Robert Fitz-Hamo was married first to a princess, Theodora ap Tudor, daughter of Rhees ap Tudor, prince of South Wales, and sister to Henry I's concubine, the princess Nesta, mother of Robert Consul, earl of Gloucester, and mother by Gerald of Windsor and by Sinclair, father of William of Hay, of the chief heroes of the Irish Conquest. Marriages to the Welsh, even if princesses, were considered low alliances, though these Tudors are said to be the same stock as Henry VIII. But the connections explain Fitz-Hamo's close sympathies with the Conqueror's dynasty; and the high and deserved favour he had is considerably to be attributed to the fact that his first wife was Robert Consul's aunt. Burke says, however, that he was the Conqueror's nephew. The genealogists, from whatever reason, seem to have neglected this marriage. It is not impossible that new evidence of descendants may be discovered. They who refer to the subject at all state the marriage and no more.
Their interest follows quickly to the famous second marriage of the Montgomery heiress of Robert de Belesme's wide English lands; and this is natural, because it has to do with the main stream of history more. It was in Normandy that Henry, the third son of the Conqueror, met Nesta ap Tudor; and there, at the same period, before the reign of Rufus began in 1087, Robert Fitz-Hamo also met her sister Theodora. We know of a son Henry, as well as Robert Consul, whom Nesta bore to Henry, both out of wedlock; and evidence tends to show that the multiplying power of her tribe had in Theodora a sufficient representative. The theory is, and it must end in realised facts before its value is genuine, that William de Sancto Claro was her eldest son. That she had two other sons at least, will be put forward in additional but corroborative connections. It might be thought from the French charter that Matilda, countess of Gloucester, possibly married a William de St.Clair, but the dates at once preclude the possibility. Her husband, the king's son, did not die till 1146, and the French religious houses were conjointly founded by them during his life, 1139 at the latest. Who could stand in such a relation to this married lady but a brother ? Her marriage to Nigel Mowbray, with the evidence of their age, goes to say, that she could not possibly have been married to a Sinclair between the two marriages which all the genealogists and chroniclers tell of, and of none else. Her father, Robert Fitz-Hamo's brother Hamo, the viscount of Kent and dapifer, record shows to have been childless.
We know of the influential position of William from other things than great religious foundation. That he was among the few best men of England is shown by the list of witnesses to Stephen's charter of the earldom of Essex to the second Geffrey Mandeville, the son of Margaret Sinclair, Eudo Dapifer's daughter. The signatures and pledges which the Empress Matilda gave to Geffrey to win him to her cause, and to outweigh this charter and its guaranteers, are wonders of English record. She almost pawned the kingdom, the clergy included, to get the brave Geffrey to her side; and the Sinclair interest was undoubtedly always in her favour when it could get its natural and indeed, as shall be shown, related scope. Stephen's charter to him shortly after 1135, when he usurped the throne, is signed by William of Iypres, afterwards earl of Kent; Henry of Essex, the famous or infamous standard-bearer of England; John Clare, the son of Robert Fitz-Walter of the Tunbridge great family; Robert Newburgh, earl of Warwick; William de St.Clere; William de Damartin, of a famous earldom; Richard Fitz-Urse; and William, earl of Ou, than whom, being ducal with bar sinister, no person was more distinguished in England or Normandy. It cannot be thought curious that William Sinclair is on Stephen's side against the interests of Matilda and Robert Consul, and through them of himself and his own sister. So successful had Bigod Dapifer made the first move of crowning Stephen by the archbishop and the church's full authority, that even the very son of the late king, this Robert Consul himself, had to swear homage to his aunt's usurping son. William was there then simply because of his public importance, and till 1138, when Matilda landed in Sussex, Stephen was indisputable king. Like Geffrey he took his natural place as events righted themselves, and like him he may have suffered.
The indications are, however, that he died at a reasonable age about the middle of the reign, a few years after his foundation of the priory of Villers Frossard in 1139. He was one of the benefactors, according to Morant's histories of Essex and Colchester, published in the eighteenth century, of the abbey of St.John Baptist, Colchester, founded by his kinsman, Eudo Sinclair, dapifer. No more useful or graceful way was there among friends of such rank than thus acknowledging each others' pious deeds of building and endowment, and this of itself is a valuable item to the proof of their identical lineage. The William who was a cleric, and who helped Eudo so thoroughly and successfully in finishing the abbey, despite all state difficulties, “sparing no expense”, was probably the William afterwards archdeacon of Northampton, whose building powers on his own account with St.John's Hospital there are well known, the brother of Simon Sinclair, one of the great earls, themselves founders, as Leland has noted. Lay William was too old to have entered much into the fighting of the time, being born about 1080. The date shows that nothing of his English properties can be directly discovered from The Domesday Book, being a child at its production. In the Magnum Rotulum Scaccarii of 31 Henry I (1131) or, as some date it, 5 Stephen (1140), under
‘Nova Placentia et Novae Conventiones, Dorseta’, this occurs:
‘In pdon bi Willo de Sco Claro’, twice, as paying taxes in this county. His home was in Dorset, and he founded a family there.
Next to London, Winchester and its surroundings were the best scene in the kingdom during centuries after the Conquest. The Chronica of John of Oxenford mentions a descendant, William, who figured in Edward I's Welsh, Scottish, and French wars; and he was as capable in money business as in military. It is in coin connection John writes of him. The bishop of Winchester, the clergy being then the nation's accountants for most part, found his match in William on his own favourite exchequer ground. A Geffrey de Sancto Claro in the neighbouring county of Hampshire held lands near Southampton from the “counts of the island”, in 7 Henry III (1222); but the descendant more probably then in the main line was the “Dominus Williamus de Sancto Claro” who appears as witness to a charter given to the abbey of Tichfield, Southampton, in Edward II's reign, (1307-27). He was a baron by tenure so late as this, and may safely be held as representative of William Sinclair, the brother or near relation, as is being argued, of Matilda Sinclair, first countess of Gloucester. In the same state record referred to, he appears twice paying large taxes in Huntingdonshire. The records of the period being yet fragmentary in printed or other really available form, these appearances indicate much wider possessions.
How a supposed son of Robert Fitz-Hamo got large properties in Dorsetshire and Huntingdonshire, however, is a question which, without knowing of other lands he must certainly have had, would have something of answer as to lineage. Ellis in his Introduction to Domesday Book gives no help as to the lands possessed by Robert Fitz-Hamo in particular. He has an immense collection of lands under the name of Robert, and most of them, if not all, were the property of this the greatest of the nobles of three reigns. Robert Consul was only a minor in Domesday time, else it might be doubtful as to the extent of this Fitz-Hamo's lands occurring under the name Robert. Study of Domesday itself is extremely helpful and suggestive, though the indication of lineage through the properties cannot be otherwise than indirect. Indexes to and discussions about the clear and able record are worse often than useless, deterring from the actual reading, for the word “study” hardly requires to be used, of the two volumes. William de Sancto Claro heired property in England and Normandy belonging to Fitz-Hamo, lord of Thorigny. The lands he gave to the religious houses in the latter country, he held in common with his sister or relation; the heiress, by right of her mother, of the Montgomery properties, and of some lands of the proper Hamo line there, through her father.
The relations of the king's son Robert Consul, her husband, to this Sinclair family, are altogether of the most intricate and interesting kind. Through her relationship, as niece, to Robert de Belesme, the arch-rebel of Henry I's reign, he secured the bulk if not all of the immense estates of that intractable Montgomery; and William Gemeticensis, the chronicler, has this,
‘The king also gave to him (Robert, his son) the land of Hamo Dapifer, the paternal uncle of his wife’. That this statement can be but very partially true, will be shown on the most unimpeachable authority. She only had her share of her uncle's lands for her able husband. William de Sancto Claro got his share, Hugo de Sancto Claro, whose fame in Kent will appear by and bye, got his share, and Hamo of Colchester and its castle, who is so extraordinarily frequent a name in the papers of his time, got his share, if not the lion's share ultimately, of both Hamo their paternal uncle the Dapifer's lands, and the division of their father's with their half-sister, by different mothers, Matilda Sinclair, countess of Gloucester, and her full sister, Amicia, the countess of Brittany. The two sisters besides, the one Cicely Sinclair, abbess of St.Edward's convent, Shaftesbury, the other Hawise, abbess of Wilton, had also great gifts for the religious houses which they loved so well. There are trite remarks that King Henry made them religieuses because he wished to preserve all the properties from the family of Robert Fitz-Hamo's second wife, by Matilda her daughter's marriage to his son Robert Consul. The fact that the fourth, Amicia, married the earl of Britanny, and had her rights, is answer to such weak inferences. Who had better claim than Robert Consul to have benefits from Robert Fitz-Hamo, the favoured of his royal friends, and the husband of his mother's sister, Theodora ap Tudor ? If he encouraged what was the natural inclination of the Sinclair women, as history again and again has noted, for the high religious life, in favour thus of Robert Consul, this is all that can be said.
It is time, however, to treat these Hamoes on their right footing as of the Sinclair lineage, and in particular Robert Fitz-Hamo and his brother Fitz-Hamo Dapifer. Their sister, too, will be rescued from the obscurity of antiquity's sea as if by the drowning locks. She is a personage quite unknown to the chroniclers and county historians, and her history is as interesting as it is thoroughly fixed by the best of all authority. When return is afterwards made to the brothers, or perhaps the sons, of this William de Sancto Claro, the accumulation of weighty inferences and available evidence will have further effective additions from their thoroughly established and wholly recognised doings. If this brother, at all events, near blood relative of Matilda, countess of Robert Consul, is left now, it is because previous and collateral histories will make the more valuable what has to be said of him when the stories of Hugo de Sancto Claro and Hamo de Sancto Claro of the reigns of Stephen and of Harry II are handled.