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.
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.
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)