Robert the Staller (DNB00)

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ROBERT the Staller (fl. 1060), otherwise known as Robert the son of ‘Wimarc,’ derived the latter appellation from his mother, whom William of Poitiers describes as ‘nobilis mulier,’ and whose name suggests Breton origin. He acted as ‘staller’ at the court of Edward the Confessor (Cod. Dipl. Nos. 771, 822, 828, 859, 871, 904, 956, 1338). If he is the ‘Rodbertus regis consanguineus’ who was one of the witnesses to the Waltham Abbey charter, he must have had some claim to kinship with Edward. This is rendered probable by the biographer's description of him (Vita Eadwardi, p. 431) as ‘regalis palatii stabilitor, et ejusdem Regis propinquus,’ standing by the deathbed of Edward. Mr. Freeman queried the ‘propinquus,’ but apparently without cause. Another of these charters mentions Robert's name in a way that implies he was sheriff of Essex. In addition to his other estates Edward granted him the prebend of an outlawed canon of Shrewsbury, which he presented to his son-in-law (Domesday, i. 252 b).

On William's landing in England, Robert, who is described as a native of Normandy, but residing in England, sent to William ‘domino suo et consanguineo,’ says William of Poitiers, warning that Harold was marching south flushed with victory, and that he had better await him behind entrenchments (Norman Conquest, iii. 415–18). The rest of our knowledge of him comes from ‘Domesday,’ which shows us that he was sheriff of Essex under William (Domesday, ii. 98), but dead before the survey (1086). Freeman, in his appendix on ‘Robert and Swegen of Essex’ (Norman Conquest, vol. iv.), has analysed the entries relating to each in ‘Domesday,’ and shown that Robert, while losing some of the estates he had held before the Conquest, obtained fresh ones, especially in Essex. Swegen, his son and heir, succeeded him as sheriff, but lost the appointment before the survey (Domesday, ii. 2 b). He raised a castle at Rayleigh, of which the earthworks remain, and made a vineyard and a park there (ib. p. 43 b). His son and successor, Robert, known like him as ‘De Essex,’ was father of Henry de Essex the constable, who forfeited the family estates for treason in 1163. They then vested in the crown as ‘the honour of Rayleigh.’

[Vita Eadwardi (Rolls Ser.); William of Poitiers; Domesday Book; Kemble's Codex Diplomaticus; Freeman's Norman Conquest.]

J. H. R.