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THE KNIGHT OF RYE

So much has already been said of Robert Sinclair, commonly called Fitz-Hamo, in the incidental relations he held with others of the lineage, that many additions cannot be made of entirely new effect. Some there are, however, and of most interesting character. Among English Sinclairs of the subsequent centuries no name appears more frequently in record than “Robert”, and it is not any stretch of point to look for the origin of its popularity to this gallant predecessor. Of all the Normans none unless it be “Strongbow”, the conqueror of Ireland, has as high fame as the “knight of Rye”.

Born in Normandy, at the battle of Hastings he must have been in the flower of his youth. Indeed the Tewkesbury Chronicle expressly mentions that he was a young man, but already the lord of Astremeville beyond the Channel; and he must have done at the Conquest as much as his age could. His father Hamo, earl of Corbeil, did great services, Brady says, for the Conqueror, and seems to have then overshadowed the son's doing, though the latter reaped the benefit of the efforts of both. It looks often as if the charters of such kind as those of Rochester, with Dr. Thorpe's editorship, could prove that this Hamo was dapifer as well as his son, who undoubtedly was Hamo the dapifer and viscount of Kent. Bishop Carileph's charter to Durham, given at London in 1082, is signed by Hamo Dapifer; and it could be either, as far as ages are concerned, but is more likely to have been the younger Hamo, viscount Kanciae. It may be granted that the younger man is the dapifer whose position has puzzled the antiquaries so much, and the sole one of the name.

Robert, the elder son, founded the castle of Rye, or more probably enlarged and fortified it, after his father had chosen his English home there. William Iypres, earl of Kent, added the remarkable tower, which made the place very powerful. The fact that the name Hamo is even still sacred to Rye in Sussex, one of the Cinque Ports, goes to show that to Robert's father the origin of the home there was owing, and that he did the work of making it famous. Many of the surname of Hamon or Hammond in late centuries have claimed to be descended from a Norman ancestor of Rye. The monks of Fechamp had returns from the district in the eleventh century, but this does not conflict the least with the presence of such an ancestor. Property held in the usual feudal way paid its tithes. In the muniments of Battle Abbey, at no great distance, the name Hamon often occurs.

The Henry of Rye who gave the manor of Diepham to the cathedral church of Canterbury, and who was thereupon admitted a monastic brother in 1146, is one of the English Ryes, as distinguished from their relations who kept up in England the name from the Norman home, Eudo, Hubert, Ralph, and the rest, who possessed chiefly in the east and north of the kingdom. There is a Robert Hamon at Rye in 1314. Of other local indications from the names of persons, the history of Thomas Hamon, six times mayor of Rye, and thrice its representative in parliament, is very suggestive. His tomb still exists. He died in 1607, and had all the honours which civic ingenuities could heap upon him.

To make strange things meet, by an extreme circle, the signature “Alexander Sinclair ” is found to the last effort of this once lively nearest ferrying port to France to assert its rights as an independent, and jealous, municipality, having Cinque rights and privileges of the then (1828) musty impossible kind. Could the man be a survival of the old race of Norman Hamoes ? In this century a Sinclair anywhere in England, much more on its southern shore, was rarer than a white elephant. It is almost pathetic, not to say poetic or even tragic, to think of him as the last of such a line. But this is digression, because he may have been an importation or a waif from other shores. The fact is striking, but has nothing further in it. Cooper, the Sussex archaeologist, says the Rye family originated with Robert Fitz-Hamo; and as an accurate and learned district antiquary, he must have had grounds for the statement that there was such a family. This of itself is presumptive proof that Robert's marriage with the Princess Theodora ap Tudor of Wales might have given him sons who were the heirs of his Sussex home with other of his own lineage possessions.

Beyond this marriage, and the general knowledge of his great services as a soldier, which historians like Brady and others describe, there is not much to be said of his doings in the reign of William I. It is in the reign of Rufus that he comes fully to the front. When Eudo Sinclair, the dapifer, came over in 1087 from Normandy, with the Conqueror's dying commission, to help to make his son Rufus king of England, Robert Sinclair, Fitz-Hamo, warmly espoused the cause for which his young relative risked his entire fortunes. Had Eudo's head not been so able, “the knight of Rye” would then have been seen gaining reputation at sword's point. As it was, he was one of the favoured friends at the court of Rufus. Opportunities were not long in arising to test his loyalty for his elect king. Odo, bishop of Bayeux, brother of the Conqueror, formerly earl of Kent and governor of England, had espoused his nephew William's cause, but he soon grew discontented, and with his supporters, “the gallant squires of Kent”, fortified Rochester Castle and Pevensey Castle, and schemed and waited for the coming of Robert, duke of Normandy, to take the crown as eldest son.

It is probable that good reasons were not wanting for this rebellion. But at the siege of Rochester, Robert Sinclair was chief military figure, and it was to him the success there was owing. It is said that the Saxon element of the population enjoyed greatly the sight of the Norman nobles led out as prisoners of war, and added sufficient curses in the vernacular to their departure, some of them for ever, from the island. This may be an example of historic imagination. Bishop Odo, the leading proprietor of the county, and a very able man, whether of uncertain temper or not, had perhaps considerable popular sympathy, if only from religious motives. But the last act of the high play he made in this country seems thus to have had its close. It is somewhat of a pity that he did not get his grand scheme carried out of being pope. His imperial-souled brother found the thought hard to brook that he should have to square sentiments with his ruling spiritual father in the person of his own earl of Kent. Undoubtedly Odo was a disappointed man who might have been one of the world's most brilliant stars had the fates been a little more favourable to him. His change against William is a subject that hardly deserves severe if any criticism, for Odo's day was over as to valuable undertakings.

Robert Fitz-Hamo was with King Rufus in his Norman wars against both his brothers, Robert, the duke, and Henry. Henry had bought or some say seized the province of Coustance. Fitz-Hamo gained the highest possible favour from the successful monarch, who in 1091 made what terms he chose at Caen with his brothers. To recount the adventures of that struggle of brothers would take volumes. Rufus had showed his gratitude for Robert Sinclair's services by disseizing his own brother Henry of his mother's lands in England, and giving them to the “knight of Rye”, who was thereupon lord of the honour of Gloucester. For years Henry was almost a beggar; but the after events show that he grudged less, though he had the grumbling faculty highly developed, the fortune of Robert, lord of Gloucester, than he would have done that of any other nobleman in England. Probably William Rufus knew this.

The love of Henry and Fitz-Hamo for two sisters gave something of a common interest to them; and, as will appear, real affection existed between the inheritor and the disinherited. The story of these lands is more than romantic. Brictric, a Saxon ambassador from the court of Edward the Confessor, had business at the court of Baldwin, earl of Flanders. The earl's daughter fell in love with him, and had the courage to propose to him. She was disappointed, and nursed her spite. This was the lady who, no doubt soured, said, on William her future husband proposing to her by messengers, that she would not marry a bastard. The stern duke never rested till he horse-whipped her in her father's palace; and so much the better of it was she, that she became soon after suppliant for his grace, and got it. Matilda, queen of England and duchess of Normandy, has a good name, but she could not forgive being slighted. When the Conquest had given her power, she found means of easing her spitefulness. Brictric was seized, with, it is said, the Conqueror's permission, at Hanley, and brought to Winchester. He died there in prison. The Tewkesbury Chronicle says he was childless. At all events, Queen Matilda had her revenge, and the further solace of his very wide lands. When she died in 1083, the Conqueror kept them in his own hand. It may be true that Henry Beauclerc had them only for a short time in Rufus's reign.

They came to the “knight of Rye” with perfectly clean hands, and he enjoyed them till his death in Henry's own reign. The Chronicle distinctly says that Rufus gave them to him on account of many labours with his father. Brady gives an additional item, wherever he got it. The gift, he says, was made because of his own and his father's services. If this is anything but a loose incorrect reading of the Latin, Hamo, earl of Corbeil, and the lord of Torigion or Thorigny, must have been a principal instrument in the subjugation and long and troublesome pacification of the island to its most northerly point. That Robert attached Hamo's to his own has the same lesson. Such a splendid prize as the honour of Gloucester can only be explained on the supposition of special deeds for the crown.

But this was not the highest point of Robert Sinclair's fortune and fame. Nicolas in his Annals of Wales says that Fitz-Hamo's conquest of Glamorgan is allowed on all hands. The tale reads like the adventures of knights of a Round Table in Fairyland rather than the sober history which it actually is. In Powell's translation of the History of Wales there is a full account of “how Glamorgan was won”, from which Dugdale has taken his. But there is much literature besides on this spirited subject, and short delay will be enough. He was “knight of the privy chamber” to Rufus, and his lordship over Gloucester as well as his general renown kept him the prominent person on the Welsh border.

In 1091 a quarrel had arisen between Lord Iestin, a Welsh noble, and his prince, Rhees ap Tudor. Lord Iestin, the lord of Glamorgan, as the weaker, sent a secret messenger, Enyon, to the English court to solicit the powerful man of the time, Robert Sinclair, Fitz-Hamo, for help. It is probable that an opportunity of intervention was not unwelcome. Fitz-Hamo got a full commission from the king to enter upon the adventure. He selected twelve knights to accompany him, and they crossed the border. The wild Welsh were not long in meeting the Normans, but they were beaten like foam. Prince Rhees ap Tudor was slain in the battle of Black Hill, and Conan his son shared the same fate. When he fully performed his promises to Lord Iestin, Robert judged that he should have equivalent. Iestin grew haughty, and fate found him soon in pitched battle against his former friends.

Most of South Wales fell like a ripe apple into Fitz-Hamo's hands, and though “he displayed some generosity, a thing quite unusual with his race”, as Nicolas, evidently a bitter Celt on this Welsh question, acknowledges, he was not the man to let go his grip of what he had fairly won. He immediately built Cardiff Castle, on the site of the ancient palace of the Welsh prince, Morganiog; and dividing the territories between himself and his twelve knights, he thoroughly established Norman rule. By this position he became lord marcher, a prince in everything but the name, needing no charters of possession, exercising jura regalia, having the power of life and death, and doing all he pleased, but with nominal homage to his king. He had the lordship of Glamorgan and Morgannocke, which, Stow says, was twenty-seven miles by twenty-two; acting like the Saxons, he adds, as to choice of goodness of soil and “best of country and champaign”.

The list of the knights, who also each of them built his own castle for the protection of his farms, is given in many places. Tindal notes: ‘There is a book written on this subject by Sir Edward Stradling, or Sir Edward Mansel, (for it is ascribed to both), wherein you have the names of the twelve knights. Their names and the lordships each of them had are as follows:

  1. William de Londres had for his share the manor of Ogmor.
  2. Sir Richard Granville, that of Neth.
  3. Sir Pain Tubervill had Coyty.
  4. Sir Robert St.Quintin, Lhan-blethyan.
  5. Sir Richard Syward, Talavan.
  6. Sir Gilbert Humfrevile, Penmark.
  7. Sir Reginald de Sully, Sully.
  8. Sir Roger Berkrolles, East Orchard,
  9. Sir Peter le Soor, Peterton.
  10. Sir John Fleming, St.George.
  11. Sir John St.John, Fonmon.
  12. Sir William Stradeling, St.Donats’
The antiquary Camden gives the list. Stow has it, and also the later Nicolas in his two-volumed book about Welsh persons and events. The Welsh Chronicle is the authority for these knights. Powel translated and published it in 1580, and it was written in “the British” at least two hundred years previously. Fitz-Hamo and his knights take up several valuable pages of Cambria, as it is named. In his judicious Life of Henry II, Lord Lyttleton gives remarkable prominence to the deeds of these brilliant warriors in the west. ‘Robert Fitz-haimon, a gentleman of the king's privy chamber and great baron of the realm, undertook the adventure. Twelve knights of considerable note and distinction were retained to his service, or rather agreed to serve under him, with a large body of forces’.

Nicolas takes care to tell, in an animated way, that, except the Stradlings, the Norman blood has vanished; and he has morals about tyranny that are mere superstition. Caxton in his Introduction to Cato's Distiches (of which book Francis de St.Clair, ne Davenport, was also an editor) says that in his time, the fifteenth century, no one could point out three succeeding generations among the merchants of London. The vitality of Normans, though as with most of the noblest animals production is not superabundant, has been always a subject of astonishment to careful consideration. The frantic nationalists cannot see truth that is still under their eyes every day. Fitz-Hamo had twelve years' possession as lord marcher before his death. He held his monthly court at Cardiff Castle, and of all Normans he was the most popular with the fickle, angry, immoral Welsh, because of his strong hand and generous heart. Enyon, the Welshman who first by his message opened the way to this side of his fortune, he enriched and granted lands to, with characteristic generosity. He built Kensigg Castle, and Cowbridge and other towns.

What is more valuable still in the present inquiry, is that the castle and town of St.Clare are in the district over which he ruled. Again and again the naming of their places by their surname, which, as Hallam has already been quoted to show, was considered beneath dignity to use socially, is to be found with the Sinclair family; and there can be little doubt that the well-known St.Clare of Wales owes its name to Robert Fitz-Hamo, its founder and ruler. In the Brut Y Tywysogion, the chronicle of the Welsh princes, the date of the death of Prince Rhys ap Tudor is given as 1091. He was ‘killed by the French (Ffreinc) who inhabited Brecknock, and then fell the kingdom of the Britons’. It tells how the French, who are the Normans really, came into Cardigan and other districts, which they conquered and occupied, fortifying everywhere with castles, of which Pembroke was one of the most remarkable in position of advance. It is 1189 which has first mention of St.Clare. ‘That year the Lord Rhys took possession of the castle of St.Clare’.

In King John's reign, 1215, ‘Llewellyn son of Iorwath and the Welsh princes in general collected a vast army to Caermarthen; and before the end of five days he obtained the castle and demolished it to the ground. And then they demolished the castles of Llanstephan and Talachur and Seint Cler. And from thence to Cardigan’. It was a few years later that William Rufus, after Fitz-Hamo's success in South Wales, partitioned beforehand North Wales, to be conquered and possessed by Hugh Montgomery, earl of Chester, and others. Montgomery has left his name on part of his conquest, as Fitz-Hamo did his in the St.Clare of Caermarthen, the castle, town, and county of Montgomery being immortal record of this brother of Robert de Belesme, of Mabel Montgomery, the “knight of Rye's” lady, and of Matilda, the wife of Robert, earl of Mortaine, half-brother of William I.

The great border lordship of Nithsdale reaching the Solway south of and including Dumfries, and held by the Sinclair earls of Orkney, had in similar manner its St.Clare for capital or head. In the map of 1732 inserted by Tindal in Rapin's History of England, the ancient divisions of Scotland before counties are given; and Nithsdale has its caput baroniae spelt as “Sanchar”, the exact spelling of a Lord William Sinclair's surname to a Stirling document in the reformation struggles.

Thomas Nicholas in his Annals and Antiquities of Wales, published in 1875, knew a little of the Welsh castle, but there is more than his two interesting paragraphs to be found about it. ‘At St.Clear's [St.Clare] there was also a Norman castle, about whose fortunes not very much is known, its life having probably been of brief duration as a lord marcher's residence, and distinguished by no extraordinary events. We can measure for it a duration of only about thirty years as a warlike stronghold. It was in existence in the year 1188 when Geraldus de Barri passed that way with Archbishop Baldwin preaching the crusades, for he mentions it as the adjacent castle of St.Clare, giving at the same time rather an amusing account of a method of making evil-doers good servants of the church: - ‘On our journey from Caermardyn to the Cistercian monastery called Alba Domus (Whitland), the archbishop was informed of the murder of a young Welshman who was devoutly hastening to meet him, when turning out of a road he ordered the corpse to be covered with the cloak of his almoner, and with a pious supplication commended the soul of the murdered youth to heaven. Twelve archers of the adjacent castle of St.Clare, who had assassinated the young man, were on the following day signed with the cross at Alba Domus as punishment for their crime. So they marched off to fight the infidel’.

What follows is useful for comparison purpose. ‘The next year after this summary conversion of twelve archers of the castle into Christian soldiers, the Lord Rhys visited and took possession of the place. After this Howel Sais became its occupant, who was compelled in the year 1195 to yield it up to the Norman De Breos. In 1214 it was captured and hardly used by Llewellyn ap Iorwarth of North Wales. Not a vestige of the walls is now to be seen; the mound on which it stood and which has partly grown out of its ruins alone remains to mark the spot’. But Gerald de Barri, better known as Giraldus Cambrensis, has already been referred to as giving still earlier knowledge of Saint Clare.

Nesta, the Welsh princess, concubine of Henry I, had a son William Hay to whom he says she left “Sanctum Clarum” as property, and it is certain she got it by one of the Fitz-Hamo connection, from whom the name came. William Hay's father was a Norman of Sinclair lineage. Nesta was the aunt of the then Lord Rhys, so that there is, what with Gerald de Barri being contemporary of Henry II, and other near views, considerably solid ground here in the obscure past. Her husband, Gerald of Windsor, afterwards constable of Pembroke Castle, father of the Irish Fitzgeralds, would seem to be also of the same lineage, from Hugo of Windsor being in Henry II's time the same with the Hugo Pincerna and the Hugo de St.Clare of the historians of the Thomas a Becket controversy. The royal relationships gave the lead to the west, and ultimately to Ireland, as was to have been expected from the feudality of the period.

In records the Welsh town and its pertinents occur as the “barony of St.Clare”. The Bruces of Brecknock and Brember had it in the reign of Henry III. William Bruce married Eva, sister of Richard Marshall, earl of Pembroke, and she had eight properties marked out as her dowry, this barony one of them. She had four daughters, Eva married to Cantilupe, the king's steward or dapifer; Isabella to David, prince of Wales; Eleanor to Humphrey de Bohun, earl of three counties; and Maud to Roger Mortimer, the lord of Wigmore. Maud had eight estates as dowry, and among them the barony of St.Clare. But there is later history of it than this. On the death of Roger Mortimer, his son Edmund heired a third part of it. In 11 Edward I (1283) there is a division to three heirs of the town of Sancto Claro, Wall. In Ayloffe's Ancient Charters there is one carta without date: ‘Rotuli Walliae: Membrana dorso: De terra Sancto Claro Angey et Pennuliok data Reso filio Mereduci in maritagio cum Auda sorore Johannis Hasting’.

William Montacute, earl of Salisbury, has St.Clare in his feoda in 20 Richard II (1397). The monks of St.Denis, France, writing of the forty-two years ending in 1422, when the great French war was going on, tell of what they call “the strong castle of St.Clare, near Caermarthen”, which a body of Welsh and French auxiliaries had tried to storm in the curious invasion of that period. This was of Fitz-Hamo's building, and bore his own surname. In 6 Henry VIII (1515), June 4, there were a confirmation and quit-claim for the Sir Rhesus ap Thomas whose monument is a Welsh “lion”. Next to the Tudors then, his was the best family of those originating across the border. He could raise 5000 horse; and his great tournament, and his friendship with Henry, are historic. The confirmation gives him and his heirs the castle and lordship of Trayne March, and the third part of the town of St.Clare, Carmarthen. Fifty years before, St.Clare was mortgaged to John, bishop of St.Davids, and to the Thomases, by Richard, duke of York.

There is one thing to be added to these more modern notes. The name might be traced to Agnes Sinclair, the daughter of Walderne, earl of St.Clare, wife of the first of the English Bruces; but the stern ways of English history plead in favour of a founder and a fighter's title to a strong castle, and to the town which grew under its protection. The best names England ever had, revolve round this remarkable Welsh town; and local tradition, and perhaps record, might be able to put real shape into such subject as the present, with time and perseverance. It is perhaps already made too much of here; but the inferences to be drawn even from the dim knowledge secured, are decidedly useful Further support to Fitz-Hamo's lineage may come from the history of a contiguous Somerset family, in which “Robert” is the favourite name. It may turn out that they are a branch of the family of the Lord Robert of Gloucester and Wales. But this requires separate treatment; for additional related families besides, may still further strengthen the position.

Though so powerful and full of building and ruling energy in the west, he does not forget that he is a courtier. With Rufus he is more influential than any of the time. It was to him, as the chief person, that the monk came, telling the warning dream which Matthew Paris in his Historia Major writes so alarmedly about, as well as others of the chroniclers. On no account was Rufus to hunt in the New Forest that day. Livy is science itself compared with Matthew and the monks generally as to superstition. Fitz-Hamo told the frightful portents to Rufus, and they laughed together over clerical humanity, the king sending a piece of money as the surest way to make the monastic mind easy. The death of Rufus did take place this day, and the death of many another besides; but Walter Tyrell's arrow was the efficient cause of the miracle, as over-eating was that of the monk's dream.

This was a critical period in the life of Fitz-Hamo, and he did not hesitate. His clear sight enabled him to discern the path to still higher place than he had. Relationship by blood, and also by sentiment of love and marriage, probably aided his decision; but he took Henry's side as king for England, against Robert, with a decision and effect which secured the crown for the unpopular but able Beauclerc. Henry is said to have been the sworn feudal man of his brother; and it was on the ground of breaking his oath, more than his being the younger, that Fitz-Osborn, keeper of the treasury at Winchester, so bravely contended there for Robert's rights.

William of Malmesbury, who has the credit of being about the best of the chroniclers, says that only four nobles in all England clung to Henry. They were Robert Fitz-Hamo; Roger Bigod; Robert, earl of Mellent, and Richard de Redvers, ancestor of the Rivers earls of Devonshire. Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, also, was all the friend he could possibly be to Beauclerc. Robert Montgomery, better known as “of Belesme”, a castle in Perch in France, earl of Arundel, Chester, and Salop or Shrewsbury, who had three brothers, Hugh, Ranulph, and Roger, was the greatest opponent. Fitz-Hamo's wife, mentioned as such in 1091, was their sister. Hugh's death in battle in Wales, 1097, gave Robert de Belesme great increase of lands, with these titles of Arundel and Shrewsbury. When the Montgomeries were banished after the fierce struggle with Henry, in right of his wife the nearest heir to these titles and properties was the “knight of Rye”. Robert de Belesme had publicly protested that Beauclerc was a usurper, and had fortified his English castles of Shrewsbury, Bridgenorth, Tikhill in Yorkshire, and Arundel in Sussex for a struggle. Henry got up forty-five charges of treason against him, besieged and took his castles; and, before the end of the second year of his reign, had ruined wholly the English prospects of Belesme, that is, Montgomery, and his brothers. Their estates were confiscated, and they had to content themselves with their large possessions in France. Roger had Poitou there.

The violent career of this family in Normandy is notorious. The wife of Fitz-Hamo was their only representative in England, and to her a considerable part of the estates came. Orderic Vitalis gives account of how Robert de Belesme avenged himself in Normandy, by attacking all those who were holders of estates there and at the same time subjects of Henry in England. The disorder of the dukedom came to be beyond human endurance ultimately; and Duke Robert, being slothful and inefficient, Henry was compelled to accept the invitation to create order there, even if against the rights of his brother. Robert Montgomery of Belesme, who had this title or local surname from the possessions he had as a lord under the French sovereign, and who like many other nobles, was so dangerous because of them, would have become duke of Normandy, having thirty-two castles of his own in France, if Henry had not stood in, so great was the supineness of the reigning Robert. The battle of Tenchbrai in 1106 put a period to a frightful time, and Duke Robert his brother, taken prisoner, made Henry ruler of Normandy as well as of England. Fitz-Hamo was at his right hand in all that struggle, and to him as being the most faithful, and perhaps one of the most interested, the captive sovereign was given to be kept in his castle of Cardiff. There the generous crusader, who had refused to be elected king of Jerusalem, the cause to superstition of all his misfortunes, remained in confinement for twenty-six years. He was tenderly treated by Robert Sinclair, Fitz-Hamo, who, dying next year, had the trust only so long. It was under the custody of his son-in-law, Robert Consul, that, after the pitiful attempt to escape on a horse which during the pursuit landed him in a bog, the duke suffered by his brother's orders more severely.

The story of having his eyesight destroyed by the application of a hot brass basin was the invention of the enemies of both Henry I and his able generous son, Robert Consul, earl of Gloucester. Fitz-Hamo in 1107, having some of his Normandy estates attacked, had to go there, and at the siege of Falaise, which was the last effort against Henry by the duke and the Belesme enemies, he was struck on the head by a spear. He died some weeks after, in a kind of physical frenzy, the result of the blow. In 1113 the king got Robert Montgomery, of Belissimo Castle, “the fairest”, into his hands, who spent the rest of his life a prisoner in England. His other enemy, the earl of Mortagne, his cousin, was also safe in the tower. It was so teriible a time of every one for his own hand, that blames ought carefully to be weighed before throwing them about.

The great lands of Robert Fitz-Hamo and of his wife Sybil Montgomery, in Normandy, England, and Wales, fell into the keeping of the king, as was then the law, and he did not forget his own interests. It is said that of the four daughters he made two become abbesses, so that Matilda should be sole heir. [Note - Her half-sisters were not Sybil's daughters]. This absurdity, as has been said, is answered by the fact that there was a fourth who married the earl of Brittany. Brady, the historian of 1685, says she got her father's estates in Normandy, but it is at least too wide a statement to risk. The positions of abbesses of Shaftesbury and Wilton were the highest possible for women in England next to being queen. They were baronesses by right of office, as the 28 mitred abbots were lords, and members of the house of peers. Shaftesbury had for abbess about 900 Ethelgiva, the daughter of Alfred the Great; and a century before, Wilton had been founded by Albhura, the sister of Egbert, the first king of England. Ciceley Sinclair, abbess of Shaftesbury, and Hawise, her sister, abbess of Wilton, could have no thought of injustice on the part of the king by the great provision he found for them, their high natures no doubt making them the seekers of their own vocation. That Matilda heired her mother's properties as well as many of her father's, could quite well be a pleasant arrangement for all concerned. In 1109 the king married this ward of his to his own son, Robert Consul, and gave him with the lands in Normandy and England he got by her, the title of earl of Gloucester.

Says Tindal: ‘He was son of Nesta, daughter of Rhees, prince of South-Wales. King Henry I his father procured him in marriage Mabel or Maud, rich heir of Robert Fitz-Hamon, lord of Corboil in Normandy, Cardiff in South-Wales, and Tewkesbury in England. By her he had William, earl of Gloucester, after him; Roger, bishop of Worcester; Richard, bishop of Noyon; Hamon; Mabel, wife of Aubrey de Vere; and Matilda of Ranulph, earl of Chester’. Speaking of the year 1110, he further notes, ‘This same year King Henry married Robert his natural son to Maud, daughter and heir of Robert Fitz-Haymon, late earl of Gloucester, and then invested him with that earldom’. Tindal may not be entirely accurate, however disinterested. It is a question whether the king's son was not the first earl of the county, though evidence goes most to support Tindal's view.

A great deal could be accumulated from The Domesday Book and other sources about the “knight of Rye” and his properties, but there is the less need for this from the fact that his position, wealth, and biography generally, are plentifully described, and fully valued, by historians. His intimate relations with the kings of the Norman dynasty will always keep his memory green. Account of him may be ended by reference to his foundation of the abbey of St.Mary Tewkesbury. His wife, Sybil Montgomery, and Gerald, prior of Cranbourne, in 1102 got him engaged to found this great house; and not only did he build it, but, with the right liberality, endowed it so as to become one of the greatest of secular saints, in the eyes of the monastic world. His body was brought from Normandy, and buried in his own abbey of Tewkesbury, March 1107; and after some two centuries, 1241, it was, through the gratitude and veneration of the monks, raised by the third abbot, from its original position in the capitulary usual to lords, and placed in the most sacred part of the building, to the right of the priest's reading-desk.

Till the Reformation destroyed the ancient, beautiful, if too loving, and therefore dangerous, ritual, the walls of that English temple heard as regularly as if it were an arrangement of astronomy, a special hymn of mourning and celebration. The great warrior, who was their great religious founder also, was never forgotten. Miserere quesumus Domine, rose in song from the thankful hearts of generation after generation of devout men.

Says the Tewkesbury Chronicle: ‘That venerable Robert, the son of Hamo, after the foundation of this famous monastery, and after other deeds strenuously done, died in the days of March of the year of grace 1107, the seventh of Henry I’. If fame is at bottom the desire for men and women's love, it would be difficult to choose between the military and the religious deeds of Robert Sinclair as the more effective towards realisation. The monks of Gloucester Abbey got fine lands from him.

And he did not confine his gifts for the aid of what is noblest in man to the western parts of the island. There is record of his grants in Kent, as probably in other counties. To the monks of Rochester he gave the manor of Merlaw. He had various lands in the county of Kent, and his sympathies on the paternal and fraternal sides were strongly bound up with it, as will be seen from the history of Hamo Dapifer, viscount of Kent, his younger brother.

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