"Le viel Hue de Gournai" may well have deserved that venerable distinction in the year 1066, since the same writer has bestowed it upon him in 1054, when he was one of the commanders in the sanguinary battle of Mortemer (vide vol. i., p. 234), and is even then spoken of as "De Gornai le viel Huon." Moreover, he is presumed by M. de Gondeville, the historian of the family, to be identical with the "Hugo Miles" who authorised the gift of the land of Calvelville to the Abbey of Montvilliers by William the Count, son of Robert Duke of Normandy, which he considers must have been before the death of Robert in 1035. Allowing, however, that he was of full age as early even as 1030, though children scarcely in their teens were accustomed to witness charters when they had a contingent interest in the property bestowed, still, admitting he was one-and-twenty at that date, he would not have been sixty at the time of the Conquest, and though fairly to be described as an old man, the term "le viel" may be held to signify simply "the senior," as it appears that there were three of the family of Gournay present at Hastings, viz., Hue de Gournay, the Sire de Brai le Comte, and the Seigneur de Gournay.
Hugh de Gournay, the second of that name, would be the Seigneur de Gournay at that period, and Hue de Gournay his son the third of the name, who married Basilia, daughter of Gerrard Flaitel, sister of the wife of Walter Giffard, 1st Earl of Buckingham, and widow of Raoul de Gacé. Hugh, his father, Seigneur de Gournay, is described by Wace as being accompanied at Senlac by a strong force of his men of Brai, and doing much execution on the English.
He is said by the Norman chroniclers to have been mortally wounded in a battle at Cardiff in 1074, and carried to Normandy, where he died. There is, however, considerable doubt about their account of this battle, as it is clear that several persons said to have been engaged or slain in it were either deceased long prior to it, or could not possibly have been present; but more of that anon.
The first of the family of Gournay is presumed to have been a follower of Ralf or Rollo, to whom, after the settlement of the Norsemen in Neustria, was allotted part of the district of Le Brai, the principal places in which were Gournay, La Ferté, Lions, Charleval, and Fleury.
La Ferté was assigned to a younger branch of the house of Gournay before the Conquest. Hugh, the son of Eudes, is reported to have been the first to make Gournay a place of strength. The ancient records of the family ascribe to him the erection of a citadel surrounded by a triple wall and fosse, and further secured by a tower named after him, "La Tour Hue," which was standing as late as the beginning of the 17th century. Such was the reputed strength of this fortress that a rhyming chronicler (William de Brito) declares it was able to resist a hostile attack undefended by a single soldier. A description magnificent enough to take rank amongst the most amusing exaggerations of our transatlantic brethren.
Hugh was succeeded by a Renaud de Gournay, the first of the family mentioned in any charter, who by his wife Alberada had two sons, Hugh and Gautier, the elder becoming Lord of Gournay, and the younger of La Ferté-en-Brai, of which he founded the Priory circa 990, by command or request of his brother Hugh, and for the health of the souls of Renaud and Alberada, their father and mother.
This division of the great fief was according to a Norman custom called Paragium, from the younger son being put "pari conditione" with the elder. The old "Coutume de Normandie" gives this definition of it: "La tenure par parage est quand cil qui tient et cil de qui il tient sont pers es parties de l'héritages qui descend de leurs ancesseurs." The younger son in such case was not the feudal vassal of the elder, but held his portion of the fief by equal tenure, the elder, however, doing homage to the over-lord for the whole fief to the seventh generation, when all affinity was supposed to cease.
I have made this little digression, because I consider such explanations of ancient customs most important to readers of history, as accounting for acts and circumstances otherwise inexplicable or liable to misinterpretation and confusion, as in the instance I have already pointed out in my notice of Aimeri de Thouars (vol. i, p. 242).
Hugh II, Seigneur de Gournay, most probably the son of the former Hugh, is the personage I have already mentioned as believed to be "the old Hue" of Wace's Chronicle, and the Hugo Miles who anthorised the gift of the land of Calvelville to the Abbey of Montvilliers by William while Count of the Hiemois.
Mr. Daniel Gurney, in the first volume of his sumptuous work, "The Record of the House of Gournay," remarks in his notice of this charter that Calvelville, it seems likely, is the modern Conteville, so called from this donation by William the Count. If there were any facts to be adduced in support of this otherwise mere fancy, they would be very important, inasmuch as they would enlighten us respecting the parentage and position of Herluin de Conteville, whose name has been preserved to us from the accident of his being "le mari de sa femme." Beatrice, Abbess of Montvilliers, was aunt to Robert Duke of Normandy, William's father, and William Malet, as we have seen, had power to give Conteville to the Abbey of Bec.
This second Hugh was one of the Norman leaders of the fleet of forty ships which accompanied Edward the Saxon Prince, son of King Ethelred, to England in 1035, when, on the death of Knute, he made an attempt to recover the kingdom. The expedition sailed from Barfleur, and landed at Southampton, but was ill received by the English, who had espoused the cause of Harold Harefoot. Edward, seeing the disposition of the country, returned with his fleet to Barfleur, more fortunate than his brother Alfred, who, at the same time making a descent on Dover, was taken prisoner by Earl Godwin, confined in the Monastery of Ely, had his eyes put out, and died shortly afterwards.
Subsequently we find Hugh de Gournay, one of the victors in the battle of Mortemer, A.D. 1054, and finally at Hastings in 1066, in company with his son Hugh, and his relative, the "Sire de Brai," a title by which the latter Hugh was distinguished in some rolls, and may in this instance have been appropriated to his son Gerrard. I have already alluded to the reported death of the elder Hugh from wounds received in the mysterious battle of Cardiff, A.D. 1074, and will give my reasons for discrediting that account. By Monsieur le Prévost he is said to have become a monk at Bec; but it is suggested that the Hugh de Gournay recorded to have done so, was his son Hugh, third husband of Basilia Flaitel, who also retired from the world, and ended her days there, together with her niece Anfride, and Eva, wife of William Crispin.
The Sire de la Ferté mentioned by Wace (Rom. de Rou, 1. 13,710) was not one of the Gournay family, the last of that branch, lords of La Ferté-en-Bray, having died without issue a monk in the Abbey of St. Ouen at Rouen previous to the invasion.
And now for a word or two about the battle of Cardiff. Mr. Daniel Gurney had his attention drawn to this subject by the inclusion of the name of Hugh de Gournay amongst the personages connected with it, and following a French account in "L'Histoire et Chronique de Normandie," printed at Rouen by Megissier in 1610, he very naturally questioned the fact of there ever having been such a battle at Cardiff at all.
Having had occasion to examine this subject upon other grounds some years ago, I went deeper into it than my amiable friend had done, and believe I discovered a substratum of truth on which a story irreconcilable with established facts had been constructed.
The Norman Chronicle describes the battle as having occurred in 1074, during the lifetime of the Conqueror, and states that the Danes were met by "Guilhaume le fils Auber" (who was slain in Flanders in 1071), Guilhaume le Roux, the King's son (at that time a boy of fourteen), Roger de Montgomeri, Hue de Mortemer, and the Comte de Vennes; that the Normans were victorious, but suffered great loss. That "Guilhaume le Roux was taken prisoner;" that "Arnoult de Harcourt," "Roger de Montgomeri," "Neil le Vicomte," "Guilhaume le fils Auber," and many others were killed and buried on the spot, and " Hue de Gournay" and the "Comte d'Evreux" were carried, desperately wounded, into Normandy, where they died soon afterwards; winding up with the information that Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and the Comte de Vennes retired after the battle with the remainder of their forces to Caerleon.
That this account is a jumble of two or three separate actions is evident from the names introduced in it. The Comte de Vennes was Count Brian of Brittany, who defeated the two sons of Harold and their Irish allies in 1069. Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, was in arms against the Earls of Norfolk and Hereford in 1074, and the battle of Cardiff, according to the Welsh Chronicler, was fought some twenty years later, when "Guilhaume le Roux" was king, and had been lying sick at Gloucester.
In Dr. Powell's continuation of Humphrey Lloyd's description of Wales, translated from the Welsh, and published in 1584, it is recorded under the date of 1094: "About this time Roger Montgomery, Earl of Salop and Arundell, William Fitz-Eustace, Earl of Gloucester, Arnold de Harcourt and Neale le Vicount were slain between Cardiff and Brecknock by the Welshmen; also Walter Evereux, Earl of Sarum, and Hugh Earl Gourney were there hurt, and died after in Normandy."
That the French account is a garbled version of the above is obvious on comparison of the names and words I have put in italics with those in the "Chronique de Normandie," where they are almost literally translated; but William Fitz Eustace transformed into William Fitz Osbern, and Walter Evreux into the Comte d'Evreux.
Mr. Gurney, who appears not to have known of this curious record, sufficiently demolished the French account by comparing the dates of the deaths of the combatants with that given of the battle, and a similar test applied to the Welsh one elicits the important fact, that of the three well-known individuals who are named as having fallen in the battle of Cardiff, or died in Normandy from the wounds they received in it, nothing whatever is recorded which can fairly bc said to invalidate the statement. None are known to have survived that period, and their deaths arc not accounted for in any other manner.
Roger de Montgomeri, the most important person of the group, was, as I have already shown, buried at that precise date, the cause of death not being stated.
Monsieur de Gerville in his notice of the Lords of Nehou mentions the report that Neel Vicomte de Saint-Sauveur was killed at Cardiff in 1074, but corrects the date, and says he died in 1092, and that Geoffrey de Mowbray buried him at Coutances, confounding him with his successor. As for Hugh de Gournay, in whom at this moment we are more specially interested, the last we hear of him is that he became a monk in Normandy, where he died some time after 1085; but nothing is positively known how long after, or what was the cause of his death, and the assertion that he "was hurt" at Cardiff, "and died after in Normandy," is quite reconcilable with the fact, if it be one, that he became a monk there, as it was a common practice in those days for a warrior to assume the monastic habit even in articulo mortis; and the same observation applies to Roger de Montgomeri, who died a monk at Shrewsbury in 1094.
Of Arnould de Harcourt, named in both accounts, I have found nothing to affect the question either way, and we have therefore only Walter Evreux, Earl of Sarum, and William Fitz Eustace, Earl of Gloucester, to dispose of.
That there is evidence of the existence of a William Fitz Eustace, probably a son of Eustace, Count of Boulogne, I demonstrated some years ago at Cirencester. (Vide William of Tyre. Bohemond, Prince of Antioch, in a letter to his brother Roger, mentions another son of Eustace named Hugo. Sir H. Ellis, in his Introduction to Domesday, also mentions a charter of William, the son of Eustace, in the British Museum.)
That there ever was a Walter Evreux, Earl of Sarum, is still an open question, which I am not warranted in discussing here. We know Hugh was not Earl of Gournay; but that does not destroy his identity. In the absence of any positive authority, the simple statement of the Welsh Chronicler, uncontradicted in any important point, and throwing a light upon several obscure points of history and biography, deserves respectful consideration.
Although recorded under the year 1094, it does not fix the precise date of the battle. The words are "about this time." There is nothing, therefore, to prevent our considering it to have been fought in 1092, or before March, 1093, which would reconcile every apparent discrepancy.