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

The role of the Count of Flanders during the Conquest and beyond

1032francea.jpg

It’s always useful to know which countries were allied.  In 1066 for example Flanders had an important role to play in the conquest.  Count Baldwin V ‘s daughter was Matilda, the wife of William the Conqueror. Baldwin’s family, like  the rest of Europe’s political leaders were strategically allied.  Interestingly there was even a member of the family married into Earl Godwin’s family.  Baldwin’s sister, Judith, was married to Tostig – Harold’s earstwhile brother.  On one hand Count Baldwin allowed his brother-in-law to recruit men on the other  if his son-in-law successfully invaded the kingdom that Tostig also sought he would be very influential  indeed– especially as he held the regency of Philip I of France as well. (Baldwin’s wife was the daughter of Robert II of France as well as being a wily politician in his own right.  He was Count of Maine as well as Count Flanders.)

William of Malmsebury indicates that Baldwin advised Wiliam and offered troops. Another chronicler notes that Baldwin was a canny neogitaor and demanded to know what benefits he would reap from his support.  Allegedly William sent Baldwin a blank sheet of parchment.  Wace suggests that Baldwin fed King Harold and the rest of the Godwinson Clan false information about the number of men at his son-in-law’s disposal. Family loyalty had its place but financial incentive and power were much more important.

Whilst the words of chroniclers are not always reliable, it is true to say that the Norman conquest was not entirely a Norman achievement .  There was a good sprinkling of Flanders in the ranks at Hastings; the alliterative Gilbert of Ghent who later turned up in York and also Walter Bec to name but two.  The Domesday Book of 1086 gives historians an insight into the role of Flemings in William’s army and the rewards that they received in the aftermath of the conquest.    In total in Derbyshire Gilbert of Ghent had three land holdings whilst there were 53  Flemish landholdings in Yorkshire held predominantly by Dreux of Beuviere (George).

There weren’t just Flemings in William’s army.  There were many men from Brittany in William’s army.  Eustace II of Boulogne also fought for the Duke of Normandy.  This is interesting as Bolougne and Flanders were rivals.  The Godwinsons had marital links with Flanders through Tostig’s marriage to Judith of Flanders.  Eustace on the other hand was the former brother-in-law of Edward the Confessor – his first wife Goda being Edward’s sister.  His step son also had a personal vendetta against Sweyn Godwinson – Earl Godwin had famously refused to punish the people of Dover for not providing free bed and board to Eustace and his entourage when the Count was on his way home from visiting Edward the Confessor in 1051.  This had become one of the flash points which led to the exile of Earl Godwin.

Looking beyond the immediate Conquest years the role of Flanders remained an important one – it was to Flanders that William’s son Robert fled when he rebelled against his father in 1077.  By that time Baldwin’s son Robert I was the Count having usurped the position from his young nephew Arnulf – it was a situation that would end in  armed conflict and the death of Arnulf. (Baldwin died in 1067 and was succeeded by his eldest son also called Baldwin but he died three years later leaving a young son.  He asked Robert to be a regent for the boy but Robert ignored his brother’s wishes and claimed Boulogne for himself.)

The impact of Robert’s usurpation on Norman- Flemish ties is evident by the fact that Robert Curthose found sanctuary with his uncle. By 1085 Robert of Flanders had become involved in a plan to invade England and snatch the Crown from the head of his increasingly chubby brother-in-law. Robert planned to assist his son-in-law Cnut IV of Denmark who was the great nephew of England’s King Cnut.

In his own turn William had offered help to Arnulf’s younger brother (another Baldwin.)

 

https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/medlow.asp

George, R. H.  “The Contribution of Flanders to the Conquest of England (1065-1086)”

https://www.persee.fr/doc/rbph_0035-0818_1926_num_5_1_6418

From greatness to disaster. Alfred to Athelred

Ethelred_the_Unready

Æthelred the Unready from a thirteenth century copy of the Abingdon Chronicle.

Alfred was succeeded by his son, Edward the Elder who ruled until 924. Edward had campaigned against the Danes during his father’s life time just as Alfred had been his brother’s lieutenant before he in his turn became king.

Edward didn’t automatically become king.  Applicants for the Crown were required to present themselves to the Witan.  Although Edward was the son of Alfred his cousins who had been bypassed when Alfred became king because of their youth were now men. Eadweard and Ethelwald both wanted to become the next king of Wessex.

Ethelwald fermented rebellion and seized Crown lands but was swiftly kicked into touch.  He reacted by taking himself off to Norse ruled Northumbria before returning at the head of an army in 905 when he was killed. Unfortunately for Edward the Elder the battle was actually won by the Danes so he had to negotiate a settlement.  Borders and boundaries became rather fluid after that.

Edward was able to work with his sister Æthelflæd, The Lady of the Mercians to secure territory from the Danes.  Howel the Good of Wales eventually accepted Edward’s overlordship as did the Kings of the Scots and Strathclyde when they met Edward at Bakewell in 920.  Edward died in 924 following a Mercian uprising.

Edward certainly extended the Cerdic line.  He had somewhere in the region of  eighteen children including his son Æthelstan who succeeded his father and ruled until his own death in 939. Unlike his father who the Mercians regarded as a king of Wessex, Æthelstan who had been reared in Mercia was accepted there before he was made king of Wessex.  In 927 he was victorious over the Vikings in York making him effectively the ruler of England (remember Scotland was somewhat larger at that time extending down through Cumbria into Lancashire.) In 934 he invaded Scotland.

Æthelstan wished to extend law and order.  He built on the legal reforms of his grandfather Alfred which is understandable as he had a rather larger kingdom than his predecessors.  When he died rather than being buried in Winchester he was interred in Malmesbury Abbey and succeeded by his brother Edmund.

It was not a peaceful time and Edmund was eventually murdered.  He was succeeded by his brother Ædred who was king from 946 to 955.  In 954 Ædred effected the removal of Eric Bloodaxe from the Kingdom of Northumbria.  When he died the following he was succeeded by his nephew, Æthelstan’s son, Ædwig.  He was only fifteen.  Four years later he was dead. Poor Ædwig had a bit of a reputation allegedly having been caught by St Dunstan consorting with two ladies of ill repute on the night of his coronation. More likely the tale arose out of the feud between the secular and clerical world for the control of the king’s ear.

After Ædwig’s death his brother Edgar became king.  Edgar is known as Edgar the Peaceful. He ruled from 959 (he was sixteen at the time) until 975. He relied upon St Dunstan for advice. He honed the laws and set about standardising currency.  He wasn’t without scandal though.  He allegedly killed a rival in love and when he was crowned in Bath had his wife crowned alongside him – a first for the kings of Wessex. The coronation took place in 973 – rather than at the start of his reign. We will be returning to Edgar’s problematic love life in due course.

Edgar was succeeded by his son Edward in 975.  Edward was murdered in 978 where upon he became known to history as Edward the Martyr and modern historians are increasingly keen to point the finger of blame at his step-mother Ælfthryth who was Edgar’s second or third wife.   Edward had been virtually of age when he became king and had the support of the Church.  The death of Edward at Corfe left the way clear for Ælfthryth’s son Æthelred to become king even though he was still a child.

Æthelred was king from 978 until 1013. Initially his mother was his regent. Æthelred the Unready or ill-advised had Viking problems.  He’s the chap who paid vast sums of Dane-geld to the marauding Norse not understanding the free lance relationship they had with their leaders or the fact that handing over great wages of coin was actually somewhat counter productive.

In 1013 King Sweyn Forkbeard invaded England and Æthelred fled to Normandy. Sweyn died the following year. Æthelred returned and ruled until he died in 1016.

He was succeeded by his son Edmund Ironside. It was a short reign from April to November 1016.  The summer of 1016 was a summer of battles.

 

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.

William-II-death.gif

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/

 

The coronation of Henry I

henry iiiUpon the death of William Rufus, Henry hastened to Winchester where the royal treasury happened to be located.  Henry was the fourth son of William the Conqueror and he had inherited no land from his father although under the terms of the Conqueror’s will he had been left money.

Under normal circumstances it would have been William and Henry’s older brother who inherited England.  Robert Curthose inherited Normandy from William the Conqueror and after some nastiness with William eventually came to terms with his younger sibling and took himself off on crusade.  When William died in the New Forest Robert was on his way home from the Holy Land.

Henry on the other hand was in England and able to seize the opportunity that presented itself.  Having taken control of the treasury he then ensured that some barons elected him as their king in a nod to the Anglo-Saxon practice of the Witan electing kings and arranged for his coronation to take place as soon as possible.  This took place in Westminster on 5th August 1100.

Henry I’s Coronation Charter is the earliest one to survive.  It is thought that the charter was part of the process by which a king came to the throne in Anglo-Saxon times.  The new king would essentially say to his barons this is what I’m giving you in return for your support of me. More than one copy of the charter exists suggesting that is was circulated in the shires. Basically he condemns William Rufus’ rule “the kingdom has been oppressed by unjust exactions” and then claims that by becoming king Henry has brought peace to the English Nation.  It is said that Henry I’s Coronation Charter is the basis for Magna Carta.  The charter is also called the Charter of Liberties in some sources.

Henry promises that he will not take property that belongs to the Church.  He also says that whilst he expects his barons to consult the monarch in the matter of their daughters’ marriages that he will not exact a tax for them being allowed to marry.  He also explains that if a baron dies with underage heirs that Henry will determine who those heirs will marry but that he will consult with the rest of his barons in the matter.  He also recognises that widows shouldn’t be required to remarry without their consent in the matter.

As well as dealing with feudal matters and wardship Henry also tackles the royal mint.  He makes it clear that it is the king who mints the coinage – no one else is permitted to do so.  He also makes sure that all the royal forests used by William the Conqueror remain in his own hands.  This is a rather clever wheeze of ensuring that if anything had been given away or sold by either William the Conqueror or William Rufus it now returned to the Crown – an veritable example of “having your cake and eating it.”

Essentially the charter places Henry and his successors under the rule of law.  Henry was aware that there had been recent rebellion and resentment of William Rufus.  There was also the small matter of the difficult relationship with the Church.  At a stroke Henry sets the clock back to zero and in so doing gives the barons president for Magna Carta and in turn for the Provisions of Oxford which Henry III was forced to accept by Simon de Montfort in 1264 and which Edward I was prudent enough to adapt in the Statute of Westminster.  It is perhaps not surprising then that Henry’s by-name is Beauclerk – or good scholar.

Henry I would reign for thirty-five years.  He set about bringing unity to his kingdom  not only with his barons but also with his Saxon commoners by marrying Edith of Scotland, the daughter of St Margaret of Scotland (i.e. niece of Edgar the Aethling and granddaughter of Edmund the Exile, the son of King Edmund Ironside, who arrived back in England on the invitation of Edward the Confessor only to die in unexpected circumstances.)  Edith was too Saxon a sounding name so it was promptly changed to Matilda but it was said of Henry that his court was too Saxon.  Certainly his son William who was born in 1103 was called the Atheling in an attempt to weave two cultures together.  So we can also see movement of a wise king towards the unification of his people.  Of course it wasn’t as straight forward as all that not least because William was his only legitimate male heir and he was drowned in 1120 when the White Ship sank.

After the death of his son, Henry remarried to Adela of Louvain who I have posted about before.

It was just as well that Henry had been so conciliatory to his barons and the wider population because in 1101 big brother Robert did invade England.  But, possession is nine tenths of the law and Henry gave him his properties in Normandy as well as an annuity to go away and leave England alone.  In 1106 Henry took advantage of the political turmoil in Normandy and beat Robert at the Battle of Tinchebrai – no more annuities and an entire duchy to add to the list of things that Henry owned although Robert’s son William Clito was unhappy about the outcome for obvious reasons.  Henry drew the line at killing his older brother but Robert would remain a prisoner for the rest of his life.

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/coronation-charter-of-henry-i

http://www.arts.cornell.edu/prh3/MDVL%202130/Texts/1100charter.pdf

The De Clare family – royal relations.

clare1So who are the de Clare family from yesterday’s post who seemed to be loitering in the New Forest when William Rufus met his end? Complicated – that’s what rather than who. Richard son of Gilbert arrived with the Conquest.  Gilbert was a son of the Count of Brionne.  Gilbert was actually one of Duke William’s guardians during his childhood and was killed in a bid to control William.  Richard fled Normandy along with his brother only returning when Duke William was able to control the duchy. He was also one of Duke William’s extended family (Gilbert’s father was one of Duke Richard of Normandy’s illegitimate sons).

 

Richard Fitz Gilbert was with the Conqueror in 1066 and did rather nicely from the whole affair, acquiring more than 170 holdings including Tonbridge in Kent and Clare in Suffolk.  The Domesday Book identifies him as a very wealthy man indeed.  Not only rich but trusted by William who left him in England with the justicar role while he returned to Normandy in 1073. It was in this capacity that Richard helped to suppress the so-called Earls Rebellion in 1075.

 

Whilst more of Tonbridge Castle stands today than the castle at Clare in Suffolk, it was at Clare that the family chose to make their administrative seat- hence the de Clare element of the name.  All that remains today of the castle is the motte – the mound of earth on which the wooden keep once stood.  It must have been an impressive sight given that the motte is over 60ft tall today and can be something of a surprise to a casual visitor to the town.  In the thirteenth century the wooden keep was replaced with a stone  shell keep structure.

 

Rather interestingly, after William  the Conqueror died Richard Fitz Gilbert de Clare (to give him his full name) was one of the Norman lords who rebelled against William Rufus in favour of Rufus’s older brother Robert Curthose.  He died in 1090 having retired to the priory at St Neot’s in 1088. He and his wife had re-founded the priory in the years after the Conquest and it should be noted that the de Clares were important monastic patrons wherever they held land.

Despite his retirement from worldly affairs Richard de Clare left a tribe of powerful sons.  There were at least six of them as well as two daughters, not to mention a wife, Rohese Gifford, who owned land in her own right.  The de Clare family were well placed for power – they were related to the ruling house and were extremely wealthy. They were marriageable and therefore families sought alliances with the de Clares – which meant it wasn’t long before they were related to most of the other powerful Anglo-Norman families in the country adding to their political power.

Roger, the eldest son, inherited the Norman de Clare land. Gilbert who was the second of the de Clare sons inherited the English estates.  In 1088 Gilbert and his brother Roger rebelled against William Rufus at Tonbridge.  William promptly turned the motte and bailey castle into rubble – let’s not forget it was a wooden structure at the time. Gilbert and Roger were captured.   Interestingly the family despite having rebelled against the king; being suspected of being involved with Bishop Odo’s conspiracies in 1083; and were undoubtedly part of Robert de Mowbray’s conspiracies against William Rufus, kept hold of their lands.

Gilbert turns up in William Rufus’s army fighting the Scots.  The de Clare brothers appear at William’s side as part of the hunting party in August 1100 when he was killed.  Had it been an ordinary hunting party it would have been evidence that the de Clares were reconciled with William but since William suffered his rather nasty accident it is almost inevitable that historians point out the earlier hostility as circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy.   In 1101 Gilbert was at court with Henry I.  It could all be perfectly innocent but  there are rather a lot of coincidences – sadly all without the necessary documentary evidence to suggest conspiracy.

 

Gilbert remained hugely wealthy and influential.  He founded Cardigan Priory having been given the area around Cardigan by Henry I (no thought was given to what the local population might think- essential you have the land providing you can keep hold of it!).  Gilbert did secure Cardigan and Aberystwyth.  It is almost impossible to write about Welsh Castles without mentioning the de Clare family.

 

Brother Robert, another of the hunting party was the Baron of Little Dunmow and steward to Henry I. Walter de Clare would found Tintern Abbey.  He was a marcher lord in South Wales having been granted land by Henry I near Chepstow.

Between the brothers there were many children ensuring that de Clares married into important families, acquired land and a name for themselves but that’s an entirely different story which should include Richard de Clare, the Earl of Pembroke better known to History as “Strongbow.”  His daughter married William Marshal.  The two families would intermarry thereafter.  The Earls of Gloucester were de Clares and stood surety for the Magna Carta. Eventually the de Clares would marry back into the royal family with the 7thEarl of Gloucester – another Gilbert de Clare- marrying Joan of Acre, the daughter of Edward I ensuring that the family were knee deep in the Scottish Wars of Independence and Edward II’s familial difficulties over the Despensers.  This must have caused some head scratching as Hugh Despenser the Younger’s wife, Eleanor, was another member of the de Clare family.

Eleanor was the 8thearl’s sister.  She and her two other sisters became co-heiresses after the 8thearl died at Bannockburn. She was sent to the Tower when Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer deposed Edward II.  Three of her daughters were forced to become nuns at that time.  Eleanor’s story is a complicated and cruel one  – she escaped only by signing over most of her de Clare inheritance to the Crown.  It was only when Edward III took control of his throne that Eleanor was able to regain her lands (she’s going to get a longer post another day.)

 

Whilst we’re at it let’s not forget Walter Tyrel the man who is supposed to have shot William Rufus – he was Richard de Clare’s son-in-law. All of which brings us back to the starting point – was William Rufus’s death an accident? Yes – it still might have been but when you start to look at the de Clare family and their previous relationship with William you do have to wonder.

And before I forget Gilbert Fitz Richard’s son was also called Gilbert.  His wife was Isabel de Beaumont.  The Beaumont family had also fought at the Battle of Hastings but more important to this post is the co-incidence that Isabel was a mistress of Henry I – what a tangled web.