Ela of Salisbury, 3rd Countess of Salisbury

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Ela of Salisbury
Countess of Salisbury
Spouse(s) William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury

Issue

William II Longespée, titular Earl of Salisbury
Richard Longespée
Stephen Longespée
Nicholas Longespée, Bishop of Salisbury
Isabella Longespée
Petronilla Longespée
Ela Longespée
Ida Longespée
Ida Longespée (again)
Noble family de Salisbury
Father William FitzPatrick, 2nd Earl of Salisbury
Mother Eléonore de Vitré
Born 1187
Amesbury, Wiltshire, England
Died 24 August 1261
Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire

Ela of Salisbury, 3rd Countess of Salisbury (1187 – 24 August 1261) was a wealthy English heiress and the suo jure Countess of Salisbury, having succeeded to the title in 1196 upon the death of her father, William FitzPatrick, 2nd Earl of Salisbury.[1] Her husband William Longespée, an illegitimate half-brother of kings Richard I of England and John of England assumed the title of 3rd Earl of Salisbury by right of his marriage to Ela, which took place in 1196 when she was nine years old.

Ela held the post of High Sheriff of Wiltshire for two years after William's death, then became a nun, and eventually Abbess of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire which she had founded in 1229.

Family[edit]

Ela was born in Amesbury, Wiltshire in 1187, the only child and heiress of William FitzPatrick, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, Sheriff of Wiltshire and Eléonore de Vitré (c.1164- 1232/1233).[2] In 1196, she succeeded her father as suo jure 3rd Countess of Salisbury. There is a story that immediately following her father's death she was imprisoned in a castle in Normandy by one of her paternal uncles who wished to take her title and enormous wealth for himself. According to the legend, Ela was eventually rescued by William Talbot, a knight who had gone to France where he sang ballads under windows in all the castles of Normandy until he received a response from Ela.[3]

In 1198, Ela's mother married her fourth husband, Gilbert de Malesmains.

Marriage and issue[edit]

In 1196, the same year she became countess and inherited her father's numerous estates, Ela married William Longespée, an illegitimate son of King Henry II of England, by his mistress Ida de Tosny, who later married Roger Bigod, 2nd Earl of Norfolk. Longespee became 3rd Earl of Salisbury by right of his wife. The Continuator of Florence recorded that their marriage had been arranged by King Richard I of England, who was William's legitimate half-brother.[1]

Together William and Ela had at least eight or possibly nine children:

Lacock Abbey which was founded in 1229 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury

Later life[edit]

In 1225, Ela's husband William was shipwrecked off the coast of Brittany, upon returning from Gascony. He spent months recovering at a monastery on the Island of Ré in France. He died at Salisbury Castle on 7 March 1226 just several days after arriving in England. Ela held the post of Sheriff of Wiltshire for two years following her husband's death.

Three years later in 1229, Ela founded Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire as a nunnery of the Augustinian order. In 1238, she entered the abbey as a nun; she was made Abbess of Lacock in 1240, and held the post until 1257. The Book of Lacock recorded that Ela founded the monasteries at Lacock and Henton.[1] During her tenure as abbess, Ela obtained many rights for the abbey and village of Lacock.

Ela, Countess of Salisbury died on 24 August 1261 and was buried in Lacock Abbey. The inscription on her tombstone, originally written in Latin, reads:

Below lie buried the bones of the venerable Ela, who gave this sacred house as a home for the nuns. She also had lived here as holy abbess and Countess of Salisbury, full of good works[6]

Her numerous descendants included English kings Edward IV and Richard III, Mary, Queen of Scots, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, Sir Winston Churchill, Diana, Princess of Wales, the Dukes of Norfolk, and the English queen consorts of King Henry VIII; Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr.

Ela has been described as having been "one of the two towering female figures of the mid-13th century", the other one being Margaret de Quincy, Countess of Lincoln.[7]

Peerage of England
Preceded by
William of Salisbury
from 1196-1226 together with her spouse
William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury jure uxoris

Countess of Salisbury suo jure

1196–1261
Succeeded by
Margaret Longespée,
Countess of Salisbury
suo jure

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands, England, Earls of Salisbury 1196-1310 (Longespee)
  2. ^ The Earls of Salisbury are sometimes mistakenly assigned the surname "d’Evreux", but it is spurious, arising from confusion over the nickname of a fictitious ancestor, Walter le Ewrus (Walter the Fortunate). The family of the Earls of Salisbury never used the name "d’Evreux", they do not descend from the Norman Counts of Evreux, nor do the later Devereux derive from them. See Cokayne, George (1982). The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct, or Dormant XI. Gloucester England: A. Sutton. p. 373, note (b). ISBN 0-904387-82-8. 
  3. ^ Thomas B. Costain, The Conquering Family, pp.291-92, published by Doubleday and Company, Inc., New York, 1949.
  4. ^ a b c d Richardson, D. (2011) Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study ... (via Google) pg 577 (Mowbray) pg 94 (Fitzwalter) pg 429
  5. ^ This Ida is sometimes confused with Ida II Longespée, who married Sir Walter FitzRobert of Woodham Walter, Essex, by whom she had issue including Ela FitzWalter, wife of William de Odyngsells. Ida II Longespée has been given different parents by different genealogists; G. Andrews Moriarty suggested the two Idas were sisters; Gerald Paget suggests Ida II who married Walter FitzRobert may have been the daughter of William Longespée II, Earl of Salisbury, by his wife, Idoine de Camville.
  6. ^ "History of Chitterne: Ela, Countess of Salisbury" at chitterne.com, retrieved on 22 May 2009
  7. ^ Linda Elizabeth Mitchell, Portraits of Medieval Women: Family, Marriage, and Politics in England 1225-1350, p.42, Google Books, retrieved on 14-11-09