In Leland's list Aumarill. This name, altered by habit of speech to Albemarle, was taken from the Norman fief of Aumale, afterwards raised to the rank of a Comte by William the Conqueror. The castle stood on the river Eu (now called the Bresle) at the point where it divides Normandy from Picardy, and had been built about the year 1000 by Guernifroi, Sire d'Aumale, who also founded the neighbouring Abbey of St. Martin d'Auchi. "Cil ki ert Sire de Aubemare" is included in the Roman de Rou among,

"Les Grauntz dela la Mer,
Que vindrent od le Conquerour
William Bastard de graunt vigour,"

and fought by his side at Hastings. This was Odo, the disinherited Count of Champagne, then, in right of his wife, Lord of Aumale, of whom the first clear and detailed account yet known has been recently compiled by Mr. Stapleton from the records of the church of St. Martin d'Auchi, commonly called of Aumale. (Collectanea topographica et genealogica, vol. vi. p. 265.) His father Stephen II., Count of Champagne and Brie, died, in 1047, leaving him a mere child, and "he was immediately dispossessed of by his uncle, Thibaut II.; legally, it would appear, according to the law of that period, which, if the heir of the lordship was not of sufficient age to receive investiture by the ceremony of girding witan the sword, authorized the nearest in blood of full age to claim the succession."—The Conqueror and his Companions, by J. R. Planche. He took refuge at the court of William of Normandy, who was, as William de Jumieges informs us, his kinsman; and in due time married the Duke's half-sister Adeliza. She was, though a young woman, already a widow for the second time. Her first husband was Enguerrand (Ingelram), son of Hugh II., Count of Ponthieu, and Sire d'Aumale, in right of his mother Bertha, the heiress of Guernifroi. By him she had a daughter named after herself, Adeliza, who inherited Aumale. Enguerrand was killed in an ambush at St. Aubin in 1053, and she remarried in the following year Lambert, Count of Lenz in Artois (the brother of Eustace II., Count of Boulogne), and had another daughter called Judith—the richly—dowered Countess Judith of Domesday. Lambert scarcely lived long enough to see the birth of his child, for he fell in battle at Lille, in 1055. She then bestowed her hand on Odo, and by him was the mother of Stephen, who appears to have held Aumale by joint-tenure with his elder half-sister Adeliza, and after her death became the first Comte d'Aumale or Earl of Albemarle.

Odo's name is not in Domesday: but we there find the "Comitissa d'Albemarle" holding a barony in Essex, and another in Suffolk, of the King. According to Sir Henry Ellis, this was his wife; but Mr. Planche asserts that his wife was dead before 1085, and that the Countess in question was his stepdaughter. Not long after this, he obtained the great fief that had been originally granted to Drogo de Brevere, "a Fleming of approved valour, who came over to England with William, and received for his services the Isle of Holderness, on which he built the strong castle of Skipsey, and other considerable estates in various counties, amongst them Bytham, in Lincolnshire. He is said to have married a kinswoman of the King—how related to him, or how named, is not stated. Whoever she was, Drogo killed her—whether by accident, or with malice prepense, does not appear in the indictment. His subsequent conduct, however, was that of a guilty man. He hastened to the King, and pretended that he was desirous to take his wife to Flanders; but, not having sufficient money at command for the purpose, craved assistance from his royal connection. The King, not doubting his story, gave or lent to him the sum required, with which Drogo wisely made the best of his way to the coast, and took ship for the Low Countries. The King, on learning the truth, sent orders for his arrest, but too late. Drogo was beyond his reach."—Planche. But Drogo's fief, at all events, was not; it was forthwith seized and appropriated, and the vast lordship of Holderness, comprising a large tract of Yorkshire, and erroneously styled an earldom by Orderic, was bestowed upon Odo. Not content with a part, Odo coveted the whole, and, complaining that Holderness was a barren country, bearing no other grain but oats, obtained from the King, Bytham, in Lincolnshire, that he might "feed his young son with wheaten bread."

On the death of the Conqueror, Odo, after some perplexity, elected to take part with his suzerain in England against his suzerain in Normandy; yet, within five years, he had thrown off his allegiance, and joined Robert de Moubray and some other disaffected nobles in an attempt to place his own son on the throne. The King received timely warning of the plot, and both he and Stephen were arrested and thrown into prison. Odo never saw the light of day again, but ended his life in the dungeon pit to which he was consigned. None knew with certainty when he died; but he is believed to have endured his captivity for thirteen miserable years.

Stephen was more fortunate. The King had sentenced him to have his eyes put out (one of Rufus's favourite punishments); but by means of the piteous prayers of his wife and family, and the payment of a large sum of money, he obtained his pardon and release. It was he who first bore the title of Earl of Albemarle. He accompanied Robert Courtheuse on his crusade, and twice rose in rebellion against Henry I.; the second time in 1129, when "of those that thus adventured, some lost their lives, some were imprisoned, and some disinherited, so that what became of this our Stephen, I can give no account."—Dugdale. By his wife, Hawise de Mortimer, he was the father of three sons and four daughters. Of the two younger sons, Stephen and Ingelram, we hear nothing; but his successor, William, styled Le Gros, second Earl of Albemarle, was one of the greatest potentates of his day, and commanded in chief at the famous victory of Northallerton in 1138. On the approach of the King of Scots, Archbishop Thurstan, who had the custody of the Borders, and was himself too infirm to take the field, issued his summons far and wide, and "caused a famous standard to be erected, and thereon the banners of St. Peter, St. John of Beverley, and St. Wilfrid of Ripon, adding thereto the Sacred Host, to the end that all who came to it might receive the more encouragement." Around it, on the height still known as Standard Hill, was gathered the flower of the northern baronage, with some of the great names of the midland shires, William Peverel, with "the power of Nottingham," and Robert Ferrers with the men of Derby. The Bishop of Durham and Walter Espec, the black-browed Baron of Helmsley, vigorously exhorted and harangued the rest before the action. It was fiercely contested; and though it began with an advantage gained by the men of Lothian over the English vanguard, this first check was quickly retrieved, the tide of victory turned, and the Scots "began to shrink back, first by partes, and after by heapes together." The King and his brave son, Henry of Huntingdon, "did what he could to stay them"; but the day was utterly and irretrievably lost, and their rout and disaster complete. About 10,000 men fell in this battle, and for his great services on this memorable occasion, William Le Gros received from the King the Earldom of Yorkshire. But he tarnished his fame by his subsequent defection at Lincoln, in 1141, for he "is said to have fled away from that fight, exposing the King to that loss he there underwent."—Dugdale.

He was the founder of several monasteries, and as a devout son of the Church, made a vow to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; but, as years went by, and he "waxed very fat and gross," the prospect of so long and toilsome a journey weighed more and more heavily on his spirits. A subtle and keen-eyed monk of Fountains, named Adam, who had presided at the building of his abbey of Vaudey, as well as of Woburn in Bedfordshire, and Kirkstead in Lincolnshire, "discerning that he was in no small trouble of mind about his vow," offered to obtain his absolution from it of the Pope, if he would undertake to build and endow another house for Cistercian monks. The Earl agreed, and the monk travelled to Rome, procured the required dispensation, and came back to claim the fulfilment of the condition. It was settled that Adam should himself choose the site of the proposed monastery, and he had ample range for his choice, as the Earl was at that time, by marriage and inheritance, the owner of the greater part of Yorkshire. He fixed upon a lovely and fruitful valley—a true monk's paradise—with broad lakes and flowing streams, embosomed in hanging woods; and, climbing what was then named Our Ladies Hill, fixed his staff in the ground, crying, "This place shall be called the King's Court, the Vineyard of Heaven, and the Gate of Life. Here shall be ordained a people worshipping Christ." The poor Earl was, however, more disturbed in mind than ever; for this happened to be his favourite retreat, obtained not long before by exchange from Sir John de Meaux, a place for which he had "an extraordinary love," and had already begun to enclose for a park. But there was no going back from his word, or gainsaying the monk's prophecy. The Abbey of Meaux was built in this Naboth's vineyard, and Adam became its first abbot.

Besides these two religious houses, he founded another at Thornton-upon-Humber, where he was buried. The chronicler of Meaux recounts how, "When crossing the seas, if the vessel was in danger of being wrecked, during darkness, he remained sleepless until midnight; resigning himself then to rest in the assurance that his convents at Aumarle and Thornton had risen to their devotions, and that likewise after cock-crow, when their orisons would be finished—whether sleeping or waking—he was careless of the danger, and calmly awaited the return of daylight, in reliance on the prayers which he knew were arising in the choirs of Vaudey and Meaux." Aumale had been founded by his father.

His wife, Cecily, was of the blood royal of Scotland, the eldest of the three daughters of William Fitz Duncan, Earl of Murray, by Alice de Romelli, Lady of Craven, and through the death of her three brothers,[1] the heiress of the great barony of Skipton. It had come to her from her mother, and it passed from her to her daughter, for she brought the Earl no male heir. At his death in 1179, Hawise, the eldest of her two girls, succeeded to the Earldom of Albemarle and a vast inheritance, which she successively conveyed to her three husbands. Like all the great heiresses of that period, she was in the custody of the Crown, and one of its sources of revenue; for the King only granted her in marriage on payment of a heavy fine, and never suffered her to remain long a widow. She was first bestowed on William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex; then on Geoffrey de Fors or Forz (usually Latinized as De Fortibus); and lastly on Baldwin de Bethune, a favourite of Richard Coeur de Lion's. When Baldwin died in 1211, and she found herself for the fourth time at the disposal of the King, she gave the enormous sum of 5000 marks "to have possession of her dowries and inheritance, and not to be compelled to marry again."[2]

She had no children by the Earl of Essex; but by Geoffrey de Fortibus she had a son named William, who inherited her Earldom and great possessions; and by Baldwin another son who died young, and a daughter named after herself, who was the first wife of William Mareschal, Earl of Pembroke. Of her younger sister, Cecily, there are two different accounts. Some say that she died early, unmarried; others that she was the ancestress of John de Eston or Aston, who claimed the Earldom in the time of Edward I.

William de Fortibus was the next Earl of Albemarle, and Lord of Craven and Holderness; but the former had then become an empty title, for Philip Augustus, after utterly ruining the town of Aumale in 1196, had granted the entire domain to Renaud de Dammartin. "He was one of the barons present at Runnymede, and is the second whose signature is attached to the great Charter of Liberties, his arms being Bendy of 6, Argent and Gules.[3] He soon after fell off from his party, and attached himself to the King, being with him in the same year in that career of rapine and spoil which John pursued in the North of England. De Fortibus was well rewarded by the King, who gave him all the lands of Robert de Ros."—Poulson's Holderness. Unfortunately the predatory habits thus acquired were never lost; for in the following reign, "having by this course of life acquired much plunder, he could not refrain from that ravening practice," and when opposed, "flew into open rebellion." Henry III. threw down the walls of his castle of Bytham, and Pandolf, the legate, excommunicated him; but he contrived to make his peace with both, and continued plundering and fighting—sometimes for and sometimes against the King—till his death in 1241. He had vowed to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and was actually on his way thither when he died at sea while crossing the Mediterranean. He married Aveline, daughter, and at length co-heiress of Richard de Montfitchet, and their only son, William, was the last Earl of his race. He does not appear to have inherited his father's turbulence and lawlessness, but lived an uneventful life, and died at Amiens in 1259. He had two wives; the first, Christian de Sully, was the daughter and co-heir of Alan of Galloway, by Margaret of Scotland, and brought him no children; the second, Isabel, was the daughter of Baldwin de Reviers, Earl of Devon, and eventually sole heir to her brother, who died s. p. in I262. She was the mother of three sons and two daughters; John, Thomas, William, Avice, and Aveline; but all of them died young, except the last born, Aveline, who thus, at a very early age, was left the only remaining representative of the family. The whole accumulated inheritance of her father, mother, and grandmother, with the two great Earldoms of Devon and Albemarle, and the Sovereignty of the Isle of Wight, had centered on a delicate child of six years old, and were to be the appanage of her future husband. The King had at first granted her wardship (which comprehended her disposal in marriage) to Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, for "the whole term of fifteen years of her minority," but, on second thoughts, resumed it himself, and decided that so splendidly-dowered a bride should mate with none other than a Plantagenet. Aveline was accordingly married in 1269 with all due state and magnificence to his deformed second son, Edmund Crouchback, "in the presence of the King and Queen, and the greater part of the Nobility of England." She came of age in 1272, in which year her husband, "doing his fealty, had Livery of her lands." But she gave him no heirs, and in 1275, Edward I., "having a mind to all her castles and lands," came to an agreement with her to surrender them to him on certain conditions, and the payment of 20,000 marks. It is clear, however, that she could only give up the reversion of what belonged to her mother, who was still alive—in fact, Dugdale's account leaves it uncertain whether this agreement was not in reality made with the mother after her own death. Aveline was certainly dead before 1277, when John de Aston put in his claim as her "right heir," and a part of her estate went to the De Playzs by reason of their relationship with the Montfichets. The King, however, retained Holderness in his own hands, and by fair or foul means succeeded in obtaining the Isle of Wight (see Reviers).

Countess Aveline was buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey. "Her monument stands at the head of that of Aymer de Valence; it is an altar tomb of touchstone, placed under a canopy twelve feet high, formed in imitation of those temporary structures or hearses, under which, in ancient times, the corpses of the Kings, Queens, and principal nobility were laid."—Poulson's

  1. See Lucy.

  2. From a record in the Exchequer it appears that "the Bishop of Winchester was fined in a tun of good wine, for his not reminding the King to give a girdle to the Countess of Albemarle."

  3. Burke gives him an entirely different coat: Argent, a chief Gules.


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