Robert FITZHAMON ( -1107)

1. Robert FITZHAMON died in March 1107 in Falaise, Normandie. He married Sibyl de Montgomery.

 

Robert Fitzhamon (died March 1107), or Robert FitzHamon, Sieur de Creully in the Calvados region of Normandy, was Lord of Gloucester and the conqueror of Glamorgan. As a kinsman of the Conqueror and one of the few Anglo-Norman barons to remain loyal to two successive kings Rufus and Henry, he was a prominent figure in England and Normandy. However, not much is known about his earlier life or his exact relationship to William I.

Parentage and Ancestry

Robert fitzHamon (b ca 1045-1055, d. March 1107 Falaise, Normandy) is said to be a son of Hamon, Count of Corbeil, himself a grandson of Richard I of Normandy and thus cousin to Robert I of Normandy (the Conqueror's father). However, fitzHamon is also described as the alleged grandson of Hamo Dentatus (‘The Toothy', i.e., probably buck-toothed).[1]. The second explanation might make sense if his father were also named Hamon and thus confused with the grandfather and namesake Hamon, Count of Corbeil.

Hamon was younger brother of William, Count of Corbeil (possibly also known as William, Count of Arques), and as such he was a descendant of Richard I "The Fearless" or "Sans-Peur", Duke of Normany, great-grandfather of William II, Duke of Normandy, later styled "The Conqueror". Robert and his father were thus kin to the Conqueror although this connection does not appear to have profited Robert significantly until 1087 when his cousin William Rufus ascended the throne.

Robert's mother is said to have been Halwisa (or Hawisa) alias Elisabeth d'Avoye, widow of Hugh Magnus, Prince of France and later co-king of France (elder brother of Henry I of France) and daughter of one Henri l'Oiseteur.

He was a cousin of William the Conqueror, although the details of his descent from the Norman dukes is uncertain. His family held the lordships of Torigny, Creully, Mézy, and Evrecy in Normandy.

Career in England

Few details of Robert's career prior to 1087 are available; if he was Hamon's grandson rather than his son, this is not so surprising.

Robert probably did not fight at Hastings, and does not appear in the Domesday Book, although some relatives may. He first comes to prominence as a supporter of William Rufus during the Rebellion of 1088. After the revolt failed he was rewarded with great estates in Gloucestershire and elsewhere. Some of these had belonged to the late Queen Matilda, and were supposed to be inherited by Rufus's younger brother Henry (the future Henry I); nevertheless Fitzhamon remained on good terms with Henry.

The chronology of Fitzhamon's conquest of Glamorgan is uncertain, but it probably took place in the decades after he received Gloucester.

When the Welsh prince Iestyn ap Gwrgan (Jestin), prince or Lord of Glamorgan, called in the assistance of Robert Fitzhamon, a Norman knight, Fitzhamon slew the prince of South Wales Rhys ap Tewdwr in battle in 1090. Robert Fitzhamon, with his Norman knights then took possession of Glamorgan, and "the French came into Dyned and Ceredigion, which they have still retained, and fortified the castles, and seized upon all the land of the Britons." Rhys's daughter Nest became the mistress of King Henry I of England and allegedly was mother of Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester who married Mabel, Fitzhamon's daughter and heiress and thus had legitimacy both among the Welsh and the Norman barons.[2] (Robert of Caen's mother is however unknown to historians and genealogists).

Iestyn did not profit long by his involvement with the Normans. He was soon defeated and his lands taken in 1091. Robert Fitzhamon then built [Cardiff Castle] on the site of an old Roman fort in 1091; his descendants would inherit the castle and lands.

Founder of Tewkesbury Abbey (1092)

He also refounded Tewkesbury Abbey in 1092. The abbey's dimensions are almost the same as Westminster Abbey. The first abbot was Giraldus, Abbot of Cranborne (d. 1110) who died before the abbey was consecrated in October 1121. The abbey was apparently built under the influence of his wife Sibylle (or Sibilla)[3], said to be a beautiful and religious woman like her sisters.

Fitzhamon and His Kings

Legend has it that Robert had ominous dreams in the days before Rufus' fatal hunting expedition, which postponed but did not prevent the outing. He was one of the first to gather in tears around Rufus' corpse, and he used his cloak to cover the late king's body on its journey to be buried in Winchester. How much of these stories are the invention of later days is unknown.

In any case Fitzhamon proved as loyal to Henry I as he had been to his predecessor, remaining on Henry's side in the several open conflicts with Henry's brother Robert Curthose. He was one of the three barons who negotiated the 1101 truce between Henry I and Robert Curthose.

In 1105 he went to Normandy and was captured while fighting near his ancestral estates near Bayeux. This was one of the reasons Henry crossed the channel with a substantial force later that year. Fitzhamon was freed, and joined Henry's campaign, which proceeded to besiege Falaise. There Fitzhamon was severely injured in the head; although he lived two more years he was never the same mentally. He was buried in the Chapter House at Tewkesbury Abbey, which he had founded and considerably enriched during his lifetime.

Marriage and Children

Fitzhamon married circa 1087-1090 Sibyl (or Sybille), apparently the youngest daughter of Roger of Montgomery, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury by his first wife Mabel of Bêlleme, by whom he is said to have had four daughters. His eldest daughter Mabel inherited his great estates and married circa 1119 Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester. Fitzhamon's Gloucestershire property thus became the nucleus of the Earldom of Gloucester later given to his son-in-law. Fitzhamon is sometimes called Earl of Gloucester, but was never so created formally.

Another daughter Isabella (or Hawisa) is said to have been married to a count from Brittany, but no further details exist. His widow and two other daughters (unnamed) are reported to have entered a convent.

Robert fitzHamon's great granddaughter Isabel of Gloucester married John of England.

 

Sibyl de Montgomery and Robert FITZHAMON had the following children:

 

Mabel of Gloucester ( -1156). Mabel died in 1156.