The Family of Philippe d'Aubigny

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The family of
Philippe d'Aubigny

This is the full text of an article by Trevor Labey, published in the 1991 edition of the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Sir Philippe de Carteret

Although it has been accepted for many years that Sir Philippe de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen in the 13th century, married Marguerite d'Aubigny, niece and heir of Philippe d'Aubigny, a former Warden of the Channel Islands, a detailed account of Philippe's ancestry and, therefore, that of the descendants of Sir Philippe de Carteret and Marguerite d'Aubigny, remains absent from local works of reference.

While J Bertrand Payne made a cursory sketch of Philippe's family in An Armorial of Jersey in 1865, his comments have not been scrutinised in the light of later research nor their veracity established. A close examination of standard works soon brings the true story to life, one which I hope will be of some use to those with an interest in the ancestry of the island's family.

Robert de Todeni

As Sir Maurice Powicke averred in Volume 4 of the Oxford History of England, Philippe did indeed descend from a great baronial house. The founder of this house was Robert de Todeni, or Tosny, one of the companions of WIlliam I at the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. As a result of his distinguished service William conferred upon Robert a total of eighty fiefs stretched over Yorkshire, Essex, Suffolk, Cambaridge, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire. It was in the latter county that Robert established his principal stronghold, built on the site of what is now Belvoir Castle, and so named by Robert from the 'fair view' that it commanded over the surrounding countryside.

One can only marvel at how this formidable Norman noble kept in command of such a vast and sporadic estate. One must remember that in the eleventh century the only means of transport between counties were days of wearisome riding along ancient Roman roads, dirt tracks and winding forest lanes, where the unsuspecting traveller could be ambushed or lost so easily. The possible fraudulence or negligence of distant, feudal subordinates must have been a constant source of concern, over and above the uneasy anxiety which many of the newly founded Norman lords must have felt at the possibility of insurrection amongst the defeated English.

At some time Robert founded a priory for monks near Belvoir, which he subsequently annexed to Saint Alban's Abbey in Hertfordshire, an ancient house founded nearly three hundred years before, in 793, by King Offa. He married Adela by whom he had five children, the eldest son William succeeding him at his death in 1088.

William d'Aubigny

William was the first of his family to bear the surname d'Aubigny, possibly in recognition of his birthplace. [1]

Aubigné is a town situated in Ille et Vilaine in Britanny within the bishopric of Rennes. Despite the inalienably Norman nature of his father, William was dubbed Brito or the Briton, [2] a useful guide in distinguishing him from his namesake William d'Aubigny Pincerna, ancestor of the Earls of Arundel. As his parents' principal heir he confirmed their grants to the Church of Our Lady at Belvoir in the chapter house of Saint Alban's Abbey, in the hope, it is said, of being admitted to the fraternity.

His military skills came to the fore during Henry I's war against his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy. The king's objective was to consolidate his position in the face of counter-claims to the throne made by Curthose and supported by some of the Norman nobility. The most decisive battle of this campaign was that fought on the 28th of September 1106, at Tinchebrai, a castle held by William of Mortain thirty-five miles from Avranches. Although the battle may have been somethig of a foregone conclusion, the Duke being greatly outnumbered by Henry's forces, the precise role of the cavalry and infantry in the victory has always been a source of controversy amongst those military historians who have studied it. Among the controversies, however, nothing has surfaced that contradicts the laudatory remarks made by Matthew Paris: ' this encounter chiefly deserveth honour the most heroic William de Albine, the Briton, who with his sword, broke through the enemy and terminated the battle...'

However, one has to consider Paris's witness in the light of any immediate influences which might have prejudiced his account. For example, one must remember that Paris not only wrote over a hundred years after the battle, but also from the cells and library of Saint Alban's Abbey, a house which, as we have seen, had benefited from the patronage of the d'Aubigny family of Belvoir Castle. Nevertheless, it is known that William was present at the battle in the company of Duke Alain Fergent, while the honours enjoyed by William later in his life do suggest the munificence of a grateful monarch.

He enjoyed not only great favour at the king's court but, in 1130, was an itinerant justice. His corresponding loyalty, however, must have been sorely tested when Henry nominated his daughter Matilda as his heir to the throne of England. Married to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V in 1114, she became her father's immediate successor after the death, in 1120 of her only brother in the White Ship. Widowed in 1125, she was accepted by a reluctant nobility only when, on the 1st of January 1127, she swore to marry within her father's realm, a promise she broke at her marriage to Geoggrey Martel, son of Fulk, Count of Anjou, at Le Mans in 1128. Despite the obvious territorial gains and political advantages of this marriage, fears among the barons of foreign domination split asunder loyalty to the Crown. William d'Aubigny remained faithful to the wishes of his former king and master, falling foul of the new King Stephen and, as a direct consequence, forfeiting his lands to Ranulph, Earl of Chester. Having enjoyed such a prominence at court and the wealth his estates must have produces, such a massive loss would have bitten deeply, causing anger, humiliation and furious division within the family itself. Luckily their impoverishment was to be short-lived for the disloyalty of the Earl of Chester gave William the opportunity to have his lands restored later in Stephen's reign.

William's wife

The identity of William d'Aubigny's wife, or wives, remains an open question. Sir William Dugdale, a seventeenth-century antiquarian, in his Baronage of England, or an Historical Account on the Lives and most Memorable Actions of our English Nobility, of 1675, asserts that she was Maud de St Liz, daughter of Simon de St Liz, Earl of Huntingdon, by his wife Maud, daughter of his English predecessor Waltheof and Judith his wife, niece of William I. However, sixty years after the publication of this work a number of letters appeared in print, attributed to a publisher by the name of Charles Hornby, which proved that this marriage, while not impossible, was very improbable. it is known, however, that William was survived by two adult sons: William, his principal heir at Belvoir, and Ralph. [3]

Around 1166 the younger son, Ralph, obtained fifteen knight's fiefs from his brother William. Obviously this would have formed the basis of Ralph's estate and income. By 1182 he was in a position to pay two hundred marks for the hand of Sibella de Valoines, widow of RObert de Ros, Baron of Hamlake and Werke. From her first marriage SIbella had a son Everard de Ros whose great-grandson, Robert de Ros, married Isabel d'Aubigny, sole heiress of Belvoir Castle and great-great-granddaughter of WIlliam d'Aubigny Brito.

The capture of the Holy City of Jerusalem by Salah ad DIn, Muslim Sultan of Egypt and Syria, on the 2nd of October, 1187, shocked the whole of Christendom into immediate action. Amongst those stirred to defend and recapture the sacred city was Ralph d'Aubigny, who must have left the country some months before the new king RIchard I, the Lionheart. Indded, had Ralph delayed and departed with the King he might have lived to tell the tale. Despite the rumours and reports cir4culating in Christian Europe, travellers would have spared little time in analysing the competence of the Latin authorities in Israel. Their main preoccupation would have been recounting or exaggerating the execution of two hundred Templars and Hospitallers and the enslavement of the foot soldiers by the 'barbarous' Salah ad Din.

A little nearer Jerusalem many of the Christians might have looked upon the failure of the campaign as an act of divine vengeance. During 1189 and 1190 the Christians were under the command of Guy de Lusignan, crowned King of Jerusalem by his wife Sybil, widow of Baldwin IV and mother of the six year old Baldwin V, who has died so mysteriously in 1186, possibly from poisoning at Guy's hands. By rushing fervently off to fight a holy war against infidels Ralph d'Aubigny, like to many junior sons of boble families, became embroiled in an ill-fated campaign and, consequently, was one of the casualties at Guy's ineffectual siege of the strategic port of 'Akko, or Acre, in north-western Israel in 1190. One cannot help feeling a certain empathy with his wife Sibella, whose thoughts and fears on watching her husband's departure to the Holy Lands are all too imaginable.

Ralph's heir

When news of his death reached England Ralph's principal heir would have been his eldest son Philippe, future Warden of the Channel Islands. Philippe was not only an exceptional military leader but a man of considerable intelligence whose intellectual integrity and fine judgement enabled him to see beyond both the seductive lure of royal favours and personal power, and to remain in sight of the nation's ultimate interests. Made Governor of Ludlow Castle in Shropshire in 1206; he was first appointed Warden of the Channel Islands in 1212. [4]

His further appointment as Governor of Bridgnorth Castle and territorial grants from King John did not blind him to the necessity of limiting the Crown's powers within the clauses of the Magna Carta, to which he was both witness and signatory in 1215. However, he managed to keep loyal to the Crown and nation during the ensuing civil war when many sided with King Philip Augustus of France. Assisting at the coronation of Henry III he became 'leader of the militia of God', co-commander of the forces protecting England from French attack, with headquarters at Rye. Philippe defended the Channel approaches on both land and sea, creating a virtually impregnable barrier against the incursions of Prince Louis of France. For a while he lost control of the Channel Islands to the rogue Eustace the Monk but, as the sequence of events turned in their favour, Philippe and his forces defeated Eustace, a tale which is probably too well known to warrant repetition here.

Philippe also made a significant acontribution to the royalist attack on the Roman castle at Lincoln on the 20th of May, 1217. The defeat of Louis' allies delivered such an overwhelming blow to French hopes that it precipitated the final collapse of their assault on England. Once peace was restored Philippe turned his energies to the secular instruction of the young king, Henry III, as his tutor, an honour which he must have found particularly rewarding for his pupil is known to have been intellectually gifted.

In 1222 Philippe, like his father before him, set off for the Holy Lands to take part in what became the Fifth Crusade, his Wardenship of the Channel Islands being bestowed upon his short-lived lieutenant and nephew, also Philippe d'Aubigny. A description of Philippe's journey to Jerusalem has survived in a letter written by him to Ralph, Earl of Chester and Lincoln. Leaving Marseilles the crusaders set off for Damietta in the Nile Delta, perhaps unaware that it had fallen to the Mameluke Sultan of Egypt, al-Malek al-Muaddham, in the September of 1221. On approaching the city they were met by the Sultan's ships and thus had to make a hasty retreat to 'Akko. Once established amongst the Christian forces there is good reason to suppose that his astute intelligence and valour on the field earned him the respect of both parties in the conflict.

In 1229 his political skills were called upon in the negotiations prelusive to the treaty between the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, and al-Muaddham's successor, al-Kamil. However, seven years later Philippe met his death in the renewed histilities after the failure of that very same treaty, the body of this remarkable man being laid to rest in the hallowed grounds of the CHurch of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1236. Over seven hundred and fifty years later the stone which commemorates his burial can still be seen, lying beneath a metal grid installed in 1926 to protect this precious relic from further erosion.

No children

Despite his marriage to the widow of William de Baketot around 1200, Philippe died childless. At first his principal heir had been his nephew, Philippe, but he also died shortly before December 1224, his successor being his younger brother Ralph. Their father was Ralph d'Aubigny who is known to have married Maude de Montsorel, daughter of Cuillaume de Montsorel, Seigneur of Landal in the bishopric of Dol in Brittany. We know that Philippe d'Aubigny junior, was old enough to occupy the post of Warden of the Channel Islands in his uncle's abse3nce, but his brother Ralph may have been his jhunior by a space of some years, still being recorded as a minor on the 12th of October, 1229. The precise time at which their father, Ralph senior, died remains a mystery. His lands were taken into the hands of the King at the beginning of the century, his cousin William d'Aubigny being awarded custory of this family's principal home, South Ingleby in Lincolnshire, in 1206 In 1227 we see that Philippe the Crusader was ordered to give Maude de Montsorel, widow of his brother Ralph, her dower in Ingleby. From these facts we can only surmise that between 1206 and 1227 Ralph d'Aubigny had reached maturity, married Maude de Montsorel and then died somewhat prematurely. On the 7th of December, 1234, Ralph d'Aubigny, their son, was old enough to do homage for South Petherton in Somerset, given to him by his uncle, the crusader Philippe d'Aubigny. After Philippe's death two years later the further possessions of Barrington and Chillington in theat county would have been added to the young Ralph's estate over and above Ingleby and the Seigneury of Landal in Brittany.

Ralph, like his uncle, served under Henry III in Gascony in 1253, having been knighted after 1247. His service to the Crown continued under Edward I in Wales in 1277, he being summoned to attend the King at Shrewsbury as late as 1282. His heir at the time of his death shortly before 1291 was his son by his marriage to Isabel, Sir Philippe d'Aubigny. However, Philippe survived his father by only a few years, dying around 1294, the entirety of his estate passing to his younger brother Sir Helié d'Aubigny. I would appear that links with Brittany were retained throughout this period, Sir Helié having to be naturalised in 1295 as a result of his foreign birth, perhaps in the manor house at Landal. From Sir Helié d'Aubigny or Daubeney, first Baron Daubeney of the old creation, was descended Lord Henry Daubeney, created Earl of Bridgewater on the 19th of July, 1538. At his death in 1548 the Earldom became extinct,. The most senior representative today of William d'Aubigny, Brito of Belvoir Castle, is the current Duke of Rutland, William's heir by the marriage of Sir Robert Manners, MP, to Eleanor de Ros in the fifteenth century. The castle is one of the few properties to have been conveyed by an unbroken hereditary succession over the vast span of nine hundred and twenty years.

de Carteret family

We can now turn our attention to the claim of our own de Carteret family in relation to htis extraordinary clan of Norman nobles and Crusaders. If Marguerite d'Aubigny, wife of Sir Philippe de Carteret, was the neive and heir of Philippe d'Aubigny, Warden of the Channel Islands, it is only logical to assume that she was the daughter of Ralph d'Aubigny and his Breton wife Maude de Montsorel [5], for it was their children who became Philippe's sole heirs at his death in 1246. The primary source for this information is A History of the Noble House of Carteret, privately printed in 1756 for Lord John Carteret, first Earl Granville. The author of this work, Arthur Collins, was a highly esteemed chronicler of the peditrees of the English nobility with a reputation for meticulous, if not laborious, accuracy, a quality which earned him the praise of the eminent historian Thomas Carlyle who described him as 'a very meritorious man'.

Nevertheless one is still compelled to fathom the likelihood of such a marriage from every angle. The most convincing evidence in its favour are the arms of the de Carteret family: those four, familiar silver diamonds horizontally joined on a red ground, the very same 'four fusils in fesse, argent' of the d'Aubignys. Surely such arms could have been borne only by co-heirs of the d'Aubigny blood with a well-stablished title to that privilege. Secondly. one must remember that Marguerite's father-in-law, also Sir Philippe de Carteret, was placed in the custody of her uncle in 1212 when he was held as ransom for the loyalty of his father, Sir Renaud de Carteret. He later accompanied Philippe d'Aubigny's pupil, Henry III, in his campaign in Brittany in 1230.

Could the king's mind have been swung by the recommendations of his former tutor of a man well known to him as his prisoner of eighteen years before? Admittedly, after the loss of their continental possessions in 1204 the de Carterets would have fallen short of the expectations of the more senior d'Aubignys of Belvoir Castle, at a time when marriages at that level of society had more to do with property and influence than personal feeling. However, a more junior branch of the family may have been only too pleased to approve such a match, espacially if the family's character was already so well reported by its head. Indeed, as a female, Marguerite's meagre legacy may have made her seem more equal to her future groom. Lastly, let us also remember that the marriage of the head of the de Carteret family to daughters of the Crown's representative in the island, or members of their retinue, was quite a common occurence. Margaret Harliston and Rachel Poulet spring t6o mind immediately. As the island's leading family the de Carterets' counsel, influence and co-operation were indispensable to the Crown's deputy. [6]

Notes and references

These footnotes have been inserted by Jerripedia editor Mike Bisson, who made an extensive study of the d'Aubigny and d'Aubigné families in the 1990s and whose take on the ancestry of Marguerite d'Aubigné can be found in the Jerripedia article Who were Marguerite d'Aubigne's ancestors? Mike comments:' It is noteworthy that in an article which occupied seven pages of the 1991 Société Jersiaise bulletin on the subject of Philippe d'Aubigné's family, only ten lines or so were actually relevant to the relationships in question. Trevor Labey has, in my opinion, identified the d'Aubigné (he wrongly calls them d'Aubigny) relationships correctly, but his article unfortunately does little to help with the arguments over Marguerite d'Aubigné's immidiate ancestry. The assumption that her great-grandfather William, was the son of Robert de Todeni (Tosny/Toeni) and adopted the name d'Aubigny because of his birthplace is not supported by genealogical sources.

  1. William was born in St Aubin d'Aubigné, in Brittany. It is important to distinguish this village from St Martin d'Aubigny in Normandy from where others in this history originated.
  2. Brito did not mean Briton, but Breton, distinguishing William d'Aubigné, from Brittany, from his brother-in-law William d'Aubigny, whose family seat was in Normandy
  3. This is correct
  4. He was Warden of Guernsey from 1206, but not appointed for Jersey until 1212
  5. This is a sweeping assumption. If she went to Jersey and met Sir Philippe de Carteret, it is more likely that she was the daughter of Oliver d'Aubigné, who is known to have lived in Jersey and deputised for his brother Philippe. There is no record of Ralph ever visiting Jersey
  6. The marriage of Sir Philippe de Carteret to Marguerite d'Aubigné is not questioned. If Philippe is considered a suitable husband for Marguerite, it seems irrelevant whether her father was Ralph or Oliver d'Aubigné
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