William Fitz Osberne was the son of Osberne de Crepon, who was murdered by William de Montgomery, when he was guarding the young duke William in his bedchamber, and the grandson of Herfast, a brother of the duchess Gonnor. He was seignior of Breteuil and Pacy, where were located strong fortresses opposing the frontier to France. William was the closest personal friend and chief officer of the duke's household, having succeeded his father as dapifer. Although he is not particularly mentioned, he must have attended his lord in the various battles in which he was engaged, prior to the conquest of England. He, it was, who first advised duke William to go to England and take vengeance on Harold, and later at the assembly of the barons of Normandy, whom William had called together at Lillebonne, when they were demurring and making objections about crossing the sea, contrived to become their spokesman to the duke. He announced to their utter astonishment that they were unanimous in their determination to support the expedition and would do so by doubling the number of knights which their feudal fealty required of them on this occasion. The duke immediately sent for each baron individually and held him to this declaration. William Fitz Osberne at Senlac commanded the wing composed of the men of Poix and Boulogne, for which he received as his reward the earldom of Hereford and the lordship of the Isle of Wight, the manor of Hanley in Worcestershire and a number in Gloucestershire and elsewhere. In 1067 he was made governor of the recently built castle of Winchester, and he and bishop Odo were vice regents of the realm during king William's absence in Normandy in that year. After the defeat of Edgar Ethelin at York by the Conqueror in 1068, he was appointed governor of that city and in the following year, in conjunction with count Brian of Brittany, slaughtered the Welsh before Exeter. King William sent him to Normandy in 1070 to assist queen Matilda in the government of the duchy, which was at that time much disturbed. Simultaneously war broke out in Flanders between Richilde, widow of count Baldwin VI and Robert the Frison. Queen Matilda espoused the cause of the former and sent William to her support, who being a widower at that time, became a suitor for her hand. She married him and made him titular count of Flanders. He was killed the following year, on the 22nd of February, at Ravenchoven, near Cassel, by the forces of Robert the Frison, with the young count Ernulph, his step-son. The earl was buried in the abbey of Cormeilles of Normandy, which he had founded in 1060. He married first Adelina de Toeni, daughter of Roger de Toeni, by whom he had three sons and two daughters. William, the eldest, succeeded him as lord of Breteuil and Pacy and all his other possessions in Normandy. Ralph, the second son, was shorn a monk in the abbey of Cormeilles, and the third son, Roger de Breteuil, received the earldom of Hereford and the lands of his father in England. Emma, his eldest daughter, married Ralph, earl of Norfolk, and the name of his other daughter is unknown. --(Falaise roll)
History of “The Three Castles”
White Castle - Photo © Lee Watts, Feb 2006
Chepstow Castle - Photo © Roy Parkhouse, July 2002
The term “The Three Castles” is used to collectively describe White Castle , Skenfrith Castle and Grosmont Castle, all of which are located in the Monnow Valley in south Wales (modern day Monmouthshire). The Monnow Valley was an important route between Hereford and South Wales in medieval times, due to its position as an area of relatively open land, which provided a break between the river cliffs of the Wye Valley to the south, and the hills around Abergavenny to the west. The Three Castles are usually grouped together by historians because for almost their entire history they were part of a block of territory under the control of a single lord.
All three sites have evidence for early Norman earthworks, possibly built by William fitz Osbern, who was made Earl of Hereford by William the Conqueror a few months after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 . From his castles at Monmouth and Chepstow, William was the first Norman lord to conquer central and eastern Monmouthshire, including the future sites for the Three Castles. The defenses raised at this time would have been of earth and timber, probably in the classic Norman motte-and-bailey style.
Fitz Osbern died in 1071 , and his lands were forfeited to the crown after
his son was involved in a rebellion against King William in 1075 .
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