TOP

This gallant Norman, called Enguerrand by Wace, was the son of Fulbert de Beine, founder of the Castle of l'Aigle, on the river Risle, arrondissement of Mortain, and therefore probably one of the knights in the service of Robert, Comte de Mortain.

Wace tells us "he came with shield slung at his neck, and with his lance fiercely charged the English. He strove hard to serve the Duke well for the sake of the lands he had promised him" (Roman de Rou, l. 13,592).

Alas! he was not allowed to enjoy what he had so bravely striven to obtain. He is one of the very few whose names have descended to us as having undoubtedly fallen in that memorable battle. Wace, strangely enough, says nothing of his death, which is thus recorded by Orderic: "The Normans, finding the English completely routed, pursued them vigorously all Sunday night, but not without suffering a great loss, for galloping onward in hot pursuit they fell unawares, horses and armour, into an ancient trench, overgrown and concealed by rank grass, and rolling over each other were crushed and smothered. This accident restored confidence to the routed English, for, perceiving the advantage given them by the mouldering rampart and a succession of ditches, they rallied in a body, and, making a sudden stand, caused the Normans severe loss. At this place Enguerrand, Lord of l'Aigle, and many others fell, the number of the Normans who perished being, as reported by some who were present, nearly fifteen thousand." * [Lib. in, cap. xii.]

Fifteen thousand! Exactly a fourth of the invading army, the entire force of which is calculated at sixty thousand men. Orderic must surely mean the loss in the whole action, and not in that particular disaster in the "Malefosse," which is still to my mind as uncertain both as regards time and locality as ever. The scene of this celebrated incident has been generally considered to be on one side or other of the hill of Senlac itself; but if Orderic's account is to be credited, and the Normans were hotly pursuing the fugitives all Sunday night, they must have been some miles distant from the field of battle when they floundered into this fatal ravine or morass in the grey light of Monday morning.

The death of Euguenulf is all that concerns us at the present moment, and whether he was slain in the thick of the fight or in the pursuit may never be ascertained. All the accounts we have of the battle are derived from hearsay evidence only, and are as loose and contradictory as such accounts must ever be.

To return to Euguenulf himself. He had for wife a lady named Richeveride, by whom he was father of three sons, Roger, Richard, and Gilbert. Roger, the eldest, was slain (how is not recorded) about the year 1060, and Orderic informs us that Euguenulf and his wife Richeveride came to St. Evroult in deep grief; entreating the prayers and good offices of the monks for the salvation of their souls and that of their son Roger, which were granted, and thereupon Roger's best horse was offered by his parents to God and the monks. The horse being very valuable, Arnould d'Eschafour begged to have it in exchange for the lands and services of Baldric de Bacquency, whose fief had been ceded to him by the Abbey.

We find, therefore, that six years before the invasion Euguenulf was married, and the father of apparently grown-up sons, and we may therefore conclude that he was between forty and fifty in 1066, when he was killed at Senlac.

A sad fate seemed to pursue his family. On the 18th November, 1085, while the royal army under the command of Alan the Red, Earl of Richmond, was marching to the siege of the Castle of St. Suzanne, a beardless youth, concealed in the bushes on the roadside, shot an arrow, which mortally wounded Richer de l'Aigle, the eldest surviving son of Euguenulf, in the eye. His followers rode up, burning with rage, and seizing the youth, would have put him to death on the spot; but the dying Baron, with a violent effort, generously exclaimed, "Spare him for the love of God! It is for my sins that I am thus called to die." The assassin being allowed to go free, the noble lord confessed himself to his companions in arms, and expired before they could convey him to L'Aigle. His body was borne to the convent of St. Sulpicesur-Risle,which his father had founded near L'Aigle, where he was buried, with great lamentations of his kinsfolk and connections, by Gilbert Bishop of Evreux.

In the month of January following, Gilbert de l'Aigle, eager to avenge his brother, made, in conjunction with William de Warren and William Comte d'Evreux, a desperate assault on the Castle of St. Suzanne; but they were vigorously repulsed by the garrison, William Comte d'Evreux being taken prisoner. In 1091 we find Gilbert in high favour with Robert Court-heuse, who made him Viscount of the Hiemois, and gave him the castle for his residence.

This deeply offended the violent and detestable Robert de Belesme, of whose turbulence and wickedness you have heard so much already, who assembled his troops, and in the first week of January, 1091, besieged the castle for four days, assaulting it with great fury and persistence, notwithstanding a severe frost and heavy fall of snow. Gilbert had but a small number of retainers in the castle, but they were brave and loyal, and made a stout resistance, hurling spears and stones on the assailants, and precipitating into the ditch those who attempted to scale the walls. Meanwhile his nephew, Gilbert, the young lord of L'Aigle, son of Richer slain on the march to St. Suzanne, hearing of his uncle's position, came to his assistance with eighty men, and getting into the castle by night, supplied the garrison with fresh provisions and arms, and enabled them to continue the defence. Upon this, Robert de Belesme, finding the place too strong for him, in great rage and mortification drew off his troops, and retreated ingloriously to his own territory.

The following year, as the elder Gilbert, brother of Richer, was returning home from a visit to Sainte Scholasse, he halted at Moulins to pay his respects to Duda, daughter of Waleran, Earl of Meulent, and second wife of William de Moulins, lord of that castle, and leaving towards evening unarmed and attended only by his esquires, was seen and pursued by Gerrard Chevreuil and Robert de Ferrers, with some thirteen men-at-arms of the Corbonnais, who endeavoured to take him alive. He spurred his horse to a gallop, but was overtaken and wounded in the side by one of their spears so badly that he died the same day, and on the morrow, which was bissextile-day (29th of February, 1092), he was buried at St. Sulpice, by the side of his parents, amid universal sorrow, Gilbert, Bishop of Evreux, and Serlo, Abbot of St. Evroult, officiating. Thus we see the three sons of Euguenulf, who himself fell in battle, meet one after the other with a violent death. Roger slain in his youth, Richer in the pride of manhood, and Gilbert while still in the prime of life.

The latter was unmarried, but Richer was the husband of Judith, daughter of Richard, surnamed Goz, Viscount of the Avranchin, and Emma de Conteville, half-sister of the Conqueror, to whom he consequently stood in the position of a nephew.

This lord, says Orderic, "was deservedly regretted by his acquaintance for the many virtues with which he was endowed. In person he was strong, handsome, and active; a faithful observer of the divine laws, courteous and humble with men of religion, prudent and eloquent in worldly affairs, and gentle and liberal in all his conduct."

The issue of Richer and Judith were Gilbert, Euguenulf, Matilda, and, according to Orderic, "several other sons and daughters; "but I have not found traces of them. "'They all," he adds, "died" (early, I presume he means) with the exception of Gilbert, "who became the heir to his father's virtues, estates, and honours." He should have also excepted Matilda, wife of Robert de Mowbray, and who by dispensation of the Pope married, during her husband's incarceration, Nigel de Albini (vide p. 30, ante), but who certainly was not an exception to the unfortunate destiny attending the majority of her family.

Gilbert, the second of that name, Lord of L'Aigle, the young warrior who so opportunely came to the rescue of his uncle when besieged by Robert de Belesme, married Juliana, daughter of Geoffrey, Count of Mortagne, who, reflecting that the slaying of Gilbert Viscount of the Hiemois, by men who were his vassals, had sown the seeds of infinite mischief to his own territories, endeavoured to accommodate matters with the nephew, and prove that he had no participation in the act, by the offer to him of his daughter's hand, which was accepted, and secured peace between the two families for a period of forty years, an unprecedented circumstance in the early history of Normandy, the barons whereof were in constant hostility one with another.

But even peace could not preserve the line of L'Aigle from calamity. Of the four sons born to Gilbert and Juliana, two were drowned together in the wreck of the "White Ship," 25th November, 1120.

Added to this site through the courtesy of Michael Linton, who provided scanned text.