Friday, February 19, 2010

The Most Ancient Ancestors Researched by Me

Our G-24 GF -- that is, our great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandfather was Alan Rufus the Red, Count of Brittany, and second cousin to William I, the Conquerer -- William the Conquerer.

Our lineal connection to Alan Rufus the Red -- our direct descendancy from him -- is one of the well-researched and legally-guarded genealogies of Western Europe. So, this is real. There is no exaggeration, here.

G24 GF Alan Rufus the Red, Count of Brittany, second cousin to William the Conqueror, was probably born around 1030 A.D. He accompanied William to Hastings in 1066 and commanded the Breton contingent there. In 1069-1070 Alan Rufus led an oppression of resistance in the North at William’s request. Our G24 GF was singularly brutal. Chronicler Simon of Durham wrote

“So great a famine prevailed that men, compelled by hunger, devoured human flesh, that of horses, dogs, cats…others, while about to go into exile, fell down in the middle of the journey and gave up the ghost. It was horrific to behold human corpses decaying in the houses, the streets and the roads: for no one was left to bury them in the earth…The stench was abominable and an extensive solitude prevailed all around. In the towns wild beasts were running in the streets.”

A present-day genealogist gives a like assessment…

"[Alan Rufus] immediately established himself as absolute ruler and ruthlessly stamped out any pockets of Saxon resistance. The only diplomacy he understood was that of the sword. His methods, even by the standards of the time, were brutal and extreme. The Saxons were denied even elementary rights…"

William granted G24 GF Alan Rufus vast acreage in the north, around York. Alan immediately set to work in 1070 building what would later be called Richmond Castle, to protect his Norman rule in the North against angry Anglo-Saxon subjects. The same modern genealogist quoted above writes,

Richmond Castle was constructed as an object of fear to overawe the Saxons and to serve as a stronghold against any future attempts at rebellion.

From the air, our “family castle” looked like this…

Richmond Castle

One website refers to G24 GF Alan Rufus as the “richest of the rich,” as a result of his brutal, confiscatory conquest. We have what may be a contemporary painting of him, sitting in his great hall with his lady, his officers and servants…

Alan Rufus the Red,

ruling from the Great Hall

in Richmond Castle, North Yorkshire

The castle tower and other portions of the structure are standing even today…

Richmond Castle today

The remains of the two story high great hall, where Alan Rufus feasted
The better of two extant accounts suggests that from Alan Rufus, the pedigree is as follow. Dates are frequently lacking in chronicles of the events listed, here. Dividing the years accounted for by the biographies listed below by the number of biographies generates an average generational span, from the birth of one generation to the birth of the next, of about 34 years.

The son of Alan Rufus, G23 GF Roaldus Musard de Richmond, probably born about 1064, shortly before the Norman invasion in 1066, is said to have lost lordship over Richmond Castle because, owing money to the king, he paid only 10 of 200 marks owed.

However, there is some evidence that the surrender of control may have been a voluntary arrangement to retire dept, or an afterthought amending a larger rearrangement of leadership to settle political debts while keeping the castle in the family -- the next Lord of Richmond was the brother of Alan Rufus, Alan Niger. Perhaps an additional reason was that G23 GF Roaldus Musard de Richmond was just too young at the time to rule such a rebellious land. Roaldus remained lord of appurtenant lands and evidently functioned as castle “constable,” the “XO” in charge of castle defense.

Around the time the First Crusade succeeded in seizing the Holy Land back from the Muslims, the wife of G23 GF Roaldus Musard de Richmond bore him G22 GF Hasculfus Musard de Richmond. At some point, probably before the year 1120 A.D., The role of that son as Constable was declared by the King to be an inheritable title, sio that he was formally appointed first Constable of Richmond Castle as well as Lord of Demesne, Keddington, Chilworth, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, and Stainbury.

Early in the 1100s, something happened to the weather in the world. Maybe there was a long lull in volcanic activity, resulting in a clearing of dust in the atmosphere. Maybe the Sun emerged briefly from one of the arms of the galaxy, decreasing dust and increasing visibility between the Sun and the planets. Whatever. Something caused the weather to get warmer. Crop yields in the “champion” country of central England began to boom. Food prices plummeted. Huge livestock concerns began to appear. Food aplenty resulted in a population explosion. An era of increased prosperity seems to have smothered rebelliousness and increased loyalty among the Norman Richmond’s Anglo-Saxon subjects.

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  1. Carol looked up Alan Rufus the Red on line, and drew my attention to one website indicating that if effect he became one of the richest individuals in the history of the world. He died with the equivalent of $81,000,000,000. That's "billion."

  2. Peter, a couple of comments if I may. Firstly, the Richmond family descent from the Musards does not go through Alan Rufus, though it does descend from his father Eozen, erstwhile Duke Regent of Brittany, for Enisant Musard ("Enisandus Musardus de Ploveno") married one of Alan's sisters.

    The best available evidence, and the attestation of contemporary witnesses, is that Alan Rufus died without issue.

    Many famous Houses of aristocrats descend from Alan's brothers and sisters. Just to name a few: Perceval (for Wagner fans), Neville (e.g. Warwick "the Kingmaker"), Percy ("Hotspur") and (in France, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland) Rohan.

    According to Geoffrey Gaimar and Wace, it was Alan and his Breton knights who broke King Harold's shield wall and enabled William to win the day. The always ungracious and conspicuously absent William of Poitiers (Duke William's Chamberlain) said that the Bretons ran away - supposedly, after three hours of fighting, they suddenly panicked and accidentally drew the Anglo-Saxons out; never mind that both Bretons and Normans had been using that same tactic to defeat Frankish and Saxon shield walls for generations.

  3. Now, was Alan responsible for the Harrying? I don't know, though it seems he did crush many of the armed rebels, including Earl Edwin, because he acquired their lands. What is remarkable is what he did with the survivors among the vanquished Anglo-Danes: he promoted some to tenants-in-chief, the highest position under the King!

    How did he get such authority? Two paintings that were later made of the event, show that he surrounded King William and his bodyguard with Breton knights, persuaded the King to sign 250,000 acres of strategic territory in the centre of Britain over to him, and then made the "Land of Count Alan" a Norman-exclusion zone!

    Alan allowed King William and Count Robert of Mortain one town each, on the very fringes of his Land, giving the rest to the surviving Anglo-Danes (or, if they had passed away, to their sons). Alan gave the deceased Earl Edwin's manors to Alan's own Breton followers, such as his brother Ribald and his brother-in-law Enisant.

    Bishop Odo of Bayeux, who is known to have led much of the Harrying, was totally excluded from the vicinity: he received nothing in Yorkshire. Why?

    It's likely that Alan and the Bishop did not get along, because when Odo led most of the great magnates in the 1088 rebellion in favour of Robert Curthose and against William II, it looked very grim for the new King, but in the darkest hour Alan supported the beleaguered King, which meant that London, the East Coast and the Navy were secure. William II promised the English people to treat them better than his father the Conqueror had, so he also gained their support; Alan was evidently happy with that.

    What did Orderic Vitalis, whose mother was English, think of the Harrying? He admitted that he had often praised William, but he condemned this, and said he could not forgive William for authorising it. If Alan was a main culprit, Orderic would have hated him, so let's see how he summed up Alan's life: "He was ever studious for peace, a great lover of the poor, and an especial honorer of the religious; his death without issue occasioned no little sadness to the people”. What? Say again?

    There may be personal reasons for Alan's frequently positive behaviour toward the English. One account has that his sister Matilda married Walter d'Aincourt in Bourn, Cambridgeshire in 1065. Now, Bourn was under Edeva the Fair (probably the same person as King Harold's first wife, also known as "Edith Swannesha"). So Matilda and Edeva were acquainted. After Hastings, someone leading a cavalry troop rushed to Cambridgeshire: I'd say this was Alan, acting on advice by Edeva, acting to protect his sister from reprisals. After Edeva relinquished her lands in East Anglia, most of them went to Alan. This was a friendly handover, because Alan retained the existing tenants (e.g. Kolsveinn) and gave additional manors to some of them (e.g. Almer of Bourn).

  4. Then there's the famous affair between Harold Godwinson's and Edith Swannesha's daughter Gunnhild and Alan Rufus.

    Archbishop Anselm wrote to Gunnhild that he accepted that they loved each other, but still couldn't sanction their marriage, because he wanted her to return to Wilton Abbey as a nun.

    It's said that in 1093 King Malcolm III of Scotland wanted Alan to marry his daughter Edith, who was at Wilton, but seriously Edith was still a child (whereas Gunnhild was an adult in her thirties). Alan was no cradle-snatcher and realised that he might not live to see Edith come of age.

    It's also possible that Alan already had hopes of marrying Gunnhild, and/or may have been living with her at Richmond Castle. Since he had not even an illiegitimate child, he evidently had eyes only for her. Quite a refreshing contrast with so many of his contemporaries!

  5. Another thing: I've been tracing what happened to Alan Rufus's fortune, or at least the umpteen billion dollars' worth of it that he had not given away.

    It was distributed among his family and handed down for centuries to their descendants and friends: the Houses of Rohan, Luxembourg, Lorraine, Valois, Bourbon, Habsburg, Neville, etc etc.

    The House of Lorraine used some of this money to raise Joan of Arc's army.

    Alan's family were very learned. Two members of the Luxembourg branch paid for Caxton's publication of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales". (I'm looking into the possibility that a Strasbourg branch had funded Gutenberg's press.)

    The Palace of Fontainebleau was one of very many that was built using this inheritance (and Breton architects and builders brought in especially).

    And of course Alan himself built many beautiful manors, as well as the town of Richmond, "the Jewel of the North", after which more English-language places are named than any other.

  6. Alan also fostered trade. The town of Boston, Lincolnshire was under his control, and he established a trade fair there on his own land to promote the wool and salt trade. Salt was barged down the Trent from Derby, where Walter d'Aincourt had been lord under King Edward the Confessor.
    Boston grew so phenomenally that by 1204 it rivalled London. The English east coast ports that Alan had governed became so important that they were admitted into the Hanseatic League.
    The Domesday Book records at show no rents being charged by Alan in or around Boston, despite the town returning ample taxes to the King and huge income for the local merchants. If this is accurate, then Alan himself must have been one of the traders (as Bretons generally were and are), and made his profits that way.
    Boston, Massachusetts is named after Boston, Lincolnshire, and recalls Alan indirectly in its placenames: Middlesex, Essex, Suffok, Norfolk, and of course Cambridge. Harvard was founded by academics from the University of Cambridge, the emblem of which displays a large ermine cross, for Brittany, Alan's homeland.

  7. Correction: Derbyshire provided lead, not salt (which of course is produced in coastal areas). Walter d'Aincourt owned the lead mines. His son William was buried in Lincoln Cathedral with a lead tablet describing him as of royal descent. Since Walter's wife was named Matilda, and his sons were William, Ralph and Walter, it occurred to Trevor Foulds that Matilda might have been a daughter of William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda of Flanders. Indeed, there was a Princess Matilda, born in Normandy perhaps in 1061. Walter's association with Alan Rufus was commercial, political, military and diplomatic. When the Rebellion of 1088 was defeated (apparently due to Alan's sound advice and superior military strategy), and the deserter William de St-Calais (Bishop of Durham) was to be brought to court, King William II sent an army by his family members, Alan Rufus (his father's double-second-cousin), Odo of Champagne (his aunt Adelaide's third husband), Walter d'Aincourt (by Foulds's proposal, the King's sister's husband), and Roger of Poitou (a son of Roger of Montgomery, who was a more distant relative of the Conqueror, but perhaps more importantly, a repentant rebel). Unknown to the King, his commanders signed a document promising safe conduct for the Bishop no matter the outcome of the trial! When St-Calais cited it in court, there was uproar, but Alan gave the King a proper dressing-down for using threatening language instead of following correct court procedure, and offered to cease serving the King if his advice was not followed. St-Calais was put under house arrest at Willton Abbey for three months, while the King wrestled with his predicament. Finally capitulating, the King assigned Alan to escort St-Calais to Southampton where St-Calais took ship for exile in Normandy. In 1091, William II invaded Normandy (quite possibly with Alan) and brought St-Calais back to England where he was fully reinstated.

  8. Incidentally, St-Calais is considered likely to be the mastermind behind the Domesday Survey. He was a Commissioner, in the south-west circuit, and Great Domesday was largely written in the hand of one of his scribes. Alan was involved in the survey in several ways: as a companion of the King during inspection of the process, and as a close associate of several of the Commissioners. St-Calais was a tenant of Alan's at several properties. Another very prominent Commissioner, Bishop Samson of Worcester (who was named after a Breton saint), had been a Canon at Bayeux at the same time as St-Calais, and Thomas, the Archbishop of York (who had frequent contact with Alan), and Richard a brother of Alan's.

    One might think that Bishop Odo of Bayeux was the obvious common link, but he was in prison from 1082 to 1087 (for unknown crimes against the crown) and found on his release that he wasn't about to get his power bacark (a big factor in his fomenting rebellion in early 1088), so Alan's influence was very great from 1082 until his death in 1093.

    Alan was apparently highly literate and knowledgeable, because his epitaph describes him as "teacher of the law", so was he the real mastermind behind Domesday? Many of the entries concerning him are unexpectedly blank, perhaps because he was too busy elsewhere to be interviewed. A consequence is that his true wealth is significantly underestimated. That he gained a lot of territory from those he defeated in 1088, including Bishop Odo, implies that he was even richer and more powerful two years after Domesday.