Malet, William (d.1071) (DNB00)

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MALET or MALLET, WILLIAM (d. 1071), of Graville in Normandy, companion of the Conqueror, is described by Guy of Amiens (Carmen de Hastingæ Prælio, l. 587) as ‘quidam partim Normannus et Anglus.’ Several points of evidence seem to justify Mr. Freeman's conjecture (Norman Conquest, 1875, iii. 779) that his mother was an Englishwoman, and a sister of Godgifu or Godiva and of Thorold the sheriff. This relationship, if true, would help to account for the unsupported tradition noticed by Mr. Freeman (ib. 1877, ii. 679), that Ælfgifu, the wife of Ælfgar of Mercia, and the mother of Aldgyth, Harold's queen, was a sister of William Malet. In most readings of Guy of Amiens' poem Malet is described as ‘Compater Heraldi,’ a term which is unexplained except by a conjecture of Mr. Planché (The Conqueror and his Companions, ii. 95) that Malet and Harold may have been joint sponsors of Duke William's daughter, Adela, who was born in 1062, the year of Harold's visit to Normandy. But in Michel's ‘Chron. Anglo-Normandes,’ iii. 27, ed. 1836, a different reading of this line, viz. ‘Compatit Heraldi,’ is given, which, if correct, would dispose of the difficulty. The exploits of ‘Guillaume ki l'en dit Mallet’ at the battle of Hastings are celebrated by Wace in his ‘Roman de Rou’ (ll. 13472–84), and he was entrusted by William with the duty of burying the body of Harold. After the capture of York by William in 1068, Malet received the office of sheriff, and was appointed with two other Norman captains to command the garrison of the castle of York. In the following months, with the help of the king, he repelled the attacks of the enemy, but he shared in the defeat of the Norman garrison in 1069, when a strong force of Danes and English attacked and captured the city, and he was himself carried off as a prisoner. Subsequently it seems that he recovered his freedom and re-entered the service of William, although he lost his sheriffdom and some of his lands. It is almost certain, from the references to him in the second book of ‘Domesday,’ that Malet died in the campaign against Hereward in 1071 (Norman Conquest, 1876, iv. 787–90, note W). Malet received large grants of land in England, chiefly in the eastern counties, and at his principal lordship at Eye in Suffolk he built a castle and established a market. He is noticed in ‘Domesday’ as having been one of the tenants in chief, and in a charter granted by William I to the church of St. Martin's-le-Grand in London he signs as ‘Willielmus Malet, Princeps,’ after the bishops, abbots, and earls. By his wife Hesilia Crispin, a descendant in the fourth generation of Rollo, first duke of Normandy, Malet left two sons, Robert [q. v.] and Gilbert, and a daughter Beatrice. His brother Durand also settled in England, and from him the Lincolnshire branches of the family are descended.

[The whole subject of William Malet's English connections is discussed by Mr. Freeman in note PP, iii. 776 et seq. of his History of the Norman Conquest, 1875, and there are many other references to him in vols. iii. iv. and v. passim. See also, besides the authorities quoted above, William of Poitiers' Gesta Guillelmi Ducis Normannorum, in the collection of Hist. Normann. Scriptores, Paris, 1619, p. 204; Benoit de Ste. More in Michel's Chron. Anglo-Normandes, iii. 214, ed. 1836; Ordericus Vitalis's Eccles. Hist. in the Hist. Normann. Scriptores, pp. 502, 512, 513; Sir H. Ellis's Introduction to Domesday Book, i. 252, 449, ii. 183; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 110–11; Notices of an English Branch of the Malet Family, by Arthur Malet, compiled largely from documents and family papers.]

C. E. M.