Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester
Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester (c. 1090 – October 31, 1147) was an illegitimate son of Henry I of England, and one of the dominant figures of the English Anarchy period. He was also known as Robert de Caen Count of Meulan "the Consul" and as Robert "the Consul" de Caen.
Robert was probably the eldest of Henry's many illegitimate children. He was born at Caen in Normandy before his father's accession to the English throne. His mother is not known for certain, though recent scholarship suggests she was a member of the Gay family, minor nobility in Oxfordshire. William of Malmesbury refers to Robert's "Norman, Flemish, and French" ancestry, but this may be a reference only to his father's side of the family. Robert was acknowledged at birth, and raised at his father's court. He had a reputation of being an educated man, not altogether surprising considering his father's scholarly inclinations. He was a patron of William of Malmesbury and Geoffrey of Monmouth and of the continuing building program of Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire initiated by his father-in-law, which resulted in one of the finest surviving Norman structures.
At his father's death, in the struggle between the Empress Matilda and Stephen for the English throne, he at first declared for Stephen, but subsequently left Stephen's service and was loyal to Matilda, his half-sister, until his death. According to the Gesta Stephani:
- "Among others came Robert, Earl of Gloucester, son of King Henry, but a bastard, a man of proved talent and admirable wisdom. When he was advised, as the story went, to claim the throne on his father's death, deterred by sounder advice he by no means assented, saying it was fairer to yield it to his sister's son (the future Henry II of England), than presumptuously to arrogate it to himself."
At the Battle of Lincoln, he captured Stephen, whom he imprisoned in the custody of his wife, Mabel. This advantage was lost, however, when Robert fell into the hands of Stephen's partisans at Winchester, covering Matilda's escape from a failed siege. Robert was so important to Matilda's cause that she released Stephen to regain Robert's services. In 1142 she sent Robert to convince her husband Geoffrey of Anjou to join her cause. Geoffrey refused to go to England until he conquered Normandy, so Robert stayed in France to help him until he learned of Matilda being besieged at Oxford. He hastened back to England, along with Matilda's young son Henry. In 1144 one of Robert's own sons, Philip, declared for Stephen and so Robert found himself and his son on opposite sides.
Robert fought tirelessly on Matilda's behalf until his death in 1147 from a fever at Bristol. One of his illegitimate sons was Richard, Bishop of Bayeux (died 1142).
Family and children
- William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester, died 1183
- Mabira de Caen, born circa 1110, wife of Jordan de Cambernon, Lord Cambernon.
- Roger Fitz Robert, Bishop of Worcester, (1112, Bristol – 9 August 1179, Tours).
- Richard Fitz Robert, Archbishop of Rouen, (1114, Bristol – 1175).
- Hamon Fitz Robert (1116, Bristol – 1159, Toulouse), slain at the siege of Toulouse in 1159.
- Robert Fitz Robert, born circa 1118.
- Maud Fitz Robert of Gloucester, (1120 – 1189), wife of Ranulph de Gernon, 2nd Earl of Chester.
- Philip Fitz Robert, Castellan of Cricklade, (1122 – after 1147).
- David Crouch, "Robert of Gloucester's Mother and Sexual Politics in Norman Oxfordshire", Historical Research, 72 (1999) 323-332.
- Given-Wilson & Curteis. The Royal Bastards of Medieval England
|Earl of Gloucester
William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester