Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles
BATTLE ABBEY ROLL.
ACCOUNT OF THE NORMAN LINEAGES.
IN THREE VOLUMES.—VOL. III
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.
This electronic edition
was prepared by
Michael A. Linton, 2007
the English rendering of Vassy, a Norman fief in the Val de Vire, of which the caput baroniae was in the bailiwick of Conde. The family, with the cognomen "Noble Vassy," survived in the Duchy till the close of the last century, for Louis Marie, Comte de Vassy and Marquis de Brece, Alexandre, Comte de Vassy, and Louis, Vicomte de Vassy, are all named in the Assembly of the Nobles in 1789. They did not bear the cross of the English De Vescis, but D'argent a trois tourteaux de sable.
The "Sires de Waacie," spoken of by Wace at the battle of Hastings, were Robert, who in 1086 held a great barony in Northants, Warwick, Lincoln, and Leicester; and Ivo, who does not appear even as a mesne-lord in Domesday. Yet we hear nothing more either of Robert or his possessions, and the whole history of the family centres on Ivo, and Ivo's posterity. Apparently he received no favours from the Conqueror: but William Rufus granted him half the escheated barony of Gilbert Tyson, whose son-in-law or brother-in-law he probably was (see p. 163). Dugdale makes him the brother-in-law, as the husband of Alda, daughter of William Tyson. Be this as it may, he held the castle and honour of Alnwick in Northumberland, among the most famous of the Border strongholds, and transmitted them to his only child, Beatrix. She was the wife of one of the greatest nobles of the realm, Eustace Fitz John, the son of John Monoculus (the one-eyed): and heir to his uncle Serlo, Baron of Burgh and Knaresborough in Yorkshire, and founder of Knaresborough Castle. In addition to these accumulated possessions, Eustace received constant grants of land from Henry I., with whom "he was of intimate Familiarity, and withall a Person of great Wisdom and singular Judgement in Council." It is admitted that this sagacious prince chose his favourites well; and Eustace's star never waned as long as he was on the throne; but on his death, "when Stephen began to reign, the Scene was altered." The new King, remembering the affection he had borne to his old master, suspected him of favouring the cause of the Empress Maud, and as a measure of precaution, deprived him of the custody of Bamborough and other Northern castles. This indignity drove Eustace into open rebellion: he delivered up Alnwick to David of Scotland, then invading England; joined him on his march South, and accepted several manors as his reward from David's son, Henry Earl of Huntingdon. Yet within two years his peace had been made with Stephen, and he reappears as Lord of Burgh and Knaresborough, and acting as Justice Itinerant in Yorkshire with Walter Espec. He was slain on the expedition into Wales in 1157; "a great and aged Man, and of the cheifest English Peers, most eminent for his wealth and wisdom." He had founded three monasteries; Malton and Walton in Yorkshire, and Alnwick in Northumberland, besides splendid gifts to other religious houses. He was twice married, each time to a great heiress; and by each left a son from whom sprung an illustrious baronial house. His second wife, Agnes, was the daughter of the Constable of Chester, William Fitz Nigel, Baron of Halton, and by her he was ancestor of the De Lacies, Earls of Lincoln and Constables of Chester, the Claverings, Constables, &c.
Beatrix de Vescy is said by Dugdale to have had two sons, William and Geoffrey, but, according to another account, died before giving birth to William, who, like Macduff,
"Was from his mother's womb
At all events we hear no more of Geoffrey. William de Vesci, who took her name on succeeding to her barony, was for twelve years Viscount of Northumberland, and in 1174 among the chief commanders at the victory of Alnwick, when the Scottish King was taken prisoner. He married Burga de Estouteville, dowered with the town of Langton, and was the father of Eustace de Vesci, one of the twenty-five celebrated Conservators of Magna Charta, and foremost from the first in the ranks of the revolted barons. He had, in very truth, as strong a personal ground of quarrel with the King as a man could possibly have. "King John, continuing his wonted licentiousness, thereby provoked many of his Nobles to wrath * * * Hearing that this Eustace de Vesci had a very beautiful Lady, but far distant from Court; earnestly studying how to accomplish his desires towards her, sitting at Table with her Husband, and seeing a Ring on his Finger, he laid hold of it, and told him, That he had such another Stone, which he resolved to set in Gold, in that very form: And, having thus got the Ring, presently sent it to her, in her Husband's name; by that Token conjuring her, if ever she expected to see him alive, to come speedily unto him.
"She therefore, upon sight of the Ring, gave credit to the Messenger, and came with all expedition. But so it hapned, That her Husband casually riding out, met her on the Road, and marvelling much to see her there, asked, What the matter was; And when he understood how they were both deluded, resolved to find out a Courtezan, and put her in apparel to personate his Lady. All which was accordingly done." The King was delighted with his easy conquest, and according to his usual villainous practice, took an early opportunity of expatiating upon her charms to her supposed husband; whereupon Eustace had the satisfaction of informing him that the Lady was none of his, but a Courtezan dressed in her clothes. The King was so enraged that he threatened to take his life; and Eustace had to fly in hot haste to the North, where he put his retainers under arms, and being joined by other indignant and derided husbands with their following, was soon strong enough to declare open war. He was slain the very year after the sealing of the Great Charter at Runnymede, by an accidental arrow shot from the ramparts of Barnard Castle, as he was surveying its defences by the side of Alexander King of Scotland, his wife's brother. She was Margaret, daughter of William the Lion, who, according to the Melrose Chronicle, had given her in marriage to Eustace in 1193. Neither she nor her sister Isabel de Ros were born in wedlock; but Fordun states that her father called upon the nobles assembled at Clackmannan to swear fealty to her as his true heir, unless he should have a son by his Queen Ermengard. The claim her grandson put forward to the crown of Scotland was, however, summarily dismissed.
The two grandsons of this beautiful Margaret were the last of their race. The elder, John, first Lord Vesci, was deeply engaged in the baronial war under Simon de Montfort, summoned to his parliament after the battle of Lewes, and taken prisoner at the rout of Evesham. When he was reinstated in his honours and possessions by the Dictum de Kenilworth, he assumed the cross, and joined the Christian army in the Holy Land. While there, he and another crusader, Sir Richard Grey, went to visit the monks of Mount Carmel, and among them found a countryman of their own, Ralph Fresborn of Northumberland, who after doing good service in the Crusade, had entered the monastery in pursuance of a vow. They persuaded him to return home with them, and establish a house of his Order in his native county, for which De Vesci offered him any site he might select. For some time he wandered about in search of one, till, struck by a chance likeness to Mount Carmel in the adjoining hill, he built his monastery—some say with his own hands—in De Vesci's park at Hulne, near Alnwick. It was the first Carmelite convent ever founded in this country.
Lord Vesci died in 1288, childless, though he had been twice married. His first wife, Mary, sister of the Earl of Marche and Angouleme, was a daughter of the haughty house that boasted
Sur le reste du monde que l'or sur l'argent:"
the second, Isabel de Beaumont, a kinswoman of Queen Eleanor's. His brother William, who succeeded, was Justice of all the Royal forests beyond Trent; a man of about forty, "of great esteem with Edward I.;" who, in the following year, named him Justiciary of Ireland, where he held some lands of his mother's inheritance. Here, in 1292, he was solemnly accused, "in open Court, in the City of Dublin, in the presence of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, of conspiring against the King's authority, and challenged to single combat by John Fitz Thomas. The matter was brought before the King's court, where De Vesci returned the challenge; and the King decreed that the combat should take place before him at Westminster, "on the morrow after the Feast of the Holy Trinity. At which time, this our William de Vesci came thither accordingly, mounted upon his great Horse covered; as also compleatly armed with Lance, Dagger, Coat of Mail, and other Military Accoutrements, and proffered himself to the fight: But Fitz Thomas, though called, appeared not."
This last De Vesci died five years afterwards, without an heir. He had lost his one son, John, early in life, before the marriage arranged for him could take place:—a marriage that was to connect him with the Queen through her kinswoman Clementia, whom the prospective father-in-law had covenanted to endow at the church-door with lands of the value of 200 a year. But Lord Vesci left behind him a bastarison, born in Ireland, and styled William of Kildare, and had designated him lis his successor. The boy being then a mere child, he enfeoffed the Prince-Bishop of Durham, Anthony Beke, of his castle and barony of Alnwick, and all his other lands—Hoton Buscel in Yorkshire alone excepted—"with trust and special confidence that he should retain them for the behoof of William de Vesci his Bastard son, at that time young, until he came of full age, and then pass them to him." But Anthony Beke, "irritated by some slanderous words that he heard the Bastard spoke of him," avenged himself by selling Alnwick to Henry de Percy in 1309; and the defrauded bastard obtained nothing but Hoton-Buscel. He was summoned to parliament in 1312, but fell two years afterwards at Bannockburn, leaving no posterity.
Failing heirs of his body, the Yorkshire estate reverted, under his father's will, to those to whom it belonged in right of blood; and came to Gilbert de Aton, descended from Margerie, daughter of Warine de Vesci, the younger brother of Eustace. He had summons as Lord Vesci 18 Ed. II.; but his line, again, failed in an heiress, and the title passed through the Bromfletes to the Cliffords, Earls of Cumberland.
The Irish Viscounts de Vesci descend from a branch of the house seated at Newlands, co. Durham, of which the connection with the parent stock is variously given, and very uncertain. One of the family, having killed his adversary in a duel, is said to have fled across the Border, and taken to wife a daughter of Kerr of Cessford. From Scotland he removed to the North of Ireland, about the time of Elizabeth, and, settling there, was succeeded by three generations of churchmen. His son held an Irish living; his grandson was Archbishop of Tuam; and his great-grandson first Bishop of Killaloe, and then of Ossory. Before taking orders, the latter had received a baronetcy in 1698. Sir John, second baronet, who was seated in the Queen's County, further obtained an Irish peerage as Baron of Knapton in 1750; and his son Thomas was created Viscount de Vesci of Abbey-Leix, Queen's Co., in 1776.
Another line of Vescys existed at High Coniscliffe, co. Durham, where John Veyse, in 1436, held lands under a free rent of Lord Greystoke. The last of his descendants, John Vescy, died 1723, leaving two daughters, neither of whom were married. They bore the coat of the De Vescis differenced in tincture. The name, as Vasey, is still pretty common in the neighbourhood of their old home.
- ↑"In the Mem. Aut. Norm. viii. 28, William Vassy and Robert his brother appear in a charter, which is afterwards quoted p. 143, giving their names as Waace—apparently the same name as the poet's."—Edgar Taylor.
- ↑ Hornby, in his Remarks on Dugdale's Baronage, denies her existence. "Our Northern King at Arms has, like Jupiter, hatched out of his own brain yet another daughter of King William of Scotland, and given her a name, a husband, and a son. He calls her Agnes, married to William de Vesci, and by whom she had a son, William; but I dare believe that neither Agnes nor her husband were ever seen in this world, or will appear at the resurrection." In point of fact the only mistake made is in the Christian names.
- ↑"Thus pence are like shillings; and as Carmel had a Hill, with the river Kishon running under it, a Forest beside it, and the Midland-sea some three Miles from it; so this had the River Alne, a Park adjoining, and. the German-sea at the same Distance.
"But Northumberland was but a cold Carmel for these Friars; who soon got themselves warmer Nests, in Kent, Essex, London, and where not? multiplying more in England than in any other Country."—Fuller.