The name of "Dabitott" appears in the Roll of Battle Abbey, and although not mentioned by Wace and the other chroniclers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, may fairly be admitted as belonging to one of the companions of the Conqueror, the absence of his baptismal name, however, preventing us from appropriating it to Urso or to his father, Aumary d'Abetot, an appellation derived from the lands of St. Jean d'Abetot, canton of Calbose, arrondissement of Havre, the lordship of which belonged to the family of Tankerville, as appears from the charter of formation of the college of St. George de Bosherville, to which Ralph Fitz Gerald, in 1050, gave the church and tithes of Abetot for the support of the monks of that college, which was made an abbey in 1124.
This Ralph Fitz Gerald, who is the Chamberlain of Tankerville of the last memoir, was the elder brother of Aumary d'Abetot, above mentioned. Their father being the Gerold who was the husband of Helisendis (not Gerold of Roumare, husband of Albreda), and who probably, as Sire de Tankerville, held the hereditary office of chamberlain to the Dukes of Normandy, which we find his son Ralph and his grandson William enjoying in succession.
Aumary, his younger son, inherited the fiefs of Abetot, and was the father of two sons, Urso and Robert, the latter distinguished as "Despencer," an office which gave a name to the noble families of Le Despencer and Spenser, who trace their descent from the niece of this Robert d'Abetot. Whether Urso was or was not in the army at Hastings there is at present no decisive evidence; but that he was in England shortly afterwards, and made sheriff of the counties of Gloucester and Worcester, there is proof enough. In 1073 he was one of the King's council, and rendered great service in the suppression of the rebellion of the Earls of Hereford and Norfolk. His character, however, as a spoiler and devastator is amongst the worst recorded of the Norman settlers in England, and he appears to have especially oppressed the Church of Worcester, building so close to it that the mole of the castle encroached on the cemetery of the monks. [William of Malmesbury: De Gestis Pontificum]
A complaint being made to Archbishop Ealdred, Archbishop of York, he came to Worcester and inspected the work, and sternly reproved Urso, to whom he is reported to have said: —
"Hightest thou, Urse? Have thou God's curse!"
adding, "and mine and that of all holy men unless thou removest thy castle from hence, and know of a truth that thine offspring shall not long hold the land of St. Mary to their heritage."
The prophecy, if not a subsequent invention, was soon fulfilled, for his son Roger d'Abetot, having killed a servant of Henry 1, was banished and his confiscated estates given by the King, with the hand of his sister Emmeline d'Abetot, to Walter de Beauchamp of Bedford.
Urso was living as late as the reign of Henry 1, but the date of his death is not recorded. The authors of "Recherches" were mistaken in saying that his wife's name was unknown. She witnessed her husband's charter to Great Malvern as "Atheliza., Vicecomitissi." Of her parentage however, we are ignorant.
The ungallant conduct of the early genealogists toward the female members of our noble Norman families, deprives history of much of its interest and is the cause of endless confusion and perplexity.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Fred L. Curry, who provided a photocopy of the section.