Roger Bigod of Norfolk

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Roger Bigod (died 1107) was a Norman knight who came to England in the Norman Conquest. He held great power in East Anglia, and five of his descendants were Earl of Norfolk. He was also known as Roger Bigot, appearing as such as a witness to the Charter of Liberties of Henry I of England.

Biography[edit]

Roger came from a fairly obscure family of poor knights in Normandy. Robert le Bigot, certainly a relation of Roger's, possibly his father, acquired an important position in the household of William, Duke of Normandy (later William I of England), due, the story goes, to his disclosure to the duke of a plot by the duke's cousin William Werlenc.[1]

Both Roger and Robert may have fought at the Battle of Hastings, and afterwards they were rewarded with a substantial estate in East Anglia. The Domesday Book lists Roger as holding six lordships in Essex, 117 in Suffolk and 187 in Norfolk.

Bigod's (Bigot) base was in Thetford, Norfolk, then the see of the bishop, where he founded a priory later donated to the abbey at Cluny. In 1101 he further consolidated his power when Henry I granted him licence to build a castle at Framlingham, which became the family seat of power until their downfall in 1307. Another of his castles was Bungay Castle, also in Suffolk.

In 1069 he, Robert Malet and Ralph de Gael (then Earl of Norfolk), defeated Sweyn Estrithson (Sweyn II) of Denmark near Ipswich. After Ralph de Gael's fall in 1074, Roger was appointed sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, and acquired many of the dispossessed earl's estates. For this reason he is sometimes counted as Earl of Norfolk, but he probably was never actually created earl. (His son Hugh acquired the title earl of Norfolk in 1141.) He acquired further estates through his influence in local law courts as sheriff and great lord of the region.

In the Rebellion of 1088 he joined other barons in England against William II, whom they hoped to depose in favour of Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy. He seems to have lost his lands after the rebellion had failed, but regained them after reconciling with the king.

In 1100, Robert Bigod (Bigot) was one of the witnesses recorded on the Charter of Liberties, King Henry I's coronation promises later to influence the Magna Carta of 1215.

In 1101 there was another attempt to bring in Robert of Normandy by removing King Henry, but this time Roger Bigod stayed loyal to the king.

He died on 9 September 1107 and is buried in Norwich. Upon his death there was a dispute over his burial place between the Bishop of Norwich, Herbert Losinga, and the monks at Thetford Priory, founded by Bigod. The monks claimed Roger's body, along with those of his family and successors, had been left to them by Roger for burial in the priory in Roger's foundation charter (as was common practice at the time). The bishop of Norwich stole the body in the middle of the night and had him buried in the new cathedral he had built in Norwich.

For some time he was thought to have two wives, Adelaide/Adeliza and Alice/Adeliza de Tosny. It is now believed these were the same woman, Adeliza (Alice) de Tosny (Toeni, Toeny). She was the sister and coheiress of William de Tosny, Lord of Belvoir.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, William Bigod, and, after William drowned in the sinking of the White Ship, by his second son, Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk. He also had three daughters: Gunnor, who married Robert fitz Swein of Essex, Lord of Rayleigh; Cecily, who married William d'Aubigny "Brito"; and Maud, who married William d'Aubigny "Pincerna", and was mother to William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel.[2]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ mentioned by William of Jumièges in Gesta Normannorum Ducum.
  2. ^ Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England, vol. 9.