William Malet (companion of William the Conqueror)
William Malet (died 1071) is one of the very few proven Companions of William the Conqueror known to have been present at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, as recorded by the contemporary chronicler William of Poitiers (c.1020-1090). He held substantial property in Normandy, chiefly in the Pays de Caux, with a castle at Graville-Ste-Honorine, at the mouth of the River Seine near Harfleur (nowadays a suburb of Le Havre).
Legend has it that his mother was English, and that he was the uncle of King Harold II of England's wife Edith (the claim being that he had a sister Aelgifu who married Aelfgar, Earl of Mercia, who was the father of Edith).
Divided loyalties or no, Malet fought on the Norman side at Hastings. William of Poitiers wrote as follows: "His (King Harold's) corpse was brought into the Duke's camp and William gave it for burial to William, surnamed Malet, and not to Harold's mother, who offered for the body of her beloved son its weight in gold". Malet is not described by Wm. of Poitiers as active during the battle, but rather as present in the Duke's camp after the battle. This should however suffice to deem him one of the very few proven participants in the battle.
Malet's activities during the first few years of the Norman conquest of England are not known. But after York was captured in 1068, he was appointed the first High Sheriff of Yorkshire and was one of the commanders of the garrisons in the new castles built in the city of York. His efforts at defending the shire from Danish raids were, in the end, a terrible failure, for the next year the city was burned and the garrison slaughtered. Malet, his wife, and two of their children were held as hostages, and finally released when the Danes were driven off.
Malet was relieved of his duties in the north, but seems to not have lost the king's favour, for he soon was appointed High Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, and given the great honour of Eye, with lands in Suffolk and several other shires. It was in fact the largest lordship in East Anglia. He built a motte and bailey castle at Eye, and started a market there.
He died around 1071, probably during the rebellion of Hereward the Wake. He had married Hesilia (Helise or Elisee) Crispin de Brionne, a great-grand daughter[dubious ] of Rollo, 1st Duke of Normandy. He was succeeded by his son Robert as Lord of Eye and Sheriff of Suffolk. His other son Gilbert founded the Malets of Shepton Mallet.
On screen, Malet has been portrayed by Peter Halliday in the two-part BBC TV play Conquest (1966), part of the series Theatre 625, and by Gawn Grainger in the TV drama Blood Royal: William the Conqueror (1990).
- Wm. of Poitiers, Gesta Guillelmi II Ducis Normannorum, quoted in David C.Douglas & George W. Greenaway (Eds.), English Historical Documents 1042-1189, London, 1959, p.229.
- Domesday Book
- Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700 by Frederick Lewis Weis, Line 234A-25
- Hollister, C. Warren (1973). "Henry I and Robert Malet". Viator 4: 115–32.
- Hurt, Cyril. "William Malet and His Family". Anglo-Norman Studies XIX.
- Lewis, C. P. (1989). "The King and Eye: A Study in Anglo-Norman Politics". English Historical Review 104: 569–87. doi:10.1093/ehr/CIV.CCCCXII.569.