In the reign of Henry I, Geffrey Talbot held great part of the valley of the Medway. In the reign of Henry II, beginning 1154, Walter de Meduana, the second of the name, was in possession of twenty fees of what was Talbot's land; and Hugo de St.Clare, the king's minister, had the portion of his properties nearer the Thames, of which Aeslingham was the head. Walter was Hugo's blood relation, and he heired Geffrey through connection with Eudo Dapifer.
It is through the same ties, but more distant ones, that Hugo got his share. Aeslingham or Frindsbury, Hasted says, was given by Gundulph, the architect bishop of Rochester, to Geffrey Talbot, except tithes, “after which this manor came into possession of the family of St.Clare”. It would be interesting to know why this favourite and richest portion of the church's revenues went to Talbot. In the Textus Roffensis there are to be seen the charters of it given by Offa, king of the Mercians, in 789, and confirmations and additions by Sigered, king of Kent, and by Egbert, the first Saxon king of all England. In The Domesday Book the increase of its value from the time of Edward the Confessor is more than threefold, most property having decreased largely in value then. It is curious that the bishop of St.Andrews, Rochester, could part with it, even reserving the tithes. Hugo's estates were made up of this, and of what he heired of the lands of his uncle Hamo, the viscount of Kent and dapifer of England. With his wife, the daughter of Robert of Cloville, he got property also, in the same district.
To Aeslingham, and to its neighourhood on both sides of the Thames, where Hugo's descendants enjoyed their lives, it will be returned. Meantime, the question is who Walter of Medway was. We know of his grandfather, also a Walter of Medway, who came in with William the Conqueror. Already some notice has been taken of Walderne or Walter Sinclair, earl of St.Cler, and of his three sons, Richard, William, and Britel, with their sister Agnes. It seemed considerably mysterious that so prominent a noble of Normandy, and so nearly related to the Conqueror and his energetic family, fared slightly at his hands; but this discovery that the earl of St.Cler took the name of Walter de Meduana in England entirely qualifies matters, even though they are yet not the most favoured of their name. William's espousal of the cause of the Athelings does not seem to have damaged much any but himself, and he had the skill to find better things across the borders than probably might have been his in England. If so remarkable and, in Richard's case, so specially heroic a branch, had been entirely forgotten in the division of spoil among the comites, the garrulous chroniclers would have certainly all told more or less about it.
William the Conqueror's kingly generosity and manly justice are conspicuous in Walter's case as in many another's; but the Norman possessions of the earl may have hindered his presence here, enough to limit his advance to possessions of the first class. That he got land on the Medway shortly after the Conquest, is attested by a signature of his to a charter in 1075 as Walter de Meduana. It is preserved in the library of Magdalen College, Oxford, and the circumstances under which it was granted are full of suggestion. The granter was William Bruce of Brember, and William the Conqueror confirms the grant. St.Peter's Church, Sela, Sussex, was the object of his bounty, and the locality has some relation to matters. Odo Consul, Hugh [Montgomery], consul of Chester, Humphrey de Bohun, Heunes vicecomes, and Walter de Meduana, are the names most useful of those who witnessed the charter.
It was to William Bruce of Bramber, Sussex, or William de Braiosa, the founder of the great British family, that Agnes Sinclair, the daughter of Walter, earl of St.Cler, was married, many genealogists say. Some give his able son Philip Bruce as her husband. It is certain that one or other was, and here it is only of importance that the affinity tie existed between the Sinclairs and the Bruces in 1075. It is a commonplace that then, when witnessing charters was one of the great public duties conducted with special gravity, the nearest and weightiest members of families alone had the privilege of adhibiting signatures to such important writings. Walter, the elder, of Medway, was equally in place if his daughter was married to the granter or to the subtle and ultimately cross-taking religious son and heir Philip. In 1095, before going to the Holy Land, Philip confirmed the same charter; and, that Comes Simon and Thomas Talbot are witnesses, tells the tale of relationships. Again it is confirmed by his son William in Richard's reign, with Simon Sinclair, written Simon Comes, as a witness, having the interesting addition,
‘Who then was dapifer’. Agnes Sinclair, daughter of Walter, was the bond between the Bruces and the various branches of Sinclairs.
But we have knowledge of this Walter and of his lineage from further unimpeachable record. In The Domesday Book he is an in capite holder under the title “Walter, the brother of the sewar”. The sewar was the dapifer, and can only mean the great Hamo, father of Hamo, vicecomes of Kent, and of Robert Fitz-Hamo, “knight of Rye”, the lord of Gloucester and Glamorgan. Walter of Medway, earl of St.Cler, could not have been the brother of Eudo, the dapifer or sewar. He must have been his uncle, and also the uncle of Hamo, vicecomes and dapifer. This would make Walter, the elder, a brother of the great Norman Hamo, the dapifer, and of Hubert of Rye, ambassador of Duke William to Edward the Confessor to get the legacy of the English crown.
Nothing is left unreconciled of what evidences appear in the whole subject, by this relationship of the Corboil Sinclairs; for they are all branched from the first earl of Corboil, son of the duke of Normandy. The fact that the Hamo who came from Normandy to fight with William at Hastings was first dapifer of the name, and his son Hamo, vicecomes, the second Hamo Dapifer, is proved by the showing, already made, that the latter died in 1130, and that the former's name occurs as witness to many charters in William I's reign. Even so late a charter as the great one by Bishop William de Karileph to Durham monastery, given at London 1082, could hardly have been signed by the younger Hamo, on any ordinary calculation of the length of lives.
The first Walter's lands in Bedfordshire, of the survey, are particularly noticeable, in that a Hugo is an underholder. Probably he was a younger son or nephew so provided for, and it certainly gives a hint that the name was not strange to the family. “Hugh” and “Roger” are frequently in the Aeslingham branch, and that these names came from the Montgomeries, earls of Arundel, Shrewsbury, and Chester, seems likely result of the marriage of Robert Fitz-Hamo to Sybil Montgomery, the daughter of Roger, and sister of Hugh, consul of Chester. Hugo Pincerna, an in capite holder of The Domesday Book; and occurring next in order to “Walter, the brother of the sewar”, in Bedfordshire, is of the same stock; but this will have discussion when Hugo de St.Clare's descendants are treated.
Of Walter of Medway, the grandson of the earl of St.Cler, there are several glimpses. That from the Liber Niger Scaccarii of Henry II aids considerably our knowledge of him, and of his past and contemporary relations. His return or carta to the treasury of his properties has a Latin introduction to the king. “Carta Walteri de Meduana”, is the heading of his return. Then comes the preamble.
‘To Henry, by the grace of God king of the English, his very dear lord, Walter of Medway health and faithful service: It has been known to you that in the year and day in which King Henry, your grandfather, was alive and died, Geffrey Talbot held twenty knights' fees in capite from him, which by your favour I now hold from you, namely ’ … Here follows the list of his underholders, of whom the most noticeable are named Willelmus de Clovilla, holding three knights' fees; three milites, as they are entered in the Black Book, viz., Robertus de Sancto Clara, two, John Sinclair the same number, Ralph of Cloville half-a-fee; Hamo of Scottot, one fee; and so on till the twenty are accounted for. The carta ends with “Farewell”.
The history of this Talbot feod or fief is instructive. Richard Talbot, Geffrey's father, a gentleman of Normandy, got 9 fees from Giffard, earl of Buckingham, who had 110 from the Conqueror. In 31 Henry I (1131), Geffrey acknowledges a debt to the treasury of 140 merks silver out of 200 due for being put in possession of his father's lands. In the Textus Roffensis he appears as the donor of Little Wrotham, Kent, in the time of Rufus, to St.Andrews, Rochester, the witnesses being, among others, Archbishop Anselm and Robert Fitz-Hamo. He took the side of Matilda against Stephen. His son was the William Talbot of Normandy who, Dugdale says, married Beatrice Mandeville, the sister of the great Geffrey Mandeville of chief fame in the struggle of Stephen and Matilda. This William Talbot was according to Tindal one of the ringleaders under Robert, earl of Gloucester, in championing Matilda, 1138, and it was he that seized Hereford Castle on her side. Beatrice was the daughter of Margaret Sinclair, daughter of Eudo Dapifer; and her brother Geffrey, earl of Essex, got her divorced from William Talbot, whom he disliked for some reason, and had her married for second husband to William de Say. The Talbot feoda in Kent got its enlargement from her, as heiress of Eudo Dapifer's lands after the death of her brother Geffrey, 1144; and it was through kinship to her mother that Walter Sinclair of Medway came to be the heir of part of it.
Beatrice, who lived to extreme age, and whose funeral at Walden Abbey was one of the grand events of the kind, heired, 2 Richard I (1191), her nephew, William Mandeville, earl of Essex, the last of his race; but though her son Geffrey de Say became lord of Berling, Kent, the caput baroniae of the Says, through her rights, this Say was not rich enough to contend against his sister's husband, Geffrey Fitz-Piers of Ludgershall Castle, Wiltshire, and William of Bocland. Beatrice Say was made countess of Essex, Fitz-Piers assuming the famous surname of Mandeville; and by his wealth and influence he secured much more than his just share of the lands in the right of the granddaughter of Eudo Dapifer. Banks, in his Dormant and Extinct Baronage, says that when her nephew died, she, being aged, sent her son Geffrey de Say to have livery of her heirship, and that for 7000 marks he got the whole barony, but could not pay. After long contest, Fitz-Piers, and Bocland by right of his wife Maud, got the lion's portions by influence and money. Geffrey de Say, whom one genealogist makes earl of Essex by marriage to the sister of William Mandeville, died in 1214, and probably he thought he was wronged by his sisters and their husbands. The Says became the renowned barons of English history not long after.
But it is after the Talbots (of which lineage was the English hero of Normandy battles, and the existing family represented by the earls of Shrewsbury) that inquiry searches. Burke says that one of the early representatives became a monk, and that at some interval the family got possessions in the northern parts of England. At all events, the name lost the Kentish twenty knights' fees, and Walter of Medway possessed them in Henry II's reign. Beatrice Mandeville's first husband, William, seems to have lost them or given them to the lineage of his wife, whence they came, and in that most troublous of reigns, Stephen's. Matilda, besides giving all Eudo Dapifer's lands to her favourite, Geffrey Mandeville, earl of Essex, son of Margaret Sinclair, promised that afterwards he should have all Eudo's English lands also, and it is probable that Beatrice instead of him experienced the benefit of the promise when the empress and her son became triumphant. In a charter referred to by Sir William Dugdale, Geffrey actually got 20 knights' fees from her of Eudo's, and they must have been these.
If the first Walter of Medway was Eudo Dapifer's uncle, the second Walter of Medway would be second cousin to Eudo. The extinction soon in the chief lines of the Hubert of Rye family, gave these Walters and the Hugoes and Hamoes of the two brothers of Hubert of Rye next rights of heirship by blood. Out of the obscurity, though not impenetrable altogether, of antiquity, much more than this can hardly be expected.
From the chronicle of Abingdon monastery, Berks, much light is thrown on the related Bucklands; and Eudo Dapifer, Hamo Dapifer, Robert Fitz-Hamo, and others of the connection appear in it frequently and suggestively. Cornbury Park was a favourite place of the court in early reigns for signing charters and doing royal business, and Burke's interest in some arms of Sinclairs being found there in one of the herald visitations, might find its satisfaction from such source as this Chronica with its revelations. The difficulty of contemporaneous dapifers has already been completely solved by one of the charters; and a Walter, the son of Richard, as a witness to the same, may be a clue to the holder of the Medway fees between the Walters. Richard, son of Walter, earl of St.Cler, would be the father of this Walter, who is companion witness to Walter Giffard “the chancellor”, which distinguishes the Giffards and Medways, related by marriage.
There was a Walter of Bocland of Stephen's reign; in the Textus Roffensis Geffrey Bocland is witness to a charter, and William gives a confirmation of lands from the Talbot feoda of which Walter of Medway was chief heir; but the Bucklands, who are at all events of close affinity to the lords of Colchester, of Eudo's lineage, may be left with the account of Hugo, who quieted, for Abbot Faritius of Abingdon, the violence of the men of Culham. Peace was made between them,
‘in the presence of Hugo the viscount (an approved and wise man, who not only over Berkshire but also seven other shires was made viscount, so chosen and dear was the man to the king) and in the presence of many men present there from three shires’. To be so beloved of so able a monarch as Henry I, is an immortality of the permanent kind.
Carte, “the Englishman”, in his admirable English history, says that Hugo got part of Robert Montgomery's lands, the notorious Robert de Belesme of Norman-English annals. A Hamo of Falaise also benefited by the ruin of that earl of Arundel, Salop, and Chester. The historian explains that they had not originally much property of their own. The close connection of Henry I, both by male lineage and contemporary marriage of his son Robert, to the Hamo, Fitz-Hamo, Eudo, and other Sinclairs, makes it more than probable that Hugh of Bocland was a young member of the same lineage. The threads are very close of their stories on both banks of the Thames, especially below London. But it must not be forgotten that Ordericus Vitalis says that on the ruin of many of the nobles, men of the merchant class, Geoffrey of Clinton, Hugh of Bocland, Ralph Basset, and the foreign Hamo got promotion, though this need not conflict irreconcileably, in Hugh's case, with what has seemed to be suggested by many circumstances. The Bucklands were heired by the Brooke or Broc lords Cobham.
In the various ties of blood and marriage of these earliest families of England, is to be found the secret of its greatness, as the kingdom with what Shakespeare calls “This happy race of men”. That in the chief lines they often soon became extinct, does no more than tell the tale of departure of property from certain members; the lineages not being always extinct, but mixing, under change of names, which is the feature of centuries of English history, with new rising families for fresh courses of effort and distinction.
The Medways were not a lasting line, unless it be that the Joel de Meduana who pays large taxes from Devon and Cornwall, 31 Henry I (1131), and who was probably a son of Richard de Meduana, son of the first Walter of Medway, earl of St.Cler, Normandy, founded a family. But from what Jones in his History of Brecknock says, he perhaps did not; for he makes the “rich heiress” of Joel of Barnstaple and Totness, marry the William Bruce of Brember who appears so largely in Domesday Book. [Eva Marshall ?] This would well explain Walter of Medway's signing of the charter of the church of Seal, Sussex, the lady of Brember being his niece. In this light new relationships, besides Agnes Sinclair's, to the Bruces appear; and they give Joel of Meduana, who had estates in Cornwall and Devon as well as Kent, a recognisable and very substantial existence, though without male heirs, the Bruces getting his lands by the heiress.
In the Rotuli of 3 John (1202) Cecil, countess of Hereford, pays 50s. of scutage from the honour of Walter of Medway, and for a third scutage, or military tax, William Montchesney pays £ 14, 10 s. That these were of Walter's lineage is probable. The Montchesneys are a remarkable family after this time, and it is noticeable that in the records many Sinclairs hold of them, especially on both sides of the Thames, where Hugo St.Clare's descendants had their homes, in Kent and Essex. The head of the barony of Montchesney was at Swanscombe or Swain's Camp, where the Kentishmen surprised William the Conqueror and gained favours and freedom, bordering to Aeslingham and the other manors of Hugo; and if William Montchesney thus heired Walter of Medway, as the state record settles, it is easy to understand the general and even particular relationships of these Kentish lords. Chesney is one of the distinguished names of the county, and certainly was of local origin, though it may have had a double in Normandy, as was frequent. But even thus, these Medway heirs ended in the reign of Edward I, the daughter and sole heir of the last male Montchesney marrying Hugh de Vere, earl of Oxford, in the twenty-fifth year of that monarch (1296).
The William Montchesney who heired Walter de Meduana, married Joan, daughter of William Marshall, the great earl of Pembroke, whose mother was a Clare, and therefore the couple were of affinity. His son married one of the famous Valences, into which family Eudo Dapifer's sister, Albreda Sinclair, had been married. William increased the patrimony largely in Norfolk, Kent, Gloucester, and Northampton; and in Essex he got Ralph de Haie's lands of 14.5 fees, the Haies being descended from a nephew of Eudo Dapifer, on the authority of Le Prevost and Duncan. In 40 Henry III (1256), Montchesney was one of the principal barons with Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, probably his aunt Cecil's father-in-law if not husband, at the battle of Lewes. After the battle of Evesham his land was given to his brother-in-law, William Valence; but he got pardoned for rebellion, and under the government of the kingdom by Richard, duke of Cornwall, was restored to his possessions. For the short period of the Montchesneys, no English house did more brilliantly and successfully, getting the best honours, wealth, and marriages of their period. Stephen de “Munchensi” was governor of Acre after its conquest by Richard Coeur de Lion.
Dugdale's Baronage has good account of them, but he gives no help to the discovery of their lineage, beyond that the earliest of them were two Huberts, and that the first is in record as granter of lands. It might be more subtle than certain that they were Hubert of Rye and his son Hubert of Norwich Castle. One of them is a large in capite holder, in Essex, of Domesday survey, as “Hubert de Monte Canisio”. There is at least recorded fact for this, that they were closely related with the barony of Hengham, Norfolk, which has already been shown to have been the home of the family of Hubert of Norwich for some generations. That Montchesneys heired Ralph de Haie's lands, is a fact which all but settles that they were a branch of the Rye family. The eldest brother of Eudo Dapifer, Ralph, castellan of Nottingham, and earl, did not found a family of long standing in the direct line, and this Ralph de Haie was one of that line, which suffered so extremely in Stephen's reign, as has appeared. It is known that Hubert's eldest son Ralph had the chief part of his father's lands in Normandy, and in the Liber Ruber Scaccarii - The Red Book of the Treasury, of Harry II's reign, Ralph of Hay held then 2.5 knights' fees, as from the honour of Plessy, the Sinclair-Mandevilles' baronry, and 1 fee and in another place 6.5 fees in the very region of most of the original stock, the Cotentin of Lower Normandy, especially the peninsular ending with the sea at Cherbourg opposite Portsmouth. There were Rye, Granville, St.Lo, Thorigny, Mandeville, Valence, and the rest of the names so familiar.
In the same Red Book under the heading,
‘These are they who neither came nor sent nor said anything’, we have, with the best names in England, these two, Walter of Medway and Hugo de Sancto Claro, the latter specially mentioned as holding in Algia or Auge or Ou. Moulin speaks of this as “a submission list” to Philip Augustus, after his conquest of Normandy; but it is more probably one of the usual reckonings of some of Henry II's lieutenants or seneschals in France, like William Fitz-Raphe. Doctor Ducarel's Anglo-Norman Antiquities, has these and other interesting state records; though the doctor does not appear to know so much about them as he protests, to the depreciation of M. Moulin and others. The Chesneys or Monchesnis of Swanscombe, Kent, their caput baroniae, seem to have picked up the pieces, in several counties, of that “house of Rye”, about whom Freeman has wonderfully good words, for him to say; and it is not likely that a mistake would be made in claiming such brilliant but long since extinct Englishmen for the lineage. It is they who would have the honour in being proved of the line of Rollo, while at the same time they were worthy members of the Scandinavian, Franco-English, royal descent.
The story of the two Walters of Medway may be ended by noting that the Walter de Meduana contemporary with Hugo de St.Clare, was, like him, one of the great barons present, Lord Lyttleton being witness of this, at the framing of the necessary but as it proved extremely troublesome constitutions of Clarendon. There is no record extant that he also suffered by being “named”, by the obstinate Thomas of Canterbury, to future reprobation, as the archbishop thought unwisely, of mankind; and to that eternal perdition which was the rod of correction, and, alas for the unselfishness of even clerical men, the rod of oppression in the puerile and senile epochs. It goes without saying that Walter was of the king's party, as all the intelligent and substantial Englishmen were, both clerical and lay. Was it not to take the excommunication off the bishops, the barons caring far less about the matter, that the final contest between Becket and the four nobles of the king's household was entered upon ? Any one reading Lyttleton's able and graphic account of the last days of the so-called martyr, must come to quite other than the usual conclusion about Reginald Fitz-Urse, William de Tracy, Richard Brito, and Hugh de Moreville as being, in any sense, murderers. Hours and days of expostulation and entreaty of every kind, and not for their own but his order, brought nothing but insult.
Had King Henry not been of a superstitious and loving nature, he would himself long before have ended the struggle in some such way as they did, if no other road opened out of the difficulty. Henry VIII knew short methods with far better and gentler clerics than this one. Did he not actually try and condemn, in a fictional court, this very so-called St.Thomas ? The vulgarity of the man came out in his clinging to a pillar, when, at last, they grew utterly hopeless of gaining anything from him, and the only poor chance of peace to his coinitry scorned to take him personally away to the king's presence in Normandy, to see what could be done in that case.
It is the unspeakable misfortune of those first men of the land that deserves most commiseration, whom oppression of a priest to themselves, their friends, their king, and their spiritual directors for years, would not have driven to violence but that this unknightly ill-bred man of the mob, began the rough play which could not but end as it did, with any men who at all respected their own manhood. It was in full keeping with the lowness of the man to call Fitz-Urse “pimp”; and that the immediate effect of such a vile insult, after days of honourable and reverent beseeching, was a sword across the head, could not but be. The unanimity with which the four completed the work is the apology for it.
He had outraged every instinct of royalty, nobility, and manhood; and it may safely be said if all that was noble, and most that was clerical, in the kingdom, had been there at that moment, having suffered as these men did, they would have had equally been in the great misfortune of killing, or helping to kill, a man who was stifling the souls of a whole people's select spirits. The consecrated place and person were the pities of the affair, but it was the archbishop who positively created the scene of blood. His previous sermons showed that he was courting martyrdom; in other words, searching after a full conclusion to his spleen of bitterly stubborn years. Lyttleton gives him credit for all that was good in him; but it would be quite a consistent view, to apply to him the nickname he himself invented for his archdeacon, and to call him, for the sake of brevity and truthful condensation, the archdevil of Canterbury.