Monasteries- 1066 +

DSCN2029William the Conqueror was committed to a programme of monastery building in his new kingdom.  The invasion of England, complete with papal banner, was after all a crusade.  However, in comparison to the twelfth century when monastic foundation and building reached an apex the first Normans on English shores were relatively slow off the mark.  Chester, Colchester and Shrewsbury were early establishments as were Tewkesbury and Lewes which housed monks from Cluny.  All of the above mentioned were funded by Norman barons eager to emulate their monarch and no doubt to give thanks for doing so very nicely out of the English venture.

In addition to these new foundations and, in the North, refoundation of early sites such as Whitby there was another significant change in the Church.  Leading Anglo-Saxon abbots and bishops with a few notable exceptions such as Wulfstan of Worcester were shown the door and replaced by William’s men headed up by Lanfranc of Bec who promptly reorganised and reformed the Church.

Lanfranc did use some of the earlier Anglo-Saxon administrative structure including the incorporation of cathedrals into monastic foundations.  Given-Wilson lists them: Bath ( & Wells), Canterbury, Carlisle (hence my interest), Coventry, Durham, Ely, Norwich, Rochester, Winchester and Worcester.  Both Canterbury (pictured at the beginning of this post) and Worcester had been founded before 1066 and may have acted as the models which Lanfranc chose to emulate. Carlisle was home to an order of Augustinian Canons the other nine were Benedictine.  These cathedrals were at the heart of their dioceses with a bishop at their head.  The monastery would have been headed up by an abbot or a prior – the two posts need not be held by the same person which could, and in deed did, lead to some lively disagreements.

Not all cathedrals were staffed by monks.  Some cathedrals were ‘secular’ – which means that the clergy who ran the cathedrals were not attached to a religious order.  Lincoln Cathedral was never associated with a monastery and neither bizarrely, given the number of monasteries in the vicinity, was York.

Norman crossword

knigh21066 is a date that most people know.  It marks the Norman conquest of England – though it would have to be said that William had his work cut out in the opening years of his reign putting down rebellions in Exeter, the West Country, the Welsh Marches, Kent and ‘the North’ as has been covered elsewhere win this blog.  The Normans gave us castles, cathedrals  and a new influence on the development of English as well as a new set of people in charge although they used much of the administrative system that was already in place – hence words such as ‘wapentake’ and the shire system.

I’ve actually been working on my ‘Rulers’ page and to celebrate the fact that my brief biography of each monarch is nearing conclusion  (note the key word nearing) I’ve started to create some crosswords to add to some posts.  Open the page by clicking  ‘Rulers’ in the menu bar at the top of the page to read more about the Norman kings of England.

 

In the coming weeks I want to find out about King Stephen’s daughter Mary who became an abbess but was then abducted by a distant cousin and bore him two children before she was allowed to return to a nunnery; Hamelin de Warenne who was Henry II’s half-brother ( so a Plantagenet but married to the widow of King Stephen’s son William)   and also Sybilla who married Robert, William the Conqueror’s eldest son.  Apparently she was poisoned by a love rival.  It reads more like a soap opera than a history blog!

Click on the word ‘puzzle’ to open up the grid.  The clues follow on in the body of this post as I haven’t quite worked how to present them all in a pdf format (no doubt I’ll get there eventually).  The answers are at the bottom of this post.

puzzle

Across

3) Surname of Royal Family that came after the Normans, descended from Matilda.
5) William I defeated which king in order to claim the English crown?
7) William created his half-brother earl of which region?
8) William I’s mother.
10) Name of Henry I’s second wife.
11) King Stephen was created Count of _________ by right of his wife.
13) Henry I’s queen was known as Matilda but what was her real name?
14) The title which Henry’s daughter took when she married Henry V of Germany.
20) City where Henry I was initially crowned following the death of his brother.
23) Daughter of King Stephen who was elected an abbess at this important monastic house. She was abducted from here and forced to marry Matthew of I of Flanders ( another descendent of William the Conqueror).
25) King who usurped the throne from his cousin upon the death of Henry I.
26) Wooded area where William II met with an unfortunate ‘accident’. (3, 6)
27) William I whom we call ‘the Conqueror’ was often known during his life time as William the ______________.
28) Matilda’s son Henry was known as Henry _____________ until he came into the titles of his father and then his mother.
30) The name of King Stephen’s heir who died but not before his father had signed a treaty bypassing his claim to the throne.
31) Place where William I was born.
Down

1) Henry I’s legitimate heir drowned when which vessel sank as it crossed The Channel? (3, 5, 4).
2) Treaty of __________passed over Stephen’s heirs in favour of Matilda’s heirs bring the civil war of the period to a conclusion.
4) The name by which Henry I’s daughter was known during her childhood.
6) William I’s wife was known as Matilda of ______________.
9) Henry I’s illegitimate son Robert was an important baron during the civil war that raged between the king and his cousin. He was the earl of __________.
10) Matilda’s second husband was count of this territory.
12) William I’s half-brother who commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry.
15) Nickname given to William II on account of his florid complexion, hair colouring and temper.
16) Yorkshire town where Henry I was born in 1068.
17) Before they became Normans the people who settled in the region that became known as Normandy were known as what?
18) Nickname given to William I’s eldest son.
19) Abbey in Kent favoured for burial by the family of King Stephen. The royal monuments were destroyed during the Reformation.
21) Isabella, the wife and then widow of Stephen’s son William married for a second time. She married Henry II’s illegitimate half-brother who was called what?
22) The name of William I’s eldest son who went on to become Duke of Normandy after his father’s death.
24) The number of Henry I’s children who drowned in the disaster that killed his heir.
29) Stephen’s son William became Earl of this location when he married the daughter of William de Warenne.

puzzle

Edwin of Mercia

Edwin became Earl of Mercia in 1062 after his father and grandfather. He and his younger brother Morcar who was the Earl of Northumbria played a key role in Harold Hardrada’s failed campaign to take England in 1066. They opposed him at the Battle of Fulford Gate on the 20th September (which they lost) and the Battle of Stamford Bridge five days later that gave King Harold (their brother-in-law) victory over King Harold Hardrada of Norway.

 

Sadly for King Harold (of arrow in the eye fame) the two brothers also played a key role in the Battle of Hastings by taking a very slow journey south and not turning up until it was all over. Florence of Worcester commented that they ‘withdrew’. On one hand they did have to march rather a long way having just fought two battles in a very short space of time but on the other hand rather than share the loot after Stamford Bridge as was the custom of the time King Harold had it all collected together in York and appeared to have every intention of keeping it for himself which may have left the two earls feeling somewhat peeved.

 

Evidence of Edwin’s failure to take part in the Battle of Hastings is reflected in the fact that he still owned property at the time of the Domesday Book.

Having said that, it is an indicator of William the Conqueror’s desire for peace within his new kingdom that Edwin not only retained his land but also his title. Following Hastings, Edwin and Morcar supported Edgar the Atheling in his claim to the throne. William had to chase them around the southeast for two months before they finally submitted at Berkhamstead. In 1067 Edwin was one of the hostages who accompanied William back to Normandy.

 

Obviously things didn’t pan out to Edwin and Morcar’s liking because they rebelled against William in 1068 and again in 1071. The Orderic Vitalis claims that one of Edwin’s gripes was that William had promised Edwin one of his own daughter’s in marriage but appears to have had second thoughts about having Edwin for a son-in-law.

 

The 1068 rebellion saw William building castles and stamping his authority on the land.  The earls submitted once again to William and he graciously welcomed them back into the fold but then in 1069 William appointed Robert de Comines to the job of Earl of Northumberland. Understandably Edwin’s brother Morcar was a little disgruntled by this turn of events. The North rose up against William. In fact all kinds of rebellions against Norman rule sprang up like forest fires in the first years of William’s reign.  It’s perhaps not surprising that William’s avowed intent to be a good lord to his new Saxon subjects eroded.

It was during Hereward the Wake’s rebellion in East Anglia in 1071 that Edwin was betrayed to the Normans by his own retinue and killed.

Edwin’s lands extended north from Gloucester up into modern West Yorkshire and beyond.  His territory also included Craven.  Following Edwin’s death the lands were broken up. Robert de Romilly was given the lands in Craven.  He built a motte and bailey castle that would eventually become home to the Cliffords – Skipton Castle.

Sadly I can’t find a good image to use for this post but I shall keep looking.  You never know what might turn up.

Accord of Winchester

I watched the new programme about the year in the life of the York Minster last night and was fascinated to discover that King William the Conqueror was illiterate – not even able to sign his name.  The Accord of Winchester which was signed on the  27th of May 1072 making the Archbishop of Canterbury more important than the Archbishop of York has the king’s cross next to his name.  But why was there a need for an accord?

William the Conqueror might have thought that the Battle of Hastings was it so far as his hostile takeover bid for England was concerned.  However there were rebellions throughout his new realm from Exeter where King Harold’s mother encouraged the locals to express their resentment to the border between England and Wales where Wild Edric was …well…just wild.   In East Anglia, Hereward the Wake proved himself to be intransigent and in the north they were just plain stroppy.

In addition to the headache of governing a belligerent population there was also the small question of the church in England.  Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury who had been King Canute’s chaplain and who had become a key political player in the power struggles between Edward the Confessor and Earl Godwin was initially kept on but by 1070 William had decided enough was enough.  The archbishop was removed and imprisoned in Winchester (he was also Bishop of Winchester) and replaced by Lanfranc.

In York Archbishop Ealdred who’d been in place since 1060 having previously been Bishop of Worcester and who’d been one of the principal men sent to bring Edward the Exile home to England from Hungary on King Edward’s orders now backed the wrong men.  He crowned King Harold and supported Edgar the Atheling’s claim to the throne but ultimately made his submission to William and crowned him in Westminster on Christmas Day 1066.  Ealdred went to Normandy as a hostage along with Edgar the Atheling in 1067.  Perhaps conveniently for William the archbishop died a couple of years later enabling the Norman king to shoehorn Thomas of Bayeaux into post in 1070.

Presumably William thought that he’d got supportive clerics at hand.  What he hadn’t bargained for was that each man wanted to be the most important cleric in the kingdom and each argued that his diocese should take precedence over the other. Eventually William arrived at his conclusions and the Accord of Winchester was signed in 1072 – it was briefly reversed in 1127.

Edgar the Atheling

Edgar_the_ÆthelingEdgar is Edward the Exile’s son born in 1050 or 1051.  On his father’s death in February 1057, probably by poisoning, he and his great-uncle King Edward (the Confessor) became the last remaining male descendants of Cerdic (essentially the founder of the royal house of Wessex) – hence the Atheling title meaning of ‘noble  or royal blood.’ As such Edgar was an appropriate candidate for the English crown.  King Edward took Edward the Exile’s family into the English court and cared for them.  Had Edward lived a little while longer Edgar might have been the natural heir to the crown just as his father had once been viewed in a similar way.

On King Edward’s death in January 1066 Edgar was a contender for the throne. Initially he was supported by the Earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria at the Witan (council) which met to select the king.  However, across the Channel, Duke William of Normandy was making his own claim to the crown based on his relationship with Edward, promises made and a certain well-known oath made by Harold. In reality a youth without experience either leading men nor of war was not an ideal choice for a country about to be invaded.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings the Witan selected Edgar to replace King Harold who famously died during the battle. Technically Edgar rather than King Harold was the last pre-conquest king of England but he was never crowned and besides which spent most of the nominal two months he was king on the run from Duke William.  Eventually he submitted to William in Berkhamstead in December 1066.

Edgar lived in William’s court where he was well treated but was, understandably,  kept by William as a hostage to his new subjects good behaviour.  He went to Normandy with the duke in 1067 but when he returned in 1068 he became involved with the earls Edwin and Morcar once more and soon found himself up to his neck in insurrection.  He fled to Scotland very soon afterwards – unlike the folk of York who had to live with the consequences of William’s irritation.

However, Edgar did have a secret weapon that kept him firmly on the political map – his sister Margaret, blogged about in an earlier post, who’d won the heart of King Malcolm (Canmore) of Scotland when the Atheling’s family fled to Scotland in 1067.  Malcolm agreed to support Edgar in his bid for the English throne.  They didn’t have long to wait.  In 1069 the people of the north rose against William once more – history repeated itself.  Edgar fled once more into Scotland.  This process was repeated once more by which time everyone must have been heartily fed up – there wasn’t much left in some parts of the North either.  The Domesday Book shows a marked drop in the value of rents from pre-conquest to post-conquest revenues in many parts of Yorkshire.  Though as with everything there are two sides to every story. One of William’s sidekicks – a chap called Alan the Red- who’d acquired rather a lot of real estate probably ensured his own lands weren’t terribly badly ‘harrowed’.  Not withstanding this salient point it is always worth mentioning that William the Conqueror was allegedly troubled on his deathbed by his unfriendly actions in the north (its a good story anyway though not necessarily fair to William.)

Eventually King Malcolm III signed the Treaty of Abernethy (1072) and that was the end of Edgar’s Scottish sojourn. The Atheling was forced to seek protection from King Philip I in France – Edgar was not a lucky lad.  En route to his new host he was shipwrecked and had to flee back to Scotland.  Malcolm sat his brother-in-law down and had a long chat with him then waved Edgar over the border into England into William’s hands.

The Conqueror treated the troublesome atheling well. He received a pension of £1 a day from 1074 onwards.  Clearly the relationship between Duke William and Edgar must have eased further over time because Edgar went to South Wales campaigning on William’s behalf. He was present at William Rufus’s coronation, went on diplomatic missions for William II and became embroiled in the unseemly squabble over the English crown that raged between William and his elder brother Robert.

In the end Edgar sided with Robert once too often after having spent most of his adult life steering difficult political waters to remain on good terms with everyone.  William Rufus is the king who had the unfortunate accident with an arrow in the New Forest. The English crown should have gone to his brother Robert (known as Curthose) but, hey, little brother Henry was right there while Robert was abroad.  Having got his hands on the crown and the royal treasury he did what anyone would do in the circumstances…became King  Henry I.

Edgar, who had been on a crusade with Robert was at the Battle of Tinchebray in 1106 – it didn’t do Robert much good- he was captured and imprisoned for the rest of his life.  On the other hand Edgar was welcomed back to court by Henry I who had handily married Edgar’s Scottish niece Edith.  Edith – who clearly wanted to win friends and influence people dropped the Saxon Edith and became the Norman Matilda.

Edgar died in 1125 having spent his latter years away from court. He was probably due a few quiet years!

Rebellion in the North

Clifford's TowerWilliam faced a rebellion each year for the first five years after his conquest of England in 1066.  The problem for the Saxons was that their uprisings from the West Country to Northumbria via Herefordshire were localised.  There was no one central figure to unify and organise resistance.

Earls Morcar of Northumbria and Edwin of Mercia were powerful and politically dangerous men.  In part their failure to march south to support King Harold in 1066 had led to his defeat. They’d submitted to William along with Edgar the Atheling in late 1066 at Berkhamstead but they swiftly became dissatisfied with their new lord and rebelled against him in 1068.  It couldn’t have come as much of a surprise to William given that he’d taken them with him to Normandy in 1067 amongst the hostages he demanded. Perhaps it was his suspicions about the northern earls that led to him not promoting a marriage between Edwin and one of his daughters and perhaps (that’s many perhaps’s) it was for this reason that Edwin and Morcar decided to revolt, although it could have been William’s new taxes that did the trick.

In any event, William marched north via Warwick and Nottingham.  Resistance crumbled and the two earls submitted again. There is no evidence that the two men took part in any further uprising in the north.  Edwin managed to get himself killed by his own men in 1071 when he left William’s court once more and headed off towards Scotland.  Morcar took part in the uprising in Ely and ended his days a prisoner of the Normans.

The inhabitants of York seeing which way the wind was blowing in 1068 sent hostages and the keys to the city before William could arrive to express his irritation.  William  did what he always did when he wanted to stamp his authority on an area.  He built a motte and bailey castle in York and left a garrison of five hundred men to guard it.

The north did not remain at peace for long.  In January 1069 William’s man Robert de Commines  was burned to death in the Bishop of Durham’s house by an angry mob who had already slaughtered his men according to the Orderic Vitalis.  The people of York were not slow in getting in on the act.   The garrison withstood the attack. The Victoria County History for York records,  “Edgar and his supporters began an attack on the castle, whence the sheriff William Malet reported to the king that in default of assistance he would be driven to surrender.”

If one castle is good then two must be better!  William had a second castle built (Bailes Hill) which he gave into the care of William Fitz Osbern (the Earl of Hereford) before heading back south to Winchester.

There was a brief third uprising that was swiftly suppressed by Fitz Osbern.

At this point you’d think that the citizens of York would have had enough but in August 1069 King Sweyn of Denmark,  who had formed an alliance with Earl Waltheof of Northumbria, anchored his  fleet of 240 vessels on the Humber. This was a much more sustained and serious attack upon William’s rule.

The Normans facing the combined forces of the Danes and the northerners took refuge in their two new castles.  They attempted to clear a field around the castles by burning the nearby houses.  It has to be said that it doesn’t seem wildly clever to believe that in a city of wood and straw that fire can be controlled.  It certainly wasn’t in this case.  Even the Minster found itself being scorched.  According to Florence of Worcester the town was still burning two days after the initial conflagration.

 

But then again the Normans knew that they were fighting for their lives.  One of the castles sheltered the sheriff’s wife and children.  The slaughter was terrible.  Waltheof  was remembered by later generations in song for slaying Normans one after another with his battle-axe. William of Malmesbury’s account is according to the Cambridge History of English Literature taken from a ‘ballad’ or rather from a professionally worked song written by a Scandinavian scald or storyteller. William’s nice new castles were both destroyed.

Quite what the alliance of Danes and Saxons expected William to do next is unclear.  The Danes took themselves back to their boats with their booty and then set about a spot of ‘viking’ – William found one party of them plundering Lindsey but sent them scuttling back across the Humber.

What followed next wasn’t particularly pleasant if the chroniclers are to be believed and although William kept Christmas on 1069 in York there was little cause for celebration amongst the locals.  However, the North had been put in its place.

Not that their problems were over, far from it.  Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, took the opportunity to do a spot of his own harrying in the summer of 1070 and would return several times more before his death at the Battle of Alnwick.

For a chronology, which remains ongoing – I add dates as I come across them- double click on the picture.

 

 

St Margaret of Scotland

margaretMargaret, the sister of Edgar the Atheling, was the child of Edward the Exile  and Agatha, a German princess.  She was born in Hungary in 1046.  When Edward the Confessor took the throne he invited the last of the Royal House of Wessex to return from their exile.  Edward, Agatha and their children – Edgar, Margaret and Christina cam back to England but Edward died in suspicious circumstances shortly after their arrival.

Edgar submitted to William the Conqueror but became involved in a rebellion in 1068.  His family fled England.  They initially, possibly, intended to return to Hungary but bad weather drove their vessel to Scotland where Margaret married the King, Malcolm Canmore at Dunfermline Abbey in 1069.  Incidentally Canmore translates according to Alison Weir as ‘big head.’

The widowed king who was aged about forty loved his young Saxon bride and trusted her advice.  Queen Margaret became known not only for her piety but also for her learning. Malcolm could not read but such was his love for his wife that he would send her books to be ornamented with covers of gold.  She wielded so much power that she changed the way that the Scottish court behaved and dressed.  She bought the sophisticated continental behaviour of her childhood to Canmore’s court which included closer links with the Roman Catholic church.  During this time Mass was said in Latin in Scotland rather than Gaelic.  She was also the patron of Benedictine monks who arrived on Scottish shores for the first time.  Malcolm allow this wife to support the church and to guide the policies as to its practice.  She supported monks, hermits and spent much of her time and money providing charity to the poor and to orphaned children.

Inevitably relations with William of England were difficult.  Malcolm took advantage of the difficulties that William faced in his early years to extend the border of Scotland south so that it included most of Cumberland.  Malcolm was killed at the Battle of Alnwick along with Margaret’s eldest son Edward in 1093.  She died three days after receiving the news of her bereavement in Edinburgh Castle which was being besieged by Malcolm’s brother Donald Bane on 16th November. Margaret’s remaining sons escaped from the castle in a thick mist along with the body of their mother which they carried to Dunfermline Abbey where it was buried as she had wished.  It was she who’d commissioned the ferry that crossed the Firth of Forth taking pilgrims to the abbey.

Margaret bore Malcolm Canmore  eight children including Edward.    Her daughter Edith married one of William the Conqueror’s sons (King Henry I) and took on the Norman name Matilda.  Her other daughter Mary married the Count of Boulogne and her daughter (Margaret’s granddaughter married King Stephen becoming yet another Queen Matilda.)  One son, Ethelred, became the Abbot of Dunkeld while four more sons became kings of Scotland in their turn – Edmund, Edgar, Alexander I  and  David I.

For further information including St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle the Freelance History Writer http://thefreelancehistorywriter.com  has a great entry about the life and times of a Saxon Princess who became a queen and a saint.

 

 

Edric the Wild

wildedricWild Edric is a fabulous rose that scents the June air with its profusion of  vivid pink roses at the end of very thorny stems.  I always wondered who Wild Edric was and what made him ‘wild.’

Eadric or Edric the Wild was a local landowner along the Welsh Marches. He may have been the nephew of Eadric Streona a.k.a. the Grasper who in 1016 switched sides from Cnut to Edmund Ironside then promptly left the battle field half way through it. Edmund unsurprisingly lost the Battle of Ashingdon. He probably also had something to do with the St Brice’s Day Massacre of the Danes. The Grasper didn’t prosper because his Christmas gift from the new King Canute (who had undoubtedly benefited from the battlefield exit) was to have Eadric executed and thrown into a ditch. More positively, Edric the Wild was probably also related to the Princes of Gwynedd and Powys.

In the aftermath of Hastings, William the Conqueror confiscated all the land of any man who’d taken part in the battle against him. Edric hadn’t been there. It may have been that he was on one of Harold’s ships, he is recorded as being the Bishop of Worcester’s ‘shipman’ attempting to blockade the South Coast. Seeing which way the wind was blowing Edric made his submission and kept his lands.

And that might have been that were it not for the delightfully named Richard Fitz Scrob who had arrived in England before the conquest.   Now that the Normans had the upper hand Fitz Scrob couldn’t resist trying to help himself to Edric’s land. By 1067 Edric had enough. He joined with Bleddyn and Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn and set about showing the Normans a thing or two. Herefordshire went up in flames before Edric and his allies retreated.

In 1069 as the North rose in rebellion so to did Edric and the Welsh Marches from Herefordshire to Chester. He and his allies attacked Shrewsbury Castle. The town burned but the garrison stood until it could be relieved by Roger of Montgomery.

William finally confronted Edric at the Battle of Stafford in 1069. Edric and the Welsh left the men of Cheshire and Staffordshire to tackles the Conqueror who was probably in a foul temper having spent most of the year subduing rebellions, harrying the North and then having to cross the Pennines in bad weather.

It comes as a bit of a surprise then that by1072 Edric was part of the army heading north to Scotland to attack King Malcolm I. Perhaps he wanted no further part in the misery that most of the native population were experiencing by then. In 1075 he seems to have been invited to take part in the Earl’s Rebellion but there is no further mention of him. He seems to have disappeared by 1086 as he is not mentioned in the Domesday Book as a landowner. One suggestions offered in the fifteenth century was that he continued to fight against the changes imposed by the Normans, eventually being captured by Ralph Mortimer and ending his days in a dank dungeon somewhere.

People who disappear suddenly from history are prone to become the subject of story telling and Edric is no exception. In another version of the story Edric’s support of the Normans led to him being cursed and imprisoned with his wife Godda in the Stiperstones leadmines where he awaits an opportunity to save his country. He was seen in 1914 and 1939 taking part in the Wild Hunt. Oh yes – did I mention that Godda was a faerie?

 

 

 

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent

B_T_, 55, Bishop Odo in battle_jpgOdo may have been made a bishop at the age of twenty but it have very little to do with a spiritual vocation.  Not only did William the Conqueror’s half-brother play an active military role but he was also notorious for his womanising and greed.

William, Odo and Robert of Motain shared a mother – Herleva, the tanner’s daughter.  William’s father, Duke Robert of Normandy, married Herleva off to Herluin de Conteville. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts Odo as playing a leading role in the planning and execution of the invasion of England in 1066.  Of course, given that he probably commissioned the embroidery it would relay that particular message.  He certainly supplied one hundred ships for the expedition and is depicted virtually sharing a seat with William at the feast before the battle.  He is shown on numerous occasions with his club or mace in hand during the battle.  As a cleric he was not supposed to spill blood – so bashing in his enemies skulls was an effective alternative.

In the aftermath of the battle Odo was given control of Dover where he managed to make himself unpopular by using the guildhall as his own place of residence and allowing a mill to be built at the mouth of the harbour.

In the spring of 1067 Odo took on the role of William’s deputy in England when William returned to Normandy.  So he played an active role crushing English revolts in East Anglia and in the north of the country.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that he became, according to the Domesday Book, one of the wealthiest landholders in the country.  He held; 184 lordships, manors in twelve other counties besides Kent and had an income somewhere in the region of £3,000 a year.  In fact, the Domesday Book shows him to be the richest tenant-in-chief in the kingdom by far.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle and the Orderic Vitalis make clear that his spiritual capital was rather less significant describing the bishop as ‘destitute of virtue,’  ‘a ravening wolf,’  ‘ambitious,’ ‘rapacious,’ ‘greedy,’ ‘ruthless,’ ‘arrogant’ and ‘tyrannical’ – in short a real charmer.

 

Unfortunately for Odo, his ambition matched that of his half brother and it was discovered that the Bishop of Bayeux was plotting to become pope.  William locked his brother up and he was only released upon William’s death.  By way of gratitude Odo led a rebellion in 1088 against William Rufus in favour of Robert Curthose, William’s elder brother who was Duke of Normandy at that time.

Odo never returned to Britain, something for which the people of Kent were probably deeply grateful.  He died and was buried in Palermo, Sicily on his way to the First Crusade.

To find out more about the chronology of the period click on the picture to open the page relating to the eleventh century in my ‘timeline of history’ or use the tabs at the top of the blog.

William le Meschin

shiled ringRanulf le Meschin, Earl of Chester and his brother William le Meschin were the sons of Ranulf de Briquessart and Matilda. Meschin simply means ‘younger’ so Ranulf the Younger was used to identify the son from the father. William ended up with the same name because he was very much his brother’s man.

Ranulf was given much of Cumberland by William the Conqueror. Cumberland was then divided into eleven baronies in an attempt to control the region. The Cumbrians took to their Lakeland hills and fought a guerrilla war against their invaders.  This meant that the Normans could, initially at least, only secure the coastal and less mountainous regions.  Rosemary Sutcliffe’s excellent  book entitled The Shield Ring explores the history of the region and the role of Ranulf – she was not his greatest fan. There’s also a book entitled The Secret Valley which covers the same period and the battle of Rannerdale. The Scots took advantage of the ensuing difficulties  to extend their boundaries south.  It was no sinecure when Ranulf gave William the baronies of Copeland and Gilsland.  The latter meant he was responsible for guarding the northern approaches to Carlisle.  It proved a task too far.   He built a castle at Egremont but lost Gilsland. He was compensated for the loss of Gilsland by Henry I with land in Allerdale. He also acquired land through his wife Cecily de Rumilly, Lady of Skipton.

 

As William acquired land he also founded religious houses including St Bee’s Priory in 1120 which was a daughter house of St Mary’s in York. It was founded after the sinking of the White Ship that saw Henry I’s only legitimate son drown on a journey between Normandy and England. Richard, Earl of Chester -William’s cousin- died in the same disaster. The charter for St Bees prays for the souls of the drowned men.  In part he was demonstrating his religious belief and buying ‘time out’ from purgatory but he was also showing support for foundations who enjoyed the patronage of kings.   Thurstan, who was the Archbishop of York would have welcomed an alliance with a strong northern magnate such as le Meschin so perhaps it is not surprising that he came in person to bless St Bees.

 

In addition to giving land and funding buildings William went on the First Crusade and was at the Siege of Nicaea.

 

William: soldier, invader, crusader, castle builder, monastery endower- call him what you will,  died sometime between 1130 and 1135. He left a son called Ranulf but he died shortly after his father leaving the great estates that le Meschin had built to be divided between William’s three daughters.