Category Archives: My Ancestors

More ancient ancestors – The Warenne Lineage – part 2

Continuing the re-publishing of earlier posts from another blog. This post deals with the connection I have with the Warenne family. Originally the name derives from a knight who fought with William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings, who was rewarded very handsomely with lands in Sussex, Essex and Staffordshire, and probably other areas as well. The particular ancestor I am descended from was a bastard son of  the 6th Earl of Warenne, who seems to have been given a property in Ichtefeld, in Shropshire. A Puleston ancestor marries a daughter of Warren Hall and this is how I am connected. This then opens the floodgates to connections with many European royal houses, leading all the way back to Charles the Great, better known in the history books as Charlemagne.

You’ll notice that I used Wikipedia for some of my sources which generally hasn’t got enough credibility to quote as a genuine source for reliability. Rest assured that I have consulted other resources to back up these findings.

Having discovered that Margaret Puleston was my ‘gateway ancestor, I carried on researching the numerous marriages along her ancestors’ lineages. In my last post I described the discoveries of Margaret’s Welsh connections. The research in all her Welsh forbears is incomplete because there are more lines to investigate. This post will concentrate on 2 lines that are generated from my Puleston line.

The son of the murdered Sir Roger de Pyvelisdon, sheriff of Anglesey, was Richard de Pyvelisdon, who was appointed successor to his father by Edward I. According to Robert Sewell’s site, Richard had married an Angharad, a daughter of a Warren from Warren Hall, Salop. This ‘Warren’ has been stated as being either William or Griffith de Warren, and the existence of both Richard and his wife are quoted in Burke’s Peerage. Many websites and public family trees state that Angharad was a daughter of William de Warenne, the son of John de Warenne, the 7th Earl of Surrey, which cannot be true. William only had 2 children, John and Alice (John being the future 8th earl and last of the line) and born several months after his father’s death at a tournament in 1285. So where was the connection? It’s also not certain if Angharad was her name. It could have been Agnes or Ankaret, and this last name I have seen frequently in my researches. It sounds like a variation of Angharad, so I would be more inclined to believe her name was Ankaret. However, the important thing is that she came from a Warren Hall, which there is now no trace. It took a couple of days of painstaking going through hundreds of PDF pages of books I downloaded from the internet, but I finally found a reference for a Warren Hall. It came from a book published in 1782, which is available for download on the Ancestry website, written by the Rev. John Watson, called “Memoirs of the Ancient Earls of Warren and Surrey and their Descendants to the present time”. I quote from this book;

“Earl William (the 6th earl) had also a natural son, called Griffin de Warren…From what mother this Griffin came, is uncertain; but that he was the son of this earl, appears from Vincent’s Cheshire in the Herald’s office, where is a pedigree of him, and his descendants, with the arms of the families they matched with. He married Isabel sister of Robert de Pulford…By the said Isabel the said Griffin had John de Warren, who married Audela, the daughter and heiress of Griffin de Albo Monasterio (we now call Whitchurch, Shropshire ). This John was Lord of Ichtefeld, in right of his wife, whose father obtained it, by marrying Audela…In one of the Harleian Mss. No.2131, it is said, that in the county of Salop, two miles from Ichtefeld, was an ancient castle, situated on a terrible morass, by a river side, which in times past was inhabited by the earls of Warren and Surrey, and was called earl Warren’s castle. Near the same, situated on a little hill, was an ancient house called Warren’s Hall.”

So, it appears that there was an off-shoot from the main Warren lineage which started with the illegitimate son of William de Warenne, the 6th Earl of Surrey and Warren. This, of course, means that I have a direct line from the 6th earl back to the first one who was given the title from William the Conqueror. In the book there is a family tree which has Griffin de Warren at the top and a further 13 generations below him. The Warren that fits into my family is the grandson, also Griffin, who married Winifred daughter of William of Broxton. I have been unable to find anything substantial about William Broxton, only that he owned land. Broxton is near Chester, about 11 miles away to the south of that city and checking on Wikipedia there is a Broxton Hall, owned by the Egerton family in the 17th century. The Egertons derived their name from the de Malpas family, specifically David de Maplas or le Clerk as he was known. A daughter of David married another Puleston descendant of mine which will be explored later.

This Griffin was born around 1240, and Angharad is said to be born about 1264, so he is the likley candidate to be her father. Let’s now look at the information I have found on the lineage from the 6th Earl of Surrey. 

William de Warenne, 6th earl of Surrey was born in 1166. He was known as William Plantagenet because he was the son of Hamelin Plantagenet and Isabella de Warenne. Hamelin became the 5th Earl by marrying Isabella who was the daughter and heir of the 3rd Earl, also called William de Warenne. Incidently, Isabella’s first husband was William of Blois, the son of King Stephen of England. Most of the earls were called William so it gets confusing at times. Hamelin also took on the Warenne name so was called Hamelin de Warenne. Hamelin’s father was Geoffrey Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, and an unknown woman, but is suspected to be Adelaide of Angers. Geoffrey is more known for being the father of King Henry II, through marrying his mother Matilda the daughter of King Henry I. Geoffrey’s father was Fulk V of Anjou, who, after the death of his first wife, went to Jerusalem and became its king by marrying Melisende, daughter of Baldwin II of Jerusalem. According to Wikipedia, Geoffrey’s lineage goes back through the other Dukes of Anjou, including Geoffrey I known as Greymantle, but I’d like to check whether Wiki has got it right.

Going back to the Warenne’s, the 3rd earl married Adela, or Ela, as she was known, whose ancestry include Robert of Belleme, the 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Agnes of Ponthieu. This line also needs to be checked before going further. The 2nd Earl of Surrey, also you’ve guessed it, William, died in 1138 and was married to Elizabeth de Vermandois, daughter to Hugh Magnus, duke of Vermandois, who was the son of Henri I of France. Sometimes Elizabeth is known as Isobel in some books, but there is no doubt that she is the same woman who married William. Now I regard Elizabeth as another gateway ancestor because looking into her ancestry opens up a treasure trove of connections with various royal houses in Europe. For instance her paternal grandmother was Anne of Kiev, daughter of Yaroslav I (nicknamed The Wise) of Kiev, himself a son of Vladamir I (known as Volodymyr the Great). The story goes that Henri could not find a suitable wife from the eligible pool of royal daughters because of consanquinity issues (they were too close as kin to him). So the safest bet for him was to marry Anne. Her mother was Ingergerd, daughter of King Olof of Sweden. Wiki goes further but I’ll stop there. 

Going back to Henri I of France, his father was Robert II of France, son of Hugh Capet and Adelaide of Aquitaine. Henri mother was Constance of Arles and her lieage goes back to Charlemagne, founding father of both the French and German royal houses. I’m pretty sure that given these links to various monarchs in Europe, there are other lines leading to Charlemagne, but I need to double check my research to make sure that the lines are in order. Hugh Capet’s paternal grandmother, Beatrice of Vermandois also has a line to Charlemagne (her great grandfather was Bernard of Italy, a grandson of Charlemagne. 

The 1st Earl of Warenne, William, married Gundred, a daughter of Matilda of Flanders. Matilda is best known as the wife of William the Conqueror, but it appears that she was married first to a Flemish gentleman named Gerbod. In some sources Gundred has been cited as the Conqueror’s natural daughter, but it is likely that she was his step-daughter. However, Matilda’s father was Bladwin V, Count of Flanders and Adele, daughter of Robert II of France and Constance of Arles. Here we have another link to Charlemagne on Constance’s ancestry. Also, Baldwin V’s paternal grandmother was Rozala of Lombardy, who is also cited to be a descendant of Chalemagne! Is everyone related to Charlemagne? Seems so. Millions around the world are of course. Baldwin’s gggg grandfather was Alfred the great of Wessex or England, through Alfred’s daughter Aelfthryth. Wiki has his line going back to the early 6th century, to Cerdic, King of Wessex. Again, I don’t know how authentic Wikipedia’s information is but this linege must be easily available somewhere, and therefore well known. The information is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which ws translated by the Rev. James Ingram and published in 1823. 

There are other links stemming from my Puleston ancestry to investigate, and one in particular is of interest. Remember the Roger de Pyvelisdon from my last post who was hung by the Welsh for daring to collect taxes for Edward I’s war with France? His wife was Agnes, daughter of David de Malpas, known as le clerc because he was an administrator for the Earl of Chester, probably Ranulf, who inherited the earldom from his father Hugh Cyfeiliog. David’s wife was Margaret daughter of Ralph ap Einion, whose wife is also said be related to the 4th earl of Chester Ranulph de Gernon. Agnes’ brother was Philip Goch, who started the Egerton family (Broxton Hall as mentioned earlier). According to my research David’s mother was Beatrix, an illegitimate daughter of Hugh, Earl of Chester. On the web site her name is unknown, but in Collins’ Peerage Vol.5 her name is stated as Beatrix. Her husband, and father of David de Malpas, was William le Belward. William inherited the baronetcy of Malpas from his mother Lettice, daughter and heir of Robert, Baron of Malpas. So David was a grandson of Hugh, earl of Chester. Hugh’s father was Ranulf de Gernon, 4th earl of Chester, and his mother was Maud of Gloucester. Maud’s father was Robert 1st Earl of Gloucester, one of many illegitimate sons of King Henry I, reputedly with Nest, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, another direct ancestor (see last post). I need to check if Beatrix was a daughter of Hugh to confirm yet another wonderful lineage.


Some old posts from a previous blog – part 1

BpWilliamMorganAround 2007 I started my first ever blog and included anything and everything in it including some research I started from my discovery of my ancestral connection to Bishop William Morgan, the 16th century translator of the Hebrew Bible to the Welsh language. The following post is as I wrote it at that time.

In the last 3 weeks I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to delve into my family history like I have never delved before. The information I have gathered is, in a word, amazing, and it seems unbelievable that ordinary me could be related to such notable figures in history. And not only Welsh history but European. My research has led me to the great Welsh leader Rhodri Mawr, as well as French kings such as Henri I and Hugh Capet. As to the English monarchy I get as close as to a half brother to Henry II (Hamelin Plantagenet) and links with the family of Henry Tudor. However, for this post I am going to write about my research on my Welsh ancestors and show how I got there.

It all started when I bought the book ‘Bywyd ac Amserau Yr Esgob Morgan’  (Life and Times of the Bishop William Morgan) by Charles Ashton, published in 1891, and bought from Abebooks on the internet. This is the book that I had been after for many years because I needed it to confirm my family link to Bishop William Morgan, something that I knew but wanted proof. And there it was. A family tree, just after page 115, showing my great great great grandfather Owen Evans and his wife Jane Hughes, and his parents being Margaret Morgan and Owen Evan of Ty’n Ddol, Ffestiniog. Margaret’s lineage was exactly as I thought it would be, her father being William Ellis Morgan. It was his brother, John, whose papers that Ashton relied on, and the tree descended all the way to Bishop William Morgan. At last I can feel sure that I am truly a decendent of this great man’s family, though others had known this but I wanted to see physical proof for myself. It was at this point that I noticed that Ashton indicated on the tree that the bishop had a son, Evan Morgan, also a man of the cloth. Now this has been a contentious issue with genealogists as some claim that he was a nephew of William Morgan rather than his son, which to be fair Ashton points this out. I had always assumed up to now that Evan was his nephew because I hadn’t seen any evidence that William had a son. He was married twice so the chance of producing at least 1 child must be high, you would think. Ashton’s reasoning is based on the known appointments and places that William Morgan had been. For instance, it is known that he was at Cambridge University from 1564,and was there for, I think, 7 years. Considering that Evan’s first appointment was at Llanrhaiadr-y-Mochnant in 1588 (taking over from William in fact), Ashton deduces that he was likely to have been born around 1564. If he was born after William came back from Cambridge, Evan would have been 16 taking up this first post, a highly unlikely scenario. However, his does not rule out the possibility that Evan was the son of one of William Morgan’s brothers, but Ashton was basing his research from the family papers held by John Ellis Morgan, a gggg grandson to William, so it seems more likely to be correct. If this is the case then William Morgan was married to Ellen Salesbury, who was related to that other famous translator, William Salesbury. Her family tree is also included in Ashton’s book and he has managed to trace it back to Adam de Salzburg, a relative of a Duke in Bavaria. Because of the uncertainty of the parentage of Evan, I cannot for certain rely on my connection to Ellen’s ancestors. However, the Salesbury (or Salusbury) connection re-emerges later in my research.

So, Evan Morgan seemed to be the logical choice to research, and I was lucky enough to use Ashton’s research again. In his book he states that Evan was married to Catherine daughter of John ap Rhys Wynn of Caer Ddinen, and Mary, who was a daughter of Baron Lewis Owen (or Lewys ap Owen). This seemed an interesting path to follow so I started looking on the internet for these people.

I must point out here that there are literally thousands’s of out of copyright books available for either download or to view, for free from Google books and, which have fantastic information for genealogical purposes. Well worth checking if you have relatively well-known people in your family history. There is, of course, a reliance that the information written in these books are correct, but they do seem to have based their research on primary sources (original manuscripts) so we must assume that they are.

I quickly found Lewis Owen. He wasn’t hard to find because he was regarded as one of the most well known men in Merionethshire in the time of the Tudors. He was appointed deputy-chamberlain of North Wales and baron of the exchequer at Caernarfon. He was also sheriff of Merioneth in 1545-6 and 1554-5, and MP for Merioneth in 1547, 1553 and 1554. On October 11th or 12th, 1555 he was murdered by the ‘Red bandits of Mawddwy’ at a place still called ‘Llidart y barwn, near Mallwyd in Merionethshire. Apparantly it was a revenge killing because Lewis had caught, tried and hung a few of the bandits just before. His wife was Margaret Puleston, daughter of Robert Puleston, rector of Gresford and Whitford (Burke’s Peerages). From another source, she is said to be not only the daughter of Robert but also the niece of Sir John Puleston of Hafod y Wern, Bersham. The first Puleston from Hafod was a Madog Puleston (Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales, Thomas Nicholas,p. 455, vol.2) and his father was Robert Puleston who married Lowri, sister to Owain Glyndwr. As a proud Welshman, this connection gladdens my heart! To have Owain as a distant uncle is fantastic. I discovered more when I looked into the family of Owain’s mother, Ellen. She was the daughter of Thomas ap Llewelyn, whose ancestry I will discuss later. Thomas had another daughter, Margaret, who married Tudur Fychan ap Goronwy of Plas Penmynydd, Anglesey. At this point I knew that there was going to be another important connection. Penmynydd is synomenous with the ancestry of Owain Tudor the grandfather of King Henry VII, and so he turns out to be my 4th cousin, 16x removed. There are a few more lines to investigate in this period, which I will no doubt look into in time.

Going back to Thomas ap Llewelyn (ggg grandfather to Henry Tudor), I followed his ancestry using the various Rootsweb family trees that are available on the net. Now, caution should be taken when relying on these trees because it is research carried out by others and who knows where they have got their information from. On at least 2 occasions I was led to believe that I was related to William the Conqueror because of mistakes made from these trees. There is an awful lot of copying on the genealogical net and a quick search on Rootsweb will reveal identical info on numerous trees. There is also a temptation for some to claim direct ancestry to noble and royal families because it would be difficult to DISPROVE those findings. Not many would bother to check to see they’re right. The reason I’ve taken so long to write this post is because I’ve checked and re-checked my information, and I want to find the TRUTH about my ancestors, and not find out out later that it was not the case. I am reminded here of John Hurt’s experience on the BBC programme ‘Who do you think you are’. He always believed that he was descended from Irish ancestry, which he was very proud of, only to find that one of these ancestors had lied about his birth. He was understandably angry and upset because he had always thought that he had Irish blood, which will have had an effect on how he perceived his ‘self’. The link between identity and ancestry can be very strong, and to John Hurt it must have felt that his very personality was based on a lie. Some of these submitters on Rootsweb may want to believe they are related to notable people, but I would rather find out who my real ancestors were, whether they were ordinary peasants or members of the aristocracy. They are all important and significant because they produced me and the family I love.

So, I rechecked these Rootsweb claims by reading up downloaded free books on the internet and believe I have found the true lineages that I am now writing about. By the way, one of the incorrect submissions on Rootsweb was a claim that Owain Glyndwr’s great grandmother was a Catherine, a daughter of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd (Llewelyn the Last) who married Eleanor de Montford, whose maternal grandfather was King John I, and this line leads to William the Conqueror. Llewelyn, as far as I know, only had one daughter, Gwenllian, who was whisked away to a nunnery by the English while still a baby, never to know her true roots. Despite finding a couple of authors writing in the early 19th century who state the existence of this Catherine, I think it’s not safe to pursue. If it was true then it would be a fantastic connection to not only King John but also the de Montforts, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the royal houses of France. I believe this to be false, but any direct links to Llewelyn is still possible because I haven’t explored all the lineages.

Anyway, the lineage of Thomas ap Llewelyn leads to Gruffydd ap Rhys who married Matilda de Braose, whose family I will write in a future post, who was the son of Rhys ap Gruffydd, The Lord Rhys. He was Prince of Deheubarth (modern day south west Wales) and Henry II appointed him the protector of South Wales. He, unfortunately, died of plague in 1197 and is buried at St. David’s Cathedral. His grandfather was Rhys ap Tewdwr, Prince of Deheubarth, and he was killed in the Battle of Brecon in 1093, probably fighting the English again. Protecting the borders of Wales then must have been as difficult as trying to save a sinking ship. When one area is patched up there is always another ready to leak through somewhere else. Rhys ap Tewdwr’s ggg grandfather was Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good), born circa. 887 and despite this apparent virtuous tag was regarded as quite ruthless. He even ordered the death of his brother-in-law, Llywarch of Dyfed. However, a great reign doesn’t get built by being soft. His most well known achievement was the creation of the Law of Wales which was the foundation of Welsh unity and identity. His grandfather was Rhodri Mawr (Rodri the Great)a famous warrior who defended Wales from especially the Danes, who had continuously raided Celtic coasts including Ireland and Brittany. He was killed, together with his son Gwriad, in a battle against the English in 877.

Archives that go further back before Rhodri’s time are a mixture of tales of myths and legends. Rhodri was supposed to be a descendent of Coel Hen (Old King Cole himself) and beyond this to Maelgwn Gwynedd and Cunedda and you are really in fantasy land perhaps. There’s one tree on Rootsweb that leads from Rhodri to a Roman called Padarn Beisrudd. It’s entirely plausible but difficult to prove. I’m quite happy with what I’ve found to date, and there are more discoveries to follow. The beauty of finding an ancestor who married into a notable family is that there is an excellent chance of finding more well known personalities. Such families liked to marry off their offspring to other families of equal status or better, and that has been the case with my ancestor Margaret Puleston. Bless her! The Pulestons originated from Pilsdon in Shropshire, but very soon were regarded as a Welsh family settling at Emral Hall, Flintshire. An early Puleston ancestor, Sir Roger de Pyvelisdon, was reponsible for collecting a tax from the Welsh to fund Edward I’s war with France. I can just imagine his face when the king told him what he had to do! It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it! Talk about walking into the lion’s den. As many I suppose predicted he and his assistants were grabbed and hung on the spot at Caernarfon. His son Sir Richard de Pyvelisdon married a daughter of a Warren from Warren Hall in Shropshire. This line of enquiry provided me with a very challenging research task, and all the reading I did paid off in a big way and will be the subject of my next post.

To finish off some loose ends, some interesting indirect connections.
Through Owain Glyndwr’s parents, I have a direct lineage to Gwenllian and Susanna, both daughters of Gruffydd ap Cynan, and sisters to Owain Gwynedd. He became King of Gwynedd after defeating Trahaearn ap Caradog at the battle of Mynydd Carn in 1081, and appears to have an alliance with my other ancestor, Rhys ap Tewdwr. Gruffydd was born in Dublin and his mother Ragnaillt was the daughter of the Norse king, Olaf Sigtryggsson (Olaf of Dublin). Through the wife of Gruffydd, Angharad ferch Owain ap Edwin, there is a link to the Earls of Mercia. Owain’s ggrandmother was Godgifu, Lady Godiva. So, through these lineages I have links to the Vikings. I have discovered other Viking links through Normandy connections as well but that is for another post.

If we go back to Rhys ap Tewdwr, he had a daughter named Nest. Reputedly she was so beautiful that men could not resist her, which happened quite often. She was a mistress to Henry I and produced a son. She married Gerald of Windsor and had 5 children with him. Her cousin, Owain ap Cadwgan took one look at her and decided to kidnapped her and her children, with Gerald escaping with his life going down the toilet! Quite appropriate in regards to the way his life was going I think. While in captivity she had 2 more children with Owain, who in real Mills and Boon fashioned was killed by the vengeful husband not long after. She next married Stephen, constable of Cardigan and had Robert FitzStephen. One of her grandsons was Gerald of Wales the historian, better known by his Lain name Geraldus Cambrensis.

Well, I supose they were violent times…

It recently occurred to me that I must have ancestors that met unpleasant ends, and with the amount of people I’ve found in the last three years of research it goes without saying that at least a minority of them must have had quite gruesome deaths. Let’s face it, back in medieval times even the most natural of deaths were pretty horrific with no painkillers or other medications to make things better. What I am trying to write here are those deaths that were particularly nasty committed by the cruelest of means which I hope you agree with me that they were.

Now, these four examples are the ones that I could easily access, and what stood out in my memory. I have discovered many ancestors over the years who were knights and took part in well known battles in England and Wales, as well as those fought during the Crusades in the middle east. I would imagine that some of them must also have met grisly battle deaths, sometimes not as quick as they would wish, lingering in the heat for days before finally succombing, and an end to their suffering.

Sir Roger de Puleston (died 1293)

He was one of my early Puleston ancestors. Originally from Shropshire, the Puleston family were given lands in Flintshire, Wales, in the 13th century. Emeral Hall’s first Puleston occupant was Sir Roger’s son, Richard who was knighted and became the sheriff of Caernarvon at the same time as his father was created the sheriff of Anglesey, 1277. In 1293 Edward I needed more money to fund his war efforts and ordered Sir Roger to collect taxes from the Welsh. As Edward often waged war with the Welsh, Scots and the French he probably needed quite a bit.

As you can imagine this didn’t go down too well and resulted in an uprising led by Madog ap Llywelyn. Unfortunately Sir Roger was captured by the Welsh and hanged and then beheaded by the mob. It’s not certain if he was still alive after his hanging but it must have been a gruesome death to witness and certainly not quick. It’s not known whether Edward I got his funds in the end but I doubt very much if he got it that year.

Mabel de Belleme (died 2 Dec. 1079)

A daughter of William I Tavlas, she had a history of being a conivening murderess and gave birth to one of history’s monsters, Robert de Belleme, not one of my favourable of ancestors. She successfully poisoned Arnold of Echauffour (she wanted his lands) on her second attempt. The first disasterously killed her brother-in-law, who grapped the poisoned wine by mistake feeling parched after a hunt. Mabel married Roger the II Earl of Montgomery and had ten children. Her demise has been recorded as an act of revenge by Hugh Bunel, his lands having been taken from him by Mabel and her army in 1077. Two years later, Hugh, with the help of his brothers sneaked into Mabel’s castle and confronted her in her bed chamber and cut off her head with his sword. Hugh and his brothers managed to flee and succesfully escape Mabel’s pursuing soldiers.

Orderic describes her as “small, very talkative, ready enough to do evil, shrewd and jocular, extremely cruel and daring.” Yes, she  sounded like a person who was in dire need of urgent therapy.

Robert Marmion (died circa 1143)

There were a succession of Robert Marmions, the first having helped William the Conqueror at Hastings and subsequentially received land in Warwickshire and Lincolnshire. Back in the days when William was only the Duke of Normandy, the Marmion family held the office of the Champions of Normandy, a hereditary honour which they continued to hold during the Norman period of England’s history.

“…and after the conquest, Robert de Marmion held the castle and manor of Tamworth in Warwickshire and Scivelsby in Lincolnshire by the tenure of performing that office at the King’s coronation; being bound ‘to ride completely armed upon a barbed horse into Westminster Hall, and there to challenge the combat with whomsoever should dare to oppose the King’s title to the crown'” [The Battle Abbey Roll, Duchess of Cleveland (1889).

A performance such as this would pep up any old boring coronation!

Robert’s son, also named Robert, apparently had not learned an important lesson from his father. The elder Robert forcibly removed the nuns from the Abbey of Polesworth and within a year experienced a visitation from Saint Edith, dressed as a nun, who struck him with a crosier and told him he would be heading to the depths of Hell if he didn’t confess to his sin. The wound was not healing and giving him such pain that he not only fessed up to what he’d done but also put the nuns back in their rightful place.

“He went in person to crave their pardon, desiring that himself, and his friend Sir Walter, might be reputed their patrons, and have burial for themselves and their heirs in the Abbey – the Marmions in the chapter-house, the Sommervilles in the cloister” [Duchess of Cleveland, 1889]

Robert the younger also seemed to enjoy chucking religious staff out of their own homes, this time the monks at a Priory near Coventry. This angered the Earl of Chester (which one I’m not sure, but another ancestor of mine nonetheless) who was in the middle of a feud with the Marmions, and besides, the Earl owned a castle in Coventry so I suppose he felt a bit threatned. No wonder he got mad with him.  Sounds like Robert delibrately irked the Earl’s anger in a tit-for-tat sort of way. After capturing the Priory Robert fortified it and further protected it by having ditches dug and concealed, to trap any oncoming invaders presumably the Earl’s forces being the most likely candidates. But his downfall was sealed by his own stupidity and a lack of a map indicating the locations of his carefully hidden ditch traps. Whilst out reconnoitring the approaching Earl, Robert fell into one of his own ditches, breaking his thigh in the process. Unable to move, he was forced to wait for his own death which was handed to him by “a common soldier presently seizing him [and] cut off his head” [The Dominant and Extinct baronage of England: or An Historical and Genealogical Account of the Lives, Public Employments and most Memorable Actions of the English Nobility, who have flourished from the Norman Conquest to the year 1806, Thomas Christopher Banks, Vol. 1, 1807].

Maude de St. Valery

Of the four examples I have chosen, I think I have saved the most gruesome and certainly the most cruel of deaths for last. Maude was a daughter of Bernard de St. Valery and Matilda and was born around 1155. Sometime around 1166, Maude married William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber, son of William de Braose, 3rd Lord of Bramber and Bertha of Hereford de Pitres. He also held the lordships of Gower, Hay, Brecon, Radnor, Builth, Abergavenny, Kington, Painscastle, Skenfrith, Grosmont, White Castle and Briouze in Normandy. When King John of England ascended the throne in 1199, he became a court favourite and was also awarded the lordship of Limerick, Ireland. Maud had a marriage portion, Tetbury from her father’s estate. So, Maud married a pretty affluent gentleman with many estates and properties. Being a favourite of the King was just the icing on the cake.

However, we all know how psychologically disturbed King John was and it wasn’t long before things turned sour between the Braoses and the one nicknamed ‘Lackland’. The historian Ralph Turner depicted John as a man in possession of dangerous personality traits, citing spitefulness and cruelty among them,_King_of_England  

Maude was often called upon to help her husband to defend his properties. For three weeks in 1198 she defended Painscastle in Powys against the Welsh until English reinforcements arrived. From then on, the castle was refered to as Matilda’s Castle.

The reason why King John became her enemy is not certain but it could be that William de Braose owed him money, which led to John demanding that Maude’s son William be held as hostage. Monarchs all over Europe tended to do this in order to get what they want, and as proof of loyalty from their subjects. Maude refused this demand saying, in public, that she would not send her son to a man who had his nephew killed. There has been a suggestion that John had his nephew, Arthur, son of John’s elder brother Geoffrey, secretly killed so that he would remain the only heir to the throne of England after his other brother Richard. Of course Richard died in 1199 when a stray arrow from atop a French castle mortally struck him.

From this time on, Maude and her family were fugitives. She fled with her son William to Ireland for refuge, but eventually John’s forces captured them and imprisoned them, first at Windsor Castle, then Corfe Castle in Dorset. It was here that both Maude and her teenage son were walled in and condemned to die of starvation.

A bit of a morbid post this week but how a person dies is sometimes as fascinating as how they lived. Heroic deaths must be celebrated because they are actioned by the virtues of bravery, valor and the pursuit of a common good, a sacrifice perhaps stemming from a solid belief in freedom. But these weren’t heroic in any form. Three out of the four were cruel, slow and helpless deaths, and perhaps only Mabel de Belleme actually deserved what she got. The only one of the four that meted out a punishment that was justified for the crimes she committed during her lifetime.