1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mandeville, Geoffrey de

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MANDEVILLE, GEOFFREY DE (d. 1144), earl of Essex, succeeded his father, William, as constable of the Tower of London in or shortly before 1130. Though a great Essex landowner, he played no conspicuous part in history till 1140, when Stephen created him earl of Essex in reward for his services against the empress Matilda. After the defeat and capture of Stephen at Lincoln (1141) the earl deserted to Matilda, but before the end of the year, learning that Stephen’s release was imminent, returned to his original allegiance. In 1142 he was again intriguing with the empress; but before he could openly join her cause he was detected and deprived of his castles by the king. In 1143–1144 Geoffrey maintained himself as a rebel and a bandit in the fen-country, using the Isle of Ely and Ramsey Abbey as his headquarters. He was besieged by Stephen in the fens, and met his death in September 1144 in consequence of a wound received in a skirmish. His career is interesting for two reasons. The charters which he extorted from Stephen and Matilda illustrate the peculiar form taken by the ambitions of English feudatories. The most important concessions are grants of offices and jurisdictions which had the effect of making Mandeville a viceroy with full powers in Essex, Middlesex and London, and Hertfordshire. His career as an outlaw exemplifies the worst excesses of the anarchy which prevailed in some parts of England during the civil wars of 1140–1147, and it is probable that the deeds of Mandeville inspired the rhetorical description, in the Peterborough Chronicle of this period, when “men said openly that Christ and his saints were asleep.”

See J. H. Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, a Study of the Anarchy (London, 1892).  (H. W. C. D.)