Richard fitz Gilbert

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Richard fitz Gilbert
Lord of Clare, Bienfaite, Orbec, and Tonbridge
Successor Gilbert fitz Richard
Spouse Rohese Giffard

Walter de Clare, Lord of Nether Gwent
Richard fitz Richard de Clare
Roger fitz Richard de Clare
Gilbert fitz Richard
Robert fitz Richard
Isabel de Clare Rohese de Clare

Adelize de Clare
Noble family de Clare
Father Gilbert, Count of Brionne
Born c. 1035
Normandy, France
Died c. 1090
St. Neot's Priory, Huntingdonshire, England

Richard fitz Gilbert (bef. 1035–c. 1090), was a Norman lord who participated in the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and was styled "de Bienfaite", "de Clare", and of "Tonbridge"[n 1][1] from his holdings.[2][3]


He was the son of Gilbert, Count of Brionne in Normandy.[2] Gilbert was a guardian of the young duke William and when he was killed by Ralph de Wacy in 1040, his two older sons Richard and Gilbert fled to Flanders.[4] On his later return to Normandy Richard was rewarded with the lordship of Bienfaite and Orbec in Normandy.[4] In 1066, Richard came into England with his kinsman William the Conqueror, and received from him great advancement in honour and possessions.[2]

The Dictionary of National Biography and other sources are vague and sometimes contradictory about when the name de Clare came into common usage, but what we do know is that Richard fitz Gilbert (of Tonbridge), the earliest identifiable progenitor of the family, is once referred to as Richard of Clare in the Suffolk return of the Domesday Book.[5]


He was rewarded with 176 lordships and large grants of land in England, including the right to build the castles of Clare and of Tonbridge. Richard fitz Gilbert received the lordship of Clare, in Suffolk, where parts of the wall of Clare Castle still stand.[6] He was thus Lord of Clare. Some contemporaneous and later sources called him Earl of Clare, though many modern sources view the title as a "styled title".

He served as Joint Chief Justiciar in William's absence, and played a major part in suppressing the revolt of 1075.

Rebel Baron

On the Conqueror's death, Richard and other great Norman barons, including Odo of Bayeux, Robert, Count of Mortain, William fitz Osbern and Geoffrey of Coutances, led a rebellion against the rule of William Rufus in order to place Robert Curthose on the throne. However, most Normans in England remained loyal. William Rufus and his army successfully attacked the rebel strongholds at Tonbridge, Pevensey and Rochester.[7]

Death and succession

He was buried in St. Neot's Priory in 1091. His widow was still living in 1113. His lands were inherited by his son, Gilbert fitz Richard.


Richard married Rohese Giffard, daughter of Sir Walter Giffard, Lord of Longueville and Agnes Flaitel,[3] and they had the following children:

Notes and References

  1. Seen in the Domesday book variously as ""de Tonebridge/Tonebrige/Tonbridge"
  1. Domesday Map website - image of Betchworth's entry and transcription in summary retrieved 2012-10-30 Normally de Tonebridge in Surrey
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, Vol. III (The St. Catherine Press, London, 1913), p. 242
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Detlev Schwennicke, Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, Band III Teilband 1 (Marburg, Germany: J. A. Stargardt, 1984), Tafel 156
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.H. Round, 'The Family of Clare', The Archaeological Journal, Vol. 56 2nd series Vol 6 (1899), p. 224
  5. The Suffolk return of the Domesday Survey (c. 1086) (ed. A. Rumble, Suffolk, 2 vols (Chichester, 1986), 67 ~ 1)
  6. The Royal Ancestry Bible Royal ancestors of 300 American Families By Michel L. Call ISBN 1-933194-22-7 (chart 1696)
  7. A Baronial Family in Medieval England: The Clares, 1217–1314 by Michael Altschul (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins, 1965)
  8. I.J. Sanders, English Baronies; A Study of their Origin and descent 1086-1327 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1963), p. 129
  9. C. Warren Hollister, 'The Strange Death of William Rufus', Speculum, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Oct., 1973), pp. 645-46