Simon, Waltheof, Henry, William, and Matilda were the family of him of whom the Magna Britannia (a kind of supplement to Camden's Britannia, edited by Cox and others) says that he was one of the Conqueror's captains who came with him out of Normandy, the first Earl Simon. His devotion to the church brought its fruits. Waltheof, named after his brave but unfortunate maternal grandfather of Saxo-Danish lineage, became a priest, and ended as the head of that monastery which, to be seen, must be visited by moonlight, with Sir Walter Scott as guide. The
‘Slender shafts of shapely stone,,
By foliage tracery combined’
which has made Melrose Abbey one of the jewels of, particularly the literary imagination, may not have then been in existence. It is supposed that the Culdees, or “worshippers of God”, had their divine house near there; and with the passion, and probably freemason privilege, of Sinclairs for architectural beauties, this Waltheof, abbot of Melrose, in the twelfth century, is responsible for some if not all of the Gothic features of the most lovely remnant of the great and greatly genuine church. If so, he can easily be forgiven for forsaking the warlike traditions of his race on both sides, and clinging to the houses of God. They are, or were, the homes of peace, civilisation, and art, where the hardest of all battle ought continually to be waged against the hordes of what is essentially ugly and unholy. He is known in the Roman Catholic calendar as St.Waltheof, and takes a high place among the saints as the second abbot of Melrose. The Acta Sanctorum of the Bolandists, under his day, the third of August, gives much biographical detail, as also do the annals of the Cistercian order of monks, he being the most ascetic of this devoted part of the clergy. Butler's Lives of the Saints may have attention. In old Fordun's Scotichronicon there are many references to this high clerical Sinclair, whose lineage had in it the double Saxon royal alliance which caused Stephen to oppose his election to the archbishopric of York. Billings says that the reason of the opposition (and it was successful) came from the danger that his promotion would give influence to the rival house.
It was in 1148 that Waltheof was transferred from Rievalle to Melrose; and the abbey, being founded in 1136 by King David,
‘the sore saint for the crown’, it must have been still in the process of building under the rule of Abbot Waltheof. The Norman features which puzzle architects owe their origin to him. He wrought many miracles, if the religious chapbooks may be believed. He ordered a priest who shuddered to drink the wine with a spider in the cup to gulp all, and some days after, the father being ill of the experiment, he took the spider out at his thumb, to monastic and popular general admiration, if not worship. In a time of famine he fed all the inhabitants of Tweeddale miraculously. It is possible that his English relations, and powerful Scottish ones also, “semi-royal”, as Billings calls them, thought otherwise. Last of all, in hagiographic art -
‘Incorruption of the holy body and health restored to many sick people at the sepulchre of the saint’. Several times his remains were raised for the spiritual refreshment got from the sweet odours which exhaled, but a jealous successor, as is said, shut up the mortuary chapel. It was the age of Thomas Becket. Vide his list of miracles, and judge softly of human intellect.
The Chronica de Mailros, which ought to be the best authority, has -
‘In the year 1148 Waltheof, the brother of Henry, earl of the Northumbrians, and of Simon, earl of Northampton, was made abbot of Melrose’. Another passage is -
‘In the year 1159 died Waltheof of pious memory, the second abbot of Melrose, on the third of the nones of August, who was the uncle of the king, Malcolm’. Of the brother Henry much could be found, but this of itself gives him something of a history. How he held the earldom of Northumberland must have been through his mother's rights, as heiress of Siward and of the great Waltheof beheaded in the Conqueror's reign. Whether Henry founded a family is in some respects doubtful because of the succession of the Mowbrays and Percies or Louvaines to the northern dignity.
William, whose sonship to the first Simon is not so directly authenticated, was the archdeacon of Northampton whom Leland calls “the brother to one of the Simon Sainctecleres”, and who, he says, was the original founder of St.John's Hospital there, still existing in 1542. What fixes or seems to fix him as the brother of the second Simon, is that it was to William, archdeacon of Northampton, Stephen once ordered Geffrey Mandeville to deliver up the tower of London on the penalties. The clergy were entrapped into crowning Stephen king, by Hugh Bigod Dapifer's tale from Henry I's deathbed, and the religious bonds of this family would compel them to hold by the performed public act of the archbishop of Canterbury. Their ties of lineage enlisted them on the side of Matilda, if the church interest had not been so powerful. That the archdeacon was of the right metal, too, may be understood from his ability, and no doubt desire, to take the command of London for Stephen's side. Archbishops, as for example the Conqueror's brother Odo, earl of Kent, and others of high clerical dignity, were then versed not only in secretarial state business but in actual military commands, and Archdeacon Sinclair had evidently the strong hand equal to the able head. Dugdale says that it was William, archdeacon of Huntingdon, in the reign of King John, who was ordered to receive the tower of London, and from one of the later Mandevilles. If so, then William, archdeacon of Northampton, must rest on the laurels of being the founder of St.John's Hospital, and of being the Sinclair of Leland's reference, nothing further being found of him as yet. The brother or nephew of men so high in state and church, himself also high in the latter, must have had considerable public connections could they be discovered. The late John Sinclair, archdeacon of Middlesex, was kinsman to this ancient churchman, but by the princely Scottish line.
History is at best so tantalising that it only gives glimpses of those we should wish to see fully, and what “George Eliot” has supposed one of her characters as thinking of this science, is often not very wide of the mark: “It is an ingenious process of guessing”. Let any one read our recognised and really able historians like Macaulay,Froude, Freeman, Buckle, or Bishop Stubbs, and then go and bury himself for some year or two, or ten, among the original records, and he will come back with a shining and somewhat contented face, and probably with an exclamation something after the form of Solomon's celebrated one, “Poetry of poetries, all is poetry !” This is said, not to discredit history and historians, for they are good, and sometimes great, but to give confidence to timid worshippers in the shrine of fact and imagination, which are inextricably mixed, that they also may enjoy savingly the freedoms of all truly spiritual lands. Let pedants shake their heads off. There need be no anathematising of the most laborious plodders, who are often of infinite even when accidental service; but, referring all things to human head and heart which God has given, let us trust what such oracle tells finally in historical and all other subjects of hell, earth, or heaven. Those who do not like the style have wide field elsewhere, and waste enough for ears short or long. As the Melrose Abbey inscription put it:
‘The earth builds on the earth castles and towers;
The earth says to the earth, “All shall be ours”’
But while we inhabit our tabernacle of earth or clay, castles and towers and their inhabitants will always have their interest to us, however small and insufficient the glimpses got through crevice or loophole of stone or flesh; and let no man browbeat us with his specially skilful microscopic or telescopic success of inspection, when the matter is all of degree, and small degree. The finest scholastic weapons are useless, if there is really no seeing eye behind them, and a deep heart into which to convey its ever partial but inspiring messages.
Simon, the eldest, was the heir to his father's titles, and to much of his estate; and of Stephen he was one of the most faithful and consistent supporters. There were reasons for his adherence, besides the sympathy for the church's engagements through its chief officers. He had been most roughly used by Henry I, or, to be more accurate, by his queen, Matilda, and her Scottish brother David, afterwards king of Scotland. As a boy, Simon had been sent to France to finish his education, according to the beautiful ceremonies of chivalry. His mother Matilda, the widow of the first Earl Simon, had married this brother of Henry's queen, and had possession of the earldoms while the youth was in nonage. When the time came that the young Simon was about to claim his rights, an excuse was needed to keep him out of them. One of England's best nobles had been banished by Henry, and happened to have a son going through the chivalrous curriculum of page aspirant for knighthood in the same home with Simon. Warnings are said to have been given to the heir of Northampton and Huntingdon, not to take his knighthood in usual public form with the offending noble's son. Whether they reached him, or never were sent, he kept friendly with his young comrade; and not only did they take the feudal degree together, but immediately afterwards went off jousting and performing deeds of derring-do, to the indignation, real or feigned, of the Scottish faction who had Henry in their interest. Young Simon's troubles began, and he may well have cursed that bane of England even so early as then, the mixture of royalty with nobility.
Indeed, if the family nature of English politics, from the arrival of William the Conqueror, is not closely recognised, true ideas cannot be got of the kingdom's history. Nobles were sometimes compelled to be ambitious, if they wished to exist at all. The successor of Malcolm, the husband of Margaret Atheling, was King Alexander of Scotland, their son. This David was his brother, Simon's scheming saintly Tartuffe stepfather. When Alexander died, David became king of Scotland, but matters grew little better for the stepson. The Scotsmen did not lose their liking for the southern pastures. David's son, Henry, was the next competitor against whom Simon had to contend in such troublous times as those of Stephen. This Henry paid homage to Stephen for Huntingdon; which probably Queen Matilda, the mother of Henry and Simon, thought she, through her father and mother, Waltheof and Judith, had the right to do her will with; and in Stephen the adventurer's time of need, Henry had Doncaster, Carlisle, and other grants made very freely. That it is easy to be generous with what is not one's own, is a proverb; and it was of first importance to secure the aid of the Scottish faction in England, by being liberal to the northern sovereign's relations.
Stephen set Henry on his right hand at one of the early meetings with his lords and the clergy, but this was too much even for them, and Henry had to bear the scorn of at least two, who rose and left the court, viz., William, the archbishop of Canterbury and the earl of Chester. This was the William of Corbeil who was elected amid some difficulties at Gloucester in 1123, and the relation of Sir Robert Fitz-Hamo, the “knight of Rye”, whose father was earl of Corbeil in Kormandy. The archbishop had not only general and hierarchical reasons for his contempt of Stephen's flattery, but those of consanguinity, since he knew of the injustice systematically being done to Simon. This Henry of Huntingdon was married to Ada, daughter to William, earl of Warenne, and they had three daughters, Ada married to the earl of Holland, Margaret to Conan, earl of Britanny, and Maud who died young. He had therefore English and French connection as well as Scottish to aid him. His sons were Malcolm and William, successively Scottish kings, and the David, earl of Huntingdon and of Carrick, well known to history as the ancestor of the ladies through whom the claims for the Scottish crown were made by Bruce, Baliol, and others in the time of Edward I. On the death of David's father Henry, Simon the disinherited half-brother got at last his rights in great part, 1152.
He had taken his side in the wars long before. He fought hard for Stephen, at Lincoln in 1141 unsuccessfully, and elsewhere otherwise. One of Leland's abbreviations is, Simon comes Hamptoniensis in eodem bello adhaesit Stephano. Robert, earl of Gloucester, champion of Matilda, his sister, and married to Matilda Sinclair, daughter of the “knight of Rye”, said then at Lincoln of Simon, his opponent, that he was forward in promises and slow in performing them. His state of life a continual doubt and difficulty among royalties and their needs and ambitions, may have made this quite true. He never does seem to have acted with sufficient promptitude, or perhaps they might have been more careful of meddling with his proper rights. That he was in culture like the best of his time, however, is shown by his founding the nunnery De La Pree near Northampton, the abbey of Saltrez, Huntingdon, and by giving the church returns of Southwick to the Knights Templar, of whom, like his father, he was one. The hereditary love of castle-building is shown by Bridges's statement that he built Fotheringay, the scene of the last moments of Mary, queen of Scots.
A contemporary chronicle, extant among the Cottonian MSS., says that David, the queen's brother, was made earl of Huntingdon and Northampton by Henry his brother-in-law, on the death of the first Simon; but Nicolas thinks he was only given Huntingdon, and Baker also follows this version. Undoubtedly most of the quarrelling took place about Huntingdon, and during the life of the second Simon's successor too; but the fact was that David had actual possession of the one earldom by sovereign's gift, and tenure of the other till the sovereign should relent in favour of Simon. That Simon had possession of Northampton early in Stephen's reign, could alone explain his support of the usurper. The death of his stepfather in 1152, restored his inheritance to him, and he took forcible possession of Huntingdon.
He did not long enjoy the double earldom, for he died the next year. When Stephen made the peace with Matilda and her son Henry, by which the latter was to become king after his decease, Dugdale says no man stood more opposite to the treaty than Simon. It is supposed that his anger was so roused at the turn affairs took that he died then and there, of his passion for consistency and battle to the last. He was the first of its founder's family who was buried in St.Andrews, unless the Lady Margaret, whose “Tumbe” Leland says was the wonder of the monastery, had been his aunt, and died before him. She was certainly one of the family, the antiquary shows, and he adds,
‘But Erle Simon the secunde and Erle Simon the 3, sunne to the secunde were booth buried in S.Andreas’. Simon the second earl's wife was Isabel Bellamont, daughter of the earl of Leicester. To one of the ladies of this family “Strongbow”, the conqueror of Ireland, was married. Simon had such and other strong support, but it is not fair struggle between a subject and sovereigns, even with right on the side of the former. His widow married Gervase Paganell, Baron Someri de Dudley, co. Stafford. In her widowhood she had put herself under the protection of her nephew, Robert, earl of Leicester, with regard to the lands of Bradfield, Botinden, Norfield, and Waltham. It would be interesting to know that this was the Waltham of the Mandevilles, and, if so, how she had got it.
Matilda, this Simon's sister, has to have her story told. She was first married in 1112 to Robert Fitz-Richard Clare, one of the Tunbridge family, of whom Eudo Dapifer's wife was so illustrious a lady. He was the lord of Baynard's Castle, London, on Thames bank at Blackfriars, and baron of Dunmow, Essex, the fifth son of Richard Clare, the justice of England. After Eudo's death in 1120, he got the dapifership from Henry I, probably because he was brother-in-law to this previous dapifer. The Monasticon shows how greatly favoured Dunmow was by Matilda Sinclair and her husband, Robert Clare Dapifer. He is the ancestor of the celebrated English family of Fitz-Walters, who were really Clares, though also hidden by the unfortunate methods of surnaming. There is a charter where “Robertus filius Richardi” occurs, 1 Stephen (1135), among the codices of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, as dapiferus. In 11 Stephen, Matilda's second husband, Saher de Quincy, was made lord of Daventry, jure uxoris, and from this marriage came the earls of Winchester. When King John was quarrelling with his barons in 1215, Saher, earl of Winchester, son or grandson of this De Quincy, with the aid of foreigners besieged Colchester Castle, but ultimately had to withdraw and go towards St.Edmonsbury. The castle was defended successfully by William Longueville, the husband of a Sinclair lady, whose tale will be told hereafter.
Dugdale says that the William de Albini (called Brito to distinguish him from William de Albini Pincerna, official butler or cup-bearer of coronation day, and the earl of Arundel) was married to Maude de St.Liz, the widow of Robert Dapifer, and daughter of the first Earl Simon. If so, it was before 11 Stephen, when Saher de Quincy heirs some of her rights as his wife. Like Isabella, countess of Gloucester, afterwards the wife of King John, of Geffrey Mandeville, and, The Baronage says, of the great Hubert de Burgh, Matilda also had three distinguished husbands. It was Albini's personal valour which broke the lines of Duke Robert, and gained the battle of Tenchbrai for his brother Henry, in 1106. The charters of this reign are signed as frequently by him as by Eudo Dapifer, and he probably had an official position at court. This Albini Brito's son was William Meschines, and from him came the earls of Cambridge.
Of his lands Aelard Sinclair held two knights' fees. After the drowning of the royal heir, William, in the White Ship, 1119, Henry I (1127) got his lords to promise their feudal support to his daughter Matilda, In the Black Book of the royal exchequer, Liber Niger scaccarii, the name Adelard de Saincler appears on the carta of promise of Willelmi de Albenni, baron. He is of Leicestershire, and promises to furnish in the usual way the two mililes of his two knights' fees of land in case of war. It is the same Aelard Sinclair who holds under the father and the son, and he was a scion of the house of which Matilda Sinclair, this wife of William de Albini of Belvoir Castle, was so remarkable a daughter. Macaulay has the stirring line in his Armada fragment,
‘Till Belvoir's lordly terraces the sign to Lincoln sent’; which sufficiently localises and characterises her home, to the north of Melton Mowbray on the furthest boundary of Leicestershire, now the seat of the duke of Rutland.
The great Northumbrian, Nigel Mowbray, was son of Roger de Albini, and took the new name when he got the dispossessed earl's lands. It was he who married the countess dowager of Gloucester, Matilda Sinclair, widow of Robert Consul, son of Henry I. The Priory, Fawsley hundred, had much of the other Matilda's patronage. Her steward or seneschal was Hugh, vicecomes of Leicester. This monastery was founded first at Preston Capes, a place that has connection with Sinclairs at much later periods, but Hugh got the consent of the first Earl Simon, the lord of the district, to change it to a site near the parish church. The advowsons of it he gave ultimately to Matilda, and she, patrona et domina, was not sparing in her own gifts of land, ceremonial vessels, priestly dresses, and other similar necessities and ornament. Among the women of her time, she is eminent as a donor of spiritualities.
Daventry priory also got from the family, and from such adherents or relations as Hugh, much property for mortuary benefits, as well as from the general and earlier liberality of founders and their friends. Hugh had many such gifts from the first earl, Matilda's father, as that of Thorp Mandeville, part of which belonged to Farthingo, another more recent Sinclair property, and much of lands so got seems to have been heired by Matilda, or given by them in conjunction, or by arrangement, to the monasteries which they favoured. Washington manor, one of the gifts of Matilda or her father to St.Andrews priory, it might be risked supposing, was the original home of the greatest American president. The present earls of Dartmouth claim to have the right English Washington family arms somewhere on their shields, and the Washingtons of the midlands are meant. The church of Duston of the Peverel fee belonged to the Simon of Henry II's time, and to him the next step is taken.