Ralph de Warenne

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Ralph de Warenne, also known as Radulf or Ranulf, was an Anglo-Norman nobleman, the son of William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey and Elizabeth de Vermandois.


Ralph's father was William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey, the son of one of William the Conqueror's companions and a prominent member of Henry I of England's court, and his mother was Elizabeth de Vermandois, the granddaughter of Henry I of France. His siblings were William de Warenne, who succeeded his father's earldom; Reginald de Warenne, a royal official; Gundred de Warenne, married to Roger de Beaumont and William de Lancaster; and Ada de Warenne, married to Henry of Scotland and the mother of two Scottish kings.

With his brother William, Ralph was a joint donor in charters issued by his parents and was a witness to his father's charter, all to Longueville Priory near Rouen, Normandy[1] (between 1130 and 1138).[2] He was also a donor with his brother and both parents to the priory of Bellencombre (also near Rouen) in 1135.[3] Ralph witnessed a number of charters of his brother, the third Earl, between 1138 and 1147. He is also mentioned in connection with the livery of seisin in 1147.[1] At that event, Ralph's brother, William, acting as 3rd Earl of Surrey, gave a large gift to the Lewes Priory which was secured with a lock of hair from his own and from Ralph's head cut by Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester, before the altar of the priory church.[4][5] Lewes Priory had been founded by Ralph's grandparents, William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, and his wife Gundrada, probably in 1081.

Ralph may have had a son named William, as a document records that a Ralph de Warenne donated land in Norfolk to Lewes Priory, which his son William later enlarged.[6][7]

Possible connection to the Whitchurch Warennes[edit]

Several authors mention Ralph as the possible founder of a cadet branch of the Warenne family that became the Lords of Whitchurch in Shropshire. Before the Norman Conquest, the area around the town was held by Harold Godwinson. In 1086, the Domesday Book records it as being in the possession of William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey,[8] Ralph's grandfather, who held it under Roger de Montgomery.[9] At this time it was known as Weston, probably because it was located on the western edge of Shropshire, bordering the Welsh Marches.[8] A large church of whitish stone was then erected in the town, possibly by William de Warenne, and it became known as Whitchurch, Album Monasterium or Blancminster.[8] There was also a castle at Whitchurch, also possibly built by William,[10] and its location on the marches would require the Lords of Whitchurch to keep a military watch.[8] The Lords of Whitchurch were a branch of the Warenne family, but were more commonly referred to as de Albo Monasterio or de Blancmonster in contemporary writings.[11] Their connection to the main Warenne line is not well documented.[12] The first individual recorded as the Lord of Whitchurch is William fitz Ranulf, who appeared in the Shropshire Pipe Roll of 1176.[8] Robert Eyton supposed that this William was the son of Ralph, the son of William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey, and that Ralph may indeed have been the first to hold the title of Lord of Whitchurch.[13] The mention of a Ralph de Warenne and his son William both donating land to Lewes Priory would be consistent with this statement,[14][7] particularly when later Whitchurch heirs continued an association with Lewes.[15] Writing in 1923, William Farrer agreed.[16] However in a later publication, Charles Travis Clay elaborated on Farrer's original work and drew attention to a Domesday tenant of William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, named Ranulf nepos (nephew). It does not specify who his uncle was, but Clay suggests it was his feudal overlord, William de Warenne. This Ranulf nepos held Middleton, Suffolk, which was later owned by William fitz Ranulf, Lord of Whitchurch, leading Clay to speculate that the Warennes of Whitchurch may instead have descended from this Domesday tenant rather than from the son of the 2nd Earl.[16]


  1. ^ a b Farrer & Clay 1949, p. 10.
  2. ^ Farrer & Clay 1949, p. 62, 80–81.
  3. ^ Farrer & Clay 1949, p. 81–82.
  4. ^ Farrer & Clay 1949, p. 84–85.
  5. ^ Gransden 1992, p. 309.
  6. ^ Dugdale 1693, p. 3: "Ranulf de Warren gave the monks of Lewes one yardland at Estun, in Norfolk: and William, his son, the tithe of the land which one Godvine held at Gelham."
  7. ^ a b Farrer 1923, p. 300, 311.
  8. ^ a b c d e Anderson 1864, p. 402–404.
  9. ^ Farrer & Clay 1949, p. 37.
  10. ^ Botfield 1862, p. 45–46.
  11. ^ Farrer & Clay 1949, pp. 35–36.
  12. ^ Eyton 1859, p. 15–16: "William de Warren, better known as William fitz Ranulf. His relation to the elder line has never been ascertained nor, as far as I know, surmised. My notion on the subject is quite conjectural. William, second Earl Warren, he who died 1135, is stated, on the best authority, to have three sons: William, Reginald, and Ralph. William is well known as his father's successor and the last of the elder male line. Reginald became notorious as Lord of Wirmgay by marriage with its heiress. Of Ralph little has been recorded except his era. It is consistent with both to suppose him to have been father of William fitz Ranulf of whom we are now speaking. If so, Ralph himself may have been in his own time, Lord of Whitchurch."
  13. ^ Eyton 1859, p. ibid.
  14. ^ Dugdale 1693, p. ibid.
  15. ^ Farrer & Clay 1949, p. 36.
  16. ^ a b Farrer & Clay 1949, p. 37–38.


  • Anderson, John Corbet (1864). Shropshire, Its Early History and Antiquities. London: Willis and Sotheran. 
  • Botfield, Beriah (1862). Collectanea Archæologica: Shropshire. London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts. 
  • Eyton, Robert William (1859). Antiquities of Shropshire. Volume X. London: John Russell Smith. 
  • Dugdale, William (1693). Monasticon Anglicanum. Volume V. London: Sam Keble. 
  • Farrer, William (1923). Honors and Knights' Fees. London: Spottiswoode, Ballntyne & Co. 
  • Farrer, William; Clay, Charles Travis (1949). Early Yorkshire Charters Volume 8: The Honour of Warenne. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Gransden, Antonia (1992). Legends, tradition and history in medieval England. Bloomsbury Publishing.