Gloucester, Miles de (DNB00)
|←Glisson, Francis||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 21
Gloucester, Miles de
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GLOUCESTER, MILES de, Earl of Hereford (d. 1143), was the son and heir of Walter de Gloucester, hereditary castellan of Gloucester and sheriff of the shire, by Berta, his wife. Walter's father, Roger ‘de Pistres,’ had been sheriff before him, but was dead in 1086 (Domesday Book). Walter was in favour with Henry I, three of whose charters to him are extant (Duchy of Lancaster: Royal Charters). He held the post of a royal constable. Early in 1121 his son Miles was given the hand of Sibyl, daughter of Bernard de Neufmarché, the conqueror of Brecknock, with the reversion of her father's possessions (ib.) In the Pipe Roll of 1130 Walter is found to have been succeeded by his son, having died (or retired to Llanthony Abbey, according to its chronicle) in or before 1129 (Rot. Pip. 31 Hen. I). Miles was now (i.e. from 1128 at least) sheriff of Gloucestershire and Staffordshire, a justice itinerant, and a justice of the forest. He had also (though the fact has been doubted) been granted his father's office of constable by a special charter (Dugdale MSS.) In conjunction with Pain Fitzjohn [see Fitzjohn, Pain], sheriff of Herefordshire and Shropshire, he ruled the whole Welsh border ‘from the Severn to the sea’ (Gesta Stephani, p. 17).
On the accession of Stephen he set himself to secure the allegiance of these two lords-marchers, who at length, on receiving a safe-conduct and obtaining all they asked for, did him homage (ib.) It was at Reading that they met the king early in 1136. This we learn from two charters there tested, one of which was printed by Madox (History of the Exchequer, p. 135), by which Stephen confirms to Miles, ‘sicut baroni et justiciario meo,’ the shrievalty of Gloucestershire, the constableship of Gloucester Castle, and the ‘honour’ of Brecknock. Miles is next found attending the Easter court at Westminster as one of the royal constables (Rymer, Fœdera, new ed. i. 16), and, shortly after, the Oxford council in the same capacity (Rich. Hexham, p. 149). He was then despatched to the aid of the widow of Richard Fitz-Gilbert [see Clare, Richard de, (d. 1136?)], who was beleaguered in her castle by the Welsh and whom he gallantly rescued (Gesta, p. 13). Meanwhile he had married his son and heir, Roger, to Cecily, daughter of Pain Fitzjohn, who inherited the bulk of her father's possessions (Duchy Charters). Two years later (1138) he received, in his official capacity, King Stephen at Gloucester in May (Cont. Flor. Wig. ii. 105). He has been said to have renounced his allegiance a few weeks later (Angevin Kings, i. 295), but careful investigation will show that he was with Stephen in August (1138) at the siege of Shrewsbury, and that his defection did not take place till 1139. In February (1139) Stephen gave Gloucester Abbey to Miles's kinsman Gilbert Foliot [q. v.] at his request (ib. ii. 114). In the summer (1139), however, he joined his lord, the Earl of Gloucester, in inviting the empress to England (ib. ii. 110, 117). On her arrival he met her at Bristol, welcomed her to Gloucester, recognised her as his rightful sovereign, and became thenceforth her ardent supporter. She at once gave him St. Briavels Castle and the Forest of Dean. His first achievement on her behalf was to relieve Brian Fitz-Count [q. v.] who was blockaded at Wallingford (Gesta, p. 59). In November (1139) he again advanced from Gloucester and attacked and burnt Worcester (Cont. Flor. Wig. p. 119). He also captured the castles of Winchcombe, Cerne, and Hereford (Gesta, p. 60). Meanwhile he was deprived by Stephen of his office of constable (Cont. Flor. Wig. p. 121). He took part (Gesta, p. 69) in the victory at Lincoln (2 Feb. 1141), and on the consequent triumph of the empress he accompanied her in her progress, and was one of her three chief followers on her entry (2 March) into Winchester (Cont. Flor. Wig. p. 130; Will. Malm. p. 743). We find him with her at Reading when advancing on London (Add. Cart. pp. 19, 576), and on reaching St. Albans she bestowed on him a house at Westminster (Duchy Charters, No. 16). He was among those who fled with her from London shortly after, and it was on his advice, when they reached Gloucester, that she ventured back to Oxford (Cont. Flor. Wig. p. 132). There, on 25 July (1141), she bestowed on him the town and castle of Hereford and made him earl of that shire (Fœdera, i. 14), in avowed consideration of his faithful service. With singular unanimity hostile chroniclers testify to his devotion to her cause (Gesta, p. 60). He even boasted that she had lived at his expense throughout her stay in England (Cont. Flor. Wig. p. 133). As ‘Earl Miles’ he now accompanied her to Winchester (Gesta, p. 79), and on the rout of her forces (14 Sept.) he escaped thence, with the greatest difficulty, to Gloucester, where he arrived ‘exhausted, alone, and with scarcely a rag to his back’ (Cont. Flor. Wig. p. 135). Towards the end of the year (1141) we find him at Bristol making a grant to Llanthony Priory in the presence of the empress and the Earl of Gloucester (Mon. Angl. vi. 137). In 1142 he is proved by charters to have been with the empress at Oxford and to have received her permission to hold Abergavenny Castle of Brian Fitz-Count (Duchy Charters, No. 17). It is probably to the summer of this year that we must assign a formal deed of alliance between the Earl of Gloucester and himself, as a hostage for the performance of which he gave the earl his son Mahel. In 1143 his pressing want of money wherewith to pay his troops led him to demand large sums from the church lands. The Bishop of Hereford withstood his demands, and, on the earl invading his lands, excommunicated him and his followers, and laid the diocese under interdict (Gesta, p. 102; Mon. Angl. vi. (1), 133). The earl's kinsman, the Abbot of Gloucester, appealed to the legate on his behalf against the bishop's severity (Foliot, Letters, No. 3). On Christmas-eve of this year (1143) the earl was slain while hunting by an arrow shot at a deer (Sym. Durh. ii. 315; Gervase, i. 126; Gesta, pp. 16, 95, 103). A dispute at once arose for possession of his body between the canons of Llanthony and the monks of Gloucester. The case was heard before the bishops of Worcester, Hereford, and St. David's, and was terminated by a compromise on 28 Dec. (1143). The earl was then buried at Llanthony (Gloucester Cartulary, i. lxxv; Foliot, Letters, No. 65) in the chapter-house.
He had transferred the original house of Austin canons at Llanthony in Monmouthshire to a site on the south side of Gloucester in 1136. This house was thenceforth known as ‘Llanthonia Secunda’ (Mon. Angl. vi. (1), 127, 132).
The earl was succeeded by his son and heir, Roger, who bore hatred to the church for his father's excommunication, and compelled the prior of Llanthony, as a friend of the Bishop of Hereford, to resign (ib. p. 133). He even troubled his kinsman, Gilbert Foliot, on his becoming bishop of Hereford (Foliot, Letters, No. 6), and was by him, after three warnings, formally excommunicated (ib. No. 78). Subsequently, however (temp. Stephen), he founded Flaxley Abbey, a Cistercian house, within the Forest of Dean (Flaxley Cartulary), possibly on the spot of his father's death. The Gloucester ‘Cartulary’ also shows him as confirming the gifts of his predecessor. In the early part of 1144 we find him at Devizes with the empress (Duchy Charters, No. 19), and he is again found there with her son in 1149 (Brit. Arch. Assoc. xl. 146 [for ‘Bedford’ read ‘Hereford’]), with whom he marched northwards to Carlisle (Gervase). Another duchy deed (Box A) records his formal alliance with Earl William of Gloucester. On the accession of Henry (1154) he resisted his authority, but was persuaded (circa March 1155) by the Bishop of Hereford to surrender his castles (Gervase), and thereupon received a charter confirming him in almost all his father's possessions (Cart. 1 John m. 6). He was with the king at Bridgnorth in July (Mon. Angl. v. 483) and at Salisbury soon after (Journ. Arch. Inst. No. 61, p. 312). Dying without issue in the same year (1155) his earldom became extinct, but the shrievalty of Hereford and Gloucester passed to his brother Walter. On the death of the latter and two other brothers without issue the family possessions passed to their sisters, Bertha bringing Abergavenny to Braose, but Margaret, the eldest sister, taking the bulk (Liber Niger) to the Bohuns afterwards (1199), in recognition of their descent from Miles, earls of Hereford, and constables of England.[Domesday Book (Record Commission); Rymer's Fœdera (ib.); Pipe Roll, 31 Hen. I (ib.); Rotuli Chartarum (ib.); Cartulary of St. Peter's, Gloucester (Rolls Ser.); Symeon of Durham (ib.); Gesta Stephani in vol. ii. of Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, &c. (ib.); Gervase of Canterbury (ib.); Florence of Worcester (Engl. Hist. Soc.); William of Malmesbury (ib.); Round's Ancient Charters (Pipe Roll Soc.); Dugdale's MSS. (Bodl. Library); Additional Charters (Brit. Mus.); Duchy of Lancaster Charters (Public Record Office); Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum; Madox's History of the Exchequer; Hearne's Liber Niger; Gilbert Foliot's Letters (Giles's Patres Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ); Crawley-Boevey's Cartulary of Flaxley Abbey; Norgate's England under the Angevin Kings; Ellis's Landholders of Gloucestershire (Bristol and Glouc. Arch. Soc. vol. iv.); Archæological Journal; Journal of British Arch. Assoc.]