Geoffrey de Mandeville

Walden Castle
Walden Castle, Saffron Walden, Essex
Photo © Janine Forbes, April 2006

Geoffrey de Mandeville is described as rendering great aid in the decisive battle for which he was rewarded 118 lordships in various counties. Geoffrey was appointed first Constable of the Tower of London after the Conquest and took possession of the castle there that had once belonged to Ravenger. The office of Constable passed onto his grandson Geoffrey who became the first Earl of Essex. His first wife, Athelaise (Adeliza) was the mother of his heir William de Mandeville. His second wife was Leceline. Adeliza was aunt to Eudo al Chapel. --

Maundeville - Geffray de Magnavil

Upon the first arrival in England of the Conqueror, there was amongst his companions a famous soldier, called Geffray de Magnavil, so designated from the town of Magnavil in the Duchy of Normandy, who obtained as his share in the spoil of conquest, divers fair and wide spreading domains in the counties of Berks, Suffolk, Middlesex, Surrey, Oxford, Cambridge, Harts, Northampton, Warwick, and Essex. The grandson of this richly gifted noble, another Geoffrey de Mandeville, was advanced by King Stephen to the Earldom of Essex, but nevertheless, when the Empress Maud raised her standard, he deserted his Royal benefactor, and arrayed himself under the hostile banner. In requital the Empress confirmed to him the custody of the Tower of London, granted the hereditary Sheriffalty of London, Middlesex, and Herts, and bestowed upon him all the lands of Eudo Dapifer in Normandy, with the office of steward, as his rightful inheritance, and numerous other valuable immunities, in a covenant witnessed by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, and several other powerful nobles, which covenant contained the singular clause, "that neither the Earl of Anjou, the Empress's husband, nor herself, nor her children, would ever make peace with the burgesses of London, but with the consent of him the said Geoffrey, because they were his mortal enemies." Besides this, he had a second charter, dated at Westminster, recreating him Earl of Essex. Of these proceedings King Stephen, having information, seized upon the Earl in the court, then at St. Albans, some say after a bloody affray, in which the Earl of Arundel, being thrown into the water with his horse, very narrowly escaped drowning; certain it is, that to regain his liberty the Earl of Essex was constrained, not only to give up the Tower of London, but his own Castles of Walden and Blessey. Wherefore, being transported with wrath, he fell to spoil and rapine, invading the king's demesne lands and others, plundering the abbeys of St. Albans and Ramsay: which last having surprised at an early hour in the morning, he expelled the monks therefrom, made a fort of the church, and sold their religious ornaments to reward his soldiers; in which depredations he was assisted by his brother-in-law, William de Say, a stout and war-like man, and one Daniel, a counterfeit monk. At last, being publicly excommunicated for his many outrages, he besieged the Castle of Burwell, in Kent, and going unhelmed, in consequence of the heat of the weather, he was shot in the head with an arrow, of which wound he soon afterwards died. This noble outlaw had married Rohesia, daughter of Alberic de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Chief Justice of England, and had issue, Ernulph, Geoffrey, William, and Robert; and by a former wife, whose name is not mentioned, a daughter Alice, who married John de Lacy, constable of Chester. Of his death, Dugdale thus speaks "Also that for these outrages, having incurred the penalty of excommunication, he happened to be mortally wounded at a little town called Burwell; whereupon, with great contrition for his sins, and making what satisfaction he could, there came at last some of the Knights Templars to him, and putting on him the habit of their order, with a red cross, carried hia dead corpse into their orchard, at the old Temple, in London, and coffining it in lead hanged it on a crooked tree. Likewise, that after some time, by the industry and expenses of William, whom he had constituted Prior of Walden, his absolution was obtained from Pope Alexander III., so that his body was received among Christians, and divers offices celebrated for him; but that when the prior endeavoured to take down the coffin and carry it to Walden, the Templars being aware of the design, buried it privately in the church-yard of the New Temple, viz. in the porch before the west door."

William de Mandeville, last surviving son of this famous noble, succeeded as third Earl of Essex, at the decease of his brother Geoffrey, and not long after made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. At his death, which occurred in 1190, the feudal lordship and estates he enjoyed devolved on his aunt Beatrix, wife of William de Say; and from her, passed to the husband of her grand-daughter - the celebrated Geoffrey Fitz-Piers, Justice of England, whom Matthew Paris characterizes as "ruling the reins of government so, that after his death, the realm was like a ship in a tempest without a pilot." His only daughter and eventual heiress, Maud, wedded Robert de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, and had a son, Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, with whose male descendants the latter Earldom continued until the decease, in 1372, of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Northampton, and Essex, whose elder daughter and co-heir, Alianore, married Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, sixth son of Edward III., and was mother of Anne Plantagenet, the consort of William Bourchier, Earl of Ewe, in Normandy. Of this alliance, the son and heir, Henry Bourchier, Earl of Ewe, obtained a patent of the Earldom of Essex in 1461, and was succeeded therein by his grandson, Henry Bourchier, second Earl of Essex, at whose demise, in 1539, the representation of his illustrious house and of the Mandevilles and Bohuns, Earls of Essex, devolved on his sister, Cicely, wife of John Devereux, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, whose great-grandson, Walter Devereux, second Viscount Hereford, was raised in 1572 to the Earldom of Essex, a title that expired with Robert Devereux, third Earl, the Parliamentary General. It was, however, revived in about fifteen years after in the person of Arthur, Lord Capel, whose wife, the Lady Elizabeth Percy, was granddaughter of Lady Dorothy Devereux, sister of Robert, Earl of Essex, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth. Thus the present Earl of Essex can deduce an unbroken line of descent through each successive family that held the honour, from Geoffrey de Mandeville, upon whom the Earldom of Essex was conferred by King Stephen. --(Battle Roll).


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