Lucy married Lambert de Multon and inherited the Barony of Copeland. The de Multons become the lords of Egremont Castle. Let’s just say that they were turbulent times and with King John in charge things were even less straightforward than normal. De Multon spent a lot of time trying to get hold of the property of his two daughters-in-law whilst other people waved family trees around making their own claims.

 

With Henry III on the throne Lambert gained a Royal Charter from the king to hold a weekly market as well as an annual fair which is still held in September. The de Moultons feature as important northern military figures throughout the reign of Henry III and into the period of Edward I – they provided men and money for Edward’s Scottish campaigns.

 

If you thought the ownership of Egremont Castle was complex simply because it followed the female line it’s about to get even more complicated. The de Lucy family rejuvenated itself when Annabel’s nephew decided to take the name de Lucy rather than de Multon. Alice de Lucy had never used her married name of de Multon and it appears that her son Thomas, calling himself de Lucy, wasn’t keen on losing his grip on the barony of Copeland or Egremont Castle to his aunt’s family. He made a claim to the Lordship of Copeland and sued the de Multons for what he regarded as his rightful inheritance. The de Multons were forced to hand over the castle (bet that led to some uncomfortable silences at family gatherings.)

 

The general lack of males heirs to inherit caused the story to spread that Egremont Castle was cursed on account of the fact that its founder, William le Meschin had joined with King Henry I when William Rufus died rather than keeping to his oath of allegiance with Henry’s older brother Robert Curthose. For folks who didn’t like that particular theory there was always the dastardly William FitzDuncan and all those brutally murdered women and children to hold accountable for the fact that none of the lords of the castle appeared able to pass the castle on to the next generation via a male heir.

 

 

By the beginning of the fourteenth century Egremont wasn’t worrying about heiresses it was worrying about the Scots. In 1322 Robert the Bruce plundered the town for the second time. The castle probably looked rather battered as a consequence. The de Lucys and the de Multons, in between fighting Scots, were busily engaged in their own private feuds since Edward II proved incapable of ruling effectively. Meanwhile Maud de Lucy, Alice’s great great grand-daughter married the earl of Northumberland.

 

Back at Egremont in 1335 the castle changed hands because of yet another marriage- Joanna de Lucy (or rather de Multon if you want to be strictly accurate) was one of three co-heiresses. This time it ended up in the hands of Robert Fitz Walter who resided in Essex.  FitzWalter and Joanna’s grandson, the imaginatively named Walter FitzWalter, managed to get captured by the French and held to ransom during 1371 in Gascony. The reign of Edward III and the Hundred Years War was in progress at the time. Egremont Castle was promptly mortgaged to the earl of Northumberland to help raise the £1000 ransom.

 

By the middle of the fifteenth century the castle changed hands yet again through another marriage. It became part of the Radcliffe estate and by this time Egremont had become little more than a shelter during times of Scottish reiver forays.

 

In 1529 the castle was sold outright to the earl of Northumberland. The sixth earl, Henry Percy (Anne Boleyn’s sweetheart), left all his possessions to Henry VIII. So from 1537 until 1558 Egremont was back in Crown hands.

 

The castle was returned to the earls of Northumberland but by this stage in proceedings the castle was virtually a ruin. The story of Egremont Castle came to a rather sticky end in 1569 as a consequence of the shortlived Rising of the North when the seventh earl of Northumberland supported a bid to rescue Mary Queen of Scots. Egremont was slighted so that it couldn’t be used defensively but there was one room that was still in tact that was used as a court until the end of the eighteenth century.

That leads neatly to the Battle of Gelt Bridge and Thistlewood Tower which I tripped over yesterday…though when I find the internet again to post my article is anyone’s guess.

In addition to the Lost Boy of Egremont there are two other stories associated with Egremont Castle. The first is called the Woeful Tale and recounts the story of a Lady de Lucy setting out on a hunting jaunt only to be slaughtered by a wolf. The other is better known. The Egremont Horn also concerns the de Lucy’s. Remarkably for a family plagued by lack of heirs it is about two brothers. Apparently the de Lucys’ owned a mighty hunting horn that could only be blown by the rightful heir to the estates. Sir Eustace and Hubert de Lacy went off to the crusades. Hubert who rather fancied being Lord of Egremont arranged to have his brother murdered whilst abroad. Hubert returned but didn’t dare to blow the hunting horn. Then one day Hubert heard the Horn of Egremont echoing through the castle. Eustace wasn’t as dead as Hubert might have hoped. As Eustace rode in through the front gate, Eustace scarpered out by the postern gate.

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Salter Mike. (2002) The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria. Malvern:Folly Publications