Robert de Harcourt

St. Michael's Church, Stanton Harcourt
St. Michael's Church, Stanton Harcourt
Photo © Colin Bates, Dec. 2005

Robert de Harcourt, surnamed le Fort, was the son of Anchetil and younger brother of Errand de Harcourt whom he accompanied to England at the time of the conquest and succeeded as the head of the family. He built the castle of Harcourt in Normandy and was by his wife Colette d'Argouges the father of seven sons, the eldest of whom William, having arrayed himself with king Henry I against his brother Robert Courteheuse, rendered his monarch signal service; he also commanded the troops which defeated the count of Meulent in Normandy in 1124. He was, on this account, rewarded with large estates in England, which were inherited by his second son Ivo, who became permanently settled there. The English Harcourts were seated at Stanton-Harcourt in Oxfordshire, which was obtained through the heiress of the Camvilles, whose mother received it as a marriage gift from her cousin, queen Adeliza of Louvain, the second wife of Henry I. The ruins of the castle show its former magnificence and effigies of members of the family for many generations remain in the parish church. One of dame Margaret Harcourt, wife of sir Richard, who fought for the house of York in the war of the Roses and received the Garter from Edward IV, shows the order worn immediately above the elbow of the left arm with the motto. A very rare honour, which was only conferred upon ladies in two other known instances. Queen Ann appointed sir Simon Harcourt lord keeper of the great seal, when he received a peerage. He was created baron Harcourt of Stanton Harcourt in 1711, declared lord high chancellor of England the following year and received a viscountcy in 1721. His grandson and successor received an earldom in 1740. With the 3rd earl the male line became extinct and the estates passed through an heiress to the Vernons. The earl, however, left his unentailed estate of St-Leonards near Windsor to the French branch of the family. In 1917 Lewis Harcourt Vernon, who in 1905 had assumed the name and arms of Harcourt, was created viscount Harcourt. He was the son of William George Granville Vernon of Stanton Harcourt. Robert d'Harcourt, the elder brother, remained in France and was the ancestor of a long list of great houses. From him descended Jean d'Harcourt, vicomte de Chatellerault, in whose favour the barony of Harcourt was erected into a comte by Philip of Valois in 1338; the Harcourts, counts of Montgomery; the Harcourts, barons d'Ollande; also the Harcourts, counts of Aumale and Harcourt; the marquises of Montmorency, 1578, and Pierre d'Harcourt, baron de Beuvron, Beauffou, etc., The baronies of La Motte, Mery, Cleville and Vareville were in reward for services rendered by Pierre d'Harcourt erected into the marquisate of La Motte-Harcourt by Henry IV in 1593. Louis XIV elevated the marquisates of Thury and La Motte into a dukedom for his descendant, Henry d'Harcourt, marshal of France. Regardless of the many wars and revolutions, which have occurred in France, the dukes d'Harcourt retain the chateau d'Harcourt, near the old Norman stronghold that has borne their name for the last eight hundred years at Thury-Harcourt, arrondissement of Falaise. The present head of this illustrious family, the duc d'Harcourt, is a member of the chamber of Deputies for Bayeux (Calvados) and his cousin, the comte d'Harcourt, is one of the three senators representing Calvados. --(Falaise Roll)


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