William de Fors (d.1260) (DNB00)

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WILLIAM de Fors or de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle (d. 1260), was the son of William de Fors, earl of Albemarle (d. 1242) [q. v.], and of his wife Avelina of Montfichet. He was born before 1220, and married Christina, younger daughter of Alan, lord of Galloway. On Alan's death in 1235 (Dunstaple Annals, p. 143) his fief fell, according to feudal law, to his three daughters. These were, besides Christina, Helen, wife of Roger de Quincy, earl of Winchester (1195?–1265) [see under Quincy, Saer de, d. 1219], and Devorguila, wife of John de Baliol (d. 1269) [q. v.] However, the fierce and barbarous Galwegians preferred to be ruled by Thomas of Galloway, Alan's bastard son. Finally Alexander II took up the cause of Alan's daughters. In April 1236 he invaded Galloway and defeated the partisans of Thomas. He divided the land among the three coheirs (Matt. Paris, Chron. Majora, iii. 365). Henceforth, until Christina's death in 1246, William virtually ruled a third of Galloway, though his possession was by no means undisturbed.

On his father's death in 1242 William, who was already a knight and of full age, was at once recognised as Earl of Albemarle, paying 100l. as his relief. In 1246 he signed the letter of remonstrance addressed by the English magnates to Innocent IV (Fœdera, i. 265). In the same year a long quarrel between him and the abbot of Fountains was brought to a satisfactory conclusion (Dunstaple Annals, p. 170). In 1248 he made a rich second marriage with Isabella de Redvers (b. 1237), daughter of Baldwin de Redvers, earl of Devon and lord of the Isle of Wight (Tewkesbury Annals, pp. 104, 137). In August 1255 he took part in an embassy to Scotland (Fœdera, i. 325). From 28 Oct. 1255 till his death he was sheriff of Cumberland and keeper of Carlisle Castle, accounting personally for the shire at Michaelmas 1259 (List of Sheriffs, P. R. O. Lists, p. 26).

Albemarle took a prominent share in the Mad parliament at Oxford in 1258. He was appointed one of the king's standing council of fifteen (Burton Annals, p. 449), and was also one of the twenty-four elected to treat of the aid to be given to the king (ib. p. 450). In the former capacity he witnessed the royal promise to agree to the projected reforms (ib. p. 456). He was active against Henry III's Poitevin brothers-in-law (Dunstaple Annals, p. 210), and signed the letter which the confederates addressed to Pope Alexander IV complaining of them (Burton Annals, p. 460). On 20 May 1259 he assisted to ratify the peace with France (Fœdera, i. 384). In 1260 he was again in France on some legal business (Flores Hist. ii. 450). Early in June he died at Amiens (ib. ii. 450; Ann. Londin. p. 54; Excerpta e Rot. Fin. ii. 327). He was buried at the family foundation, Thornton Priory. His heart was buried in the presbytery of Meaux Abbey, the other family house, next to the tomb of his daughter (Chron. de Melsa, ii. 106). He made bequests to the canons of Thornton, and to the monks of Meaux. William of Albemarle must be distinguished from another William de Fortibus, lord of Shepton Mallet, who died in 1259, leaving widow Matilda and four daughters as coheirs (Calendarium Genealogicum, pp. 89–90).

By Isabella de Redvers William had five children. The sons died early, and eventually his daughter Avelina (b. 20 Jan. 1259) became heiress of the whole estate, increased in 1268 by the acquisition of a third of the lands of Richard de Montfichet [q. v.], brother of the elder Avelina, her grandmother (Cal. Genealogicum, p. 127). Besides this Isabella, her mother, had become in 1262 sole heiress of the earldom of Devon and the lordship of the Isle of Wight [see Redvers, Family of]. Avelina thus became the richest heiress in the kingdom. On 6 April 1269 she was married to Henry III's younger son Edmund, earl of Lancaster [see Lancaster, Edmund, Earl of]. She died in November 1274 (Wykes, p. 261) without issue, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where her beautiful effigy still remains in the presbytery.

Her mother, who survived until 10 Nov. 1293, is generally described as Countess of Devon and Albemarle and Lady of the Isle of Wight. Her disposal of her immense property led to prolonged disputes between her heir Hugh de Courtenay, who obtained part of the Redvers estates and was in 1335 created Earl of Devon, and Edward I, to whom she surrendered the Isle of Wight and other possessions (see Red Book of the Exchequer, ed. Hall, vol. iii. pp. cccxii–xv; Round, ‘Surrender of the Isle of Wight’ in Geneal. Mag. for May 1897).

[Matt. Paris's Chron. Majora, Ann. Dunstaple, Tewkesbury, Burton, Wykes, and Osney in Ann. Monastici, Red Book of the Exchequer, Chron. de Melsa (all in Rolls Ser.); Rymer's Fœdera, Calendarium Genealogicum, Excerpta e Rot. Finium, Cal. Rot. Cartarum (all Record Comm.); Rot. Parl. vol. i.; Cal. Patent Rolls; Dugdale's Monasticon, v.; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 64–6; Doyle's Official Baronage, i, 27; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, i. 56, ii. 102; Poulson's Hist. of Holderness, i. 33–9.]

T. F. T.