Odo de Champagne

Rockingham Castle
Rockingham Castle, Northamptonshire
Photo © Brian Coleman, Aug 2004

Odo de Champagne was the third husband of William the Conqueror's sister Adelaide, by whom they had a son Stephen. In 1086, the Isle of Holderness, belonging to Drogo de Brevere was bestowed on Odo de Champagne. Odo found himself in a position of owing allegiance to William Rufus in England as well as to Robert Court-heuse in normandy. Finding it difficult to serve two masters that were at war with each other, he chose to support Rufus and recieved an English garrison in his castle at Aumale. In 1095 Odo, with his son Stephen, joined in a conspiracy with Robert de Mowbray, William d'Eu and other nobles to depose Rufus with the intention of placing Odo's own son, Stephen, on the throne. The conspiracy failed and Odo and his son were arrested and imprisoned. Odo languished in prison for thirteen years never to emerge alive and his son was condemned to have his eyes put out; but for the prayers of his family and the payment of vast amounts of money, Stephen obtained a pardon and was released to liberty.

On Odo's death his son Stephen succeeded not only to the Countship of Aumale, but to the Lordships of Holderness, of Bytham in Lincolnshire, etc., which were subsequently known as the "Fee and Honor of Albemarle." --

Stephen, who as a crusader had fought valiantly at Antioch, died about 1127, leaving by his wife Hawise, daughter of Ralph de Mortimer, a son— William of Blois , known as "le Gros." William, who distinguished himself at the Battle of the Standard (1138), and shared with King Stephen in the defeat of Lincoln (1141), married Cicely, daughter of William Fitz-Duncan, grandson of Malcolm, King of Scotland, who as "Lady of Harewood" brought him vast estates. He founded abbeys at Meaux in Holderness and at Thornton and died in 1179.

His elder daughter and heiress Hawise married:

  1. William de Mandeville, 3rd Earl of Essex (d. 1189),
  2. William de Fortibus (de Fors, de Fortz or des Forts),
  3. Baldwin de Betun or Bethune, all of whom bore the title of Earls of Albemarle.

Soon after the death of Baldwin ( October 13 , 1213 ), William de Fortibus, Hawise's son by her second husband, was established by King John in the territories of the Countship of Albemarle, and in 1215 the whole of his mother's estates were formally confirmed to him. He is described by Bishop Stubbs as "a feudal adventurer of the worst type," and for some time was actively engaged in the struggles of the Norman barons against both John and Henry III.

He was one of the twenty-five executors of the Great Charter; but in the war that followed sided with John, subsequently changing sides as often as it suited his policy. His object was to revive the independent power of the feudal barons, and he co-operated to this end with Falkes de Breaut and other foreign adventurers established in the country by John. This brought him into conflict with the great justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, and in 1219 he was declared a rebel and excommunicated for attending a forbidden tournament. In 1220 matters were brought to a crisis by his refusal to surrender the two royal castles of Rockingham and Sauvey of which he had been made constable in 1216. Henry III marched against them in person, the garrisons fled, and they fell without a blow. In the following year, however, Albemarle, in face of further efforts to reduce his power, rose in revolt.

He was now again excommunicated by the legate Pandulph at a solemn council held in St Paul's, and the whole force of the kingdom was set in motion against him, a special scutage—the scutagium de Bihan —being voted for this purpose by the Great Council. The capture of his Castle of Bytham broke his power; he sought sanctuary and, at Pandulph's intercession, was pardoned on condition of going for six years to the Holy Land . He remained in England, however, and in 1223 was once more in revolt with Falkes de Breaute, the Earl of Chester and other turbulent spirits. A reconciliation was once more patched up; but it was not until the fall of Falkes de Breaute that Albemarle finally settled down as an English noble.

In 1225 he witnessed Henry's third re-issue of the Great Charter; in 1227 he went as, ambassador, to Antwerp ; and in 1230 he accompanied Henry on his expedition to Brittany. In 1241 he set out for the Holy Land, but died at sea, on his way there, on 26 March 1242. By his wife Avelina of Montfichet, William left a son, also named William, who married (1) Christina (d. 1246), daughter and co-heiress of Alan, Laird of Galloway, (2) in 1248 Isabella de Redvers (1237-1202-3), daughter of Baldwin de Redvers, Earl of Devon and Lord of the Isle of Wight . He played a conspicuous part in the reign of Henry III, notably in the Mad Parliament of 1258, and died at Amiens in 1260. His widow, Isabella, on the death of her brother Baldwin, 8th Earl of Devon, in 1261, called herself Countess of Devon. She had two children, Thomas, who died in 1269 unmarried, and Avelina, who married (1269) Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster, and died without issue in 1274.

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