Randulf (d.1129?) (DNB00)

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RANDULF, called Le Meschin, Earl of Chester (d. 1129?), was the son and heir of Randulf, called ‘de Brichessart’ (from Briquessart, his family seat), hereditary vicomte of the Bessin in Normandy, by Maud, sister of Hugh ‘of Avranches,’ earl of Chester [q. v.] He is chiefly remarkable for the confusion that has prevailed as to his name, his titles, and his wife. Though he is very generally termed ‘de Meschines’ (de Micenis), he bore the name ‘Meschin’ only. According to Dugdale, he came over with the Conqueror, and received the city of Carlisle, of which he became earl. Freeman asserted that he became earl of Cumberland; but, as Mr. Eyton rightly points out (Addit. MS. 31930, f. 171), Randulf was never ‘earl,’ but merely ‘lord’ of the district. All this confusion can be traced through Dugdale to Matthew of Westminster (see an excellent note by Mr. Luard in Matt. Paris, Chronica Majora, ii. 8), and to the documents of Wetherall Priory, printed in the ‘Monasticon’ (iii. 583–4), and including the so-called ‘Chronicon Cumbriæ,’ a special source of error. The documents, however, there numbered iii, v, and xv, are probably genuine in substance, and prove that Randulf held the castle (and barony) of Appleby, together with the ‘potestas’ (as he terms it) of Carlisle. Henry I, in these documents, speaks of the latter as an ‘honour’ which Randulf had held; and an inquisition in the ‘Testa de Nevill’ (p. 379) speaks of him as ‘quondam dominus Cumbriæ.’ An interesting charter of King David of Scotland refers to Randulf holding Carlisle and his ‘terra de Cumberland’ (Cott. Chart. xviii. 45). There is nothing to show how he obtained, or how he lost, this position.

Another important fief came to Randulf by his marriage with Lucy, widow of Roger FitzGerold (de Roumare), a great heiress, and he thereby became the largest landowner in Lindsey, as is shown by ‘The Lindsey Survey’ (Cott. MS. Claudius, C. 5), drawn up about the middle of the reign of Henry I. Hearne's edition of this record in his ‘Liber Niger Scaccarii’ placed the words ‘Comes Lincolniæ’ after Randulf's name, which has led Stapleton and other authorities, down to Mr. Chester Waters (Survey of Lindsey, p. 12), to believe that he held that title; but Mr. Greenstreet's facsimile edition proves that the words were an interlineation by a much later hand. A series of nine writs, however, from Henry I (Mon. Angl. vol. vi. 1272–1275) prove that he was addressed as the principal layman in the county. The parentage of Randulf's wife, Lucy, has been and is still hotly disputed. The old-fashioned view, found in Dugdale (Baronage, i. 10), and largely based on the pseudo-Ingulf and his continuator ‘Peter of Blois,’ was that she was daughter and heiress of Ælfgar, earl of Mercia, and wife successively to Yvo Tailbois, Roger FitzGerold, and Randulf ‘Meschin.’ As this was seen to be physically impossible, modern genealogists, such as Mr. J. G. Nichols, Mr. Stapleton, and Mr. Hinde, held that there were really two Lucys, mother and daughter, of whom the former was wife of Yvo, and the latter of Roger and Randulf. This view was first advanced in the ‘Annals and Antiquities of Lacock Abbey’ (1835, pp. 65–79), and was emphatically accepted by Mr. Freeman (Norman Conquest, 2nd edit. iii. 778–9, iv. [1871], 472). The whole controversy is summed up by the writer of this article in the ‘Academy,’ 17 Dec. 1887 (cf. 19 Nov., 26 Nov., and 3 Dec. 1887). In a subsequent series of papers on ‘The Countess Lucy’ (Genealogist [new ser.], vol. v.), Mr. R. E. G. Kirk advanced the theory that there was but one Lucy, who was daughter to Thorold, the sheriff, and wife of the above three husbands. It can only be said that her parentage is not yet proved, but that she was a great heiress, who was certainly widow of Roger, and probably of Yvo previously, when Randulf married her.

Orderic, who styles Randulf ‘Baiocensis,’ states that he (unless it was his father) supported Henry I in 1106 (Hist. Eccl. iv. 226), and led the van at the battle of Tinchebrai (ib. p. 229). He adhered to the king again in the struggle of 1119 (ib. p. 346), and, later in the reign, being entrusted with the castle of Evreux, took part on Henry's behalf in the fight at Borg-Théroude on 26 March 1124 (ib. pp. 453, 456). Meanwhile, on the death of his cousin Richard, earl of Chester, who was drowned in the White ship in 1120, he obtained the succession to his earldom, giving the crown the lands of his stepson, William de Roumare (ib. p. 442). His first appearance, probably, as earl was at the Epiphany council of 1121 (Geoffrey de Mandeville, p. 429). Mr. Luard points out in his instructive footnote (Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. ii. 8) that the statement as to Randulf obtaining the earldom of Chester in exchange for that of Carlisle, though adopted by Dugdale and those who follow him from Matthew of Westminster, can be traced to a mere marginal note on one of the manuscripts which has proved a fertile source of error. His career as Earl of Chester seems to have been uneventful, save that in 1123 he was sent over with the Earl of Gloucester to secure the safety of Normandy, then threatened by Fulk of Anjou (Sym. Dunelm. ii. 267). He is said by Dugdale to have died in 1129, and he was certainly dead before the pipe roll of 31 Henry I (Mich. 1130).

Besides his son and heir Randulf [q. v.], he had a daughter Alice, wife of Richard FitzGilbert (de Clare), and mother of Gilbert, first earl of Hertford (Gesta Stephani, p. 13). He had also a younger brother, William Meschin, who appears in the ‘Lindsey Survey’ by that name, and who had received a fief there out of forfeited estates (Waters, p. 12). He had also been enfeoffed in Cumberland by Randulf, and acquired the honour of Skipton in Yorkshire by his marriage with Cecilia, daughter of Robert de Reumilly (Stapleton, p. 34). He had witnessed, with his brother Randulf, a charter of Earl Richard (d. 1120) to St. Werburgh of Chester, and he also witnessed Randulf's own charter to that house (Monasticon, ii. 387). He occurs in the pipe roll of 1130, but was probably dead in or before 1138 (Stapleton). Stapleton asserts that he was made Earl of Cambridge by Stephen (ib.), but this is an error (Round, Feudal England, p. 186). Hugh FitzRanulf, who also figures in the ‘Lindsey Survey,’ was perhaps a younger brother (ib. pp. 184–5)—not a younger son, as alleged (Waters, p. 12)—of the Earl of Chester, in which case he was named after his uncle, Earl Hugh.

[Hinde's Pipe Rolls for Cumberland, &c.; Freeman's Norman Conquest and William Rufus; Archæological Journal; Stapleton's Holy Trinity Priory (in York volume of Arch. Institute); Ordericus Vitalis (ed. Société de l'Histoire de France); Matt. Paris's Chronica Majora, Gesta Stephani (ed. Howlett), and Symeon of Durham (Rolls Ser.); Testa de Nevill, and Pipe Roll of 31 Henry I (Record Comm.); Dugdale's Baronage; Monasticon Anglicanum; Waters's Survey of Lindsey; Greenstreet's Survey of Lindsey (facsimile); Round's Geoffrey de Mandeville and Feudal England; Sitwell's Barons of Pulford, pp. 62, 97; Eyton's MSS. and Cotton Charters (British Museum).]

J. H. R.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.231
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
285 i 19 Randulf, Earl of Chester (d. 1129?): for c. 5 read C. 5
39  for Mericia read Mercia