Richard de Bienfaite et d'Orbec. (Gislebertus comes) also known as Richard Fitz Gilbert, Richard de Clare and Richard de Tonbridge.

Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly Castle, Glamorgan
Photo © Steve Cadman, July 2005

Bienfaite and Orbec are in the arrondissement of Lisieux, Normandy. Wace says (l. 13666), "E Dam Richart ki tient Orbec," of whose presence at Senlac there can be no doubt. He appears in history under the designation de Bienfaite, d'Orbec, Fitz Gilbert, de Tunbridge, and de Clare and was the eldest son of Gilbert, count of Brionne and Eu.

Richard I had two natural sons, Godfry, count of Brionne and Eu, and William, count of Exmes, as well as two daughters. One of these was Beatrice, abbess of Montivilliers, and the other, probably the wife of Baldric the Teuton. In addition to them, a further two sons by the duchess Gonnor. Count Godfry died at the age of about forty-eight, soon after 1006. Godfry left a son Gilbert. Gilbert should have inherited both Brionne and Eu; he did succeed to the former, but the immediate disposition of the latter is obscure.

His uncle William, count of Exmes, revolted against his half-brother, duke Richard II, between 1006 and April 1012-13. Count William, after five years' imprisonment, escaped, and, having repented, was forgiven by his brother, the duke, to whom the latter then gave the beautiful Lesceline, daughter of Turquetil (de Neufmarche), in marriage, with the comte of Eu. William's son Robert inherited from him, thus signifying Robert's succession immediately following his father. William lost Eu for a long period, since in 1030 it certainly was in the possession of count Gilbert. Gilbert still held it c. 1036-40, the date of his murder. If count William predeceased count Gilbert, doubtless the latter, on the death of his uncle William, seized Eu, for he probably thought that it belonged to him as his rightful inheritance.

A plausible solution is offered in the Dictionnaire de l'Eure, who say count William was the guardian of count Gilbert during his minority and returned to him his full powers and possessions c. 1020. However, when count Gilbert died, his estates were seized by duke William, who gave Brionne to Guy of Burgundy and then, Eu passed to count William if alive, or if not, to his son and heir Robert, who held it shortly thereafter. Count Gilbert is said to have married Arlette, the mother of the Conqueror, by whom he had sons Richard and Baldwin. Richard de Bienfaite fled to the court of Baldwin, count of Flanders, after his father's death, with his brother Baldwin, and on his return to Normandy, at the time of the marriage of duke William to Matilda of Flanders, was given Bienfaite and Orbec to compensate him for the loss of his inheritance. He possessed at the compilation of Domesday, 189 manors and burgages, thirty-five of which were in Essex and ninety-five in Suffolk, including the honour of Clare. To reimburse him for the loss of the castle of Brionne in Normandy he was granted the same amount of land round Tunbridge in Kent, where he built Tonbridge Castle. He and William de Warren were jointly the high judiciaries of England during the king's visit to Normandy in 1067, and he assisted in the suppression of a revolt of the earls of Hereford and Norfolk. He was high in the councils of his cousin the king, and was the progenitor of the illustrious house of Clare, the barons Fitz Walter and the earls of Gloucester and Pembroke. He died about 1090, and by his wife Rohesia, the eldest daughter of Walter Gifford, first earl of Buckingham, had issue: Godfry, Robert (from whom the Barons Fitz Walter), Richard a monk of Bec, Walter and Roger, who both died without issue, and Gilbert who succeeded him, from whom descended the earls of Hereford and Gloucester. He had two daughters Rohesia, who married Eudo dapifer and another, who was the wife of Ralph de Telgers. --(Planche)

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle is a Norman castle that dominates the centre of the town of Caerphilly in south Wales . It is the largest castle in Wales, the second largest in Britain (second to Windsor castle ) and is one of the largest fortresses in Europe. Built mainly between 1268 and 1271 , it is an early example of a concentric castle and is surrounded by large but fairly shallow artificial lakes to slow attackers and prevent the undermining of its walls.

Unlike many other Welsh castles, Caerphilly castle was not built by Edward I in his crack-down on the Welsh lords, but by Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, a powerful, redheaded nobleman of Norman descent as a response to a dispute between him and a nobleman of Welsh origin, Llywelyn who was later a supporter of Simon de Montfort .

At first the dispute was mediated by Henry III ( 1216 - 1272 ), remembered by some as pious but feeble, who sent a Bishop to take temporary control of the castle until matters were settled. Through a fairly straightforward deceit, Gilbert regained control of the castle. Henry, perhaps typically, did little or nothing about it.

So things remained until the reign of Edward I ( 1272 - 1307 ). When Llywelyn failed on five occasions to provide services demanded of him by the King, he was stripped of his lordship and his lands were invaded by Edward. This removed much of the requirement for the castle, and from then on it was principally used as a base of operations for the de Clares and later the Despensers . Towards the end of the 14th century , the family moved to a more comfortable location and much of the castle was abandoned. Some maintenance was done by its subsequent owners, Richard Beauchamp (d. 1439 ), Richard Neville (d. 1471 ) and Jasper Tudor (d. 1495 ), probably because of its strategic usefulness, but this petered out at the end of the 15th century .

The castle gradually fell into disrepair though some maintenance was done on parts of it, notably the Eastern gate house which was used as a prison. Despite being mostly untouched by the Civil War of 1642 - 1648, damage inflicted by the parliamentary army in 1648 led to one of the most notable features of the castle, its leaning south-east tower. The castle's condition worsened until the later part of the 18th century when the first Marquess of Bute began preservation work. Three generations of Marquesses recorded the details of the castle, cleared structures built against its walls as leases ended and eventually undertook painstaking analysis and restoration of the fallen masonry. Finally it was handed over to the government in 1950; its restoration and preservation is continued today by Cadw (Welsh Historic Monuments).


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