The omission of the name of this personage, the subject of so much controversy, by the author of the "Roman de Rou," is not so remarkable as his silence respecting Eustace, Count of Boulogne, whose rank in his own country, and the unenviable notoriety he had justly or unjustly acquired in England, would, we should imagine, render it impossible for him to have been completely overlooked. Nor does the appearance of the name of Peverel in the Roll of Battle Abbey, Duchsne's List, the rhyming catalogue, and those recently compiled by Messrs. de Magny and Leopold Delisle, justify us in claiming for him, on their unsupported and very questionable authority, the right to be classed amongst the conquerors at Senlac.
At the same time we have no evidence, as in the cases of Roger de Montgomeri, Hugh d'Avranches, and Henry de Percy, to warrant our, entertaining a contrary opinion. We must therefore give him the benefit of the doubt, particularly as we find him as early as 1068 in charge of the newly-built Castle of Nottingham, and at the time of the compilation of Domesday the lord of one hundred and sixty-two manors in England, and possessing in Nottingham alone forty-eight merchants' or traders' houses, thirteen knights' houses, and eight bondsmen's cottages, besides ten acres of land granted to him by the King to make an orchard, and the churches of St. Mary, St. Peter, and St. Nicholas, all three of which we find he gave with their land, tithe, and appurtenances by his charter to the Priory of Lenton.
Surely his services must have been most important -- his reputation for valour and ability well established, to have merited such magnificent rewards. To have obtained for him from the wary and suspicious Conqueror so important a trust as the custody of Nottingham Castle -- at so early an age too -- for if the date of his death in the register of St. James's, Northampton, one of his foundations, can be relied on, viz, 5th kalends of February, 1113 (1114 according to our present calculation), he could scarcely have been more than four or five-and-twenty at the time of his appointment.
How is it then that, previous to that period, no deed of arms is recorded of him? That in all the battles and commotions of which Normandy was the theatre during the thirty years preceding the Conquest, the name of Peverel, if such a family existed in the duchy, never crops up, even accidentally, in any of the pages of the contemporary chroniclers?
A Ranulph Peverel also appears in Domesday as the lord of sixty-four manors. Of a verity, the merits of these Peverels must have been great, or their influence at Court from some cause or another extraordinary.
Of course, if it were true, as we have hitherto been led to believe, that William Peverel was a natural son of William the Conqueror, not a word more need be wasted on the subject; but Mr. Eaton, in his History of Shropshire, discredits the report, and Mr. Edward Freeman rejects it with contempt and indignation as the unvouched-for assertion of a Herald (see vol. i, p. 72).
I am unfortunate in being opposed in my opinion to two such great authorities; but until they produce something like evidence to support theirs, I cannot consent to surrender my own.
Let us dispassionately examine the arguments, of the first dissenter, Mr. Eaton, who in refutation of the assertion says, "Its improbability arises in two ways. It is inconsistent with the general character of Duke William." To whom shall we refer for the general character of this master of dissimulation, who so thoroughly understood and practised the policy of assuming a virtue if he had it not? To his paid servants and courtly flatterers, Guillaume de Poitiers, his own chaplain, or Guy of Amiens, his wife's almoner, who, if he did write the "Carmen de Bello," I consider not worthy to be believed on his oath? These are the only actual contemporaries who could have informed us what was the Duke's general character for morality in Normandy in his own time, and they have not thought it worth while to do so.
William of Malmesbury, a writer of the reign of Henry II, is the first and only one in the twelfth century*[ Roger of Wendover simply copies William of Malmesbury. No other writer alludes to the subject.] who praises him for the exercise of that single virtue that has been so ostentatiously paraded by his later panegyrists or apologists, and even he at the same time acknowledges that "there were not wanting persons who prated of matters" irreconcilable with such a reputation. I am therefore at a loss to discover "the general character of Duke William" which is the foundation of one of Mr. Eaton's arguments.
The other is easier to deal with, because it consists of matters of fact, not merely matters of opinion. "Moreover," he continues, "this alleged liaison with a Saxon lady of rank can have originated in no earlier circumstance than the event of the Duke's visit to the Court of Edward the Confessor in 1051. However, William Peverel must have been born before that period, for he was old enough in 1068 to be intrusted with one of the most responsible affairs in the kingdom -- the custody of the castle and province from which he took his name."
The possibility never seems to have occurred to Mr. Eaton, that the Saxon lady of rank might have visited Normandy before 1051, a circumstance which would remove the only serious difficulty in the story. William Peverel was no doubt of full age at the time of the Conquest, and might have been, as I have said, four or five-and-twenty when appointed to the government of Nottingham, and near upon seventy at the time of his death. According to this calculation he would have been born a year or so previous to Duke William's first proposal to Matilda of Flanders.
"Mystery," Mr. Eaton admits, "there certainly is about the whole subject, and the truth may very possibly be buried with some tale of courtly scandal, though not of the precise character hitherto pointed out."
The entire history of William Duke of Normandy up to the invasion of England is involved in mystery, and that of William Peverel might tend to elucidate some part of it.
If the Duke was not his father, as asserted and believed as early at least as the time of Camden and Glover, who could not have been the originator, as Mr. Freeman implies, of the "uncertified and almost impossible scandal" -- who were his parents? Upon no occasion does he allude even to them; a most singular and significant fact. He founds and endows the Priory of Lenten, near Nottingham, for the health of the soul of King William and Matilda his wife, King William Rufus, King Henry I and Maud his consort, as also for the souls of William and Maud their children; and likewise for the health of his own soul and the souls of Adeline his wife, William his son, and all his other children. No mention of father or mother, nor of any ancestors whatever. He was, in fact, " nullus filius."
And how came it that the young "nameless adventurer," of whom nothing is previously known, was laden with wealth and honours, and selected from a host of noble, valiant, and experienced warriors for so important a command?
And next his name. I will not draw any inference from his baptismal one, though it certainly does not weaken the argument; but whence that of Peverel? Not from his place of birth, nor lands which he possessed, or we should somewhere find the Norman "de" prefixed to it.
One story is that the daughter of Ingelric, an AngloSaxon nobleman, and a benefactor if not the founder of the collegiate church of St. Martin-le-Grand, London, having been the mistress of Duke William and the mother by him of a son named after him, married subsequently Ranulph Peverel, who accompanied the Conqueror to England, and that not only the children born of that marriage, but also the Duke's son William, were thenceforth known by the name of Peverel. The other version is, that the lady, by Leland called Ingelrica, and by Morant, Maud, was the wife of Ranulph Peverel before she became the mistress of the Duke,* ["Cujus erat pellex." Camden, 445] whose son by her took the name of her husband's family.
One of these accounts must of course be inaccurate, but both agree respecting the main question at issue, are equally probable, and uncontradicted by any circumstantial evidence. The latter version disposes altogether of the second objection of Mr. Eaton, as the wife of Ranulph Peverel would naturally have been resident in Normandy when the Duke made her acquaintance, and therefore his assumption that the liaison could have originated in no earlier circumstance than the Duke's visit to King Edward in 1051 is shown to be erroneous, and in either case a much too hasty conclusion.
History, it has been said, repeats itself, and the account given by Dugdale of William's liaison with the daughter of Ingelric is curiously similar to that of his father Robert with the daughter of Fulbert the Furrier. The young prince, scarcely perhaps of age, is attracted by the beauty of a girl who becomes his mistress, and having borne him a son, marries, when he marries, a Norman knight by whom she has several children.
There is nothing remarkable in such circumstances, except their coincidence with those of Robert and Herleve, nor indeed in that, as they were of common occurrence in Normandy, and tolerated, if not sanctioned, as the custom of the country. And what if the existence not only of a wife more Danico, but of a son should have been one of the hitches in the matrimonial arrangements of William and Matilda of Flanders? Several good reasons might be adduced to show the bearing of this case on the mystery that still enshrouds the singular courtship of the lady and the unexplained prohibition of the Pope, but I have no desire to multiply theories which cannot be fairly supported by facts, and have only endeavoured to show as briefly as possible that there are better grounds for believing in the story than for contemptuously dismissing it. Tradition should always be received with great caution, but where not irreconcilable with dates, nor met by "rebutting evidence," it should not be hastily discarded as utterly unworthy of consideration.
We are not dealing with mystic personages. William Peverel of Nottingham, as well as Ranulph of Essex, had each a local habitation as well as a name. The latter was founder of the Priory of Hatfield Peverel, at the instigation of, or in conjunction with, the daughter of Ingelric, his wife, or, as I believe, his, mother. Weever, who tells her story in language too highly coloured for these pages, says she died about 1100, and was buried there. Her image, he states, was in his time to be seen carved in stone in one of the windows.
What have we against all this corroborative testimony? A denial, and an opinion!
The name of Peverel, as I have observed, was not derived from a fief or a locality. In a paper I read many years ago at Nottingham, I pointed out that Sir William Pole, in his Collections for Devonshire, speaking of the branch which settled in that county, says the name was Peverell or Piperell, and in Domesday we find it continually spelt "Piperellus-Terra Ranulphi Pipperelli." This, however, does not illustrate its derivation, and the detestable practice of latinising proper names only tends to confuse and mislead us, as they become in turn translated or corrupted till the original is either lost or rendered hopelessly inexplicable. My belief is, that like "Mesquin" lesser or junior, translated into Mischinus, and distorted into De Micenis, Peverel is the Norman form of Peuerellus, as we find it written in the Anglo-Norman Pipe and Plea Rolls. The u being pronounced v in Normandy, and Peuerellus being simply a misspelling of the Latin Puerulus, a boy or child, naturally applied to the son to distinguish him from his father. William Peverel was therefore, literally, boy or child William.
We see in the instance of the descendants of Richard d'Avranches how "Mesquin," used to distinguish a younger son, became the name of a family, and so I take it to have been with Peverel, which, originally applied to William, was afterwards borne by so many of his relations in England.
The Ranulph Peverel of Domesday I believe to have been William's half-brother. At any rate, he could scarcely have been the Ranulph who married the daughter of Ingelric, for we find his eldest son Hammo, or Hammond, a man grown, settled in England a few years after the Conquest, and one of the chief tenants or barons of Roger do Montgomeri, Earl of Shrewsbury. He is also reported to have had two other sons, Payne Peverel of Brune, and William Peverel of Dover; but I have no business with these in this place, and I fear I may have already wearied the reader with my attempt to affiliate William the child and controvert the recently formed opinion of the immaculate morality of William the father, which, notwithstanding they must have been all acquainted with the passage in Malmesbury, was not entertained by Camden, Glover, Dugdale, Sandford, Weever, Thoroton, Deering, Morant, nor any genealogist or historian as far as I can remember to the middle of the present century, the erudite translator of Orderic, Mr. Thomas Forester, in 1853, unhesitatingly speaking of William Peverel of Nottingham as "the son of William the Conqueror," and "halfbrother" of William Peverel of Dover.
I have no doubt in my own mind that the son of Robert and Herleve had at least three natural children, and should not be surprised if the mysterious Matilda of Domesday should prove to be a fourth. The wife of William Peverel of Nottingham was Adelina de Lancaster, but her parentage is not ascertained. From her surname she may be supposed to have been the daughter of Roger de Poitou, son of Roger de Montgomeri, Earl of Shrewsbury, who was sometimes called Earl of Lancaster, in consequence of the large possessions in that county which he obtained with his wife, or perhaps one of the family of those Barons of Kendal of whom William of Lancaster was a wealthy and powerful person in the reigns of Henry I, Stephen, and Henry II, but we have nothing beyond the name to guide us.
This lady appears to have borne to her husband two sons, each named William, the elder dying in his father's lifetime, 16 kalends of May, 1100, the last year of the reign of Rufus, and the other William succeeding him. She had also by him two daughters Matilda, named in the Pipe Roll, 31st of Henry I, and Adeliza, wife of Richard de Redvers. Adelina was living as late as 1140, 5th of Stephen, when as "Adelina, mother of William Peverel of Nottingham," she was pardoned by the King eighteen shillings due for Danegeld in that year.
This second William Peverel of Nottingham we find, from the register of Lenton, deprived that monastery of the churches of Hexham and Randon, which his father; at the entreaty of his faithful wife Adelina, had bestowed on it at or nigh the time of its foundation; "but repenting, he, for the love of the worship of God, and for the safety of the souls of his said father and mother, by the consent of his heir William the younger restored them again."
Dugdale has made a strange confusion by mixing up the first with the second William Peverel of Nottingham, making the former, who died in 1114, a combatant at the battle of the Standard in 1138, and in 1141 at the battle of Lincoln, when King Stephen was taken prisoner, as well as William Peverel II, his staunch supporter.* [Baronage, Vol. i. p. 437, &c.]
In the paper I read at Nottingham, which I have before alluded to, I think I proved pretty clearly that it was for his championship of Stephen that William Peverel II was deprived of all his lands by Henry II, and not for poisoning Ranulph Earl of Chester, and also refuted the story of the Earl of Ferrers' marriage with any Margaret Peverel, no trace of such a person existing. My business here, however, is only with the companion, and, as I see no reason at present to doubt, the son of the Conqueror.
I have avowed my belief that William, II, Duke of Normandy, was father of at least three natural children.
- William Peverel
- The wife of Hugh de Château-sur-Loir
- Thomas, Archbishop of York
I have given above my reasons in full for adopting the statement of Camden and Glover respecting the first.
The responsibility of proving the second allegation I must leave to Mr. Forester, who has not stated the authority for his assertion. I found, however, that Père Anselm had long ago recorded the match without question or comment, and presume he obtained his information from the same source. The declaration of the Archbishop, previously unnoticed by any one, I have already called attention to in the first volume of this work, but subsequent inquiry having strengthened my suspicions, and the question being raised by me for the first time, I cannot conelude this memoir without placing my facts before the dispassionate reader, leaving him to draw his own conclusions from them as I have done.
Here is the extract from the charter as printed by Olivarius, verbatim et literatim.
"In nomine, &c, Ego Willielmus divina dispensante misericordia, Rex Anglorum & Duc Normanorum, &c. Anno Dominica Incarnationis MLXXXI scripta est haec charta & ab excellentiorabus regni personis testicata & confirmata, in nomine Dni feliciter, Amen. Ego WILLIELMUS Dei gratia Anglorum Rex hoc praeceptum possi scribere & scriptum signo Dominica Crucis confirmando impressi #.Ego MATHILDIS confirmavi #. Ego Lanfrancus Archaepisc #. Ego THOMAS Arehiepiscopus Regis filius #. Ego Rogerius comes. Ego Hugo comes. Ego Alanus comes. Ego RODBERTUS comes. Ego Eustatius comes #. WILLIELMUS Regis filius #. Willielmus filius Osbert #. Walter de Gand #." (Arch. S. Pet. Gand.)
Observe that the name of Thomas is printed in capital letters, as are those of all the royal family, while those of the Primate Lanfranc, the great Earls of Shrewsbury, Chester, Richmond, and Boulogne are in ordinary type.
What the distinction may have been in the charter itself, I cannot presume to say; but there can be no doubt there was a distinction of equal importance, or it would not have been thus indicated by Olivarius rendering the words "Regis filius" still more significant. Another remarkable circumstance is the occurrence of the name of a William, the son of Osbert, amongst the witnesses. The names of the parents of Archbishop Thomas are said to have been Osbert and Muriel, on the authority of some entries made from time to time in the blank spaces left in a calendar printed in an appendix to the Surtees Edition of the Liber Vitæ Dunelm, from a MS. marked B iv, 24, which belongs to the Dean and Chapter of Durham. "Februarius V. Kal. Mar. 0' (biit) Osbertus Pater domini Archiepiscopi Thomae."
"Junius V. Id. 0' Muriel, Mater Domini, Archiepiscopi Thomae." No year stated.
These entries are assumed to apply to Thomas of Bayeux, the successor of Aldred, 1070-1100; but what proof is there that they do not refer to his nephew Thomas, Provost of Beverley, and Bishopelect of London, who before consecration thereto was promoted to York, A.D. 1109, and who has been occasionally confounded with his uncle of the same name and position? Be this as it may, we have in the above charter evidence of a William Fitz Osbert living in 1081, and subscribing a document in company with the Archbishop Thomas, who calls himself "Regis filius," though asserted by Brompton to be the son of a priest, "Namque presbyteri fuit filius."
Thomas of Bayeux had a brother named Samson, who was sent with him to Liège by Bishop Odo for his education. He was ordained a priest by Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, 14th June, 1096, at Lambeth, and consecrated Bishop of Worcester at St. Paul's Cathedral the next day! What influence could possibly have been at work to elevate and enrich in so remarkable a manner the sons of an obscure ecclesiastic, the married or unmarried priest Osbert?
Of course, as in the instance of Peverel, if Thomas was the son of William Duke of Normandy and King of England, the answer is obvious.
Well, the fortunate Thomas 1st had an equally fortate nephew, Archbishop Thomas 2nd. Was he the son of Bishop Samson, or was he or not related to the William the son of Osbert who witnessed the Charter of William the Conqueror in company with Archbishop Thomas "Regis filius"?
The career of this Thomas of Bayeux and William Peverel are singularly similar. Each, without previous distinction, was suddenly raised to rank and power on the first opportunity. Nothing is positively known of their parentage. Tradition, uncontradicted by facts, asserts Peverel to have been a son of King William, and Thomas declares himself another.
If the entry in the Calendar really refers to him, and Muriel was his mother, and not his sister-in-law, she could only have been the "compagne" of Osbert, as the marriage of priests was prohibited by the Synod of Lisieux and Rouen, and she therefore holds no higher position than Ingelric.
The story of Peverel could not have been the invention of an enemy, as in the eleventh century no shame was attached to such illicit connections. From Rolf the Dane to Robert the Devil, every ancestor of the Conqueror had left illegitimate issue, and therefore in the summary of his crimes and vices no contemporary would have dreamed of including incontinence. That neither Glover nor Camden ever questioned the fact, is to me sufficient evidence that they had satisfied themselves as to the authenticity of the information on which they had asserted it. They may have been deceived, but they did not invent the story, in which there is nothing incredible, and if false, has yet to be traced to its origin before we are justified in rejecting it.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Michael Linton, who provided scanned text.