We have here an instance of the confusion existing in ordinary accounts of the companions of the Conqueror, and which renders some such work as this an absolute necessity for the general reader who is desirous of obtaining, without the trouble of research, something like an accurate idea of the persons whose names alone he meets with in histories of England.
Previously to the publication of "Recherches sur le Domesday" in 1842, the most erroneous and conflicting descriptions of the Alain of Brittany who fought at Hastings existed in the baronages and genealogical peerages the reader must have consulted, and the first popular English work which threw a light upon this particular tissue of blunders was Mrs. Green's "Lives of the Princesses of England," published in 1849.
As in the case of Count Odo of Champagne, no one before Mr. Stapleton's discoveries surmised that Adelaide, the Conqueror's sister, had three husbands, so in this instance it was unknown to English genealogists before 1842 that there were two Counts Alain of Bretagne, one of whom married Constance, daughter of the Conqueror, in 1086 (vide p. 83, ante), and was consequently the best known. This latter Alain, surnamed Fergant, which in the Breton language signifies "the less," or "the younger" (Lobineau gloss), was the son of Hoel V Comte de Bretagne, by his wife Havise de Bretagne, sister and heiress of Conan II, Comte de Bretagne, and it is questionable on account of age whether he could have been in the battle.
The other Alain, known as Le Roux, ("La Rebru," or "Le Ruibriz" i.e. Red-faced (Lobineau Gloss). Sir F. Palgrave renders it Rui-Breizad, the British King — a fanciful translation.) and who certainly was in the invading army, was the second son of Eudes, Comte de Penthièvre, by Agnes, daughter of Alain Cagnart, Comte de Cornouaille, and great-grand-son of Richard II, Duke of Normandy, and therefore, in the charter by which King William conferred upon him the lands of Edwin in Yorkshire, is called by the Conqueror "Nepoti meo," being his nephew according to the custom of Brittany and Normandy.
Neither of the Alains are named by Guillaume de Poitiers or Orderic Vital amongst the list of the leaders at Senlac, but according to Wace, "Alain
Felgan" (Fergant) joined the Duke at St. Valery, and brought with him many barons from among the Bretons, and previous to the battle he was appointed, in conjunction with Aimeri de Thouars, to lead the wing of the army which was composed of the Poitevins, the Bretons, and the barons of Maine. He subsequently tells us that Alain Fergant, Count of Brittany, had a great company of Bretons,and fought himself like a noble and valiant knight. Gaimar, a Norman or Breton poet, also says —
"Le quiens Alain de Bretaigne
Bien i ferit od sa compaigne."
and records William's grant to him of the honour of Richmond. He also describes him as his cousin and "gentilhome de grant parage," and it is, therefore, the less singular that Alain le Roux should have been confounded with Alain Fergant, who was also a collateral descendant of the old Dukes of Normandy.
Two brothers of Alain the Red, viz., Alain the Black, who succeeded him in the earldom of Richmond, and according to Lobineau an elder brother named Brient, are also reported to have been companions of the Conqueror; but their deeds at Senlac are not commemorated. Brient, or Brian of Brittany, figures, however, after the Conquest as assisting, in company with William Fitz Osbern, to suppress the rising in Devonshire (vide p. 178). He is also said to have defeated the two sons of Harold twice in one day with great slaughter, 24th June, 1069, when with a large force from Ireland they landed at the mouth of the river Tivy. It is probable, therefore, that he was with his brother Alain the Red at Hastings and Senlac. None of these were Comtes de Bretagne as carelessly stated, but Comtes en Bretagne, according to a custom still prevalent on the Continent, and Alain the Red is more correctly designated by Gaimar as "Count Alain of Brittany," not as Wace has it, " Alain, Count of Brittany."
This Alain the Red was rewarded for his services with all the lands of Earl Edwin, in Yorkshire, particularly eight lordships, which subsequently became the county of Richmond, and of which this Alain was the first earl. Altogether his share of the spoil amounted to nearly two hundred manors, one hundred and sixty-six being in Yorkshire alone. He built the Castle of Richmond, from which the county took its name, and which, as Scott sings, "stands fair on the hill," overlooking the river Swale, died unmarried in 1089, was buried in the Abbey of St. Edmunds-Bury, in Suffolk, and was succeeded in his earldom by his next brother, Alain le Noir, who had also fought at Senlac and been richly rewarded with one hundred-and-twenty manors, the greater number being in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Dugdale, and after him all the English writers on this subject down to Sir Henry Ellis, have confounded Alain surnamed Fergant with Alain the Red, and given to the son-in-law of the Conqueror the whole of the estates bestowed by him on each. The authors of "Recherches sur le Domesday" have with great care and discrimination separated the various donations; but in supposing that the husband of Constance was in the battle of Senlac I believe them to be mistaken, and therefore, although the most interesting of these Breton nobles, I am precluded from including him amongst the companions of the Conqueror.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Fred L. Curry, who provided a photocopy of the section.