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.
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