ROGER DE MONGOMERI
"William sat on his war-horse and called out Rogier, whom they name De Montgomeri. ' I rely greatly on you. Lead your men thitherward and attack them from that side. William, the son of Osbern, the seneschal, a right good vassal, shall go with you and help in the attack, and you shall have the men of Boulogne and Poix and all my soldiers' " (i.e. paid troops -- mercenaries). Such are the words Wace puts in the mouth of the Conqueror. And yet, according to Orderic, Roger de Montgomeri was not present at Hastings, having been left by the Duke in Normandy, governor of the duchy.
His statement is most explicit. King William, during his visit to his Norman dominions in 1067, was greatly disquieted by the reports from England of the disaffection of his new subjects, and the advantage taken of it by the Danes. "Leaving the government of Normandy," he proceeds, "to his Queen Matilda, and his young son Robert, with a council of religious priests and valiant nobles, to be guardians of the state, he rode, on the night of the 6th of December, to the mouth of the river Dieppe, below the town of Arques, and setting sail with a south wind in the first watch of the cold night, reached in the morning, after a most prosperous voyage, the harbour on the opposite coast called Winchester. . . . In his present voyage he was attended by Roger de Montgomeri, who at the time of his former expedition to invade England was left with his wife, governor of Normandy." Now when we remember that the father of Orderic was Odelirius of Orleans, one of the followers of this very Roger de Montgomeri when he came into England, and for his services received a grant of land lying on the banks of the river Meole at the east gate of Shrewsbury; that, with the help of his lord, he founded the monastery there of St. Peter and St. Paul, to which he retired in 1110, the Earl himself having died therein fourteen years previously; that Orderic, born in 1075, was at school at Shrewsbury until he was ten years of age, when he was sent to Normandy, became a monk in the Abbey of St. Evreux, of which Roger de Montgomeri was a patron and benefactor, revisited England in 1115, and was living, at the age of sixty-six, in 1141, -- it surely follows, that of all the companions of the Conqueror he had ever seen or heard of, Roger de Montgomeri, Earl of Shrewsbury, his father's lord and friend, was the one respecting whom he must have possessed the most accurate information. Is it likely, supposing Roger de Montgomeri had commanded a wing of the invading army, and performed feats of bravery at Senlac, that his servant and protégé who came over with him, and must in that case have been present at Hastings himself, would have been silent on the subject? Would not his deeds have been the theme of his whole household, and of the very school-fellows of the young Orderic? Was the Lord of Belesme amongst the noble personages who accompanied King William on his visit to Normandy in 1067? and if not, what was he doing in England during the disturbances in the King's absence? How was it that a man of his position and prowess was not associated with the other great warriors appointed to guard the realm and administer justice throughout it? His name never occurs even incidentally during that period.
Against this, to me overwhelming evidence, we have to place the statement of William of Poitiers, who, without any allusion to Roger de Montgomeri, simply says that Roger de Beaumont was the person at the head of the council appointed by the Duke to assist Matilda in the government of Normandy, and that of Wace, who circumstantially describes the actions of Roger de Montgomeri in the great battle. As the latter authority distinctly contradicts William of Poitiers, by making "old Rogier de Belmont" present at Senlac, in lieu of remaining in Normandy to counsel Matilda, he is as likely to be wrong in one assertion as the other. William of Poitiers is more to be trusted, but he does not say that Roger de Montgomeri was in the battle; he makes no mention of him whatever, though he gives the names of a dozen of the principal personages present; nor does he prove that he was not amongst the noble and wise men selected by the Duke to compose that council, of which the writer states Roger de Beaumont was the president. Mr. Freeman, confiding in the archdeacon, sets down the assertion of Orderic as "a plain though very strange confusion between Roger of Montgomeri and Roger of Beaumont." I only suggest that the son of Odelirius is the least likely person to have made that confusion, and that we have no proof of Roger de Montgomeri's presence in England previous to 1068.
The Lord of Belesme, however, is too remarkable a personage in the annals of those times to be omitted, on anything short of conclusive evidence, from an account of the companions of the Conqueror, and his family history is full of stirring and romantic incidents.
Orderic has minutely chronicled his marriages, his children, his deeds of valour and piety, his death and burial, and yet such is the mist that hangs over the genealogical history of our ancient nobility, that the father of this great and powerful Earl has only been recently identified. Brooke, in his Catalogue, declared him to be the son of Hugh de Montgomeri and of Sibell, his wife, fifth daughter of Herfastus the Dane, brother of Gunnora, Duchess of Normandy. Vincent triumphantly quotes the monk of Jumièges in contradiction of this assertion, and insists that he was the son of Hugh de Montgomeri by Jocellina, his wife, daughter of Turolf de Pontaudemer, by Weeva, sister of the said Duchess Gunnora, and so he continued to be considered, notwithstanding that many passages in Orderic show this to be a mistake, until the French editors of that historian and the late Mr. Stapleton, in his illustration of the Norman Rolls of the Exchequer, clearly proved that the first Earl of Arundel and Shrewsbury was not the son of a Hugh de Montgomeri by either lady, but of another Roger de Montgomeri, living in the time of Richard III and his brother Robert, Dukes of Normandy, and who in an early deed describes himself: "Ego Rogerius, quam dicunt Montgomeri." His son Roger, the subject of this memoir, in the act of foundation for the Abbey of Troarn in the Hiemois, acknowledging and distinguishing his father in the following words: "Ego Rogerius, ex Normannis, Normannus magni autem Rogerii filius."
"The old chronicler, Robert du Mont, had heard," observes Mr. Stapleton, "of the reputed descent from a niece of the Duchess Gunnora, wife of Richard 1, Duke of Normandy, but the genealogy given is certainly erroneous in making her, as wife to Hugh de Montgomeri, the immediate progenitrix of Roger, the Viscount of the 0ximin or Hiemois."
To any one unaccustomed to the examination of such subjects, it would appear strange that modern historians and genealogists could have overlooked the obvious inference to be drawn from the very circumstantial account given of the assassination of Osbern the seneschal by Guillaume de Jumièges himself, who, in the second chapter of his seventh book, informs us that Osbern, the son of Herfast, brother of the Duchess Gunnora, had his throat cut by William, son of Roger de Montgomeri, one night while sleeping in the Duke's chamber at Vaudreuil; that Roger, for his perfidy, was exiled to Paris; and that five of his sons, Hugh, Robert, Roger, William, and Gilbert, continued their wicked careers in Normandy.
Surely no statement can be much clearer than this that there was a Roger de Montgomeri living during the minority of William II, Duke of Normandy, who had five sons, the third being named after him, and who, it is evident from subsequent passages in the same and other histories, was the Roger de Montgomeri who ultimately became Earl of Shrewsbury. Of these five sons we can trace the destinies. Hugh, Robert, and William were slain, -- the latter by Barno de Glotis, a servant of the Seneschal 0sbern in revenge for the murder of his master. Roger was Viscount of the Hiemois; and Gilbert, his youngest brother, was unintentionally poisoned by his sister-in-law, as I shall hereafter have occasion to mention.
Of the five sons of the first Roger de Montgomeri, Hugh was apparently the eldest, as at the foot of one of his charters in the time of Duke Robert is "Signum Hugonis filii ejus," and it is therefore highly probable that the father of the first Roger might have been named Hugh, and was the husband of one of the nieces of Gunnora, and the confusion have arisen from that circumstance.
The story told by the monk of Jumièges, though clear enough as regards the family of Montgomeri, is obscure in other respects. William de Montgomeri is named as the murderer of Osbern, who, if there be any truth in the statement of Brooke, must have been his near kinsman, and Roger, the father of the criminal, is banished, apparently for the crime; which would imply that he was " particeps criminis" -- the instigator or accomplice of his son.
However this may be, it appears to have been the result of a personal quarrel, if not a family feud, for Orderic records that Osbern, the steward of Normandy, and William and Hugh, two sons of Roger de Montgomeri, and many other powerful knights, made war on each other in turn, causing great distress and confusion in the country, which was deprived at that time of its natural protectors, simply mentioning that Osbern was one of the many nobles who fell in those mutual quarrels.
The genealogy of the Dukes of Normandy from Rollo is in all the collateral portions exceedingly confused, and the chronology of the duchy itself beset with difficulties.
Next to Charlemagne, the Duchess Gonnor, or Gunnora, appears to have been the favourite starting-point for our Norman genealogists. If there is any insuperable obstacle in the way of hooking their line on to the Emperor of the West, they eagerly hitch it up, no matter how, to some loose end of the family of that fortunate fair one for whose romantic bistory we are indebted to the pages of Guillaume de Jumièges. As it is short as well as romantic, and so very old that it may be new to many of my readers, I will venture to tell it in the fewest words possible.
One of the foresters of Richard 1, Duke of Normandy, was blest with a most beautiful wife, of Danish blood it would appear, named Sanfrie, the report of whose charms inspired the Duke with a vehement desire to ascertain the truth of it by personal observation. He therefore ordered a hunting party in the direction of the forester's dwelling, at which he stopped during the day, as a matter of course for rest and refreshment. The beautiful Sanfrie received her sovereign as was her duty, and the Duke was so captivated that he commanded her husband to resign her to him. As resistance could avail nothing, the woman, who had as much wit as beauty, contrived to substitute her sister for herself, and, the Duke, luckily for all parties, was not only well pleased with the exchange, but piously rejoiced that be had escaped a more flagrant breach of the decalogue. The fair substitute was named Gonnor or Gunnora, and on the death of Richard's first wife became Duchess of Normandy, and mother of Duke Richard I1, called after her Gonnorides.
Such is the story, and at least there is no doubt about the marriage, which naturally led to the elevation of the other members of the Duchess's family. Besides Sanfrie (the wife of the forester), Gunnora had two sisters, the one named Eva or Weeva, and the other Avelina or Duvelima, and a brother named Herfast: and to one or other of these lucky Danes the majority of our Norman pedigrees are, as I have stated, hung on by hook or by crook.
The date of the death of the elder Roger de Montgomeri is not yet known, but he was evidently dead in 1056, when Roger II invited Gislebert, Abbot of Chatillon, with his monks, to Froarn, and expelled thence the twelve canons who had been placed there by his father in 1022, and had abandoned themselves to gluttony, debauchery, carnal pleasures, and worldly occupations.
We have already heard of William Talvas, the Lord of Belesme, who cursed the Conqueror in his cradle (vide p. 9, ante). Roger de Montgomeri married, in 1048, Mabel, the daughter of that William, and niece of Ivo de Belesme, Bishop of Séez from 1035 to 1070. By this match he acquired a large portion of the domains of his father-in-law, and by the advice of Bishop lvo, his wife's uncle, transferred the Church of St. Martin of Séez to Theodoric, Abbot of St. Evroult, and, in conjunction with his wife, earnestly entreated the Bishop to erect a monastery there, which it appears he did. Now this Mabel, the chronicler tells us, was both powerful and politic, shrewd and fluent, but extremely cruel. Still she had a high regard for the excellent Theodoric, and in some things submitted to his admonitions, although in general averse to religious men.
"This lady," he subsequently tells us, "maliciously caused many troubles to the monks of St. Evroult, on account of the hatred she bore to the family of Giroie, founders of that abbey, but as her husband, Roger de Montgomeri, loved and honoured the monks, she did not venture to exhibit any open signs of her vindictive feeling. She therefore made the abbey her frequent resort, attended by numerous bands of armed retamers, under pretence of claiming the hospitality of the brotherhood, but to their great oppression, in consequence of their poverty through the barrenness of their land. At one time, when she had taken up her abode at the abbey with a hundred men-at-arms, and was remonstrated with by Abbot Theodoric on the sinful absurdity of coming with such a splendid retinue to the dwelling of poor anchorites, she exclaimed, in great wrath, 'When I come again my followers shall be still more numerous!' The abbot replied, 'Trust me, unless you repent of this iniquity, you will suffer what will be very painful to you.' And so it happened, for the very night following she was attacked by a disorder which caused her great suffering. Upon this she gave instant orders for being carried forth from the abbey, and flying in a state of alarm from the territory of St. Evroult, passed by the dwelling of a certain farmer named Roger Suissar, whose newly-born child she stopped for a few moments to suckle, with a hope of obtaining relief. It caused her severe pain at the time, but she reached home, we are told, completely restored to health, the unfortunate infant dying shortly afterwards."
Of course the honest monk who believes "each strange tale devoutly true" has no suspicion that the abbot took care that his prophecy should be fulfilled, and gave the very inconvenient visitor a dose which would not kill her, but cure her of coming to the abbey. The death of the baby, if it did die, was a coincidence too tempting not to be made the most of.
In 1063 Arnould d'Eschafour, son of William Giroie, the founder of the Abbey of St. Evroult, against whose family a deadly hatred had been continually cherished by that of Belesme, and who by the machinations of Mabel had been banished Normandy, presented himself at the Court of the Duke, and offering him a magnificent mantle, humbly entreated that his inheritance might he restored to him. The Duke, at that moment being in want of brave soldiers for his wars with the Manceaux and the Bretons, with his usual policy accepted the gift, and promised to restore him his estates (the greater proportion of which Mabel had contrived to obtain for her husband), giving him meanwhile free passage through his territories for a limited time.
Returning from the Court in company with Gilbert de Montgomeri, brother of Roger, he stopped at his Castle of Eschafour, then in the possession of Roger and Mabel, whose attendants pressed him earnestly to partake of some refreshments their lady had ordered them to set before him. He had, however, received from a friend a hint of some treachery, and remembering the warning, steadily refused to touch either the meat or the wine. Gilbert, who had ridden there with him, quite unconscious of the foul design, took a cup without dismounting from his horse, and draining its poisoned contents, died three days afterwards at Remalord. Thus, observes Orderic, this perfidious woman, attempting to destroy her husband's rival, caused the death of his only surviving brother, who was in the flower of his youth, and much distinguished for his chivalrous gallantry. Foiled in this attempt, she shortly afterwards made another, as deadly and unfortunately more successful. By means of entreaties and promises she induced Roger Gulafre, the chamberlain of Arnould, to become the instrument of her murderous designs.
Arnould being at Gourville, near Châtres, with his relatives, Giroie de Courville and William, surnamed Gouet de Montmirail, the traitor Gulafre took an opportunity of serving to his master and the other two nobles the poisoned beverage he had received from Mabel: Giroie and William de Montmirail survived the effects of the poison, but Arnould, after languishing for some days, expired on the 1st of January, 1064. After his decease the great family of Giroie gradually fell to decay, and for twenty-six years their lands remained in the possession of that of Montgomeri.
A truly terrible fate, however, awaited this infamous woman, who, according to the chronicler, had caused many great lords to be disinherited and to beg their bread in foreign lands. Amongst her victims was Hugh de la Roche d'lgé, in the Canton de Belesme, from whom she had wrested his castle on the rock, and had deprived of the inheritance of the lands of his fathers. In the extremity of his distress he undertook a desperate enterprise. With the assistance of his three brothers, men of undaunted courage, he forced an entry by night into the chamber of the Countess (for such was her rank at that time) at a place called Bures, on the Dive, near Froarn, and severed her head from her body as she lay in bed after having taken a bath. Their vengeance satiated, they lost no time in making good their retreat. Hugh de Montgomeri, her second son, who was in the castle with sixteen men-at-arms, on hearing of his mother's murder, instantly took horse and pursued the assassins, but was unable to overtake them, as they had taken the precaution to break down behind them the bridges over the rivers, which, being flooded and the night dark, presented such obstacles in the way of the pursuers that the four brothers succeeded in crossing the frontiers of Normandy, and took unmolested the road to Apulia.
Mabel was buried at Froarn on the 5th of December, 1082, Durandus being at that time the abbot who disgraced himself by causing a fulsome epitaph, preserved by Orderic, to be inscribed on the tomb of a detestable murderess.
I have travelled a little out of the record, as the lawyers say, in order to complete the story of this special representative of the hereditary wickedness of the family of Belesme, and must now return to her husband, whom the chronicler appears to acquit of direct complicity in the darker deeds of his wife, and simply observes, that as long as Mabel lived he was, at her instigation, a very troublesome neighbour to the inmates of Ouche, she having been always opposed to the family of Giroie. In 1066 we find him at the Council of Lillebonne, and, according to Taylor's List, contributing a noble contingent to the fleet of his sovereign, "A Rogero de Mongomeri sexaginta naves," the furnishing of which by no means proves that he accompanied them to England.
Wace is the only writer worth consideration who speaks of him as present in the great conflict, and selected by the Duke to command a wing of the invading army, while Dugdale, quoting the annals of St. Augustin at Canterbury, says he "led the middle part," which Wace as distinctly asserts was led by William himself, composed of all his principal nobles, his personal friends and kinsmen. Neither Robert du Mont, nor William of Jumièges, nor Benoit de St.-More, nor William of Poitiers, nor the author of Carmen de Bello make any mention of Roger de Montgomeri at that period, while Wace, not content with giving him the command of an important division, tells us of his single combat with a gigantic Englishman, captain of a hundred men, who, with his long Saxon axe, had hewed down horse and man till the Normans stood aghast at him. Roger de Montgomeri, riding at full speed with his lance couched, and shouting "strike, Frenchmen!" ("Ferrez, Franceiz") bore the giant to the earth, and revived the courage of his soldiers. Orderic, however, seems never to have heard of this brilliant exploit, nor anyone else that I am aware of.
In 1068, however, he appears to have been in England, and two years afterwards received from the Conqueror the earldoms of Arundel and Shrewsbury, with the honour of Eye in Suffolk, and various estates in the counties of Cambridge, Warwick, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Staffordshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey, and Middlesex, amounting in all to one hundred and fifty-seven manors, besides the cities of Chichester and Shrewsbury, and the Castle of Arundel.
At the same date (1070), by the death of lvo, Bishop of Séez, he became, in right of his wife Mabel, Seigneur of Belesme and Count of Alencon, which, added to his patrimonial lordship of Montgomeri, rendered him comparatively as powerful in Normandy as in England.
In 1077, the Earl of Shrewsbury accompanied King William in his expedition to recover the province of Maine, which had revolted, and, after its submission, marched with a division of the army to the relief of the Castle of La Flèche, in which its lord, John de la Flèche was besieged by Fulk le Rechin, Count of Anjou. A battle being prevented by the interposition of some Cardinal not named, terms of peace were agreed upon, Roger Earl of Shrewsbury and William Count of Evreux taking a prominent part in the negotiations. This treaty is known as the Peace of Blanchelande or of Bruere, from the locality in which it was concluded.
After the death of his wicked wife Mabel by the vengeful sword of Hugh de la Roche d'lgé, in December, 1082, Roger de Montgomeri married Adelaide, daughter of Everard de Puiset, an amiable and virtuous lady, who wrought by her advice and her example a great change for the better in his character, which, naturally good, had been warped by the arts and influence of his former Countess.
His building of the church at Quatford, near Bridgenorth, in Shropshire, was due to one of tliose so-called " pious frauds," of which we read so many accounts in our mediaeval chronicles, and which in this instance was practised on the Countess Adelaide.
On the first passage of this excellent lady from Normandy to England there arose so great a storm at sea, that nothing but shipwreck was expected by the mariners. The chaplain of the Countess, being much wearied with long watching, fell asleep, and saw in his dreams a comely matron, who said to him, "If your lady would be preserved from the danger of this dreadful tempest, let her vow to God that she will build a church to the honour of St. Mary Magdalen in the place where she shall first meet the Earl, her husband, in England" (he having preceded her thither some short time), "and specially where an hollow oak groweth near a hog-stye." All which, when the priest awoke, he related to the Countess, who forthwith made her vow accordingly, whereupon the tempest ceased, and she and her attendants landed safely in England. Journeying to rejoin her husband, she, after divers days, encountered him near Quatford, in a wood, hunting, at a certain spot where such an oak as "the comely matron" had described then grew -- and near a hog-stye, I presume, though it is not mentioned. She lost no time in informing her lord of the chaplain's vision and her consequent vow, and prayed him to fulfil it. The Earl, in gratitude for the preservation of his wife, readily assented. The church in honour of St. Mary Magdalen was built, endowed with ample possessions, and given to the Earl's collegiate chapel in the castle at Bridgenorth -- much to the advantage, no doubt, of the reverend chaplain, who may have been one of the clergymen, Godebald or Herbert, by whose counsels, Orderic tells us, in addition to those of Odelirius, the Earl was always prosperously guided.
The Earl, in common with many of the Norman nobility, appears to have been much attached to Robert Court-heuse, who, with all his faults, was brave, generous, and kindly-hearted. Witness his conduct when besieging his brother Henry in Mont St. Michel, in 1091. The garrison, being in great distress from want of water, Robert forbade his soldiers to prevent detachments issuing from the place to draw water from the wells, and, on being blamed by William Rufus for his consideration, exclaimed, "What, shall we suffer our brother to perish of thirst? who can now give us another should we lose him?" Where shall we find such an incident recorded of the heartless tyrant, his father, who ridiculed and hated him?
As early as 1081, we find the name of Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury, amongst those who zealously interceded with King William at Rouen in favour of Robert after the battle of Gerberoi, and, after long pleading, succeeded in effecting a reconciliation between them, which, reluctantly consented to by the former, was of very brief duration; and on the accession of William Rufus he proved still further his affection for Robert, and his opinion of the injustice with which he had been treated by the Conqueror, by joining with the Earls of Kent, Cornwall, and other powerful noblemen in the attempt to place Robert on the throne of England, as the eldest son and rightful heir to the crown; and though not openly taking up arms, secretly favouring the movement, his three eldest sons, Robert, Hugh, and Roger, being amongst the young nobility who held Odo's castle at Rochester against the King. The Earl of Shrewsbury is said to have been gained over by the artful promises of Rufus to submit his right to the crown to be decided by him and others whom the late King had assigned to be his curators; and after the reduction of Rochester, and the suppression of the rebellion, we find Earl Roger fortifying his Castles of Belesme and Alencon in the cause of the King, and his son Robert a prisoner of that very Duke of Normandy, to place whom on the throne they had so recently risked their lives and properties.
The accounts of these tergiversations are so confused and discordant that, beyond main facts, it is dangerous to state anything, and as to the motives we are completely in the dark; but the days of Roger de Montgomeri were now briefly to be numbered. He returned to England in 1094, and having obtained from the Abbey of Cluni, of which he was a benefactor, the habit of its celebrated abbot, St. Hugh, assumed it, and was shorn a monk in the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul at Shrewsbury, with the consent, we are assured, of his wife, the Countess Adeliza, and for three days before his death wholly applied himself to divine conference and devout prayers with the rest of the community, expiring, in the odour of sanctity, 6th kalends of August, in the above year, leaving by his first wife, Mabel, five sons and four daughters: Robert, the eldest son, who succeeded to his mother's large estates in Normandy as Count of Alencon and Seigneur de Belesme; Hugh, who inherited his father's domains in England, with the earldoms of Arundel and Shrewsbury; Roger, surnamed of Poitou, in consequence of his marriage with Almodis Countess of March, who possessed great estates in that province, and also sometimes called Earl of Lancaster for a similar reason; Philip, who accompanied Duke Robert to the Crusades, and died at Antioch; and Arnoul, who married Lafracota, daughter of a king of Ireland, and by conquest obtained that part of South Wales now called Pembrokeshire, and, building a castle there, appears to have been sometime entitled Earl of Pembroke, as his brother was of Lancaster. The daughters by Mabel were Emma, Abbess of Almenache; Maud, wife of Robert, Count of Mortain and Earl of Cornwall; Mabel, wife of Hugh de Château-neuf; and Sibil, who married Robert Fitz Hamon, Lord of Corboil, in Normandy.
By his second wife he had only a son named Everard, who took holy orders, and was chaplain to King Henry 1.
The Earls of Eglintoun are presumed to be descended from this family of Montgomeri, but no proof has ever been made, and though in 1696 there existed a Comte de Montgomeri in France, an Earl of Montgomery in England, a Montgomery Earl of Eglintoun in Scotland, and a Montgomery Earl of Mount Alexander in Ireland, the link has yet to be found which would legitimately connect these noble families with that of the great Earl of Shrewsbury, who has only transmitted his name to us in that county of North Wales which he won by the sword and called Montgomery.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Fred L. Curry, who provided a photocopy of the section.