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DESCENT OF THE BARON OF AESLINGHAM

Sir William Dugdale, England's facile princeps of laborious genealogists and antiquaries, found it the hardest part of his toil to fix the exact relationships of persons whom he met with in his endless but always useful researches. This has been felt strongly in these fields, even when there is no possible doubt about the lineage in itself. Records, having objects of their own, rarely show themselves as of direct use to historical purpose. By study and inference they give out their secrets. One crosses light back over another, and something unmistakably true is secured. To expect absolute accuracies of uncles, aunts, daughters, sons, grandsons, granddaughters, and further, without fail, is absurd with respect to contemporary families. If there is safe toiling within any particular stock at distant periods, it is all the most exacting ought to claim. A great delight comes when any of the established and authentic sources of national knowledge stand up as rocks to support weaker evidences, which could be rather grasped at than secured but for such help.

Hugh Sinclair's lineage is cleared up by an entry in the Rolls of 31 Henry I (1131), under the headings “Kent, Sussex, and Boseham”. Boseham was the south-western part of Sussex. Hunter's edition of the passage from this state record runs, ‘Hamo Dapifer owed when he died one hundred marks silver [as tax to the royal treasury] in regard to land and the marriage of the daughter of Robert of Cloville to his nephew Hugo’. This is the usual payment to the king when land changed hands and one's heir got married. That Hugo paid it himself, as heir to part of his uncle's property, goes without saying; and the entry in 1131 gives a safe inference as to the date of Hamo Dapifer's death.

His other nephew, Robert de Crevequer, his sister's son, pays; 156, 13s. 4d. of legacy duty on getting also a portion of Hamo's lands the same year, which confirms the probability of 1130 or 1131 being his last year. The Magna Britannia excels itself in praise of the “potent ancient and illustrious family of the Crevequers” who were “the lords of Kent by pre-eminence”. It was this Robert with Hamo's lands who was its greatest English builder, making Chatham the caput baroniae, and founding the famous Leeds Castle and Leeds Priory of Kent. They were of affinity to Hamo by marriage of his sister, and not by blood, as Hasted risked guessing, this same rotulus proving the fact.

His nephew Hugo St.Claire was of his own strain, and the Clovilles by their frequent appearance together with the Sinclairs, as for example in the charter of the bishop of Rochester, seem to have been nearer kin than marriage would of itself account for. Cloville is certainly only a local name. The lineage gets numerous in Kent, the only place in England where this is very remarkable of it. Local naming grew to be useful, for distinction's sake. Patience would probably discover the baron Leybournes of Leybourne Castle, who ended in the heiress called from her riches the “Infanta of Kent”, to be Sinclairs. Lords Gray of Codnor have been supposed the heirs of Adam the commissioner's lands of Cray. Their origin from the father of Arlotta, mother of the Conqueror, was discovered perhaps after their distinction in English history made them marquesses of Dorset and half the titles of the peerage. Boxley, once held by Eudo Dapifer, has its tenths confirmed to Rochester by the Leybournes, the gift of Eudo “their antecessor”. The Brocs or Brookes and the Cobhams were locally named, and possessed much of Adam, Eudo, and Hamo's lands.

But let these stand for general specimens of inquiries which might profitably be made, and without limit. The Clovilles and the Sinclairs actually named in records are sufficient present quest. Besides the special juxtaposition of the Clovilles with Hugo as evidenced by his marriage and the signatures of the charter of the bishop, there is the suggestive fact that a William of Cloville and a Robert were proprietors of Okely, of which they, William by reason of his “devotion”, gave the tenths besides other gifts to St.Andrews, Rochester, as the Textus shows. The tenths of Henherst in the parish of Cobham, a manor some time in the possession of one of the two Williams of Longvale, and of Goscelin, an ancestor of theirs, are given to St.Andrews, Rochester, by a William of Cloville, as well as by them, Goscelin's charter dating 1091. It is worth remembering that Edward the Confessor's internuntius to William, duke of Normandy, was the rich merchant Goscelin, whose marriage aided so much to the rise of the house of Rye, Hubert being the internuntius and sequester who volunteered the dangerous duty of getting the symbols of English sovereignty conveyed back to his lord. In 2 Edward I (1274) William de Sancto Claro possesses the Okely property. It may have come to him through the marriage connection of Hugo to Robert de Cloville's daughter. The period between is about a hundred years; and, with the valley of the Medway nearly in entire possession of Sinclairs, there would not be want of male heirs if the Clovilles were originally of the lineage, as seems possible.

The Cloville connection proves Hugo to be of the Fitz-Hamo branch, by being the nephew of Hamo Dapifer. That he signed the national charter given by Stephen in 1136, is aid to the knowledge of him by the rotulus 31 Henry I, through his marriage then, 1131, to the daughter of Robert Cloville. At the time of the Becket quarrel, beginning 1163, he would be a man of age and experience upon whom the king could reckon securely. Hugo Sinclair's lineage as of the Corboil and ducal family of Normandy is certain. It was more difficult to discover his father than his uncle, Hamo Dapifer; but, solvitur inquirendo. There was a Peerage published in 1710, by Roper and Collins, London, which throws great light on the subject. The writer was fully acquainted with Dugdale's works, and with other records to which that Hercules had not access, adding valuable facts to the histories of various houses. Under “Granville, earl of Bath”, has been found the clue to several of the knots which have been the most difficult to untie in the Sinclair lineage. These earls will have attention in their due place. Here enough of their story to show Hugo's descent must suffice.

Robert Fitz-Hamo, the “knight of Rye”, when he went in 1090 to conquer Glamorgan and other parts of South Wales, had as the first two on the well-known list of his twelve famous knights, William of London and Richard de Granville. They were his own brothers. Richard's descendants proved this in the reign of Charles II, and got an earldom and the promise of higher rank, on the validity of the proof. There is no question amongst the genealogists about his descent. Richard had his local name from Granville in Normandy, near St.Lo, Thorigny (of which Fitz-Hamo was lord), Rye Castle, and the other neighbouring estates of his relations. He was at the battle of Hastings with his brothers, and got, says the Peerage, ‘for his signal services, the castle and lordship of Biddiford with other lordships, lands, and possessions in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, and Bucks., many whereof remain to his posterity to this day’.

The History of Cambria was translated from the much earlier Welsh in 1584. Miss Blanch Parry, a gentlewoman of the queen, had the copy of the original, and gave it to the translator. Stow and all the other antiquaries have got their best facts about Wales from this source, and it has a specially full description of Robert Fitz-Hamo's conquest, not forgetting to celebrate frequently the worthiness of the Norman, wonderful to say; even toward the Welsh also. It tells the measurement of his first acquisition of territory, with very particular reference to the places whence the twenty-two and twenty-seven miles are taken of length and breadth. Robert himself took eleven knights' fees of the thirty-six and a half which he ultimately secured, building Cardiff Castle as the chief of the eighteen castles with regal right within his rule. He “had his chancery, exchequer, and fair court-house” there. His Monday monthly court is described most interestingly. For his under-lords there was lodging provided by fixed statute in the outer ward of the castle. They came on Monday, the court was held on Tuesday, and on Wednesday they went away to hold the sub-courts of their own castles and lordships, after this monthly general enlightenment. There is the homely glimpse that Fitz-Hamo held, for the provision of his own house, a large grange in Boviarton.

But it is of his first knight, William de Londres, that inquiry is being made. Richard of Granville had the lordship and castle of Neth as his share of the new Welsh addition to his fortunes. It was made up of three knights' fees. But William had the castle and manor of Ogmor, which formed four knights' fees. Of the two brothers, it is certain he was the elder. If it is accepted universally that Richard was the brother of Fitz-Hamo, the relationship of William as another brother, is as firmly secured by the conditions of these Welsh possessions.

This William de Londres, of Ogmoor, and other lordships, was the father of Hamo of Colchester, and of Hugo, the lord of Aeslingham. Thomas Nicholas in his work, 1575, on the antiquities of Wales, says that he had a son Maurice, the builder with his father of Welsh abbeys, who became the lord of Castle Ogmor and the other Welsh properties, and that Maurice had a son William. He always takes care to note that the chief interests of the original William de Londres were in England and Normandy; but in describing the conquest of South Wales by the three brothers and the other knights, he puts this William farthest to the west, who from Ogmor pushed forward into Carmarthenshire. It is more than probable that he was the actual builder of that castle of St.Clare which still gives the name to the town near its ruins, and that his brother Robert Sinclair or Fitz-Hamo got the general credit of it as head of the expedition. The history of the Welsh branch of William's family might clear up the proper origin of Fitzmaurices, Fitzgeralds, and other Latinised “aps” who when they reached Pembroke pushed with Norman enterprise across the Irish Channel for fresh fields and pastures new. Such account sounds far more like the tenor of history than heraldic tales or sennachy heroics of Italian if not Trojan origin to the greatest ruling families of Ireland, who were Normans, and nothing more, and quite enough too for all rational purposes of distinction or heroism. Though it might be frightful heresy to Celtic minds, the flying shot may be risked, that even their Williamses may in their best branch have Norman ancestry, Oliver Cromwell, who was a Williams, taking origin from or near some of the South Wales castles always held by these gallant conquerors, William St.Clare, his brothers, and the rest.

It was William de Londres (William Sinclair of London) who founded with his niece, and not sister, Matilda Sinclair, countess of Gloucester, and wife of Henry I's son Robert, the abbey of Savigny in France, 1140. Their common charter, to which the seal of William de St.Clair is still attached, loses entirely its enigmatical, and gains the most sterlingly useful character. The theory that he was her brother, as the son of Fitz-Hamo by the Princess Nesta, his first wife, has to be given up; though it is yet useful from the help it gave to discovering the full truth of the matter. The scientific genealogists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were right, in showing issue only from his second marriage, with Sybil Montgomery, the sister of Robert de Belesme. It was scantiness of evidence that compelled towards such explanation, which was not, after all, very wide of the mark.

Comparison of these findings with the accounts of Matilda and William Sinclair, already given, will easily correct and finish this part of the general inquiry. Hamo, who was sheriff and fee-farmer of Colchester, and holder of extensive lands in Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Huntingdon, and other counties, was the chief heir of this William of London, who is the signer of the charter by Stephen to Geffrey, earl of Essex; and Hamo's famous son Hubert, the hero of Bridgenorth, was his grandson. Hugo, the lord of Aeslingham, was a younger son of this William, brother to “the great Fitz-Hamo”, as the Peerage says he was called from his distinction. It is easily understood why Hugo was high at court in Henry II's reign, with such near relationships to Robert, earl of Gloucester, the Empress Matilda's brother, and champion for her and this son of hers, Henry. How Hugo was nephew to Hamo, vicecomes of Kent and dapifer of England, the brother of this Fitz-Hamo, is quite cleared up. Conversely, as the Sinclair of English history in the Becket quarrel, he proves the Corboil or Hamo and Fitz-Hamo lineage to be that of Sinclair, which branched from the ducal house of Normandy, founded by Rollo, the greatest of the vikings or sea-kings.

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