This name, familiarised to the reader's ears by the noble poem of Walter Scott, will conjure up visions of " Norham's castled steep," and the welcome that awaited there the --
" --Lord of Fontenraye,
Of Lutterward and Scrivelbaye,
Of Tamworth Tower and Town;"
a fictitious personage, as "the Wizard of the North" admits, but invested by his genius with such a semblance of truth, that it is difficult not to believe in his existence.
Wace speaks of the companion of the Conqueror as "old Roger Marmion" but no Roger appears in the pedigree before the times of Richard I. It is generally conceived that Roger is either a clerical or typographical error, and that Robert, to whom William the Conqueror gave "Tamworth Tower and Town" shortly after the Conquest, must be the Marmion who had assisted him in the achievement.
Of that Robert the following story is told by Dugdale, on the faith of an ancient MS. in his day in the possession of John Ferrers, Esq, of Tamworth Castle.
"In the time of the Norman Conqueror, Robert Marmion having, by the gift of that king, the Castle of Tamworth, in the county of Warwick, with the territory adjacent, thence expelled those nuns he found there unto a place called Oldbury, about four miles distant, after which, within the compass of a twelvemonth it is said, making a costly entertainment at Tamworth Castle for some of his friends, amongst which was Sir Walter de Somerville, Lord of Whichover, in the county of Stafford, his sworn brother, it so happened that as he lay in his bed, St. Edith appeared to him as a veiled nun, with a crozier in her band, and advertized him, that if he did not restore the Abbey of Polesworth, (which lay within the territories of the Castle of Tamworth,) he should have an evil death, and go to ----." Well, it appears St. Edith did not mince her words, but spoke pure Anglo-Saxon, "and that he might be the more sensible of this her admonition," continues the narrator, "she smote him on the side with the point of her crozier, and so vanished away! Moreover, that by this stroke being much wounded, he cried out so loud that his friends in the house arose, and finding him extremely tormented with the pain of his wound, advised him to confess himself to a priest, and vow to restore them (the nuns) to their former possession. Furthermore, that having so done, his pain eased, and that in accomplishment of his vow, accompanied by Sir Walter de Somerville and the rest, he forthwith rode to Oldbury, and craving pardon of the nuns for the injury done, brought them back to Polesworth, desiring that himself and his friend Sir Walter de Somerville might be reputed their patrons, and have burial for themselves and their heirs in the Abbey, viz, the Marmions in the chapterhouse, and the Somervilles in the cloister." "However," adds worthy Norroy, "some circumstances in this story may seem fabulous" (as they undoubtedly do), "the main substance of it is certainly true, for it expressly appeareth by the very words of his charter, that he gave to Osanna the prioress, for the establishing of the religion of those nuns there, the church of St. Edith of Polesworth, with its appurtenances, so that the Convent of Oldbury (de Aldoberia) should remain in that place, and afterwards bestowed on them the whole lordship of Polesworth, with its demesnes in Waverton, which grant King Stephen afterwards confirmed."
Robert Marmion had a wife named Milicent, with whose consent he gave the neighbouring town of Butegate to the monks of Bardney, in the county of Lincoln, for the health of the souls of his father and mother (unfortunately not naming them), his own and his wife's soul, and the souls of their heirs.
No particular feats of arms are recorded of old Robert or Roger, as the case may be, either at Senlac or elsewhere; Wace merely says that in the great battle he and Raoul Taisson de Cingueleiz behaved themselves as barons should, and were afterwards richly rewarded.
When he died I have not found, but if deserving the epithet of "old" in 1066, he could scarcely have lived till the reign of Henry I, who granted to his son and heir, Robert, free warren in all his lands in Warwickshire, as Robert his father had, and particularly at Tamworth.
This second Robert possessed the strong Castle of Fontenai, near Caen, called from its ancient lords Fontenai le Marmion, to distinguish it from eight other communes of the same name in Normandy; and it is a question whether the "Sire de Fontenei" mentioned by Wace (l. 13,796) was the lord of another Fontenai, or, as it has been suggested, the same person he has previously spoken of as "le viel Rogier Marmion." Several other analogous instances occur in the Roman de Rou, and I think its author has been too hastily accused of inaccuracy.
The fate of the second Robert Marmion, who married a Maud de Beauchamp, whom I have not yet been able to affiliate, is deserving notice. "Being a great adversary to the Earl of Chester, who had a noble seat at Coventry in the eighth of Stephen, he entered the priory there, which was but a little distance from that Earl's castle, and expelling the monks, fortified it, digging in the fields adjacent divers deep ditches covered over with earth, to the intent that such as made approaches thereto should be entrapped; whereupon it so happened that as he rode out himself to reconnoitre the Earl of Chester's forces that began to draw near, he fell into one of them and broke his thigh, so that a common soldier presently seizing on him, cut off his head." * [Dugdale, Baronage, vol. i.]
The Marmions held the manor of Scrivelsby, in the county of Lincoln, by the service of performing the office of champion at the King's coronation: a co-heir of the family brought Scrivelsby and the championship into the family of Ludlow, and thence to that of Dymoke, and the office was claimed and served by Sir Henry Dymoke of Scrivelsby, most probably for the last time, at the coronation of his Majesty King George IV, July 19, 1821. But the name of Marmion indicates the possession originally of another office, as its meaning is much the same as Despenser. William Beauchamp of Bedford, connected with the Marmions, acted as grand almoner at the nuptials of King Henry III.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Michael Linton, who provided scanned text.