Festive gifts from Henry of Bolingbroke to Katherine Swynford

In 1382 John of Gaunt formally disavowed himself of his long term mistress Katherine Swynford. They had been in a relationship for ten years and Katherine had given the duke four children. At the time of the Peasants’Revolt the previous year her youngest daughter, Joan, was a babe in arms.

In order to keep Katherine safe, Gaunt issued a quitclaim on 14 February 1382. It was an unusual Valentine as it essentially stated that neither of them owed one another anything – they were separate entities. All accounts between the couple were settled.

So that was that…in public at least. Gaunt continued to send Katherine gifts and to provide for his Beaufort family. It is of course possible that the couple continued their affair in secret. But the thing about a good secret – is that its a secret – and that rather puts a damper on historical evidence.

In the meantime Katherine continued to be a welcome guest in the household of Gaunt’s son Henry of Bolingbroke and his young wife Mary de Bohun. The gifts that Katherine received from Henry were rather impressive – silk gowns trimmed with miniver (unspotted white fur – think squirrels and stoats in winter); lengths of damask (expensive silks with a pattern created by the warp and the wet of the design originated in Damascus) and on one occasion a large diamond set in a gold ring. The gold ring is, of course the advent item in this post!

And being completely shameless, my latest book from Pen and Sword is probably more affordable than any of the items that Henry gifted to his not quite step-mother. Its on special offer from the publisher at the moment but I’m delighted to say its available from all good bookshops as well as the place that shares the same name as a very large South American river.

Julia A Hickey, Medieval Royal Mistresses: Mischievous Women Who Slept with Kings and Princes, (Pen and Sword, 2022) –

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Medieval-Royal-Mistresses-Hardback/p/22225

Medieval Mistresses – mischievous women

Look what was on my doorstep when I arrive home this afternoon! Once again I am very excited. I love the cover.

It can be purchased from the Pen and Sword website and I’ve also featured in their blog this week. Why not follow the link to find out more about Alice Perrers and Jane Shore who were both accused of witchcraft.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/witchweek2022

Running a medieval baronial household

Bishop Grosseteste, window on the South transept Westernmost. St Paul’s Parish Church, Morton, Near Gainsborough.

In 1240 Bishop Robert Grosseteste wrote a set of rules to help his recently widowed friend Margaret, Countess of Lincoln to run her household efficiently. Her dower rights included four manors from her husband John de Lacy of Pontefract who became Earl of Lincoln by right of his wife, the earldom of Lincoln and the honour of Bolingbroke both of which she inherited from her mother Hawise of Chester. She would acquire further dower rights after the death her second husband.

Grosseteste began by explaining that it was essential for a widowed lady to know everything about the manors they held from the land and rent to customs, usages and fees. The lady did not need to tramp around all the fields notebook in hand but she should request a survey from a trusted freeholder or villein – and the information was to be written down for future reference. Not only should the steward have a copy of the final record but the lady should have one as well because in cases where justice needed to be served it was important that the lady could check the facts before reaching a decision. For manors to be run effectively a woman should make sure she employed trustworthy and reliable representatives. The sale of excess crops, the value of rents and fines as well as the sale of stock animals should cover the cost of purchases from wine to clothing to jewellery. As if that wasn’t enough the lady was also required to audit the accounts to make sure she wasn’t being cheated; oversee the religious devotion of the household leading by good example; ensure honesty and loyalty; punish those who deserve it; be a good hostess; make sure that liveries are kept in good condition; keep a good table; each Michaelmas plan the next year’s sojourn; buy things at the best time of year.

All of which makes me wonder how exactly the medieval legal system and the Church could suggest that a woman was legally, morally and intellectually inferior to a man? Margaret was regarded as one of two very important women of the period given that she was a close personal friend of Henry III’s queen Eleanor of Provence as well as being incredibly wealthy.

 Walter of Henley’s Husbandry, together with an Anonymous Husbandy, Seneschaucie, and Robert Grosseteste’s Rules, ed. and trans. Elizabeth Lamond, with an Introduction by W. Cunningham (London: Longmans, 1890), pp. 121-145 (English translation only). The modern scholarly edition of these texts is that of Dorothea Oschinsky, Walter of Henley and Other Treatises on Estate Management and Accounting (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).

Mitchell (2003), Linda Elizabeth, Portraits of Medieval Women: Family, Marriage, and Politics in England 1225-1350, Palgrave Macmillan

Striguil Castle – medieval power and conflict

Striguil or Chepstow Castle sits between the Rivers Usk and Wye. In the aftermath of the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror pursued a policy of containment with three earldoms at Shrewsbury, Chester and Hereford. The man William chose for Hereford was William FitzOsbern who was known to have been at the Battle of Hastings. Like so many of William’s trusted companions and barons FitzOsbern was part of the king’s extended kinship network.

FitzOsbern became Earl of Hereford in 1067 but it was only in the aftermath of Edric the Wild’s rebellion which was crushed in 1069 that FitzOsbern began to encroach into Gwent. Prior to this his main residence was on the Isle of Wight – it was he who began building Carisbrooke Castle. In the marches he was responsible for fortifications at Monmouth and at Chepstow as well as other key locations including Hereford and in Shrewsbury itself. He died in 1071 whilst on campaign in Flanders.

Unfortunately for FitzOsbern’s legacy his eldest son wasn’t as loyal to William as he had been. In 1075 the new lord of Striguil was part of the plot to overthrow William. Inevitably the family estates were forfeit to the Crown when the uprising came to nothing.

In 1115 King Henry I granted Striguil to Walter de Clare the son of Richard of Tonbridge and his wife Rohese Giffard. Walter founded the Cistercian abbey at Tintern. Walter died without direct heirs so the lordship passed to his nephew Gilbert and from there to his son Richard de Clare better known as Strongbow. Strongbow had only one surviving child – a daughter Isabel de Clare so the lordship passed into the hands of her husband William Marshal. The Marshals did rather a lot of castle improvement – the keep even in a ruinous state screams wealth and status – as well as dominating the landscape around it. Quite remarkably the original castle doors are still in the castle – they date to no later than 1190 …just imagine Isabel de Clare and William Marshal passing through them with their entourages.

After all five of William Marshal’s sons inherited Chepstow in their turn the castle became the property of Roger Bigod Earl of Norfolk by right of his mother Maud Marshal, the eldest of Isabel and William’s daughters. When he died in 1270 his nephew inherited the castle- easy to remember his name – it was another Roger Bigod. It was he who turned Chepstow into an even more magnificent residence. He died in 1306 without heirs and the castle returned to Crown hands – King Edward I died within the year and the property became part of King Edward II’s estates. Edward promptly gave the castle and the lordship to his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton but in 1324 Hugh Despenser got his hands on the lordship. Two years later he and Edward II paid a surprise visit when Edward fled his wife Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer – Despenser and Mortimer were Marcher lords with a history. The castle was prepared for a long siege but Edward chanced his hand with a voyage to Ireland. It didn’t go well and they were forced to land back in Wales – the rest is, as they say, history.

By the beginning of the fifteenth century the castle was in the hands of the Mowbray Earls of Norfolk. During the Wars of the Roses, The Kingmaker arrived at the castle gates and the garrison promptly handed over Richard Woodville Earl Rivers and his son John – they were swiftly removed to Kennilworth Castle and executed.

As with many castles in England and Wales the seventeenth century saw Chepstow face action once more. It was a royalist garrison. In 1648 Cromwell demanded its surrender and yes, Chepstow is a castle that Cromwell knocked about although within two years Parliament paid for some repairs to be carried out so that William Marshal’s former stronghold should become a prison.

Medieval hostages

William Marshal

I’m currently working on Isabel de Clare and her family. Her husband William Marshal was famously a hostage during the Anarchy whilst a very young child and was very nearly hanged when his father John failed to comply with King Stephen’s demands – it appears that William’s touching candour and the king’s kind heart saved the little boy from an early death. Isabel’s two eldest sons became hostages of King John when he began to distrust Marshal. This possibly accounts for why William Marshal the Younger sided with the barons in the First Barons’ War rather than with the king. The Marshal’ friend and fellow Marcher baron William de Braose fell foul of the king when his wife Matilda, who sounds like a truly formidable woman, refused to hand her sons over to the men sent to collect them when de Braose failed to pay the Exchequer instalments on the debt he owed to the king for the grant of Limerick. Matilda and her son William were starved to death in Corfe Castle – to cut a long story short. And before I finish this particular paragraph one of Isabel’s Irish uncles was killed whilst he was a hostage and another was blinded – so Isabel and her husband were all too aware of the risks of giving hostages.

Oh yes and her grandfather Gilbert De Clare, Lord of Striguil also known as Gilbert Strongbow fell out with King Stephen when Stephen imprisoned Striguil’s nephew Gilbert Earl of Hertford and confiscated all of his castles when Hertford’s kinsman Ranulph Earl of Chester attacked Lincoln contrary to the agreement he made with the king and to which Hertford was surety. I should add that Striguil didn’t become grumpy with Stephen because of the unjust incarceration of his nephew or even the confiscation of the estates – he threw his toys out of the pram when the king wouldn’t give everything he’d just bagged to Striguil – no one comes out of the Anarchy particularly well behaviour-wise it would have to be said.

So – hostages-what exactly were they? A hostage, in medieval terms, was the physical embodiment of an agreement’s guarantee. A political or even a financial agreement required a demonstration of submission or good faith until a particular set of terms or conditions were met. It meant that the hostage or hostages had to have value to the person making the agreement – no point in accepting a fourth or fifth cousin it had to be a close family member. The hostage taker was also able to demonstrate his or her authority over the person required to offer a hostage or hostages as surety.  Anyone could become a hostage – the Scottish princesses Margaret and Isabella sisters of Alexander II were held as hostages from 1209 onwards to ensure that the Scots complied with the Treaty of Norham. it brings to mind the fact that international treaties were often cemented by a marriage treaty. This instance reflects the fact that hostage giving and taking was part of the arsenal available to medieval diplomats where marriage agreements weren’t an option.

King John was demonstrating his feudal overlordship of the Marshal family and therefore reminding the rest of his barons to behave themselves – in fact John was notorious for demanding both hostages and large sums of money. The hostage was often a guarantee that a fine or amercement would be paid to the Crown and an insurance policy on the king’s part that the fine wouldn’t be ignored. Having lost his Continental domains in 1204 he used it as a method of levying funds. When Maud de Braose and her son were captured having fled from Ireland to Scotland John initially incarcerated them in Bristol Castle. He came to agreement with William de Braose that he could have his family back for the staggering sum of 40,000 marks. In this instance the hostage taker was effectively ransoming his hostages – which is more akin to our modern understanding.

In fact hostages and hostage taking varied throughout the medieval period depending on the situation. For instance men captured in battle might arrange that their place was taken by hostages as surety of their intention to return with the ransoms that their captors demanded of them. One of the main difference between medieval hostages and modern hostage situations was that in medieval times hostages were given rather than taken (not that the de Braoses handed themselves over willingly but if nothing else it demonstrates the complicated nature of the whole business.)

 The situation in which hostages found themselves being kept might have been more akin to ward, foster child or guest rather than prisoner depending on the circumstances in which the arrangement was made. And of course, hostages received in good faith might find that if the hostage giver didn’t meet his/her obligations that life could become very painful, very short or possibly both. You’ll all be delighted to hear that I have no intention of running a series of posts about the demise of some of history’s more unfortunate hostages.

Kosto, Adam J., Hostages in the Middle Ages

Maud Marshal’s son – Roger III Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk – revolutionary grandson of William Marshal.

Dlkeller999 at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons. Bigod coat of arms (or, a cross gules)

The death of Ansel (Anselm) Marshal just eleven days after his brother Walter ended the Marshal line of earls of Pembroke. The division of the estates which followed was not straight forward – there were three widows with dower rights. Ansel’s widow could not claim the rights of a dowager countess of Pembroke because her husband was not licensed to enter the estates and had not paid the necessary fees but it still complicated matters. Of Isabel de Clare’s five daughters only Maud Marshal was still alive in 1245 but in total there were thirteen co-heirs of whom Roger Bigod stood to gain most. Maud was the eldest and therefore the senior of the co-hieresses. To her came one fifth of her parents’ estates. With the land came the role of marshal which was a hereditary title – a title which Maud transferred to Roger the following year. Now is not the time to discuss the profits that could be accrued from this job or what else it entailed although when Roger was sent off to campaign in Gascony it was regarded as part and parcel of a marshal’s duties.

Maud died on 28 March 1248. Roger inherited the estates. Whilst he may have been very sad about his mother’s demise he now regained her dower lands as well as her portion of the Marshal inheritance including Chepstow and the county of Carlow in Ireland as well as other scattered manors the most valuable of which was Ross and the port of New Ross. Maud had already used some of the estate to provide for her younger sons as well as giving grants to various monastic houses to secure a speedy passage through purgatory with masses said for her soul. But essentially Roger was now a very wealthy and thus very powerful man-not as powerful as the de Clare- but still the most powerful man in East Anglia as well as being related by marriage through his Marshal connections to King Henry III. Having secured his inheritance Roger doesn’t seem to have spent much time at court. It was his younger brother who was the courtier.

As well as his inheritance Roger was also trying to ensure the future of his line by getting his marriage annulled. He and his wife Isabella of Scotland, a daughter of William the Lion, had been married for about twenty years since he was thirteen years old- he spent the rest of his childhood in Scotland. But the couple still had no children. He visited Rome himself in 1249 but he remained married to Isabella as there were no grounds for an annulment. It perhaps didn’t help that he had previously complained about papal taxes.

Roger served Henry in France, did what marshals were supposed to do and that might have been the end of the matter until Robert de Ros got into King Henry III’s bad books because he was a guardian of King Alexander III of Scots who was married to henry’s daughter Margaret. In 1255 Henry received word that Margaret was complaining that de Ros and his co-guardian John Balliol were mistreating the royal couple. Henry promptly confiscated de Ros’s land and fined him and Balliol. Roger did not think that the king was being fair and he argued with the king who called Roger a traitor. Roger was unamused and said that the king was wrong. ‘If you are just’ he said, ‘how can you harm me?’

The king’s response was that essentially he could seize the earl’s corn, thresh it and sell it.

Roger retorted that the king could try but that Roger would send the threshers back to the king sans their heads.

Henry responded by calling in Roger’s feudal scuttage (shield tax). There was inevitably a disagreement about what the correct dues might be and the matter of the dower owed to Eleanor, William Marshal the Younger’s widow was also raised. Eleanor was Henry III’s sister now married to Simon de Montfort. The king ordered that the exchequer should extract every last penny that Roger was supposed to owe to both the Crown and his sister (it was true that Roger hadn’t paid up his share of Eleanor’s dower for several years).

The row was about to escalate. Roger was not alone in feeling that the king’s justice was not everything it was cracked up to be. By 1258 Roger was involved in the reform movement agitating against the various misdeeds of King Henry III’s half brothers and their influence over Henry’s heir the young Prince Edward. It was Roger who told Henry that his Lusignan favourites had to go – it helped that he was backed up by many other barons and knights. And it was Roger who told the king that he and Edward should in future swear to follow the advice of their barons. The king’s decisions were going to be perused by twenty-four ‘prudent’ men according to the Tewkesbury Chronicle. He wasn’t the most important baron present at the gathering which brow-beat the king but he was the king’s marshal and it was the culmination of the Marshal family’s various opposition to some of King Henry III’s policies.

Oh yes – he died in 1270 without heirs and was succeeded by his nephew – another Roger who was just as stroppy as his uncle. It was this Roger- the 5th Duke of Norfolk- who refused to go to Gascony on King Edward I’s orders arguing that feudal tenure meant he only had to serve overseas in the company of the king rather than on the king’s orders. Edward threatened to have Roger hanged and Roger responded – ‘I will neither go nor hang.’

Marc Morris – The Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the Thirteenth Century (which is incidentally a fascinating read)

Lord of Little Dunmow – from the de Clare family to Maid Marion in five steps

And lets not forget the journey involves one king with more than twenty illegitimate children who appears to have had a bad reaction to a dish of lampreys and the king ‘who was not a good man and had his little ways’…no prizes for knowing which two monarchs before reading on.

Oldsoldier38, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Robert de Clare, the fifth son of Richard of Tonbridge and Rohese Giffard, was granted the lordship of Little Dunmow by King Henry I. So far so good! He was often at court during the later years of King Henry I’s reign but died a year before the king in 1134. He was married Matilda de Senlis a daughter of the Earl of Huntingdon who granted five acres of land to the priory at Little Dunmow after her husband’s death so that they could pray for his soul. Their son Walter gave a further ten acres of land for prayers to be said for his cousin Earl Roger de Clare (2nd Earl of Hertford).

Little Dunmow was previously a Baynard honour and had been confiscated by the crown. Geoffrey Baynard inherited eight manors from his mother but he became embroiled in a plot against King Henry I in 1111 along with Robert Malet, Lord of Eye – and lost some or all of them (more research needed there). Robert de Clare benefited from Henry’s policy of elevating younger sons to increase the debt of loyalty owed to him. The gift also had the effect, according to Hollister, of binding the whole de Clare family to him (Hollister pp.339-340)

As might be expected Walter FitzRobert was married for political and financial advantage. A wedding to Maud de Lucy bought the Lordship of Diss in Norfolk under his control. She bore him a son Robert – Robert FitzWalter was one of the key figures in the Baron’s War. According to the story John, not yet king, lusted after FitzWalter’s daughter Marian but when she spurned his advances he had her poisoned with an egg – I’ve posted about her and her father before. In due course Marian who was actually married

Walter de Clare whose family links to the de Clares would be remembered in the coming generations largely through the chevrons of the FitzWalter coat of arms had the common good sense not to become enmeshed in the Anarchy between the Empress Matilda and King Stephen even though he was one of King Stephen’s stewards. The direct line of the FitzWalters died out during the fifteenth century.

FitzWalter arms – Or a fess between two chevrons gule

Dr Paul Fox’s wonderful book on the heraldry in the Great Cloister of Canterbury Cathedral shows the FitzWalter arms in the cloister as ‘Or a fess between two chevrons gules’. He adds that the de Clares were the first family to have adopted heraldry in the British Isles (think its page 155). And a fesse is a charge – a band which runs across the middle of the shield whilst the chevrons are an inverted “v” shape for want of a better description.

Fox, Paul A., Great Cloister A Lost Canterbury Tale, (Archaeopress, 2020)

Hartley, Alfred, ‘The Priory Church of Little Dunmow’, The Essex Review: An Illustrated Quarterly Record of Everything of Permanent Interest in the County. (E. Durant and Company, 1895) pp.167-180

Hollister, Charles Warren, Henry I,  (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2001)

From the Countess of Aumale to the two wives of William Marshal the Younger – money, marriage and how to make the most of widowhood

Eleanor of England – youngest daughter of King John

Hawise, the suo jure Countess of Aumale was married to William de Mandeville, 3rd Earl of Essex but she had something of a reputation during her life time according to Richard of Devizes as a woman ‘who is almost a man, lacking nothing virile except the virile organs.’ Despite that she was married off on Richard the Lionheart’s orders for a second time to William de Forz, her social inferior, who was one of the king’s naval commanders. The countess was not amused. She was even less amused when after de Forz’s death in 1195 she was required to take as her third husband Baldwin de Béthune who was a crusader and also Richard’s companion in captivity – he was well born but a third son. Baldwin would die in 1212 and Hawise took the opportunity of paying a fine of 5,000 marks in instalments to avoid marriage for a fourth time.

There were rumours that the countess was King John’s mistress and that her eldest son by William de Forz was in fact John’s own progeny. The rumour arose because when Hawise died the fine she owed the king was still not fully paid – a debt of 4,000 marks was carried forward to her heir- (remember a mark is 2/3’s of a pound so – £2667 in 1214 when she died and a whopping £4,000,000 or thereabouts now) but John forgave the new earl the debt, provided him with a wealthy bride of his own who he himself dowered and forgave Aumale for siding with the barons and the French – suggesting a degree of fondness with which King John did not habitually regard his aristocracy. And yes I have posted about Hawise and her son William before and she will turn up in the book on medieval royal mistresses being published by Pen and Sword in November. So why today?

Let us return to husband number three – Baldwin de Béthune – the imprisoned crusader and buddy of King Richard I. Friendship was clearly important because as a third son he would not reasonably have expected to marry someone as wealthy as Hawise who had possession of large chunks of Normandy (until John lost most of the duchy) as well as Holderness and Craven in Yorkshire. It helped that he had taken Richard’s place in prison and that he spent rather a lot of his own money paying the king’s ransom.

During the 1170s Baldwin served in the household of Henry II’s eldest son Henry The Young King. He made a lifelong friendship with another younger son struggling to make his own way in the world – William Marshal. Like Marshal as well as serving the Young King and Henry II, Baldwin offered loyal service to the Lionheart and King John – in 1200 he was one of the guarantor’s of peace between John and King Philip of France. He can be found signing royal grants in 1201 but, again, like William Marshal he found himself in less favour with the passage of time and withdrew to his wife’s lands. Unlike Marshal no one wrote a biography of his life soon after this death so he is less well known today than his old friend.

Baldwin and Hawise had a daughter named Alice and in 1203 Baldwin and Marshal arranged that their children should marry. William Marshal the Younger who was probably fostered by Marshal’s lifelong friend would marry Alice when she came of age and the two families would be tied by blood. Alice was not her mother’s heiress but she would inherit lands, including Wantage in Berkshire (currently Oxfordshire) which King Henry II and King Richard gave to her father. Unfortunately Alice died young and in 1224 William Marshal the Younger married King Henry III’s sister Eleanor who was born in 1215. Eleanor was nine at the time of the marriage and Marshal was thirty-four. He died in 1231 when Eleanor was nineteen but there were no children from the union. Soon afterwards Eleanor took a vow of chastity which meant that her brother wouldn’t be able to find another husband for her – unfortunately she fell in love several years later and the vow made things somewhat difficult for the couple.

Want to do calculations to update costs? Try the Bank of England’s inflation calculator.

https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator

Ansel Marshal – a beloved fifth son

The Marshal family arms

When William Marshal wrote his will in 1219 he had nothing to leave his beloved youngest son, Ansel or Anselm, who was about eight-years-old at the time. The earl envisaged that the boy, named after one of Marshal’s brothers, would have to carve a career for himself as he had done. He thought that the boy would work his way up to becoming a household knight and perhaps make a good marriage – he was a Marshal after all, even if not a wealthy one. In the end John d’Earley who I have posted about before protested that the earl was offering his son a bad deal. The earl left his son £140 p.a. in rents from lands in Leinster.

The boy was looked after by his elder brothers – he turns up signing charters for his second eldest brother Gilbert Marshal and then for his brother Walter. They provided him with lands so that he could marry Matilda de Bohun, the daughter of the Earl of Hereford. The de Bohun family and William Marshal II had close ties. Matilda’s age at marriage is unknown but it is almost certain that she was still a child.

All four of his brothers became Earl of Pembroke in their turn. On 27 November 1245 Walter, the brother closest to him in age died and the earldom was delivered to Ansel. But although Henry III recognised Ansel’s rights it was necessary for him to appear before the king so that he could pay the necessary homage and to pay the fines associated with license to enter his estates. Unfortunately it seems that Ansel, who was at Chepstow, was too ill to do that because he never went to court and died on 23 December 1245, just eleven days after his brother, the last of William Marshal’s sons. He was buried at Tintern Abbey.

Ansel’s failure to fulfil his feudal obligations meant that he was technically not the earl so his widow Matilda was not permitted the dower rights of a countess instead she received £60 p.a. from Ansel’s Leinster estates. Maud remarried – given her age and who she was it was almost inevitable another husband would be found for her but she continued to be known as Maud Marshal for the rest of her life which was a short one. She died in 1252 at Groby leaving her husband Roger de Quincy 2nd Earl of Winchester to marry Helen, the daughter of William Ferrers, 5th Earl of Derby soon afterwards.

And for those of you who like a mystery – were William Marshal’s sons murdered? https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/blog/the-marshal-curse-were-the-children-of-william-marshal-murdered/

Acts and Letters of the Marshal Family 1156-1248: Earls of Pembroke and Marshals of England, ed. David Crouch, Camden Society 5th series, 47 (Cambridge: CUP, 2015) p.36

Richard Fitzgilbert-de Clare-Lord of Clare and Ceredigion. Forefather of the de Clare Earls of Hertford and Gloucester

Cardigan Castle, National Library of Wales, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Richard of Tonbridge’s grandson Richard was the eldest son of Gilbert FitzRichard who was given the Lordship of Ceredigion by King Henry I provided he could take and hold it. After his father’s death Richard inherited assorted lands in England and Wales including the Lordships of Clare and Ceredigion. Richard paid a relief of £43 6s and 8d to enter Ceredigion(1) which interesting as it recognised the king’s authority to make the grant, which later marcher lords refuted, but whilst the records are very specific about the finances they are a little on the murky side as to whether Richard was the first Earl of Hertford or not but it’s generally accepted than neither King Henry or King Stephen elevated the baron to an earldom. Like his younger brother Gilbert, Richard was loyal to King Stephen and he benefited from that loyalty but not to the extent that Stephen was prepared to extend his land holdings in Wales – which was in ferment.

In 1136 Richard travelled through the borders in the direction of Ceredigion and was ambushed and killed . His body was transported back to Kent and buried in Tonbridge Priory which was his foundation. In between times Richard’s widow, the sister of Earl Ranulf of Chester, was forced to take shelter in Cardigan Castle before being rescued and returned to England.

Richard’s son Gilbert became the 1st Earl of Hertford whilst his younger brother Roger succeeded as the second earl. A daughter married into the Percy family. William Percy’s mother was a member of a Welsh royal family so the union had less to do with securing alliances in Yorkshire than establishing networks of kinship on the marches and in Wales. Other daughters married the earls of Lincoln and Devon reflecting the loyalties of the Anarchy between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. As the former was loyal to Stephen whilst the latter was created Earl of Devon by the Empress Matilda and turned pirate in the Isle of Wight on the empress’s behalf. Lucy de Clare was his second wife.

Richard’s descendants held the earldoms of Hertford and Gloucester until 1314 when Gilbert de Clare the 8th earl of Gloucester and 7th earl of Hertford was killed at Bannockburn. His widow, Maud de Burgh, protested pregnancy for the next three years until King Edward II called time on the possibility of there being a male de Clare heir to inherit the title.

(1) ed. White et al, p.255

White, Eryn Want, Jenkins, Geraint H., Suggest, Richard (eds.), Cardiganshire County History Volume 2: Medieval and Early Modern Cardiganshire. (Cardiff:University of Wales Press, 2019)