Alain le Roux, Count of Brittany (Earl of Richmond)

source: Wikipedia

Alain le Roux (c. 1040–1094) is one of my favorite historical characters who seems to have been important in his time, but nobody seems to have heard of him.  Why do I like him so much?  Well, as I see it he went with the flow (so to speak), amassed an incredible fortune (according to Wikipedia, at the time of his death he was worth around $166.9 billion, the equivalent of 7% of England’s national income.  Forbes placed him 9th in the list of most wealthy historical figures) and modestly did his thing, managing to keep King William happy as well as historians.

Alain – called le Roux because of his red beard – hits the historical stage around the time of the Norman Conquest.  He was in charge of the Breton contingent, a sizeable part of William’s invasion force.  If you recall, the Breton wing of the Norman army at the Battle of Hastings nearly lost the day: they were the first to panic and flee from the ferocity of the Saxons.  For a moment all was in chaos, then many of the inexperienced Saxon fyrd broke the shield wall and pursued the Bretons.  However, William rallied his men and cut off the Saxons from the rest of the army, wiping them out to a man.  Seeing the success of the maneuver, William instructed the Bretons to do it a couple of times more throughout the battle, with great success.

After William become king he rewarded his supporters with grants of land and titles.  Alain was created the first Earl of Richmond, and a Norman keep stands on the site of his original castle overlooking the River Swale. In 1069, during the great Harrying of the North after the insurrection of Durham, Alain was the man William appointed to do the job.  By the end of his career, he had amassed over 250,000 acres in land grants.  Yet he is said to have died childless and his estate was inherited by his brother Alain le Noir (so-called because of his black beard).

Early in my research for my novel, “Heir to a Prophecy” I unearthed a story that my protagonist Walter actually went to Brittany and married Alain’s daughter, later taking her to Scotland and the court of Malcolm III where he was a favorite.  Although this is probably apocryphal, I did recently find an anecdote that makes me wonder if it could be true.

Just the other day I was reading the book “The House of Godwine: The History of a Dynasty” (by Emma Mason) which was written in 2005.  Four pages from the end, the author states that King Malcolm planned to marry his daughter Edith to Count Alan the Red in 1093 (she was in the Wilton nunnery at the time), and King William Rufus forbid the union, causing Malcolm to storm out of the royal court. Now, why would Malcolm care about Alain unless there was some sort of connection between them (Walter)?

Even more interesting (to me, that is), instead of Malcolm’s daughter, Alain actually took a fancy to another important novice at Wilton: Gunhild, daughter of Harold Godwineson and Edith Swanneck.  At the same time Malcolm took his daughter out of Wilton, Alain removed Gunhild (by then well into her 30s) and brought her to live with him…on the very estates he had taken over from her wealthy mother after Hastings.  When Alain died around 1094, Gunhild stayed and became the partner of Alain’s brother Le Noir, who succeeded to the estates.  What did she have to lose, after all?


354 thoughts on “Alain le Roux, Count of Brittany (Earl of Richmond)

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Boston in Massachusetts has many historical links to Alan Rufus.
    (1) Alan was the principal landowner around Boston, Lincolnshire, after which the US city is named due to it being settled by people from there.
    (2) Alan was a tenant-in-chief (with King William) in Cambridge in England, after which Cambridge in Boston is named.
    (3) Harvard was founded by academics from Cambridge University.
    (4) Alan contributed to the learning institution at Cambridge that preceded the university.
    (5) Cambridgeshire was where Alan first acquired land outside London.
    (6) The counties around Boston in Massachusetts (Middlesex, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk) are named after the other counties in England where Alan acquired his first large landholdings.
    (7) There is the curious Winthrop connection, the Winthrop family being from Winthorpe in Nottinghamshire, there also being a Winthorpe in Lincolnshire where Count Alan Road is.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan stepped down from his command of the costly siege of Saint Suzanne in Maine, France, before the King’s Council meeting of December 1085 that was called to discuss the Domesday Survey, so as one of the most senior councillors he was almost certainly present.
    One of Alan’s main rivals for influence with the King, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, had forfeited his title and lands as Earl of Kent in 1082 and languished in prison until William reprieved him on his death-bed in 1087, so Alan would have had a mighty big say in how the national property survey was to be conducted.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan was tenant-in-chief at Skirbeck, Lincolnshire, later called Boston. He established a trade fair on his own land there, and made this town a great commercial port, rivalling London.

    Boston became so important that it was admitted into the Hanseatic League.

    Boston’s main exports initially were wool and salt. The salt was brought downstream from Derby, which, according to KSB Keats-Rohan’s site, was held by Walter d’Aincourt until early 1066 (during the reign of King Edward the Confessor).

    What astonishes is that, if I read rightly, Alan took no revenues from the town and port of Boston/Skirbeck, but let the locals keep the very substantial profits that remained after they’d paid taxes to the King.

    The also occurred at several very prosperous neighbouring towns (such as Old Leake, Leverton, Fishtoft, Wrangle) which he held. In Wyberton, he took one pound per year in rent from the smaller of his estates there, but zero from the wealthier one.

    So how did Alan benefit from this? Presumably he was a trader. This makes sense, as Brittany and its lords had grown rich for millennia through sea trade.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Mea culpa! The salt of course was produced on the coast. From memory, lead was produced in Derbyshire. The wool would have come from a plethora of rural districts.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    At different times during 1086, King William, Alan Rufus, Robert of Mortain (and presumably others, though I haven’t checked) were in Normandy and also in Wiltshire.

    Wiltshire is significant because of Gunnhild being at Wilton Abbey, but also because it’s not far from Exeter, where the Exeter survey was taken.

    Some historians think the district around Exeter was the first part of England to be surveyed. William de St Calaia, Bishop of Durham, was a commissioner for the survey circuit in south-west England, and one of his scribes wrote up “Great” Domesday, so some think he was the genius behind the idea of surveying all of England.

    There’s still a connection to Alan, though, because Alan’s brother Richard was a Canon at Bayeux at the same time as St Calais, Thomas of Bayeux and Thomas’s brother Samson. Thomas was Archbishop of York 1070-1000 and appointed St Calais to Durham. Since Samson was named after St Samson of Dol within the domain of Alan’s father Eozen, and since Alan was very active in church affairs in York and therefore close to Thomas, his influence probably extended to Durham.

    Indeed, after St Calais deserted William II during the Rebellion of 1088, it was Alan who was sent to reason with the Bishop. Alan was also noted as an important participant in St Calais’ trial in Salisbury. Alan was on the King’s Council that advised clemency for all the rebels.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Boterill family, who claim descent from Alan’s eldest brother, Geoffrey I Boterel, assert that Alan Niger and Gunnhild had a son named Hamo. I’m not sure how reliable this is, as they also give improbably late birth dates for several of Alan’s brothers who are known to have signed a charter in Anjou in 1056/1060.

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  • André Wilmart, a Benedictine monk and historical scholar of Breton extraction, writing in 1928, and Montague Rhodes James, writing in 1895, quote Bodleian Manuscript 297 which contains notes by a monk at Bury St Edmunds on Alan Rufus’s death in 1093; the Bury monk also quoted Alan’s epitaph:

    Stella nuit regni : comitis caro marcet Alani :
    Anglia turbatur : satraparum flos cineratur :
    Iam Brito flos regum, modo marcor in ordine rerum
    Praecepto legum, nitet ortus sanguine regum.
    Dux uiguit summus, rutilans a rege secundus.
    Hunc cernens plora : ‘requies sibi sit, Deus’ ora.
    Vixit nobilium : praefulgens stirpe Brittonum.

    I cannot translate this with any accuracy, as my Latin grammar is well-nigh non-existant. Google Translate makes a mess of it, too.

    However, the gist of it (in no particular order) seems to be:
    Alan was a shining light of wisdom in a time of darkness, the flower of Breton/British royalty (the importance of which is stressed in various ways three times), an expositor of the law, a military leader without peer, in glory second to the King; his lamentable death is disturbing to England; RIP.

  • In Haskins Journal a theory is presented by Richard Sharpe that Alan of Richmond eloped in the early 1070s with Gunnhild. The Matilda story in connection with Alan is not referred to in Eadmer’s Chronicle contemporary to events in 1090s . He was an eyewitness. May academics do support The Sharpe theory. It is very well supported. The Anselm letters gave rise to the later elopement date but it depends on how one interprets what Anselm said. It is all still really interesting and I did enjoy your article. My novel about Alan and Gunnhild will be called The Swan-Daughter and will be published next summer by Accent Press. I do take the Sharpe theory for the story. It is after all a work of fiction.

  • Richard Sharpe cites Trevor Foulds who wrote a piece in which he inclined to the view that Walter d’Aincourt’s wife Matilda was a daughter of the Conqueror. King William and Queen Matilda had at least four sons and five daughters, one of whom was Matilda (born c. 1061) who is mentioned in Domesday as “Matilda daughter of the King” and identified in some contemporary legal documents.

    The d’Aincourts named their three (known) sons William, Ralph and Walter. I’ve read that Ralph was Walter’s father’s name. In choosing names for sons, the father and the two grandfathers would be natural choices, so that agrees with Foulds’ suggestion.

    Walter d’Aincourt had no known military attainments, so it’s been a puzzle why he received some eighty manors. But many of these could have been courtesy of his wife, were she a royal princess.

    The weaknesses of Foulds’s theory are that it leaves unresolved why Princess Matilda would marry a minor aristocrat, and also why Walter and Matilda were in a position to grant some of Count Alan’s properties.

    According to PASE, Walter owned property in Derby prior to 1066. Later he was an associate of Alan’s in trade, e.g. in lead, wool and salt. I guess it was lead from Walter’s mines that was used to make his son William’s epitaph tablet that’s now in Lincoln Cathedral’s Library.

    In 1088 Walter was specifically assigned by William II to bear a royal writ and to accompany the army of Alan, Odo of Champagne and Roger of Poitou to deal with the Bishop of Durham. The trust placed in Walter would be neatly explained if he were married to the new King’s sister.

    As to the second question, perhaps Alan was a godfather to Matilda and gifted some property to Walter and her?

    Alan may have been a favourite of the royal ladies. I’ve mentioned that the Conqueror’s sister Adelaide’s (Countess of Aumale’s) properties in Normandy and in south-east England were adjacent to Alan’s. Most remarkably, Queen Matilda accompanied her husband when he took an army to the north of England to quell a rebellion there. (She may even have been heavily pregnant with the future King Henry I at the time.) The Register of the Honour of Richmond asserts that it was at Queen Matilda’s instigation (while at the Siege of York?) that King William assigned Edwin’s manors in Yorkshire to Alan.

  • In 1066, “Eadgifu the Fair” or “Eadgifu the Rich” was (in PASE terminology) either a “lord” or a “holder” in Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Suffolk.

    By sorting the PASE ( Domesday database by 1066 holder and shire, one discovers that Count Alan received 103 of Edeva the Fair’s manors, including all but one of those that she was a “Holder” of in 1066 Cambridgeshire. The solitary exception was Exning, the most highly valued (for its lord) of all her holdings, which King William took as his lion’s share.

    Intriguingly, of all the properties “held” by any “Eadgifu” in 1066, the one with the highest fiscal value (that paid the highest tax: 25 geld) was Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire, whose tenant-in-chief in 1086 was also “Eadgifu”.

    In 1086, there were four tenants-in-chief (in Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire), and two subtenants (in Dorset and Buckinghamshire) named “Eadgifu”. At least two of these manors belonged to “Eadgifu wife of Edward”, her husband having evidently been “Edward son of Swein” who in 1066 held Lisson Grove in Middlesex.

    The “Eadgifu” who held Little Linford in Buckinghamshire in 1066 also held it in 1086 but as a subtenant of Bishop Geoffrey of Coutances.

  • The Domesday Book states that in 1066 an “Alan” owned 120 acres in Wyken in Suffolk.

    In 1086, this Wyken belonged to Peter of Valognes who may have been ethnically Breton, as his sister was named Muriel. Moreover, all of Peter’s properties skirted Alan’s, as if they’d been Alan’s gift, or his brother Brian’s, or Ralph the Staller’s (many of whose lands Alan obtained), or part of the royal assignment to those who had served among the Bretons.

    Today, Wyken is a 1200 acre vineyard and farm with the same animals it had in 1066. That’s continuity.

  • Well, “1066” really means in the Reign of King Edward the Confessor and he died circa 5 January 1066, so it was actually 1065 and before that Alan and Walter owned property in Suffolk and Derbyshire respectively.

    Why might Alan have had land under King Edward? Count Alan’s father Count Eozen (Eon in French, perhaps Ian in Scots English) was King Edward’s first cousin: Eozen’s mother Hawise (Avis) of Normandy (and Duchess Consort of Brittany) was a sister of Emma of Normandy, Edward’s mother. Thus Alan was every bit as close to King Edward as was Duke William, who was the only son of Emma’s nephew Duke Robert.

  • William of St Calais and Thomas the Archbishop of York, both held tenancies under Alan: they paid him rent. This, together with Archbishop’s importance as the second most highly ranked ecclesiastic and a witness of charters which Alan signed as one of the three most important lay barons, and St Calais’s close links to the King and to the Curia Regis (Royal Court or Privy Council) to which Alan belonged, ensures that they all met frequently.

  • There was a Gunhilda in Alan’s family before he met Harold Godwinson’s daughter.

    Gunhilda of Denmark (c. 1020 – 18 July 1038), a daughter of King Cnut and Queen Emma, was a first cousin of Alan’s father Eozen, because Emma was a sister of Eozen’s mother Hawise of Normandy.

  • I’ve been looking into the Richmond ancestry line and apparently the surname Richmond come from alain le roux. I was wondering if someone would be so kind and explain why and how this is the case? Thank you.

    • Hi Michele. Thanks for the post. If you check out the further comments below this article, Geoffrey Tobin is quite the expert on Alain le Roux. Look at his comment of 12/6/2012 where talks about Richmond.

  • Greetings, Michelle. In brief, the Richmonds may be descended from Enisant Musard who was from Plevin in Finisterre (western Brittany).

    Enisant married one of Alan Rufus’s (half?) sisters and Alan made him Lord of Cheveley in Cambridgeshire, one of Alan’s first post-Hastings acquisitions in England, which he obtained, among 109 manors, from Edeva the Fair, aka Edith “Swannesha” (Gentle Swan), King Harold Godwinson’s first wife. Alan must have been quite the charmer, because Edeva’s daughter Gunnhild confessed to Archbishop Anselm that she loved him.

    When Alan built his massive castle in Yorkshire and named it Richmond (after Richemont, a property of Alan’s in far Upper Normandy), Enisant became Richmond’s first Constable.

    Enisant is of interest to me because Cheveley is where my maternal grandmother’s family the Tweeds lived since the 1400s.

    Although the Tweeds seem to be run-of-the-mill East Anglian gentry, they’re peculiar: culturally they identify with the Welsh and Cornish. There are Tweeds in Ayrshire in Scotland, where numerous Bretons settled in the early 1100s (during the time of Alan’s youngest brother Count Stephen of Treguier), so I suspect the Tweeds are Bretons, like the Stewarts. (The Stewarts descend from the hereditary dapifers (stewards) of the Archbishop of Dol in Brittany.)

    The name “Tweed” is very similar to the Welsh word “twyd” (meaning family, kin, clan or people), so I’d guess they came from Gwened (Vannes) which was settled from the early post-Roman kingdom of Gwynedd in Wales.

    According to genealogies from 11th century Anjou, Alan Rufus’s male-line descended from Count Ridoredh of Vannes.

    Until the later 1800s, the Tweeds in England lived not only in Cheveley (which seems to be their favourite village) but also in other towns in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Yorkshire. All the locations in Cambridgeshire were under Alan Rufus’s tenancy-in-chief in 1086 (I’ve checked) and he had extensive properties in all the counties mentioned.

    After the Conquest, the Bretons changed several Anglo-Saxon placenames, e.g. Earningas Street became Ermine Street (ermine is the symbol of Brittany) and the Granta River became the Cam (Old British for “meandering”).

    According to my mother, the Tweeds say that the River is named after them, not conversely. In support of this, the river at Barwell in Leicestershire that the Anglo-Saxons called the “Bare Wella” (boar stream) was renamed the Tweed. Simon de Montfort Football Park is located there: he was the Earl of Leicester who called the first sovereign, elected parliament, during his rebellion against King Henry III.

  • Noticing that Alan seemed particularly close to a number of prominent women, I’ve begun a list. It’s incomplete, but currently stands as follows.

    Personal Acquaintances:

    Adelaide, Countess of Aumale (William the Conqueror’s sister) – Alan’s female double-second cousin on the Norman side of his family – his land in Richemont, Upper Normandy near the Picardy border, was adjacent to her County of Aumale; her land in south-east England was adjacent to his; her third husband, Odo, Count of Champagne, was with Alan during the siege of Durham Castle in 1088.

    Queen Matilda (William the Conqueror’s wife), aka Matilda of Flanders – at the siege of York (1068 or 1069) she persuaded King William “the Conqueror” to grant Earl Edwin’s lands in Yorkshire to Alan.

    Matilda, Princess of England – an older daughter of William and Matilda, and thus Alan’s double-second cousin once removed. I am now convinced that she is identical to Matilda d’Aincourt, wife of Walter d’Aincourt, a commercial, political and diplomatic partner of Alan’s. Matilda d’Aincourt’s son William is known to have been of royal descent and she donated several properties on Alan’s behalf. The naming pattern of the d’Aincourt sons (William, Ralph and Walter) is exactly what one would expect if she were Princess Matilda. In 1088, in an army led by blood relatives and in-laws of King William II, Walter senior was charged with bearing the royal writ to Durham.

    Eadgifu (Edith), first, handfasted, wife of Harold Godwinson (aka Edeva the Fair, aka Edith the Rich, aka Edith “Swannesha” (Gentle Swan)) – Alan acquired 109 of her manors in and near Cambridgeshire soon after the Battle of Hastings.

    Gunnhild of Wessex, daughter of Harold and Eadgifu, loved Alan and he loved her (so she wrote, according to a letter to her by St Anselm the Archbishop of Canterbury around 1094).

    Immediate Family:

    Adela, Abbess of St Georges in Rennes – she was a full sister of Alan’s father Eozen.

    Orguen (Agnes) of Kernev – daughter of Count Alan Canhiart of Kernev – she was Eozen’s wife and Alan’s mother.

    Adele, eldest child of Eozen and Orguen (born circa 1035) – she was thus Alan’s full sister.

    The unnamed wife of Enisand Musard from Plevin in Finisterre – she was either Alan’s full sister or his half-sister. (I’d know which if I understood Latin grammar).

    Friends of the Family:

    Emma of Hereford, a sister of Roger de Breteuil, heir of William fitz Osbern – wife of Ralph, Lord of Gaël and Montfort.

    Orwen – wet-nurse to Alan and his siblings – Alan gave property in England to her, according to the Domesday Book.

    Extended family:

    Hawise of Normandy – Duke Richard II of Normandy’s sister – she was Eozen’s mother and Alan’s paternal grandmother.

    Judith of Nantes – wife of Alan Canhiart – Orguen of Kernev’s mother – she was Alan’s maternal grandmother.

    Emma of Normandy – Edward the Confessor’s father – she was Eozen’s maternal aunt.

    Gunhilda of Denmark – daughter of Emma of Normandy and King Cnut of Denmark and England – half-sister of Edward the Confessor and first spouse of Emperor Henry III of Germany – she was a first cousin of Count Eozen, Alan’s father.

  • If I may put in a word for the author Carol McGrath, who wrote here on 20 October 2013, she is a very conscientious researcher, with a keen interest in details of the lives of medieval women. She’s currently writing her third book in her series on Edith Swannesha’s family, this one being on her daughter Gytha’s adventures, particularly in Kievan Rus.

  • A few days ago I downloaded Jessie Crosland’s translation (Cambridge, Ontario, 1999) of the Norman/Gallo version of “The Song of Roland”. The old tale clearly was modified especially for the invasion of England: it names Alan’s father (“Eudon”) as Lord of the Bretons! As confirmation of this, it also names Geoffrey (III) Count of Anjou, another contributor to William’s army.

  • Alan Rufus descended in the female line from Melisende of Maine, daughter of Count Hugh II. One genealogy claims Melisende’s maternal grandmother was Eadgifu of Wessex, daughter of Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great. Most genealogies don’t give a mother for Melisende.

    However, there is a confirmed descent from King Alfred through Eadgifu of Wessex to Duke Alan IV “Fergant”, Alan Rufus’s cousin, and thence to Prince Arthur who was allegedly murdered by King John. The first name in each line is the child of the names on the previous line.

    King Alfred of Wessex = Ealhswith of Mercia
    Edward the Elder = Ælfflæd
    Eadgifu of Wessex = King Charles III of France
    King Louis IV of France = Gerberga of Saxony
    Matilda of France = King Conrad I of Burgundy and of Provence
    Bertha of Burgundy = Count Odo I of Blois
    Count Odo II of Blois = Ermengarde of Auvergne
    Bertha of Blois = Duke Alan III of Brittany (brother of Count Eozen, Alan Rufus’s father)
    Hawise of Brittany (sister to Duke Conan II of Brittany) = Count Hoel V of Kernev (brother of Agnes of Kernev, Alan Rufus’s mother)
    Duke Alan IV “Fergant” of Brittany = Ermengarde of Anjou
    Duke Conan III of Brittany = Matilda FitzRoy, illegitimate daughter of King Henry I of England
    Duchess Bertha of Brittany = Alan Niger II, 1st Earl of Richmond
    Duke Conan IV of Brittany = Margaret of Huntingdon
    Duchess Constance of Brittany = Geoffrey, son of King Henry II of England
    Duke Arthur I of Brittany, Normandy, Anjou and Maine

  • The above pedigree shows that Conan II was a double threat to William of Normandy: Conan had a manifestly stronger hereditary right to England (and arguably Normandy, among many other domains).

    Anjou was a (once and again) rising major power, a real threat to the ambitions of Normandy, but in 1066 Conan was mopping the floor with Anjou, as stage one of his plan to conquer Normandy, and then – who knows? France and England?

    Conan’s death late in the year, allegedly by donning poisoned riding gloves, a gift from his bribed chamberlain, does smack of Norman (esp. the Montgomery-Belleme family’s, but also William’s) underhanded methods of dealing with rivals who could not be beaten militarily.

  • Wendy Hockenberry says:


    Amazing analyzation of all sources of evidence. I too am interested in the Richmond (Musard) connection, as I think much will be told when we find how they too are related regarding Enisant Musard and Alan Rufus. — This relation does not stem from just the marriage of Enisant to Eudo’s illegitimate daughter. There is also a question as to the relationship of Emma (Married to Richard Rollo) daughter of Enisant.

    Please see below extracted from Richmond – my wonderful cousins who compiled this website many moons ago.

    “Roaldus Musard was a Breton noble who was granted lands in Yorkshire by the Crown and may or may not have been a relative of Alan Rufus. Hasculfus VI, Count of Nates, son of Roald Musard, had four sons who accompanied the Conqueror: Hasculfus Musard, Hughe, Enisan, and Rould d’Adoube (a dubbed knight). Enisan Musard, a vassel of Alan Rufus, was given 21 manors previously held by Tor the Saxon. The Richmond castle site occupied a place called Neutone, which was then held by Enisan Musard, Lord of Cleasby, therefore Enisan became the first Heredity Constable of Richmond Castle. Enisan Musard’s heirs were two daughters, Garsiana and Adeline.
    Haculfus de St. James, a kinsman of Enisan Musard witnessed the charter of Alan Count of Richmond in 1088. Hasculfus de St. James, had four sons: James de St. Hilary, Rouldus fitz Hasculfus, Hasculfus de Cleasby (ancestor of the Cleasby family), Eudo. Rould, the second son of Haculfus de St. James married Garsiana (daughter of Enisan). Rouldus (“Le Ennase”) became the next constable of the castle after Enisan’s death about 1130.”

    Furthermore there is a question of Alan Rufus’s possession of properties prior to conquest by the Norman’s.

    Much of the lands given to Enisant were taxed at geld rates much higher than the value of the property in 1086. Obviously after the Northern Retribution campain…

    I have much to learn from you…

  • Dear Wendy,

    The Richmond descents merit far more attention than I have yet given them, but I will add that the Richmond family motto, “En la rose je fleurie”, that is “I flourish in the rose”, shared by the Moss family, refers to Isaiah 35:1 and “the rose” looks very much like an eye rhyme for Alan “the Red” (“Alan ar Rouz” in Breton).

    Puns, and multiple layers of meaning generally, are a feature of Breton poems. An example I gave earlier is Alan Rufus’s epitaph which brilliantly compacts many aspects of his life into seven couplets by using phrases that have a variety of meanings in different social, cultural and historic contexts.

  • In the 1100s the Counts of Anjou were anxious to emphasise their superiority to the Robertian (Capet) kings of France. To this end, they commissioned the Gesta Consulum which contains their understanding of their genealogy. Their male line was traced to a soldier named Torquatus, whose son Tertuilus (alias Tortolf) allegedly was made a royal forester by Charles the Bald.

    The Angevin genealogy states that Torquatus and Tertuilas were born in Rennes in Brittany and were of ancient (4th century) Armorican stock.

    So, the Angevins were asserting that an obscure Breton commoner was a more illustrious ancestor than the Carolingian-appointed Margrave of Neustria, Robert the Strong, father of Kings Odo and Robert I of France.

    There’s much doubt as to Torquatus’s and Tertuilas’s historicity, as no nearly contemporary document refers to them (though of course most commoners are not so attested). However, the fact that the Angevins didn’t invent a noble ancestor instead, does suggest that the story is based on fact.

    In summary, the Angevins claimed to be Armoricans from the Breton March, and were extraordinarily proud of it.

  • The Lennox family also share the motto “En la rose je fleurie”. The Gordon-Lennox branch have a connection with Alan Rufus by way of the title of Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox as the 10th Duke of Richmond.

    The “flourish” in the motto may also refer to Alan Rufus, because his epitaph twice refers to him as “flos”, i.e. “flower”: “flower of the Kings of Britain”, and “flower of the satraps” (satrap being a Latin phrase, acquired from Persian, for the tenants-in-chief, as governors under the king).

  • The eminent historian Julia M. H. Smith (author of such works as “Province and Empire: Brittany and the Carolingians”) drew on over a thousand charters and other legal documents from 9th century Brittany in her description of life there for nobles and commoners.

    One particularly interesting feature of Brittany in the 800s are that peasants often successfully sued lords for property transgressions.

    The inviolate nature of private property seems to have applied on all scales, because the King and his officials had no right to trespass on comital lands.

    During the reigns of Erispoe and Salaun disputes were sometimes escalated to the King, who would pass the matter to a court of jurors who would call witnesses to decide the matter.

    Counts (who occupied the lay rank immediately below the King) also were expected to establish courts and to be well-versed in legal matters.

    The Land of Count Alan in North Yorkshire now makes sense. Alan was following Breton custom by excluding the King, his sheriffs and other counts and earls, and by abolishing the onerous Danegeld and replacing it with a regular tax to support the civil law courts. Alan’s expertise in law, as evinced in the trial of the Bishop of Durham in September 1088, was also in line with the traditional responsibilities of his rank.

  • By my count (no pun intended), based on the PASE Domesday data, Alan Rufus held 782 manors of which 430 manors (other sources say 440) were in his personal demesne. Although Bishop Odo of Bayeux was in charge of more manors as tenant-in-chief, Alan held a greater number directly.

  • Alan Rufus’s epitaph continues to amaze. You may recall the line

    “Dux uiguit summus: rutilans a rege secundus.”

    According to, “rutilans” means “glowing or glittering with red or golden light”.

    I was reading in Wikipedia about Geoffrey Ashe who proposed that King Arthur was the historic Breton leader Riothamus. Hence I was led to the article “Historical basis of King Arthur”, and thence to “Ambrosius Aurelianus”, whose name one might remember from the movie “The Last Legion”.

    Aurelianus is of course from a Latin stem meaning “golden”.

    Ambrosius’s parents were said by Nennius to have “worn the purple”, from which some have suggested he may have been a member of the Roman gens Aurelia. This brought me to the article on the Aurelii, and thence to Aurelia Cotta.

    Oh, wow!

    Aurelia Cotta was the mother of the Roman dictator Gaius Julius Caesar. Her mother Rutilia was a member of the gens Rutilius cognominated Rufus.

    As in Alan Rufus.

  • Geoffrey of Monmouth recounted the (obviously late) legend of the prophecy of Merlin that the British would eventually defeat both the Saxons and the Normans.

    Since Alan Rufus played a key role in the defeat of the Saxons at Hastings in 1066 (and again in 1069 and 1071), and also in the crushing of the rebellion by most of the Norman magnates in 1088, he was in that sense the fulfilment of the (surely retrospective) “prophecy”.

  • That women had high status and (medievally) exceptional rights in Breton society is well-known: it was one of the aspects of Brittany that the Norman propagandist William of Poitiers found distressing.

    Apparently the Church in early Brittany went so far as to have women priests. Shock, horror! 🙂

    For, on 23 June, I extracted the following from a source I failed to record:

    “the fragments of late antique and early medieval evidence that show women in ecclesiastical office fall into one of two categories. Either they relate to heresy: Montanism, Priscillianism, crazy Bretons…”

  • I’ve corresponded a little with the authors of some other well-regarded historic websites, including Charles Cawley, Steven Brindle of English Heritage, and several others.

    Quite recently, I was informed that in the Fenlands of Cambridgeshire, a British population called “Gwyre” persisted into the 800s despite Anglo-Saxon rule.

    The largest town in the Fens is Wisbech, and the Tweeds often married the Wisby (alt. spelling “Wisbey”) family, so I have recent Wisbey ancestors.

    Given the strong Celtic identity of the Tweeds and their spouses, I’m quite excited by the prospect that the Wisbeys may be Gwyre and thus living proof that the local Britons outlasted the Anglo-Saxon occupation.

    Since Alan Rufus was closely connected with Cambridgeshire, including Ely, he must surely have met the Wisbeys’ ancestors and recognised an ancient kinship.

    Wisbech is named six times in the Domesday Book; even then it was considered a large settlement, with 73 households recorded, and was assessed at a respectable 10 geld. It was under a variety of Lords who were also Tenants-in-Chief: William of Warenne, Crowland Abbey, Ramsey Abbey, Bury St Edmunds Abbey, and (naturally) Ely Abbey.

    The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds was a shrine to a martyred king of East Anglia. St Mary’s Abbey in York joined with Alan’s family to persuade Abbot Baldwin to have Alan’s body moved from the graveyard outside the south door to be inside the abbey. Baldwin had been Edward the Confessor’s physician, Alan’s father Eozen was a maternal first cousin of King Edward, and Alan was a generous benefactor (often donating large sums of cash, the flexibility of which I’m sure the monks appreciated), so no doubt his family had leverage.

    Alan Rufus may well have been the “Alan” who owned Wyken Farm in Suffolk during the latter years of Edward the Confessor’s reign, in which case his personal acquaintance with the general region and its inhabitants predated the Conquest.

  • The more I think about it, the more likely it seems that Eadgifu the Fair, first wife of Harold Godwinson, must have been related to Edward the Confessor.

    (1) Harold’s second marriage, to Ealdgyth, sister of Earls Edwin and Morcar, was a political arrangement. One would expect the same of his first. That he set aside Eadgifu so soon after Edward died, I find very suspicious.

    (2) Eadgifu was a major landowner in Cambridgeshire and East Anglia. How did she come by this unless her family were very powerful? Some say Harold gave her this land, but why so much? Neither King Edward’s wife (Harold’ sister Ealdgyth) nor King William’s wife Matilda received anywhere near so generous a gift from their husbands.

    (3) Harold became Earl of East Anglia in 1046, around the time he married Eadgifu. I suggest that the wedding and the Earldom were part of the same political deal between Godwin and Edward.

    (4) “Eadgifu” is a name that recurs in the House of Cerdic. Edward’s mother Emma was given the English name of Ælfgifu, had he had a sister named Godgifu. Æthelred II “the Unrede” was a bigamist: Emma was his southern wife; he retained his northern wife, Ælfgifu of York.

    (5) Emma’s children were:
    Edward the Confessor;
    Godgifu (“Goda”), Countess of Boulogne;
    Alfred Ætheling;
    Gunhilda, Holy Roman Empress.

    (6) Ælfgifu of York’s children were:
    Æthelstan Ætheling;
    Ecgberht of England;
    Edmund Ironside;
    Eadred Ætheling;
    Eadwig Ætheling;
    Edgar of England;
    Edith (does that stand for “Ealdgyth” or “Eadgifu” or something else?), Lady of the Mercians (born before 993), who married Eadric Streona, ealdorman of Mercia;
    Ælfgifu, Lady of Northumbria, who married ealdorman Uhtred of Northumbria;
    Wulfhilda, Lady of East Anglia, who married Ulfcytel (Snillingr) (d. 1016), apparently ealdorman of East Anglia.

    Based on these names and details, Eadgifu the Fair might be descended from either of the two “Ælfgifu” wives of Æthelred II. If from Emma, then Eadgifu was a relative of Alan’s.

    Witnesses’ accounts are that Alan had a sympathetic nature. Perhaps because of this, he seems to have got along very well with women: the geographical evidence is that Alan was (literally and metaphorically) close to King William’s sister Countess Adelaide, and an anecdote concerning the grant of Richmondshire implies that he was dear to King William’s wife Matilda.

    These possibilities, and the Breton inclination to sentimentality, suggest that Alan’s connection with Eadgifu and her daughter Gunhild may have been empathetic rather than romantic.

    If Eadgifu were descended from Ælfgifu of York, then the ladies in her family would have been eligible brides for Alan Rufus and/or Alan Niger, in conformity with Archbishop Anselm’s interpretation of Eadgifu’s daughter Gunhild’s successive relationships with them both.

    Curiously, there are some connections with Alan Rufus among the husbands of Ælfgifu of York’s daughters. For example, Uhtred’s descendants in the North held Alan in high esteem, and Alan retained as tenants various gentlemen with “ketil” in their names. There’s a faint possibility that Alan was descended matrilineally from the (apparently hereditary) Queens of Mercia.

  • Alan Rufus’s epitaph uses “cineratur” to describe his death. At first I thought this was a general “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” statement of mortality, but what if he was actually incinerated? At least one of the charters of William II that Alan witnessed was in London, so I looked to see if there was a fire in London in 1093. Several books say that during the 11th century there were widespread conflagrations in that city in 1077, 1087 and 1093. Unfortunately, none gave a more specific date for the 1093 fire. Were it on (or shortly before) 4 August 1093, that would create a reasonable hypothesis.

  • Richard Botterill says:

    was conceived in Frenchgate,Richmond,North Yorkshire
    now live near Dinan in Brittany
    Have enjoyed reading the above comments
    By chance,about 12 years ago,I found a couple of Charters made by the Boterel family of Nettlestead Suffolk ( see English Historical Documents,Douglas)to the monks of St.Melaine at Hatfield Regis but originally from Rennes.
    Other places with historical links to Boterel are Boscastle and 3 villages with the name Ogbourne near Marlborough in Wiltshire and Aston Boterell in Shropshire.
    Origin of name possibly Les Bottereaux near Breteuil and Conches in Normandy.

    • Hallo Richard! Count Geoffrey Boterel I was Count Alan Rufus’s eldest brother, and Count Geoffrey Boterel II was the eldest son of Alan’s youngest brother (and heir) Count Stephen. GB2 was an important partisan of Empress Maud’s husband Count Geoffrey “Plantagenesta” (“broom sprig”) of Anjou, while Count Stephen’s third son, Alan, first Earl of Richmond, loyally supported King Stephen. I think the deciding factor was where their lands lay: Geoffrey’s in Brittany, Anjou and Picardy, Alan’s in England and perhaps Normandy. (King Stephen was also Duke of Normandy, until the army of the Count of Anjou conquered it.)

      Les Bottereaux might be named _after_ the Boterels: the Bretons expanded their interests across northern and western France for centuries, hence placenames such as Bretigny (several in France, one in Switzerland), Breteuil, Bretteville, Villers-Bretonneux in Flanders, and Pertuis Breton (the Breton Strait) in central coastal Aquitaine.

      A classic example of this is the famous Rohan family (a very interesting and still very active branch of the Breton Sovereign House), who built castles in France, Switzerland, and as far afield as Bohemia.

      Incidentally, Count Alan Rufus’s brother William served the emperor of Germany, suppressed a revolt in Switzerland and was granted a castle as reward.

      Limoges, Lorraine and Luxembourg later came under the control of the Breton SH. Jacquetta of Luxembourg and her children therefore considered themselves Breton. Because they loved books, these branches of the SH were instrumental in the funding of the movable-type printing press.

      I’m not alone in thinking the Bretons important: the monarchs of Europe competed to marry heiresses from Brittany so they could get their hands on their ample dowries and add the coveted ermine to their coats-of-arms.

  • The word “Gifu” if it has the same root as “gift” which I like to think it does, might render Eadgifu as “Edward’s gift” and Aelfgifu as “gift of the elves” or gift of the shining ones (which might still be considered elves.)
    With the “Weald” being the woodlands, perhaps the gift of elves (known to be woodland creatures in lore) might mean the bride was a “gift from/of the woodlands, a bride from the wealds, and from this association perhaps a Briton or Breton woman from the early Britwealds.
    Perhaps farfetched, but perhaps not, but nevertheless a lovely idea to
    put in a novel.
    It always amazes that the Bretons and the Britons, especially those of Dumnonia/Devon and Cornwall/Kernow are considered separate peoples almost from the instant that Britons settled Armorica. It seems likely that some people remained in Briton, especially in Kernow, and details of the dark ages in Kernow are meager. (Although Arthur supposedly was born there in legend.) I have seen claims that Kernow was never occupied by the Angles/ Saxe-carrying Germanics, or Danes either, but retained it’s Briton population even unto the Norman (re-Briton/Bretons) conquest. It is well known that the Bretons valued history, even ancient history of their
    people in Cornwall.
    Another item that I wonder about is whether some of the “small villages” from whence some mighty barons are said to have sprung might not have been purchased or granted and established after the conquest by those who preferred not having all eggs in one basket, who wanted a “vacation home” on the continent, who chose to have a place of safety for family members away from battles on either side of the channel? How do we know that very small French/Norman villages were even there pre-

    • Eadgifu: Ead = wealthy, Gifu = gift.

      The TV series “Merlin” gets some things correct: placing Uther and Arthur in Dumnonia, with Cornwall and Caerleon across their (western) border, agrees with Breton and Welsh histories.

      Alfred the Great may have been overlord of Cornwall, but the Cornish language survived into the 1800s, so there was no Anglo-Saxon cultural domination there – nor Norman, for that matter.

      The Bretons were always favoured as lords in Cornwall, perhaps because they could speak the language. Especially fondly remembered are the Arundel and Vyvyan families, who intermarried. A Vyvyan daughter married a Carlyon, the eldest brother of my ancestor, so I missed out on Vyvyan/Arundel blood.

  • Richard Botterill says:

    Research reveals that Lamballe to the west of Dinan was once a seat of power of the Boterel family…and,by chance,also where the Dictator Pinochet’s ancient roots were.

    • Is there a known connection between the Boterel family and the de Dinan family of Hartilonde in Devon? Were there earlier spellings of Boterel?
      I know that in researching one particular family the spellings of a single man’s name in the thirteenth century are changed considerably depending upon the scribe: a monk-scribe spells the name ending “ceyn” while the king’s scribe spells the same man’s name “chan” and later writings spell it “zan” or “zon,” while apparent related persons from the same area are spelled “com.” Of course, this might also be a failure of the transcription from the Galllo-French or Latin of the original documents to the modern English translations. I believe the name was
      Cornish/Breton originally, and might have been pronounced there as “kompt” or “konpt.”
      I suspect the “zan” and “zon” might be related to the banners of Templars or Hospitaliers as the man did go on crusade with royals who favored him greatly. Or possibly a later mis-pronunciation of the “ceyn” in one of the records as a soft “c” rather than a hard “c.” The “ceyn” record would have been in Latin originally, while the “chan” record would have been in the then current legal-court-language, Gallo-French, which spelled Buckingham “Buchenham” leading me to believe that the “chan” was pronounced “kon.”
      All this just to say that early records in 1100-1300 might be very hard to research without finding some assurance, such as contemporary multiple records with the same information about the person repeated, that the several spellings are actually referring to one and the same person.

    • Lamballe was capital of Penthievre, Count Eudon’s domain that included much of northern Brittany and corresponded fairly closely with the ancient kingdom of Domnonia.

      Geoffrey Boterel I was Count of Lamballe until his death on 24 August 1093 in a siege of Dol during the long Penthievre conflict with the descendants of Eudon’s eldest brother Duke Alan III. Eudon had shared the Duchy with his brother and felt that he should have inherited all of Brittany, not just half of it.

      Incidentally, Alan III was Regent of Normandy when he died in October 1039/1040, allegedly poisoned in a cowardly fashion by Roger I of Montgomery, whose castle he was besieging on the young Duke William’s behalf: history shows that it is in the character of the Montgomery men to do this rather than risk open battle, so I give the story credence.

  • I find it interesting that a Brictus of Cornwall (Bricton=Briton?) held much land in lower Cornwall in the Domesday survey, a similar name Brictu was said to be husband to Godeva who retained land in Devon. Yet I haven’t found much about the man, Brictu the Cornishman. Was he Godeva’s husband? Son? You can look this fellow up on the Domesday map. For such a legendary personage as Godiva, I find it interesting that no one seems to have made any connection amongst “Brictu” names. I haven’t found many “Brictu” elsewhere, but perhaps someone else has. If so, please enlighten me.
    The only thing seemingly related is a statement that a “Brictuwald” (a Bretwald?) held Bochym manor near St. Cury Church and might have helped heal King Alfred in his time, way before Domesday. Note that Alfred is another elfish name… I don’t think I’ll be writing a novel, but if these ideas appeal and you do write a novel using them, please post here: I’d love to read it! Also have a few more novel ideas and have done much research.

    • Lady Godiva’s name in Old English was Godgifu, so your Godeva may well have been someone else. Godiva was married to Earl Leofric of Mercia and was the mother of Aelfgar, Earl of Mercia. She was grandmother to Eadwine and Morkere who are associated with the Battle of Stamfordbridge (they did not make it to Hastings). She will be in one of my future novels (in the planning stage!). Maybe Geoffrey Tobin knows about “Brictu”?

      • Sorry this response is so long after the original! I found the source of my confusion, which was a remembrance of something read long before in Dom. Adam Hamilton’s book, published 1909, The History of Saint Mary’s Abbey Buckfast.
        He mentions three English ladies who were allowed to keep their Devon lands after William conquered, one of whom was named “Lady Godeva, who was the widow of Brictric, a thane.” The Brictu “the Cornishman” listed holding lands in south Cornwall in the Domesday survey of that area may or may not be a relative, the name similarity notwithstanding.
        She is a different Lady Godeva, obviously, perhaps named after the famed saintly naked rider. But I am glad I ran across this bit again, so I could share with you my “ah-ha!” moment: “Ah ha! That’s where I got that bit from!”

    • According to, in Queen Matilda’s younger days (before William’s rough wooing of her), she wished to marry Brictric, but he declined her advances.

      When she became Queen of England, she had Brictric arrested and he died in prison.

      Matilda was kindly disposed to Alan Rufus: the Register of the Honour of Richmond asserts that it was she who persuaded King William to hand over Earl Edwin’s North Yorkshire lands to Alan. This may have been in 1068, when Edwin and Morcar rebelled. Matilda was in Selby, Yorkshire when she gave birth to Henry I, a pregnant story element of ever there were one. Perhaps Alan, always chivalrous, and especially kind to the ladies, gave her help and comfort in some way during this time? E.g. he may have sent her an excellent mid-wife, perhaps a woman known to his beloved nutrix (wet-nurse) Orwen.

      It’s known that Morcar lost his Yorkshire lands in 1068 after that rebellion, and these went to Count Alan so it makes sense that he would have obtained Edwin’s lands at the same time. The Register says the official handover was “at the Siege of York”, an event I’d like to date precisely, especially as there were so many sieges of York.

      • Mr Tobin, “a pregnant story element” referring to the birth of a child, made me laugh out loud. A clever turn of phrase!

  • @Geoffrey Tobin
    I find your research fascinating and have read every post.
    One thing I have discovered is that limiting research to any single area is not productive when researching even “minor nobility.” The knights served wherever their leige-lord needed them to serve, which if they served a high ranking noble, might be anywhere that noble held property. If they distinguished themselves they might be granted property in any of that liege-lord’s demesne lands, and not necessarily near to where they were born.
    Research into early names will show that birth-surnames sometimes changed according to where one settled or where a knight gained a house-with-a-name, or built a house-one-could-name. Sometimes after an especially beneficial marriage to an heiress, the knight changed his birth-surname to her more illustrious one when he assumed, jure uxoris, her family manor: sometimes this was a requirement of the marriage contract.
    I am always wondering when I peruse a “genealogy” website why people insist upon naming very-early post-conquest women “Fitz-something.” Surely she wouldn’t have been called “son of” way back then, and although I suppose they do this for convenience sake, I often wonder if some even know the meaning of “Fitz” or “Map” or “Mab” or “Mac.”

    • Karen, I agree that one should use every historical instrument and connection available.

      Some family tree enthusiasts are aware of the meaning of, for example, “Nest ferch Rhys”, but genealogy software lacks such nuances, often (by default) imposing surnames where none belongs.

      Regarding changes of surname at marriage, the Bretons often adopted the wife’s surname even when it was _less_ prestigious, for the sake of keeping the name alive, as it were. Examples are Count Alan’s brother Ribald adopting his wife Beatrix’s Taillebois surname for his sons, and the ancestors of the present Duke of Northumberland adopting the names “Percy” and then “Smithson”. (Yes, they are the same family that gave us the Smithsonian Institution.)

  • Sorry this response is so long after the original! I found the source of my confusion, which was a remembrance of something read long before in Dom. Adam Hamilton’s book, published 1909, The History of Saint Mary’s Abbey Buckfast.
    He mentions three English ladies who were allowed to keep their Devon lands after William conquered, one of whom was named “Lady Godeva, who was the widow of Brictric, a thane.” The Brictu “the Cornishman” listed holding lands in south Cornwall in the Domesday survey of that area may or may not be a relative, the name similarity notwithstanding.
    She is a different Lady Godeva, obviously, perhaps named after the famed saintly naked rider. But I am glad I ran across this bit again, so I could share with you my “ah-ha!” moment: “Ah ha! That’s where I got that bit from!”

  • Currently delving into the story of two of Count Alan’s favourite elderly people, his chamberlain Mainard and his wet-nurse Orwen, I have been perusing the online-available parts of the index to Philippa Brown’s multi-volume “Sibton Abbey Cartularies” and came across a reference to “Walter Dere, 102”. I think that must be the charter number, which places him quite early in this history.

    This seems significant because the Dere family of Cambridgeshire are among those neighbours with whom my ancestors the Tweeds were pleased to intermarry. Sibton is in Coastal Suffolk, so this intimates at a suitably early link between us and the Suffolk Tweeds (wool-merchants, known in the family as “the rich ones”). I notice has scanned the Sibton Cartularies, but a search for “Walter Dere” goes to pages that don’t reference him. Unfortunately, I don’t yet know how to direct the software to Charter 102.

    I note that the MP for Coastal Suffolk is a Dr Poulter. He was born in Kent, but a Poulter Tweed, son of William Tweed and Margaret Poulter, was a brother of my first-cousin eight-times-removed, Ann Tweed, who married John Tweed (as his second wife, after the death of my 7ggm Sarah Hood) on 19 June 1775 in our ancestral parish of Cheveley, south-east of Newmarket. Ann is thus also a STEP-seventh-great-grandmother of mine. John Tweed’s mother was Elizabeth Deer, and there are Poulters and Tweeds in other parts of Elizabeth’s family tree too.

    The spelling of “Deer” varies: “Deere”, “Deare” and “Dere”, but the earliest of these in my line on was Jeffrey Deere, born 1598 in Cheveley.

  • I’ve sighted Sibton charters 102 and 103, dated “probably c. 1230”.

    If I read it aright, William Dere of Darsham, with William’s brother Walter, Walter’s wife Matilda and their son John, were serfs (“nativi”) of Richard II of Sibton and his wife Margaret, and subsequently of their son Nicholas I.

    Richard donated William’s and Matilda’s rent of one shilling to the Abbey, but “will retain all customary dues which William and Matilda owe”.

    Nicholas granted “in free alms” to Sibton [Abbey] “William and John, with their issue, chattels and tenement in Darsham to the Abbey at an annual rent of two shillings and liable to 12 pence in the pound towards scutage and sixpence annually towards the castle-guard of Richmond”.

  • Here’s the brief description of “customary due” from

    “Latin, consuetudo.

    A customary due could be any customary obligation or payment incumbent upon the land. Domesday Book frequently contents itself with a general statement that customary dues were owed to the king or to the lord of a manor without specifying any one custom or service. Some that are specified are very miscellaneous. At Eardisland, in Herefordshire, for instance, it had been the custom before the Conquest to present the lady of the manor with a gift ’10 ora of pence [£1.2] so that she might be happy’ (HEF 1,6). The lady in question was the wife of Earl Edwin, son of Lady Godiva.

    There is an interesting study of this particular manor by Mary C. Hill, The demesne and the waste: a study of medieval enclosure on the manor of High Ercall, 1086-1399 (1984). For customary dues in general, see Paul Vinogradoff, English society in the eleventh century: essays in English medieval history (1908); N. Nielson, Customary rents (1910); and Rosamond Faith, The English peasantry and the growth of lordship (1997).”

    • “so that she might be happy”?
      Hmmm… I wonder if she was an unhappy bride to Edwin, bribed to keep her “happy” or whether this was merely an odd translation of “to ensure her wellbeing?”

      Don’t you just love the nuances that we might read today, rightly or wrongly, into such old phraseology?

    • Earl Edwin was the son of Aelfgar who was the only known son of Godgifu (Godiva) and Leofric, and thus Edwin was her grandson, not her son. So that quotation must be in error on that point.

      I wonder what Edwin’s wife’s name was?

  • The Orwen and Mainard “narratio” (story) is in Sibton charter 516. Orwen came to England soon after 1066 and asked Alan to reward her for feeding him (as an infant) with her own milk. (The text reads more like she _demanded_ recompense.)

    Mainard is believed to have been “Mainard miles”, one of many soldiers in Ralph de Gael’s service who declined to support the Revolt of the Earls in 1075. He subsequently became Count Alan’s chamberlain, and later asked Alan for Orwen’s hand in marriage, “with her lands” as he put it, as a reward for his “many years of service” – I presume that means to Ralph the Staller (who witnessed as “Ralph the Englishman” in Breton charters), to his son Ralph de Gael, and to Alan.

    Orwen was evidently still young enough to bear two daughters for Mainard (of whom only one, Gemma, is named). This surely puts constraints on her birth date and thus on Alan’s. If he was born about 1040, and she was then a young medieval nursing mother of say 13 years of age (ugh!) then she would have been born around 1027 and thus aged about 48 in 1075. (Her body must have been as tough as her attitude!)

    Gemma was the ancestor of the later lords of Sibton manor and its estates in Coastal Suffolk.

    Expansions and corrections to Sibton charter 516 were given in charter 515 which was written by John de Gislingham: the UK National Archives contain a document he wrote during year 7 of the reign of King Richard II, i.e. in 1373:

    Charter 516 was copied in 1 Henry V (1413-14), just a year or two before the battle of Agincourt.

  • Concerning the very young medieval nursing mother: did she get to continue feeding her own baby whilst feeding a “royal” baby, or was her own sacrificed in order to keep all her milk for the lord? perhaps Orwen had every right to make demands.

    • This very thought occurred to me as I was posting, but for an answer I need to research the medieval “nutrix”/”nourrice”.

      “Every right to make demands” may be a modern concept, but then again, even in the early medieval period, the Britons and Bretons presented some modern aspects – perhaps this is one reason for the continuing appeal of the Arthurian ethos. For a time, the Romans were on track to take this path too, but instead they chose dictatorship.

    • According to sites I’ve visited, a woman needn’t be pregnant in order to lactate! (Exclamation, because when I found this on nursing sites, it surprised me.)

      During pregnancy, some women produce excess milk, enough to feed more than one child – as my grandmother “Annie” Chapman did.

  • “Penteur”, the comital title of Alan Rufus’s father Eudon/Eudes/Odo, who governed much of northern Brittany, means “head” (Pen) of the “clan” (“teur”).

    The surname “Tweed”, found in so many of the English locations held by Alan’s Honour of Brittany, means “family/kin/clan” in the Welsh language, to which the southern Breton, specifically Vannes, dialect of Alan’s early ancestors is most closely related.

    The Honour was subsequently held (1093-1136) by Alan’s brother Stephen, who also held the title Count of Penteur, and then by Count Stephen’s heirs.

  • In regards to “rights” I meant a moral justification, as in killing a girl’s babe would be immoral-not-right, (even back then murder was against godly law) not necessarily rights as specified by rule of human law. It wood be good to think that all nurses were of the more unusual “can lactate sans pregnancy” type. But if a lord-baby needed milk, who can say how they provided it: whether they looked for a rather unusual “can lactate on demand at your request” servant, or simply found an ordinary lactating-mother servant, and its hard to say whether or no they particularly cared if a servant’s child thrived or didn’t.
    I’d be interested in more about Stephen Count of Penteur, any suggestions as to a good source?

    • Orwen’s name (“beautiful gold”) is so similar to that of Alan’s birth mother, Orguen (“pure gold”) that I wonder whether Eudon and Orguen considered that in itself propitious?

      I wish we had documentation of Alan’s parents’ attitudes to their servants (and conversely), but I venture to hope that they were mindful: if only because under their ancestors championed the equality of lord and peasant under the rule of law, as many hundreds of ninth century Breton judicial documents attest.

      Elizabeth Chadwick’s blog for July 2010 usefully contains a series of quotes pertaining to Brien FitzCount, the famous illegitimate son of Alan Rufus’s (somewhat closer than) cousin Duke Alan IV “Fergant” and his aristocratic mistress Lucie de Ballon (

      Here is an excerpt from a letter written by Brian FitzCount to Henry Bishop of Winchester (brother to King Stephen) during the Anarchy (Brian supported Empress Maud), published in an issue of the Haskins Society Journal:

      ‘I wish to have a great love of truth, and to obey in all things when I can. And I know to the best of my power and knowledge I do not deserve henceforth to be ranked among the unfaithful. I am sorry for the poor and their plight, when the church provides scarcely any refuge for them, for they will die if peace be longer delayed.’

    • Considering that Stephen was Count of Penteur from 1093 to 1136, thus controlling half of Brittany as well as holding vast estates across England, I have disappointingly little information about him. But perhaps this may eventually change, just as Alan Rufus was rather obscure until recently.

      Compared to the tumults that Alan had to deal with until 1093, and the Anarchy that followed 1036, Stephen must have had a comparatively peaceful time “in office”.

      In late January 1091, Alan witnessed a royal charter at Dover, just days before William II of England invaded Normandy and seized much of it from his brother Duke Robert “Curthose”. I’m tempted to think that Alan led the troops (particularly given William de St Calais’s quick rehabilitation), but the historians say they don’t know whether he crossed the channel or just waved them on.

      Henry I’s victory in the Battle of Tinchebray in 1106 made all of Normandy an English dependency. Henry had recruited many Bretons, and Brian FitzCount distinguished himself in this battle. As Earl of Richmond, I suppose Stephen Penteur (then aged between 44 and 48) might have contributed troops, but I don’t know.

      Another major event in the early 1100s was the migration of Bretons into Scotland, especially Ayrshire. Stephen’s grandson Duke Conan IV married Margaret of Huntingdon, a granddaughter of King David I who had invited all those southerners up to help modernise Scotland. Alan Rufus was apparently on good terms with David’s father King Malcolm III, so I suppose David and Stephen may have consulted.

      The Register of the Honour of Richmond includes, I think, a few documents from Count Stephen’s time. We know that he combined forces with the monks of St Mary’s in York to persuade Baldwin, physician to Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror as well as Abbot of St Edmund’s in Suffolk, to move Alan Rufus’s body from the cemetery into the sanctuary.

      Count Stephen spent much of his time in Brittany, so he was buried there, but his heart was carried to York and interred in St Mary’s Abbey.

      He outlived King Henry I by four months, but I don’t know whether he supported King Stephen or Empress Matilda.

      His eldest son Geoffrey Boterel II, who inherited the Breton lands, helped Matilda’s husband Geoffrey Plantagenet conquer Normandy.

      Another son, Alan, the first official Earl of Richmond, was married to Countess Bertha, heiress to the Duchy of Brittany and Matilda’s (and Brian FitzCount’s) niece, but nevertheless he was a staunch supporter of King Stephen.

      I know even less about Stephen’s wife Hawise, only that she was from Guingamp, a town of ceremonial importance to the Counts of Penteur. (Of course, having read about this recently, I’ve now carelessly mislaid all detailed information.)

      • Thank you, Geoffrey Tobin! That is more info than I might have found in weeks of searching. A man I was researching from the 1220’s-1250’s is named Stephen, but his family didn’t seem to be particularly fond of king Stephen, and were apparently Cornish/Breton. He was associated closely with de Clares and Marshalls in his time, as well as Richard of Cornwall and Henry II and Henry’s sons. Perhaps the name was in honor of a Breton rather than king Stephen which might seem to fit the apparent family politics better, although it couldn’t really be ascertained now why his parents chose Stephen as his name.
        The moving of Bretons to Scotland in this time is of interest as well.

        • Karen, all the Stephens are named, ultimately, after the first century Saint Stephen. But why the name became popular among the regional aristocracy in the 11th and 12th centuries is another question.

          Count Brian, another brother of the Breton Count Stephen’s and who probably came over with the Conqueror, may have held the first Earldom of Cornwall. (Stephen’s second son Alan, first Earl of Richmond, claimed so, and King Stephen accepted this claim.)

          Brian was injured, possibly in the very costly 1069 Battle of Stafford, and retired to Brittany. Many Bretons settled in the south-west of England; after Brian’s departure, these became tenants of Count Robert of Mortain.

          Who was the Stephen whom you are researching?

          • Stephen Bauchan, aka Baucan, aka Bauceyn, aka Bauzan: all spellings referring to same person, whose brother was Richard same last name, father was Guy (Guilliam/William) His brother Richard held lands in Devon, as did he. Stephen’s holding being in Holne Manor, Devon (as well as his holdings given for knight service ect.) I believe the Bauchans are connected to what is now spelled “Bochym” Manor Cornwall, but in some old records, “Buchent,” a manor traded for by Richard of Cornwall for two manors of greater value, when as a king’s son and having been “gifted” with Cornwall on his 16th birthday by his brother King Henry III, he could have just claimed it by right. Shortly afterward he took a mistress named Joan, who as it happens gave HER
            dowry in Holne ostensibly to honor Stephen after he died, (as did Richard, Stephen’s brother give Stephen’s Holne Manor) to Buckfast Abbey. To me evidence points to Joan being likely related to the Buchen/Bauchan brothers.

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