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 forbade 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:

    Alain le Roux’s son died before him. Alain le Noir also died without a son to inherit, so the lands went to Stephen their third brother.

    At the Battle of Hastings, the Bretons formed the left wing, and the Normans the right wing, of William’s army.

    It was an ancient practice of the Breton knights to feint a retreat, scatter, then simultaneously turn and regroup to attack the opportunistic enemy’s pursuing troops. This time-honoured trick, which requires impeccable discipline and precise timing, is what devastated the Saxon infantry.

    Remember that the Bretons had fended off the Saxons, Franks, Vikings and other assilants for centuries, and had periodically sent troops to shore up the defences of Cornwall and Wales, at which they were successful. An impressive achievement, given that the Breton ruling family were also often at war with each other. So they knew a thing or two about how to fight a battle.

    Incidentally, William the Conqueror’s family tree has more Bretons than any other single line of descent, and he shared a common ancestor with their rulers, namely Rollo the 1st Duke of Normandy.

    The Dukes of Brittany also supported the Tudors’ rise to power.

    I became interested in the history of the Bretons when I was researching the Tweed family tree. One compiler indicated that they were descended from the family of Alain le Roux. Other genealogical evidence from marriages, locations, and travels, is suggestive of this, so I checked the surname’s distribution in the 1891 UK census.

    The Tweeds, unlike my other lines of ancestry, were heavily concentrated in all the counties where William the Conqueror granted lands to Alain le Roux. 10% lived in Scotland, mostly around Lanarkshire; a handful lived in Peeblesshire near the source of the river Tweed. However, 90% lived in England, especially in Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Yorkshire, with 10% in London. The Tweeds who migrated to Australia in the 1800’s (before that UK census) came principally from farming properties near Duxford, Cambridge and Newmarket.

    Given the association with SE England, I suspect that the name Tweed is not derived from the river (perhaps the reverse?), but we can agree that it is probably an ancient British name, whatever its meaning. I do note that the Welsh spelling of Tudor is “Twydr”, meaning “Theodore”, and that the first Bretons originated from Cornwall, Devon and Wales in AD 383.

    We can be so precise about these Bretons because they were the Southern contingent of the Roman army in Britain under the command of Magnus Clemens Maximus who was Western emperor for 5 years, and their actions are attested by many records: Roman, Byzantine, Breton and Welsh.

    There is another family, the Tweedies, who might or might not be related, but their 1891 population distribution was very different.

    If the genealogies are correct, the Scottish Tweeds more than once married Stewart and Douglas women in the 1200s and 1300s. I don’t know what the Tweeds thought of the English-Scottish Wars, but they must have been perplexed due to having residences and loyalties in both countries.

    What I can say about my Tweed grandmother and her father is that they were strict disciplinarians, very neat, orderly and precise. They owned several tracts of land in Queensland for cattle farming, and loved horse-riding. Uncle Tony, a car mechanic, owned a race-horse, Gay Port, which won the Theo Marks Stakes in 1958, the Flemington Futurity Stakes and the Caulfield Futurity Stakes in 1960, and came second (to Todman) in the VRC Lightning Stakes in 1959 I think.

    • Hi Geoffrey,
      Thanks for your impressively researched supplement to the Alain Le Roux line! I never knew there was a third brother Stephen. Did he also fight at the Battle of Hastings?

      Of course, since we are using secondary sources (or later), it’s easy to perpetrate a myth or misunderstanding, and how do we know when this is the case? The story of the Breton contingent breaking first at Hastings and nearly losing the day is commonly referred to in many sources (including Edward A. Freeman). You could be right that the maneuver was planned from the beginning and that the Anglo-Saxons might never have seen it before. It is also commonly agreed that the trick was subsequently used during the battle a couple of times to great effect. I can see where there might be confusion among historians, and nothing personal against the Bretons!

    • Randolph Rush says:

      I hope you recieve notification of this at such a late date.
      I am apparently tangled into this story, according to DNA.
      Autosomal clearly goes back to some close Rush relative
      of Sir Francis Rush, and further back towards the Le Rous
      lines. There are a smattering of YDNA matches on the
      continent, several with variations of Red in the name.
      This would lead normally to Turchil Le Rous, and now it gets
      weird. I also have YDNA (male descent) that matches up to
      the Fitz Alans and Stewarts. Not well enough researched yet,
      but it appears that Flaald and Turchil’s lines are male-side
      relations. (Cousins, most likely) I have never seen this
      I am interested in your opinion.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Stephen was a child in 1066. My guess is that he was in Brittany during the early years of the Norman-Breton (re)conquest of Britain.

    Let me quote holus-bolus from Wikipedia:

    “Stephen, Count of Treguier,” [a town near the central north coast of Brittany], “Lord of Richmond (1058/62- 21 April 1136)[1] was a Breton noble and a younger son of Odo, Count of Penthièvre and Agnes of Cornwall,” [that’s actually Cornouaille, a region of Brittany, named after Cornwall in Britain and settled by Cornish emigrants in the 4th to 6th centuries], “sister of Hoel II, Duke of Brittany.

    In 1093, he succeeded to the title of Count of Tréguier; in 1098, he succeeded his brother Alain” [that’s Alan the Black, younger brother of Alan the Red] “as Lord of Richmond in Yorkshire, England.[2]

    He married Hawise of Guingamp and their children were:

    Geoffrey II “Boterel”, Count of Penthièvre, who married Hawise de Dol, by whom he had issue.

    Henry, Count of Tréguier, married Mathilde de Vendome, by whom he had issue.

    Alan de Bretagne, 1st Earl of Richmond (died 15 September 1146) married Bertha of Brittany, by whom he had issue, including his heir Conan IV, Duke of Brittany; he had also four illegitimate sons.

    Maud, married Walter de Gand, by whom she had issue.

    Olive, married firstly Henry de Fougères, by whom she had issue; secondly William de St. John.

    Tiphanie, married Rabel de Tancarville, Chamberlain of Normandy.

    Eléonore, married Alan de Dinan, by whom she had issue.

    Stephen was a benefactor of religious houses. In 1110, he and his wife, Hawise founded the Augustine Abbey of St Croix in Guingamp; and on an unknown date, he is recorded as having donated property to Rumbaugh Priory for the souls of his wife and children.[3]

    He died on 21 April 1136 and was buried in York.[4]


    1-4: Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands, Brittany, retrieved 18-04-10″

    I really must visit both Richmond Castle (built by Alan the Red) in North Yorkshire. Incidentally, I read that the toilet Alan had built there is still the one regularly used by the visitors!

    Stephen’s burial site in York is another must-see, assuming it can still be found.

    I love that name “Tiphanie”, it’s so much classier in French.

    What, I was wondering, is so special about Lanarkshire, that the Tweeds wanted to be Lords there? So I checked the 1891 UK census, and found that 15 out of 16 of the surnames of my great-great grandparents are found in significant numbers there. Whoa! There must be a reason, I thought. So I checked Google maps. In 1891, Lanarkshire included … Glasgow! The Tweeds were Lords of the biggest town and of the most populous region in Scotland!

    Many of my other relatives (particularly on my father’s side) were largely maritime (mariners and ship-builders) so their families presumably went there for the shipyards. Other relatives, who may or may not have been of a nautical persuasion, came from Ireland, so they may have been paying passengers.

    It turns out that most of family, on both sides, are of Breton or Norman descent. Even the Tobins came from upper Normandy, where they were called “de Saint Aubyn”. Since that means St Alban, who was the “first British saint and martyr”, it does suggest that the Tobins may have been Bretons too, despite the proximity of their residences to Paris. I know that many Normans had Breton ancestry, and inherited properties in Brittany. William the Conqueror himself (who disliked being called that) was more Breton than Norman, when one counts his ancestors.

    Why, I have been asked, are the Tweeds not fabulously wealthy? After all, William not only granted them most of Eastern England and one of the choicest parts of Scotland to rule, but they owned large parts of London as well. They should put the Dukes of Westminster in the shade.

    Firstly, the Earls of Richmond, as you may have gathered, were very astute at accumulating wealth, whereas the Kings of England, like those of France, were lousy financial managers. Whenever the King had a fiscal crisis, he would look with avarice to the Honour of Richmond, and confiscate it, squeeze it dry, then hand it back. In a generation or two these estates were rich again, but England’s treasury was empty, so the cycle continued.

    Then there was the run-in with King John. The histories don’t say that he executed a member of my family in order to seize his wealth, they straight-out use the word “murder”.

    Later Kings decided to permanently confiscate all the territories that had belonged to the descendants of the Dukes of Brittany. They “justified” this by saying that they had married into the family, so it was theirs anyway.

    In addition to that, whereas the usual Breton custom is to give all the inheritance to the eldest male heir, I gather that the Tweeds developed the habit of subdividing their property among all children, male and female alike. So by the present day, with many thousands of Tweed descendants, each owns very little.

    On the other hand, it does make it easy to trace the Tweeds, because they are distributed according to the division of landholdings, precisely over the counties where Alan the Red governed.

    As you can imagine, it is with some mixed feelings that I note that Prince Charles is “Duke of Cornwall” and Harry is “Duke of Cambridge”, etc.

    On the other hand, again quoting Wikipedia: “The title Duke of Richmond is named after Richmond and its surrounding district of Richmondshire, and has been created several times in the Peerage of England for members of the royal Tudor and Stuart families. The current lineage and title was created in 1675 for Charles Lennox, the illegitimate son of King Charles II of England and a Breton noblewoman called Louise de Kérouaille.”

    So at least the Honour of Richmond is being kept within the Breton lineage. The Stuarts descend from a Breton knight who served under Alan the Red, and the Tweeds intermarried with the Stewarts in the early days (around 1200-1300) when the latter were the stewards of the Kings of Scotland.

    The Tudors, as far as I know, were not actually relatives of the Tweeds, despite the similarity of name (Twydr, meaning Theodore), but the Dukes of Brittany did provide as much support as they could for their rise to power. Perhaps that was just because of their ancient fondness for the Welsh, as they trace one of their lines back to Conan Meriadoc, prince of Powys, and other lines back to Gwynnedd. The Welsh say that Conan M’s sister Elen was the wife of Magnus Clemens Maximus, who brought his legions from Britain to Armorica (Brittany) in AD 383.

    Magnus became a very popular and _mostly_ wise Western Emperor. He won most of his battles because the enemy’s troops defected to him, as he treated his subjects and soldiers better. This worked until his defeat against the Eastern Emperor in 388. (Even in that last battle, some soldiers defected to his side, to share his defeat.) He and his son Flavius Victor were subsequently (separately) tried and executed. However, his mother, wife and daughters are not mentioned, so they may have survived.

    In any case, my grandmother’s name was Ellen May Tweed, so maybe there’s a faint recollection there. She was six feet tall and strong as an ox, as they say. (Rather like the other Ellie May, from the Beverley Hillbillies!) Strangely her father was quite short, though there are some tall people earlier in the family line.

    One of the characteristics of the Tweeds is that commonly one child (e.g my mother, Constance May) will have black hair, while a sibling (e.g. my aunt Audrey Gwendoline) has auburn hair. This is true also in earlier generations. Just like Alan the Red and Alan the Black.

    My father’s side were very maritime. Among others, there is a William Foy who was lighthouse superintendant of Port Phillip Heads in the 1850s, Daniel Driscoll a mariner, a possible relative George Tobin who was the founder of the Port Phillip pilots and who worked with William Foy, and a certain Captain Chapman, who judging by electoral address records from 1856 was quite possibly Thomas George Chapman the British India Torres Strait pilot.

    My father related that the Chapmans came from Sweden. That makes some sense as he was blond into his teens, and I was blond in childhood before my hair darkened to the brown that the stylists call “dark blond”.

    He also said that his great grandfather, was not only a ship’s captain but also owned a ship, and used to sail between Stockholm to Port Adelaide. In addition, he stated that we are entitled to use the suffix “esquire”, though I failed to ask him why.

    When I researched the maritime Chapmans of Sweden, I found that there was a Vice-Admiral Fredrik Henrik (af) Chapman, Esquire (1721-1808), who was a leading naval architect and a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. He was a very capable mathematician and engineer: he invented flotation tanks, sea wave simulations, the parabolic method for constructing retaining walls, and the relaxation method for solving partial differential equations (decades before Gauss and Jacobi), in order to build more seaworthy and more manoeuvrable naval vessels capable of carrying twice as many cannon, so as to defend Sweden from Russia and Germany simultaneously. (The late Vasa Kings of Sweden seem to have been even more stupid than those of England and France, initiating multiple major border conflicts at the same time.) This worked until Fredrik Henrik died, after which the King decided Sweden should open a third front by taking on Napoleonic France too.

    Fredrik Henrik’s parents were Lieutenant Thomas Chapman, a Yorkshireman who served in the British fleet that captured Gibraltar from the Spanish, and Susannah Colson, whose father William Colson was a London shipwright.

    The Chapmans of Whitby were a family of bankers, ship-builders and ship-owners. Their family line is one of the oldest attested among the Angles who settled eastern England, and is traced back to about AD 500, when they already had that surname, so they were already well-known merchants even then.

    The Chapmans must have had interactions with Alan the Red. Since they survived the harrying of the North, when it’s estimated 150,000 Angles died, and the Chapmans were not displaced but evidently continued to prosper, they must have avoided angering either the Angle and Dane rebels or the Norman and Breton victors. Quite a balancing act!

  • Geoffrey (Richard Driscoll) Tobin says:

    Oh, I forgot two other brothers of Alan the Red, Geoffrey and Brian. Here is Wikipedia again [with my explanatory edits and additional comments] :

    “Odo of Rennes (Breton: Eozen Penteur, French: Eudes/Éon de Penthièvre) (999–1079), Count of Penthièvre, was the youngest son of Duke Geoffrey I of Brittany and Hawise of Normandy, daughter of Richard I of Normandy. Following the death of his brother Duke Alan III, Eudes ruled as regent of Brittany in the name of his nephew Conan II, between 1040 and 1062. Eudes married Agnes of [Cornouaille], sister of Hoel II of Brittany. At least two of Eudes’ sons (Alain [the Red] and Brian) participated in the Norman conquest of England.[1]

    His children include:

    Geoffrey I, count of Penthièvre.

    Alain Le Roux.

    Stephen, Count of Tréguier, who married Havise of Guingamp.

    Brian (French: Brien; Latin: Briennius), who defeated a second raid in the southwest of England, launched from Ireland by Harold’s sons in 1069. Brian participated in the conquest of England and afterwards held the Honour of Richmond, but died without issue. He is presumed to have been illegitimate and is recorded as a witness to a document in 1084. He spent the latter part of his life as an invalid [with his wife] in Brittany.[2]

    [Odo of Rennes’s] descendants became the junior branch of the Breton ducal family, which assumed control of the duchy in 1156 under Conan IV of Brittany.”

    Constance May, daughter of Ellen May Tweed, chose the names “Geoffrey Richard” well!

    The Breton Dukes were also closely related to the ruling house of Anjou, the (Basque) royal family of Navarre and the (originally Basque) ruling house of Aquitaine. So I expect that’s one reason Henry II (1133-1189) whose father was from Anjou and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204) named one of their sons Geoffrey. A pity that King Richard I was so costly to maintain, and that King John such a dastardly fellow (from many people’s perspective).

    Here are the children of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, as there are further connections to Brittany and Navarre. (Again I’m robbing Wikipedia blind. It’s just quicker than checking the books.)

    “William IX, Count of Poitiers 17 August 1153 April 1156 never married; no issue. [Well, he was only 2 y.o. when he died.]

    Henry the Young King 28 February 1155 11 June 1183 married Margaret of France; no surviving issue.

    Matilda, Duchess of Saxony June 1156 13 July 1189 married Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony; had issue.

    Richard I of England 8 September 1157 6 April 1199 married Berengaria of Navarre; one illegitimate son.

    [There’s Navarre again. Good Basque stock. But who was the son?]

    Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany 23 September 1158 19 August 1186 married Constance, Duchess of Brittany; had issue.

    [Geoffrey II and Constance, Duke and Duchess of Brittany. Familiar names again. Yay. I should check who the children were: I seem to recall seeing them listed in the “Dukes of Brittany” family tree.]

    Eleanor, Queen of Castile 13 October 1162 31 October 1214 married Alfonso VIII of Castile; had issue.

    Joan, Queen of Sicily October 1165 4 September 1199 married 1) William II of Sicily 2) Raymond VI of Toulouse; had issue.

    John of England 27 December 1166 19 October 1216 married:
    1) Isabella, Countess of Gloucester
    2) Isabella, Countess of Angoulême; had issue.”

    Hmm, talking of Gloucester, the Tobins of St Aubyn du Thenney in upper Normandy later spent some time in Gloucester, but their main residence at this time in England (1100s to early 1200s) was Place Barton manor in Ashton in Devon (another ancient Breton county of origin), before they moved over to conquer central Ireland and become “more trouble to the English than were the native Irish”. Because of their rank the Tobins were virtually untouchable by ordinary English soldiers; indeed the family motto is “Noli me tangere”.

  • Geoffrey (Richard Driscoll) Tobin says:

    Looking at the list of children of Eozen Penteur (to use the native form of his name), I notice: (1) they are not in order of birth date, and (2) Alan the Black was omitted. I haven’t given much thought to the correct order of the sons, but Stephen seems much the youngest, whereas Geoffrey inherited his father’s title as Count of Penthievre, and Brian and Alan the Red were both adults at Hastings.

    There’ information about these generations of the Ducal family scattered around the web. has some info about their movements between England and Brittany and their contentions with various aristocrats and bishops. For example, they gained and lost Cornwall (in England) at least twice. That must have hurt, because that’s the third county from which their ancestors came. (My grandfather, husband of Ellen May Tweed, was descended from a Cornish family of miners and farmers who had migrated to Queensland. So Cornwall still matters to us.)

  • Geoffrey (Richard Driscoll) Tobin says:

    It may have been noticed by now that Tolkien scavenged the family tree of the Dukes of Brittany relentlessly in his search for names for hobbits and the riders of Rohan, and even for the elvish legends of the “first age”.

    The very term “Lay” as in Tolkien’s “Lay of Beleriand” is Breton. Breton lays are the direct ancestors of the minstrel songs of the high middle ages, and also of the modern novel. As a scholar of (not only) Anglo-Saxon (but also Welsh), and as one of the authors of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, he would have known this.

  • Geoffrey (Richard Driscoll) Tobin says:

    At the risk of over-labouring the point about Breton cavalry tactics, here is an excerpt from the (again) WIkipedia article on the Battle of Jengland between the armies of Charles the Bald (the Holy Roman Emperor and King of the Franks), and Erispoe (Duke of Britanny).

    “In August 851, Charles left Maine to enter Brittany by the Roman road from Nantes to Corseul. The king arranged his troops in two lines: at the rear were the Franks; in front were Saxon mercenaries whose role was to break the assault of the Breton cavalry, which was known for its mobility and tenacity.[2]

    In the initial engagement, a javelin assault forced Saxons to retreat behind the more heavily armoured Frankish line. The Franks were taken by surprise. Rather than engage in a melée, the Bretons harassed the heavily armed Franks from a distance, in a manner comparable to Parthian tactics, but with javelins rather than archers. They alternated furious charges, feints and sudden withdrawals, drawing out the Franks and encircling over-extended groups.

    After two days of this sort of fighting, Frankish losses in men and horses were mounting to catastrophic levels, while the Bretons suffered few casualties. With his force disintegrating, Charles withdrew from the field during the night. When his disappearance was noticed the following morning, panic seized the Frankish soldiers. The Bretons quickly raided the camp, taking booty and weapons and killing as many fugitives as they could.[1]”


    1. Smith, Julia M. H. Province and Empire: Brittany and the Carolingians. Cambridge University Press: 1992.

    2. Guy Halsall, Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, Routledge, 2003. P. 101.

    3. Annales de Saint-Bertin quoted in Histoire de la Bretagne, tome 1, Des Mégalithes aux Cathédrales, collectif, éditions Skol Vreizh.”

    Much of this methodology should sound familiar from accounts of Hastings and the subsequent battles fought by the Bretons on William I’s behalf in the south-west (led by Brian, in conjunction with Robert Count of Mortain a half-brother of William I) and north-east (by Alan the Red) of England.

  • Geoffrey (Richard Driscoll) Tobin says:

    Constance, heiress and Duchess of Brittany, and her husband Geoffrey II, who by his marriage became Duke of Brittany and who was a son of Henry II and a brother of Kings Richard I and King John, had one son, Arthur II of Brittany, who was a strong claimant to the throne of England, being Richard I’s nominated heir.

    Arthur was still in his minority when Richard died, so John took the throne and imprisoned Arthur, who subsequently disappeared mysteriously. Many historians suspect that John had him killed, and some chroniclers from that time claim that John himself murdered Arthur.

  • Geoffrey (Richard Driscoll) Tobin says:

    The javelins used by Erispoe’s cavalry were likely of the Roman “pilum” or “spiculum” sort, as the Breton horsemen originated as the light cavalry of the Roman army in Britain and Armorica.

    The following passage helps us to understand how they would have used the javelin, and why it was effective against Emperor Charles’ Franks.

    “The pilum (plural pila) was a javelin commonly used by the Roman army in ancient times. It was generally about two metres long overall, consisting of an iron (or, rather, “soft” steel) [1] shank about 7 mm in diameter and 60 cm long with pyramidal head. The shank was joined to the wooded shaft by either a socket or a flat tang.

    The total weight of a pilum was between two and five kilograms, with the versions produced during the Empire being a bit lighter than those dating from the previous Republican era.

    The iron shank was the key to the function of the pilum. The weapon had a hard barbed tip but the shank itself was not properly tempered. This deliberate ‘un-tempering’ would cause the shank to bend after impact, thus rendering the weapon useless to the enemy. More importantly, If the pilum struck the shield of an enemy it would embed itself into the shield’s fabric, and this along with the bending of the shank would cause the shield to become unwieldy, forcing the enemy to discard it or waste time trying to pull it out. The former action tended to happen more often than the latter as affected soldiers couldn’t risk removing the pilum without disrupting their formation during an advance or losing their lives during a melee.

    Pila were divided into two models: heavy and light. Pictorial evidence suggests that some versions of the weapon were weighted by a lead ball to increase penetrative power but archeological specimens of this design variant are not so far known.[2] Recent experiments have shown pila to have a range of approximately 30 metres (100 ft), although the effective range is up to 15–20 m (50–70 ft).

    Legionaries of the Late Republic and Early Empire often carried two pila, with one sometimes being lighter than the other. Standard tactics called for Roman soldiers to throw one of them (both if time permitted) at the enemy, just before charging to engage with the gladius.

    The effect of the pila throw was to disrupt the enemy formation by attrition and by causing gaps to appear in its protective shield wall.”

    If similar tactics were later employed against King Harold’s Anglo-Saxons, it would have assisted in first weakening then breaking up his defences.

    As the Battle of Jengland showed, the Bretons were very patient and methodical, so defeating Harold in several hours instead of days was a quick victory by their standards.

    On the other hand, William may have been anxious about the time the battle was taking, as he could not be sure that his reinforcements would arrive from the Continent before Harold’s arrived from other parts of England. Harold had opted for a quick emplacement rather than waiting, as his Earls advised, to accumulate a force four times as strong. (Whether that would have helped in the long run, given that the Bretons had inexorably crushed a disciplined force four times their size at Jengland, is another matter.)

    • Well, Geoffrey, I am certainly overwhelmed by the depth of your research. As for the field at Hastings, one of the accounts I read stated that the narrow width of the ridge where he deployed his shield wall was more than enough to accommodate the numbers who had shown up to fight. In fact, it was said that some of the late comers turned around and went home because there was no room for them. I don’t know whether this was true, but it gives food for thought.

  • Geoffrey (Richard Driscoll) Tobin says:

    Two days ago, I was continuing my inquiry into the Bretons and read a description (at of a surviving letter from AD 470 by Sidonius Apollinaris, former prefect of the city of Rome and at this time Bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, to Riothamus King of Britons in AD 470. I quote:

    “The letter, written in the late 460’s or early 470’s, is an appeal to Riothamus, whom Sidonius apparently knows to be a fair-minded and honourable ruler, for justice for “an obscure and humble person,” who has suffered a wrong. The wrongdoers, in this case, are Bretons who are enticing the man’s slaves away, perhaps encouraged to do so by the slave-owner’s own meekness and vulnerability. The Bretons are armed, aggressive and numerous and he, unarmed and impecunious, is no match for them.

    Perhaps this unfortunate man came to Sidonius for justice in his capacity as Bishop of Clermont, but, as we learn from the letter, Sidonius commends his case on to Riothamus. We get no hint that there is anything irregular or unusual in his doing so, and we are left to conclude that ordinary due process is being done. The Gothic History of Jordanes tells us that Riothamus, king of the Brittones, came at the head of a 12,000 man force at the behest of Anthemius, the Roman Emperor, to aid in combatting the Visigoths.”

    The article considers the question: does Brittones mean Britons (in Britain) or Bretons (in Gaul)? For, if Riothamus were king in Britain, he would have no jurisdiction in Gaul, where this law case arose. It continues:

    “Our problem of Riothamus’ presence in Gaul and questionable legal jurisdiction goes away if he is a Breton, rather than a Briton. In the late 450’s, there were mass migrations of upper-crust Britons from Britain to Brittany. Some scholars of the period have made Riothamus the leader of that wave of migrations and the founder of the dynasties of the Breton kingdom of Dumnonie (2). If a Breton, Riothamus had a perfect right to be located there, north of the Loire, and would have been the obvious person to whom Sidonius should refer a grievance involving other Bretons.”

    Here is a translation from Latin of Sidonius Apollinaris’s letter to Riothamus.

    “I will write once more in my usual strain, mingling compliment with grievance. Not that I at all desire to follow up the first words of greeting with disagreeable subjects, but things seem to be always happening which a man of my order and in my position can neither mention without unpleasantness, nor pass over without neglect of duty. Yet I do my best to remember the burdensome and delicate sense of honour which makes you so ready to blush for others’ faults. The bearer of this is an obscure and humble person, so harmless, insignificant, and helpless that he seems to invite his own discomfiture; his grievance is that the Bretons are secretly enticing his slaves away. Whether his indictment is a true one, I cannot say; but, if you can only confront the parties and decide the matter on its merits, I think the unfortunate man may be able to make good his charge, if indeed a stranger from the country unarmed, abject and impecunious to boot, has ever a chance of a fair or kindly hearing against adversaries with all the advantages he lacks: arms, astuteness, turbulences, and the aggressive spirit of men backed by numerous friends. Farewell.” (3)

    Here are the references cited by the article:

    (1) Ashe, Geoffrey, “The Discovery of King Arthur,” Guild Publishing, London, 1985.

    (2) Morris, John, “The Age of Arthur,” Charles Scribner’s & Sons, New York, 1973, pp. 90, 251, 256.

    (3) “The Letters of Sidonius,” Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1915, p.76.

  • Geoffrey (Richard Driscoll) Tobin says:

    Mercedes, it would appear from the accounts you mention above that the reason that the archers were less effective in the early part of the battle at Hastings may have been that there were so many Anglo-Saxon axemen forming a very thick shield-wall on Senlac Ridge that either the arrows couldn’t travel far enough to reach Harold or perhaps the shields formed a dense overlay that couldn’t be penetrated.

    As for the Bretons, the most often cited accounts of Hastings do not mention a use of javelins by the Breton cavalry. Indeed, I came across the book “Hastings 1066” by Robert Gravett in which he claims that there is no record of the Bretons using javelins since they lost a major battle to the Vikings in the 9th century.

    However, at the “Total War” mods website which is devoted to historic recreations, there are statements that not only did the Breton light cavalry use javelins against Harold’s shield wall, but that they also brought (Norman-style) heavy cavalry and axemen, all of whom were professional soldiers. They also brought conscript spearman. Most interestingly, the Breton archers were Duke William’s best. Not only were they renowned for their accuracy, they were also rapid-fire: they had to be resupplied repeatedly while the Normans, French and Flemish were still firing their first salvo.

    So, not only did the Breton light cavalry use feints to entice the less disciplined Anglo-Saxon troops to break ranks, but they also used the medium-range javelin tactic (which we noted had been so effective against the Franks) to make the remaining shields unwieldy and the formidable Saxon axemen holding them much less mobile. Then in the final stage of the battle, when the shield wall had thinned and William ordered the archers to fire over it to strike Harold’s personal guard, the Breton archers were likely the most devastating.

    Let me quote from J.P. Sommerville’s website (

    “Harold had marched south rapidly and possibly hoped to surprise William, but was immediately confronted by the Norman forces. Harold drew up his troops in a strong defensive position on Senlac Ridge, not far from Hastings. Thickly wooded country behind made an attack from the rear impracticable.”

    That, combined with the steep slopes on the sides of the Ridge, explains why William began the battle at a disadvantage.

    “William made an initial attack with flights of arrows followed by an infantry charge, but this was easily repulsed by the axe-wielding housecarls.”

    I guess the Breton conscript spearman were among the infantry in this charge, because it’s said elsewhere that they “routed”.

    “Many of the undisciplined shire levies broke ranks in pursuit of the retreating Normans, and were cut down by Norman horsemen.”

    By “Norman”, Somerville evidently includes “Breton”: he labels all the troops in his diagram as “Norman”.

    “The close ranks of Harold’s infantry were well deployed to withstand frontal assault, but vulnerable to the continual waves of arrows launched by William’s Breton archers.”


    “This missile attack was combined with the shock tactics of cavalry charge.”

    At least some of the heavy cavalry who galloped right into the shield-wall were Bretons. Don’t forget that while this was happening, the light cavalry were applying their arsenal of tricks (javelins and feints) to weaken the wall.

    “But it seems that the arrow may have been the decisive weapon on the day, for some evidence suggests that Harold was killed by a shot in the eye.”

    Those Bretons yet again!

    “The fighting raged all day and it is far from clear that victory would have gone to the Normans had it not been for Harold’s death. The effect of his death on morale was considerable, as it left the English withot an effective commander, for Harold’s brothers Gyrth and Leofwine had died earlier in the day’s fighting.”

    That was after the Breton tactics had thinned the shield wall sufficiently that the heavy cavalry could make forays against the Earls.

    “A few English tried to rally behind Edgar the Ætheling in a final attempt at resistance centered on London, but William’s army was too strong, and he was crowned king in Westminster Abbey, 25 December 1066.”

    Now that we have a clearer picture of what transpired at Hastings, and combining that with the detailed record of who suppressed the subsequent rebellions in both the South and the North of England, it’s evident why the Bretons, especially Alan Le Roux and his immediate family, were granted the lion’s share of territory in post-conquest Britain. It was not, in truth, a Norman Conquest; instead it was indeed, principally, a Breton Re-Conquest.

    That both the Bretons and Normans were fluent in the official languages French and Latin, wore the same armour, and were often seen together, must have made it hard to distinguish them.

    Besides, calling the “conquerors” Bretons would have totally undermined the Anglo-Saxon claim of being unjustly divested.

    What was the role of the Breton cavalry after 1066? Well, it was a major player in the Hundred Years War.

    King John’s persistent misconduct caused many of the nobles in his French territories to favour the French King Philip. For the Bretons, this shift of allegiances may have begun with the disappearance of John’s nephew and rival, Arthur II of Brittany, while in John’s personal custody.

    With such behaviour, King John eventually caused the loss of most of the Plantagenet crown’s territory in France.

    I quote now from the Wikipedia article on the “Hundred Years War”.

    “The reign of Charles V (1369-1389) [of France] saw the English steadily pushed back. Although the Breton war [of succession, which had begun the Hundred Years War] ended in favour of the English at the Battle of Auray, the dukes of Brittany eventually reconciled with the French throne. The Breton soldier [and cavalry leader] Bertrand du Guesclin became one of the most successful French generals of the Hundred Years’ War.”

    In 1453, John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, led the last major English military expedition of the Hundred Years War.

    “The attempt by Talbot to retake Gascony, though initially welcomed by the locals, was crushed by Jean Bureau and his cannon at the Battle of Castillon in 1453 where Talbot had led a small Anglo-Gascon force in a frontal attack on an entrenched camp. This is considered the last battle of the Hundred Years’ War.”

    The English had bravely held on against the onslaught of the cannonballs, until the Breton cavalry swept in from the rear, right on cue, to finish them off.

    The glamorous romances of King Arthur aside, it’s fair to say that the historic role of the Breton soldiers, especially the knights and archers, has been greatly underestimated.

    Mercedes, thank you for your patience in allowing me to write at such length on this topic, in what is, after all, your blog.

    • Hi Geoffrey. I’m inclined to agree with the theory that the Norman strategy sending succeeding waves of archers/infantry/cavalry gave the fighters an opportunity to catch their breath (even rest) between attacks, whereas the Anglo-Saxons behind their shield wall were obliged to fight a constant battle without a break. I can’t even imagine how they managed to sustain their defence for a whole day. Since it was said that the press was so thick that the dead couldn’t fall to the ground, I don’t know how the front line of shield-wall fighters could move aside for fresher replacements.

      I believe it’s far from certain that Harold took an arrow in the eye, even though the Bayeux Tapestry seems to indicate that this is the case. Not every scholar believes this theory, especially since it was so difficult to locate his partially-dismembered body in the aftermath of the battle. I find it interesting that the chroniclers who mention the discovery of Harold’s corpse did not allude to an arrow in his eye, which should by all rights still be intact.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    According to royal genealogists, Alan Le Roux’s youngest brother, Stephen Count of Treguier, is ancestral to the British royal family, and to Winston Churchill, George Washington, Barack Obama and presumably just about all of us who have some British ancestry. Not only that, but all of his children are ancestral to the British royals, and so far as I’ve investigated, so are his grandchildren. This compensates nicely for Alan Le Roux and Alan Le Noir having no descendants.
    On a somewhat relevant topic, I’m a Driscoll by male-line descent (John Tobin Senior, a London and Tyneside shipwright, being my step-great-grandfather). The Driscolls are the most senior line of the ancient Irish Dairine clan (called Darini by Claudius Ptolemy the geographer). The British royal family proudly descend from Malcolm III’s House of Dunkeld which from the outset claimed nobility by virtue of descent from a cadet line of the Dairine.
    The Dairine are said to descend from a certain Daire which is the same as the Irish spelling of Darios (Darius) the name of several ancient kings of Persia. There’s a peculiar Irish story of Daire Donn, the King of the World, trying to conquer Ireland and being eventually beaten off by Finn mac Cumhail with the help of the Tuatha De Danaan. The Tuath De Danaan were one of the earlier tribes who settled Ireland, though in legends they are sometimes portrayed as minor “gods” or as “magically” gifted beings like Tolkien’s elves.
    “Tuatha” is Irish for “folk” or “people”, as is “Tweed”.
    I suspect that the Daire Donn story is an imaginative transplant to Ireland of the Battle of Marathon in 390 BC between Athens and Darius the Great. The Greeks had spread across the Mediterranean and beyond for several centuries at this point, and the Celts were militarily very active throughout central Europe at this time (they would sack Rome in 387 BC), so one would expect they’d quickly hear of Darius’s defeat.
    Curiously, Homer calls the people of the prominent Greek city of Argos “Danaans” after their mythical founder Danaus, so one is left to wonder how much classical legend the ancient Celts (including the Irish) did adapt.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Clarification: I don’t mean that “Tweed” is Irish; it’s not. However, I am suggesting that it may derive from the ancient Proto-Indo-European word for “family”, “kin”, “tribe” or “people”, reconstructed as “tewteh”, which has derivations in many Indo-European languages. Examples include “Theod” in Gothic, old Bavarian and Saxon; “Thede” in Middle English; “Tud” in Breton (pronounced “Ty:d”, the vowel being a rounded long “e”); “Tud” in Welsh; “Tuath” in Irish; “Tuda” in Persian; and “Deutsch” in German.

  • sami casler says:

    I came upon your site by accident and was thrilled to read it. However, my husband’s family was FitzRandolph and I have spent a year researching them. Many sources confirm that Ribald was Alan le Roux’s bastard brother (he began the FitzRandolph line) and that he inherited Alan’s holdings. Can anyone tell me more?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    For the times, Stephen Count of Treguier had an ordinary number of children (that we know of, and that lived to have children of their own), just seven: three sons and four daughters, as I listed here on 19 Sep last. But each of those had a several sons and daughters who in turn had several sons and daughters, and so on, with a degree of persistent regularity. As Aesop remarked, “slow and steady wins the race.” That they married well, and avoided the worst consequences of the troubles of their times, helped a lot. Otherwise (key portentously dramatic music) which of us would be here?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    I have no definitive to Sami Casler’s question. I have encountered genealogy websites that refer to a “Ribald” as a brother of Alan Le Roux and claim (contrary to my best evidence) that he inherited the Honour of Richmond, but I’ve not found any other references to him, nor any explanation of how he fits into the Alan the Red -> Alan the Black -> Stephen -> Stephen’s descendants sequence.

    At a guess, if there was a Ribald, he might have been one of “the Men of Count Alan” who occupy so much of the Domesday book.

    For, often a Constable of a Castle is mistaken by amateur genealogists for its owner.

    A case in point: the family Oliver from the Scottish Borders were so-named because they were the Constables of Oliver Castle which was owned by the Frasers and then, after intermarriage, by the Tweedie family. (All three of these families may have been Breton.)

    Similarly, I suspect that the Richmond family were in origin the Constables of Richmond Castle which was ordered built by Alan the Red.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Sami, I’ve found evidence for Ribald. At
    the following information is offered.

    34209792 Ribald Lord of Middleham & Spennithorne.708,709,710,486,711,712,713 b. circa 1050. d. about 1121.487

    He received the lands of Middleham and Spennithorne from his brother Count Allen [should be spelt “Alan”] of Richmond in 1086, which were then in waste.

    Ribald was called a brother of count Alan (Rufus) in a charter of Alan for the soul of his father count Eudo [“Eozen” in Breton] and others [Early Yorkshire Charters 4:no.1]. Before the Domesday Survey, Alan Rufus granted to Ribald lands in Yorkshire, Norfolk, and possibly elsewhere [EYC 5:297-8]; the caput was Middleham, [in] Richmondshire, [in] Yorkshire. About 1121 Ribald made a gift to St. Mary’s, York, for the souls of his brother count Alan and his own wife Beatrice (who may have died before 1112), with the consent of his son and heir Ralph Taillebois [EYC 5:no. 358]. Ralph fitz Ribald had succeeded by 1130 [“Pipe Roll 31 Henry I”, 1929, p.27]. A 15th century account states Ribald was a monk at St. Mary’s before he died [T.D. Whitaker, “Richmondshire”, 1823, 1:331].

    He m. Beatrice Taillebois 486,711,714,713, before 1093.

    They had the following children:
    17104896 i. Ralph (ca1080->1168)
    ii. Hervey486
    iii. Henry486
    iv. Rainald486
    v. William486

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Wikipedia cites the Domesday book for Ribald:

    “Hunworth has an entry in the Domesday Book of 1085.[3] In the great book Edgefield is recorded by the name of Hunaworda, Huneworda or Huneworde . The parish is Kings land with main landholders being Alstan, who had been the pre-conquest holder, and his main tenant is said to be Ribald from count Alan and Walter Gifford. There is said to be 4½ Mills. In the Domesday survey fractions[4] were used to indicate that the entry, in this case a Mill, was situated within more than one parish.”

    [3] The Domesday Book, England’s Heritage, Then and Now, (Editor: Thomas Hinde), Norfolk, page 191, Hunworth, ISBN 1-85833-440-3

    [4] The Normans in Norfolk, By Sue Margeson, Fabienne Seillier and Andrew Rogerson, Pub:1994, Page 21, ISBN 0-903101-62-9

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    For definitive proof, see:

    “Name: Ribald brother of Count Alan
    Gender: Male

    This name is associated with 0 places before the Conquest; 30 after the Conquest. (Please note: these references may not necessarily be to the same person, especially for common names.)

    After the Conquest

    Lord in 1086:

    Beechamwell, Clackclose, Norfolk
    Stoke [Ferry], Clackclose, Norfolk
    Tochestorp, Forehoe, Norfolk
    [Ash]wicken, Freebridge, Norfolk
    Bawsey, Freebridge, Norfolk
    [East] Walton, Freebridge, Norfolk
    Middleton, Freebridge, Norfolk
    Hethersett, Humbleyard, Norfolk
    Allerthorpe [Hall], Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    [Castle] Bolton, Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    [East] Hauxwell, Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    [Low] Swainby, Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    Middleham, Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    Redmire, Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    Spennithorne, Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    Thornton [Watlass], Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    Thornton [Watlass], Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    [West] Scrafton, Land of Count Alan, Yorkshire
    [Field] Dalling, [North] Greenhoe, Essex / Norfolk
    Holkham, [North] Greenhoe, Norfolk
    Warham [All Saints and St Mary], [North] Greenhoe, Norfolk
    Wells [next the Sea], [North] Greenhoe, Norfolk
    Matlask, South Erpingham, Norfolk
    Matlask, South Erpingham, Norfolk
    Saxthorpe, South Erpingham, Norfolk
    Scottow, South Erpingham, Norfolk
    Foulden, [South] Greenhoe, Norfolk
    [Great] Cressingham, [South] Greenhoe, Norfolk
    [North and South] Pickenham, [South] Greenhoe, Norfolk
    other Pickenham, [South] Greenhoe, Norfolk”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Page 156 of the book “Castles from the Air” by Reginald Allen Brown, Cambridge University Press, discusses the Manor of Middleham, given to Ribald by his brother Count Alan.

    Also of interest may be this article on Matilda, wife of Walter I Deincourt, first Lord d’Eyncourt, which speculates on the basis of her property holdings that she was a sister of Count Alan:

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Count Alan Rufus is described in glowing terms in the book “Benedictine Houses” cited in

    “He was ever studious for peace, a great lover of the poor, and an especial honorer of the religious.”

    Wow! Mercedes’ assessment of him (“modestly did his thing, managing to keep King William happy as well as historians”) was as accurate as a Breton archer, if an understatement.

    For a military man of such dire prowess in a violent era and of such great personal wealth in a devastated land, to be remembered after death as “studious for peace”, and “a great lover of the poor” is rather a surprise.

    Moreover, Count Alan Rufus and his family seem to have spent much more time praying for King William’s soul (and each others’) than they were in conquering Britain for him.

    Paintings from the era invariably show Count Alan smiling pleasantly. He’s wearing a crown, but looks most interested in other people, as though unaware of his own importance.

    Such a character perhaps explains why Alan was able to maintain such good terms with everyone – Normans, Scots, even the Anglo-Saxons and Irish-Norse whom he’d defeated.

    “He left four brothers;
    Alan Niger, Stephen, Ribald (lord of Middleham), and Randolph.”

    “Then there is the Ancestry of Christopher Fitz-Randolph, ca. 1495-1570, by William Sutton Carley, 7804 Moorland Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814, 1989. Page 9, shows parents of Ribald as: Euds or Eudon, C. de Penthievre, b. ca. 999, d. 1/7/1079, m. Agnes of Onguen, daughter of Alain de Caignard, C. de Cornouailles, d. 1058, m. Judith de Nantes, d. 1064.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In the wake of the “Norman Conquest”, what was the impact of the Bretons, in particular of Count Alan Rufus and his brothers? Such facts as that the Royal Stuarts were descended from one of the “Men of Count Alan” commends us to dig deeper.

    As to Count Alan’s holdings, he is found as the chief land owner on at least 25% of the pages of Domesday, often with a contingent of his men owning land in their own right, presumably as a garrison – how many troops must he have commanded by 1086? What’s striking is that even when King William owned land in the district, the only soldiers there were Alan’s. Why was that?

    William made Count Alan “Overlord” and “First Subject”, i.e. the chief military and civil official in “Norman” Britain; according to the Norman chroniclers, he was William’s most loyal and most valiant “knight”. Indeed, Alan’s family remained staunch supporters of William and his heirs, even on those occasions when William’s own half-brothers, Bishop Odo of Bayeux and the normally placid Robert of Mortain, and some lower-ranked Breton lords, such as Ralph of Gael, rebelled.

    Alan Rufus’s father Eozen and uncle Alan III had the same four grandparents as Duke Richard of Normandy who was William’s father, so Alan was William’s second cousin, but through a double marriage that makes him genetically a first cousin. Consequently, Alan’s family were William’s equal closest relations, together with the King’s half-siblings, parents and children.

    The Breton brilliance at Hastings, and their swift and decisive suppression of the rebellions in the south and north of England, and their staunch loyalty to William, despite their strong claim to William’s throne, which was acknowledged by the King’s own Norman scribes, come what may, even when the Crown infringed their rights, greatly compounded William’s debt to them.

    One might ask, if the Bretons were so important, did they, like the Normans, affect the development of the English language?

    Well, at that time, the common Romance language of eastern Brittany, southern Normandy, Anjou and Maine was Gallo (which I guess is short for Gallo-Roman). Gallo steadfastly resisted all Norse influence, and retains an ancient “French” vocabulary. (Gallo songs do sound pleasantly like Parisian French, though the words are different.)

    It’s plausible that Alan and William conversed in their common language, Gallo, especially as William was born in Falaise in central Lower Normandy, where one might expect Gallo to have been spoken.

    Most etymologies claim that the English word “lip” is from Anglo-Saxon “lippa”, but the Gallo word is precisely “lip”.

    Although Modern English is claimed as a Germanic language, that’s an exaggeration. Most of the words in English have their origin in Greek, Latin or “French” (i.e. Gallo-Roman with some Frankish). Even the simplified grammar of English as we know it is closest to that of late Romano-British, with almost no resemblance to the complex inflected grammars of German and French.

    Middle English seemed to emerge very quickly once the Bretons and Normans ousted the Saxon rulers – too quickly to be a new development.

    Evidence now is that “Middle English” is the language that was eventually spoken by the British in the wake of the Saxon conquest: they kept their native grammar but adopted the imposed vocabulary of Anglo-Saxon words.

    When William and Alan took over, Anglo-Saxon was no longer the compulsory language of all documents, and suddenly the scribes of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle started writing in “Middle English”, because they were now free to record their spoken tongue.

    In 1133, the mighty King Henry II was born in Anjou, so when he spoke conversational “French”, it was actually Gallo.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Sir William Marshal (aka Guillaume le Maréchal), 1st Earl of Pembroke (1147 – 14 May 1219) was described as the “greatest knight that ever lived” by Stephen Langton (c. 1150 – 9 July 1228) who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1207.

    William was son of John fitzGilbert the hereditary Marshal (keeper of the king’s horses) for King Henry I (4th son of King William I), who despite this association with royalty had no great wealth or power. In the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, he changed sides from Stephen to Matilda, then lost an eye and was prepare to lose his captured son, but King Stephen was impressed by the young boy and spared him.

    According to Wikipedia:

    “As a younger son of a minor nobleman, William had no lands or fortune to inherit, and had to make his own way in life. Around the age of twelve, when his father’s career was faltering, he was sent to Normandy to be brought up in the household of William de Tancarville, a great magnate and cousin of young William’s mother. Here he began his training as a knight.”

    William de Tancarville, hereditary Chamberlain of the Dukes of Normandy and Kings of England, was son of Rabel de Tancarville and Theophania Penteur (Tiphanie de Penthievre), daughter of our Stephen Penteur, Count of Treguier.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In researching the wars of the Mongols in Asia and Europe, I was surprised to read that Genghis Khan had red hair and green eyes, and that Genghis had met his young grandson, the future Kublai Khan, and expressed surprise that Kublai had black hair and brown eyes.

    According to “Different Matrilineal Contributions to Genetic Structure of Ethnic Groups in the Silk Road Region in China”, by Yong-Gang Yao, Qing-Peng Kong, Cheng-Ye Wang, Chun-Ling Zhu and Ya-Ping Zhang, published in the Oxford Journal on Molecular Biology and Evolution (2004) volume 21 number 12, pages 2265-2280, western Eurasian matrilineal DNA has a prevalence of 14.3% among Mongols.

    According to the Persian historian, Rashīd al-Dīn Tabīb (1247-1318), Genghis’s family, the Borjigin clan, claimed descent from a woman named Alan-Ko, who had “an affair between Alan-ko and a stranger to her land, a glittering man who had red hair and bluish-green eyes”.

    Alan-Ko’s name suggests the Alans of Eastern Iran, of whom a westward-travelling branch were among the ancestors to the Bretons (and contributors to their cavalry skills), and who I suspect are honoured in the Breton name Alan.

    An ancient Borjigin descent from the Alans might explain why Kublai Khan’s personal bodyguard were Alans.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In following up leads for the ancestry of the Tweeds, I was expecting to find Stephen the Count of Treguier and hence Eozen Penteur the father of Alan Rufus. Instead I found William I through his son King Henry I and his illegitimate son Robert, the first Earl of Gloucester, from whom King Robert de Bruce’s father descends through numerous distinguished Norman and Breton families, and thence through a younger brother of King Robert via the Randolphs, Dunbars, Stewarts, and Douglases to the Tweedies, from whom many genealogies assert the Tweeds descend.

    Even though William the Marshal figures as an ancestor of the Tweedies through one of his female descendants, I haven’t yet found the Tancarvilles or anyone else for whom I know a genetic link to Alan Rufus. Nonetheless, there’s very probably one to be discovered, given that many deeply researched family trees do have this connection.

  • Mercedes, I have been researching the family of Abernethy, in particular their origin. The note below came from a letter written by Alexander Hastie of Edinburgh in 1843. I have been stuck on who Alan of Brittany is. It seemed to me that the best fit is Alan, the second cousin of William the Conqueror. Anyway, Hastie’s notes mention a Walter marrying a daughter of Alan Lord of Brittany. I would be interested in your thoughts.

    “1061. The origine of the ancient and noble family of Abernethie was Davidem Dardier who came from Normandy and settled in Scotland, in the reign of Malcolm the third, and in the year one thousand and sixty one was created Baron of Abernethie in the parish of Fife, in parliament convened at Forfar and also received the lands of Abernethie in the said shire of fife for his services to the Crown and according to the custom of the time took the surname of Abernethie from these lands, David Baron of Abernethie left a son Alexander who married Helen third daughter of Walter first Lord High Steward of Scotland, by a daughter of Alan Lord of Brittany, who left issue Larentaus”

    • WOW. Thanks for the post! I did some serious research while writing “Thou Shalt ‘Get Kings” some thirty-odd years ago, and although I retained the bibliography I have lost the notes along the way. What I found (I think it was in Percy Enderbie’s Cambria Triumphans) was that Walter, bastard son of Fleance (from Macbeth) made his way from Wales over to Brittany, married the daughter of Alain le Rouge, fought with Alain at the Battle of Hastings, then went to Scotland where he became first Steward of Scotland and ancestor of the royal Stewarts. This is the plot of my novel, but I was very puzzled as to why and how he would go to Brittany! I believe that I found a possible distant blood relationship between Alain le Rouge and Walter’s grandmother (Ealdgyth, wife of Prince Gruffydd ap Llewelyn, and daughter of Aelfgar Earl of Mercia) but could have been grasping at straws to make my plot work. Regardless, I never found reference to any daughter of Walter, so I am quite intrigued. I was wondering whether the whole Walter story was apocryphal, but maybe not!

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan continues to be a fairly popular name in English (number 163 in the USA in 2011). It’s known that it was introduced by the Breton contingent of William I’s forces, so Alan Rufus is the source of the name’s popularity.

    On Monday, while in Dymocks bookstore, I perused a description of why the Mongol military were so devastating, even when greatly outnumbered. They were combining agile light cavalry, cleverly orchestrated feints, berserkers, and fast, accurate, mounted archers.

    The light cavalry’s use of feints resemble Breton tactics, suggesting that both nations learnt from the Alans, the eastern Iranian people who had formed a strong kingdom in central Asia by 100 BC before migrating simultaneously into the Caucasus (the modern Ossetians), Europe (settling in Pannonia on the Danube and central Gaul), Mongolia and China.

    Both the Alans and the Huns had mounted archers, so it’s likely they both made an impression on military trainers. However, the Alans were builders not destroyers, and, as we’ve seen, both the Bretons and the Mongols held them in high esteem and trust.

    The word “Alan” means “deer” in Old Welsh. The agility of the deer and the consequent pun may have been a factor in making the Alan light cavalry seem a propitious ally to the Bretons, who welcomed them with open arms, so much so that a Saint Alan was Bishop of Quimper in the 5th century, soon after the Alans immigrated.

    In Breton “alan” is now colloquially used to mean a “fox”, possibly after the wily Duke Alan II “Wrybeard”, called “the Fox”.

    Alan II was a child when the Danish Vikings betrayed the Bretons in 907 and overran the country. His retainers whisked him away to Britain, where he and his contemporary Louis IV of France remained refugees for 30 years under the protection of the Saxon King Edward the Elder. (Louis’s mother Eadgifu was a daughter of Edward’s.)

    The early Bretons were a musical, literate and learned people. Tragically, “most of the early Breton language medieval manuscripts were lost during the Viking invasions”. (Wikipedia article on the history of Brittany.)

    Even so, “the earliest [surviving] text known in the Breton language, a botanical treatise, dates from 590 (for comparison, the earliest text in French dates from 843)”.

    The Breton records had ironically suffered a similar fate as those of Rome when Brennus (Brian) the Gaul sacked the city in 387 BC. The phrase “Vae victis!” (“Woe to the vanquished!”) is a quote from Brennus.

    According to the Chronicle of Nantes (translated from Latin), in the time of Edward’s successor Athelstan,

    “[Alan II] collected a few ships and came by the king’s permission with those Bretons who were still living there, to revisit Brittany.”

    Sounds like a nostalgic vacation for Alan and a handful of friends, but they meant business.

    “He landed at Dol in 936, at the invitation of the monk Jean de Landévennec. By 937 he was master of most of Brittany, having forced the Vikings back to the Loire.”

    He had campaigned all over Brittany, and finally attacked the Viking naval base at Nantes, destroying their longboats, and driving the Vikings into the river Loire, where they drowned.

    This also improved Louis’s fortunes. According to the chronicler Flodoard, Annales 936, ed. P. Lauer:

    “The Bretons, returning from the lands across the sea with the support of King Athelstan, came back to their country. Duke Hugh sent across the sea to summon Louis, son of Charles, to be received as king …”

    The Duke of Normandy must now have been thinking as follows. “Even when they’ve lost both their countries, Britain and Brittany, to the most formidable of invaders, a few Breton refugees still contrive a smashing victory. We’d best make fast friends with these neighbours!”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan Rufus founded the castle and town of Richmond just 15 km south of the river Tees, which was then the Scottish border, and overlooking Dere street, the Roman road that still runs from York to the Antonine Wall near Edinburgh.

    Richmondshire was governed as a separate border state until Henry 8th merged its administration with that of England in the period (1535-1542) that he did the same to Wales.

    The nearby town of Catterick (Roman Cataractonium, which was a fort protecting the crossing of the Great North Road and Dere Street over the River Swale) is now the largest British army base in the world, with a permanent garrison of 12,000.

    Robert Baden-Powell was billeted at Richmond Castle when he proposed the site of Catterick for the army base.

    Of Richmond, Wikipedia says:

    “Richmond is a market town and civil parish on the River Swale in North Yorkshire, England and is the administrative centre of the district of Richmondshire. It is situated on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and serves as the Park’s main tourist centre. It is the most duplicated UK placename, with 57 occurrences worldwide.

    The Rough Guide describes the entire town as ‘an absolute gem’. Betty James wrote that ‘without any doubt Richmond is the most romantic place in the whole of the North East [of England]’. Joseph E Morris agreed, although went further to say ‘Richmond is, beyond all question, the most romantic town in the North of England’. The town was named the UK town of the year for 2009.”

    Prominent people born in Richmond over the past century or three include:

    Christopher Cradock, Rear Admiral.
    Henry Greathead, inventor of the lifeboat.
    Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond, a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
    John Lawrence, 1st Baron Lawrence, viceroy of India.

    Some-time residents include:

    John Bathurst, physician to Oliver Cromwell.
    Marcus Beresford, Primate of Ireland.
    Lewis Carroll, author, attended Richmond School, lived in nearby Croft on Tees.
    Henry Butler Clarke, historian of Spain.
    Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister, educated at Richmond School, abolished slavery throughout the British empire, and has Earl Grey tea named after him.
    Angela Harris, Baroness Harris of Richmond, Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords.
    Peter Inge, Baron Inge, head of the British army.
    Philip Mayne, last surviving British officer of the First World War.
    George Peacock, mathematician, attended a school in Richmond, one of “Tate’s invincibles”.
    James Raine, antiquarian, educated at Richmond School, one of “Tate’s invincibles”.
    Richard Sheepshanks, astronomer. Educated at Richmond School, one of “Tate’s invincibles”.
    Stanley Vann, composer.
    John Warburton, herald and antiquary.
    William Young Ottley, writer on art and collector. Educated at Richmond School.
    Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the scouting movement.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    A large and remarkable collection of letters in Latin to and from women in the middle ages (from the 300s to the 1200s) is available at Epistolae:

    Among these are letters between Anselm the Archbishop of Canterbury and Matilda (Edith) of Scotland, Malcolm III’s daughter, when she was Henry I’s Queen in the early 1100s. There are also two letters dated 1093-1094 to Alan Rufus’s and subsequently Alan Niger’s mistress, King Harold’s daughter, Gunnhild, the second of which has already been cited in part.

    When addressing Gunnhild, Anselm is exceptionally strict, saying that she cannot marry (either) Alan, and must return to the convent, even though she’s not taken vows, because she’s been seen wearing a nun’s habit. Anselm then makes a series of dire threats.

    After the two Alans died, Anselm had a run-in with King William II Rufus (the king who had countermanded Alan Rufus’s betrothal to Matilda), who confiscated the bishop’s church property and and banished him in 1097. In 1100 when William II died of an arrow wound while hunting.

    When Henry I succeeded William II, Henry permitted Anselm’s return. In the same year, Henry requested the hand of Matilda, and this time Anselm was more submissive, convening a conference of bishops who agreed that although Matilda had worn the veil, she had not taken vows, and therefore was free to marry the King.

    In relation to the disparity in Anselm’s treatments of Gunnhild in 1093-94 versus Matilda in 1100 (and thus of the Alans versus Henry I), the phrase “double standard” comes readily to mind.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    At one finds lists and maps of where the Norman, Breton and other landlords had manors and other properties before 1066 and by 1086, as recorded in the Domesday surveys.

    For example, Ribald, a brother of Count Alan (Rufus), was the lord of 30 locations, all in Norfolk or Yorkshire, as depicted in: These were granted to him by Alan.

    Many people by the name of Walter were lords in 1086, even one Walter Cnut, who was lord and tenant-in-chief of Tibenham, Depwade, Norfolk.

    That William was already a very popular name is evident: there are several screensful of Williams.

    King William of course had the lion’s share of England’s land; he was lord of over 5000 locations across the entire country. Curiously his son who was to be William II “Rufus” appears to have held no land titles at all in 1086.

    The King’s sister, Adelaide, held a band of land immediately to the west of Alan’s lands in East Anglia.

    William’s half-brothers were richly rewarded: Odo of Bayeux with over 700 properties in the south-east, and Robert of Mortain with over 1300, half of which had previously belonged to Alan’s brother Brian before he retired from his position as Earl of Cornwall.

    Alan himself was landlord of over 1000 locations in a wide band across East England, from the Thames to the Tees (the northern border of England then).

    In addition, Alan governed East London, perhaps including the City and the Docks, which are not recorded because Domesday didn’t survey London (William’s capital) or Winchester (the Anglo-Saxon capital), perhaps because the task was too daunting. He also owned properties in Scotland, Brittany and Normandy.

    Many other properties were recorded as held by “The Men of Count Alan”, these presumably being his local garrisons.

    I read somewhere that “Alan was in constant attendance on the King”, but elsewhere that when William was attempting to conquer Anjou, he gave Alan the charge of the Norman garrison there. The most stubborn city was massively fortified, probably like those in Brittany that were built after the Vikings were finally expelled in 937. So Alan built a castle opposite it, with equally solid walls. After 4 years, neither the city nor Alan’s base looked like falling to the enemy. How patient he and the soldiers must have been! Finally, political changes intervened and the siege was lifted.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    This is intriguing. According to the Domesday book map website cited above, the towns in Cambridgeshire of which Count Alan was tenant-in-chief includes all the locations where the Cambridgeshire Tweeds lived during the past several centuries. To name a few: Duxford, Cheveley, Stetchworth, Woodditton, Cambridge. The record also states that Cheveley was very prosperous in 1086. Nowadays it is the home to three of the leading racehorse studs associated with Newmarket, including the Darley stud. Horses are very important to this side of the family, down to my mother’s generation, and maybe that’s one reason they lived in these places.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Count Alan Rufus retained most of the former Anglo-Saxon and Danish landlords of East Anglia, as sub-tenants, according to the Domesday book’s records. Such strange names they had!

    Many pre-1066 lords held reduced holdings, for example Lady Godiva still kept some lands in central England.

    In the great events of the reigns of Kings William I and II, there are rarely any hints of what Count Alan was doing. He wasn’t involved in any of the several rebellions against them, but it’s unsaid whether he fought against the rebels. He might have been occupied in Normandy, Anjou or Maine, on King’s business. For instance, one needs to find the dates of William the Conqueror’s invasion of Anjou in which Alan was occupied for 4 years.

    Malcolm III’s attempt to betroth his daughter Edith to Alan Rufus occurred close to the time that he visited her in Wilton Abbey en route to the territorial negotiations at Gloucester with William II Rufus. Discussions were to commence on Malcolm’s arrival on 24 August 1093 but ended abruptly with William II’s refusal to compromise. War soon followed, in which Malcolm and Edward, his eldest son by Margaret, died as a result of the ambush by Robert de Mowbray’s forces at Alnwick (13 November 1093).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Mercedes and David, I am sorely perplexed how to reconcile a date of 1061 with the life events of Walter fitz-Alan (born 1106, died June 1177) the first hereditary stewart of Scotland (whose father was Alan fitz-Flaad Baron of Oswestry in Shropshire, born 1070, died in 1114) or of Count Alan Rufus.

    Alan Rufus would have been about 21 in 1061, so even if he’d had a daughter (and no such daughter or her mother have been identified), she would have been at most an infant at the time.

    “Alan Lord of Brittany” could either be a reference to an Alan, “Lord of the Honour of Brittany”, which was the family’s official title in England, or to one of the related Alans who were Dukes of Brittany. Setting aside the date of 1061 as problematic and therefore inconclusive, the Alan referred to could have been Alan III Duke of Brittany, Count Alan Rufus, Count Alan Niger, or Alan IV “Fergant” Duke of Brittany from 1084 to 1112 (died 13 October 1119).

    However, for none of the above have I found a son-in-law named “Walter”.

    Flaad was the son of Alan the Dapifer of the Archbishop of Dol in Brittany. This last Alan was a crusader in 1097-8 and was a witness to a charter in Brittany dated 1086; just maybe this makes him old enough to have a marriagable daughter in 1061, but we need evidence.

    Alan fitz-Flaad was favored by King Henry I and was given “forfeited lands in Norfolk and Shropshire, including some which had previously belonged to Ernulf de Hesdin and Robert de Belleme”, and was an ancestor of the Royal Stewarts/Stuarts and the “fitz-Alan” Earls of Arundel.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The dates of Duke Alan III are: born 997, died 1 October 1040, so he died roughly when Alan Rufus is estimated to have been born.

    His daughter Hawise Duchess of Brittany (c. 1037 – 19 August 1072) married (before 1058) Count Hoel of Cornouaille (c. 1031 to 1084), whose son was Duke Alan IV.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Richard Sharpe (the Oxford historian, not the Bernard Cornwell rifleman) wrote an article entitled “King Harold’s Daughter” in the Haskins Society Journal: Studies in Medieval History (volume 19, published in 2008) in which he writes of Walter d’Aincourt and of Count Alan Rufus.

    Alan was with William I in Rouen in 1070.

    Some of Alan’s Norfolk, Suffolk and Hertfordshire lands had been held by his Breton subordinate Ralph de Gael, who forfeited them when he rebelled. Ralph had married Emma the daughter of another magnate, William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, while William was out of England. William refused to sanction this marriage, and the Revolt of the Earls followed (1075).

    Ralph’s lands were divided by an agreement between William and Alan, with William taking most of them.

    Ralph and his wife went on Crusade under the leadership of Robert Curthose (a son of William I), and died on the road to Palestine.

    Count Alan Rufus died on 4 August 1093; he was buried (suitably) in Bury St Edmunds, in West Suffolk. Coincidentally, Alan’s eldest brother, Geoffrey Boterel, was killed at Dol in Brittany, on 24 August 1093.

    Richard Sharpe’s article continues with three contemporary accounts of King Malcolm III’s visit in 1093 to his daughter Edith/Matilda in Wilton Abbey. In one account he said that he was angry to see her in a veil, and that he’d rather she married Count Alan. Of her later wedding to King Henry I, it was claimed that Archbishop Anselm was heard to say that “no good would come of it”.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Perhaps the Walter in David Darney’s story is Walter d’Aincourt?

    Richard Sharpe has made a careful study of the documentary evidence for the dates of the events of 1093, on the basis of which he proposes that Malcolm III’s and William II’s meeting was scheduled for St Bartholomew’s Feast Day which is 24 August (1093) in the Latin calendar (incidentally, the same date that Geoffrey Boterel was slain). By then, Count Alan Rufus had been dead for 20 days, which could have been one reason why William II decided he could safely refuse to see Malcolm.

    William d’Aincourt and his wife Matilda gave tithes to St Mary’s Abbey in York (founded by Alan) and did so on Count Alan’s behalf, even though William d’Aincourt had no major properties in Yorkshire and no direct dependence on Alan.

    Sharpe hypothesises that Matilda was the daughter of Alan Rufus and Gunnhild, who he suggests left the abbey to live with him circa 1072. Gunnhild’s mother was Edgiva Pulchra (“Edith the Beautiful” or “the Fair”)), also known as Edith Swannesha (“Gentle Swan”) who was King Harold Godwinson’s consort.

    It’s a fact that many of Alan’s earliest acquisitions in Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk had been Edgiva’s landholdings prior to 1066.

    So I speculate that Alan would have seen Edith’s sorrow at the state of her husband’s body when she was the one who identified it after the Battle of Hastings, and may have taken pity on her and her family.

    Wm. d’Aincourt and Matilda probably married during 1089-1091 as their son, also William, was fostered in King William II’s court.

    Since the relationship between Alan and Gunnhild was never solemnised, though Alan purposed it in 1093, Matilda and her son William did not inherit Alan’s estates, except those that Matilda had apparently received from Alan while he was alive.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    I’m reading an online excerpt of Richard Sharpe’s article, which omits 2 or 3 pages. Sharpe’s understanding of William II’s purpose in arranging the meeting with Malcolm III is tantalisingly detailed on an omitted page!

    Alan’s land valuation is often described as the 4th highest of the tenants-in-chiefs in England, after those of Bishop Odo of Bayeux, Robert of Mortain and Roger de Montgomery, although only Robert held more land, and the valuation neglects Alan’s rule of East London.

    Significantly, when all those other major magnates rebelled against the new king William II around Easter 1088, only Alan Rufus stood firmly for the new King. Evidently this was enough, politically and militarily. So, William II absolutely needed Alan’s support and favour (even had Malcolm III not been a factor).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    These early Barons Deincourt are reported as ancestors of the Royal Family, Winston Churchill and US Presidents, so if the suggested Deincourt descent is correct, most of us are descendants of Alan Rufus and Gunnhild, and thus of Harold Godwinson and Edith the Fair.

    Alan played such a forceful role in ending the Anglo-Saxon rule of Britain, which was dreamt of by the Britons in the desperate Arthurian fantasises of the sixth century.

    Deeply ironic, then, if, driven by compassion and a sense of justice, Alan is responsible for continuing Harold’s line among hundreds of millions of people to the present day.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    A correction: the elder Baron d’Ayncourt was named Walter; he was a proven companion of William I at Hastings. His family came from the small village of Aincourt which is now in Vexin Natural Park about 15 km north-west of the Paris outskirts.

    For a discussion of Sharpe’s hypothesis concerning Alan, Gunnhild, Matilda and Walter, an issue with its dates, and a possible resolution, see:

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Bretons’ exploits merit a legend, and theirs is true, so with your permission, I will wax lyrical a while.

    King Vortigern is reputed as the one who invited an army of Saxons to Britain to fend off the Picts and the Irish. In the story of Vortigern’s castles which kept collapsing, the boy Merlin, of whom Vortigern had wanted to make sacrifice, revealed that under the castles’ foundation was a cave. A white dragon had struggled with, defeated and killed a red dragon, and some people had hastily buried the two dragons in the cave, but the red dragon had since revived and the fight had resumed.

    Merlin persuaded Vortigern to demolish the castle and remove its foundation. The cave was revealed, and the two dragons emerged. After a long and terrifying battle, the red dragon finally was victorious. With an undisturbed and thus sound foundation, the next castle stood firm.

    Merlin explained that the white dragon represented the Saxons, and the red dragon the Britons who would be utterly defeated, but amazingly recover, then conquer the Saxons.

    In one emblem depicting the conflict, the red “dragon” is drawn as a phoenix, which is appropriate as the Bretons and their ancestors were subject to many cycles of destruction and renewal.

    If one credits the descent of the Breton sovereign house from the aristocratic houses of republican Rome (and there is consistent historical and genetic evidence for this), then their ancestors have endured the fall of Troy and participated in both sides of the Gauls’ Sack of Rome, and were heavily involved in the Roman Civil Wars.

    When Rome invaded first Armorica, then Britain, their Celtic ancestors were overcome, but joined the Roman army and later established independent states. The Armorican archers were alluded to by historians as a decisive factor in the Western Empire’s last great battle, against Attila the Hun, in which Roman General Aetius wanted the Alans to be annihilated, but the Armoricans saved them.

    Other alleged ancestors of the Bretons include St John’s brother St James, who was the first apostle martyred, and, in a proof that no generalogy is without shame, Herod the Great. The Bretons remembered this Jewish line of descent in the names of their leaders, Salaun (Solomon), Hoel (Joel) and others. The Jewish people of course have also undergone many dramatic ups and downs in their history.

    After Rome’s fall, Armorica was continually beleaguered by another Roman ally against Attila, the Franks. Meanwhile, the Saxons did subdue the Britons, some of whom fled to their relatives in Armorica to establish Brittany.

    The Franks repeatedly invaded Brittany, taking all of the eastern Armorican territory, but were repeatedly repelled from western Brittany.

    In 851 the West Frankish King Charles the Bald (who would later become Emperor of all the Franks) led an army of Franks and Saxons to crush Brittany once and for all, but Duke Erispoe’s much smaller force tactically outwitted Charles and in a battle lasting three days destroyed the entire invading army, with minimal Breton losses. On the second night, Charles escaped, without informing his troops.

    The Bretons then recovered most of their lost territory, including nantes, Maine, Anjou, eastern Brittany, and what would become western Normandy.

    In an effort to rid themselves forever of the Frankish menace, the Armoricans allied with the Vikings, who in 907 suddenly turned on them, taking Brittany for their own. The Breton sovereign house were now landless, Brittany laid waste, and centuries of historical documents irretrievably lost in the fires that burnt their abbeys and their towns.

    The Franks took advantage of this, and retook much of eastern Armorica (Maine, Anjou and Normandy), before handing Normandy to one of the Seine river Vikings, Rollo, who had been harassing Paris.

    But in 937, the exiled Alan II returned, and in a great effort lasting one year, he rallied the survivors and drove the Vikings out of Brittany.

    Rollo and his son both married native Bretons, so the Viking blood was greatly diluted by the time the two ruling houses of Normandy and Brittany conducted the double wedding that united the bloodlines. So were born the (genetic) brothers, Duke Alan III and Count Eozen of Brittany and Duke Robert I the Magnificent of Normandy.

    Duke Alan II “the Fox” and Count Alan Rufus (the Red) therefore are fitting representatives of the red phoenix of the Britons which rose from the ashes of Brittany’s utter destruction, to reclaim both Brittany and Britain from the white dragon of the Germanic tribes.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Humorously, the breed of dog known as the Brittany has characteristics reminiscient of Alan Rufus. I quote from the wikipedia article on “Brittany (dog)”:

    “A Brittany is typically quite athletic, compact, energetic, and solidly built without being heavy … Their expressions are usually of intelligence, vigour, and alertness. Their gait is elastic, long, and free. They generally learn quickly and are known for being sensitive, loyal, and attached to their owners.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Hopefully I’m not alone in finding this amusing, because the bizarrely accurate analogy of the Brittany hunting dog with the behaviour of dear Alan and his family continues!

    “The breed sometimes gets a reputation for being crazy or uncontrollable, but these problems are almost invariably due to lack of exercise and training, and are not commonly seen in well cared-for dogs.

    Brittanys can become very shy if not thoroughly socialized, and even among well-socialized dogs there is significant variation in levels of friendliness. Socialization is very important, and they must be socialized at a young age. These breeds are easy to train, and are eager to please.

    With more American dual champions (dogs with titles in both conformation shows and field trials) than any other breed, the Brittany maintains strong hunting instincts in all bloodlines.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    On 2 August 1100, William II died in a hunting accident, allegedly due to an arrow loosed at a deer by the expert marksman Walter Tirel which deflected off a tree and punctured William’s lung. Walter escaped to France. Leaving William’s body to lie on the forest floor, his brother Henry rushed from the scene to secure the Treasury and the Crown, and was crowned in London just 3 days later, on 5 August 1100.

    The archbishops of Canterbury and York could not make it to London in time to attend the coronation; however, three bishops and eight barons were present: Maurice bishop of London, William bishop elect of Winchester, Gerard bishop of Hereford, earl Henry, earl Simon, Walter Giffard, Robert de Montfort, Roger Bigot, Eudo the steward, Robert son of Hamo, and Robert Malet.

    These eleven men also witnessed and signed the charter he issued on the same occasion, called the Charter of Liberties, which has as its third clause:

    “Any baron or earl who wishes to betroth his daughter or other women kinsfolk in marriage should consult me first, but I will not stand in the way of any prudent marriage. Any widow who wishes to remarry should consult with me, but I shall abide by the wishes of her close relatives, the other barons and earls. I will not allow her to marry one of my enemies.”

    On 11 November 1100, Henry married Edith daughter of the late Malcolm III.

    Although the two brothes Alan had died, and their heir Count Stephen, surely at this time the most powerful of the Earls, was absent, nonetheless clause 3 hints at a recognition of the wrongdoing perpetrated when William II hindered Malcolm III’s wishes, and also William II’s purported refusal to allow Alan Rufus to marry whom he chose, for the caveat about “one of my enemies” was not applicable to either Malcolm or Alan at that time.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Robin Hood. The name has come to represent valiant Anglo-Saxon resistance to the Norman tyranny exemplified by King John.

    However, the names of the Merry Men are not Saxon. Robin is a familiar form of Robert, a Norman name.

    Little John has a name that could be from Normandy or France (Jean), or Brittany (Yann).

    “Alan”-a-Dale is distinctly Breton.

    Will Scarlet bears a Norman name.

    Maid Marian’s name is Latin. According to the wikipedia article, there was a “French tradition of a shepherdess named Marion and her shepherd lover Robin (not Robin Hood). The best known example of this tradition is Adam de la Halle’s `Le Jeu de Robin et Marion’, circa 1283.”

    In “an Elizabethan play, Anthony Munday made Maid Marian a pseudonym of Matilda Fitzwalter, the historical daughter of Robert Fitzwalter, who had to flee England because of an attempt to assassinate King John.”

    Robert Fitzwalter was descended from the Anglo-Saxon Earl of Northumbria, Waltheof, and his wife the Norman lady Judith of Lens, through their daughter Maud, Countess of Huntingdon and her first husband, the Picard nobelman Simon I de Senlis (St Liz), and thence through the de Clare and otehr Norman families.

    Friar Tuck is anachronous, as the England of Kings Richard and John did not have friars yet. Tellingly, in all versions of his tale, he was a friar either at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, or at its parent abbey, “St Mary’s Abbey in York, which is also the scene of some other Robin Hood tales”. Who laid the foundation stone of St Mary’s Abbey in York in 1088? None other than our Count Alan Rufus!

    As the Merry Men were popular characters in Scotland in plays performed during the May Day festival from the 1300s to the 1600s, it is unlikely that they were perceived as hated Sassenachs.

    So, how did Robin Hood come to be thought of as Saxon? I think this idea is a product of the 1800s. Again according to Wikipedia, Sir Walter Scott wrote the popular novel “Ivanhoe” (published in 1820), about a noble Saxon knight in the 12th century. I suspect this greatly influenced how people viewed the period. In particular, two of the major characters in the novel are “Rowena and Locksley (Robin Hood), representing the dispossessed Saxon aristocracy”.

    Why did Scott promote the Saxon cause? As a shameless self-promoter and currier of favours, he was vigorously eager to ingratiate himself with the royal family, who (since 1714) were the House of Hanover and ethnic Saxons.

    Also, as a promoter of Scottish romanticism, in 1818 Scott rediscovered the Scottish crown jewels for George IV and to celebrate this, in just 3 weeks he organised an elaborate pageant for the king, whom he persuaded to wear tartan, thus reversing the proscription against highland dress that had applied since 1745.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Among the ancestors of the Bretons were of course the ancient people of Armorica, who make an interesting tale in their own right.

    During the Roman Republic, before Roman soldiers had reached north-west Gaul, an Armorican tribe called the Veneti were accorded “fraternal” status. It would be interesting indeed to know why.

    “The Veneti inhabited southern Armorica, along the Morbihan bay. They built their strongholds on coastal eminences, which were islands when the tide was in, and peninsulas when the tide was out.”

    Familiar examples of this are Mont St Michel and its English counterpart St Michael’s Mount.

    “Their most notable city, and probably their capital, was Darioritum (now known as Gwened in Breton or Vannes in French), mentioned in Ptolemy’s Geography.”

    Brittany in the modern era is famous for seafarers, such as Jacques Cartier, the explorer who claimed what is now Canada for France, and the notable yachtsmen Eric Tabarly and Olivier de Kersauson. The Jules Verne trophy in yachting is named after another famous Breton.

    “The Veneti built their ships of oak with large transoms fixed by iron nails of a thumb’s thickness. They navigated and powered their ships through the use of leather sails. This made their ships strong, sturdy and structurally sound, capable of withstanding the harsh conditions of the Atlantic.”

    Falling foul of Julius Caesar in 56 BC, the Veneti by virtue of their strong fortresses, mobility and naval expertise sorely vexed the Romans, who tried everything in their playbook to no avail, until Caesar’s navy under his legate Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus devised grappling hooks to haul down their ships’ sails.

    It’s said that Caesar slaughtered the Veneti, selling the survivors into slavery, but regardless of whether that is the entire truth, their living habits and nautical skills lived on in the same coastlands.

    In Britain, two of the regions that contributed to the Breton sovereign house were Powys in Wales (Cymru) and Dumnonia (Cornwall, Devon, and parts of Somerset and Dorset) in what is now England.

    When the Romans invaded Britain starting in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, the Dumnonii promptly offered their services and were granted citizen status.

    The Ordovices of central Wales, which included the inhabitants of Powys, put up a stout resistance, repelling the Roman army for an astonishing 30 years. The Romans were so impressed by the valour and skill displayed by their opponents, that when they eventually overcame the Ordovices, they granted them citizenship too.

    Conan Meriadoc from Powys, who was related by marriage to the western emperor (AD 383 to 388) Magnus Flavius Clemens Maximus, was assigned to the defence of Armorica.

    When people fled to Armorica from Britain due to the advancing Saxons, the descendants of the Dumnonii established the states of Dumnonea and Kernev (named after Cornwall), which were the power bases for many of the Dukes of Brittany.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Seven Founder Saints of Brittany were missionaries who had received training in Wales and/or Ireland.

    They were:

    “Paol Aoreliann, at Saint-Pol-de-Léon (Breton: Kastell-Paol);
    Tudwal, at Tréguier (Breton: Landreger);
    Brieg, at Saint-Brieuc (Breton: Sant-Brieg, Gallo: Saent-Berioec);
    Maloù, at Saint-Malo (Breton: Sant-Maloù, Gallo: Saent-Malô);
    Samsun of Dol, at Dol-de-Bretagne (Breton: Dol, Gallo: Dóu);
    Padarn, at Vannes (Breton: Gwened);
    Kaourintin, at Quimper (Breton: Kemper).”

    “Saint Tudwal (died c. 564) was a monk, said to be a son of [the Breton leader] Hoel Mawr (Hoel I) [who appears in early tales as King Arthur’s kinsman and ally]. Tudwal travelled to Ireland to learn the scriptures, then became a hermit on what is now called Saint Tudwal’s Island East off North Wales. Tudwal later emigrated to Brittany, settling in Lan Pabu with 72 followers, where he established a large monastery at Landreger (Lann-Dreger) in the province of Bro-Dreger under the patronage of his cousin, King Deroch of Domnonée [Dumnonea]. Tudwal was made Bishop of Tréguier on the insistence of Childebert I, King of the Franks.

    Tudwal is shown in iconography as a bishop holding a dragon, now the symbol of Tregor. His feast day is celebrated on 1 December.”

    The geographic collocation of the Tweeds with towns controlled by Alan Rufus and the similarity of their name with that of Saint Tudwal of Tregor, where Alan’s heir Stephen was Count, is suggestive but inconclusive. The Tweeds trace back to the 1400s in England, but what of the three centuries before that? Their purported descent from the Tweedies of Scotland is sparse in detail for several generations in the transitional period, so it may be in error, in particular the Cambridge/Suffolk/Essex Tweeds may have dwelt in England much earlier. Tellingly, a Suffolk Tweed informed me that the Cambridge and Suffolk Tweeds have been genealogically separate for the whole period; this suggests an earlier branching than 1400, and within that region of England.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Gallo and Breton languages have both had some input into English. The town of Firby in Richmondshire was called Fredebi in Old English (Fritheby and Frethby in Middle English), and Gallicised (transformed by the influence of Gallo through Alan Rufus’s heirs) into Early Modern English as Firby.

    Breton words that are immediately recognisable include: dor (door), bank, olifant (used by Tolkien as an antique spelling of elephant), sarpant (serpent), kastell (castle), park, per (pear).

    Speaking of castles, I recently read that the first stone castle in “Norman” England was built under Alan Rufus’s instructions – this was some years before Richmond.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Bishop Odo of Bayeux, Roger of Montgomery, Geoffrey de Mandeville and other mighty barons who for long were far better known than Count Alan Rufus, have been described as “great magnates”. So that we can be clear about the relative scale of their holdings, I’ve compiled the following data from the Domesday Book Map website.

    Landholders in England with over 100 listings in the Domesday book of 1086:

    King William 5369
    Robert de Mortain 1385 (half was Count Brian’s)
    Count Alan of Brittany 1017
    Bishop Odo of Bayeux 778
    Roger Bigot 692
    Robert Malet 617
    Hugh d’Avranches 561
    William of Warenne 537
    Richard de Tonbridge 418
    Roger de Montgomery 397
    Bishop Geoffrey of Coutances 355
    Countess Judith (of Lens) 315 (Earl Waltheof’s widow)
    Ralph of Mortimer 269
    William de Percy 267
    Hugh de Montfort 248
    Geoffrey de Mandeville 212
    Count Eustace of Boulogne 211
    Robert Count of Eu 166
    Walter Giffard 165
    Geoffrey of La Guerche 147
    Walter of Aincourt 136
    Robert of Tosny 131
    Robert de Beaumont 121
    Berengar of Tosny 108
    William of Eu 104

    • That is so interesting! Thanks for the info. I stumbled across the richest 25 men of all time this morning, though I believe you mentioned this already:

      The 25 Richest People of All Time
      #1 Mansa Musa I – Net Worth $400 Billion
      #2 The Rothschild Family – $350 Billion
      #3 John D. Rockefeller – Net Worth $340 Billion
      #4 Andrew Carnegie – Net Worth $310 Billion
      #5 Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov – Net Worth $300 Billion
      #6 Mir Osman Ali Khan – Net Worth $230 billion
      #7 William The Conqueror – Net Worth $229.5 Billion
      #8 Muammar Gaddafi – Net Worth $200 Billion
      #9 Henry Ford – Net Worth $199 Billion
      #10 Cornelius Vanderbilt – Net Worth $185 Billion
      #11 Alan Rufus – $178.65 billion
      #12 Bill Gates – Net Worth $136 Billion
      #13 William de Warenne – Net Worth $147.13 Billion
      #14 John Jacob Astor – Net Worth $121 Billion
      #15 Richard Fitzalan 10th Earl of Arundel – Net Worth $118.6 Billion
      #16 John of Gaunt – Net Worth $110 Billion
      #17 Stephen Girard – Net Worth $105 Billion
      #18 A.T. Stewart – Net Wort $90 Billion
      #19 Henry Duke of Lancaster – Net Worth $85.1 Billion
      #20 Friedrich Weyerhauser – Net Worth $80 Billion
      #21 Jay Gould – Net Worth $71 Billion
      #22 Carlos Slim Helu – Net Worth $68 Billion
      #22 Stephen Van Rensselaer – Net Worth $68 Billion
      #23 Marshall Field – Net Worth $66 Billion
      #24 Sam Walton – Net Worth $65 Billion
      #25 Warren Buffett – Net Worth $64 Billion

      Glad to see our Alain is still making news!

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Western Emperor, Magnus Flavius Clemens Maximus (reigned 383 – 388) was well-regarded by his troops and subjects, especially by the British, and is still remembered fondly by Welsh and Bretons alike.

    A coin of his, for which see, depicts him with a gently beaming face, most unlike the stern look of most emperors.

    It reminds me of the cheerful expression in paintings of Alan Rufus, who, according to Breton genealogies, was a descendant of this emperor.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Number 15 on the richest list, Richard FitzAlan 10th Earl of
    Arundel (c. 1306 – 24 January 1376), is pertinent to your
    Scottish interests, as he, like the Royal Stewarts, is
    descended in the male line from the Breton Alan FitzFlaad

    Alan FitzFlaad, with his father Flaad, was invited over to
    England by King Henry I some time between his coronation in
    1100 and 1101 when Flaad witnessed the grant of Monmouth
    Priory to the Abbey of St Florent at Saumur in the Pays de la
    Loire (Breton: Broioù al Liger).

    Saumur is a site of historic and modern interest for many
    reasons, e.g. Coco Chanel was born there in 1883.

    Alan FitzFlaad’s children, in order of birth, included:

    William (died 1160), ancestor of the Earls of Arundel;

    Walter, who became the first hereditary Steward of Scotland;

    Jordan, who inherited lands in Brittany and at Burton in
    West Sussex;

    Simon, who witnessed Walter’s Foundation Charter of Paisley
    Abbey in Scotland.

    Stewardship was in the family, as Flaad’s father Alan was in
    1086 the Dapifer (Steward) of the Archbishop of Dol in north-
    east Brittany. This Alan went on crusade in 1097.

    One begins to get a sense of how exclusive and interbred were
    the leading Norman and Breton families of England, by
    considering Richard FitzAlan’s pedigree:

    “He was born 1306 in Sussex, the eldest son of Edmund
    FitzAlan, 9th Earl of Arundel, and his wife Alice de Warenne.
    His maternal grandparents were William de Warenne and Joan de
    Vere. William was the only son of John de Warenne, 6th Earl of
    Surrey (son of Maud Marshal by her second marriage) and his
    wife Alice le Brun de Lusignan (died 1356), half-sister of
    Henry III of England.” (wikipedia)

    Alice le Brun de Lusignan, Countess of Surrey (1224 – 9
    February 1256) was related to numerous nobles in England,
    Scotland, Brittany, France and Germany. In Scotland, her
    descendants included members of the MacDuff and Balliol

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan’s heirs retained, indeed grew, their power into the reign of King Stephen (1092/6 – 25 October 1154, reigned 1135-1154), whom they supported during the Anarchy. Stephen, Count of Tréguier, who inherited all the family’s possessions, passed his English lands to his 3rd son, Alan of Penthièvre (before 1100 – 15 September 1146), who was the first official Earl of Richmond. In gratitude for his support, King Stephen returned his uncle Brian’s lands to him and made him 1st Earl of Cornwall, so this Alan may have held about 2000 manors across the west, east and north of England.

    Unfortunately for Alan Penteur, King Stephen’s rival, Empress Matilda (c. 7 February 1102 – 10 September 1167), the elder child and heir of King Henry I and Edith/Matilda of Scotland, had some very competent generals, especially her half-brother Robert of Gloucester, and (sometimes) his son-in-law Ranulf de Gernon, 4th Earl of Chester, who took the first opportunity to seize Alan’s possessions in Cornwall.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Robert of Caen, 1st Earl of Gloucester (before 1100 – 31 October 1147), was son of King Henry I and an uncertain mother: one candidate is Nest ferch Rhys, daughter of the Welsh prince Rhys ap Tewdwr, though Orderic Vitalis said Robert’s mother was Sybil Corbet.

    Robert Fitzhamon, who had defeated Rhys in 1090, was succeeded by his daughter Mabel. She married Robert of Caen in June 1119 at Lisieux. Mabel brought him the substantial honours of Gloucester in England and Glamorgan in Wales, and the honours of Sainte-Scholasse-sur-Sarthe and Évrecy in Normandy, as well as Creully in Calvados in Normandy.

    Robert was proposed by some as a candidate for the throne, but declined in favour of his half-sister Empress Matilda.

    Robert has many descendants; one daughter, Matilda (Maud) FitzRobert (died 1190), married in 1141 Ranulf de Gernon, 4th Earl of Chester.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Another of King Henry I’s 20 illegitimate children whom he acknowledged, Maud FitzRoy, married Conan III Duke of Brittany, son of Duke Alan IV and thus Alan Rufus’s first cousin. Maud’s and Conan’s daughter and heir Bertha was the wife of Alan the 1st Earl of Richmond; their son was Duke Conan IV (born 1138).

    King Stephen’s mother was Adela, daughter of Adelaide, King Wolliam I’s sister. His wife was Matilda of Boulogne (1105? – 3 May 1152), whose mother was Mary, daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland and Saint Margaret of Scotland.

    Yes, Mary was the younger sister of Edith/Matilda who married King Henry I. Thus, King Stephen’s wife Matilda was first cousin to Empress Matilda who contended with Stephen for the throne.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Some parents in the middle ages could have used more imagination in naming their children.

    Empress Matilda was the daughter of Matilda of Scotland, the granddaughter of Matilda of Flanders, and the cousin of Queen Matilda of England.

    She was also the daughter of King Henry I of England, widow of the German Emperor Henry V, and mother of King Henry II of England.

    Her epitaph in Rouen Cathedral (whither it was transferred in 1847 from the Abbey of Bec-Hellouin) reads, amusingly: “Great by Birth, Greater by Marriage, Greatest in her Offspring: Here lies Matilda, the daughter, wife, and mother of Henry.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Sorry, let me get the relationships between Alan Rufus and the Dukes Conan right. Alan Rufus’s father Eozen was the younger brother of Duke Alan III. Alan III married Bertha of Blois.

    (Bertha of Blois’s brother Theobald III was father of Stephen II Henry, whose son was King Stephen of England.)

    Alan III and Bertha of Blois had a son, Duke Conan II (who died of poisoning on 11 December 1066 while conquering his way across northern France in a cunningly circuitous, but publicly announced, plan to take Normandy while William I was busy in England). They also had a daughter, Duchess Hawise of Brittany (c. 1037 – August 19, 1072) who married Count Hoel of Cornouaille (Breton: Kerne).

    So Duke Conan II and Duchess Hawise were first cousins of Count Alan Rufus, Count Alan Niger, Count Brian, and Count Stephen of Treguier.

    Hawise’s and Hoel’s son was Duke Alan IV “Fergant” (the Strong) (died 13 October 1119).

    So Duke Alan IV was 2nd cousin to Count Stephen’s son Alan Penteur 1st Earl of Richmond.

    In 1087, Duke Alan IV married Constance, “the most highly gifted” daughter of William the Conqueror. Constance died, childless, in 1090, so in 1093 Alan IV married Ermengarde of Anjou; they had 3 children, including Duke Conan III.

    Conan III married Maud FitzRoy (a daughter of King Henry I). Their daughter was the Duchess of Brittany, Bertha of Cornouaille (born circa 1114, died 1156) who married Alan Penteur 1st Earl of Richmond, who, if I’ve counted correctly, was her grandfather’s second cousin.

    One of Alan Penteur’s 4 illegitimate sons was Bryan FitzAlan, progenitor of the Lords of Bedale in Richmondshire.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Duke Conan IV Penteur (1138 – February 20, 1171), son of Alan Penteur and Duchess Bertha, brought the Scots into the picture again by marrying Margaret of Huntingdon (1145–1201), sister of Kings Malcolm IV (between 23 April and 24 May 1141 – 9 December 1165) and William I “the Lion” (c 1143 – 4 December 1214).

    Another brother of hers was David of Scotland, Earl of Huntingdon (c. 1144 – 17 June 1219), who married Mathilda (Maud) of Chester (1171 – 6 January 1233) who was the eldest daughter of Earl Hugh de Kevelioc, son and heir of the Ranulf de Gernon who had taken Alan Penteur’s lands in Cornwall, so perhaps the families had patched up their differences.

    Margaret’s parents were Henry the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon and Earl of Northumbria (died 1152) and Ada de Warenne (Adeline de Varenne) (c. 1120–1178).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    A Robert (Robin) Earl of Huntingdon is identified with Robin Hood in 2 Elizabethan plays by Anthony Munday: “The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington” and “The Death of Robert Earl of Huntington”.

    In reality, David of Scotland, Earl of Huntingdon and his wife Matilda of Chester had 7 children, several of whom are historically significant.

    Margaret of Huntingdon (c. 1194 – c. 1228), married Alan (yet another Alan!), Lord of Galloway in south-west Scotland, by whom she had two daughters, including Dervorguilla of Galloway. (This Margaret of Huntingdon was the niece of Conan IV’s wife of the same name, and thus a cousin of Conan’s daughter, the Duchess Constance of Brittany.)

    Robert of Huntingdon (died young).

    Ada of Huntingdon, married Sir Henry de Hastings, by whom she had one son, Henry de Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings. The Hastings family currently hold the title of Earl of Huntingdon.

    Matilda (Maud) of Huntingdon (-aft.1219, unmarried).

    Isobel of Huntingdon (1199–1251), married Robert Bruce, 4th Lord of Annandale, by whom she had two sons, including Robert de Brus, 5th Lord of Annandale. It’s through this descent that Robert the Bruce claimed the throne of Scotland.

    John of Scotland, Earl of Huntingdon (1207 – 6 June 1237), married the Welsh princess Elen ferch Llywelyn (named after Elen the wife of the emperor Magnus Maximus). John succeeded his uncle Ranulf as Earl of Chester in 1232, but died childless.

    Henry of Huntingdon (died young).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Duchess Constance of Brittany married Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond (23 September 1158 – 19 August 1186), the fourth son of King Henry II (5 March 1133 – 6 July 1189) and Eleanor Duchess of Aquitaine (1122 or 1124 – 1 April 1204).

    King Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199) was fond of Geoffrey and Constance, so he named Geoffrey as his heir, but Geoffrey died in a jousting accident. Richard then named Geoffrey and Constance’s son Arthur (29 March 1187 – 3 April 1203) as heir.

    On King Richard’s deathbed, he allegedly passed the throne to his brother John (24 December 1166 – 18/19 October 1216). John fought and captured Arthur, who died mysteriously in John’s castle in Rouen which was under the charge of William de Braose.

    According to Wikipedia, the Margam annals provide the following account of Arthur’s death:

    “After King John had captured Arthur and kept him alive in prison for some time, at length, in the castle of Rouen, after dinner on the Thursday before Easter, when he was drunk and possessed by the devil [‘ebrius et daemonio plenus’], he slew him with his own hand, and tying a heavy stone to the body cast it into the Seine. It was discovered by a fisherman in his net, and being dragged to the bank and recognized, was taken for secret burial, in fear of the tyrant, to the priory of Bec called Notre Dame de Pres.” (See Bec Abbey).

    Years later, “William de Braose’s wife Maud personally and directly accused John of murdering Arthur, which resulted in Maud and her eldest son, also William, being imprisoned and allegedly starved to death in Corfe Castle in Dorset”.

    Arthur’s death did John great harm, for Brittany quickly rebelled, followed by Normandy, Anjou, Maine, and even John’s mother’s Eleanor’s home province of Aquitaine. All the rest of his possessions on the Continent were lost by the next year, 1204.

    Thus all the English barons lost their ancestral lands in France; their increasing dismay with his despotic and incompetent rule eventually led to their confronting John and making him sign the Magna Carta in June 1215.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Since the Rothschild family are #2 on the rich list, it’s fair to consider that William the Conqueror and Alan Rufus are also members of the same family (having 4 out of 8 great-grandparents in common).

    Putting William’s and Alan’s wealth together is sufficient to put their family in first place.

    Add their siblings, half-siblings and other cousins who were also among the great magnates of post-1066 England, Brittany and France, and their family towers high above all other contenders.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    What happened to all that Breton wealth over the succeeding centuries? It grew!

    Tracing the senior lines of descent from Stephen Count of Treguier down through the 1400s to the 1600s, one finds the Medicis, Borgias and the Kings and Dukes of France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Naples eyeing the “vast fortune” that had been handed down over many generations to members of the Breton soverign house.

    So marriages were arranged.

    How did this fabulously wealthy family grow their fortune? Unlike so many royal houses, it wasn’t by plunder, because they had no empire. It was surely by trade: exploiting their strategic location, on the trade routes between Britain, Germany, France and Spain, just as the northern Italian city-states of Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Florence and others became astonishingly rich by concentrating on their trade advantages, sound economics and adroit investment.

    Henry IV King of France passed through a border town of Brittany and was deeply impressed by its wealth, remarking that, were he not already King of France, he would wish to be a “bourgeois” in that town.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    How was their money spent?

    Some of it went into the creation of artistic works during the Renaissance. Here I’ll mention just one.

    The Rosenberg family (who were leading antique art dealers and collectors in France prior to WW2 and who wisely fled before the Holocaust) recently donated their “Crown Jewel”, a magnificant “Book of Hours”, to the Morgan Library and Museum at 225 Madison Avenue, New York.

    “The Prayer Book of Claude de France (MS M.1166) is the gift of Mrs. Alexandre P. Rosenberg in memory of her husband Alexandre Paul Rosenberg, 2008.”

    Claude Queen of France (1494–1547) (as consort of King Francois the First since 1515) was the elder daughter of Duchess Anne of Brittany (who was also Queen of France to successive kings).

    That sort of investment is meritorious, if classically indulgent for merchant princes and royalty who wanted to be remembered well.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Jean de Brosse (English: John Brush) (1375–1433), born in Huriel in Allier in central France, made Marshal of France, is a remarkable figure of the Hundred Years’ War, with a connection to Alan Rufus.

    Since the French Crown was impoverished, he paid for the army himself. “He resorted to selling off his crockery, silver, and his wife’s jewelry. He also freed the inhabitants of Boussac from his rule, in exchange for money.”

    He persuaded King Charles VII to accept Joan of Arc’s offer to assist in the relief of Orleans, and fought beside her in that victory.

    When Joan was captured at Compiegne, he urged the king to rescue her, but the king refused. So John de Brosse ruined himself raising an army of 4000, liberated Compiegne from the English, only to find Joan had been moved to Rouen. When Joan was burnt at the stake on 30 May 1431, he attempted to capture Rouen to avenge her, but failed. He returned to Boussac to learn that his wife had died, and remained there in sorrow until his death in 1433.

    Due to his great debts, “his creditors threatened to have him excommunicated postmortem, and [to disperse] his mortal remains”. Shamed, the king raised funds to repay de Brosse’s creditors.

    Impoverished, what would happen to the next generation of the de Brosse family?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    More grateful to John de Brosse than the King was, a member of the Breton sovereign house saved his family from poverty.

    On 18 June 1437, four years after John de Brosse’s death, his son John II de Brosse (1432 – 6 August 1482), married Nicole de Blois-Chatillon, Countess of Penthievre and heiress to a “vast fortune” grown from a portion of Alan Rufus’s wealth.

    In 1449 John II was made Chamberlain to the King of France.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    This portion of Alan Rufus’s fortune passed down to Elisabeth de Bourbon and thence to many royal families. Here is the descent, generation by generation:

    Jean I de Brosse (Marshal of France) & Jeanne de Naillac

    Jean II de Brosse & Nicole de Blois-Chatillon (Countess of Penthievre)

    Jean III de Brosse (Count of Penthievre) & Louise de Laval (daughter of Guy XIV de Laval and Isabelle de Dreux)

    Rene de Brosse (Rene de Bretagne, Count of Penthievre) married Jeanne de Commines (daughter of Philippe de Commines)

    Jean IV de Brosse (Count of Penthievre and duke of Étampes) married Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly (the mistress of Francis I of France)

    Sebastien de Luxembourg, duke of Penthièvre, nephew and heir of Jean IV de Brosse

    Marie de Luxembourg (1562–1623), Duchesse de Penthièvre married Philippe Emmanuel de Lorraine, Duke of Mercœur (9 September 1558, Nomeny, Meurthe-et-Moselle – 19 February 1602, Nürnberg)

    Françoise de Lorraine (November 1592 – 8 September 1669, Paris), Duchess of Mercœur and Penthièvre, “the greatest heiress of her time” married César de Bourbon, Légitimé de France (3 June 1594 – 22 October 1665) (a legitimised son of King Henry IV of France & his mistress Gabrielle d’Estrées)

    [Note: “The House of Lorraine, the main and now only remaining line known as Habsburg-Lorraine, is one of the most important and was one of the longest-reigning royal houses in the history of Europe. Currently the house is headed by Karl Habsburg-Lothringen, the titular Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Galicia and Lodomeria, Illyria, as well as the titular King of Jerusalem.”]

    Élisabeth de Bourbon (August 1614 – 19 May 1664), an ancestor of both Louis XV of France and Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia and also of many European Royals.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan Rufus’s heirs used his fortune wisely for many things. I’ve made brief mention of a few ways in which it enriched the Church as well as Renaissance art in England, France and Italy. In Brittany, it produced some masterworks of Renaissance architecture, about which I look forward to writing on another occasion. In addition, it was used to promote education.

    Marie de Pol de Chatillon (about 1303 to 1377) wife of Aymer Valence the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, was a 6th great grand-daughter of Stephen Count of Treguier, being the daughter of Marie Countess of St Pol in Brittany and her husband Guy 3rd de Chatillon the Count of St Pol and Grand Bouteiller of France.

    In England, Marie de Pol is remembered as the foundress in 1347 of the Hall of Marie Valence at the University of Cambridge. This is the Hall now called Pembroke College.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    At this site,

    which references the Domesday Book, we get a brief mention of Alan Rufus’s activities as Tenant-in-Chief at Cambridge.

    “Picot [de Saye, notorious Sheriff of Cambridgeshire] created 3 mills on common land, 2 in the Borough, and destroyed many houses; the Abbot of Ely and Count Alan [Rufus] also created mills.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Marie de Pol de Chatillon was buried at Denny Abbey in 1377. According to Wikipedia:

    “Denny Abbey is a former abbey near Waterbeach, six miles (10 km) north of Cambridge in Cambridgeshire, England which was inhabited by a succession of three different religious orders during its history serving as a monastery.

    The site, on an ancient road between Cambridge and Ely, was settled by farmers as early as the Roman period. The Domesday Book recorded that it was owned by Edith the Fair (also known as Swanneck), the consort of King Harold, in 1066 when the Normans invaded England and killed her husband. It was owned subsequently by the Breton lord, Alan, 1st Earl of Richmond.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Alan just mentioned was Count Alan’s nephew, an ancestor of Marie de Pol.

    “Alan of Penthièvre of Brittany, 1st Earl of Cornwall, 1st Earl of Richmond (before 1100 – 15 September 1146), Breton Alan Penteur, also known as “Alan the Black”, was a Breton noble who fought for Stephen of England. Alan was the third son of Stephen, Count of Tréguier and Hawise de Guingamp.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    As for Aymer de Valence:

    “The family arms are still represented on the dexter side of the [Pembroke] college arms. Aymer de Valence was buried in Westminster Abbey, where his tomb can still be seen as a splendid example of late gothic architecture, elaborating on the design of the nearby tomb of Edmund Crouchback.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Marriages between the Breton and Norman ducal houses were not only politically valuable at the time: they also provided lines of descent from Charlemagne for subsequent Dukes of Normandy, one of which is shown in the following descent to Stephen of Treguier (and thus to his brother Alan Rufus).

    (Note that “the Honour of Brittany” is the official English title of Alan Rufus and his heirs, which is often referred to as the “Honour of Richmond”, Richmond being his caput (chief manor) in Yorkshire.)

    Charlemagne the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (747 – 814)

    Pepin I King of Italy (777 – 810)
    Son of Charlemagne the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire

    Bernard the King of Italy (797 – 818)
    Son of Pepin I the King of Italy

    Pepin II Count of Vermandois the Count of Peronne (815 – )
    Son of Bernard 797 the King of Italy

    Herbert (or Hubert) I Count of Senlis and Vermandois (848 – 907)
    Son of Pepin II Count of Vermandois the Count of Peronne

    Espriota de Senlis aka Sprota of Brittany (908 – )
    Daughter of Herbert (or Hubert) I Count of Senlis and Vermandois

    Richard I “the Fearless” Duke of Normandy
    Son of Espriota de Senlis aka Sprota of Brittany

    Hawise of Normandy
    Daughter of Richard I “the Fearless” Duke

    Eozen Count of Penteur (Odo Count of Penthievre) (999 – 1079)
    Son of Hawise

    Stephen the Count of Tregor (Treguier), Lord of Goelo, holder of Honour of Brittany de Penthievre (Penteur)

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Googling “Count Alan”, one finds a “Count Alan Road, Skegness, Lincolnshire, PE25 1ER”. Skegness is a seaside resort in the East Lindsey district, on the “coast of the North Sea, 43 miles (69 km) east of the city of Lincoln; it has a total resident population of 18,910”. The town’s origin may be Danish, (its literal meaning is “beard headland”), but curiously the Domesday book has no reference to Skegness.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Google maps shows that Count Alan Road has the shape
    and connects Church Lane, Eudo Road (perhaps named after his father), Roberts Grove, Spirewic Avenue, and Lady Matilda’s Drive, and is above Roman Bank (the A52 motorway) which veers toward the coast in that stretch. Plenty of history in those street names!

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    That drawing of Count Alan’s Road didn’t come out right: it’s supposed to be dog’s leg: | then _ continuing to a lower | so I wonder whether it’s possible to insert small pictures in this blog?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Tric is the Domesday Book’s name of the location of Alan’s manor near modern Skegness. It’s south of the railway line, the A52 and Lumley Road. (Lumley is the surname of the Earls of Scarborough since 1690.)

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Abbeys associated with Count Alan.

    According to “Religious Patronage in Anglo-Norman England, 1066-1135” by Emma Cownie,

    King William and his wife Matilda granted lands (worth over 65 pounds in 1086) to Bury St Edmunds Benedictine Abbey in Suffolk. Alan Rufus is recorded as giving “many great expenses”, which Ms Cownie interprets as large quantities of cash; other Bretons followed suit, e.g one Reginald donated the village of Lidgate in Suffolk (worth 3 pounds), as did Alan Niger and Stephen of Treguier.

    Alan Rufus was buried in the cemetery outside the south door of the Bury St Edmunds Abbey in Suffolk, whereas Stephen was laid to rest at St Mary’s Benedictine Abbey in the centre of York, which Count Alan had refounded in 1088 for monks from Whitby.

    Until its destruction by Henry VIII, St Mary’s was the richest abbey in the North of England.

    Whereas, the abbey at Bury St Edmunds was one of the richest in the South: in the 1100s it ran the Royal Mint!

    In the 15th to 17th centuries, the Abbot’s House at St Mary’s became the King’s Manor as the centre of government and finance in the North of England.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    An important line of descent related to the Sovereign House of Brittany is that of the Counts de Porhoet. Porhoet is close to Penthievre, the seat of Eozen father of Count Alan. Both locations are in Brittany’s south coast’s Morbihan district, named after the Gulf of Morbihan (small sea) where the sailors of Vannes fought Julius Caesar’s navy. Of Morbihan, Wikipedia states:

    “The area around the gulf features an extraordinary range of megalithic monuments. There are passage dolmens, stepped pyramids with underground dolmen chambers, stone circles, and giant menhirs, among others. The site best known to outsiders is Carnac, where remains of a dozen rows of huge standing stones run for over ten kilometers. The passage grave of Gavrinis, on a small island in the Gulf, is one of the most important such sites in Europe. Some of the ruins have been dated to at least 3300 BC — 200 years older than England’s Stonehenge.” (Some Carnac stones date to 4500 BC.)

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Correction: Porhoet (La Trinite-Porhoet, Poutrocoet in Breton, meaning land beyond the forest), although in the Departement of Morbihan, is in central Brittany; whereas Penthievre is near the north end of the southward-extending Quiberon peninsula and has a popular beach.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    According to Wikipedia:

    “The first recognised Vicomte de Porhoet was Guithenoc (about 990-1040), formerly of Guilliers. Guithenoc was born in Guilliers, Moribihan, Brittany, Western France. He married Allurum (994-?) of Guilliers.”

    “He became Vicomte, and in about 1008 he moved to La Trinite, in Porhoet, Morbihan, Brittany.”

    “There he built Castle Josselin, which he named for his son, Josselin (1020–1074). It is still owned by the descendents of Porhoet and is the longest continuously held private estate in the world.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Citing Wikipedia again:

    3 of Vicomte Josselin’s 4 sons were surnamed “de Rohan”: Mainguy, Jostho and Roger. Another son was Vicomte Eudes I (1049-?) who married Anne de Leon (1065-?) and had 2 children: Vicomte Geoffrey de Porhoet (1092–1141), and Alan I de Rohan aka Alan la Coche (c. 1093-1150).

    Vicomte Geoffrey de Porhoet married Hawisa Fergant of Brittany (c. 1105-?), daughter of Duke Alan IV Fergant (died 13 October 1119) and Ermengarde of Anjou.

    [Recall that Duke Alan IV was son of Hawise of Rennes (c. 1037 – August 19, 1072) who was Duchess of Brittany as heiress of Duke Alan III (997 – 1 October 1040)) whose parents were Duke Geoffrey I of Brittany (aka Count Geoffrey of Rennes) and Hawise of Normandy the sister of Duke Richard II of Normandy, and whose brother was Count Eozen of Penthievre, father of Counts Alan Rufus and Stephen of Treguier. Thus, all these dukes, counts and viscounts of various “Houses” have common ancestry.]

    Geoffrey and Hawisa had two sons, Vicomte Eudes II Porhoet (1122-?) and Baron Alan III Zouche (1132-?).

    Now, Alan of Penthievre, 1st Earl of Cornwall and 1st Earl of Richmond, 3rd son of Count Alan Rufus’s brother Stephen the Count of Tréguier and his wife Hawise de Guingamp, had married Bertha (1114-1156), elder daughter of Duke Conan III of Brittany (Conan de Cornouaille, aka Conan the Fat) (c. 1093-1096 – September 17, 1148) and his wife Maud, an illegitimate daughter of King Henry I of England. But this Alan died in 1146, so Bertha returned to Brittany.

    On his deathbed, Duke Conan III made Bertha his heir, disinheriting his son Hoel who was made Count of Nantes. In the same year, 1148, Vicomte Eudes II Porhoet married Bertha, and formed an alliance with Hoel.

    Bertha’s sister Constance (1118-?) married Alan, Baron Zouche.

    So the Porhoet family were well-placed to take control of the Duchy.

    However, Conan (1138 – 20 February 1171), the son of Earl Alan and Bertha, claimed his inheritance by defeating uncle Hoel and stepfather Vicomte Eudes II and so became Duke Conan IV of the house of Penthievre.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    There is a Porhoet descent to King Henry IV of France (King Henry III of Navarre) and thence to King Charles II of England.

    The ruling families of Brittany and of Navarre (capital Pamplona) in the Basque country of Spain intermarried several times. This practice may well extend to prehistoric times because both peoples have similar varieties of DNA (as do the Aquitanians, Welsh, Cornish, Scots and Irish) and sailed the Bay of Biscay.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The House of Rohan (see the Wikipedia page) built splendid palaces not only in Brittany, but also in Aquitaine, Paris, Alsace, and even Prague and Vienna.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Since the Breton sovereign house was related to every French dynasty from the Merwings to the Bourbons, they ranked as “habituated foreign princes” (princes étrangers habitués) in the French aristocracy, placing them on the rung just below the Royal family.
    The Rohans also held the hereditary archbishopric of Strasbourg in Lorraine, so they were also German aristocrats.
    These facts made them prominent targets during the French Revolution, so they went into exile in the Austrian Empire, where they continued to build and renovate palaces.
    For example, in 1820 they bought the small Sychrov fort in the Liberec region in the north of Bohemia. By 1834 they had rebuilt it as a castle. From 1847 to 1862 they reconstructed the building in a romantic neogothic style, with an English-style garden. It is now protected as Czech national cultural heritage.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Documentation of building works such as Sychrov castle provide an insight into the enduring Breton mind and ways.

    “Sychrov’s reconstruction (1847-1862) was carried out according to the plans of Bernard Grueber, and all works were facilitated by domestic artists and craftsmen.

    The owner paid specific attention to the Castle Park, designed in the English style. The park became a model for the establishment of many now-important arboreta such as in Průhonice and Konopiště.

    During this period, a rare harmonising of the castle exterior, interior, and the park was accomplished.

    During the late 1920s/early 1930s, the castle interior was renovated. Especially valuable are the interior carvings by Petr Bušek, who worked in the castle for 38 years.

    The castle boasts a collection of around 250 portraits of the Rohans, related families, and French kings. It is the largest collection of French portrait paintings in Central Europe. Sychrov hosts unique glass paintings by Jan Zachariáš Quast.

    The English park has an area of 23 hectares. The older, classical park was remodeled into the romantic style. Since botany was a hobby of the castle owner, the park received a lot of attention: there are rich dendrological and botanical collections. A unique variety of beech (Fagus silvatica Rohani) was cultivated in the park.

    The composer Antonín Dvořák visited the castle several times (he was a friend of its administrator) and several of his works were inspired by its beauty.

    Today Sychrov is a popular place for wedding ceremonies.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Breton interest in scientific botany goes back at least to AD 790 when a botanical treatise in Breton and Latin, “le manuscrit de Leyde” (the French call it) was written.

    Sychrov Castle also reveals sponsorship of local skilled trades people, innovation and attention to detail in architecture and art, a strong sense of historic continuity, and a love of harmony in diversity.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    According to the University of York
    concerning St Mary’s Abbey, founded by Alan Rufus:

    “The Abbey was endowed with a great number of royal privileges which made it exempt from royal authority and local government. The abbey was not subject to royal taxation and members of the abbey could not be called into county courts. The area in which the abbey exercised these freedoms was known as ‘the Liberty of St. Mary’. As part of their liberty, the abbots possessed their own court and prison which were contained within the abbey walls. It had royal permission to elect new abbots when vacancies arose. Over the centuries, St. Mary’s acquired substantial lands and properties, primarily in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and appropriated numerous local parish churches, and these properties were included in the liberty.

    As the abbot of St. Mary’s was an important church dignitary and played a vital role in royal government, the abbey also possessed a house in St. Paul’s parish in London, which the abbot used when attending to royal business in the capital. The abbot also sat in the upper house of parliament, the House of Lords, as a church dignitary. Locally, the abbot was frequently called upon to act as a tax collector for tenths and fifteenths, for the crown and the pope. With its imposing exterior wall, the abbey traditionally served as a treasury for the safe-keeping of money being transported to the northern borders to defend the realm in times of war to maintain the garrison at Berwick-upon-Tweed.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Although often referred to in modern histories as “Earl of Richmond”, Count Alan’s contemporary title was “Count of the Honour of Brittany”, abbreviated by some writers to “Count of Brittany”, a non-existent title in Brittany, but which echoes the Roman office of “Comes Britanniarum”.

    In the Wikipedia article this position is described as follows:
    “Comes Britanniarum — Count in charge of defense of Roman Britain (Britannia).
    This post presumably expired circa AD 410, when the last Roman troops left the isles forever.”

    In granting Alan this title, King William may have been making the point that the Romans were now back in charge, while at the same time acknowledging Alan’s signal contribution to the reconquest of Britain.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Despite Alan Rufus’s major role in routing the Anglo-Saxon military, the Domesday Book reveals that in many locations Alan instated their pre-1066 English lords as his chief tenants. This occurred to some degree under other magnates of Norman England (Earl Waltheof comes to mind), but the frequency with which Alan did this is striking.
    Ironically, Waltheof came to grief through his part in the Revolt of the Earls in 1075, which was not an Anglo-Saxon rebellion, but was rather occasioned by sympathy with a Breton, Ralph de Guader, who defied King William by marrying “at Exning, Cambridgeshire, Emma, only daughter of William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford and his first wife Alice or Adelise (or Adelissa), daughter of Roger I of Tosny”.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Thomas Tweed (1660?-1726) of Cheveley, Cambridgeshire, married Elizabeth Deare (1655-1713) of Cheveley, on 31 May 1682 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. (Recall that this is where Alan Rufus was buried). If nothing else, this shows that the site of Saint Edmund’s shrine remained popular well into the Protestant/Anglican era.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Alan Rufus,
    the historian K.S.B. Keats-Rohan states:

    “Alan Rufus (d. 1093), magnate, was the second of at least seven legitimate sons of Count Eudo, regent of Brittany from 1040 to 1047, and Orguen, or Agnes, his Angevin wife. Alan was called Rufus (‘the Red’) to distinguish him from a younger brother, Alan Niger (‘the Black’). His father, Eudo, was a brother of the Breton duke Alan III; the mother of Eudo and Alan III was [a great-]aunt of William the Conqueror. Eudo’s status entitled his legitimate sons to bear the honorific title comes (‘count’). Alan first occurs, with his father and some of his brothers, in an Angevin charter given c.1050. He was probably recruited into the service of his second cousin William of Normandy before 1066. A Breton contingent, probably including Alan and his brother Brien, played an important role at the battle of Hastings and settled in England thereafter. The list of Alan’s brothers in the above-mentioned charter does not include Brien, nor either of Alan’s successors, Alan Niger and Stephen. Alan Rufus was therefore probably older than Brien. Brien was certainly given lands in Suffolk, and probably also in Cornwall.”

    Keats-Rohan’s own name suggests a relation by descent or marriage to the Porhoët/Rohan branch of the Breton sovereign house.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Keats-Rohan’s article continues:

    “After helping to defeat an attack on Exeter by the sons of Harold in 1069, Brien apparently returned to Brittany, leaving Alan as indisputably the most senior of the Bretons in England. Alan’s position was further enhanced by the fall of Ralph de Gael in 1075, much of whose forfeited land in East Anglia he acquired. He held a great deal of land in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk, and the earliest grants to him were probably in Cambridgeshire. Alan and two of his men, Aubrey de Vere and Harduin de Scales, figure prominently in two preliminary records of the Domesday survey, the Inquisitio comitatus Cantabrigiensis, and the Inquisitio Eliensis. The kernel of the vast honour of Richmond (based upon land in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and extending to Northampton and London), for which Alan and his successors are best known, was granted only after the revolt of the north in 1070.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Of Aubrey (Albericus) de Vere (died circa 1112), who held about 300 manors according to the Domesday Books, Wikipedia says:

    “The principal estates held by Aubrey de Vere in 1086: Castle Hedingham, Beauchamp [Walter], Great Bentley, Great Canfield, Earls Colne, [White] Colne, and Dovercourt, Essex; Aldham, Belstead, Lavenham, and Waldingfield, Suffolk; Castle Camps, Hildersham, Silverley, and Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire. He possessed houses and acreage in Colchester. As tenant of Geoffrey bishop of Coutances, he held Kensington, Middlesex; Scaldwell and Wadenhoe, Northamptonshire. Of the barony of Count Alan of Brittany, he held the manors of Beauchamp Roding, Canfield, and West Wickham, Essex. His wife held Aldham, Essex, in her own right of Odo bishop of Bayeux. She was accused by Domesday jurors of expansion into Little Maplestead, Essex. Aubrey’s seizures or questionable right of possession to estates included Manuden, Essex; Great Hemingford, Huntingdonshire; and Swaffham, Cambridgeshire. (Counties given are those of Domesday Book.)”

    Regarding Kensington:

    “The bishop’s heir, Robert de Mowbray, rebelled against William Rufus and his vast barony was declared forfeit. Aubrey de Vere I had his tenure converted to a tenancy in-chief, holding Kensington after 1095 directly of the crown. He granted land and church there to Abingdon Abbey at the deathbed request of his young eldest son, Geoffrey. As the Veres became the earls of Oxford, their estate at Kensington came to be known as Earls Court, while the Abingdon lands were called Abbots Kensington and the church St Mary Abbots.”

    The heads of the de Vere family were Earls of Oxford from 1141 (courtesy of Empress Matilda) to 1703 when the 20th Earl died with only one surviving daughter, Lady Diana de Vere.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Kensington is in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and is a posh location.

    “Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century, and is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, while the Duke and Duchess of Kent reside at Wren House. Kensington Palace is also used on an unofficial basis by Prince Harry, as well as his cousin Zara Phillips.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    More on Alan Rufus from Keats-Rohan:

    “By 1086 Alan had settled some forty tenants on his lands, of whom all but two were Bretons. The grant of the northern lands was a measure of the Conqueror’s trust. By 1086 Alan was one of the richest and most powerful men in England. He remained close to William I, accompanying him to Normandy and Maine on several occasions after 1066, and attested many of his charters. His importance is sometimes overlooked because his intense loyalty to William I, and subsequently to William II, meant that he was usually ignored by chroniclers, though he figures among those mentioned as helping William II [also called Rufus] keep his throne during 1087–8. He played an important role in the proceedings against William of St Calais, bishop of Durham. At his death in 1093 (perhaps in August) he was succeeded by his brother Alan Niger, of whom there is no trace in English documents before this date. Alan Niger died in 1098 and was succeeded by another brother, Stephen, who had also succeeded to their father’s Breton lands.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Keats-Rohan’s article concludes:

    “The obit dates for Alan Rufus and Alan Niger have caused much confusion, but can be established by reconciling references in documents of St Mary’s Abbey at York with a letter written by Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury. The letter reveals that both Alans had an affair with Gunnhild, daughter of the former King Harold and living in retirement at Wilton Abbey. Because Anselm regarded Gunnhild as a nun, it is not known whether she was legally married to either brother, though clearly she willingly entered each relationship. Eadmer later alleged that Matilda, wife of Henry I, had been intended by her father, Malcolm, king of Scots, as the wife of Alan Rufus. No recognized wife, nor any children, is known for either Alan, though the tenants of both in England included three of their illegitimate brothers, Ribald, Bodin, and Bardulf, and their wet-nurse, Orwen. Alan Rufus was the founder of St Mary’s, York (based upon an earlier refoundation of St Olave), and of a priory at Swavesey, Cambridgeshire, which was a cell of St Serge and St Bacchus, Angers. He was also a benefactor of St Edmund’s at Bury and was buried there, though he was later translated to St Mary’s, York, at the request of St Mary’s monks.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Further details concerning Count Alan, his brothers, subordinates and Orwen can be found in the following book by K.S.B. Keats-Rohan:

    “Domesday People: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents, 1066-1166”, Volume 1, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1999 (563 pages).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Prosopography is “an investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives, in multiple career-line analysis” (Wikipedia).

    So prosopography aims to learn more about individuals by studying what’s historically known (e.g. documented) about how they were associated. Similar analysis may be applied to archaeological evidence of contemporary peoples and their artefacts and trading patterns.

    For prosopography to yield robust hypotheses, one needs multiple sources of evidence, and to treat contra-indications seriously.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    According to Katherine Stephanie Benedicta Keats-Rohan, “prosopography is about what the analysis of the sum of data about many individuals can tell us about the different types of connection between them, and hence about how they operated within and upon the institutions—social, political, legal, economic, intellectual—of their time.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    According to on ‘Motte and Bailey Castles’:

    “Richmond Castle was begun in around 1071 … Alan selected a site above the River Swale … It appears that the castle he built was of stone which was unusual for the time when castles were built of earth banks and wooden stockades … Near the south-east corner is Scolland’s Hall; a more old-fashioned type of keep.”

    [Scolland was the name of the Constable of Richmond Castle in the early 1100s; some sources say this name is “Norman” and means “Scotland”. There must be an interesting story behind that combination!]

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    I’ve noticed that everywhere the Bretons (in particular Alan and Brian) went, some legend claims King Arthur dwelt.

    For example, continues:

    “According to legend King Arthur and his Knights sleep in a crypt deep beneath the keep” [of Richmond Castle].


    “It is said that a Peter Thompson located the crypt and found King Arthur’s Sword and Horn lying on a table. Peter lifted the Sword but became afraid, and ran (after replacing it). As he left he heard voices saying that if he had lifted the Sword and blown the horn, marvellous good fortune would have been his.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In the lead-up to the Battle of Hastings, the Normans and their allies often sang a version of the “Song of Roland”.

    The Paladin Roland was Charlemagne’s mightiest knight and the Margrave of the Breton March. The obvious deduction is that William was viewed as Charlemagne and Alan Rufus as Roland.

    Duke William of Normandy’s half-brother Odo the Bishop of Bayeux, not far from the Breton border, chose to be on the Breton wing of the army during the battle, suggesting that he viewed himself as an analogue of Bishop Turpin, the only survivor from Charlemagne’s Rearguard in the Battle of Roncesvalles, in which both Roland and his close friend Oliver slew many enemies but finally succumbed to their wounds.

    Was Bishop Odo expecting the uphill battle against Harold’s Saxons to be lost, and the Bretons to perish? If so, he must have been astonished at the outcome.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    If, in a playful mood, we may imagine that King William fulfilled the predictions concerning the return of Arthur, the “Once and Future King” of Britain, then of whom was Count Alan Rufus an echo? Sir Lancelot, from Brittany, Arthur’s invincible knight? But Alan never had a disastrous affair with William’s Queen Matilda. Perhaps Sir Galahad, who never betrayed a trust?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Among the artists sponsored by members of the Breton sovereign house was the sculptor Nicolas-Sébastien Adam (22 March 1705 – 27 March 1778). Adam was born in Nancy, the capital of Lorraine, a province governed by the Rohan branch of the family.
    Adam took 27 years to complete Prométhée enchaîné (i.e. Prometheus Bound) which depicts Prometheus chained to Mount Kazbek in the Caucasus ( and having his liver devoured daily by Zeus’s eagle as punishment for generosity to the human race:
    This prized exhibit of the Louvre was Adam’s reception piece for Paris’s Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture).
    A reception piece is a set piece in marble to be completed as part of the requirement for admission to the Academy. The Louvre provides a daily 1½ hour tour of its reception pieces, including Prometheus Bound, each day except Tuesday:

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Some Breton words and similar English words with the same meaning:
    bank = bank
    bar = bar
    dad or tad = dad (father)
    dor = door
    fall = fell (bad, cruel, deadly)
    fest = fest (party, fair)
    gallek = gallic
    gwik = wick (in place names, village, small market town)
    gwin = wine
    hastan = hasten
    he = her
    karotez = carrots
    karr = car
    kastell = castle
    kegin = kitchen
    lous = dirty (lousy)
    mamm = mum or mom (mother)
    me = me, I
    skol = school
    sport = sport
    stal = shop (stall)
    straed = street
    treitour = treacherous (traitorous)
    verb = verb
    voued = food
    yaouank = young

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Shakespeare’s play “King John” begins with an insult to the King by the French ambassador, Chatillon, who goes on to say that the French King (Philip II Augustus) is concerned, the rightful King of England and ruler of all the other territories claimed by John, is Arthur, Duke of Brittany.

    Perhaps Shakespeare is hinting at the later Chatillon connection to the Breton sovereign house?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    To what ethnicity did the people of medieveal Normandy belong? If the Dukes’ family tree is a guide, they still self-identified as Bretons long after the Viking settlements began.

    When English King Henry I faced a rebellion in 1090 in his Norman capital, Rouen, its leader was Conan Pilatus, a distinctly Breton-Roman name.

    That all the old Armorican states (Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Maine and Touraine) swiftly rose up in rebellion against King John when they heard that he had murdered Duke Arthur, suggests a persistent sense of common identity.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In the image of Alan Rufus swearing fealty to King William I in return for William acknowledging Alan’s ownership of Richmondshire, if one looks more closely one sees that although the King is backed by three of his heavily armoured knights, behind them are a mass of similarly armoured Breton knights wearing Alan’s colours. No wonder Alan is the one who’s relaxed and smiling.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Middleham, which was gifted by Alan Rufus to his (illegitimate?) brother Ribald fitz Eudo (circa 1050 – 1121), is twinned with Azincourt where Henry V had his famous victory during the Hundred Years’ War.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    According to Ofir Friedman, see, Ribald married Beatrix de Taillebois (1054 in Taillebois, Normandy – 1112 in Middleham).

    See also by Pam Wilson who cites documentary evidence.

    They had sons Henry, Ralph, Ranulf (the heir), Hervey and William.

    Ranulf fitz Ribald de Taillebois (1080-1168), 2nd Lord of Middleham, married Agatha de Brus (circa 1105 in Skelton Castle, Yorkshiree – 1142 in Middleham) in Skelton, Yorkshire in 1120. They had sons Radulph, Robert (the heir) and Ribald, and daughter Agnes.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Jason de Buis asserted in that Matilda, Lady Deincourt (circa 1049 in Penthièvre, Morbihan, Brittany – 21 April 1136), was Alan Rufus’s sister.

    Also that her husband was Walter I Deincourt, 1st Baron of Eyncourt (1043 in Normandy – 1103 in Blankney, Lincolnshire), and that they had a son Ralph (named after Walter’s father) (1072 in Blankney, Lincolnshire – 1158 in Bloxham, Oxfordshire) and a daughter Adelicia (born 1065 in Bourne, Cambridgeshire).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Adelicia is said by Jason Buis and by David Prins (see to be Walter’s stepdaughter, suggesting that Matilda was married, perhaps in Bourne (now spelt Bourn but spelt Brune in the Domesday book), Cambridgeshire, before the Conquest.

    The implication is that Alan Rufus gravitated first to Cambridgeshire because of pre-existing family connections.

    Bourn is 12 km west of Cambridge and dates back to Roman times.

    Bourn Hall (built about 1600) is the world’s first IVF clinic (commencing 1980).

    There was a wooden castle where Bourn Hall now is, but it was burnt down in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. This may have been the castle that (the notorious) Sheriff Picot built during Alan Rufus’s time.

    One is left to wonder where in Bourn town Matilda was living before her marriage to Walter D’Eyncourt.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In 1190 Robert Fitzrandolph, 3rd Lord of Middleham and Spennithorne, a descendant of Ribald, built a stone keep near the wooden motte-and-bailey structure built by Alan Rufus. He later surrounded the keep by a curtain wall.

    The Nevilles acquired Middleham Castle in 1270.

    Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was 8 years of age when his father the Duke of York died in the battle of Wakefield in December 1460. He then moved into Middleham Castle with Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (“Warwick the Kingmaker”).

    For the next 23 years Middleham was Richard’s main home. It was there he met his future wife, Anne Neville.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Richard Neville was the wealthiest man in England in the 15th century, his estate being worth 7,000 pounds at his death in 1471.

    Compare this with Alan Rufus who had perhaps 11,000 pounds to his name in 1093. Taking nearly four centuries of inflation into account, it’s clear that in the wake of the Norman Conquest, England’s wealth was far more concentrated than it became by the 1400s.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    La Pallice (the “grand port maritime de La Rochelle”) is the industrial harbour of the city of La Rochelle in south-west France. La Pallice is separated from the Ile de Re by the Pertuis Breton (the Breton Strait).

    According to (Ile de Re), “In February 1625, the Protestant Soubise [Benjamin de Rohan (born about 1580)] led a Huguenot revolt against the French king Louis XIII, and after publishing a manifesto, invaded and occupied the island of Ré.”

    Benjamin de Rohan was a younger brother of Henri de Rohan, and a son of Catherine de Parthenay from whom he inherited the lordship of Soubise.

    After his defeat, Bemjamin fled to England and died in London in 1642.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The same source states that “in 1627, an English invasion force under the command of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham attacked the island in order to relieve the Siege of La Rochelle.”

    Fans of the Alexandre Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers” will recall the portrayak of George Villers as a flamboyant enemy of the French King, Louis XIII.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    La Rochelle is in the former Duchy of Aquitaine; Aquitainians are of Basque descent. That the Breton Strait is in Aquitaine underlines the ancient and continuing connections between the seafaring peoples of the Bay of Biscay.

    Interestingly, not only are Athos, Porthos and Aramis all based on real-life musketeers, they, like d’Artagnan, were all from Gascony, the French “Basque country”. Even their enemy the Comte de Rochefort, Captain of Cardinal Richelieu’s Guards, is named after a town in Aquitaine, south of La Rochelle, and is therefore also ethnically Basque, though the story claims he was from Meung-sur-Loire in the upper Loire valley.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    What have musketeers specifically to do with the Breton sovereign house? Charles le Duc de Rohan-Rohan, Prince de Soubise, comte de Saint-Pol, maréchal de France (born 16 July 1715 in Versaille 1787) became a “grey musketeer” at age 17. (See ). His father Jules Rohan was Captain-Lieutenant of the Royal Guard.

    According to, in “the French Army of the Ancien Régime … a rank of capitaine-lieutenant was mostly encountered in the Royal Guard (maison militaire du roi), where the king was officially captain of most of the guard companies, but the effective command was in the hands of a captain-lieutenant. D’Artagnan is perhaps the most famous captain-lieutenant in French history, as commander of the first mousquetaire company.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The connection with the Musketeers continues to the present day. The Lords of Montbazon, near Tours, since 1438 have been of the house “de Rohan”. This Lordship was elevated to a Duchy in 1558, and since 1846 the Dukes of Montbazon have been “de Rohan-Rochefort”. The current heir of this historic Duchy (since 2008) is Albert Marie de Rohan-Rochefort (1936-).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Some of the widespread connections of the Rohan branch of the sovereign house of Brittany are evident in:
    for example the heraldic emblem of François Armand de Rohan-Soubise, prince-bishop of Strasbourg, member of the Academie Francaise, etc etc, contains the Fleur de Lys from the Capetian house of Evreux, as well as emblems of Navarre, Foix, Scotland, Brittany (twice), Visconti, Lorraine, and Rohan.

    Emmanuel Marie-des-Neiges de Rohan-Polduc (born 18 April 1725 in La Mancha (recall Don Quixote!) in Spain, died 14 July 1797 in Valetta, Malta) held, among other positions, that of Grandmaster of the Order of Saint John.

    Ferdinand Maximilien Mériadec de Rohan-Guéméné (born 7 November 1738 in Paris, died 31 October 1813 in Paris), was Archbishop of Bordeaux and Primate of Aquitaine, and a Count in Napoleon’s Empire.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Brittany was technically an independent state from France until the French Revolution, because when the French Kings took over the Duchy (by marriage) beginning in the 1500s they ruled it as a separate dominion, thus according its historic rulers, such as the House of Rohan, “Foreign Prince” status and their family members were addressed as “Royal Highness”.

    An interesting comparison is the rule of Austria-Hungary as two kingdoms under one crown, by the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, which has a descent from Duke John II of Brittany.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Now for some verses about Alan Rufus from the Anglo-Norman poet Geoffrey Gaimar who flourished 1136-37:

    This extract from a translation into modern Emglish of Gaimar’s L’Estoire des Engles ( which “translates extensive portions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as well as using Latin and French sources”, describes the victory at the Battle of Hastings as Alan Rufus’s achievement:

    Of striking or thrusting.
    Many knights died there.
    I cannot name them, I dare not lie,
    Who struck the best.

    Earl Alan of Brittany
    Struck well with his company.
    He struck like a baron.
    Right well the Bretons did.

    With the king he came to this land
    To help him in his war.
    He was his cousin, of his lineage,
    A nobleman of high descent.

    Much he served and loved the king.
    And he right well rewarded him.
    Richmond he gave him in the north,
    A good castle fair and strong.

    In many places in England
    The king gave him land.
    Long he held it, and then came to his end.
    At St. Edmund’s he was buried.

    Now I have spoken of this baron
    I will return to my story.
    He and the others struck so well
    That they gained the battle.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Richard Neville KG, 16th Earl of Warwick (22 November 1428 – 14 April 1471), “Warwick the Kingmaker”, held Middleham Castle by right of descent from Alan Rufus’s brother Ribald. The Nevilles were also descended (by at least two lines) from Alan’s sister Matilda and her husband Walter Deincourt (D’Ayncourt).

    The Nevilles ( claimed a variety of interesting descents, including one from the House of Dunkeld, which would relate it to the Driscolls.

    The House of Neville persists; one of its members is Christopher Nevill, 6th Marquess of Abergavenny.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    King William I wished to conquer the County of Maine, but in 1083 he faced staunch resistance from Hubert II de Beaumont-au-Maine in his castle of Sainte-Suzanne. So Norman troops were stationed at Camp de Beugy which was heavily fortified. Their first commander was Alan Rufus.

    The French language articles and state that the best knights from across France (and beyond), fearing that the Normans were on the verge of becoming the pre-eminent power in western Europe, rushed to Hubert’s defence, repulsing numerous Norman attacks and capturing Norman knights who were forced to pay heavy ransoms.

    Alan was succeeded as commander by Herve or (“probably”) Anvrai, also a Breton, but in the course of the three-year (!) siege, this commander and many other of William’s finest knights (several of whom are named) were slain, so a sorrowful William eventually made terms with Hubert.

    Sainte-Suzanne remains famous as “the only castle William the Conqueror could not take”.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Warwick the Kingmaker’s coat of arms is very complex, with at least 10 distinct lines of descent depicted.

    According to Turnbull (1985), “The Book of the Medieval Knight”, cited in,_16th_Earl_of_Warwick

    “The first quarter consists of his father-in-law, Richard Beauchamp, who bore with an escutcheon of De Clare quartering Despenser, now shown in Neville’s fourth quarter. The second quarter shows the arms of the Montacutes (Montagu). The third quarter shows the arms of Neville differenced by a label for Lancaster.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    To which line of descent did the Kingmaker give the highest honour?

    The first quarter of his coat of arms (“blason” in french) includes those of the “Earl of Warwick”, a title he inherited through his wife Anne de Beauchamp.

    The first quarter also includes, with similar prominence (though unmentioned in the description drawn from Turbull), the coat of arms of Brittany (a Checky or and azure within a bordure gules, a canton ermine).

    The gold and azure check was the blason of Duke Geoffrey I of the House of Rennes, who was the father of Eozen, the father of Alan Rufus, Brian, Stephen, Ribald, Matilda and their other brothers and sisters.

    Evidently, the Kingmaker was especially proud of his descents from Alan Rufus’s sister Matilda Deincourt and their half-brother Ribald the Lord of Middleham.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    One account of the Battle of Hastings has Bishop Odo claiming leadership of the Bretons on the Left wing of William’s forces. Another has Alan Rufus in charge of the Rear Guard. A third has Odo urging on All the troops from the Rear.

    How to visualise the situation given these viewpoints? Perhaps the 5000 Bretons occupied both the Left and the Rear, making William’s army about 10,000 strong, and the Bretons about half of his army?

    Or perhaps William deliberately put his half-brother Odo with the Bretons on the Left, and Alan with those Normans who were at the Rear, thus following the Roman Imperial practice of assigning commanders to troops of a different nationality, lest they build their own power base too readily?

    In the latter case, Bishop Odo may have been on the Left initially, and later moved across the rear of the battlefield to encourage various troops.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Writers often attribute everything that happened in Norman England from 1066 to 1087 as King William’s doing, even though he was often out of the country.

    Recently I read (and please remind me to refind the source) that there was an interval between the crushing of the last Northern Rebellion and the terrible Harrying of the North. Further, that the harrying was conducted not under William directly, but by troops led by Bishop Odo.

    If that’s so, then Alan Rufus was either with William in the South of England or northern France, or perhaps on his own business in Scotland such as visiting Malcolm III.

    The financially savvy Breton that he was, Alan must have been dismayed at the news of the death of so many farmers and townsfolk, and the devastation and devaluation of so much good land.

    Perhaps Alan consequently insisted that William give him exclusive control of Richmondshire, and maybe that charter’s statement of William’s illegitimacy was Alan’s way of permanently reminding William that if one side of the coin of the realm is loyalty, the opposite side is wise and restrained government.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    I wonder whether the presence of Alan’s sister Matilda in Cambridgeshire was a factor in the invading army’s circuitous route around and to the north of London? Did Alan require William to ensure that Matilda was safe from reprisals before attacking the city?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Breton fortifications were exceptionally sturdy. Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on the WW2 “Battle for Brest”. Note the vintage of the surviving structures.

    “As per their military doctrine, the Americans tried to use their superior artillery firepower and air superiority to overcome the defenders, instead of fighting them hand-to-hand. The Germans, had stocked a considerable amount of ammunition for the defense of the city and had weapons of all calibers (from light flak to naval guns) dug in fortifications and in pillboxes. Elements of the specialised British 79th Armoured division came in to attack the heavily fortified Fort Montbarey. Flame throwing Crocodile tanks along with US infantry took three days to overcome the fort.

    The fighting was intense, the troops moving house to house. The fortifications (both French and German built) proved very difficult to overcome, and heavy artillery barrages were fired by both sides.

    Eventually the old city of Brest was razed to the ground during the battle, with only some old medieval stone-built fortifications left standing.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Joachim Descartes, the father of the philosopher Rene Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650), was a member of the Parlement of Brittany at Rennes, which was both a sovereign court of appeal and a legislative chamber.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    How realistic were fears of Saxon reprisals against Alan’s relatives living in England?

    In retaliation for King Harald “Bluetooth” of Denmark’s extortion of the Danegeld, King Ethelred of England in 1002 massacred Danish men living peaceably in East Anglia.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    According to which cites James Beck, “The Dream of Leonardo da Vinci”, Artibus et Historiae 14 No. 27 (1993:185-198) p. 188; Beck adds, “the artist left a pictorial record to accompany his written testimony—the famous Portrait of a Lady with an ermine (Czartoryski Collection, Cracow),

    “In his old age, Leonardo compiled a bestiary in which he recorded:

    MODERATION The ermine out of moderation never eats but once a day, and it would rather let itself be captured by hunters than take refuge in a dirty lair, in order not to stain its purity.”

    (Admittedly, Leonardo was in the employ of the House of Rohan in his later years, so perhaps this may have contained an element of flattery.)

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The above-referenced wikipedia article also asserts that: “In the Zoroastrian religion, the stoat is considered a sacred animal, as its white winter coat represented purity.”

    Now, given that the Alans came from Iran (“Alan” being their pronunciation of “Iran”), perhaps they brought this symbolism with them to Brittany?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In two bookshops yesterday I read two descriptions of the Battle of Hastings, one having a pictorial representation of the main events. One claimed that in the allied advance on Harold’s position, the Bretons were the vanguard, arriving at the destination at 9:30 am.

    In the battle itself, it’s apparently agreed that Taillefer the (sword!) Juggler requested and was granted the honour of attacking the Saxon lines first. For more details, see

    The next to attack were Breton infantry from the left wing. I presume these were the levied spearmen, probably sent in to test the strengths and weaknesses of the Anglo-Saxon lines (at no risk to the professional soldiers). Their retreat from the savage blows of the axemen was surely expected, as may have been their pursuit by the Saxon levies on that side. Harold hastened to call out to them to cease to follow, but those that were already far down the slope were cut off by the Breton and Norman cavalry and slain.

    It was claimed that William was anxious to end the battle before Saxon reinforcements could arrive from the North, the first of whom, according to William’s spies, were expected to arrive the next day. The Bretons, I suppose, would otherwise have preferred to take their customary time – as many days as necessary – to wear down Harold’s defences.

    Archers were initially of little effect against the deep, dense shield wall.

    A charge by the heavy cavalry was prepared, which crushed some of the shield wall, but with significant loss of horse and knights. I suspect that the Bretons light cavalry used javelins during this assault to weigh down many shields to facilitate subsequent attacks.

    The second charge was more difficult as the bodies of dead horses and knights and infantry from both sides littered the steep slope below the shield wall, but further holes were made in the wall, which Harold and his thegns ordered be filled during the next lull. Each time, this took longer because of obstructions in many places by the bodies of deceased axemen. So the battle was increasingly tiring for both sides.

    By now the shield wall was thin enough for the Breton arrows to reach the Saxon Earls and thegns directing the defence, so several of Harold’s most important subordinates fell.

    Late in the afternoon, the third cavalry charge broke completely through the shield wall and the battlefield became a free-for-all. Harold’s bodyguard bravely defended him to the last, but eventually they were all overcome: variously hacked, stabbed and trampled to death.

    Given Geoffrey of Gaimar’s description of Alan Rufus and his personal band of knights as being in the fore during the cavalry assaults, he may have beeen among those involved in Harold’s demise, though none of the victors at battle’s end was sure which of the fallen was the King’s. So William summoned Edith Swannesha (from whence?) to identify Harold’s remains.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The cavalry feints mentioned in previous articles are said to have occurred after the successful infantry feint. After a few turns of this, the Saxons grew wise. Nonetheless, their shield wall had begun to be compromised, and its weak points were exploited during the hard, uphill cavalry assaults.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    According to, the Battle of Formigny in Normandy on 15 April 1450, was the penultimate and decisive battle of the Hundred Years War.

    “On 15 April, Clermont’s forces were sighted by the English. The armies faced each other on the Carentan-Bayeux road, near a small tributary of the Aure, the English with their backs to the stream. The English formation numbered around 4,000 – with a three-to-one preponderance in archers – and gathered in a long line behind a thicket of stakes and low earthworks.

    Clermont opened the engagement with attacks against the flanks and small charges; these had little chance of success and were easily turned away. He then advanced two cannons. After a period of fire that caused a few casualties, the English charged and captured the guns.

    These initial skirmishes took some three hours. At this time the Breton army under Arthur de Richemont arrived from the south, having crossed the Aure and now approaching the English force from the flank. They numbered almost 1,200 Bretons – almost all mounted judging from the pace of their march.

    Kyriell drew back from Clermont and shifted his force into an L formation, straddling the steam. With the prepared position abandoned and split by the enemy’s firepower the English force was soon overwhelmed in a series of charges. Kyriell was captured and his army shattered.


    The English had been dealt a major blow, 2,500 killed or seriously wounded and 900 taken prisoner while French and Breton casualties were no more than 1000 dead and wounded. With no other significant English forces in Normandy, the whole region quickly fell to the victorious French. The advance continued elsewhere, quickly sweeping up all English possessions except Calais.

    The battle is often cited as the first in which cannons played a pivotal role (the first decisive use of cannon is generally considered to have been the following battle, at Castillon). This is rather difficult to judge, contemporary accounts are dubious and it can be seen that the arrival of the Breton army of Arthur de Richemont, future duke of Brittany, Arthur III, with his powerful force of cavalry on the flank of the English, forcing them to leave their prepared defensive position, was more significant, although the early artillery fire from the two French guns played a role in that as well.

    The cannon may have been decisive, not so much for the effect they had themselves, but in that they alerted Richemont to the fact that there was a battle going on, and so caused his appearance on the field. It was fortunate for Clermont that this was so because one of his captains wrote shortly afterwards that if the Constable (Richemont) had not come when he did, Clermont’s army would have suffered `irreparable damage’.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says: cites an early non-Norman account of the Battle of Hastings (its reputed author, Bishop Guy of Amiens, having died in 1075).

    Bishop Guy was uncle to Guy I Count of Ponthieu (called Wido in the Bayeux tapestry).

    Hugh of Ponthieu, Guy I’s younger brother, had a hand in slaying Harold, but is blamed for then mutilating Harold’s body.

    This desecration disgraced the family, so perhaps Bishop Guy was motivated to write his account of the battle to regain the new king William’s good graces.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Amiens and Ponthieu are non-Norman in the sense that Picardy was not part of Normandy, nor ruled from it, so their account of events is bound to have a different emphasis from the Bayeux tapestry commissioned by Bishop Odo or the official records authorised by King William.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In adddition to the connection with Brittany, a motivation for the allies singing “the Song of Roland” may have been the memory of Charlemagne as conqueror of the Saxon homeland in Germany – a cheerful thought as they undertook the difficult venture of overcoming the centrally governed, well-organised and battle-hardened Anglo-Saxons.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Looking at a map of the provinces of late Roman Britain,, from, it’s striking how the names resonate with later events.

    Maxima Caesariensis, with its name reminscient of Magnus Maximus, corresponds to northern England, and Count Alan built Richmond Castle close to the centre of that region, upstream of the former Roman (and current British) base at Catterick (Cataractonium).

    Flavia Caesariensis, which minds me of the emperor’s middle names Flavius Clemens, is middle England, roughly the kingdom of Mercia.

    Prominent places also retained much of their significance: Londinium of course, but also Camulodunum (Colchester), Camboricum (Cambridge), Ratae (Leicester), Glevum (Gloucester), Eboracum (York), Luguvallium (Carlisle), Pons Aelii (Newcastle), Deva (Chester), Venta Bulgarum (Winchester), Isca Dumnoniarum (Exeter), Anderida (Bevensey, Pevensey), Durovernum (Canterbury), Dubrae (Dover), Aquae Solis (Bath), Isca Silurum (Caerleon), Dere Street.

    Camulodunum may have given its name to King Arthur’s Camelot. King William’s army landed at Pevensey. Exeter was the capital of the tribe whose emigrant descendants became the Dukes of Brittany. Winchester became the Saxon capital of Wessex and of England. Count Alan was particularly active in and around London, Cambridge and York. Ratae (Leicester) was a seat of the later De Montfort Dukes of Brittany.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    As governor of East London, Count Alan controlled the Port and thus trade revenues and the fleet. He would have borne much of the responsibility for the naval defence of England: it’s a good thing therefore that Bretons were, and are, excellent sailors.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, in “The Bretons and Normans of England 1066-1154: the family, the fief and the feudal monarchy”, published in Nottingham Mediaeval Studies 36 (1992), 42-78, on page 3 of her article states intriguingly that:

    “Alan Rufus was associated with English landholders in Normandy from 1067”.

    In a similar vein, claims that:

    “Richmond in Yorkshire (current population 8970) was so named when a castle was begun there in 1071 by Alan Rufus … who also held the title of the Earl of Richemont, in France. Richemont – literally translated, it means ‘Rich Mountain’ – still exists as a village in the department of Haute Seine.”

    That Richemont is a village close to the eastern border of Normandy, just north of Aumale but off the main Rouen-Amiens road. Why would Alan own land there?

    There is also a Richemont in the northern arm of the Metz-Nancy conurbation in Lorraine in what is now eastern France (but formerly an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire in Germany), just south of Luxembourg. In later times, this region was ruled by the Rohan branch of the Breton sovereign house.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    For example, on page 7 we read:

    “The Bretons are unusual among mediaeval peoples for having a highly developed awareness of their national and cultural distinctness, and this awareness was not confined to the predominantly Celtic Bretons of the west of Brittany.

    Eleventh-century seigneurs of north-east Brittany, not yet part of the Norman adventure but having contact with Normans and holding Norman lands, were apt to give charters referring to themselves with clamant pride as Haimo, patria Brito, or Riuallonius, Britannicus gente.

    This patriotic pride may account for the marked hostility towards the Bretons displayed by some Norman chroniclers, though it did not hinder, and may have helped, their advancement in England under the Norman kings.

    Once we are aware of this Breton particularism, the shape of the Breton settlement in England after 1066 and the subsequent conduct of Bretons in English affairs, based as these were on Breton politics, becomes immediately intelligible.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    My wife was recently watching a TV broadcast of the series “The Pillars of the Earth”, and I was reminded of “Malcolm Canmore’s” comments here on 2010 December 10 regarding Edith and “Alain” and King Henry I’s death by “a surfeit of lampreys”.

    Ken Follett depicted King Stephen as a ruthless and unscrupulous, but contemporary and subsequent chroniclers saw him quite differently, admiring his great strength and courage in battle, but criticising him for being overly soft and forgiving to his enemies, whereas many of Matilda’s barons were described as wildly destructive of people and property.

    Be that as it may, on page 6 of the above article, Keats-Rohan states:

    “Brien [Brian Fitz Count, aka Brian of Wallingford], [an illegitimate] son of Alan IV Fergant [Duke of Brittany and a distant cousin of Alan Rufus’s], who was brought up by Henry I … became the Empress Matilda’s most loyal supporter.”

    See also: and,_Duke_of_Brittany in which we learn that Brian’s half-brother Conan III married Maud, not the Empress but her half-sister who was also a daughter of King Henry I!

    Brian Fitz Count and Robert of Gloucester were Empress Matilda’s chaperons for her journey to marry Count Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou, founder of the Angevin empire.

    During the Anarchy, Brian and his wife Matilda D’Oyly, widow of Miles Crispin, provided much needed protection to Empress Matilda. “Although [King] Stephen’s forces repeatedly besieged Wallingford Castle, they failed to take the fortification and had to retreat. [Brian’s] castle of Wallingford was the easternmost point of the Angevin defenses in the Thames valley and it held off King Stephen’s forces for over thirteen years. The Empress Maud’s nighttime escape from the siege of Oxford was to the safety of Wallingford Castle.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Back to the Hundred Years’ War,,_Duke_of_Brittany nicely summarises Arthur de Montfort’s importance to the conclusion of that long struggle:

    “Arthur sided with the Armagnac faction against the Burgundians during the civil conflict in France between 1410 and 1414.

    He fought at the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 25 1415, where he was wounded and captured. He was released by the English in 1420 and helped persuade his brother, Duke John, to sign the Treaty of Troyes. In 1422, the English created him Duke of Touraine.

    However, he subsequently returned to the allegiance of the Dauphin in 1424, was made Constable of France with support from Yolande of Aragon in 1425 and fought alongside Joan of Arc during her victory at the Battle of Patay on 18 June 1429.

    He then helped arrange the Treaty of Arras, which cemented the peace between France and Burgundy leading to the eventual defeat of the English.

    He was commander of the French army at the Battle of Formigny on 15 April 1450, the next-to-the-last battle of the Hundred Years’ War that sealed the reconquest of Normandy.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    here are some curious historic connections between some members of the all-time wealth club.

    Andrew Carnegie was born in a weaver’s cottage in Dunfermline, Scotland; Malcolm III and Saint Margaret married in Dunfermline Church, so there’s a 2-link chain from Carnegie to Count Alan.

    The Du Pont family descend from Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739 Paris – 1817) who in turn descended from Burgundian Huguenots; Burgundy was a very important “swinging state” during the Hundred Years’ War, and we’ve seem that Brittany’s Duke Arthur III’s orchestration of the Treaty of Arras that reconciled Burgundy with France was one of two actions of his that sealed England’s fate in that war. Also I’ve mentioned that a leading Huguenot was a Prince de Soubise of the Breton House of Rohan.

    The Rockefellers descend from Goddard (Gotthard) Rockenfeller (1590 Rockenfeld near Neuwied and Koblenz in Germany – 1684). William Avery Rockefeller had hoped to find a noble descent for his family such as the Huguenot family de Roquefeuille, but this seems unlikely as Gotthard was born in Rockenfeld in Germany long before the Huguenots fled France in 1685. The Roquefeuille family were senior nobility from a Basque region in Occitan (southern France). Incidentally, the Roquefeuilles had worked closely with the Breton leaders during the Hundred Years’ War.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    How rich was Alan Rufus in modern terms? About as rich as John Davison Rockefeller Senior, so far as we know, but how rich is that when compared with other fabled riches?

    Well, Alan’s property, in rural England alone, was worth about the same as all the gold and silver found or mined in the Americas from 1500 to 1800.

    It was also equal to about 75 years of Imperial Revenue for the Qing Dynasty who ruled China at its greatest extent.

    What Alan was worth when one includes his properties and investments in London, Normandy, Brittany and Scotland is anyone’s guess.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Why do I think Count Alan had a presence in Scotland?

    Alan was clearly well-known to Malcolm III, but Malcolm also had land in England, so that’s a weak indicator.

    Alan’s property did extend to the Scottish border, we know that from Domesday.

    He brought the name Alan to Britain. In Gaelic the word Alainn means ‘elegant, beautiful, splendid’ so we can imagine the impression he would have made north of the border.

    Incidentally, the Bruces came from a part of the Cotentin peninsula near Valognes, formerly the Gallic town of Alauna which may have the same meaning as Scottish Alainn.

    About 80 years after his death (see we find Alan Fitz Roland (c. 1175 – 1234), the last of the MacFergus dynasty of quasi-independent Lords of Galloway and hereditary Constable of Scotland. He married three times: to Margaret, daughter of David the Earl of Huntingdon and to daughters of Roger de Lacy the Constable of Chester and Hugh de Lacy the 1st Earl of Ulster.

    According to, Ilbert de Lacy, who is said to have led the last feint at Hastings that led to King Harold’s death, held land in West Yorkshire, close to Alan Rufus’s.

    David of Huntingdon was a son of Henry of Huntingdon, a son of King David I of Scotland and Maud the Countess of Huntingdon (c. 1074 – 1130/31) who was a daughter of Waltheof and Judith of Lens, and a younger contemporary of Alan Rufus. Maud married Simon de Senlis in about 1090; he died in 1111, and she married King David in 1113. She had 3 children to Simon and, in her forties, 4 children to David.

    The Fitz Alan family appear early as prominent landholders in Ayrshire and the position of Walter Fitz Alan as Scottish royal steward in 1150.

    The Tweedies, a prominent and widely connected Scottish Borders family of probable Breton origin, descend from Finlaw de Twydyn the Count of Lanark, i.e. of Glasgow and its surrounding County.

    I’ve already noted that the Tweeds, whose surname is pre-Roman British, are today geographically associated with many of Count Alan’s properties in England, with Breton settlers in Leicestershire, and with historic Ayrshire in Scotland.

    Together these facts suggest an early major northward migration of Bretons.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    “Lanark has served as an important market town since medieval times, and King David I made it a Royal Burgh in 1140, giving it certain mercantile privileges relating to government and taxation. [He] realised that greater prosperity could result from encouraging trade. He decided to create a chain of new towns across Scotland. These would be centres of Norman [ahem, Breton] civilisation in a largely Celtic [i.e. Gaelic] country, and would be established in such a way as to encourage the development of trade within their area. These new towns were to be known as Burghs.

    When a site had been selected for a new town the King’s surveyors would lay out an area for the town’s market. Each merchant who came to the town was granted a plot of land (usually rent free for the first few years) bordering on the marketplace. These plots were known as feus or rigs. Each feu in a burgh was the same size, though the size varied between burghs. In Forres each feu was 24 feet 10 inches wide and 429 feet deep. The layout of the feus in Lanark can still be easily seen between the north side of Lanark High Street (the former market place) and North Vennel, a lane which runs behind the feus. A motte and bailey castle was also constructed at the bottom of Castlegate.”

    Presumably the castle mentioned was where Fynlaw de Twydyn later had his seat.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The coat of arms (crest) of the University of Cambridge (founded circa 1209; charter granted 1231 by King Henry III) bears on each corner a gold lion against a red background; the four corners are separated by a white cross emblazoned with black ermine tails representing Brittany. In the centre is a book.

    According to this coat of arms was granted in 1573 by Robert Cooke, Clarenceux King of Arms. The arms are officially described as:

    “Gules, a cross ermine between four lions passant gardant or, and on the cross a closed book fessways gules clasped and garnished or, the clasps downward”.

    The University site translates this into “plain English” as:

    “On a red background, a cross of ermine fur between four gold lions walking but with one fore-leg raised, and facing the observer. (These lions must always face the left-hand edge of the page or item on which the arms are displayed) On the centre of the cross is a closed book with its spine horizontal and with clasps and decoration, the clasps pointing downward.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The article on Ermine in Parker’s Heraldry at suggests that many families we might not immediately associate with Brittany nonetheless self-identify as being (in large measure) Breton: Tattersall, Berkley, Aubigni, Newall, Paveley, de Felbrygg, Banaster, Sawbridge, Lloyd, Kilvington, Hill, Vence, Bradwardine, Wilde, Mignon, Wigston, Croft, Eddowes, Davis, Berry, and others distributed widely from southern France to Ireland.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In the early 1600s, the University of Cambridge was the intellectual centre of Puritan thought. According to, Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon, studied at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (“a recently founded college with a strong Puritan ethos”) and elected to Parliament as Member for Huntingdon in 1628 and as Member for Cambridge in 1640.

    New Towne (Newton), Massachusetts was founded in 1630-1631. Harvard University ( and was established in 1636 by the governing body of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the 1600s Harvard primarily trained Congregationalist (i.e. Puritan) and Unitarian clergy. In May 1638 the town was renamed Cambridge in honour of the English university.

    “The first president (Henry Dunster), the first benefactor (John Harvard), and the first schoolmaster (Nathaniel Eaton) of Harvard were all Cambridge University alumni, as was the then ruling (and first) governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop. In 1629, Winthrop had led the signing of the founding document of the city of Boston, which was known as the Cambridge Agreement, after the university. It was Governor Thomas Dudley who, in 1650, signed the charter creating the corporation which still governs Harvard College.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Now the plot thickens. According to, Ermine street passes through Huntingdon.

    The article states:

    “Ermine Street is the name of a major Roman road in England that ran from London (Londinium) to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia) and York (Eboracum). The Old English name was ‘Earninga Straete’ (1012), named after a tribe called the Earningas, who inhabited a district later known as Armingford Hundred, around Arrington, Cambridgeshire and Royston, Hertfordshire. ‘Armingford’, and ‘Arrington’ share the same Old English origin. The original Roman name for the route is unknown. It is also known as the Old North Road from London to where it joins the A1 Great North Road near Godmanchester.”

    Now, the Earningas were the family or followers of Earn(a). (See and

    Records indicate that the name of Earninga street was changed to Ermine street after the (Re-)Conquest.

    The “-inga” suffix was used by the earliest English settlers in South Cambridgeshire. (Fans of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings will recall that the people of Rohan are also called “Eorlingas”, the followers of Eorl, their national founder.)

    Arrington is just south of the former Roman settlement at Bourn, where Matilda Deincourt lived with her husband Walter. Ermine Street passes just west of Bourn. (See and,_Cambridgeshire.)

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan’s paternal grandmother, Hawise of Normandy (c. 977 – 21 February 1034; see was sister to Emma who married “firstly Æthelred the Unready and secondly Cnut the Great”. (Another sister, Maud, married Odo II Count of Blois, but she died soon after, childless.)

    Emma’s children included: Edward the Confessor; Goda the Countess of Boulogne; Alfred Ætheling; Harthacnut; and Gunhilda the Holy Roman Empress.

    It’s curious that Alan’s land in East Anglia was adjacent to that of King William’s sister Adelaide, Countess of Aumale, and that Aumale is adjacent to Richemont in easternmost Normandy.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Why were the Dukes of Normandy and Brittany so close? Firstly, if we examine we see that: Rollo married Poppa, a Breton; his heir Duke William I married Sprota, a Breton; his heir Duke Richard I married Gunnor (presumed a Dane); his heir Duke Richard II married Papia, a Breton, then Judith, sister of Duke Geoffrey I of Brittany. Geoffrey married Hawise, sister of Duke Richard II.

    Thus all the next generation, Duke Robert I of Normandy, Duke Alan III of Brittany and Eozen (Odo, Eudes) the Count of Penthievre, shared the same four grandparents, so they were effectively siblings.

    Moreover, the families protected each other. “In 1008 when Geoffrey died leaving two young sons Alan III and Eudo, Richard stepped in to protect them and played a major role in governing Brittany during their minority. Subsequently, Hawise acted as regent of Brittany during the minority of her son Alan III.”

    In return, Alan III protected the young Duke William II, with his life. Eozen then became Regent of Brittany and a guardian of William.

    So William, Adelaide, Alan, Brian, Ribald, Matilda, etc, grew up in a closely knit extended family. Therefore it’s not surprising to see them closely associated both geographically and in their actions.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Oliver Cromwell was patrilineally a Williams, being descended from (Henry VIII’s minister) Thomas Cromwell’s elder sister Katherine, who married Morgan ap William ap Yevan of a Welsh family, whose descendants kept both surnames.

    Oliver’s mother was Elizabeth Steward, who was descended from Alexander Stewart, the 4th High Steward of Scotland. Cromwell’s given name might be a reference to Oliver Castle, a property of the Tweedies in the Scottish Borders, who seem to have been relatives of his (not only through the Stewart connection). The Tweedies, like many prominent families from the Borders, fought in the Parliamentary Army against King Charles I, but became disillusioned by the prohibitive nature of Puritan rule, and later supported the Stuarts.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The remarkable discovery of King Richard III’s remains under a car park in Leicester is timely, given the recent mention of the House of Neville: Richard III being a son of Cecily Neville (3 May 1415 – 31 May 1495) an aunt of Richard 16th Earl of Warwick “the Kingmaker”, and husband of Anne Neville (11 June 1456 – 16 March 1485) “the Kingmaker’s Daughter” of Philippa Gregory’s novel.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In I read that Richard III was targeted in the battle of Bosworth Field as a “kind of trophy”.

    In much the same way, Alan Rufus’s presence from 1083 as commander of Norman forces at the 4-year siege of Sainte-Suzanne may have drawn many knights from across Europe to seek glory as the first to best him in battle. Although in this they were evidently disappointed, as Alan survived, many other prominent Breton and Norman knights were slain.

    For a sense of how formidable Sainte-Suzanne’s defences were, see

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    King Henry VII’s coat of arms (see bears on its left a Welsh (or is it Breton?) red dragon and on the right a white hound (representing what?). In a wide flourish above the helmet and before the crown is the white ermine emblem of Brittany backed by red oak leaves which may symbolise divine approval and/or a successful (Roman) general. Other symbols include the Order of the Garter (honi soit qui mal y pense), the coats of arms of England and of France, and growing on the field the red-and-white Tudor roses, symbolising an England in which the rivals Lancaster and York have been united.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Compare Richard III’s coat of arms: which is flanked by two white boars, while the roses are of course white for York. For the multiple meanings of the white boars, particularly their link to York (roman Eboracum), see and

    It would seem certain then that Henry VII’s red dragon is, as generally understood, intended solely to represent the Welsh origin of the Tudor family. As for hi suse of the white Talbot hound, see for example

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    As we were watching the movie “Confucius” starring Chow Yun Fat, my sister-in-law mentioned the Great Wall of China, repeating the urban myth that it was the only man-made structure visible from the Moon. (It’s certainly long enough, but in fact it’s too narrow to be seen.)

    This reminded me of the Roman Limes across Europe, which, like the Great Wall of that era, were made mostly of earthen ramparts, with watch towers and fortresses at intervals. The Romans also had ditches and palisades; I’m not sure whether the Chinese did, though in the civil wars of the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-280) sometimes they employed them as temporary measures against cavalry.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Revealing great respect for Breton military prowess, the Franks built formidable fortifications and stationed defences in depth along the Breton border during the Merovingian (c 500-750) and early Carolingian (751-851) periods.

    The immediate aftermath of the failed invasion of Brittany in August 851 by the West Franks under King Charles the Bald (13 June 823 – 6 October 877) was that the Bretons under Erispoe took all those forts and the counties of Anjou, Maine, Touraine and the Contentin, thereby recovering most of Armorica (the region between the Loire and Seine rivers).

    The lessons of this are firstly that strong defences are of no value without ample troops, and secondly that one military miscalculation can lead to catastrophic losses.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Feints were used extensively by the Bretons and also by Charles Martel (c. 688 – 22 October 741) the Palace Mayor of Austrasia and renowned grandfather of Charlemagne. According to

    “Several things were notable about [the battle of Amblève in 716], in which Charles set the pattern for the remainder of his military career: first, he appeared where his enemies least expected him, while they were marching triumphantly home and far outnumbered him.

    He also attacked when least expected, at midday, when armies of that era traditionally were resting.

    Finally, he attacked them how they least expected it, by feigning a retreat to draw his opponents into a trap.

    The feigned retreat, next to unknown in Western Europe at that time [except in Brittany, where the Alans had assimilated] — it was a traditionally eastern tactic — required both extraordinary discipline on the part of the troops and exact timing on the part of their commander.

    Charles, in this battle, had begun demonstrating the military genius that would mark his rule. The result was an unbroken victory streak that lasted until his death.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In comparing Charles Martel’s record (one loss) with the successes and sole failure (at Saint-Suzanne) of King William I and Count Alan, we should remember that Charles wasn’t fighting steep uphill battles against prepared enemies. Nor did he aspire to use a modest portion of his forces to capture a formidable hill fortress supported by ceaselessly in-pouring multitudes of Europe’s best knights.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Song of Roland is a romanticized account of the death (on 14 August 778) of Roland the Warden of the Breton March. (His name in Frankish was Hruodland.) According to

    “Roland was evidently the first official appointed to direct Frankish policy in Breton affairs, as local Franks under the Merovingian dynasty had not previously pursued any specific relationship with the Bretons.

    The [Franks’ numerous] frontier castle districts such as Vitré, Ille-et-Vilaine, south of Mont Saint-Michel, are now divided between Normandy and Brittany [because first the Bretons then the Vikings captured them].

    The distinctive culture of this region preserves the present-day Gallo language and legends of local heroes such as Roland. [Hence the singing of Roland’s exploits by the Gallo-speaking West Normans and East Bretons before Hastings.]

    Roland’s successor in Brittania Nova was Guy of Nantes, who like Roland, was unable to exert Frankish expansion over Brittany and merely sustained a Breton presence in the Carolingian Empire.”

    Guy of Nantes is an ancestor of Count Alan.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    On page 9 of Neil S. Price’s 122 page monograph “The Vikings in Brittany” for the Viking Society for Northern Research at the University College London, published in 1989, available to download from, he states that:

    “at times Breton influence extended far into Neustria [North France] and Aquitaine [South-West France]”.

    Thus, Breteuil and Bretigny, and the Breton Strait, and the many French towns named after Breton saints.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    A further indication of the wealth of the Breton sovereign house is given in,_Duke_of_Brittany.

    In 1347, early in the Breton War of Succession, Charles of Blois-Châtillon (husband of Joan of Penthièvre, the Duchess of Brittany), was captured by Thomas Dagworth of England and was held for nine years, when it was agreed that Joan should pay about “half a million ecús” for his ransom.

    Now, according to, in monetary exchanges an ecú was accepted as worth close to a english crown (five shillings). In other words, Joan paid over 100,000 english pounds in 1356 money.

    If one interprets a pound sterling as representing the value of a pound of silver, then that’s 50 tons of silver. At the current price of about 28 dollars per ounce, that’s a mere 45 million dollars in today’s money. However, 200 years later, in the mid-1500s, 100,000 pounds would have paid 20,000 labourers’ wages for a year, so in today’s terms that would be worth about a billion dollars.

    Allowing for two centuries’ inflation at a modest 2% per year, the ransom was worth about 50 billion dollars in the 1356. If the many wars waged during the interval instead caused an annual inflation rate of 3%, then it was worth closer to 400 billion dollars.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Quoting, “Sir Thomas Dagworth (born 1276 in Bradwell Juxta Coggeshall in Essex, died 1352) was an English knight and soldier, who led English armies in Brittany during the Hundred Years’ War.”

    Thomas Dagworth’s coat of arms features those of Brittany overlaid with a red band and three golden disks. In the de Dagworth family are described as Norman knights, whose surname reflects the place in England where they settled.

    However, we know better than to accept the Breton coat of arms as signifying a “Norman”, especially given the admission on the same webpage that:

    “Between 1189-99, Osbert fitz Hervey, the king’s justice, was granted Dagworth by Geoffrey, Count de Perch. Osbert started out as an obscure East Anglian knight”.

    Hervey is a Breton name; being in East Anglia it’s likely that the family descends from members of Count Alan’s entourage.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The symbolic use of ermine (as a symbol for Brittany and/or for purity and fecundity) has for centuries been considered the reserve of monarchs.

    The current “St Edward’s Crown” (named after St Edward the Confessor), which is the British coronation crown, is set on a band of ermine.

    The Queen’s personal flag in each of her dominions is bordered by ermine.

    The British use of ermine is not surprising given the Breton ancestry of many English and Scottish monarchs: the similar Tudor Crown is also set on ermine.

    What is more remarkable is that despite their notable exterior differences, the “greater versions” of royal coats of arms of nations were (eg Bourbon France, Philip 1 of Castile, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Italy, the Hapsburgs) and are (eg the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Emperor Akihito of Japan) mantled with ermine (see eg

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In the charter of King William that grants Richmondshire to Count Alan, Alan is described as the King’s “nepos” (Latin for nephew or grandson). This may seem peculiar given that Alan was William’s (younger) cousin. However, it explicitly put Alan and his heirs in line for the throne. So when Matilda d’Ayncourt’s son is described as being of royal descent, it makes sense as a reference to his mother as a sister of (His Royal Highness) Alan.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Sometime before October 1040, Duke Alan III granted his brother Eozen several locations in Brittany, including Penteur and Dol.

    As mentioned, the Breton named Alan who was ancestor of the Stuarts, and of the Fitz Alan Earls of Arundel, was dapifer (steward) to the Ancient Archbishopric of Dol in 1086 and a crusader in 1097.

    In 1086, Dol was governed by Geoffrey Boterel, Count Alan’s eldest brother; since both Geoffrey and Alan died in 1093, in 1097 Dol was under Stephen of Tregor, Alan’s youngest brother.

    So the ancestors of the Stuarts were indeed subordinates of Count Alan’s family, which is another point in favour of Count Alan Rufus having a presence in Scotland.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    How likely is it, as some assume, that Count Alan is implicated in the Harrying of the North?

    If the purpose of the Harrying, as generally understood, was to extirpate the remnants of Anglo-Saxon power and quash all possibility of future rebellion, and if Alan shared that motive, then Domesday’s proof of Alan’s subsequent behaviour, in retaining so many pre-1066 Lords in their previous titles and positions of power, is difficult to understand.

    Furthermore, if Alan hated the English so vehemently, why, as Archbishop Anselm acknowledges in personal letters to Gunnhild, did she, the daughter of King Harold and his beloved Edith Swannecka, love Alan and his family so?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Histories do not say who so swiftly quashed the formidable northern rebellion. Usually it’s just put down to King William. But why then was the land given to Count Alan as his personal possession?

    _After_ the formidable northern rebellion was quashed, William sent an army led by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, Earl of Kent, to massacre the population of the North of England and devastate its animals and crops. On his death bed in 1087, William repented of the cruel injustice of his decision. But perhaps it was the Bishop’s idea and William authorised it, not realising quite what Odo had in mind?

    And why would Alan want to participate in destroying the productivity of the land he was to rule and profit from? The rebellion was crushed; there was nothing for him to gain. Again, if he were culpable in this, then why would he retain so many English lords, all of whom would have hated with a vengeance whoever did this to their people and lands?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    After William the Conqueror died, having assigned England to his third son William Rufus, Bishop Odo almost immediately led most of the great magnates in rebelling against William junior.

    Count Alan could have done the same and thereby taken all the king’s possessions in the North, but instead he stood against his fellow magnates.

    Why was Alan willing to risk his life and property in opposing Odo and so many powerful colleagues? Didn’t he and Odo get along? What was the origin of his steadfast opposition to Odo’s scheme?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan, uniquely among the magnates, is always portrayed with a cheerful expression, and was commended after death for the rare combination of qualities of studiously seeking peace, being kind to the poor, and great generosity. This wasn’t just a front, as Gunnhild knew who he really was and loved him for it.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Although Bishop Odo led the troops responsible for the Harrying of the North, Odo gained no land out of that or indeed the defeat of the rebellion. Why not?

    I suggest that Count Alan and his knights were personally responsible for the victory against the rebels, but that they played no part in the Harrying, being engaged in pursuing the rebels into Scotland.

    Furthermore, that after the Harrying, Alan politely insisted on an audience with King William, to “please explain”. William brought his Norman knights, only to find this bodyguard surrounded by a larger number of Breton knights led by Alan.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Then Alan laid out his terms: he offered his continuing unconditional loyalty to the King and his heirs, on the condition that the lands most devastated by Odo’s army would be given to Alan alone, to the exclusion of all other magnates and even the King himself.

    Alan would pay the King his due in taxes for the sake of his royal dignity; but Bishop Odo, for his excesses, would receive nothing in or from the North.

    Alan had meanwhile dictated the charter granting him the land he now named Richmondshire, phrasing it in terms intended to counter any hubris William may have harboured in authorising Odo’s actions.

    Alan now respectfully requested (and required) the King read the charter aloud in the presence of all the Norman and Breton witnesses: “I, William, called the Bastard, King of England, hereby grant …”.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Bretons regard their absorption into France, which became official during the French Revolution and complete after the introduction of universal education in French in the late 1800s, as a commercial and financial calamity for their land.

    France, however, has always regarded Brittany with high regard for its peoples’ military aptitude. It’s unsurprising that rhe most important French naval base is in Brest, in western Brittany. More remarkable is the central role of Brittany in French officer training.

    ‘The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM, literally the “Special Military School of Saint-Cyr”) is the foremost French military academy. Its official name is “École de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan”. It is often referred to as Saint-Cyr (French pronunciation: ​[sɛ̃ siʁ]). Its motto is “Ils s’instruisent pour vaincre”: literally “They study to vanquish” or “Training for victory”. French cadet officers are named “saint-cyriens”, or “cyrards”. The École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr is located in Coëtquidan in Guer, Morbihan department, Brittany’.

    This academy was founded by Napoleon, first in Fontainebleau near Paris in 1803; he moved it to its current location in Brittany in 1808.

    As previously mentioned, Fontainebeau Palace was constructed by the Breton House of Rohan, suggesting that the Breton connection was always intended; one of Napoleon’s generals was a Rohan.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Bretons and Basques often intermarried in the ancient past, and they still do. A controversial example is Augusto Pinochet, the former dicator of Chile, whose father was a Breton and mother a Basque.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    St Anselm as Archbishop of Canterbury in Kent was concerned (surely not selfishly?) about the question of whether his archbishopric or that of York’s held primacy in England.

    Bishop Odo was Earl of Kent, whereas Count Alan was the most powerful magnate north of the Thames, with interests at York.

    If, as I have suggested, there were also other reasons (than mere rivalry) for animosity between Alan and Odo, then perhaps the particular severity of Anselm’s letters to Gunnhild on Alan’s death in 1093 was influenced by this “feud”.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Norman chroniclers, who boast of the exploits of numerous Normans but name no Breton commanders at all, claim that following heavy losses, at noon the Breton line broke and fell back in disarray, and that the pursuit of the Bretons by Saxon infantry gave Duke William the brilliant idea to conduct two feigned retreats.

    Leaving aside the fact that the Normans were already practised at cavalry feints during the preceding decades, that notion pretends to ignorance of the feint as a standard Breton tactic dating back centuries.

    Also, contrary to claims that the javelin was not in use at Hastings, the Bayeux tapestry has a very clear depiction of overhead javelin throws by both sides in the heat of the battle, with infantry on both sides, as well as cavalry on William’s side, being brought down by that weapon.

    As we know, the Breton cavalry were adept at using the Roman pilum to break up shield walls, as Charles the Bald learnt in 851 to France’s cost. The same tactic at Hastings in 1066 would have slowly but steadily thinned Harold’s shield wall until the cavalry could break through. Indeed, it was on the western flank, where the Breton cavalry was located, that the Saxon defences first crumbled.

    As Geoffrey Gaimar states, Alan and his Breton knights struck well indeed. One can visualise the shock to the defenders as Alan and company rushed eastwards, cutting down all who stood in their way, and striking the shield infantry from behind to allow the Normans, Flemish and French heavy cavalry to charge through from the centre and east to join the fray, all joining to surround brave but doomed Harold and his bodyguard of housecarls.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Poitou was one of the few counties on the European mainland _not_ to rebel against King John when word spread that he had murdered his nephew and rival Duke Arthur of Brittany. Why was that?

    If William of Poitiers’ views are any guide, then Poitevins may – for whatever peculiar reasons – have nursed a deep-seated prejudice against Bretons. He is relied upon as a primary source in most books about the Battle of Hastings, but even his admirers note a certain bias.

    In his panegyric of William the Conqueror, “Gesta Guillelmi II Ducis Normannorum” (“The Deeds of William II, Duke of the Normans”), written (according to between 1071 and 1077, this gentleman libels the Bretons to a grossly offensive degree, claiming that the men shared ten wives, and that Duke Alan like his son Duke Conan acted treacherously to Duke William.

    In fact, as we know from other sources, Duke Alan was murdered by Duke William’s enemies because he was a loyal guardian of his close relative the young Duke William.

    As other Norman chroniclers noted, Duke Conan was a more legitimate Duke of Normandy than Duke William was. Moreover, far from being underhanded, when Conan laid his plans to invade Normandy by way of Anjou and Maine, he had the courtesy to announce his intentions to his rival.

    So, given William of Poitiers bigotry, against the knowledge that both Bretons and Normans were well-versed in feints, how credible is he when he claims that the Bretons suddenly panicked and fell back in disarray, after attacking the English steadily for the first three hours?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    George Beech, as recorded in, was concerned to defend his hypothesis that the Bayeux Tapestry was produced at the Abbey of Saint-Florent de Saumur in Anjou, under the direction of Abbot William of Dol.

    Abbot William was the son of Riwallon of Dol, who had rebelled against Duke Conan II with Duke William’s support; a surprising 10% of the tapestry is devoted to detailing this campaign.

    A factor that has been overlooked is that Conan had imprisoned his uncle and former regent Eozen, and that whereas Conan favoured an alliance with Anjou, by sharp contrast Eozen and his son Count Alan Rufus favoured Normandy.

    Moreover, Eozen was overlord of north-east Brittany, including Dol.

    To make matters even more interesting, several generations of Eozen’s family, before, during and after his time, were benefactors of Saumur’s Saint-Florent Abbey, which may have helped Abbot William get his job.

    Since Duke William was allied with Eozen and his sons, the connections between the campaigns in Brittany and in England are more complex and more important than George Beech suggests.

    It’s reasonable to suppose, given his personal connection with all the Breton locations depicted in this section of the tapestry, that Count Alan joined William in this campaign, or even have urged him to it.

    One might expect to find a depiction of someone as important as Alan Rufus somewhere on the tapestry, but if so, which figure is he?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In “A History of the Anglo-Saxons, Volume 1”, page 228, Robert H. Hodgkin imagines the scene at Hastings. Describing the approach of the Normans and their allies, he writes:

    “As the invaders drew nigh, Harold saw a division advancing, composed of the volunteers from the Boulogne and from the Amiennois, under the command of William Fitz-Osbern and Roger Montgomery. ‘It is the duke’, exclaimed Harold, `and little shall I fear him. By my forces will his be four times outnumbered!’

    Gurth shook his head, and expatiated on the strength of the Norman cavalry, as opposed to the foot soldiers of England; but their discourse was stopped by the appearance of the combined cohorts, under Aymeric, Viscount of Thouars, and Alan [Rufus] of Brittany.

    Harold’s heart sank at the sight and he broke out into passionate exclamations of fear and dismay.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Having noted the use of the specialised Roman javelin, the pilum, against Frankish and Saxon shield walls, I should mention that, according to, the English word “javelin” is the Middle French (feminine) diminutive form of the Old French (probably originally Gaulish) javelot. Compare Old Irish gabul “fork” and Welsh gafl “fork” and gaflach “feathered spear”.

    So, probably, the Bretons would have referred to the weapon as a javelot. Compare the Arthurian Cycle’s “Lancelot” and “Camelot”.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The composition of William the Conqueror’s army reflected the family connections of his grandparents Richard II of Normandy and his wife Judith of Brittany.

    Those children included two Dukes of Normandy (Richard III and Robert the Magnificent), one Countess of Burgundy (Alice), one monk (named William), and one countess of Flanders (Eleanor).

    While distant Burgundy may not have sent a contingent to Hastings, later Kings of England were able to call on the Burgundians to assist them mightily against the French during the Hundred Years War – that is, until Joan of Arc and her sponsors the Breton-descended House of Lorraine persuaded the Burgundians to change sides.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Through their great-aunt Emma, Duke Alan III of Brittany and his brother Eozen were, like Duke Robert of Normandy, cousins of Edward the Confessor.

    So, as the Norman writers acknowledge, it’s true that Alan’s family, with their better pedigree, had a superior claim to England than did his cousin William.

    That neither Alan nor his heirs pushed the point, shows remarkable loyalty.

    At a trivia competition last night, I was told by a fellow team-member with middle eastern connections and an interest in history that the bond between the Breton and Norman ruling families was an example of a “blood debt” – a mutual allegiance that cannot be broken.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Breton sovereign house maintained its links with Cambridge and its University: Ivo (a.k.a. Guy) la Zouche was thrice Chancellor of CU in the late 1300s. Sources:, and ,

    Of Ivo la Zouche, more is written on page 202 of “The topographer: containing a variety of original articles, illustrative of the local history and antiquities of England”, Volume 1, edited by Sir Egerton Brydges.

    Ivo (alternatively rendered in English as Ives or in French as Eudes or in Breton as Eozen) is also the name of a Breton saint (reference: who lived from 1253 to 1303. He was born in Kermatin, near Tregor, and is the patron saint of lawyers “though, not, it is said, their model”.

    There was also a Cornish bishop of the first millenium A.D. named Ivo ( honoured by the Abbey of Ramsey ( in Cambridgeshire (), and after whom the town of St. Ives in historic Huntingdonshire, but now in Cambridgeshire (see,_Huntingdonshire), is named.

    Yet another Ivo is a reputed Persian bishop heard of by Withman, Abbot of Ramsey, while the latter was serving in the Holy Land.

    Goscelin of Saint Bertin and Canterbury (, who was born about 1040 and died after 1106 (and therefore was a contemporary of Alan Rufus), recorded a tradition identifying the latter two bishops Ivo as the same person, a notion discounted as “completely spurious” by Cyril Hart in his 1964 article “[Abbot] Eadnoth I of Ramsey and Dorchester”.

    Interestingly, many of the place names, especially the rivers’ names, in this region of East Anglia are Old British, not Anglo-Saxon. Examples are Cam, meaning a meandering stream, and Ouse, possibly meaning water or a slow stream.

    The cathedral city of Ely in Cambridgeshire has an uncertain derivation: is it to do with eels, or does its name begin with the Brythonic syllable “e” (sometimes “a”) signifying water?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The arms of the City of Westminster (q.v. are flanked by two Lions Ermine, representing the prominent Cecil (Seisyllt) family (

    The Cecils came (around 1500) from Alt-yr-Ynys in Herefordshire (anciently a Welsh speaking area) and their surname is Welsh. So I wonder why they chose ermine, the emblem of Brittany, merged with lions, often associated with Normandy?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan Rufus owned land in London. Moreover, in, one finds a number of Breton names:

    1189-1212 Henry Fitz-Ailwin de Londonestone: First Mayor of London (24 terms!) – his second son was named Alan.
    1212-1214 Roger Fitzalan: Second Mayor of London.

    1217 Salomon de Basing – possibly Breton because a King of Brittany was named Salomon (aka Salaun).

    1246 Peter Fitzalan.

    1251 Adam de Basing (Breton if Salomon was).

    1265 John Walerand (his sister Alice’s son was Alan Plugenet).
    1265 John de La Linde (whether Breton or not, he is interesting as the husband of Joan de Nevill, later Nevilles being descended from Alan Rufus’s brother Ribald and from Matilda d’Ayncourt).

    1267 Alan la Zuche (a descendant of the De La Z(o)uche line of the Breton sovereign house).

    1271-1272 Walter Hervey (2 terms) – “Hervey” is Breton.
    1273 Henry le Walleis (1st term) (“Walleis” suggests he was Celtic, anyway).

    1281-1283 Henry le Walleis (terms 2-4).

    1289 John le Breton (1st term).

    1293-1298 John le Breton (terms 2-7).
    1298 Henry le Walleis (5th term).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan la Zouche (1205–1270), an interesting character ( was a benefactor of the Knights Templars, to whom he gave lands at Sibford.

    Indeed, some other members of the Breton sovereign house are recorded as being Knights Templar as well as donors to the Order – donors, not lenders or borrowers as most other royal families were.

    Viewers of “Les Rois Maudis” ( will quickly sense that when the spendthrift King Phillippe IV of France seized the treasury of the Knights Templar and killed Jacques de Molay and other leaders of the Order, he was also robbing the Bretons, which may go some way to explaining why the French Crown was deeply unpopular in Brittany for much of the Hundred Years’ War.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Philippa Gregory, writing on Jacquetta de Luxembourg in “The Women of the Cousin’s War” (War of the Roses to most of us), asserts (on page 32 in the Introduction) that “her daughter and son sponsored the first printing press in England and edited the first ever book printed in England”.

    I presume the daughter referred to here is Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England (as wife of Edward IV) and mother of Elizabeth of York (who was the mother of Henry VIII). Professor Gregory speculates that Thomas Malory’s Camelot was based on Elizabeth Woodville’s court.

    Jacquetta’s first husband, John the Duke of Bedford, brother of Henry V and Regent of France during the minority of Henry VI, was scholarly and had built up an important library, which, among many other books, contained tales of King Arthur. On the Duke’s death, he bequeathed all his property to Jacquetta, who kept the library – perhaps she was its keenest reader.

    I had previously found Jacquetta by following the Breton lines of descent from Stephen Tregor, but since I had not looked at her descendants I had not realised how important she was.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The first movable-type printing press in England was cornstructed and operated in Westminste by William Caxton (ca. 1415~1422 – ca. March 1492), and the first book he printed in England was Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” (1476).

    Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1395 – February 3, 1468), from Mainz in Germany, invented movable type and a process for mass producing it. His colleagues borrowed money (apparently interest-free) in Strasbourg (in Alsace) to fund it.

    Now, the Breton sovereign house was closely connected with Strasbourg (and ruled the neighbouring Duchy of Lorraine), so I’m thinking, did they lend the capital for the printing press? It’s the sort of thing they were wont to do: they had given a large sum of money to bail out the de Brosse family who’d given their all for Joan of Arc, and they later sponsored Leonardo da Vinci.

    Combining this with the known involvement of the Bretons in the English Civil War, the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial Revolution, and leading politicians and industrialists of the 19th and 20th centuries, and one begins to form a picture of a people who, while themselves subject to the vicissitudes of history, contributed mightily to material and social progress over a very long period of time.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    I’m almost convinced that Sir Lancelot’s characteristics are based on Count Alan Rufus.

    Lancelot was Breton, the most trusted and valiant knight of a formidable fighting king, in a doomed and forbidden love affair with a royal lady (Guinevere/Gunnhild). Even the first syllable “Lan” resembles “Alan”.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Lancelot seems to have been invented by the troubadour Chrétien de Troyes who gave him a starring role in “Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart” (written between 1177 and 1181).

    As for Chrétien de Troyes himself (étien_de_Troyes), “between 1160 and 1172 he served at the court of his patroness Marie of France, Countess of Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, perhaps as herald-at-arms”. Marie of France was thus a sister of the Geoffrey who was betrothed before 1171 to Constance of Brittany. (Geoffrey and Constance married in 1181.)

    De Troyes wrote several other Arthurian romances: “Erec and Enide” (c. 1170) where Lancelot first appears; “Cligès” (c. 1176); “Yvain, the Knight of the Lion” (also 1177-1181); and the unfinished “Perceval, the Story of the Grail” (1181-1190).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In Erec and Enide, Lancelot is listed as the third knight in importance, with Gawain (Arthur’s nephew) listed first. Opinions differ as to the origin of Gawain’s name – see e.g. – but I note that Gwenn is Breton for the colour white. In “Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart”, Lancelot is described as the white knight.

    There are other similarities between the two, which also match Alan Rufus’s reputation.

    “Gawain is often portrayed as a formidable, courteous, and also a compassionate warrior, fiercely loyal to his king and family. He is a friend to young knights, a defender of the poor, and as “the Maidens’ Knight”, a defender of women as well.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The glowing testimony to Alan Rufus I cited in an earlier comment was by Orderic Vitalis (1075 – c. 1142), who was a Benedictine monk atthe Abbey of Saint-Evroul in Lower (western) Normandy. (Incidentally, Alan’s brother Ribald spent his last years as a Benedictine monk at the Abbey of St Mary’s which Alan founded in York.)

    Two books that contain that quote from Orderic are “The religious houses of Yorkshire” (1853) by George Lawton, and “The Peerage of England, Or A Genealogical and Historical Account of All the Peers of England Now Existing …” (January 1735) by Arthur Collins.

    A fuller version (from Collins’ book) of the quote is as follows:

    “He was ever studious for peace, a great lover of the poor, and an especial honorer of the religious; his death without issue occasioned no little sadness to the people”.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    A line of descent from Alan Rufus’s brother, Stephen Count of Treguier, to King George I of Great Britain, through the senior Rohan line:

    Stephen Count of Treguier and Lord of Richmond, Count Alan the Black the Lord of Richmond (not to be confused with his uncle Alan Niger also Lord of Richmond), Constance of Brittany, Alan IV de Rohan, Alan V de Rohan, Alan VI de Rohan, Olivier II de Rohan, Alan VII de Rohan, Jean I de Rohan, Alan VIII de Rohan, Alan IX de Rohan, Marguerite de Rohan (1412-1497), Charles de Valois the Duke Angouleme and Duke of Orleans (1459-1496) (who was also father of King Francis I of France whose first wife was Duchess Claude of Brittany), Jeanne d’Angouleme, Jacqueline de Longwy, Charlotte de Bourbon-Montpessier (wife of William the Silent of Orange-Nassau), Louise Juliana of Orange-Nassau (1576-1644), Frederick V (de Simmern) Wittelsbach (who married Elizabeth Stuart, Princess of Great Britain), Sophia Wittelsbach (who married Ernest Augustus the Elector of Hanover), King George I of Great Britain.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Orderic Vitalis said of King William I, regarding the Harrying of the North in the winter of 1069-70:

    “The King stopped at nothing to hunt his enemies. He cut down many people and destroyed homes and land. Nowhere else had he shown such cruelty. This made a real change.

    To his shame, William made no effort to control his fury, punishing the innocent with the guilty. He ordered that crops and herds, tools and food be burned to ashes. More than 100,000 people perished of hunger.

    I have often praised William in this book, but I can say nothing good about this brutal slaughter. God will punish him.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Not only Orderic Vitalis but also William of Malmesbury, Symeon of Durham and Florence of Worcester condemned the Harrying as unacceptable behaviour by the Conqueror.

    The Wikipedia article on the Harrying of the North, citing K.S.B. Keats-Rohan’s summary biography “Alan Rufus (d. 1093)” in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, says:

    “Having effectively subdued the population William carried out a wholesale replacement of Anglo-Saxon leaders with Norman ones in Yorkshire. He granted one of his most trusted followers, Alain Le Roux, the Honour of Richmond in 1071 giving him control of York.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The House of Luxembourg and/or the Woodvilles apparently retained close ties to Brittany, as the brothers Anthony and Edward Woodville (see brought 1000 archers to Brittany in April 1472.

    In 1483-1485 Edward was in Brittany again, where he joined Henry Tudor and received a pension from Duke Francis.

    In 1485 Edward fought for Henry in the Tudor victory at Bosworth Field.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Quoting Susan Higginbotham:

    “In May 1488, Edward “either abhorring ease and idleness or inflamed with ardent love and affection toward the Duke of Brittany,” as Hall’s chronicle has it, asked Henry VII to allow him to assist the duke in fighting the French. Henry VII, who hoped for peace with France, refused the request, but Edward ignored this and returned to the Isle of Wight, where he raised a “crew of tall and hardy personages” and sailed to Brittany. Henry then reconsidered and decided to send Woodville reinforcements, but the French arrived in Brittany before this could be done. At St. Aubin-du-Cormier on July 27, 1488, Edward Woodville fought his last battle. He and almost all of his troops perished.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In the battle of St. Aubin-du-Cormier, the French army made the first use of massed cannons. Their victory ensured that Brittany would become a dependancy of the French crown, the French King insisting that if the Duke had no male heirs, then his eldest daughter would marry the French Dauphin, and that the King of France would thenceforth rule the Duchy of Brittany.

    Ironically, an effect of this union was that the French royal family subsequently became predominantly of Breton descent.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Poitou, Queen Mother Eleanor’s capital County, was among those that rebelled against King John when Duke Arthur died, so it’s likely that William of Poitiers’ bigotry against Bretons was not widely shared.

    However, one of William of Poitiers’s informants affirmed that both the Norman/Breton/Flemish side and the Anglo-Saxons did use javelins during the Battle of Hastings.

    Incidentally, I’ve recently read that the Anglo-Saxons weren’t alone in wielding double-sided battle axes: the Bretons were using them too! Ouch!

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The Breton language forms the names of occupations in the same way as English, German and French, so Breton for laborer/labourer is “labourer”.

    In songs employing call (kan) and response (diskan), the caller is “kaner” and the responder is “diskaner”.

    Breton for brothers/brethren is “breudeur”, similar to German “bruder”.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan was “very young” when he was noted as a particularly “valiant knight”. So, a bizarre thought occurred to me: is Count Alan Rufus (Alan Ar Rouz) an inspiration for the (very young) Count Octavian Rofrano, the Rosenkavalier in Richard Strauss’s comic opera?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    ON the topic of German opera, historically a Nibelung is not, as depicted in the movie “The Curse of the Ring”, an ethereal otherworldly being, but rather the 5th century name of the ruling house of the Burgundians, who were then based at Worms in Germany, and already famous for their wealth. (Worm is an old slang word for a dragon, so one can see how the legend developed.)

    In the 1400s the House of Luxembourg was under the overlordship of the Duke of Burgundy. When the Count of Maine sought a wife for his son, he set a dowry so high that the Duke of Burgundy could not afford to raise the funds. The Luxembourgs, however, did; evidently it’s they who had the larger fortune.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Brunhilda (c. 543 – 613) was a Visigothic princess who married King Sigebert I of Austrasia. She had a murderous feud with Fredegund (died 597) who had murdered Brunhilda’s sister, Galswintha, wife of King Chilperic I of Soissons, in order to replace her as Queen Consort.

    Gregory of Tours (30 November c. 538 – 17 November 594) describes Fredegund as a ruthless murderess. Folklorist Alan Dundes quotes Gregory’s account of Fredegund’s cruelty to her own daughter Rigunth, in support of his suggestion that Fredegund was an inspiration for the stepmother of Cinderella.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Breton cultural influences on their Habsburg descendants may have influenced the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in which he defied the Frank’s Salic Law by naming his daughters, (future Empress) Maria Theresa and Archduchess Maria Anna, as his heirs.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Some interesting Bretons in literature:

    Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, has a Breton given name.

    François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand, “the founder of Romanticism in French literature”, was Breton, born in the (former pirate base) of Saint Malo and raised in his aristocratic family’s castle in Combourg, Brittany.

    The 2007 movie “Silk”, based on Alessandro Baricco’s novel, is a story about Hervé, a Breton officer in the French military, who changes career to become a silk merchant.

    Jules Verne, born on Île Feydeau, “a small island within the town of Nantes” in Brittany.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Edeva the Fair (identified by some with Edith Swannesha, the mother of Gunnhild) was in 1066 the Overlord (owner) of Cheveley and many other places in Cambridgeshire associated with both Alan Rufus and the Tweed family.

    Looking at the list of her former properties, I cannot overlook Stevington [End] in Essex (, where the 1086 Tenants-in-Chief were:

    Aubrey de Vere (Lord of Oxford)
    Tihel of HellÈan
    Count Alan of Brittany (Lord of Cambridge)

    and … wait for it …

    Frodo brother of Abbot Baldwin.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Godric the Steward, who held only Stoke in Suffolk before 1066, occurs as Lord or Tenant-in-Chief 143 times in 1086, frequently in association with Count Alan.

    In Walpole, Norfolk, a location within Count Alan’s sphere in 1086, was born Godric of Finchale (c. 1065 – 21 May 1170), a very long-lived popular saint with a very interesting story (

    There is already a novel about Saint Godric (“Godric” (October 1980) by Frederick Buechner, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize), but the connection with Count Alan might have some mileage.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    It’s said that King William deposed all the Anglo-Dane lords after the rebellion in the North; if so, Count Alan reinstated them!

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    A classic example is Godric the Steward, who held just one lordship in 1066, but is associated with 143 entries in the Domesday Book, 28 of them as a Lord in the Land of Count Alan.

    All the entries for Godric outside Yorkshire were in counties where Alan was the largest landowner; Godric was Tenant-in-Chief in 56 of those locations.

    Alan was in King William’s innermost circle of advisers, and judging by the status of other associates of Alan’s – Bretons, Normans and Anglo-Saxons alike – the Breton Count was persuasive enough with King William to make people of his own choice Tenants-in-Chief.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In Alan’s northern caput of Richmond, he shared the lordship 50-50 with Enisant Musard, but gave Enisant 90% of the revenues!

    Enisant was lord of 26 locations in total, the last 24 listed in the Domesday Book being in the Land of Count Alan. The second listed was in Tochestorp in the hundred of Forehoe in Norfolk which Enisant shared with Ribald brother of Count Alan under Alan’s tenancy-in-chief.

    The first listed was in Cheveley in the hundred of Cheveley in Cambridgeshire where Edeva the Fair had been Overlord in 1066; Count Alan was tenant-in-chief in 1086.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Speaking of Edeva the Fair (Edith Swannesha), by 1086 Alan had taken over many of her properties, but it seems there was a smooth handover, at least for Almer of Bourn. Almer was lord in 5 locations under Edeva in 1066, and not only kept those in 1086 but was given another four by Alan.

    Apparently Edeva the Fair, Almer of Bourn and Count Alan had connections, which probably included Matilda D’Aincourt if it’s true that Matilda was Alan’s sister and had married Walter in Bourn in 1065.

    This week I read that in “late” 1066 a “Norman” cavalry contingent went to Cambridgeshire. Perhaps this is evidence of Alan heading to Bourn to protect his sister, presumably some time between the Battle of Hastings on 14 October and William’s coronation on 25 December.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Since Alan chose Enisant Musard, his lord tenant in Cheveley, to be in charge of Richmond, his caput in the North, either Enisant himself or Cheveley town, or both, must have been important to Alan.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Godric the Steward, incidentally, held land in Thurning in Norfolk.

    Thurning is of interest for early American history, because, as Wikipedia states: “In 1659, Peter Elwin of Thurning (1623–1695) married Anne Rolfe, the elder daughter of Thomas Rolfe, who was the son of John Rolfe and his wife Pocahontas. John Rolfe was originally from Heacham in Norfolk, and his granddaughter Anne was brought up there.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In “British History Online: Cheveley – Manors and estate”,, we learn that: “In 1022 Ely abbey gave CHEVELEY to King Cnut in exchange for Woodditton … Between 1086 and 1130 the Crown granted the manor to Alan de Dinan-Bécherel (d. c. 1157) whose son Roland gave it to his sister Emma when she married Robert de Vitré … retaining an overlordship which by 1168 was forfeited to the Crown. The lordship may then have been divided, since until the 1180s both the bishop of Ely and Aubrey de Vere, earl of Oxford, had interests in Cheveley …
    Robert de Vitré died in 1173. His son Andrew later gave the manor to his brother Robert the clerk, and their niece Gervaise and her husband Richard Marshal recovered their rights over the tenant in 1229. The Marshal lordship was allotted in 1246 to Richard’s sister Maud, countess of Norfolk, and descended with the earldom (later dukedom) of Norfolk, last being recorded in 1526.”

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Bécherel’s wikipedia article depicts a long and interesting history, of which I’ll excerpt only two passages.

    “During Roman times, Bécherel was positioned close to the
    important road linking Rennes with Dinan to the north. In 1124 Alain de Dinan was granted a substantial portion of land which he used to build a (stone) castle. This dominated the valley and the present town grew up around the castle.”

    The 2nd passage illustrates of how seriously Bretons treat literature and history.

    “Bécherel is a small village, called the ‘village of the books’ because there are fifteen bookstores for around 660 inhabitants. Events and performances taking place at Bécherel include: the European Festival of Ancient Greek and Latin, in March, for the national “Spring of Poets” weekend. The “Fête du Livre”, each Easter week-end, the Night of Books (August), “Lire en Fête” (October), Treasures of Bécherel (December).

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Alan de Dinan(-Bécherel) (about 1100-1157) may have married Alianore of Brittany, a daughter of Stephen of Treguier (Alan Rufus’s youngest brother), though some say his wife’s name is unknown. His father and a brother were both named Oliver, and he had a son named Riwallon (Breton for Roland), so this family was a living testimony to the famed “Song of Roland”.

    Riwallon of Dol (1015-1065), who rebelled against Duke Conan II (presumably in support of Eozen) and called on Duke William II of Normandy to intervene (perhaps with Count Alan in his army), was an earlier member of this family.

    The French Wikipedia presents more information on Brittany than does the English; see in this context

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    The House of Percy, the main rivals to the House of Neville, though (or maybe because) they were quite intermarried, were apparently also consciously of Breton descent, their progenitor William de Percy (d. 1096) naming his first two sons Alan and Walter.

    (Walter is a form of Gaultier, an evidently Celtic name, as is the English surname Walton.)

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In “Domesday people”, volume 1: Domesday Book, by K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, page 52, one reads this quote from the Norman historian Wace’s “Roman de Rou”, lines 8695-9:

    “Bien se combat Alains Ferganz, chevalier fu proz e valienz, les Bretons vait od sei menant, des Engleis fait damage grant.”

    As I read this antique Gallo, it means, roughly:

    “Well did Alan the Strong fight, a knight who was [whatever “proz” means] and valiant, the Bretons, following his leading, did great damage to the English.”

    • Geoffrey Tobin says:

      Old French “proz” is modern French “preux”, meaning “brave, chivalrous”.

      There’s a depiction of the “great damage” the Bretons did to the English at Hastings in scenes 52 and 53 of the Bayeux Tapestry. The latter shows Alan charging, dauntless of great carnage of horse and rider, against Earl Gyrth and his men.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    In “Early Yorkshire Charters”: Volume 4, The Honour of Richmond, Part 1, edited by William Farrer and Charles Travis Clay, Plate XIII is a photograph of a charter from Duke Conan IV (grandson of Alan Rufus’s brother Count Stephen of Treguier), dated 1160-1166. The Latin handwriting is beautiful! It also looks a lot like Tolkien’s imagined Elvish writing.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Here’s a pleasant surprise: perusing the Domesday Book, one learns that Count Alan gave Enisant Musard, his first Constable of Richmond Castle, about a dozen manors in Yorkshire, adding to a manor in Tochestorp in Norfolk, and one in Cheveley, Cambridgeshire. Given that Alan is believed by eminent scholars to have first settled in that county, the Cheveley manor is probably the first that Alan gave to Enisant in England.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Not only did the Tweeds in Massachusetts intermarry with the Winthrops, but Count Alan Road in Skegness, Lincolnshire is more precisely adjacent to (or perhaps in) Winthorpe, where the Winthrops came from!
    So, who named Count Alan Road, and what motivated them?

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    My mother says that the Tweeds were “very, very honourable” and excellent singers. I may have mentioned their love of eisteddfods (see and that Rex Tweed won the prestigious Sun Aria, which (see “forms the aria section of the Royal South Street Eisteddfod, Australia’s oldest and largest eisteddfod”, which Kiri te Kanawa won in 1966 (see

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Geoffrey of Monmouth ( recalled the Arthurian story of the “Night of the Long Knives” (, according to which, in the 5th century, the Saxons betrayed King Vortigern and killed his unarmed men at a banquet, the only survivor being Eldol (,_Consul_of_Gloucester).

    The timing of the Norman-Breton invasion of Britain may have been influenced by Harold’s attacks on the Welsh, the Bretons’ ancient kin.

    Understandably, when the Normans first proposed to invade Wales, the Bretons (presumably including their leader, Alan Rufus) objected.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Due to the large number of locations where Alan Rufus (abbreviated “A com” for “Alan comes” = “Count Alan” in the Domesday Book) held land, I’ve only viewed a fraction of the manors, towns, villages and farms in However, so far I have gleaned the following names of English lords whom Alan kept in positions of authority in the “Land of Count Alan” despite the Harrying of the North, when supposedly they were all replaced.


    Gamal son of Barth;

    Godric the Steward (given much more property than before 1066);

    Gospatric son of Arnketil (inherited his father’s many properties);



    In Alan’s patch, most of the English lords who ceased to hold title in 1086 were either deceased (in war, or of natural causes) or had been imprisoned or exiled as leaders of one or more Northern Rebellions. Indeed, much of the land Alan held in the North used to be owned by Earls Edwin and Morcar of Mercia (brothers of Harold’s Queen Edith); they had rebelled multiple times against William, and by 1086 Edwin had died and Morcar was in prison.

    Alan retained and evidently trusted the remaining English lords.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    David Roffe, an historian himself of Breton descent, wrote in the period 2000-2004 of the Domesday Book. He deduced that the survey proceeded as follows: (1) a very detailed study (ICC) of Cambridgeshire, (2) a detailed investigation of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, called Little Domesday, but actually larger in number of pages than (3) a less detailed study of the remaining counties of England, beginning with Yorkshire.

    Notice that this is exactly the order in which Alan gained his major property interests, which poses the question whether he had some significant input into how the Domesday inquiry was conducted.

  • Geoffrey Tobin says:

    Researches by David Roffe (see and others suggest that the Domesday survey was conducted in the following order: Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Yorkshire, then the rest of England in sytematic order. It occurs to me that this is the order of counties in which Alan Rufus obtained his major properties!
    Hypothesis: one reason why Alan left the command of the garrison outside Sainte Suzanne between 1084 and 1085 was in order to be in England for the Survey, which perhaps he had some hand in directing.
    Immediately after the survey, William commenced a campaign against France. (In 1087 he was halfway to Paris when he suffered his unexpected and fatal saddle injury.)
    It would seem therefore that one purpose of the Domesday Survey was to assess the financial and military resources of England, to ascertain the feasibility of conquering France: a goal dear to Bretons and Normans alike.

  • 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?

  • There were Poulters in the 1600s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hmm! (You may recall Alan Rufus -> Boston, Lincolnshire and Cambridge, England -> Cambridge, Boston, Massachusetts.)