A good reference to an ancient and authentic account of these Saincteliz and Sainctecleres is Langebek's Scriptores Rerum Danicarum. A collection of about a score of huge volumes, chiefly monastic Latin, it has one little tract in that language, rescued from antiquity, which gives a short but clear and consistent history of this branch of the Sinclair gens. It is particularly valuable for its attention to the more distant and perhaps external Danish and Saxon relationships. Judith and Waltheof, some say, had two daughters, while others mention three. Leland in his Colledaneum of abbreviations has,
‘Primo genitam earum accepit Simon Sylvanectensis; aliam Radulphus de Thoeneio, scilicet Judith; tertiam Robertus filius Richard’. He adds that other writers number two daughters to Judith, Matilda and Alicia, the former married to the first Earl Simon from Senlis, and the latter to Radulph de Toneio. This is his own opinion, for he has,
‘Matilda autem Matildae ex Simone filia nupsit Roberto filio Richardi’.
The fifth son of Richard Fitz-Gilbert of Tunbridge Castle has been noticed as the dapifer of England, baron of Dunmow, and married to Matilda Sinclair, sister of the second Simon and of Waltheof, abbot of Melrose, and daughter of the queen of David of Scotland. A valuable Harleian MS., which has a very full scheme of the relationships back to Aldred the Northumbrian and Ursus the Dane, follows the same version of two daughters. Alicia marries Radulph or Ralph Toneio, and they have a son Ralph. It also gives the Norman lineage of Judith herself, as being the daughter of Lambert, count of Lentz, in Artois. Among all the chroniclers it is agreed that she was the Conqueror's niece, being the daughter of his half-sister Maud, countess of Albemarle. Brady says that Roger, the father of Alice's husband, was standard-bearer of Normandy, an office hereditary. It was he who went a gallant young knight to the Spanish wars, and when returned to Normandy, finding Duke William, the son of Arlotta, the tanner's daughter, reigning, cost the young ruler all that sorrow of battle to thoroughly establish himself. Probably Ralph his son had his fortune somewhat limited by this, though there does not appear much sign of it. He is Ralph of Conchis, in Norman history, and lord of Flamstead, Hampshire, in English; and he figured much in both. Brady says that Hampshire, and Dugdale that Hertfordshire, is the county for Flamstead. To Rufus he was, with Philip Bruce, Richard Courcy, Walter Giffard, Robert of Ou, Stephen of Albemarle, and Gerard of Gournay, bitterest enemy; so that his paternal traditions seem active enough.
But there are other relationships which have more direct bearings. If it had not been for the power of royal claimants, the third Simon might have found a successor of his own lineage. The second earl had a brother of the same name, Simon, who was a man of some importance. He gave land to the nunnery of De la Pree, Northampton, and had descendants. Vincent quotes the Latin charter, and other details of value, in his violent corrections of Yorke, the genealogist.
Simon may not have been legitimate, or the peculiarity of similar name might have occurred from being the son of the first earl by a second wife; but to his own property succeeded also Simon, who appears in the records of King John's reign. He had a quarrel with David, earl of Huntingdon, about a knight's fee, and he appealed to the king's favour by presenting him with a beautiful palfrey. If this can be taken as part of a struggle for imdoubted and legitimate rights of the line, it speaks volumes as to the disorder and injustice rampant about the end of the twelfth century in England. As noble a stock as was within its borders seems to have been sacrificed to political necessity and royal cupidity. The facts which survive are not sufficient to establish this, but it is known that these relations of the great Simon resided in the county Rutland, who probably from disgust, or from weariness and weakness of means to fight the prolonged battle, gave up claims. The earls of Denbigh trace themselves to this family of Rutland, which they say changed its name to Seton. Their ancestor Sir William Fielding married the last of that branch, an heiress, and the claim of being heir-general to the three Simon earls and their honours has been made for this modern house. The following is taken from state records:
‘Calendarium Rotulorum Chartarum, Anno 19 Henry III, Simon de Seyntclere et Anna uxor ejus; Seyton boscus quiet de vasto et Regard forestae etc.; Rotel’.
It would be difiicult to say whether this is more valuable as a step for substantiating the Denbigh claim, or for completely proving the lineage of all the Simons to be Sinclair. Simon de Seton is the new local surname from the Rutland woody waste and forest district of which the above is part. The charter is proof of these Sinclairs of Huntingdon, Northampton, Lincoln, and Rutland till 1235. If there were no evidence than that connected with Simon Sinclair of Seyton, Rutlandshire, it is amply sufiicient of itself absolutely to establish the three Simon earls as Sinclairs. It would be an easy brief for a barrister, with which to succeed. The genealogists of the earls of Denbigh give valuable assistance to the present inquiry, and probably were successful about the relation of the Fieldings to these Sinclairs. The family in the beginning of the seventeenth century got their own earldom; and they are also barons St.Liz; in reality, if they did so prove relationship, barons Sinclair. Since 1622 there have been eight or nine of them, and they have figured as lords of the German empire as well as of England. Little can be drawn from the fact that several Senlis of plain rank appear at nearly every period in records, for they had no object in tracing lineage further than the Simons, what business they engage in necessitating the use of this name.
The Fieldings, says an old Peerage of 1710, were originally Germans of the house of Hapsburg, founded by Rodolph, and now represented by the emperor of Austria. The first Fielding here was Geoffrey; the second, Sir John; the third, William, to whom Agnes Seton, by local name, Sinclair by lineage, married. She brought him the lordship of Martinesthorpe in the county of Rutland, her descent in blood being “ from those great families of Vaux, Longville, and Sellers, a younger branch of Mowbray”.
But a world of speculation opens in discussing these Setons, if they are really Sinclairs. Under “Seton, earl of Winton”, Burke writes,
‘The first of the great house of Seton established in North Britain was Secher de Say, who had a grant from King David I of lands in East Lothian, which being called “Saytun” (“the dwelling of Say”), gave rise to a name and family which became pre-eminently distinguished in the annals of Scotland’. This is a somewhat lame account of the facts. “Secher de Say” was Sinclair of Seyton, one of the many Englishmen who went then to Edinburgh for fortune, and he brought the Rutland name with him to give it a new existence in Haddington, after the prevailing Norman habit. It is quite possible that Burke's explanation, “the town of Say”, may apply to the place in Rutland, and that the Sinclairs may have come into possession of it through afiinity with the Says, with whom they were frequently connected. The present earl of Eglinton is the male representative of Secher de Say ton or Sinclair of Seton. John, brother of the third Lord Seton, “married Sinclair, heiress of Northrig, with whom he got these lands”. But this is not the most curious effect of local names hiding true lineage in the present inquiry.
The dukes of Gordon, marquises of Huntly, earls of Sutherland, so celebrated in Scottish history as Gordons, are not Gordons at all, but Setons, and Setons are Sinclairs. The Gordons of Gight, of whom Byron's mother was one, are of the same blood. The Hon. Robert Gordon of Gordonstown, Bart. of Nova Scotia, gentleman of the privy chamber to James I, the historian of his house, the earls of Sutherland, in the violent rivalry he shows existing between the earls of Caithness and Sutherland, and which he aided with all his power, seems a little ludicrous in his family enthusiasm in the light of the truth, to which he was unconscious, that the so-called Gordons and their enemies of the Roslin, Orkney, and Caithness line, were of exactly the same male stock. The Granville-Leveson-Gowers who are the heirs of the “Gordons” as dukes of Sutherland, have themselves Sinclair blood, by affinity, in them from a famous Devon family of Sinclairs. The “baronet” Gordons of Earlston began their line by marrying Margaret Sinclair, heiress of John Sinclair of Earlston, in 1582, just as the progenitor of the dukes of Argyle, the first MacCallum More of 1270 had a Sinclair lady, the ancestress of the Argyles and of the marquises of Breadalbane. To a Sinclair earl an Argyle Campbell married, and created the latest Scottish feud, which ended in a pitched battle, 1680, on the plains of Caithness. The real Gordons, of whom the slayer of Richard “Coeur de Lion” is supposed to have been one, were extinct about fourteen hundred, and did not take very special position. The earl of Aberdeen is descended from a younger line, and represents that lineage.
The Dunbar earls of March, the Comyns, the lords Ogilvy (earls of Airlie, and earls of Findlater, heirs of Sinclairs of Deskford and Findlater), the Hamiltons, and Douglases, were interknit with the various branches of these Setons in ways that give steady assurance of the great part family blood, names changed, and not, took in all position and power when feudalism was at its game. Christopher Seton, the brother-in-law, by his marriage to Christian Bruce, and the brave companion of Robert Bruce when defeated at the battle of Methven (in which Bruce dismounted Aymer de Valence, and was himself unhorsed by Philip Mowbray), was soon after, Barbour says, betrayed to the English, and executed, as well as his brother John de Seton.
‘Where's Nigel Bruce? and De La Haye,
And valiant Seton - where are they ? ’
Says Sir Walter Scott in his notes to The Lord of the Isles:
‘There was some peculiarity respecting his punishment because, according to Matthew of Westminster, he was considered not as a Scottish subject, but an Englishman’. Hugh de la Haye, of the same male lineage as Seton, the Hayes likewise seeking and getting fortune in the northern district, was made prisoner, but did not share the fate of the more distinguished Christopher. Matthew of Westminster's notice is of much importance, in itself, and as referring to an early period of the history of the Setons, who afterwards figured prominently as Scottish earls of highest offices and account in the kingdom.
In a history of the castle of Oakham and its manor and pertinents, which appears bound up in the state record called The Hundred Rolls of Edward I's time, though the piece under notice was written in that of Edward III, there appears to have been an heiress Sinclair proprietrix in capite of Oakham Castle. The King had the marriage of her, and she is called in the Latin Domina Sencha when he marries her to his brother, the lord Richard, king of the Romans, earl of Cornwall, circa 1250. If this was one of them, the descendants of the Simons cannot have lost skill of keeping in high rank. But Burke probably gives in the Royal Lineage the right account, that she was the third daughter of Raymond Berenger, the second being married to the brother, Henry III. The personages are too prominent for any mistake to have been made.
It has been with many peoples besides the English a continual popular enterprise to turn the “l” out of languages, and this strange spelling, even if deciphered correctly from the MSS. for the printers, must have suffered in that way. Leland, the antiquary, says her heart was buried in the abbey church of Cirencester, Gloucestershire. It would be risking too much, and quite unnecessarily, to say that such a name as Simon de Segre, who held a fee from William de Clifford, as recorded in the Testa de Nevill, had any genealogical reference at present, being as probably Saker, which is a frequent English name. In Scotland as late as the convention of Stirling, 1544, the signature “Willm Lorde Sanchar”, is written for Lord Sinclair. Etymologies must not, however, be encouraged much in this line of inquiry.
There is no doubt about one Simon of the reign of King John. He is Simon de Sencler of Buckinghamshire in state records. This is the same spelling as the hero of Hastings, Richard, has in Domesday, and which his brother Britel, son of Walderne, earl of St.Clare, has in the Exon Domesday. He was not the Simon of Huntingdon who contended with Earl David, the Scot. That he would have been able to contend with some purpose can be gathered from the offices in which the records find him employed. One of the chief duties, as well as the most troublesome, of sheriffs or viscounts was to settle disputes of boundaries between properties. The king used to summon three or four milites or gentlemen of a county where any dispute needed settling, and they were called upon to elect twelve milites, or holders of at least some part of a military fee, to be a jury of arbiters. This scrap of survival does not fix Simon as sheriff or viscount, but it indicates clearly his value and weight as versed in the class of work, and having special authority of some kind. It is of interest to find one of the Northampton house so busy in civil affairs, and it is likely that at such a period he was equally energetic in military.
Aelard de Saincler has been referred to under the second Simon as holding two knights' fees under William of Aubeni Brito in Leicestershire during Henry II's reign. William of Aubeni, descended from the Toenis, was married to Maud Sinclair of the Earl Simon family; and Aelard got thus his property in that county; but he is still better known as of Harpolle, in the Newbottle hundred, Northamptonshire, where several generations of his descendants continued. He also had the manor of Lobenham there, as well as other properties. His father was James de St.Clair, and he had a sister Maud, who was countess of Clare and Hertford, being married to Roger de Clare, earl of Clare and Hertford, the heir of the Tunbridge Castle traditions. Sir Henry Chauncey in his history of Hertfordshire, and Blomfield in that of Norfolk, are authorities for this. Maud was married 12 Henry II (1166) and in the same year Roger gave 149 as the number of his knights' fees, on the taxing for the marriage of the king's daughter. He died in 1173, and was succeeded by their son Richard, who added the earldom of Gloucester to the two earldoms his father held. Says Blomfield,
‘In 1182, Maud, daughter of James de St.Hillary, countess of Clare, and widow of Roger, earl of Clare, the founder, gave this preceptory (Great-Carbrook, Norfolk), which was not finished or fully endowed by her husband, to the Knights Hospitallers of St.John of Jerusalem, with the churches of Great and Little Carbrook, and the moiety of the town, on condition they paid 13/4d - yearly to the nuns of Buckland, all which was confirmed by Richard de Clare, earl of Hertford, her son, and King John, in 1199, from which time she was declared foundress of this house’. Bridges, an able and fruitful antiquary, in his history of Northamptonshire, gives the valuable information that the Sinclairs and the St.Hillaries were the same people. This connection of theirs with the Clares, therefore, was but the reviving of many previous similar ties.
In the reign of Henry III another Alard was in possession of Harpole, Lobenham, and the Leicestershire properties; and it is of him Bridges writes.
‘This Alard de Seynteler was the ancestor of the family in late records named St.Hilary’. On the carta of William of Albenni, the first Alard has his name spelt “Aelardus de Saincler”; but the “c” gets faint through interchange with Seynt Liz, the alternate name, and is lost gradually. Seynteler grew to be Seynt Eler or Seynt Elerio, and by aspiration ended in “the St.Hilary of later records”. It is wise to shun changes of names by local pronunciation as of value, except on the one condition of proof being got otherwise in the first place. They are corroboration, however, in addition to facts, or at least may be allowed to be illustrative. There is no question of discussion at all, the unity of the names being acknowledged. Alard de Seynteler in the reign of Henry III gave to the convent of St.Albans two parts of both the great and small tithes of his manors of Horpol and Lobenham, and one half acre of arable land in Horpol. His successors, Peter, William, and Thomas Sinclair are donors to St.Albans.
One of the quaintest survivals of monasterial life is the abbot of St.Alban's astute recovery of the lands and gifts of these Sinclairs as late as 1427, which had been taken possession of by Dominus William Cheselden, the rector of the district, to the loss of the abbey. There are several pages in the Chronicle of St.Albans describing minutely the whole business in monastic Latin. How the abbot got the dean of arches to dine at St.Albans; and how he skilfully broaclied the subject of his wrong; and how the dean did not resent the mixture of business with pleasure, but directed the abbot to go and consult with the bishop of Durham, in whose diocese Northampton then was; and how month after month for a couple of years, a legal process went on under the favouring and fostering care of the dean; and how finally the monastery of St.Albans and its skilful abbot got their full rights, and perhaps more; are told with an infantile inimitability that is quite out of the power of the modern brain. These Seyntclers or St.Hilaries, or Sinclairs in the right spelling, were in themselves (if they had no connection with the Simon earls of Huntingdon, Lincoln, and Northampton, as also of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Northumberland, had the earls prosecuted their rights from the jura uxorem they had; or if they had no affinity to the earls of Clare, Hertford, and Gloucester; of remarkable territorial and general distinction.
With the Albennis of Belvoir Castle they are knit many ways. In 24 Edward I (1296), Richard de St.Hilary or Sinclair holds among his other lands a half knight's fee from Comyn, Baliol, and Bruce's rival for a throne in 1291 at Norham, namely, Robert de Bos of his own lineage, who married Isabel, the daughter of William of Albenni, and so became possessed of the honour of Belvoir. Thomas and his wife Maud were in 1 Edward III (1327) to get Upton, but it went instead to Piers Gaveston, the favourite. In 9 Edward II (1316) one of the Sinclairs is noted as holding lands from this honour or barony, and in 6 Edward III (1332) Thomas Sinclair succeeds Edmund de Pinkeney, who had temporary possession of some of his lands. In 20 Edward III (1346) he holds lands from the honour of Belvoir, which in 37 Edward III (1364) John de Sco Claro held. Sir William Vaux and Ralph Hastings succeeded him. The Vauxes will appear hereafter, in the story of the earls of Bath.
This inexhaustible field of inquiry must be ended with drawing attention to the continual recurrence of names connected with the kings of Scotland, through the ties between them and the Earls Simon of the earldom of Huntingdon in particular, about which the Scots strove long, and too successfully for the justice of things. Pinkeney, Hastings, Ros, are names competing for the Scottish crown in Edward I's reign.
The indications are clear enough that families of standing survived the three Simons so well known to history, and reflection of their true lineage comes back in these by no means obscure instances. Without even such suggestive aid as Leland's, they are absolute proof. Let the above be final words with regard to the Sinclairs who with other claims, were the earls of Northampton, Huntingdon, and Lincoln shires, and who probably had Norman and French titles and lands besides, if investigation were made beyond the Channel.