Ralph of Wader - Ralph de Guader, Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk, Seigneur de Gael et Montfort, Lord of Gael.

Norwich Castle
Norwich Castle - photo © Gill Rickson, June 2006

There were two Ralphs in Norfolk, father and son, the younger being the son of a Breton mother. The elder was Staller, and is also called Earl; he must have held some subordinate government under Gyrth. He was in possession of his lands at the time of Eadward's death, and he was succeeded in them by his son. The elder Ralph must therefore have died early in the reign of Harold. But as we find his son fighting among his mother's countrymen on William's side at Senlac, it is plain that the younger Ralph must have been outlawed by Harold for some unrecorded treason or other crime. He then evidently migrated to his mother's country and joined himself to the Breton followers of William, to win back the lands which some unrecorded treason had lost him. One of the entries in Domesday would almost seem to show that part of his lands were granted by Harold or Gyrth to the East Anglian Bishoprick. --Freeman

Ralph son of Ralph the Englishman, held large estates in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Hertford. In 1069 he routed a force of Norsemen which had invaded Norfolk and occupied Norwich. In recognition of this exploit and for his services at Hastings, William created him Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk. Ralph built a church in Norwich and gave it to his chaplains. He married Emma, daughter of William Fitzosbern, 1st Earl of Hereford and Adelissa de Tosny. In 1075 the king's refusal to sanction this marriage caused a revolt by Ralph, his new brother-in-law Roger de Breteuil, 2nd Earl of Hereford and Waltheof, 1st Earl of Northumberland. Waltheof confessed the conspiracy to Lanfranc, who urged Earl Roger to return to his allegiance, and finally excommunicated him and his adherents - Waltheof was later executed by William. Ralph encountered a much superior force under the warrior bishops Odo of Bayeux and Geoffrey de Montbray (the latter ordered that all rebels should have their right foot cut off!) near Cambridge and retreated hurriedly to Norwich, hotly pursued by the royal army. Leaving his wife to defend Norwich Castle, he sailed for Denmark in search of help, and eventually returned to England with a fleet of 200 ships under Cnut and Hakon, which failed to do anything effective. Meanwhile the Countess held out in Norwich until she obtained terms for herself and her followers, who were deprived of their lands, but were allowed forty days to leave the realm. Thereupon the Countess retired to her estate in Brittany, where she was rejoined by her husband. Ralph was deprived of all his lands and of his Earldom. In 1076, having plotted against Duke Hoel of Brittany, he was besieged at Dol, and the Conqueror came to Hoel's aid; but Ralph finally made his peace. In 1096, accompanied by his wife and under Robert Curthose, he went on Crusade. He was one of the Breton leaders who took part in the siege of Nicaea, after which he joined Bohemund I of Antioch’s division of the army. Both Ralph and his wife Emma died on the road to Palestine in the course of the Crusade.

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