William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford

William FitzOsbern (c. 1020 – 22 February 1071), Lord of Breteuil, in Normandy, was a relative and close counsellor of William the Conqueror and one of the great magnates of early Norman England. FitzOsbern was created Earl of Wessex, a title which his son did not inherit.[1] He was created Earl of Hereford before 22 February 1067, one of the first peerage titles in the English peerage. He is one of the very few proven companions of William the Conqueror known to have fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. His chief residence was Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, one of many English castles he built.

William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford
BornCirca 1020
Died22 February 1071 (aged 50–51)
Cause of deathWar
Known for
  • The Earl of Wessex
  • The Earl of Hereford
Parent(s)Osbern the Steward


William FitzOsbern was the son of Osbern the Steward, a nephew of Duchess Gunnor, the wife of Duke Richard I of Normandy. Osbern was the steward of his cousin Duke Robert I of Normandy. When Robert left the Duchy to his young son William, Osbern became one of Duke William's guardians. Osbern married Emma, a daughter of Count Rodolf of Ivry, who was a half-brother of Duke Richard I of Normandy. Through her he inherited a large property in central Normandy, including the honours of Pacy and Breteuil.

Career pre-1066

William FitzOsbern was probably raised at the court of his cousin William the Bastard, and like his father, became one of the ducal stewards. He founded Cormeilles Abbey and Lyre Abbey[2] (La Vieille-Lyre), and Saint-Evroul Abbey.[3] He was one of the earliest and most vigorous advocates of the invasion of England, and tradition holds that, at the Council of Lillebonne, he convinced the doubters amongst the Norman barons of the feasibility of the invasion. FitzOsbern's younger brother Osbern FitzOsbern was one of Edward the Confessor's chaplains, and possessed the rich church of Bosham in Sussex, where King Harold went to in the first scene of the Bayeux tapestry, and was well placed to pass along intelligence on the situation in England. He later became Bishop of Exeter.

In England after 1066

As William the Bastard became King of England, FitzOsbern was given charge of the Isle of Wight, and then before 22 February 1067 he was created Earl of Hereford as well as Earl of Gloucester, Earl of Worcester and Earl of Oxfordshire.[4] That western part of England was not yet fully under Norman control; the understanding must have been that FitzOsbern was to take charge of the conquest of these regions when he was able. In the summer of 1067 King William returned to Normandy and left his half-brother Bishop Odo of Bayeux and FitzOsbern in charge of England during his absence. The King was back in England in 1068 and FitzOsbern accompanied him in the subjugation of south-west England. He attended the King's Whitsun court in May 1068, and then visited Normandy, where he fell ill for some months.

In February or March 1069 FitzOsbern was asked by William to oversee the peace in York, where Gilbert de Ghent was made castellan of the new castle, but FitzOsbern returned south in time to attend the King's Easter court in April 1069 before returning to York.

Eadric the Wild launched a campaign of Anglo-Saxon resistance in the West Midlands, with the assistance of a number of Welsh princes (who had lately been allies of the Anglo-Saxon kings). In 1069 the revolt was crushed, and it is likely FitzOsbern played a major part in this, although the details are not certain. During this time FitzOsbern and his followers pushed on westwards into Wales, thus beginning the Norman conquest of the Welsh Kingdom of Gwent.

Castle builder

As part of the assertion of Norman control over England and Wales, FitzOsbern was one of the major Norman castle builders. Early castles attributed to him include Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, Chepstow Castle (Striguil) in South Wales, Wigmore Castle and Clifford Castle in Herefordshire, Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire and Monmouth Castle in Wales. FitzOsbern also created or improved fortifications in the towns of Hereford and Shrewsbury.

Distraction and death in Flanders

In 1070 trouble arose in Flanders, where King William's brother-in-law Count Baldwin VI of Flanders had died, leaving his county and his young sons in the hands of his widow Richilde, Countess of Mons and Hainaut. Her control of Flanders was challenged by the brother of her late husband, Robert the Frisian. Looking for help, she offered herself in marriage to FitzOsbern. He could not resist the chance to become also Count of this rich Principality, close to Normandy and hurried there with his army, where he was defeated by the Count of Flanders, and killed in the Battle of Cassel on 22 February 1071.

Marriages and progeny

FitzOsbern married twice:


  1. ^ The Normans: The History of a Dynasty, by David Crouch p100 [1]
  2. ^ Orderic Vital, Histoire de Normandie, tome 2, Ed. Charles Corlet, Caen 1826-Paris 2009, p. 10
  3. ^ Orderic Vital, Histoire de Normandie, tome 2, Ed. Charles Corlet, Caen 1826-Paris 2009, p. 27
  4. ^ The Normans: The History of a Dynasty, by David Crouch p100 [2]
  5. ^ Francis Palgrave, The History of Normandy and of England... !V:398ff.
  6. ^ Connected Blood Lines: Career of Ascelin Goël de Perceval, derived from Vita Dominæ Hildeburgis and other cited sources; accessed November 2017.
  • David C. Douglas, "The Ancestors of William Fitz Osborn", English Historical Review, 59 (1944), 62–79
  • Chris P. Lewis, "The early earls of Norman England", Anglo-Norman Studies, 13 (1991), 207–23
  • Lynn Nelson, The Normans in South Wales, 1070–1171 (see especially pages 24–33 in chapter 2)
  • W.E. Wightman, "The palatine earldom of William fitz Osbern in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire (1066–1071)", English Historical Review, 77 (1962), 6–17
  • P.M. Remfry, The Herefordshire Beacon and the Families of King Harold II and the Earls of Hereford and Worcester (ISBN 1-899376-73-9)

External links

Preceded by
New Creation
Earl of Hereford Succeeded by
Roger de Breteuil

Year 1020 (MXX) was a leap year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


Year 1071 (MLXXI) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

11th century in Wales

This article is about the particular significance of the century 1001 - 1100 to Wales and its people.

Albury, Oxfordshire

Albury is a village in the civil parish of Tiddington-with-Albury, about 5 miles (8 km) west of Thame in Oxfordshire.

Anchetil de Greye

Anchetil de Greye (c.1052 - post-1086) was a Norman follower of William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford one of the great magnates of early Norman England and one of the very few proven companions of William the Conqueror known to have fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

He is regarded as the ancestor of the noble House of Grey, branches of which held many peerage and other titles in England, including Baron Grey de Wilton (1295), Baron Ferrers of Groby (1299), Baron Grey of Codnor (1299,1397), Baron Grey de Ruthyn (1324), Earl of Tankerville (1419, 1695), Earl of Huntingdon (1471), Marquess of Dorset (1475), Baron Grey of Powis (1482), Duke of Suffolk (1551), Baronet Grey of Chillingham (1619); Baron Grey of Werke (1623/4), Earl of Stamford (1628), Viscount Glendale (1695), Baronet Grey of Howick (1746), Baron Walsingham (1780), Baron Grey of Howick (1801); Viscount Howick (1806), Earl Grey (1806), Baronet Grey of Fallodon (1814), etc., which married into the royal family and which continues to this day. Lady Jane Grey (c. 1537-1554) "the Nine Days' Queen", was a member of this family.

Cadwgan ap Meurig

Cadwgan ap Meurig (fl. 1045 – 1074) was a medieval Welsh ruler who reigned over the petty kingdoms of Gwent and Morgannwg in the tumultuous years of dynastic struggle leading up to the Norman invasion of Wales.

The chronicler Orderic Vitalis noted in his Historia Ecclesiastica that a Welsh king named "Caducan" suffered defeat in battle at the hands of William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, which would have happened in the year 1070. Subsequently, the Normans established dominance in Gwent and Cadwgan was deposed by an ambitious subject named Caradog ap Gruffydd, son of the former king Gruffydd ap Rhydderch. Whether killed or merely driven away, the ultimate fate of Cadwgan is unclear.

Council of Lillebonne

The Council of Lillebonne was a meeting of the nobles and clergy of Normandy where, among other things, the expedition of William the Conqueror, then Duke of Normandy, was approved. It was held at Lillebonne, in the northeast of Normandy. Wace, the 12th-century historian, wrote of the council, convened shortly before the actual invasion, likely in January 1066. William of Poitiers, a chronicler of the Norman invasion, claims that the duke also obtained the consent of Pope Alexander II for the invasion, along with a papal banner.

The council, also called the Norman Council and Assembly of Lillebonne, began with the refusal of Harold to relinquish the crown of England. Two such councils were held, a smaller council of trusted advisors and a larger council to discuss the planned conquest. Relatives and allies of William participated including many of the proven Companions of William:

Robert, Count of Mortain, half-brother of William

William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, cousin of William and a proven companion, a strong advocate of the invasion who convinced the doubters that the mission was feasible

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, William’s half-brother

Odo, Count of Champagne, William’s brother-in-lae

Richard, Count of Évreux, father of William, Count of Évreux, a proven companion

Hugh of Eu, Bishop of Lisieux, brother of the traitor Busac

Roger de Beaumont, who murdered William’s tormentor Roger I of Tosny, who advised William but did not participate in the invasion due to his advanced years

Raoul IV de Conches, grandson of Roger of Tosny

Hugh de Grandmesnil, a proven companion of William’s, originally banished but reinstated

Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, who had previously cursed William

Walter Giffard, Lord of Longueville, a known companion of William’s

Hugh de Montfort, Lord of Montfort-sur-Risle, a known companion of William’s

William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey.Cajoled by William FitzOsbern, the council approved the invasion plans. William of Poitiers nevertheless describes the council and gives an account of a debate that took place between among the nobles and supporters over whether to risk an invasion of England. Although some formal meeting probably was held, it is unlikely that there was significant debate, as the duke had by then established control over his nobles, and those assembled would want to secure their share of the rewards from the conquest of England.

Earl of Hereford

The title of Earl of Hereford was created six times in the Peerage of England. Dates indicate the years the person held the title for.

Feudal barony of Clifford

The feudal barony of Clifford (or Honour of Clifford) was a feudal barony with its caput baroniae at Clifford Castle in Herefordshire, England.

Heaton Castle

Heaton Castle (anciently Heton) in the parish of Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, England, is a ruined historic castle near the Scottish border.

It is situated in an elevated position above the south bank of the River Till, 4 miles north-east of Coldstream and 9 miles south-west of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and 2 miles south-east of the River Tweed, the historic border with Scotland.. The castle was slighted in 1496 by King James IV of Scotland, but remnants survive as parts of the walls of outbuildings of a farm now known as Castle Heaton.The castle was the seat of the de Heton family, which as was usual took its name from its seat. It passed in about 1250 to a branch of the prominent de Grey family, who in 1415 rebuilt it as a quadrangular castle.

Hugh de Montfort, Lord of Montfort-sur-Risle

Hugh de Montfort (Hugh II) (died 1088 or after) was a Norman nobleman. He was Lord of Montfort-sur-Risle and a proven companion of William the Conqueror. Hugh's father was killed in combat with Valkelin de Ferrières in 1045.The son of son of Hugh "the Bearded" de Montfort-sur-Risle, Montfort was an early ally of William, fighting in the Battle of Mortemer in 1054, a defeat for King Henry I of France. He participated in the Council of Lillebonne in January 1066 where the decision to invade England was made. In support of the actual invasion, Hugh provided 50 ships and 60 knights. In return, Hugh was installed at William's fortress at Winchester, and he received numerous holdings in Essex, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk.Hugh married first a daughter of Richard de Beaufour. They had one daughter:

Alice de Montfort-sur-Risle, married to Gilbert de Gant, Lord of Folkingham, and so ancestors to a line of Earls of Lincoln.Hugh and his second wife (name unknown) had three children:

Robert I de Montfort-sur-Risle (d. before 1111), accused of treason in 1107

Hugh III de Montfort (d. before 1100)

Adeline de Montfort-sur-Risle, married William of Breteuil, eldest son of William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford.Hugh died in England sometime after 1088.

List of Earls in the reign of William the Conqueror

The following individuals were Earls during the reign of William the Conqueror who reigned from 1066 to 1087.

The period of tenure as Earl is given after the name of each individual, including any period of minority.

Earl of Chester (First Creation)

Gerbod the Fleming, 1st Earl of Chester (1067-1071)

Earl of Chester (Second Creation)

Hugh d'Avranches, Earl of Chester (1071–1101)

Earl of Cornwall (First Creation)

Brian of Brittany (1068-1072)

Earl of Cornwall (Second Creation)

Robert, Count of Mortain (1069-1088)

Earl of East Anglia

Ralph the Staller (1067-1068)

Ralph de Gael (1068-1075)

Earl of Hereford

William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford (1067-1071)

Roger de Breteuil, 2nd Earl of Hereford (1071-1074)

Earl of Huntingdon Earl of Northampton

Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria (1065-1076)

Earl of Kent

Odo of Bayeux (1067-1082)

Earl of Mercia

Edwin, Earl of Mercia (1062-1071)

Earl of Northumbria

Morcar, Earl of Northumbria (1065-1071)

Copsi (1067)

Osulf II of Bamburgh (1067)

Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria (1067-1068)

Robert de Comines (1068-1069)

Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria (1070-1072)

Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria (1072-1076)

William Walcher (1076-1080)

Aubrey de Coucy (1080-1086)

Robert de Mowbray (1086-1095)

Earl of Richmond

Alan Rufus (1066-1093)

Earl of Shrewsbury

Roger de Montgomery,1st Earl of Shrewsbury (1068-1094)

List of peers 1060–1069

This page lists all non-royal peers who carried extant titles between the years 1060 and 1069.

Osbern the Steward

Osbern the Steward, known in French as Osbern de Crépon († about 1040), was the Steward of two Dukes of Normandy and the father of William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, one of William the Conqueror's closest counsellors.

Revolt of the Earls

The Revolt of the Earls in 1075 was a rebellion of three earls against William I of England (William the Conqueror). It was the last serious act of resistance against William in the Norman Conquest.

Richilde, Countess of Hainaut

Richilde, Countess of Mons and Hainaut (c. 1018 – 15 March 1086), was a ruling countess of Hainaut from c. 1050 until 1076, in co-regency with her husband Baldwin VI, Count of Flanders and son Baldwin II, Count of Hainaut. She was also countess consort of Flanders by marriage to Baldwin VI, Count of Flanders. She served as regent of Flanders during the minority of her son Arnulf III, Count of Flanders in 1070-1071.

Roger of Mortemer

Roger I of Mortemer (Roger de Mortemer, Roger de Mortimer, Roger Mortimer) (bef. 990 - aft. 1078), founded the abbey of St. Victor en Caux in the Pays de Caux of Upper Normandy as early as 1074 CE. Roger claimed the castle built by his kinsman William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, that was situated on the river mouth of Eaulne in Mortemer, Seine-Maritime. This castle was the chief barony of Roger's descendants. He was the first Norman ancestor to assume the name Mortimer, as in the place-name Morte-mer-en-Brai, the land on which the village and castle was located.

William of Breteuil

William of Breteuil was Benedictine abbot of Breteuil, near Beauvais, France. He rebuilt the monastery after it had been nearly destroyed by the Normans.He was the eldest son of William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford. He was held captive and tortured by Ascelin Gouel, Sire d'Yvry, until he finally granted his daughter Isabella de Breteuil's hand in marriage to him.

Worton (hamlet), Oxfordshire

Worton is a hamlet in Cassington civil parish, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) northwest of Oxford.


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