Robert, Count of Mortain

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Robert ("Rotbert"), Count of Mortain (right) sits at the left hand of his half brother, William Duke of Normandy. Robert's full brother Odo ("Odo Ep(iscopu)s", "The Bishop") sits to William's right, implying his seniority. This scene in the Bayeux Tapestry occurs near Hastings, immediately before William ordered the building of a castle there, some time before the Battle of Hastings.

Robert, Count of Mortain, 2nd Earl of Cornwall (c. 1031–1090) was a Norman nobleman and the half-brother of William I of England. He was one of the known participants at the Battle of Hastings and the time of the Domesday Book he was one of the greatest landholders in England.

Life[edit]

Robert was the son of Herluin de Conteville and Herleva of Falaise and brother of Odo of Bayeux.[1] Robert was born c. 1031 in Normandy, a half-brother of William the Conqueror.[2] and was probably not more than a year or so younger than his brother Odo, born c. 1030.[1][3] About 1035, Herluin, as Vicomte of Conteville, along with his wife Herleva and Robert founded Grestain Abbey.[4]

Count of Mortain[edit]

In c. 1049 his brother Duke William made him Count of Mortain,[5] in place of William Warlenc, who had been banished by Duke William; according to Orderic Vitalis, on a single word.[6] William Warlenc was a grandson of Duke Richard I[7] and therefore a cousin once removed to William, Duke of Normandy.[7] Securing the southern border of Normandy was critical to Duke William and Robert was entrusted with this key county which guarded the borders of Brittany and Bellême.[8]

Conquest of England[edit]

In early 1066, Robert was present at both the first council, that of William's inner circle, and the second larger council held to discuss the Duke's planned conquest of England. Robert agreed to provide 120 ships to the invasion fleet,[9] which was more than any other of William's magnates.[10] Robert was one of those few known to have been at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.[11] He is pictured at a dinner at Pevensey on the Bayeux Tapestry, seated with his brothers William and Odo on the day of the landing in England.[10] When granting the monastery of St Michael's Mount to the Norman monastery on the Mont Saint-Michel Robert recorded that he had fought at the Battle of Hastings under the banner of St Michel (habens in bello Sancti Michaelis vexillum).[12][13]

Lands granted by William the Conqueror[edit]

Robert's contribution to the success of the invasion was clearly regarded as highly significant by the Conqueror who awarded him a large share of the spoils; in total 797 manors at the time of Domesday.[14] However the greatest concentration of his honors lay in Cornwall where he held virtually all of that county and was considered by some the Earl of Cornwall.[a][14] While Robert held lands in twenty counties, the majority of his holdings in certain counties was as few as five manors. The overall worth of his estates was £2100.[15] He administered most of his southwestern holdings from Launceston, Cornwall, and Montacute in Somerset.[15] The holding of single greatest importance, however, was the rape of Pevensey (east Sussex) which protected one of the more vulnerable parts of the south coast of England.[15]

Later life[edit]

In 1069, together with Robert of Eu, he led an army against a force of Danes in Lindsay and affected great slaughter against them.[14] After that there is little mention of Robert who appears to have been an absentee landholder spending the majority of his time in Normandy.[16] Along with his brother Odo he participated in a revolt in 1088 against William II but afterwards he was pardoned.[14] On 8 December 1090 Robert died and chose to be buried at the Abbey of Grestain,[14] near his father and next to his first wife Matilda.[16]

Character[edit]

He was described by William of Malmesbury in his Gesta Regum as a man of stupid dull disposition (crassi et hebetis ingenii).[17] But William the Conqueror considered him one of his greatest supporters and trusted him with the important county of Mortain. This was a trust he would hardly place in someone who was in any way incompetent.[17] Further clues to his character are found in the Vita of Vitalis of Savigny, a very wise monk who Robert sought out as his chaplain.[17] One incident tells of Robert beating his wife and Vital, intervening, threatened to end the marriage if Robert did not repent.[18] In still another entry Vital tells of his leaving Robert's service abruptly and after being escorted back to him, Robert begged for Vital's pardon for his actions.[18] Overall, Robert was proficient in every duty William assigned him, he was a religious man yet ill-tempered enough to beat his wife, but not himself known as a man of great wisdom.[18]

Family[edit]

Robert was married to Matilda, daughter of Roger de Montgomery, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, before 1066[14] and together they had:

After Matilda de Montgomery's death c. 1085[19] Robert secondly married Almodis.[14] The couple had no children.

Portrayals on screen[edit]

On screen, Robert has been portrayed by Gordon Whiting in the two-part BBC TV play Conquest (1966), part of the series Theatre 625, and by Richard Ireson in the TV drama Blood Royal: William the Conqueror (1990).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ His position of authority in the south west has therefore led many to consider him as the Earl of Cornwall, although it appears uncertain whether he was formally created as such. The Complete Peerage, III, 428 states while he may have been considered the earl he was only known officially as Comes Moritoniensis. According to Charles Henderson "Count Robert did not call himself Earl of Cornwall [but] enjoyed the power that in the following century belonged to the earls, and after them the dukes". See: Henderson, C. G. (1933) "Cornwall and her patron saint", In: his Essays in Cornish History. Oxford: Clarendon Press; pp. 197-201.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Detlev Schwennicke, Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, Neue Folge, Band III Teilband 4 (Marburg, Germany: Verlag von J. A. Stargardt, 1989), Tafel 694B
  2. ^ George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England Scotland Ireland Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant Extinct or Dormant, Vol. III, Ed. Vicary Gibbs (London: The St. Catherine Press, Ltd., 1913), p. 427
  3. ^ George Edward Cokayne, The complete peerage; or, A history of the House of lords and all its members from the earliest times., Vol. VII, Ed. H. A. Doubleday, Howard de Walden (London: The St. Catherine Press, Ltd, 1929), p. 124
  4. ^ David C. Douglas, William the Conqueror (Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1964)p. 112
  5. ^ K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday People, A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166, Volume I, Domesday Book (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 1999)p. 371
  6. ^ Ordericus Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy, Trans. Thomas Forester, Vol. II (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), p. 79
  7. ^ a b Detlev Schwennicke, Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, Neue Folge, Band II (Marburg, Germany: Verlag von J. A. Stargardt, 1984), Tafel 79
  8. ^ Brian Golding, 'Robert of Mortain', Anglo-Norman Studies XIII; Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1990, Ed. Marjorie Chibnall (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1991), p. 120
  9. ^ Elisabeth M.C, van Houts, 'The Ship List of William the Conqueror', Anglo-Norman Studies X: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1987, Ed. R. Allen Brown (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1988), p. 161
  10. ^ a b Brian Golding, 'Robert of Mortain', Anglo-Norman Studies XIII; Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1990, Ed. Marjorie Chibnall (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1991), p. 121
  11. ^ K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday People, A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166, Volume I, Domesday Book (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 1999)p. 372
  12. ^ The Cartulary of St. Michael's Mount, ed. P.L. Hull, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, New Series, Vol. V (1962), p. 1
  13. ^ Henderson, C. G. (1933) "Cornwall and her patron saint", In: his Essays in Cornish History. Oxford: Clarendon Press; pp. 197-201
  14. ^ a b c d e f g George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England Scotland Ireland Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant Extinct or Dormant, Vol. III, Ed. Vicary Gibbs (London: The St. Catherine Press, Ltd., 1913), p. 428
  15. ^ a b c Brian Golding, 'Robert of Mortain', Anglo-Norman Studies XIII; Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1990, Ed. Marjorie Chibnall (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1991), p. 124
  16. ^ a b Brian Golding, 'Robert of Mortain', Anglo-Norman Studies XIII; Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1990, Ed. Marjorie Chibnall (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1991), p. 144
  17. ^ a b c Brian Golding, 'Robert of Mortain', Anglo-Norman Studies XIII; Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1990, Ed. Marjorie Chibnall (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1991), p. 122
  18. ^ a b c Brian Golding, 'Robert of Mortain', Anglo-Norman Studies XIII; Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1990, Ed. Marjorie Chibnall (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1991), p. 123
  19. ^ K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday People, A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166, Volume I, Domesday Book (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1999), p. 372


French nobility
Preceded by
William Warlenc
Count of Mortain
1049–1095
Succeeded by
William
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Brian of Brittany
Earl of Cornwall
1072–1095
Succeeded by
William