Only one William d'Aubigny: A new theory about a Norman Baron

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This article by Rosemary Hampton was published in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise in 2009. It is reproduced as published with text highlighted in red to tie in with comments by Mike Bisson at the end

Who was William d'Aubigny?

The name William d'Aubigny occurs frequently in the Norman charters of Henry I. William's brother, Geoffrey, was an ancestor of the Jersey family of de Carteret on the maternal line, and for many years I have been struggling to make sense of this d'Aubigny family tree.

Most historians have argued that there must bave been two contemporary men with the same name, who by coincidence were married to two sisters, Matilda and Cecilia Bigod. They were distinguished by their nicknames, William d'Aubigny the Butler and William d'Aubigny the Breton.

A fresh look at William's life

I have always felt unesasy about this scenario and after thirteen years of careful study I cannot escape the conclusion that perhaps there was only one William d'Aubigny. This article will summarize the conventional view and then explain the alternative theory, to show how the details of the two lives fit surprisingly neatly into a single chronology.

The circumstantial evidence is strong, but several details from contemporary charters leave problems that remain open to question. I will suggest answers to these in the appendix.

The theory of two Williams

The 2004 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography gives detailed trees for two separate Williams, following the idea first suggested in the 1660s by the antiquarian Sir William Dugdale. He realised that William d'Aubigny's descendants were split into two distinct olines, each headed by a son called William.

One branch descended from William d'Aubigny and Matilda Bigod. Their son, known as William d'Aubigny Meschines, made an advantageous marriage to King Henry's young widow and founded the oble line of the earls of Arundel, with lands in Sussex, Norfolk and Normandy. The second branch came from a William d'Aubigny married to Matilda's younger sister, Cecilia. Their eldest son, known as William d'Aubigny Secundus, founded the line based at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, with continental lands in Brittany.

These two branches seemed so distinct that Dugdale argued that there must have been two separate Williams married to the Bigod sisters. Matilda's husband was known as the Butler because of his prestigious post as Royal Butler in the king's court. Matilda's sister was married to a d'Aubigny relation who was known as the Breton because of his lands near Rennes.

Family surnames

Dugdale's theory meets a problem when we look at the use of surnames at this time. These were a recent introduction, as families began to be known by the name of their main manor or castle. The system was still flexible enough that individuals could take a new surname from a different manor to avoid confusion where relatives had the same Christian name. This happened with two of the d'Aubigny nephews, when Roger d'Aubigny took the surname de Mowbray and Geoffrey d'Aubigny changed to de Chauvigny. Why did the two Williams not sort out their surname confusion in the usual manner?

Once we look in detail at the lives of William the Butler and William the Breton it seems more likely that there was just one William d'Aubigny, who lost his first wife Matilda and then marri8ed her younger sister, Cecilia, to keep hold of the sisters' rich heritage of land round Belvoir Castle.

Two sons called William

Dugdale's theory was supported by the fact that the d'Aubigny descendants formed two distinct families. Each branch was headed by a son named William, which suggested that they must have come from two separate fathers. But it was not unknown at this time for two brothers to be given the same Christian name. William d'Aubigny's father, Roger, had two cousins in the de St Sauveur family who were brothers, described as 'William and another William'.

It may be relevant that at about the time of William's marriage to Cecilia she faced the tragedy of losing her older brother William, who drowned with the king's son in the White Ship. Might this be the reason why they would start the second family with another son called William? It may also be relevant that contemporary documents refer to this son as William Secundus or William Junior.

The picture comes together

If we see William d'Aubigny as just one man, the details of his life fit together smoothly like a completed jigsaw. But it is salutary to remember the warning of K S B Keats-Rohan about this distant period of history, that 'no one can claim anything written here as absolute fact'. These are probabilities rather than certainties.

However, we can now at last begin to appreciate this fascinating Norman baron, who became an adventurous crusader, a friend of the king, a renowned military leader, a wealthy landowner, a generous church benefactor and the father of two distinct families.

The families of d'Aubigny and de St Sauveur

William's father was Roger d'Aubigny, the son of a William who held land in Normandy at St Martin d'Aubigny north of Coutances (maps). We shall call him Guillaume to save confusing him with his grandson, and for most of the characters based on the continent we shall use the French version of their names.

Until now Guillaume's ancestry has been unknown, but it seems likely that he was one of the sons of Néel de St Sauveur, the powerful Viscount of the Cotentin. The d'Aubigny Christian names give us a clue. During this period each family preferred to use just a few distinctive names, which continued is use through the generations. Néel (or Nigel) was an unusual name, rarely used at this time except by the families of de St Sauveur and d'Aubigny. These families also shared the key names of Roger and Guillaume. Another link between the families is suggested by the tradition that the village of Aubigny near Falaise originally belonged to the de St Sauveurs before coming to the d'Aubigny family.

Rebellion and exile

A contemporary account suggests that Viscount Néel had a son called Guillaume, who fought with his brother Néel II, at Val es Dunes in 1047. Our Guillaume had married the sister of one of the other rebel leaders, the notorious Grimould de Plessis, who died in chains in Rouen prison. The surviving rebel leaders were exiled to Brittany by the young Duke William, and it seems likely that this was when Guillaume acquired the family's Breton lands, around the village of St Aubin, north of Rennes. At about this time a fortified stronghold had been built just north of St Aubin in a small new parish called Aubigné, which had been carved out of the surrounding larger parishes. This castle is now just a ruin but it was owned by the d'Aubigny family for many generations. With the new custom of naming families after their lands, this seems to have been when the family acquired the surname of d'Aubigny.

Roger, the son of Guillaume, would have been born at about the time of the exile, and possibly acquired the extra Breton name of Méen. Roger chose the Breton name Rualloc for one of his sons, and his descendants used several other Breton names such as Oliver, Elie and Ewen.

Return to the Cotentin

After a few years Duke William allowed the exiles to return, and Guillaume settled on family lands north of Coutances near the village of Le Perron. Perhaps it was he who dedicated the village church to St Aubin, a dedication which not often found in this area.

His headquarters north of Le Perron were at Aubigny, now just a few farmhouses near the village of St Martin d'Aubigny. The distrubution of Guillaume's lands in this area suggests that they were inherited through his wife from the du Plessis family. He also held the du Plessis lands further east, near Falaise and Bayeux.

Lands in England after 1066

It appears that Guillaume fought at the Battle of Hastings, for which he was rewarded with lands around Cainhoe, in Bedfordshire. (maps) Following Norman custom, Guillaume's eldest son would inherit the historic family lands and more recent acquisitions would pass to a younger son, so Roger inherited the continental lands and by 1086 Cainhoe was held by the younger son Nigel.

At this time William d'Aubigny would have been a young man aged about 20. It is possible that he was the William the Breton listed in the Domesday Book, who held land west of Cambridge by Papworth and St Neots. In the next century St Neots' Priory received gifts from the eldest son of William d'Aubigny and Matilda.

William's mother Avice

This brings us to the question of WIlliam's mother. She is only known by her Christian name, Avice. For many years I have been interested in the controversial theory that she may have been Avice de Clare, one of the many children of the powerful baron Richard de Clare and his wife Rohais Gifford. This would make them grandparents of our William, and it is interesting that they were the donors who gave villages to William the Breton.

By 1086 Avice de Clare was married to Ralph de Fougeres, whose lands bordered the d'Aubigny holdings in Brittany. If William's mother was Avice de Clare, she would have been widowed some time after the last mention of Roger in 1084. By 1086 it seems that Roger had died, since he was not recorded in the Domesday Book.

In the twelfth century the d'Aubigny and de Clare families were close enough to overlap with several marriages. William's son, WIlliam Secundus, married Avice's niece Matilda de Senlis, and WIlliam's grandson William of Arundel married the widow of Roger de Clare.

The custom of taking maternal surnames

A further clue suggests a strong link between Avice de Clare and the d'Aubigny family. At this time an unusual custom began to appear in just a few families. The first son would take the father's surname, but later sons might take a surname from their mother's family. This served to avoid confusion due to the limited repertoire of Christian names within each family.

For their third son, Ralph de Fougeres and Avice de Clare added the surname of her famous grandfather, Walter Gifford, so this son was named Robert Gifford. This custom was almost unknown at the time, yet later we find that William and Cecilia Bigod named their sons in memory of Cecilia's father and grandfather. For centuries historians were confused by their names of Roger Bigod and Robert de Tosny. William d'Aubigny's brother, Geoffrey, followed the same system, with his three younger sons taking the surname of de Chauvigné (presumably from his wife) while two grandsons became Geoffrey de Muscamp and Maugier de Staunton.

William's early years

William was born at about the time of the Battle of Hastings, and he had three brothers. Rualloc was probably the eldest son, who died without heirs. Nigel became a leading courtier like William and founded the de Mowbray family. Geoffrey seems to have stayed in Brittany, where he died young, leaving his four sons in William's care.

In the 1080s the young William became closely linked with William the Conqueror's son Prince Henry, the newly appointed Count of the Cotentin, and this friendship opened the door for William's later advancement in Court circles. By 1092 William was already one of the king's leading men in Norfolk, where he was given the salt-producing villages of Castle Rising and Snettisham, which had been forfeited from the disgraced Bishop Odo of Bayeux.

Crusader and Royal Butler

In 1096 William joined the first Crusade with Henry's brother, Duke Robert of Normandy. No details are recorded except that he was under the young Tancred de Hauteville, and that by 1110 he had been rewarded with the walled town of Mamistra, now Yakapinar in south Turkey near St Peul'[s town of arsus.

After the bloodshed at the fall of Jerusalem, WIlliam was soon back in England. FOllowing King William Rufus' unexpected death in the New FOrest, WIlliam was honoured with the ceremonial office of Royal Butler. His duties included assisting at the hasty coronation of Henry I in Westminster Abbey, where he presented a gold cup, jug and basin. It is just coincidence that as seigneur of Aubigné, William already held the post of Ceremonial Butler for the inauguration of each new bishop in Rennes cathedral?

His sudden rise in status suggests another possible link with the de Clares since this family was held in high regard by the new king. Several relatives of Avice de Clare were rewarded with unusually fast advancement at court, and were suspected of possible involvement in the murder of William Rufus.

The Battle of Tinchebray

At this time William and his brother Nigel were renowned for their military skill. In 1106 they fought for King Henry against his brother Robert at Tinchebray in central Normandy. Both played leading roles and were praised for their courage. The thirteenth century writer, Matthew Paris, wrote that William was the hero of the day, bringing the battle to a conclusion like a wounded lion, running back and forth among the soldiers, wielding his bloody sword.

William and Nigel witness charters for the King

Throughout Henry's reign the brothers were often members of his travelling Court and witnessed royal charters in many towns across England and Normandy. These charters give tantalising glimpses of daily life, as in the charter that William witnessed at Caen around 1110. This granted a forester rights to catch hare, fox, marten and wildcat, in return for accommodating the king with a down quilt and straw for this chamber together with a separate hostel for the Royal Butler.

In 1113 William and Nigel were at Avranches as witnesses for the founding of Savigny Abbey by Ralph de Fougeres, with his wife Avice and their sons. Was this just a coincidence, or had the brothers travelled to support their mother?

Marriage to Matilda Bigod in Norfolk

After the victory at Tinchebray, William was rewarded by Henry with land at Buckenham in south Norfolk. Here he moved the stronghold further east and built a new motte and bailey castle, which is still visible by the village of New Buckenham. William married Matilda, one of the daughters of the powerful Earl of Norfolk, and they had at least six children. The marriage gave William more land, including part of the town of Wymondham where he founded a priory as a cell of St Alban's Abbey, under his uncle, Abbot Richard d'Aubigny. Sadly Matilda died while the children were still young. She was buried in the priory church, and in her memory William gave a silver cross for the high altar, together with many precious relics, including a fragment of the True Cross, perhaps acquired on his Crusade.

To keep the priory services more peaceful, William gave the monks quiet meadows next to the church and he diverted Wymondham's busy main road to pass next to his own manor house. William or his son also founded a small hospital modelled on the famous leprosarium outside Jerusalem. It was built on a bridge leading into the town so that patients could beg from those who passed.

A second family with Matilda's sister

By around 1120 WIlliam had married Matilda's younger sister Cecilia, well aware that the sisters had been due to inherit the extensive Belvoir estates from their mother, Alice de Tosny. At about this time he was appointed SHeriff of Rutland, and he moved his headquarters to Belvoir castle in Leicestershire. He managed a large swathe of land across several counties, stretching from Pipewell in Northamptonshire to Ingleby north of Lincoln. Here with Cecilia he produced his second family, including his sons William Secundus, Robert de Tosny, Roger Bigod and Ralph (who became a crusader like his father).

Country life around Belvoir

William's central castle stood on a hill overlooking the fertile Vale of Belvoir. The d'Aubigny charters from this time give a vivid picture of daily life in the countryside. Oxen ploughed the land for growing wheat, barley, oats, beans and flax. Livestock included pigs, poultlry, veal calves, and sheep for meat and wool. There were fish ponds,rabbit warrens, beehives, apple orchards and even a vineyard. The rivers produced eels and cows grazed the rich meadows to produce milk for the local cheese. Unusual rents from the tenants included a pound of cumin seed, a root of ginger and forty carnations.

William cares for his nephews

William's younger brother, Geoffrey, seems to have married a daughter of the de Chauvigné family who held d'Aubigny land in Brittany. Charters suggest that by about the 1130s both he and his wife had died, leaving William and Cecilia to bring up their four sons with their own children. As these sons reached adulthood they became Belvoir tenants. Elie, the eldest, held Ingleby near Lincoln, and the others were given land nearer Belvoir. Elie's branch was also responsible for the d'Aubigny lands in Brittany.

William's later years and death

William was made an itinerant judge and for many years he continued to travel widely with King Henry throughout England and Normandy. In 1137 we find him yet again in Normandy, aged about seventgy, witnessing a charter for the new King Stephen.

William died in 1139 and was buried in the chapter house of Belvoir priory next to Robert de Tosny, the founder. He seems to have died on March 21 as this was the day remembered by the Belvoir monks as his main anniversary. Cecilia lived until at least 1155 and was probably buried in the priory chapel. Now only ruins remain as their resting place.

His sons share the lands

William's lands were divided between his two families. Matilda's son William inherited the estates in Norfolk and the Cotentin, and at about this time he made a fortuitous marriage to Queen Adelaide, the widow of Henry I. This brought him many more lands and he became the Earl of Arundel, where he built an impressive stone castle. He also constructed the massive square keep at Castle Rising, which still towers above its surrounding earth ramparats.

William Secundus, the son from WIlliam's second marriage, was a less powerful baron, but he inherited the rich spread of lands around Belvoir and the d'Aubigny estates in Brittany.

The Jersey connection

How is William d'Aubigny linked with Jersey? His name does not appear in any island record, except as a witness in 1104 when Grouville CHurch was given to St Sauveur le Vicomte.

His daughter Olivia married Ralph de la Haye, the Anglo-Norman knight who owned land in St Peter. But the main link is through the descendants of Elie d'Aubigny, William's nephew and protégé. Elie's grandson Ralph inherited the family lands in Lincolnshire, but he was based mostly in Brittany, where he married the heiress Matilda de Montsorel and became seigneur of Landal near Dol.

Ralph's brother was the charismatic crusader Philippe d'Aubigny, who served King John as diplomat, military commander and tutor to his son. He was made Warden of Jersey in 1212 and held land in the island on the fief de Vingt Livres on the border of St Ouen and St Peter. In about 1215 he gave his land to Ralph's daughter Marguerite, when she married his friend, Philippe de Carteret.

Many of us can claim a distant relationship with the de Carterets, often as descendants of the sixteenth century Philippe who had twenty sons. Marguerite marriage into the de Carteret family brought the d'Aubigny family into Jersey genealogy, and traces of these d'Aubigny genes must still survive in a wide spread of Jersey families.

Chronology

Rosemary Hampton's article includes a lengthy chronology for William d'Aubigny which will be added when time permits.

Rosemary Hampton admits that there are inconsistencies in the argument that there was only one William d'Aubigny and attempts to answer them in an appendix to her article

Who was Williams's father?

It is well documented that William the Butler's father was Roger d'Aubigny, but the parentage of William the Breton was unknown until the 1980s, when scholars found that monastic records from THorney Abbey listed his father as Méen (or Main, the name of a famous Breton saint).

This Méen appears in a recent book by K S B Keats-Rohan. She equates him with Méen the father of Ralph and Robert, who was listed in a Mont St Michel charter of about 1100. He owned land near Aubigné in Brittany. No surname is give, but Méen is described as 'a nobleman from the castle of Aubigné'. He may have been just a relqative of William rather than his father.

However, the Thorney Abbey record naming William's father as Méen remains puzzling. One answer might be that William's father Roger had been given the double Christian name of Méen-Roger. It was not unknown in Brittany at that time for the name Méen to be paired with a second Christian name. Roger's widow seems to have married their neighbour Ralph de FOugeres and they named their eldest son Méen-Fransgualo. Other double names included Méen-Gisius from Fougères, Méen-Guiné, Méen-Finito and Méen-Felin.

If a double name is not the answer, another possibility is that the Thorney monks were using the term 'father of William' to mean an ancestor. His mother's marriage to Ralph, the son of Méen de Fougères' son Ralph, would have brought the important baron Méen into William's family as his step-grandfather.

The date of William's death

William the Butler is known to have died in 1139, but the death of William the Breton raises a problem. A charter from Pipewell Abbey implies that he and his wife Cecilia were alive until at least 1148. Since their son was also named William d'Aubigny the Breton, there is the slight possibility of scribal confusion. Perhaps the father had already died and the charter referred to the son. The widow, Cecilia Bigod, was still alive at this time and the phrase 'his wife Cecilia' might have been written in error instead of 'his mother Cecilia'.

Another suggestion comes from the burial records of Belvoir Priory. William the father was buried, with honour, in the chapter-house. The son William was buried in the old church by the crossing next to his wife, and the list addes the cryptic note:"and high up a second wife called Cecilia". Perhaps this William, like his father, had a wife called Cecilia (although she must have died before his marriage to Matilda de Senlis). A second Cecilia would mean that the Pipewell charter might refer to the son and his wife, and this would remove the dating problem about the father's death.

Otherwise, the Belvoir phrase about a 'second wife called Cecilia' must refer to the burial place of the father's widow Cecilia Bigod (whose name, surprisingly, is missing from the burial list). If so, the words 'second wife' would support our theory that there was just one William, who married Cecilia as his second wife after the death of her sister.

Two other problems

The Thorney records raise another question. They name Humphrey de Bohun as William's uncle, leading genealogists to conclude that his mother was a de Bohun. But it seems more likely that he became William's uncle through marriage. Humphrey, who held land next to the d'Aubignys, had three wives and it is possible that one of these was WIlliam's aunt, a sister of his father Roger.

The theory of the two Williams seems to be supported by a Mont St Michel charter of 1121. Its witness list gives the name of William d'Aubigny the Butler, followed by William the Breton, but as the second name lacks the d'Aubigny surname this could be taken to refer to a separate William from Brittany.

There are no easy answers to some of the problems discussed in this appendix, and at present they must remain open to question.

Comments by Mike Bisson

  • William's brother, Geoffrey, was an ancestor of the Jersey family of de Carteret on the maternal line

There is no evidence to support this departure from the prevailing view among historians that William was the ancestor of Marguerite d'Aubigné, who married Sir Philippe de Carteret.

  • The 2004 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography gives detailed trees for two separate Williams

Dugdale's article in 2004 was by no means the first reference to William d'Aubigné and William d'Aubigny being two separate people. This has been supported by distinguished experts in medieval genealogy for many years.

  • Why did the two Williams not sort out their surname confusion in the usual manner?

If the 'brothers' were actually unrelated and already spelt their surnames differently, why would they have any reason to change? The fact that one was known as Pincerna, or butler, and the other as Brito, or Breton, would have been deemed sufficient to avoid any confusion at Court.

  • If we see William d'Aubigny as just one man, the details of his life fit together smoothly like a completed jigsaw.

The greatest hindrance to accurate genealogy is starting with a theory and then assembling facts which fit it, while ignoring those which do not. A completed jigsaw requires all the pieces to fit.

  • Until now Guillaume's ancestry has been unknown

The author cannot lay claim to having established Guillaume's ancestry. The alleged connection with the St Sauveur family has been well known among students of medieval genealogy for many years and is widely published on the Internet. Inevitably there are many incorrect versions, too. Any family ancestry in this era must be treated with a degree of healthy scepticism, but the lineage beyond Guillaume's grandfather Roger de St Sauveur has also been proposed by several researchers. Roger's father was the first Néel de St Sauveur, son of Richard de St Sauveur. His father is thought to have been a Norse invader called Malahule Eysteinsson, who married Matilda (or Maud), a daughter of Pepin, great-grandson of the Emeror Charlemagne. It is said that anyone alive today of European origin can trace their ancestry to Charlemagne. Whether this is true is impossible to say, but the link from the St Sauveur family of Normandy post-1000AD to Charlemagne is said to be probably as accurate as any traced so far in that era.

However, the link between the d'Aubignys and St Sauveurs is claimed by some researchers to be pure speculation, not based on any documentary evidence, but entirely on the common occurence of two or three male given names in both families.

  • the tradition that the village of Aubigny near Falaise originally belonged to the de St Sauveurs before coming to the d'Aubigny family.

This wording suggests that the d'Aubigny family might have taken Aubigny from the St Sauveurs and renamed it, but as the author herself suggests, the d'Aubignys were descended from the St Sauveurs. As she also writes above, Surnames were very much in their infancy at this period in history. Indeed many of those alive then would have been unaware of the surnames which were retrospectively applied to them by historians many years after their death. It was later historians rather than medieval barons who found it necessary to distinguish one Guillaume from another.

Although some barons gave their names to castles and villages, it was usually the other way round. It is likely that long before the arrival of the Norse invaders, who colonised Normandy and gave it its name, there were many villages and settlements already in existence which had the same names that they do today. The Norseman at the head of this family probably settled and built his first castle in or near St Sauveur in the Cotentin, which in recognition of his descendants role as Vicomte of all Normandy was renamed St Sauveur-le-Vicomte, the name it bears to this day.

As the family spread out into the surrounding countryside on land granted to it by the Duke of Normandy, one St Sauveur son probably settled in or near Aubigny and his descendants who were born there either took or were given the name d'Aubigny.

The connection between Aubigny and St Martin Aubigny is somewhat obscure. It was common in France for settlements on land immediately surrounding a village in which a noble family settled and built a castle, to be renamed after the main settlement when sons were allocated or inherited land in the area. Villereal, in the South-West of France, has 'satellite' communes called St Martin de Villereal, and St Etienne de Villereal, where I lived for a time. Both are within a few kilometres of the town of Villereal.

St Martin d'Aubigny is a much greater distance from Aubigny, but it is quite possible, given the large areas of Normandy owned by the St Sauveurs, that a d'Aubigny son was given land at St Martin and the settlement was renamed after him.

  • Néel II

This individual is actually known by historians as Néel IV to distinguish him from three ancestors who had the same name.

  • it seems likely that this was when Guillaume acquired the family's Breton lands, around the village of St Aubin, north of Rennes. At about this time a fortified stronghold had been built just north of St Aubin in a small new parish called Aubigné, which had been carved out of the surrounding larger parishes. This castle is now just a ruin but it was owned by the d'Aubigny family for many generations. With the new custom of naming families after their lands, this seems to have been when the family acquired the surname of d'Aubigny.

This is pure speculation. It is certainly possible that one or more members of the d'Aubigny family were exiled to Brittany, but no link has ever been proved. It is certainly possible that the Brittany settlement adopted a different spelling - Aubigné rather than Aubigny - because spelling was very inexact at this time and most of the inhabitants of St Aubin would have spoken a Breton dialect, whereas the exiles would have spoken Norman. It is also possible that some of the exiles returned to regain their properties in Normandy, but there is no evidence at all to support the view that a single unified family operated down the generations from two centres about 100 kilometres apart in what, at the time, and for a long time after, were effectively different countries.

  • At this time William d'Aubigny would have been a young man aged about 20.

This is not really relevant to the argument over how many Williams there were, but Guillaume was believed to have been born in about 1010 and to have died in 1066. William d'Aubigny, his grandson, is said to have been born in 1075, so would only have been 11 at the time of Domesday. William d'Aubigné is believed to have been born in 1087.

  • William and Cecilia Bigod named their sons in memory of Cecilia's father and grandfather. For centuries historians were confused by their names of Roger Bigod and Robert de Tosny.

Again, this point is not strictly relevant to the main argument, but the majority of reliable sources I have followed over the years show William and Cecilia as having just two sons, William and Ralph, who both took their father's name. The adoption by a son of a mother's surname usually occurred when a younger son inherited his mother's ancestral property on the death of his father, the father's ancestral property going to the elder son. The younger son then became identified with the mother's property, which bore her maiden name, and adopted that name himself.

  • William was born at about the time of the Battle of Hastings, and he had three brothers

My research shows that William d'Aubigny had two brothers, Nigel and Robert, and sisters Olive and Matilda. No siblings appear to be known for William d'Aubigné. I am not aware of the link between Nigel and the de Mowbray family, which was an anglicisation of the de Montbrai family, which was established in St Lo, Manche as early as 1020. Indeed, I believe that William d'Aubigny's mother, the wife of Roger d'Aubigny, was a de Montbrai, not a de Clare as suggested by Rosemary Hampton.

  • By around 1120 William had married Matilda's younger sister Cecilia

No evidence is given to support this merging of two individuals into one, other than that William had lost one wife and wanted to retain his right to her mother's assets. Quite possible, had not Cecilia married somebody different, with a similar name.

  • William Secundus, the son from William's second marriage, was a less powerful baron, but he inherited the rich spread of lands around Belvoir and the d'Aubigny estates in Brittany.

This so-called William Secundus was not the son of William d'Aubigny at all, but the son of William d'Aubigné, which is why he inherited the d'Aubigné properties in Brittany.

  • Ralph's brother was the charismatic crusader Philippe d'Aubigny, who served King John as diplomat, military commander and tutor to his son. He was made Warden of Jersey in 1212 and held land in the island on the fief de Vingt Livres on the border of St Ouen and St Peter. In about 1215 he gave his land to Ralph's daughter Marguerite, when she married his friend, Philippe de Carteret.

I believe these relationships to be incorrect. They are dealt with more fully in the main article from which this is linked

  • However, the Thorney Abbey record naming William's father as Méen remains puzzling. One answer might be that William's father Roger had been given the double Christian name of Méen-Roger. It was not unknown in Brittany at that time for the name Méen to be paired with a second Christian name. Roger's widow seems to have married their neighbour Ralph de FOugeres and they named their eldest son Méen-Fransgualo. Other double names included Méen-Gisius from Fougères, Méen-Guiné, Méen-Finito and Méen-Felin.
  • If a double name is not the answer, another possibility is that the Thorney monks were using the term 'father of William' to mean an ancestor. His mother's marriage to Ralph, the son of Méen de Fougères' son Ralph, would have brought the important baron Méen into William's family as his step-grandfather.

These seem very tenuous arguments and the author appears to be clutching at straws to explain one of the main arguments against her theory of one William. It seems an unacceptable large jump from 'father' to 'step-grandfather'.

  • William the Butler is known to have died in 1139, but the death of William the Breton raises a problem. A charter from Pipewell Abbey implies that he and his wife Cecilia were alive until at least 1148. Since their son was also named William d'Aubigny the Breton, there is the slight possibility of scribal confusion. Perhaps the father had already died and the charter referred to the son. The widow, Cecilia Bigod, was still alive at this time and the phrase 'his wife Cecilia' might have been written in error instead of 'his mother Cecilia'.

The fact that Rosemary Hampton suggests that there is only a 'slight possibility' for her explanation of the different death dates seems to strengthen the argument against her theory.

Nicknames and sources

There are two final comments which need to be made here in relation to Rosemary Hampton's article.

She ignores the question of why William d'Aubigny, born in Normandy, as were his sons, his father and his grandfather, whose main property holdings were in Normandy, and who was known at Court as Pincerna because of his role as King's Butler, should also be known as William Brito, describing him as coming from Brittany. It seems highly unlikely that he would be given such an epithet based solely on his family's land holdings in what was then viewed as a different country, if indeed there were any such holdings.

The author lists 30 references in relation to her article, but on close examination three works make up a total of 17 of these references. The sources are not identified in full, so the reader is left unaware of their exact identities. They can, however, be identified from the bibliographical references in Martin Courtier's 2010 Annual Bulletin article on the same subject.

If any reader has come to this page without reading my explanation in the main article from which this is linked on why I have set out to examine the arguments surrounding William d'Aubigny in such detail, I recommend that it is studied. In brief, I believe that the three articles published on the subject by the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise indicate the importance of Marguerite d'Aubigné's ancestry to Jersey family history; to compare and contrast the views expressed in these articles with the results of my own extensive research into the subject also provides a wonderful opportunity to examine the difficulties inherent in researching people who lived nearly 1000 years ago.

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