From Rye, three leagues north of Bayeux. "Geoffrey de Rie was living c. 980. His son Odo Fitz Geoffrey gave half the church of Rie to Fescamp Abbey, which was confirmed 1027 by Richard II. of Normandy (Neustria Pia, 218)."—The Norman People. It was Hubert de Rie, who, in 1047, saved the life of the young Duke of Normandy—the future Conqueror of England—when flying from the conspirators of the Cotentin. He had made his escape by night from Valognes, without armour or attendants, and "dared not," says Wace, "turn towards Bayeux, for he knew not whom to trust, so he took the way which passes between Bayeux and the sea. And as he rode through Rie before the sun rose, Hubert de Rie stood at his gate, between the church and his castle, and saw William pass in disorder, and that his horse was all in a sweat. 'How is it that you travel so, fair sire?' said he. 'Hubert,' said William, 'dare I tell you?' Then Hubert said, 'Of a truth,' most surely! say on boldly!'—'I will have no secrets with you; my enemies follow seeking me, and menace my life. I know that they have sworn my death.' Then Hubert led him into his hostel, and gave him his good horse, and called forth his three sons. 'Fair sons,' said he, 'muntez! muntez! Behold your lord; conduct him till ye have lodged him in Falaise. This way ye shall pass; it will be ill for you to touch upon any town.' So Hubert taught them well the ways and turnings; and his sons understood all rightly, and followed his instructions exactly. They crossed all the country, passed Folpendant at the ford, and lodged William at Falaise. If he were in bad plight, what matters so that he got safe?

"Hubert remained standing on his bridge: he looked out over valley and over hill, and listened anxiously for news, when they who were pursuing William came spurring by. They called him on one side, and conjured him with fair words to tell if he had seen the Bastard, and whither and by what road he was gone. And he said to them, 'He passed this way, and is not far off; you will have him soon: but wait, I will lead you myself, for I should like to give him the first blow. By my faith I pledge you my word that if I find him, I will strike him the first blow if I can.' But Hubert only led them out of the way till he had no fear for William, who was gone by another route. So when he had talked to them enough of this thing and that, he returned back to his hostel."—Roman de Rou.

From Falaise, the young Duke, well out of reach of his pursuers, went to seek and obtain the succour of the King of France, and returned to win the decisive victory of Val-es-dunes. He never forgot the man who had done him so signal a service,[1] and Hubert de Rie remained through life his friend and counsellor. When Edward the Confessor, shortly before his end, sent over a messenger to Normandy, requesting that some trustworthy envoy might go to him on the Duke's behalf, a great council was called together by William, to consider the choice of a representative. But the assembled nobles, one and all, hung back. They would not undertake the embassy to England. "They remembered what had been done at Guilford" (the massacre of the Norman companions of the son of Ethelred) "and refused to visit the barbarous people." Then Hubert de Rie stepped forward, volunteered to take upon himself the risk and the responsibility, and, "praised by all and rewarded by the Duke," set forth on his mission with a great train, picked men on splendidly trapped horses, equipped with all the pomp the Norman court could furnish. He was well received by Edward, who presented him with some lands in Esce (Ashe in Hampshire): and returned to Normandy with "the promise of the kingdom, and the tokens confirming the promise:" a two-handled sword of which the hilt enclosed the relics of certain saints, a hunter's horn of gold, and a great stag's head.

For this second important service, the grateful Duke promised him the office of Dapifer: but, soon after the Conquest, disturbances broke out in Cennomania which Hubert, "prompt of hand and good at council," was sent over to quell, and we do not hear of him again in England. He was then an old man, and must have died before 1086, as his sons only are entered in Domesday. There were four: Ralph, Hubert, Adam, and Eudo, all of them magnificently endowed by the Conqueror.

1. Ralph, who, like Adam and Eudo., was generally called Fitz Hubert, was Castellan of Nottingham, and held land in Leicester, Stafford, Nottingham, and Lincoln; but the head of his great barony was Crich in Derbyshire, where he had received the whole estate of a rich Saxon named Levenot, comprising thirty-six manors. Dugdale asserts that he was hung in 1140 for "divers crimes and cruelties"; but, as he was old enough to be the Duke's guide across country in 1044, he must then have been for many years resting in his grave.[2] The senior male line of the house ended with his grandson Hubert, who died about 3 Hen. III., and left two daughters. Julian, the eldest, married Ansger de Frecheville, and the Derbyshire lands continued vested in her descendants till they died out in the reign of Charles II. One of the manors that Ralph held at Domesday—Whitwell, was, however, for several centuries the seat of a junior branch of the family; till in 1583, Edward Rye, then its representative, sold his ancient home, and is lost sight of altogether.

2. Hubert, the next brother, founded another baronial family, which proved of even briefer duration. He held the Honour of Hingham in Norfolk, comprising thirty-five knights' fees, and succeeded Ralph Guader as Castellan of Norwich in 1074. His wife, Agnes de Todeni, a daughter of the first Baron of Belvoir, had been the richly-dowered widow of one of the De Beaufoes, and brought him several other manors in the county. "He cast his lot in closely with the church, half founded and richly endowed the splendid cathedral of Norwich," and assumed the cross in his later years. Both his son and his grandson, who in turn succeeded him, worthily emulated his munificence to the church: and with the latter, another Hubert, the line expired in 1188. This last Baron of Hingham again left two coheirs; Isabel, first married (without the King's license) to Geoffrey de Chester, and afterwards to Roger de Cressy; and Aliva, or Avelina, the wife of John le Mareschal. Aliva had no children, and on her death in 1263, Isabel succeeded to her moiety of the barony. She was then a very aged woman "of ninety and more," and yet survived till about 1270.

3. Adam, the third son, held considerable estates in Kent under Bishop Odo, and was one of the compilers of Domesday Book. Little is known of him, and nothing of his descendants, except that a Robert de Rie of Kent—presumably one of them—is mentioned in the Pipe Roll of 1189.

4. Eudo—generally styled Eudo Dapifer—the last born, was by far the ablest and most distinguished of the four brothers. He received princely possessions, not only in Essex, where his principal estates lay, but in Norfolk, Suffolk, Herts, Cambridge, Berks, Bedford, Northampton, &c, with the great hereditary office of Seneschal or Dapifer, that had been promised to his father, and then appertained to the Conqueror's early friend, William Fitz Osbern. Dugdale gives a whimsical account of the time and circumstances of this grant. While Eudo was "personally attending the Court, it so hapned that that William Fitz Osberne, then Steward of the Houshold, had set before the King the Flesh of a Crane, scarce half rosted: whereat the King took such offence, as that he lifted up his Fist, and had struken him fiersly, but that Eudo bore off the blow. Whereupon Fitz Osberne grew so displeased, as that he quitted his Office, desiring that Eudo might have it. To which request the King as well for his Father Hubert's demerits," (sic) "and his own, readily yeilded." This must have taken place before 1074, when he witnesses a charter of donation at Bayeux as Eudo Dapifer.

He was in attendance on his master's death-bed at Caen, and mindful of his last wishes, hurried away to secure the succession of his son. He was the first to land in England, and, concealing the King's death, went straight to Winchester, to demand in his name the keys of the Treasury from the Treasurer, William de Pont de l'Arche: thence proceeded to Dover, Hastings, Pevensey, and the other strongholds of the south coast, and, as the King's appointed emissary, made the Castellans in charge swear to open their gates only at his command. Having secured these castles and harbours, he returned to Winchester, announced the Conqueror's death, and "while the rest of the Nobles were consulting in Normandy touching the succession" handed over the keys of the Treasury to William Rufus, who was at once proclaimed King. Thus the new sovereign "began to reign without a hand or a voice being raised against him." He was not ungrateful to Eudo. He confirmed him in his office of Dapifer, and bestowed upon him the town of Colchester, partly at the request of the townsmen, who had petitioned "that they might have this famous Eudo to govern amongst them." For Eudo was not only a faithful servant, and an astute and sagacious politician, but one of the very few Norman rulers that endeared themselves to their English vassals: "he eased the oppressed, restrained the insolent, and pleased all." Moreover, he was a great prince in all his doings and dealings. The castle he built at Colchester could boast of the largest Keep ever seen in England (the White Tower of London is not more than half its size), and he founded a magnificent Abbey on the site of a wooden church then dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. In this humble edifice "it had been observed," writes one of the monks, "that Divine Lights sometimes appeared by night, and also the sound of Heavenly Voices devoutly praising God (and yet no man there). And moreover, taking notice of what had hapned to a certain man, who had been put in Fetters by the King's command: viz. that standing in that Church at the celebration of Mass, the Bolts of his Fetters flew out, whereby he was suddenly loosed, he" (Eudo) "became so much transported with these Miracles, he resolved to found an Abbey in that place, wherein perpetual suffrage might be made for his Soul."

He reached a good old age, and died in 1120 at the castle of Preaux in Normandy; Henry Beauclerk standing by his bed side, and conferring with him as to the disposal of his property. No son was left to inherit; for his wife Roesia, the daughter of Richard Fitz Gilbert, Justiciary of England, had given him one only daughter, Margaret. She married William de Mandeville, and her son Geoffrey, Earl of Essex, was Steward of Normandy in her right.

In addition to the Ryes of Whitwell in Derbyshire, of whom I have already spoken, there were numerous other offsets from the parent stock. William de Rye—perhaps the same William mentioned in Norfolk in 1272 (Rot. Hund.) was Conservator of York in 1287. Ranulph de Rie held Gosberkirk, Surflete, Donyngton and Quadryng in Lincolnshire of the Honour of Richmond.—Gale's Richmondshire. John de Rye was in arms with Simon de Montfort during the baronial war, and taken prisoner at the storming of Northampton in 1263. He was pardoned in 1268 at the instance of the King's brother, and his estates in Lincoln and Oxford are entered in the Hundred Rolls of 1272. In 1290 he gave his manor of Rye to St. John's Abbey.—Morant's Essex. Nicholas de Rye was Sheriff of Lincoln in 1276 and 1277; and in 1280 Ralph de Rye obtained the King's license for a weekly market and yearly fair at Gosberkirk, with free warren there and in his other manors in the county. He was present in 1309 at the Dunstable tournament, which was attended by two others of the family, Ralph de Rye of Whitwell, and William de Rye. This latter bore Gules a bend Ermine (the coat of the Barons of Hingham) with a label of three points Or, and was seated at Swan ton in Norfolk, which soon after (in 1327) had passed to a female heir. But the name lived on in Norfolk, where Roger Ree or Rye presided as Sheriff in 1461, though of its former high estate few memories remain. "The only traces now left of the Ryes are the 'Court of the Honor of Rye,' which still exists as a tribunal in the district which belonged to them, and a few yeomen-descended namesakes like myself, who take pride in belonging to a county with which their name has been so long connected."—Walter Rye (Herald and Genealogist, vol. 7, p. 243). During the brief period of their ascendancy, they were conspicuous for their liberality to the Church. They founded St. John's Abbey at Colchester, Binham Abbey, Beeston Abbey, Aldeby Priory, and a chantry at Walsingham in Norfolk, and magnificently contributed to the foundation of Norwich Cathedral.

  1. Hubert's loyalty was the more striking, as one of the five great barons then in confederacy against the Duke was Renouf de Bessin, the suzerain to whom he owed suit and service.

  2. The real culprit appears to have been Robert Fitz Hubert, a Flemish mercenary.

-- Cleveland

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