1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Albemarle, Earls and Dukes of

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ALBEMARLE, EARLS AND DUKES OF. The name Albemarle, which now forms the title of the earldom held by the English family of Keppel, is an early variant of the French Aumale (Lat. Alba Marla), other forms being Aubemarle and Aumerle, and is described in the patent of nobility granted in 1696–1697 by William III. to Arnold Joost van Keppel as “a town and territory in the dukedom of Normandy.”

The fief of Aumale (q.v.) was granted by the archbishop of Rouen to Odo of Champagne, brother-in-law of William the Conqueror, who erected it into a countship. On Odo’s death his son Stephen succeeded not only to the countship of Aumale, but to the lordships of Holderness, of Bytham in Lincolnshire, &c., which were subsequently known as the “Fee and Honor of Albemarle.” Stephen, who as a crusader had fought valiantly at Antioch, died about 1127, leaving by his wife Hawise, daughter of Ralph de Mortimer, a son—William of Blois, known as “le Gros.” William, who distinguished himself at the battle of the Standard (1138), and shared with King Stephen in the defeat of Lincoln (1141), married Cicely, daughter of William FitzDuncan, grandson of Malcolm, king of Scotland, who as “lady of Harewood” brought him vast estates. He founded abbeys at Meaux in Holderness and at Thornton, and died in 1179. His elder daughter and heiress Hawise married (1) William de Mandeville, 3rd earl of Essex (d. 1189), (2) William de Fortibus (de Fors, de Fortz or des Forts[1]), (3) Baldwin de Betun or Bethune, all of whom bore the title of earls of Albemarle.

Soon after the death of Baldwin (October 13, 1213), William de Fortibus, Hawise’s son by her second husband, was established by King John in the territories of the countship of Albemarle, and in 1215 the whole of his mother’s estates were formally confirmed to him. He is described by Bishop Stubbs as “a feudal adventurer of the worst type,” and for some time was actively engaged in the struggles of the Norman barons against John and Henry III. He was one of the twenty-five executors of the Great Charter; but in the war that followed sided with John, subsequently changing sides as often as it suited his policy. His object was to revive the independent power of the feudal barons, and he co-operated to this end with Falkes de Breauté (q.v.) and other foreign adventurers established in the country by John. This brought him into conflict with the great justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, and in 1219 he was declared a rebel and excommunicated for attending a forbidden tournament. In 1220 matters were brought to a crisis by his refusal to surrender the two royal castles of Rockingham and Sauvey of which he had been made constable in 1216. Henry III. marched against them in person, the garrisons fled, and they fell without a blow. In the following year, however, Albemarle, in face of further efforts to reduce his power, rose in revolt. He was now again excommunicated by the legate Pandulph at a solemn council held in St Paul’s, and the whole force of the kingdom was set in motion against him, a special scutage-the “scutagium de Bihan”—being voted for this purpose by the Great Council. The capture of his castle of Bytham broke his power; he sought sanctuary and, at Pandulph’s intercession, was pardoned on condition of going for six years to the Holy Land. He remained in England, however, and in 1223 was once more in revolt with Falkes de Breaute, the earl of Chester and other turbulent spirits. A reconciliation was once more patched up; but it was not until the fall of Falkes de Breaute that Albemarle finally settled down as an English noble. In 1225 he witnessed Henry’s third re-issue of the Great Charter; in 1227 he went as ambassador to Antwerp; and in 1230 he accompanied Henry on his expedition to Brittany. In 1241 he set out for the Holy Land, but died at sea, on his way there, on the 26th of March 1242. By his wife Avelina of Montfichet, William left a son, also named William, who married (1) Christina (d. 1246), daughter and co-heiress of Alan, lord of Galloway, (2) in 1248 Isabella de Redvers (1237–1292-3), daughter of Baldwin de Redvers, earl of Devon and lord of the Isle of Wight. He played a conspicuous part in the reign of Henry III., notably in the Mad Parliament of 1258, and died at Amiens in 1260. His widow, Isabella, on the death of her brother Baldwin, 8th earl of Devon, in 1261, called herself countess of Devon. She had two children, Thomas, who died in 1269 unmarried, and Avelina, who married (1269) Edmund Plantagenet, earl of Lancaster, and died without issue in 1274. The “Honor of Albemarle” was claimed, in 1278, by John de Eston, or Aston, as heir of Amicia, younger daughter of William le Gros; but he released his right to the earldom of Albemarle to the crown in exchange for certain lands in Thornton.

The title of Albemarle, thus extinguished, was several times revived before it became attached to the family of its present holders. In 1385 Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, was summoned to padiament as “duke of Albemarle,” but he seems never subsequently to have used the title. In any case this creation became extinct with the death of his son Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, in 1399. In 1411 Thomas Plantagenet, second son of Henry IV., was created earl of Albemarle and duke of Clarence, but at his death at the battle of Beauge (March 22, 1421) these honours became extinct. That of Albemarle was, however, soon revived (c. 1423) in favour of Richard de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, whose title of earl of Aumerle, however, died with him.

In 1660 Charles II. bestowed the title of duke of Albemarle on General Monk (q.v.) Monk’s hereditary claim to this semi-royal peerage was a very shadowy one, being based—as was also his subordinate style of Baron Beauchamp—on his descent from the youngest of the three co-heiresses of Richard, earl of Warwick, and, with yet more remote applicability, on that from Arthur Plantagenet, a natural son of Edward IV. The title became extinct in 1688, on the death of Christopher, 2nd duke of Albemarle.

Finally, as mentioned above, the title of earl of Albemarle was bestowed by William III., without any shadow of hereditary claim, on his Dutch favourite Arnold Joost van Keppel (see below), by whose descendants it is still held. The motive for choosing this title was probably that, apart from its dignified traditions, it avoided the difficulty created by the fact that the Keppels had as yet no territorial possessions in the British Islands.

Arnold Joost van Keppel, 1st earl of Albemarle, and lord of Voorst in Gelderland (c. 1670–1718), son of Oswald van Keppel and his wife Anna Geertruid van Lintello, was born in Holland about 1670. He became page to William III., accompanied him to England in 1688, and was made groom of the bed-chamber and master of the robes in 1695. On the 10th of February 1696/7 he was created earl of Albemarle, Viscount Bury and Baron Ashford. In 1700 William gave him lands of enormous extent in Ireland, but parliament obliged the king to cancel this grant, and William then bestowed on him £50,000. The same year he was made a knight of the Garter. Meanwhile he had served both with the English and Dutch troops, was major-general in 1697, colonel of several regiments and governor of Bois-le-Duc. Of handsome person and engaging disposition, he rivalled Portland, whose jealousy he aroused in the royal favour, possessed William’s full confidence and accompanied him everywhere. In February 1702 he was sent by William. then prostrated with his last illness, to Holland to arrange the coming campaign, and only returned in time to receive William’s last commissions on his deathbed. After the death of the latter, who bequeathed to him 200,000 guilders and some lands, he returned to Holland, took his seat as a noble in the states-general, and was made a general of horse in the Dutch army. He joined the forces of the allies in 1703, was present at Ramillies in 1706 and at Oudenarde in 1708, and distinguished himself at the siege of Lille. He commanded at the siege of Aire in 1710, led Marlborough’s second line in 1711, and was general of the Dutch forces in 1712, being defeated at Denain after the withdrawal of Ormonde and the English forces and taken prisoner. He died on the 30th of May 1718, aged 48. He married Geertruid, daughter of Adam van der Denijn, by whom, besides a daughter, he had a son, William Anne, who succeeded him as 2nd earl of Albemarle.

Of the later earls mention need only be made of the sixth, George Thomas Keppel (1799–1891), British general, second son of the fourth earl, born on the 13th of June 1799. Educated at Westminster School he entered the army as ensign, 14th Foot, in 1815. He joined his regiment in Belgium and took part in the Waterloo campaign and the march to Paris, joined the second battalion in Corfu, and was transferred to the 22nd Foot, with which he served in Mauritius and at the Cape, returning home in 1819, when he was appointed equerry to the duke of Sussex. Promoted to a lieutenancy in the 24th Foot, he was transferred to the 20th Foot, and went to India, where he was aide-de-camp to the marquess of Hastings until his resignation in 1823, when Keppel returned to England, travelling overland through Persia, Moscow and St Petersburg. He published in 1825 an account of his travels, entitled Journey from India to England. He was aide-de-camp to the Marquess Wellesley, lord-lieutenant of Ireland, for two years, was promoted captain in the 62nd Foot, studied in the senior department of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, and in 1827 obtained a half-pay unattached majority. He did not again serve on full pay, but rose to be a general. In 1829 he visited the seat of the Russo-Turkish war and was with the British fleet in Turkish waters. In 1832 he was returned in the Whig interest to the first reformed parliament as member for East Norfolk and sat until 1835. He was private secretary to the premier, Lord John Russell, in 1846, and M.P. for Lymington from 1847 to 1849. He succeeded to the title on the death of his brother in 1851. He died in 1891 and was buried at Quidenham, Norfolk. He wrote an account of a Journey across the Balkans, Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham, and an autobiography entitled Fifty Years of My Life.

See G. E. C(ockayne), Complete Peerage, 8 vols. (London, 1887). For the two Williams de Fortibus, see s.v. Prof. T. F. Tout’s articles in the Dict. of Nat. Biog.

  1. The name was derived from Fors, a commune in the canton of Prahecq in Poitou. It is spelt Forz in a deed of 1233, and the best vernacular form is, according to Thomas Stapleton (Preface to the Liber de Antiquitate, Camden Soc., 1846, p. xxxiv. note), de Fortz.