Robert Fitzharding

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Marble mural monumental tablet erected 1742 to Robert FitzHarding, 1st feudal baron of Berkeley (d.1170), in the Lady Chapel, St Augustine's Abbey (Bristol Cathedral). The tablet appears to serve as an explication (erroneously) of the adjacent tomb-chest of a knight and lady in 14th-century armour and costume labelled on the 19th-century brass plaque affixed to the plinth as depicting "Maurice de Berkeley, 9th Baron Berkeley" (d.1368) and his mother. The text of the marble tablet contains details now proved erroneous concerning his ancestry. Text: "The monument of Robert FitzHarding Lord of Berkeley descended from the Kings of Denmark and Eva his wife by whom he had five sons & two daughters. Maurice his eldest son was the first of this family that took the name of Berkeley. This Robert FitzHarding laid the foundation of this church and monastery of St Augustine in the year 1140 the fifth of King Stephen, dedicated in the year 1170 in the 17th of King Henry the Second. This monument was repaired AD 1742. From the said Robert FitzHarding Lord of Berkeley, Augustus the present Earl is the two and twentieth in descent".

Robert Fitzharding (c. 1095–1170) was an Anglo-Saxon nobleman from Bristol who was granted the feudal barony of Berkeley in Gloucestershire. He rebuilt Berkeley Castle, and founded the Berkeley family which still occupies it today.[1] He was a wealthy Bristol merchant and a financier of the future King Henry II of England (1133-1189) in the period known as The Anarchy during which Henry's mother, the Empress Matilda (1102-1167), mounted repeated military challenges to King Stephen (d. 1154). Fitzharding founded St. Augustine's Abbey, which after the Reformation became Bristol Cathedral.[2] Many members of the Berkeley family were buried within it, and some of their effigies survive there. As J. Horace Round asserted he was one of the very few Anglo-Saxon noblemen who managed to retain their noble status in Norman England and successfully integrate with the Norman nobility, if not the only one.[3]

Early life[edit]

Robert Fitzharding

Robert Fitzharding is believed to have been the grandson of Eadnoth, who had held the post of Staller under King Edward the Confessor and King Harold.[4] Robert's father Harding of Bristol was the King's Reeve in Bristol, with a house in Baldwin Street. Robert later built a large house in Broad Street, on the River Frome. He became a burgess of the city and sufficiently wealthy to buy from Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester extensive manorial lands around Bristol to its south and west, including Redcliffe, Bedminster, Leigh, Portbury and Billeswick.[5][6][7]

St Augustine's Abbey[edit]

In 1140, Fitzharding founded St Augustine's Abbey as a Victorine Augustinian monastery. The chosen site was in Billeswick, just across the River Frome from Bristol Castle. He endowed the abbey with many lands, and the rights to revenues from many churches, in Bristol and within several counties. In 1148 he chose Richard of Warwick as the first abbot. In 1155 King Henry II made endowments to the abbey and in 1159 Fitzharding confirmed his own endowments by charter. The abbey carried out a building programme during Fitzharding's lifetime which created a new abbey church, the chapter house and the Great Gatehouse.[2][7]

Barony of Berkeley[edit]

Berkeley Castle
Berkeley Castle

In the conflict of The Anarchy, Bristol Castle was held by Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester for the Plantagenet cause against King Stephen. In 1152 Roger de Berkeley was dispossessed by Plantagenet forces of the fee-farm of Berkeley Castle, held from King Stephen, for refusing to give allegiance to the Plantagenet cause. These lands included Berkeley, Filton, Horfield, Almondsbury and Ashleworth, and other English and Welsh possessions including land in Gwent and Glamorgan. This left Roger de Berkeley with a truncated barony centred on Dursley.[8] Following the victory and crowning of King Henry II, Fitzharding was rewarded by the king for his support with the grant of a feudal barony which comprised lands which had formerly been held at fee-farm from Stephen by Roger de Berkeley, including Berkeley Castle itself, which became the caput of the new barony.[9] Fitzharding made further endowments to St Augustine's Abbey from these territories.[2][4][5][7]

In 1153–54 Fitzharding received a royal charter from Henry II giving him permission to rebuild the castle at Berkeley.[4] The previous castle was originally a motte-and-bailey built by William FitzOsbern shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066, and had been rebuilt in the 12th century by the dispossessed Roger de Berkeley and his father. Fitzharding built the shell keep between 1153–56, on the site of the former motte. The building of the curtain wall followed, around 1160–90.[1]

Later life[edit]

According to the 13th-century Norman verse The Song of Dermot and the Earl, Fitzharding acted as an intermediary between Dermot MacMurrough, the exiled King of Leinster, and Henry II in Dermot's attempts to raise Norman support for his planned recapture of Leinster. The song tells that Dermot was a guest in Fitzharding's house in Bristol.[10]

Some time before his death Fitzharding became a canon of the abbey he had founded. He died in 1170.[2]

The ancestry of Robert Fitzharding's wife Eva is not certain. She was founder and first abbess of the Augustinian nunnery of St Mary Magdalen on St Michael's Hill, Bristol, having endowed it with lands in Southmead.[2][5]

Eva was buried alongside her husband in the choir of St Augustine's Abbey.[2] They are commemorated with a 19th-century stained glass window in the Cathedral, depicting them with Henry II.[11]


Robert's first son, and heir, was Maurice fitzRobert fitzHarding, also known as Maurice de Berkeley, born c. 1120. Duke Henry of Aquitaine (the future Henry II) had clearly regretted the effect of his action in dispossessing Roger de Berkeley of his former lands, and determined to facilitate the junction of the two families by encouraging dual intermarriages. In 1153–54 Maurice married Alice, the first daughter of the dispossessed Roger de Berkeley, who was now feudal baron of nearby Dursley.[12] At the same time Robert's first daughter Helen married Roger's heir, also called Roger.[4] This double marriage contract, binding the son and heir of each man to marry a daughter of the other, was signed at the house of Robert FitzHarding in Bristol in the presence of Duke Henry and 16 witnesses.[13]

Robert Fitzharding's daughter, Adeva Fitzhardinge, married Nigel Fitzarthur, and from them began the Kingscote Family.

Marriage charter[edit]

The marriage charter, today held at Berkeley Castle,[14] was published by Isaac Herbert Jeayes of the British Museum in 1892 as follows:[15]

"Marriage Contract between Rodbert Fitzharding and Roger de Berckele, made in the house of the said Rodbert at Bristol, in the presence of Henry, Duke of Normandy, whereby it is covenanted that Maurice, son of Rodbert Fitzharding, shall take in marriage the daughter of Roger de Berckele, with Slimbridge [co. Glouc] as her portion, and that Roger, the son and heir of Roger de Berckele, shall take in marriage the daughter of the said Rodbert Fitzharding, with the Manor of Siston, near Bristol, for dowry. c. Nov. 1153. Latin.

Iste sunt pactiones que facte fuerunt inter Rodbertum filium Hardingi et Rogerum de Berckel' in domo Rodberti filii Hardingi apud Bristou in presentia domini Henrici ducis Normannorum et Aquitanie et comitis And[egavie] ejusdem assensu et in presentia multorum aliorum clericorum et laicorum. Mauricius filius Rodberti filii hardingi cepit filiam Rogeri de Berckel' in uxorem ita quod Rogerus dedit Mauricio cum filia sua in matrimonio Slimbrugiam que est de sua hereditate, hoc est decem libratas terre, et Mauricius concessu patris sui Rodberti filii Hardingi dedit filie Rogeri quam ipse cepit uxorem in dotem xx libratas terre de feudo de Berckel' assensu domini Henrici ducis. Tali conventione quod si Mauricius filius Rodberti moreretur antequam cepisset filiam Rogeri uxorem : frater eius post eum primogenitus acciperet eam uxorem per supradictas conventiones. Et si etiam ille alter filius Rodberti moreretur ante sponsalia filie Rogeri : quisquis de filiis Rodberti post ilium heres remaneret filiam Rogeri uxorem acciperet. Similiter si filia Rogeri antequam desponsaretur Mauricio filio Rodberti moreretur, secunda post ipsam Mauricio daretur in uxorem vel cuilibet fratrum suorum qui heres remaneret post Mauricium. Ita et de ceteris filiabus Rogeri si primogenite morerentur ilia que remaneret post ipsas daretur illi de filiis Rodberti filii Hardingi qui heres ejus remaneret, sicut superius prelocutum est. Preterea filius Rogeri de berckel' qui heres eius est debet accipere uxorem unam de filiabus Rodberti filii hardingi et Rogerus de Berckelai debet illi filie Rodberti dare in dotem manerium Sistone prope Bristou quod manerium est de hereditate Rogeri. Et Rodbertus filius Hardingi debet dare in matrimonium cum filia sua filio Rogeri x libratas et x solidatas terre apud Derselegam eo pacto quod si una de filiabus Rodberti filii hardingi moreretur antequam filius Rogeri eam acciperet uxorem : altera filia Rodberti daretur illi. Et si utraque filia Rodberti ante sponsalia moreretur : filius Rogeri qui heres eius esset acciperet uxorem filiam hugonis de Hasele nepotem Rodberti filii hardingi. Similiter si primogenitus Rogeri de berckel' moreretur ante supradicta sponsalia ille, de fratribus suis qui remaneret post ipsum primogenitus et heres acciperet uxorem unam de filiabus Rodberti filii Hardingi que domi sunt vel si utraque ante sponsalia moreretur, filiam Hugonis de Hasele per supradictas pactiones. Has pactiones affidaverunt Rodbertus filius Hardingi et Rogerus de Berckelai tenere et servare sine fallacia et dolo et posuerunt Dominum Henricum ducem obsidem et justiciarem inter se de servandis his pactionibus. Hoc etiam affidaverunt viii probi viri ex parte Rodberti, et alii viii ex parte Rogeri quorum nomina haec sunt. Ex parte Rogeri, Willelmus filius Henrici, Rogerus de Sckai, Radulphus de Huelega, Walkelinus, Engebaldus de Gosintunia, Guido de Rupe, Gwaiferus de Planca, Hugo de Planca frater eius. De parte Rodberti, Hugo de Hasela, Nigellus filius Arthuri, Rodbertus de Saltemareis, Helyas frater Rodberti filii Hardingi, Jordanus frater eius, Jordanus le Warre, Nicholaus filius Rodberti, David Duncepucke. Et isti viri Rodbertum et Rogerum in his pactionibus servandis totis juribus tenebunt. Quod si Rodbertus et Rogerus de his pactionibus vellent exire, isti cogent eos pactiones tenere quantum poterint. Et si ipsi adquiescere noluerint, isti viri de servicio et amore eorum recedent. Et propter has supradictas pactiones Rogerus de Berkele clamavit quietum totum clamagium (?) suum et quicquid juris habebat in firma de Berkelai."

Translated as follows:

"These are the terms which were made between Robert son of Harding and Roger de Berkeley in the house of Robert son of Harding at Bristol in the presence of Lord Henry Duke of the Normans and of Aquitine and Count of Anjou with the assent of himself and in the presence of many others clerics and lay persons. Maurice son of Robert son of Harding accepted the daughter of Roger de Berkeley in marriage thus because Roger gave to Maurice, with his daughter in matrimony, Slimbridge which is of his inheritance, that is ten librates of ground, and Maurice with the concession of his father Robert son of Harding gave to the daughter of Roger whom he himself received as wife in dowry 20 librates in land from the fee of Berkeley with the assent of Henry the Lord Duke. With such agreement, that if Maurice son of Robert should die before he has taken the daughter of Roger to wife: his brother born next after him should accept her as his wife according to the above terms. And if he the second brother of Robert should die before his wedding to the daughter of Roger : whichever of the sons of Robert, heir after him, should remain should accept the daughter of Roger for wife. Likewise if the daughter of Roger, before she should be wedded to Maurice the son of Robert, should die, the second after her should be given to Maurice in matrimony or to whichever brother of his should remain as heir after Maurice. Thus also concerning the remaining daughters of Roger, if the first-born should die, she who remains after her should be given to him out of the sons of Robert son of Harding who should remain his heir, just as was stated above. Moreover the son of Roger de Berkeley who is his heir must accept as his wife one of the daughters of Robert son of Harding and Roger de Berkeley is beholden to give in dowry the manor of Siston-by-Bristol which manor is of the inheritance of Roger. And Robert son of Harding is beholden to give in matrimony with his daughter to the son of Robert 10 librates and 10 solidates in land at Dursley by this bond, that if one of the daughters of Robert son of Harding should die before the son of Roger should have accepted her as wife, the second daughter of Robert should be given to him. And if either daughter of Robert should die before the nuptials, the son of Robert who should be his heir should accept for wife the daughter of Hugh de Hasele the nephew of Robert son of Harding. Likewise if the firstborn of Roger de Berkeley should die before the abovestated nuptials, he, from amongst his brothers who should remain next after him firstborn and heir should accept as his wife one out of the daughters of Robert son of Harding who are at home or if either should die before the nuptials, the daughter of Hugh de Hasele according to the above-stated bond. These terms Robert son of Harding and Roger de Berkeley have given their troth to hold and to serve without failure and subterfuge and have placed the Lord Duke Henry as hostage and arbitrator between themselves concerning the fulfillment of these terms. This also is agreed to by 8 trusty men on the part of Robert and by another 8 on the part of Roger of which these are the names: On the part of Roger: William son of Henry, Roger de Sckai, Ralph de Huelega, Walkelin,[16] Engebald de Gosintunia, Guy de Rupe,[17] Geoffrey de Planca, Hugh de Planca his brother. On the part of Robert: Hugh de Hasela, Nigel son of Arthur, Robert de Saltemare, Helyas brother of Robert son of Harding, Jordan his brother, Jordan le Warre, Nicholas son of Robert, David Duncepucke. And these men shall hold Robert and Roger in keeping all their vows. As Respecting if Robert and Roger should wish to get out of these terms, these men should as far as they are able persuade them to hold these terms And if these should be unwilling to be at peace, these men should remove themselves from the service and love of them. And on account of the above stated terms Roger de Berkeley has quit-claimed all his claims and whatsoever he held by right in the farm of Berkeley".

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b Verey, David; Brooks, Alan (2002). Pevsner Architectural Guide, Gloucestershire 2: The Vale and The Forest of Dean. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 176. ISBN 0-300-09733-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bettey, Joseph (2000). Rogan, John, ed. Bristol Cathedral: History and Architecture. Charleston: Tempus. pp. 15–19. ISBN 0-7524-1482-8. 
  3. ^ Round, J. Horace, Family Origins and Other Studies, London, 1930, "An Approved Pre-Conquest Pedigree", pp.13–22
  4. ^ a b c d Burke (1999). Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, Vol.1. Switzerland: Burke's Peerage. p. 254. ISBN 2-940085-02-1. 
  5. ^ a b c Sivier, David (2002). Anglo-Saxon and Norman Bristol. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus. pp. 75–76. ISBN 0-7524-2533-1. 
  6. ^ Jones, Donald (2000). Bristol Past. Chichester: Phillimore. p. 5. ISBN 1-86077-138-6. 
  7. ^ a b c Walker, David (2001). Bettey, Joseph, ed. Historic Churches and Church Life in Bristol. Bristol: Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society. pp. 12–18. ISBN 0-900197-53-6. 
  8. ^ Stacy, N. Henry of Blois and the Lordship of Glastonbury, in The English Historical Review, Oxford, vol CXIV, Feb.1999,pp.13–14.
  9. ^ Sanders, 1960, "Certain" Barony of Berkeley, p.13
  10. ^ Sivier, David (2002). Anglo-Saxon and Norman Bristol. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus. p. 151. ISBN 0-7524-2533-1. 
  11. ^ Rogan, John (2000). Rogan, John, ed. Bristol Cathedral: History and Architecture. Charleston: Tempus. p. 138. ISBN 0-7524-1482-8. 
  12. ^ Sanders, I.J., English Baronies: A Study of their Origin and Descent 1086–1327, Oxford, 1960, Probable Baronies, Dursley, pp.114–115
  13. ^ Jeayes, I.H. (ed.) Charters and Muniments at Berkeley Castle. Bristol, 1892. Charter no. 4, c. Nov. 1153, pp. 4–5.
  14. ^ Ref: "SC4" at Berkeley Castle Muniments,
  15. ^ Descriptive Catalogue of Charters in the possession of The Rt. Hon. Lord Fitzhardinge, Berkeley Castle, Compiled with Introduction , Notes and Indices by Isaac Herbert Jeaves, of the Department of Manuscripts, British Museum. Bristol, 1892, Charter no.4; Transcript also in: Smyth, Lives of the Berkeleys, Vol.3, pp.325–6;
  16. ^ Probably Walchelin de Ferriers or Walkelin de Derby, lord of Oakham Castle and Egginton, Derbyshire
  17. ^ Latinisation of "de la Roche"

External links[edit]