Wace, in his description of the great battle, speaks of a "Hue de Mortemer, who, with three other knights, the sires of Auvilier, Onebec, and St. Cier, charged a body of English who had fallen back on a rising ground, and overthrew many." Monsieur Auguste le Prévost, in his note on this passage says authoritatively, but without citing his evidence, that "it was not Hugh de Mortemer who assisted at the battle of Hastings, but his father Raoul, son of Roger Lord of Mortemer sur Eaulne," in which opinion he is followed by Mr. Taylor, in his translation of Wace's account, without further information. In the recently compiled lists of MM. de Magny and Leopold de Lisle be is also called Raoul; but upon what evidence?
The English translator of Orderic, in a note on the death-bed discourse of William the Conqueror, says, equally without proof, that it was Roger de Mortemer, son of the elder Roger, who fought at Hastings.
It is quite true that we cannot implicitly rely upon Wace, who has been misled by his informants or betrayed by his memory in many instances, and where his statements are improbable or contradicted by direct or circumstantial evidence we may justly consider him mistaken; but it is a bold thing to deny without very strong reasons that there was no Hugh de Mortemer in the fight at Senlac.
That Monsieur le Prévost may be justified in stating that it was not Hugh de Mortemer, son of Raoul and grandson of Roger, who was present at the battle I will not dispute, but Wace does not say it was, and there is such wild confusion and glaring contradictions in all the pedigrees I have examined of the Norman Mortemers that I consider it premature to discredit Wace's assertion, while I by no means deny that not only Ralph, but his father, or some other of the name of Roger of that family, may also have been present in the battle, as assumed by the erudite antiquaries whose opinions I have quoted. I propose, therefore, to give the worthy Prebend of Bayeux the benefit of the doubt till better advised, and at the same time state as briefly as possible the result of my own researches into the early history of the Mortemers or Mortimers.
"The first of the name that I have observed," says Dugdale, "is Roger de Mortimer, by some thought to be the son of William de Warren, by others of Walter de St. Martin, brother of that William." And farther on he adds that "this Roger de Mortimer was by consanguinity allied to William the Conqueror, his mother being niece to Gunnora, wife to Richard, Duke of Normandy, and great-grandmother to the Conqueror."
For these statements he relies on Guillaume de Jumièges, the Norman genealogist, to whom we are indebted for so much interesting information of this description, but who is occasionally as incorrect as his contemporaries. As I have already, in my notice of William de Warren, shown the fallacy of this descent of Mortimer, I shall not inflict it a second time on my readers.
There can be no doubt tbat Mortemer (latinized, Mortuo-mari), the locality from which the surname of the family was assumed, is situated in that portion of Normandy known as the Pays de Caux, and at the source of the river Eaulne; that the Castle of Saint Victor-en-Caux was the caput baroniaeof the family, and that it was in the poseession of a Roger de Mortemer anterior to the invasion of England, as in 1054, twelve years previous to that event, Count Eudes, or Odo, brother of Henry I, King of France, invaded the territory of Evreux, and William, then Duke of Normandy, sent this Roger de Mortemer, at that time his general, with Robert, Comte d'Eu, Hugh de Montfort, Hugh de Gournay, William Crispin, and Walter Giffard to oppose him. (See the long and elaborate controversy in M. de la Mairie's "Recherches Historiques," 1852, respecting the scene of this battle.)
The French had taken possession of the town of Mortemer, and had passed the night in revelry. The Normans surprised them at daybreak, while the majority were asleep, and set fire to the town. Awakened by the flames in their lodgings, they armed themselves in the greatest confusion. Wace is as usual most graphic in his account. One man, he says, could not mount his horse, not being able to find his bridle; another could not get out of the house he was in, being unable to find the door. Every issue from the burning town was guarded by the Normans, and the fight was kept up in the midst of the conflagration from morning till three hours past noon. The French were nearly all killed or taken prisoners. One of the few who escaped was Eudes, the King's brother; but Guy, Count of Ponthieu, was taken prisoner, and his brother Waleran slain. There was no varlet, let him be ever so mean or of ever so low degree, but took some Frenchman prisoner aud seized two or three horses with all their harness; nor was there a prison in all Normandy which was not full of Frenchmen. They were to be seen fleeing around, skulking in the woods and bushes, the dead and wounded lying amidst the smouldering ruins, on the dunghills, about the fields, and in the by-paths.
Ralph III, surnamed "the Great," Comte de Valois aud Amiens, by Orderic called De Montdidier, who was on the side of the French, succeeded in making his way out of the town, and took refuge in the Castle of Mortemer, where he was sheltered by its victorious lord, who had formerly sworn fealty to him, and who, after entertaining him for three days, safely conducted him to his own territories.
For this breach of duty to Duke William, Roger de Mortemer was banished from Normandy and his possessions confiscated, but being afterwards reconciled to the Duke, had them all restored to him, with the exception of the Castle of Mortemer, in which he had harboured William's enemy Count Ralph, and that the Duke gave to Roger's cousin, young William de Warren; a sufficient answer to those who assert that Roger was his son.
Orderic, in making the Conqueror allude to the oath of fealty Roger had taken to Count Ralph, does not assign the reason for it, or hint that Roger de Mortemer was the Count's son-in-law. Here at any rate is some very important light thrown upon the pedigree of Mortemer, as none of the ancient or later genealogists have mentioned the wife of this Roger. Notwithstanding her noble descent, no trace of her is to be found even in the "Art de Verifierles Dates," but her name appears to have been Hadewisa, who possessed of her own inheritance the vill of Mees, at the mouth of the river Bresle, in the diocese of Amiens, and the district called Le Vimieu, and her gifts to the Abbey of St. Victor at this place were confirmed in 1102 by Theobald, Bishop of Amiens. Montdidier is in the same diocese, and had been forcibly seized by Count Ralph, who eventually died there September 8, 1074. Roger de Mortemer, therefore, it has been reasonably presumed, did homage to the Count for the lands he held of his fief, and which were given to him in franc marriage with his daughter.
Still, upon the principal question, who were the parents of this Roger de Mortemer, we have no conclusive evidence; no fact to start from of an earlier date than 1054, when we find him a leader at the battle fought in his own town, beneath the walls of his own castle. His age at that period can be no
more determined at present than his parentage; but we see he was married, in possession of the family estates, and had attained sufficient military rank and reputation to be intrusted by Duke William with the chief command of a division of his forces. He was living, as well as his wife, in 1074, when, upon their joint petition, a priory which had been established at St. Victor as a cell to the abbey of St. Ouen was itself erected into an abbey. This was only twenty years after the battle of Mortemer, and unless incapacitated by illness, there is no reason why he should not have been eight years previously in that of Senlac. At all events he is said to have contributed sixty vessels to the Duke's fleet, and if not himself in the expedition, was doubtlessly represented, either by his son Ralph, or it may be by some other relative named Hugh.
My reason for the latter suggestion is that Ralph de Mortemer, by his wife Millicent, had two sons, the eldest of whom was named Hugh, and may not have been the first so named in the family, as he certainly was not the laSt. It is a question, indeed, with some, whether Ralph, if the son of Hadewisa, as there is no reason to doubt, cauld have been old enough in 1066 to bear arms at Hastings. His mother must have been very young in 1054, and her eldest born, in his infancy. I say eldest born, for it is not proved that Ralph was an only child any more than that his father Roger was an only child.
A Wydo or Guy de Mortimer, and a Bartholomew de Mortimer were living in the latter half of the twelfth century, whose parents must have been contemporary with the first Roger de Mortemer we know of, and the branch of Mortimer of Ricard's Castle has yet to be traced to its offshoot.
Roger de Mortemer, living in 1074, was dead before the compilation of Domesday, when Ralph de Mortemer was found possessed of one hundred and twenty-three manors, besides several hamlets, and the Castle of Wigmore, built by William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford, and which became the principal seat of his family. His tenure of these estates in 1086 by no means proves that they were bestowed upon him for his services at Senlac. He might have succeeded to many by inheritance from his father Roger, or some other kinsman, on whom they had been bestowed by the Conqueror, and obtained some with his wife Millicent, whose family has yet to be discovered. It is most provoking to be left thus continually in the dark respecting the families of the wives of these Norman nobles. A knowledge of them would frequently be of the greatest importance to English history, by accounting in many instances for the acts of their husbands. Witness, for example, the fact recently discovered respecting Hadewisa, wife of Roger de Mortemer. Herbeing the daughter of Ralph de Montdidier, Count of Amiens, at once discloses the difficult position in which Roger was placed between his sovereign and his father-in-law, to both of whom he owed fealty, and explains the excuse King William admitted he had for sheltering his Prince's enemy. A similar discovery regarding Millicent might as satisfactorily account for the conduct of her husband Ralph, who is one day in arms against his sovereign and the next for him, without any motive assigned for his tergiversation. Matrimonial alliances and family dissensions have naturally influenced, and will continue to influence, the actions of public men, and history is constantly corrected and illustrated by a disclosure of the secret springs of action which have their rise in private interests and feelings. I therefore say with the French Lieutenant de Police, "Cherchez la femme,"and depend upon it, nine times out of ten you will arrive at the truth of the story.
I have as yet searched in vain to affi1iate Millicent de Mortemer. Her family name is not alluded to by Stephen, Comte d'Aumale, who married her daughter Havise, in his confirmation charter to the Church of St. Martin-des-Champs, a Cluniac Priory in one of the suburbs of Paris. He simply informs us that she was then deceased. Vincent and Dugdale make no guess at it, and I shall prudently follow their example.
Roger de Mortemer, the eldest, was, I have stated, dead before the compilation of Domesday, as we hear no more of him after 1074, and in 1088 we find Ralph in arms against William Rufus, having joined the movement of Bishop Odo in favour of Robert Court-heuse, and with the assistance of the Welsh doing much mischief in Worcestershire and on the Welsh borders. Two years afterwards, having been restored to the King's favour, he, with Robert, Comte d'Eu, and Walter Giffard, fortified his castle in Normandy against Court-heuse, and. continued apparently true to his English overlord from that period.
In 1100 (the 1st of Henry I) he founded the priory of Wigmore, and in the history of the foundation of that establishment, printed by Dugdale in his
"Monasticon," Ralph de Mortemer is stated to have died in Normandy on the nones of August that same year. Clearly an error, clerical or other, as in 1104, on King Henry's arrival in Normandy, Ralph de Mortemer is mentioned by Orderic as amongst the many nobles of that duchy who possessed large estates in England, and received him with great honour, making him many costly presents befitting a king. The history itself also not only records his services in the war that followed, but states that King Henry gave him the command of the forces sent against Robert Court-heuse, whom he vanquished and brought captive to the King, which, if it means anything, would amount to the assertion that he was the general-in-chief of the royal army at the battle of Tenchebrai in 1106; but of this there is no coroborative evidence, and as his name even does not appear amongst the known leaders in that memorable action, I conclude that he was at that time deceased.
By his wife, the unidentified Millicent, Sir Ralph de Mortemer had two sons: Hugh, who succeeded him, and William, to whom his brother gave Chelmarsh, and who, though represented to have died without issue, has been proved by Mr. Stapleton to have been the progenitor of the line of Mortimer of Attleborough. He had also a daughter named after her grandmother, Hadewisa, Havise, or Avice, wife, as I have previously stated, of Stephen, Comte d'Aumale. From this Hugh de Mortemer descended the many illustrious men of that name, whose blood, eventually mingling with that of the Plantagenets and the Tudors, still flows in the veins of the royal family of England.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Fred L. Curry, who provided a photocopy of the section.