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 The Death of William Rufus - Part 3

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PostSubject: The Death of William Rufus - Part 3   Sun Nov 02, 2008 4:48 am

The Death of William Rufus


So then, who else not only had a beef with Rufus, but was also in a position to utilize Tyrell without Tyrell giving the game away. The only reasonable “suspects” would have to be exceedingly close to Tyrell. His own family: no motive or opportunity there. What about his in-laws: motive - yes; opportunity - yes; weapon - yes.

The Case Against the House of Clare:
(1) The founder of the de Clare family was one Godfrey (also named Geoffrey), (bc.970 - dc.1015), who was an illegitimate son of Richard I, Duke of Normandy. Godfrey was the father of one Gilbert, surnamed “Crispin” (bc.1000 - 1040) who was Count of Bionne and Eu, and was one of the protectors or guardians of the infant William, Duke of Normandy. Gilbert made the ultimate sacrifice in the “execution” of his duties when he was murdered (1040).


(2) The sons of Gilbert “Crispin” (above) were named Baldwin and Richard (1030 - 1090). Now it has been speculated, though definitely not proved, that Richard may have been Gilbert’s illegitimate son by one Arlette/Herleve of Falaise, mother of Duke William of Normandy (himself an “illegitimate” son of a union between Arlette and Robert, Duke of Normandy). Thus, Richard has been referred to as William’s “half-brother”. I have not personally seen any documentary evidence that would support this.

It has also been speculated in the “Annals of the Four Masters” that Richard was descended from Robert “the Devil”, Duke of Normandy - himself the father of William “the Conqueror”. However, this is not the case.

Further, Baldwin and Richard had been dispossessed of their father’s lands by their “uncle” Richard II, Duke of Normandy, and had fled to the court of Baldwin V of Flanders after the murder of their father. The County of Eu was then given by Richard II to his half-brother, William.

These lands were restored by William, Duke of Normandy, who celebrated his marriage to Matilda of Flanders at Eu. However, Eu itself remained with the descendants of William.


(3) Richard (above) married one Rohese (daughter of Walter Giffard of Normandy), and was the father of notably Roger (who inherited the Norman patrimony) and Gilbert (who inherited the English patrimony) - and was the father-in-law of Walter Tyrell, who married Adeliza, Richard’s daughter. Other children were born of the marriage of Richard and Rohese.

Richard and his brother Baldwin both accompanied William of Normandy on his invasion of England (1066). Both, though Richard especially, were well rewarded by William after the “spoils of war” were divided. Baldwin was appointed Guardian of Exeter and Sheriff of Devonshire, and Richard was granted 170 manors in Suffolk. Richard (also known as Richard of Tonbridge) adopted the surname “Clare” after one of his large estates in Suffolk. Richard was also appointed to William’s Council, and as a trusted friend, was given the position of Chief Justiciar. Richard thus found himself as one of the regents for England during William’s absences in Normandy, and he played an important role of the suppression of the revolt of the Earls against William (1075).

(4) Richard de Clare (father of aforementioned Gilbert and Roger) had been involved in a rebellion against Rufus (1088). Along with many other leading Norman barons, he supported Robert, eldest son of William the Conqueror, as a suitable heir. Richard was forced to surrender and enter a monastery where he died three years later (d.1090). Gilbert kept the family estates and was, to all intents and purposes, reconciled with the King. Gilbert fought with the King against the Scots (1095), and possibly took part in Rufus’ campaigns against Wales and in Normandy.

The House of Clare certainly benefited from making their "peace" with Rufus - they could position someone in close enough, unsuspected, to "do the deed".

However, another conspiracy of nobles against Rufus occurred (1095), led by Robert Mowbray Earl of Northumberland, Richard de Tunbridge and Roger de Lacy. William, Count of Eu was also said to have also been a part of this conspiracy to put Stephen, Count of Aumale (nephew of William the Conqueror) on the throne instead of Rufus. The plot was discovered - this was treason.

Who then was William, Count of Eu (bc.1055 - d.1096) and what was his relationship with the House of Clare?

William was the son of Robert, Count of Eu, who was the son of one Guillaume de Hieme (bc. 955 - db. 9/1/1039). Guillaume or William (bc.985) was the son of: Richard I “the Fearless” Duke of Normandy (b.28/8/933 - d.20/11/996) - by a concubine. Said William (d.1096) was married to one Beatrice de Busli (bc.1065), daughter of Domesday baron, Roger de Busli of Tickhill. William had two brothers: Ralph d’Eu (bc.1043 - dc.1090) and Robert d’Eu (bc.1057).

Now, back to the plot against Rufus (1095):
Oderic claims that William was accused by his brother-in-law, the Earl of Chester, for flaunting his extramarital affairs and thus neglecting Chester’s sister. William was charged with treason at court (Autumn 1095). At Salisbury, William was formally accused and challenged to a trial by combat by Geoffrey Baynard, former Sherrif of Yorkshire (1096). (Source: David Crounch "Normans: The History of a Dynasty”, Hambledon Press 2002)

“The count d’Eu denied his concurrence in the plot (c.1095-1096); and to justify himself, fought, in the presence of the court at Windsor, a duel with Geoffrey Bainard, who accused him. But being worsted in the combat, he was condemned to be castrated, and to have his eyes put out.” (Source: David Hume "The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688" (Foreword by William B. Todd, 6 vols. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1983). Vol. 1.)

Why would the death of William, Count of Eu have any bearing on the House of Clare?

William, Count of Eu’s ancestor was an illegitimate son of Richard I, Duke of Normandy, as was the ancestor of the House of Clare. Thus, they were related - and in this day and age, kith and kin were important in forging alliances, both political and social.

But, more importantly, Oderic says that one Gilbert de Clare was another of those who plotted against Rufus and then turned on his co-conspirators and thus saved his own neck. (Source: David Crouch "Normans: The History of a Dynasty”, Hambledon Press 2002)

Gilbert de Clare was cousin to William of Eu! And the “English” estates of William (the Honour of Striguil) went to one Walter de Clare, the brother of Gilbert de Clare (above), and thus a younger son of Richard de Clare. These estates remained with the House of Clare.



(5) The sons of Richard de Clare, Gilbert (fitzRichard) and Roger, and their brother-in-law, Tyrell, were all present in the New Forest as members of the hunting party when Rufus was killed (1100). Tyrell escaped and was later "pardoned" by Henry I who succeeded Rufus as King of England. The House of Clare were public in their support of the accession of Henry I, not Robert, as King of England.


(6) Gilbert (fitzRichard) de Clare was the father of one Gilbert fitzGilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke (below).


(7) Gilbert (fitzGilbert) de Clare married Isabel de Beaumont. Isabel’s father Robert had fought with William I at Senlac (1066) - and she had previously been the favourite mistress of Henry I. Gilbert and the House of Clare family (with its extended and intertwining branches) would prosper considerably under Henry I.
  • Walter Tyrell’s sons were permitted to keep their father’s lands and estates.
  • Rohese Giffard’s brother Walter was created Earl of Buckingham, and another, William was created Bishop of Winchester.
  • Richard (1062 - 1107), son of Richard de Clare (d.1090), and brother-in-law of Tyrell was made Abbot of Ely by Henry I.
  • Robert (d.1134), another son of Richard de Clare (d.1090), was Steward to Henry I.
  • Members of the House of Clare were in constant attendance at the court of Henry I.
  • Gilbert de Clare (d.1115) led an army into Wales (1107) where he defeated the Welsh and managed to secure for himself, the important Lordship of Striguil. His children would marry well into the nobility.


Could this then simply have been a premeditated act of revenge on the part of the House of Clare - and Tyrell was the means, being a favourite of the King, and maybe less likely to be suspected??? The evidence, though certainly circumstantial, is highly plausible.


So many plots, so many questions, so many suspects ......

Or are we, as historian and author C.Warren Hollister suggests, being tempted to “look for some hint of human calculation such as we would not seek in the reportedly accidental deaths of lesser men ..... ”

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