The Lord of Longueville in Normandy was a man who accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066. He was granted 107 Lordships of which 48 were in Buckinghamshire. His son, also named Walter, is usually styled 1st Earl of Buckingham. It should be noted that father and son are sometimes confused because of the names and the lack of clarity about dates of birth and death. Suffice it to say there were two Walters and the records are a tad on the dodgy side leading to some confusion in the available secondary sources.
Walter like many of William the Conqueror’s trusted companions was a kinsman via Gunnor the wife (more Danico or hand fasted wife) of Duke Richard I of Normandy. William of Jumiéges provides the information about Walter’s mother. He was instrumental in the defence of Normandy. He may also have been a diplomat on William’s behalf as he can be found going on a pilgrimage to St Iago de Compostella in Spain – it may have been a cover for a visit to the King of Galicia. When Gifford returned from Spain he gave the duke a horse according to some sources. He was at the Council of Lillebonne where William revealed his intention to invade England and he provided thirty ships for William’s invasion fleet and a hundred men.
Despite Giffard’s advancing age by the time of the Norman Conquest, though we don’t know exactly when he was born, he was offered the honour of carrying the duke’s standard at the Battle of Hastings. Gifford declined the honour on the grounds of his age and because he wanted both hands free. Apparently William was suitably impressed with Giffard’s response and by the knight’s bravery on the field although he did require rescuing by William himself according to one story.
As might be expected having spent his life on the battlefield Gifford was quite keen in atoning for his sins so founded a monastery at St Michel de Bolbec in 1079.
The family were powerful both in terms of running the state and the church. One of Walter’s sons became the Bishop of Winchester during the reign of King Henry I having served as William Rufus’s chancellor. His daughter Rohese married the second son of Richard of Tonbridge, another of William’s kinsmen and a key political player of the period. He died soon after 1085/86 and his son was a Commissioner for the Domesday Book of 1087. Rohese is another of the women mentioned in the Domesday Book as a landholder in her own right. Eventually half the honour of Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire which was originally part of her father’s English estates would be passed to her descendants. William Marshal became Lord of Long Crendon by right of his wife Isabel de Clare.
Just to add an extra note of caution Walter was not the only Gifford to arrive in England in 1066. His brother Osborne also took part in the Battle of Hastings and he received land in Gloucestershire. According to the Roll of Battle Abbey the Giffards of Brimsfield and Chillington descended from Osborne.
Burke, Bernard. The Roll of Battle Abbey, Annotated. (E. Churton, 1848)
Planché, James Robinson. The Conqueror and His Companions. (London: Tinsley brothers, 1874)