Baldwin of Bethune

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Baldwin of Bethune or Baldwin de Béthune (French: Baudoin de Béthune Dutch: Boudewijn van Bethune) (c. 1158-1212), a knight from the House of Bethune in Artois and a crusader, was close companion to successive English kings and on marriage to Hawise of Aumale became Count of Aumale with extensive estates in England.


Baldwin was the third son of Robert V of Béthune, Advocate of Arras and Lord of Béthune, and his wife Alice, daughter of Hugh III, Count of Saint-Pol.

His brothers included Robert VI of Béthune, Advocate of Arras and Lord of Béthune; William II of Béthune, also Advocate of Arras and Lord of Béthune; John of Béthune, Bishop of Cambrai; and Conon of Béthune, poet, crusader and Regent of the Latin Empire of Constantinople.

His date of birth is unknown but would have been shortly before 1160, probably at Béthune.


His career was as a knight in royal service, though not with the kings of his native France but with their English opponents.

In 1170, still in his teens, he was with his lifelong friend, William Marshal in the court of Henry the Young King. In 1180, at the great international tournament of Lagny-sur-Marne, he was a knight banneret leading the Flemish team while William headed the English team.

About 1187, he was rewarded with his first landholding in England, the manor of Bramley, Surrey. Once king, Richard I of England added the manors of Wantage, then in Berkshire, Luton in Bedfordshire and Greens Norton in Northamptonshire.

In 1191 he was with Richard’s contingent on the Third Crusade in Palestine where his father Robert, who was with the Flemish contingent, died. When Richard set out on his incognito voyage home in 1192, Baldwin was with him. They were blown ashore in a December storm near Aquileia and the disguised Richard was captured by his Austrian enemies at an inn near Vienna.

Baldwin stood hostage for him, let loose to organise a ransom into which he put not only months of effort but much of his own money as well. As well as cash to free Richard, Leopold V, Duke of Austria wanted two princesses, including Eleanor, niece of Richard. Early in December 1194, Baldwin was sent with two princesses to Vienna and told that if he did not turn up with them his life would be forfeit. Before they arrived, the Duke died and with him the death threat.

In 1195 Baldwin married Hawise of Aumale, a great Anglo-Norman heiress, heiress of Chateauroux, gaining through his wife vast lands and the title of Count of Aumale. The lands of Aumale itself were however lost shortly after in 1196, when the French captured and kept them. In 1197 Baldwin was one of the English delegates to the election of Richard’s nephew Otto IV of Germany as Holy Roman Emperor.

Through the stormy years of King John, he was less close to the king and no doubt occupied with running both his wife’s and his own extensive estates in England. On 13 or 14 October 1212 he died, probably at Hawise’s house of Burstwick in Yorkshire, and was buried in the chapter house at Meaux Abbey, of which nothing remains. On 3 November, Hawise promised the king 5000 marks (£3333) to keep her lands and avoid a fourth marriage.

Marriage and family[edit]

King Henry II promised both William Marshal and Baldwin that he would find them rich heiresses to marry and in 1189 was arranging a match for Baldwin with the heiress of Châteauroux in the French province of Berry when he died. His son and successor Richard gave her to a French noble instead, saying he would find someone better for Baldwin.

It was not until 1194, when Richard got back to England from crusade and captivity, that he fulfilled the promise and gave Baldwin the twice-widowed Hawise of Aumale. Their wedding was in the cathedral of Sées in Lower Normandy, with Richard paying for both the celebrations and the honeymoon trip to England.

Not long after, Baldwin and Hawise had a daughter Alice, no doubt named after his mother. While still a child, she was engaged to William Marshal the younger, son of William Marshal and Isabel of Pembroke, in 1203. As Baldwin’s heiress, it was specified in the contract that she would bring all his lands in England to her husband. (Hawise’s lands were to go to her son William de Forz.) Alice did not long outlive her father, dying in her teens without having any children.

Some sources have claimed Baldwin as the ancestor of the Bethunes in Scotland, who start appearing in records there shortly after his death. Though some are called John, the name of one of Baldwin’s brothers, and some Robert, the name of another brother, none are ever called Baldwin.

Baldwin did in fact have a son called Baldwin, whether legitimate from a brief early marriage or illegitimate is unrecorded. This son inherited Baldwin’s lands in France, in particular the lordship of Chocques, but later seems to have settled in England at Greens Norton as a tenant of his brother-in-law William Marshal the younger, by then 2nd Earl of Pembroke, and to have married a woman called Joan. Nothing is known of any children.


A list of lands held at some time in his own right, rather than through his wife, by Baldwin of Bethune.

In England, using county boundaries in force at the time: Bedfordshire. Luton. Berkshire. Wantage. Buckinghamshire. Aylesbury. Hampshire. Ovington, Polhampton. Hertfordshire. Rushden. Kent. Brabourne, Kemsing, Sutton Valence. Norfolk. Foulsham, Hengham, Roltesham. Northamptonshire. Greens Norton. Somerset. Haselbury Plucknett. Worcestershire. Severn Stoke.

In France: Chocques, Ecche, Lapugnoy, St Sauveur, St Pierre Mesnil



To follow.