TOP

The "Sire d'Estoteville" of the Roman de Rou (l. 13,561) was in all probability Robert, surnamed Fronteboeuf, Granteboef, or, according to the French antiquaries, Grand-bois; but whether he was of Estouteville-sur-Cailly or Estouteville-sur-Mer may be an open question. There was a knightly family deriving their name from the former (at present a commune in the canton of Bouchy, arrondissement de Rouen), one of whom, Nicholas d'Estouteville, the great-great-grandson of Robert, married Gunnor or Gunnora, daughter of Hugh IV de Gournay, and widow of Robert de Gant, in the 12th century, and received with her in dower the manors of Beddingfield and Kimberly in Norfolk, which remained for many generations in the family of Stuteville, as it is called in England. This Estouteville was formerly a mouvance, i.e, a dependency on the fief of La Ferté en-Brai, of which the Gournays were the lords, and it is therefore likely that Robert d'Estouteville followed Hugh II de Gournay to England in the invading army.

Dugdale's account of him and his son is very meagre and incorrect, and neither M. le Prévost nor Mr. Edward Taylor has taken any trouble on the subject, although some information has been furnished us by Orderic which enables me to correct Dugdale and answer the observation of M. le Prévost, echoed by Mr. Taylor, that he (Robert) must have been very young if he was the same who fell forty years after at Tenchebrai, in 1106, by the simple assurance to them that he was not the same.

Some ten or eleven years previous to the Conquest, Robert I d'Estouteville was governor of the Castle of Ambriegrave;res, and stoutly defended it against Geoffrey Martel until relieved by the approach of Duke William. He could not therefore have been very young even at that time-say between twenty and thirty, and in 1066 he would have been between thirty and forty. Of his exploits at Senlac we hear nothing, and his name does not appear in Domesday, so we are in ignorance of the reward, if any, which he received for his services. The latest mention of him is by Orderic, who records him as a witness to a confirmation charter of William son of Fulk de Querneville, Dean of Evreux, to the Abbey of Ouche or St. Evroult, before the year 1089.

The date of his death is unascertained; but he was succeeded by his son Robert II d'Estouteville, altogether omitted by Dugdale, but in connection with whom the following strange story is told by Orderic (lib. xi, cap. xiii.): --

" The same year (1106) the following occurrence happened in Normandy: -- Robert d'Estoteville, a brave and powerful baron, was a strong partizan of the Duke (Robert Court-heuse), and superintended his troops and fortresses in the Pays de Caux. It chanced on Easter-day (9th of April, 1105/6), as his chaplain was administering the holy sacrament to the baron and his household, that a certain knight having approached the altar for the purpose of reverently receiving the Eucharist, the priest took the consecrated wafer in his hand for the purpose of putting it into the mouth of the communicant, but found that he was quite incapable of lifting his hand from the altar. Both parties were exceedingly terrified by this circumstance, but at length the priest said to the knight, 'Take it if you can; for myself, it is out of my power to move my hand and deliver the Lord's body to you.' Upon this the knight stretched his neck over the altar, with some effort reached the chalice, and received the Host in his open mouth from the priest's hand. This extraordinary occurrence covered him with confusion, and apprehending some misfortune, but of what nature he knew not, he distributed in consequence the greatest portion of his wardrobe and other property amongst the poor and clergy. He was slain soon after Easter in the first battle fought at Maromme, near Rouen.
" The chaplain, whose name was Robert, related to me what happened to him and the unfortunate knight, as I have stated, during the celebration of the lifegiving mysteries."

The effect of this alarming miracle on Robert, the Lord of Estouteville, and his family, who were witnesses of it, is not recorded, but it is possible they might have some gloomy forebodings as respected themselves, which were speedily verified; for Robert, the son and heir of this Robert II, was taken prisoner by King Henry I a few months afterwards, at the storming of Dive, and his father also at the battle of Tenchebrai, closely following. The son was liberated; but the elder Robert was sent a captive to England and immured for life in a dungeon, and the whole of his estates were seized and bestowed by King Henry on Nigel de Albini, ancestor of the second race of the Mowbrays.

It was Robert III de Stoteville, or Stuteville, the young knight who was taken at Dive, who distinguished himself in the battle of the Standard (temp. Stephen), and was made sheriff of Yorkshire by Henry II, in the sixteenth year of his reign, and who was in possession at that time of seven or eight knights' fees in England, how acquired does not appear, but as he was twice married, his second wife being Sibilla, sister of Philip de Valoines, it is probable that some of the lands came to him with his wives. Thorpenhow, in the county of Cumberland, he certainly had in frank marriage with the latter. He also it was who, with Ranulph de Glanville and Bernard de Balieul, defeated the Scots near Alnwick (20 Henry II), and took their king prisoner. He then laid claim to the barony of Roger de Mowbray, which had been given to Nigel, Roger's father, by Henry I, as above mentioned, and would therefore seem to have been held by his father and forfeited by his adherence to Robert Court-heuse. A long suit, during which we are told the country in general favoured Stoteville's title, terminated in a compromise, Roger de Mowbray giving up the lordship of Kirkby Moorside, with its appurtenances, to Robert de Stoteville, to be held by the service of nine knights' fees.

This Robert de Stoteville founded two monasteries in Yorkshire, one at Rossedale and the other at Keldholme, and was a benefactor to the monks of St. Mary's Abbey in York. He also gave to the monks of Rievaulx all the lands between Redham and Kirkby, for the health of the soul of Robert his grandfather, and for the souls of Robert his father, and Erneburga his mother, as also for the souls of Helewisa his wife, and William his son, Sibilla his second wife surviving him.

It is singular that although Dugdale has recited the provisions of this charter, and printed a pedigree which corresponds with it, he should have confounded the first Robert with the second, the second with the third, and invented a fourth, to whom he attributes the charter to the Abbey of Rievaulx.

There are other inaccuracies in his account of this family, but they are beyond my province in this work. I have travelled already sufficiently far out of the record in clearing up the extraordinary confusion of its commencement, which appears to have puzzled M. le Prévost and Mr. Taylor.

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