Of the group of nobles at the head of this chapter, the first two are mentioned by Wace, and Guillaume de Poitiers speaks only of the son of Count Richard.
Other writers, however, assert that both Count Richard and his son fought side by side in the battle of Senlac. It is possible they might have done
so, as Count Richard died on the 13th of December of the following year, 1067, and there is nothing to prove that he was not in the army of invasion. It is remarkable, however, that in Taylor's List it is William, Count of Evreux, who is set down as contributing eighty vessels to the fleet; and as William was not Count of Evreux in 1066, it is possible that it is one of the many mistakes we find in the baptismal names of these early nobles and their wives, and we ought to read "Richard," at least as far as the furnishing so noble a contingent as eighty vessels, which must surely have been the act of the reigning Prince, and not of his son, who might at the same time have had the command of them. Richard, Count of Evreux, was the grandson of Richard I, Duke of Normandy, and succeeded his father, Robert, Count of Evreux and Archbishop of Rouen, in 1037. Beyond the fact that at a date variously stated as 1055, 1060, and 1066 or 1067, he founded the abbey of St. Sauveur; nothing is stated of his acts and deeds worth recording; but he is described by the monk of Jumièges as equally a good Christian and a good soldier.
He was twice married. His first wife was Adela (called by Pere Anselm, Helene), widow of the Roger de Toeni who was slain in 1038, by whom he had William, who succeeded him, and Agnes, third wife of Simon de Montfort, and whose abduction by her half-brother, Ralph de Toeni, I have already mentioned. By his second wife, Godechilde, of whose family we know as little as we do of that of his first, he had only one daughter, named after her mother, who became abbess of St. Sauveur, the abbey founded by her father at Evreux.
Of William, Count of Evreux, the undoubted companion of the Conqueror, much more is recorded, though nothing previous to the invasion, except his being present with his father at the great Council at Lillebonne, wherein that invasion was decided upon. He is reported as having borne himself valiantly in the battle, and received an ample share of the lands in England distributed by the Conqueror in 1070 to the chieftains who had accompanied him in his expedition. He returned to Normandy in 1078, and was one of the mediators in the treaty of Peace of Blanchelande (vide p. 198, ante). Shortly afterwards, King William, as if to indemnify himself for the property he had bestowed upon him in England, took from him the Castle of Evreux, and placed a royal garrison in it. Nevertheless, he fought on the King's side during the disturbances in Maine, and was taken prisoner at the assault of the Castle of Saint Suzanne, held against the King by Hubert, Vicomte de Maine. In 1087, on the death of the Conqueror, he recovered the Castle of Evreux, driving out the royal troops both from there and from the town of Dangu in the Norman Vexin.
Being without issue, he had adopted his niece Bertrade, daughter of his brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort. In 1089, Fulk le Rechin, or the Quarreller, Count of Anjou, captivated by her beauty, determined to repudiate his third wife, Arengarde, daughter of Isambert, Lord of Chalet-dillon, whom he had only married, 21st January, 1087, in order to obtain the hand of the lovely Bertrade. At this moment, the Manceaux making a fresh effort to throw off the yoke of the Normans, Duke Robert Court-heuse entreated the Count of Anjou to assist him in their repression, which he promised to do on condition that the Duke would obtain for him the hand of Bertrade. On Robert's application to the Count of Evreux, he was answered: "Not unless you will restore me Noyon- sur-Andelle, Gassai, Cravant, Ecouchi, and the other lands of Raoul, my paternal uncle, who was facetiously called 'Tete d'Ane,' on account of his head of hair, and to my nephew, William de Breteuil, Pont Saint Pierre; for Robert de Gassai, son of Raoul, has made me his sole heir." The Duke accepted the condition, and restored to him the whole of these estates, except that of Ecouchi, which was held by Gerrard de Gournay, who was of the same family. The beautiful young Bertrade was, therefore, literally sold at that price to the profligate and detestable Count of Anjou, whom she subsequently fled from with the French King, Philip I, -- the natural consequence of such an unholy union, and the guilt of which lies on the head of her uncle. I have already, in my notice of Ralph de Toeni, spoken of the war maintained for three years between him and this William, Count of Evreux, his uterine brother, kindled by the hostility of their respective wives. After their reconciliation the Count of Evreux did good service to Duke Robert against William Rufus, who endeavoured to take from him the city of Rouen; but afterwards, making his peace with the King on the departure of Court-heuse for the Holy Land, he was appointed, in 1097, one of the leaders of the army sent by Rufus, as Regent of Normandy in his nephew's absence, to wrest the province of the Vexin from the King of France, and after the reduction of Maine, in the following year, was charged, in conjunction with Gilbert de 1'Aigle, with the keeping of the city of Mans.
Previous to the death of Rufus the Count of Evreux was out of favour with the King, in consequence of some reports to his disadvantage, attributed to the jealousy of Robert de Meulent, but he continued loyal to that monarch up to the day of the fatal hunt in the New Forest. He lost no time afterwards, however, in avenging himself on Robert de Meulent, whose land of Beaumont he overran and ravaged with unsparing fury.
In 1104 the new King of England, Henry I, coming over to Normandy with a numerous fleet and a great power, in order to restore something like order into the duchy, which the indolent and dissolute Robert Court-heuse had abandoned to the shameless parasites by whom he was enslaved, Robert, conscious of his misconduct, and alarmed at the attitude of his brother, implored his forgiveness and protection, offering him, as a pledge of his sincerity, the whole Comté of Evreux, with the feudal services of its Count and all his vassals.
"The illustrious Count," says Orderic, "hearing that he was to be transferred like a horse or an ox, and wishing to preserve his integrity and fealty, said publicly to the Princes: 'I have served your father faithfully all my days, never having stained my sworn fealty in any matter hitherto. I have also observed it to his heir, and determined to use every effort to continue in that course; but it being impossible, as I have often heard learned doctors declare, on the faith of Scripture and the Word of God, that a man can serve two masters who are opposed to each other, it is my earnest desire to be subject to one lord only, lest, being liable to a double service, I may satisfy neither. I love both the King and the Duke; both are the sons of the King, my late lord, and I wish to respect both; but I will only do homage to one, and him I will faithfully serve.'"
The chronicler adds that this candid declaration pleased every one. Duke Robert himself placed the hands of the Count between those of the King, and William became Henry's "Man," fighting for him loyally against his former lord, Robert Court-heuse, at the battle of Tenchebrai, A.D. 1106. But the restless and mischief-making spirit of his wife, by whom he was blindly guided, disturbed the good feeling between William and his sovereign, who had begun very highly to appreciate the services of the Count of Evreux. Proud and envious, she involved him in continual quarrels with the most influential nobles about the person of the King, and ultimately induced him to destroy a tower which Henry had caused to be erected in Evreux.
This act embroiled him with the King, and caused his banishment and the confiscation of his estates. He sought refuge with Fulk V, Count of Anjou, the son of his niece Bertrade, A.D. 1112. Recalled and re-established in his estates after fourteen months' exile, he was a second time banished and again pardoned and restored to his rank and property, and died of apoplexy, 18th April, 1118, without issue.
I cannot resist quoting from Orderic a ridiculous story connected with the death of this Count, because it is so seriously told by the worthy monk of St. Evroult, and illustrates the curious state of education of the period.
"About this time," says the writer, "a prodigy was seen in England. A rustic having bought a cow, presumed to be with calf, at Ely, killed and opened it by order of Henry the Breton, bishop of that diocese. Strange to say, instead of a calf, three little pigs were found in it.
"A certain pilgrim returning from Jerusalem, who chanced to meet the countryman driving the cow home from market, told him, and afterwards repeated to the Bishop and other bystanders, that three great persons in the dominions of King Henry would die that year, and many severe calamities would follow. The pilgrim's prophecy was justified by events which occurred in the time specified.
"In fact, William, Count of Evreux, died on the fourteenth of the kalends of May (11th April), and was interred at Fontenelles, in the Abbey of St. Wandrille, by the side of his father Richard. Soon afterwards Queen Matilda, whose baptismal name was Edith, died on the kalends (1st) of May, and lies buried in the Church of St. Peter at Westminster; likewise Robert, Earl of Meulent, expired on the nones (5th) of June, and reposes with his father and brother in the chapters of the monks at Preaux. After the death of these distinguished persons there were great troubles in Normandy."
It needed no ghost from the grave, nor second-sighted pilgrim to predict that three persons of rank would die in the course of the ensuing twelve months, or that there would be troubles in some parts of the dominions of Henry.
The production of the three little pigs is by far the most surprising part of the story. Are we much less prone to gulp down preposterous statements in the 19th century?
One fact, however, is incidentally brought to light in this foolish fiction which is important to the genealogist. The double name of the Queen warns us of the confusion that may arise from our ignorance of such instances in other cases; one of which may possibly be discovered in the puzzling entry in Domes day Book respecting the King's daughter "Matilda" (vide p. 84, ante).
I have given you the character of Isabel, wife of Ralph de Toeni, it is but fair to place before you that of her antagonist, Havise, from the same authority.
"The Countess," writes Orderic, "was distinguished for her wit and beauty. She was one of the tallest women in all Evreux, and of very noble birth, being the daughter of William, the illustrious Count of Nevers. Disregarding the counsels of her husband's barons, she chose rather to follow her own opinion, and her ambition prompting her to meddle in political affairs, she was easily led to engage in rash enterprises."
The Countess died in 1114, and was buried at Noyon-sur-Andelles, in the priory which, with her husband, she had founded in 1108, but which was unfinished when Orderic was writing the eleventh book of his "History," viz., 1136. The building was razed to the ground in the reign of Charles IX, who laid the foundations of a magnificent palace there, and since that time the place has been called Charleval.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Fred L. Curry, who provided a photocopy of the section.