Fitzhamon, Robert (DNB00)
|←Fitzgibbon, John||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 19
FITZHAMON, ROBERT (d. 1107), conqueror of Glamorgan, belonged to a great family whose ancestor, Richard, was either the son or nephew of Rollo, and which since the tenth century had possessed the lordships of Thorigny, Creully, Mézy, and Evrecy in Lower Normandy (Roman de Rou, ed. Andresen, 1. 4037 sq.) Richard's son, 'Haim as Denz' (Haimo Dentatus), was one of the rebels slain at Val ès Dunes in 1047 (ib. 1. 4057 sq.), and Robert is generally described as his son (Pezet, Les Barons de Creully, p. 50). But William of Malmesbury expressly states that Robert was the grandson of this Haimo (Gesta Regum, bk. iii. p. 393, Engl. Hist. Soc.) If so, Robert's father must have been some other Haimo, probably the 'Haimo vicecomes' mentioned in the 'Domesday Book' as holding lands in chief in Kent and Surrey, and who presided as sheriff over the great suit between Odo and Lanfranc in the Kentish shire moot (Andresen, Roman de Rou, Anmerkungen, ii. 768 ; cf. Le Prévost's note to his edition of Ordericus Vitalis, iii. 14, 'grace aux renseignements de M. Stapleton ;' cf. also Anselm, Epistolæ, iv. 57, complaining of the outrages of Hamon's followers). Those who regard Haimo Dentatus as the grandfather of Robert, the conqueror of Glamorgan, suppose that the former had, besides 'Haimo vicecomes,' another son called Robert Fitzhamon, to whom the earlier notices of the name really refer. In that case, Haimo the sheriff was probably the father of Haimo Dapifer, a tenant-in-chief in Essex, though Mr. Ellis (Introduction to Domesday Book, i. 432) identifies the two Haimos. There is, however, no direct evidence for this, and it is quite certain that 'Hamon the steward' was brother, though hardly, as Professor Freeman (William Rufus, ii. 82-3) says, elder brother, of Robert Fitzhamon (William of Jumièges in Duchesne, Hist. Norm. Scriptt. Ant. 306 c.) Robert held all the family estates, and Haimo was still alive in 1112 (Clark in Arch. Journal, xxxv. 3). It is therefore not quite certain whether the earlier notices of Robert Fitzhamon refer to the nephew or the uncle ; but in any case a Robert Fitzhamon is mentioned in Bayeux charters of 1064 and 1074 (ib. xxxv. 2). Between 1049 and 1066 the same person assented as lord to the foundation of the priory of St. Gabriel (De la Rue, Essais Historiques sur la Ville de Caen, ii. 409 ; cf. Nouveaux Essais, ii. 39 ; Pezet, p. 23). In 1074 he attested a charter of William I (Memoires de la Societe des Antiquaires de la Normandie, xxx. 702). There is no certain mention of him in 'Domesday Book,' despite the appearance of the two Hamons, his kinsmen.
When the feudal party under Odo of Bayeux revolted in 1088, Robert is mentioned among the select band of 'legitimi et maturi barones' who supported the royal cause (Ord. Vit. ed. Le Prévost, iii. 273). His Kentish connections may have given him special grievances against Odo as earl of Kent, ward for his services William assigned him great estates, particularly the lands mostly in Gloucestershire, but partly in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall, which had passed from Brictric to Queen Matilda (Cont. Wace in Ellis, ii. 55, and Chron. Angl. Norm. i. 73, which is manifestly wrong in making William I grantor of Brictric's lands to Fitzhamon ; see Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv. 762-3). These Rufus had for a time allowed his brother Henry to possess, but about 1090 he transferred them to Fitzhamon (Ord. Vit. iii. 350). It is possible that the Gloucestershire estates were now erected into an honour (Dugdale, Monasticon, ii. 60). Robert's marriage with Sibyl (Ord. Vit. iii. 118), daughter of Roger of Montgomery and sister of Robert of Bellême [q. v.], must have still further improved his position on the Welsh marches.
The next few years were marked by the definitive Norman conquest of South Wales. But while authentic history records the settlements of Bernard of Neufmarché in Brecheiniog, and of Arnulf of Montgomery in Dyfed and Ceredigion, the history of Fitzhamon's conquest of Glamorgan has to be constructed out of its results, and the untrustworthy, though circumstantial, legend that cannot be traced further back than to fifteenth or sixteenth century pedigree-mongers. In 1080 the building of Cardiff, subsequently the chief castle of Fitzhamon's lordship, was begun (Brut y Tywysogion, sub anno, Rolls Ser.), and this event may mark the beginning of Fitzhamon's conquests. If we can rely on the authenticity of the charter of 1086 (Hist. Glouc. i. 334), by which William I confirmed to Abbot Serlo Fitzhamon's grant of Llancarvan to the abbey of Gloucester, there can be no doubt but that the end of William's reign saw the beginning of the conquest. But probability suggests that it was not until after he had obtained the honour of Gloucester that he was able to win so large a territory as Glamorgan. The legend fits in with this, for it tells us how about 1088 Eineon [q. v.], son of Collwyn, went to London and 'agreed with Robert Fitzhamon, lord of Corbeil in France and cousin of the Red King, to come to the assistance of Iestin, prince of Morganwg.' 'Twelve other honourable knights' were persuaded by Robert to accompany him. Uniting his forces with Iestin, Robert defeated and slew Rhys ab Tewdwr at Hirwaun Wrgan, received from Iestin his recompense in sterling gold, and returned towards London. But Eineon, disappointed by Iestin's treachery of Iestin's daughter, besought them to return. At Mynydd Bychan, near Cardiff, Iestin was put to flight and despoiled of his country. 'Robert Fitzhamon and his men took for themselves the best of the vale and the rich lands, and allotted to Eineon the uplands.' Robert himself, 'their prince,' took the government of all the country and the castles of Cardiff, Trevuvered, and Kenfig, with the lands belonging to them. The rest of the valley between the Taff and the Neath he divided among his twelve companions. Such is the story as told in the so-called Gwentian 'Brut y Tywysogion,' the manuscript of which is no older than the middle of the sixteenth century. The same story is repeated, with more detail and with long genealogical accounts of the descendants of Fitzhamon's twelve followers, in Powel's 'History of Cambria,' first published in 1584, on the authority of Sir Edward Stradling, described as 'a skilful and studious gentleman of that country,' but whose more than doubtful pedigree it was a main purpose of the story to exalt. There is in some ways a still fuller account in Rhys Meyrick's 'Book of Glamorganshire Antiquities' (1578). The 'Gwentian Brut's' authority is singularly small, and the details of the pedigrees in the later versions are of no authority at all. Rhys ab Tewdwr was really slain by Bernard of Neufmarché and the French of Brecheiniog (Brut y Tywysogion, sub anno 1091 ; but the date of Florence of Worcester (ii. 31), 1093, is better; cf. freeman, William Rufus, ii. 91 ). But his death was followed by the French conquests of Dyved and Ceredigion, which must surely have succeeded the occupation of Glamorgan. Fitzhamon's grants to English churches and the inheritance which his daughter brought to her husband equally prove Fitzhamon to have been the conqueror of Glamorgan. There is almost contemporary proof of the existence of some at least of his twelve followers, and for their possession of the lordships assigned to them in the legend (e.g. Liber Landavensis, p. 27, for Pagan of Turberville, Maurice of London, and Robert of St. Quentin ; cf. Hist. Glouc. passim). We can gather from the records of the next generation that Glamorgan was organised into what was afterwards called a lordship marcher, with institutions and government based on those of an English county ('Vicecomes Glamorgansciræ,' Hist. Glouc. i. 347 ; 'Comitatus de Cardiff,' ib. ; Liber Landavensis, pp. 27-8, speaks of 'Vicecomes de Cardiff' when Robert of Gloucester was still alive). Except perhaps in name, Fitzhamon founded in Wales a county palatine as completely organised as the earldom of Pembroke.
Fitzhamon was a liberal benefactor to the church. He so increased the wealth and importance of Tewkesbury Abbey that he was regarded as its second founder. Hitherto Tewkesbury had been a cell of Cranborne in Dorsetshire, but in the reign of William Rufus (Ord. Vit. iii. 15), or in 1102 (Ann. Theok. in Ann. Mon. i. 44), the abbot Giraldus transferred himself, with the greater part of the fraternity, to the grand new minster that was now rising under Robert's fostering care on the banks of the Severn. William of Malmesbury can hardly find words to express the splendour of the buildings and the charity of the monks (Gesta Regum, bk. v. p. 625 ; cf. Gesta Pont. p. 295). The major part of the endowments was taken from Robert's Welsh conquest. Among the churches Fitzhamon handed over to Tewkesbury were the parish church of St. Mary's, Cardiff, the chapel of Cardiff Castle, and the famous British monastery at Lantwit. He also granted the monks of Tewkesbury tithes of all his domain revenues in Cardiff, and of all the territories of himself and his barons throughout Wales (Dugdale, Monasticon, ii. 66, 81). He was only less liberal to the great abbey of St. Peter's, Gloucester, to which he granted the church of Llancarvan with some adjoining lands, and for which he witnessed a grant of Henry I of the tithe of venison in the Forest of Dean and the lands beyond the Severn (Hist. Glouc. i. 93, 122, 223, 334, ii. 50, 51, 177, 301). Traces of Fitzhamon's concessions still remain in the patronage of many Glamorganshire churches belonging to the chapter of Gloucester.
Little reference is made to Fitzhamon by chroniclers of the time of William Rufus, but he was in the close confidence of the king until his death. Before William's fatal bunting expedition on 2 Aug. 1100, Fitzhamon, then in attendance at Winchester, had reported to him the ominous dream of the foreign monk, and his representations at least postponed William's hunting until after dinner (Will. Malm. bk. iv. p. 507). When William's corpse was discovered Fitzhamon was one of the barons who stood around it in tears. Fitzhamon's new mantle covered the corpse on its last journey to the cathedral at Winchester (Geoffry Gaimar, ed. Wright, ll. 6357-96, Caxton Soc. The details are perhaps mythical, some others are certainly false ; the whole account shows the impossibility of Pezet's notion that Fitzhamon was away on crusade with Robert). But no former differences about the lands of Queen Matilda prevented Fitzhamon and his brother Hamon the steward from immediately attaching themselves with an equal zeal to Henry I. Both are among the witnesses of the letter despatched by Henry imploring Anselm to return from exile (Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 103). Fitzhamon was among the few magnates who strenuously adhered to Henry when the mass of the baronage openly or secretly favoured the cause of Robert of Normandy (Will. Malm. bk. v. p. 620). When in 1101 Robert landed in Hampshire and approached Henry's army at Alton, Fitzhamon and other barons who held estates both of the king and the duke procured by their mediation peace between the brothers (Wace, l. 10432 sq. ed. Andresen; cf. Ord. Vit. iv. 199). In March 1103 he was one of Henry's representatives in negotiating an alliance with Robert, count of Flanders (Fœdera, i. 7, Record ed.) He also witnessed the Christmas charter of Henry, which assigned punishment to the false managers (ib. i. 12). When war again broke out, Fitzhamon still adhered to Henry, and busied himself in Normandy in a partisan warfare against the friends of Robert. Early in 1105 he was surprised by Robert's troops from Bayeux and Caen, and forced to take refuge in the tower of the church of Secqueville-en-Bessin. The church was set on fire, and he was compelled to descend a prisoner. For some time he was imprisoned at Bayeux, where the governor, Gontier d'Aulnay, protected him from the fury of the mob, which regarded him as a traitor to the duke (Wace, ll. 11125-60, ed. Andresen; cf. Chronique de Normandie in Bouquet, xiii. 250-1). This news at once brought Henry to Normandy, where he landed at Barfleur just before Easter (Ord. Vit. iv. 204), and at once besieged Bayeux to rescue his faithful follower. Gontier sought to win the king's favour by surrendering Fitzhamon (ib. iv. 219), but valiantly defended the town, which Henry finally reduced to ashes, not sparing even the cathedral. The guilt of this sacrilege was, it was believed, shared by Henry and Fitzhamon (Will. Malm. bk. v. p. 625 ; Wace, l. 11161 sq. ; cf. De Toustain, Essai historique sur la prise et l'iincendie de Bayeux, Caen, 1861, who satisfactorily establishes the date as May 1105 ; cf. Le Prévost's note to Ord. VIt. iv. 219). So detested did the house of Fitzhamon become in Bayeux, that a generation later a long resistance was made to the appointment of his son-in-law's bastard to the bishopric (Hermant, Hist. du Diocèse de Bayeux, pp. 167-9; Chigouesnel, Nouvelle Histoire de Bayeux, p. 131). Yet Fitzhamon held large estates under Bayeux, and was hereditary standard-bearer to the church of St. Mary there (Mémoires de la Soc. des Ant. de la Normandie, viii. 426).
Soon after Fitzhamon bought from Robert of Saint Remi the prisoners taken at Bayeux, and intrigued so successfully with those of them that came from Caen that they treacherously procured the surrender of Caen to Henry (Wace, l. 11259; Bouquet, xiii. 251). Fitzhamon next served in the siege of Falaise, where he was struck by a lance on the forehead with such severity that his faculties became deranged (Will. Malm. bk. v. p. 625; cf. Gwentian Brut, p. 93). He survived, however, until March 1107. He was buried in the chapter-house of Tewkesbury Abbey, whence his body was in 1241 transferred to the church and placed on the left side of the high altar (Ann. Theok. in Ann. Mon. i. 120). In 1397 the surviving rich chapel of stone was erected over the founder's tomb. The 'vast pillars and mysterious front of the still surviving minster' (Freeman, Will. Rufus, ii. 84) still testify to Fitzhamon's munificence. He may have built the older parts of the castle of Creully (Pezet).
By his wife, Sibyl of Montgomery, a benefactress of Ramsey (Cart. Ramsey, ii. 274, Rolls Ser.), Fitzhamon left no son, and his possessions passed, with the hand of his daughter Mabel, to Henry I's favourite bastard, Robert, under whom Gloucester first became an earldom (Will. Malm. Hist. Nov. bk. i.; Robert of Thorigny in Duchesne, 306 c, who erroneously calls her Sibyl and her mother Mabel; Ord. Vit., iii. 318, calls her Matilda). Mabel was probably Fitzhamon's only daughter (Wykes in Ann. Mon. iv. 22), and certainly inherited all her father's estates, as well as those of Hamon the steward, her uncle (ROBRobert of Thorigny, 306 c). The Tewkesbury tradition was, however, that she had three younger sisters, of whom Cecily became abbess of Shaftesbury, Hawyse abbess of the nuns' minster at Winchester, and Amice the wife of the 'Count of Brittany' (Dugdale, Monasticon, ii. 60, 452, 473).
[Ordericus Vitalis, ed. Le Prévost (Société de l'Histoire de France); William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum and Hist. Novella (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Wace's Roman de Rou, ed. Andresen; G. Gaimar's Estorie des Engles (Caxton Soc.); History and Chartulary of St. Peter's, Gloucester (Rolls Ser.); Dugdale's Monasticon, vol. ii. ed. Caley, Bandinel, and Ellis; Gwentian Brut, pp. 69-77 (Cambrian Archæological Association); Powel's Hist. of Cambria, ed. 1584, pp. 118-41; Merrick's Book of Glamorganshire Antiquities, privately printed by Sir T. Phillips (1825); Freeman's Norman Conquest, ii. 244, iv. 762-4, v. 820; Freeman's William Rufus, i. 62, 197, ii. 79-89, 613-15; G. T. Clark's Land of Morgan, reprinted from Archæological Journal, xxxiv. 11-39, xxxv. 1-4; Pezet's Les Barons de Creully, pp. 21-52 (Bayeux, 1854); De Toustain's Essai historique sur la prise et l'incendie de Bayeux, 1105.]