This ancestor of the first Earls of Somerset is named by Wace amongst the Norman barons at Senlac, but simply as "le Viel Willame de Moion" (Rom. de Rou, l. 13,620). Deriving his name from a vill three leagues south of St. Lô, where the remains of the castle were recently to be seen, all we learn of him from the rhyming chronicler is that he had with him many companions, "ont avec li maint compagnon;" but if we were to give any credit to a list handed down to us by Leland (Collectanea de Rebus Britannicis, Ed. Hearne, vol. i, p. 202), he had a following worthy of an emperor, and deserved the description bestowed upon him by the writer, viz, "le plus noble de tout l'oste." This William de Moion, he tells us, had in his train all the great lords following, as it is written in the book of the Conquerors. To wit: Raoul Taisson de Cingueleiz, Roger Marmion le Viel, Monsieur Nel de Sein Saviour, Raoul de Gail, who was a Breton, Avenel de Giars, Hubert Paignel, Robert Berthram, Raol the Archer de Val, and the Sire de Bricoil, the Sires de Sole and de Sereval, the Sires de St. Jean and de Breal, the Sire de Breus and two hundred of his men, the Sires de St. Seu and the Sires de Cuallie, the Sires de Cenullie and the Sire de Basqueville, the Sires de Praels and the Sires de Souiz, the Sires de Saintels and the Sires de Vieutz Moley, the Sires de Monceals and the Sires de Pacie, the seneschals of Corcye and the Sires de Lacye, the Sires de Gacre and the Sires de Soillie, the Sires de Sacre, the Sires de Vaacre, the Sires de Torneor, and the Sires de Praerers, William de Columbieres and Gilbert Dasmeres le Veil, the Sires of Chaaiones, the Sires of Coismiercs le Veil, Hugh de Bullebek, Richard Orbec, the Sires of Bonesboz and the Sires de Sap, the Sires de Gloz and the Sires de Tregoz, the Sires de Monfichet and Hugh Bigot, the Sires de Vitrie and the Sires Durmie, the Sires de Moubrai and the Sires de Saie, the Sires de la Fert and the Sire Boteuilam, the Sire Troselet and William Patrick de la Lande, Monsieur Hugh de Mortimer and the Sires Damyler, the Sires de Dunebek and the Sires de St. Clere and Robert Fitz-Herveis, who was killed in the battle." And this astounding catalogue is wound up by the repeated assurance that "all the above-named seigneurs were in the retinue of Monsier de Moion as aforesaid."
I have copied the list in order that whoever pleases may satisfy himself, as I have done, respecting its origin. It is in fact nothing more nor less than a copy of all the names mentioned in the "Roman de Rou," from line 13,621 to line 13,761, just as they follow each other in the poem; and the assertion that all these noble Normans were "a la retennaunce de Monsier Moion," resulted from the curious blunder of the copyist, who considered the lines
"Le Viel Willame de Moion
Ont avec li maint compagnon,"
had reference to the knights and barons named immediately afterwards, all of whom he pressed into the service, and would no doubt have included half the army if an unmistakable full stop and change of subject had not pulled him up short with the death of Robert Fitz Erneis, which he writes incorrectly Herveis. This exposé is necessary to prevent any one from imagining that this list is extracted from some independent authority. "Le livre des Conquerors" turns out to be "Le Roman de Rou."
The services of "Monsier de Moion" were, however, sufficiently appreciated to obtain for him the grant of the lordships of Clehangre, in the county of Devon, and Sutton, in the county of Wilts, with fifty-five others in the county of Somerset; Dunster Castle being apparently his caput baroniae and principal residence, near which he founded a priory and made it a cell to that at Bath, giving to it the Church of St. George in Dunster, as also the lordship of Alcombe, with the tithes of all his vineyards and arable lands at Dunster and Karampton.
Of his age at the time of the Conquest we have no means of judging. As I have previously remarked, the epithet "le Viel" may simply signify "the elder," and not imply "old " in the fullest sense of the word.
Writing in the time of his son, Wace would naturally so distinguish him. We do so in similar cases in the present day. He appears to have survived the Conqueror, and was buried in the Priory of Bath. Of his parentage we are equally ignorant. For all I know, he may have been descended from one of the same family as Raoul, surnamed Mouin, the reported assassin of Robert, the Conqueror's father; for the name is spelt indifferently Moion, Moun, and Moyne.
By his wife, whoever she may have been, he had a son named after him; and his son, a third William, was the first Earl of Somerset. In his foundation charter of the priory at Bruton he distinctly calls himself "Willielmus de Moyne, comes Somersetensis." From the time of the Conquest to that of this Earl, history is silent respecting the deeds of the De Mohuns.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Michael Linton, who provided scanned text.