Fitzjohn, Eustace (DNB00)

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FITZJOHN, EUSTACE (d. 1157), judge and constable of Chester, was the son of John de Burgh, and the nephew and heir of Serlo de Burgh, lord of Knaresborough, and the founder of its castle (Dugdale, Monasticon, vi. 957–72; cf., however, Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xii. 83–4). Like his brother, Pain Fitzjohn [q. v.], he became attached to the court of Henry I. He witnessed some charters of 1133. In the only extant Pipe Roll of Henry's reign he appears as acting as justice itinerant in the north in conjunction with Walter Espec. He won Henry's special favour (Gesta Stephani, p. 35, Engl. Hist. Soc.), received grants that made him very powerful in Yorkshire, and was reputed to be a man of great wisdom (Ailred of Rievaulx in Twysden, Decem Scriptores, c. 343; cf. William of Newburgh, i. 108, Rolls Ser.) Dugdale gives from manuscript sources a list of Henry's donations to Eustace (Baronage, i. 91). He was also governor of Bamburgh Castle (John of Hexham in Twysden, Decem Scriptores, c. 261). He witnessed the charter of Archbishop Thurstan to Beverley (Fœdera, i. 10). On the death of Henry, Fitzjohn remained faithful to the cause of Matilda, and was in consequence taken into custody and deprived of his governorship of Bamburgh (John of Hexham). He joined David, king of Scots, when that king invaded the north in 1138 (Gesta Stephani, p. 35). He surrendered Alnwick Castle to David (Richard of Hexham in Twysden, c. 319), and held out against Stephen in his own castle of Malton (Henry of Huntingdon, Hist. Anglorum, p. 261, Rolls Ser.) He was present at the Battle of the Standard (Ailred, c. 343), where he and his followers fought alongside the men of ‘Cumberland’ and Teviotdale in the second line of King David's host. In the latter part of Stephen's reign he lived quietly in the north under the government of the Scottish king, by whose grants his possessions were confirmed.

Fitzjohn was a lavish patron of the church and the special friend of new orders of regulars. In 1131 he witnessed the charter by which his colleague, Walter Espec [q. v.], founded Rievaulx, the first Cistercian house established in Yorkshire (Monasticon, v. 281). When the first monks of Fountains were in the direst distress and had given away their last loaves in charity, Eustace's timely present of a load of bread from Knaresborough was looked on as little less than a miracle (Walbran, i. 50). He also made two gifts of lands to Fountains (ib. i. 55, 57). In 1147 he founded the abbey of Alnwick for Premonstratensian canons. This was the first house of that order in England, and was erected only two years after the order was founded (Monasticon, vi. 867–8). Fitzjohn was a friend of St. Gilbert of Sempringham [q. v.], and established two of the earliest houses for the mixed convents of canons and nuns called, after their founder, the Gilbertines. Between 1147 and 1154 Fitzjohn, in conjunction with his second wife, Agnes, founded a Gilbertine house at Watton in Yorkshire (ib. vi. 954–7), and another at Old Malton in the same county (ib. vi. 970–4). A few years later his grants to Malton were confirmed (Thirty-first Report of Deputy-Keeper of Records, p. 3). He also made grants to the monks of St. Peter's, Gloucester, the church of Flamborough, and to the Austin canons of Bridlington (Monasticon, vi. 286).

Fitzjohn made two rich marriages. His first wife was Beatrice, daughter and heiress of Ivo de Vesci. She brought him Alnwick and Malton (ib. vi. 868). She died at the birth of his son by her, William (ib. vi. 956), who adopted the name of Vescy, and was active in the public service during the reign of Henry II (Eyton, Court and Itinerary of Henry II, passim), and was sheriff of Northumberland between the fourth and sixteenth years of Henry II (Thirty-first Report of Deputy-Keeper of Records, p. 320). He was the ancestor of the Barons de Vescy. His son Eustace was prominent among the northern barons, whose revolt from John led to the signing of Magna Charta. Fitzjohn's second wife was Agnes, daughter and heiress of William, baron of Halton and constable of Chester (Monast. vi. 955), one of the leading lords of that palatinate. He obtained from Earl Ranulph II of Chester a grant of his father-in-law's estates and titles. He was recognised in the grant as leading counsellor to the earl, ‘above all the nobles of that country.’ In his new capacity he took part in Henry II's first disastrous expedition into Wales, and was slain (July 1157) in the unequal fight when the king's army fell into an ambush at Basingwerk. He was then an old man (Will. Newburgh, i. 108). By his second wife he left a son, Richard Fitzeustace, the ancestor of the Claverings and the Lacies.

[Besides the chronicles quoted in the article, Dugdale's Baronage, i. 90–1, largely ‘ex vet. Cartulario penes Car. Fairfax de Menstan in Com. Ebor.,’ which gives a pedigree of the Vescies; Dugdale's Monasticon, vol. vi.; Walbran's Memorials of Fountains (Surtees Soc.); Foss's Judges of England, i. 115–17; Eyton's Itinerary of Henry II; Thirty-first Report of Deputy-Keeper of Public Records.]

T. F. T.