SAINT CLAIR is the principal town in the canton of that name in the arrondissement of St.Lo, in Normandy. The remains of the old baronial castle - the Schloss Stamm - were still visible when M. de Gerville wrote his valuable work on the castles of La Manche. [From Planche]
There are also places named St.Clair in the arrondissements of Havre and Yvetot.
The Saga History of the Scottish St.Clairs commences with one Walderne, Earl of St.Clair, in France, whose mother was a daughter of Duke Richard of Normandy. In another work it is stated that Agnes, the daughter of Waldron, Earl of St.Clare, was married to Philip Bruce, the grandson and heir of William, Lord of Breos, Normandy, and of Bramber, Sussex. [Collins' Peerage]
In the roll of the Church of Dives, Richard de St.Clair is mentioned as one of the companions of the Conqueror in 1066, and Wace in his "Roman de Rou" tells us that "Hue de Mortemer with three other knights, the sites of Auvilier, Onebec, and St.Cler, charged a body of the Angles who bad fallen back on a rising ground, and overthrew many". Richard appears in Domesday Book under Suffolk:
"Hertesmara H. Wortha. len & Richard de Sencler de R." Richard de St.Clair holds Wortham from the King. In Norwich he is entered as "I house, Ricard de sencler". and again, "Et Richard de Sentebor (polius Sentcler) I dom." In Blomfields Historv of Norfolk, quoting the Register of the monks of Castleacre, he has it that "Richard de Sancto, or St.Cleer, gave the said monks his right in the church in free alms for ever, for the health of his own and his wife's soul, his heirs' and ancestors' souls, with all the liberties thereto belonging". Britel de St.Clair held lands in the hundred of Bolestane, Somersetshire, vide Exon. Domesday Book: "And from the balf hide which Britel de St.Clair holds the king has no tax," and Britel attests the foundation charter of the priorate of Montacute. Many other lands are held in the south-western counties by a Britel, but without further designation.
After the conquest the notices of the St.Clairs in England are numerous, while those in Normandy receive but scant attention in historic pages. When King Stephen granted a charter of the Earldom of Essex to Geoffrey Mandeville it was witnessed by a William de St.Clare (1135). There is preserved in the public record office, Fetter Lane, London, a beautiful transcript from Basse-Normandie and Gascony rolls, of the charter given by William de St.Clair to Savigny Abbey. "Charte de Mathilde de Glocester et Guille. de St.Clair. Number 18. Mathilde comtesse de Glocester et Guille. de St.Clair donnent a l'abbaye de Savigny toute leur terre de Villers et de Thall title quils la tenoieut du terns de Henri I roi d'Angleterre. Cette charte etait scellie en cire janne et en double queue, mais it ne reste plus que le scean de Guilli. de St.Clair." His seal alone survives. It is as large as a penny. [Note - an 1898 old penny] Round the edge, in quaint and somewhat irregular capitals, runs "SIGILLVM WLELMO DE SCO CLARO", the beginning and end of the inscription separated by a cross for a full stop. The centre is occupied by a crusader on an armoured horse, the warrior armed cap-a-pie, with spear, from which depends a pennon "en treble queue", with sword to his side and an oval shield, having a central device on his left shoulder. The peculiar saddling, the size of the stirrups and spurs, and the long, thin, loose look of the knight's boots towards toes and heels are characteristic of the time. Over the horse's head and neck are ribbed plates of shining steel. In 1139 the priory of Villers-Fossard was founded by a person of the same name. [From Planche]
In the Magnum Rotulum Scaccarii of 1131 or 1140, under "Nova Placentia et Novae Conventiones Dorseta," this occurs: "In pdon. br. Willo de Sco.Claro", twice, as paying taxes in that county. In de Joinville's Memoirs of the Eighth Crusade, by Louis IX of France (St.Louis), in the list of knights of the King's Household who accompanied Louis to Tunis is Messire Amori de St.Cler, A.D. 1245-50.
The Norman castle of St.Clair was taken by Henry I in 1116. [Dictionary of National Biography]
In 1414, during the regency war between the Dukes of Orleans and Burgundy, it is mentioned that the king, Charles the Sixth, warred against the latter, and so serious was the war expected to be that he went first to the monastery of St.Denis to take with all ceremonies the oriflamme, the standard raised when France was in danger, to lead his army. To "Messire de Bruneau de Saint Clair" and to the "Sire d'Aumont" it was given for defence, as the bravest men of all the French. In that time of faction Bruneau was made provost of Paris. The castle was occupied by the English in 1417, when Henry V invaded France. It had been burnt by William Mandeville, Earl of Essex, in Henry the Second's reign, of which king it was a favourite residence, who planted trees there with his own hands.
Robert de Saintclair in Normandy married, circ, 1260, Eleanor, daughter of Robert, second Earl of Dreux (by Jolande de Coucy), and relict of Hugh, Lord of Chateaunef
This Robert is assumed to be the ancestor of the House of Roslin. A John de St.Clair, Knight-bachelor of France, appears in historic lists of Crusaders. An account of the French family of Sinclaire will be found in Lehrs "l'Alsace noble".
There can be no doubt of the Norman origin of all the British St.Clair's, who first appear as companions of the Conqueror, and soon afterwards are scattered throughout various English counties. One of the gens built the Castle of St.Clare in Wales anterior to 1189. In records the Welsh town and its pertinents occur as the Barony of St.Clare. There was of old a chapel of St.Clare at Rye, in Kent. In the following notices of the English St.Clairs an attempt bas been made to group together those that are apparently connected with each other. [from Hay's Genealogie]