Robert Fitzhamon

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Robert FitzHamon
File:RobertFitzHamon BodleianMS TopGloucD2.JPG
Robert Filius Haymonis et Sibilla uxor eius ("Robert son of Hamon (d.1107) and Sibilla (de Montgomery) his wife"). They are shown jointly giving the church building of Tewkesbury Abbey, of which they were founders. He wears a tabard showing attributed arms of: Azure, a lion rampant guardant or. Underneath below his wife is shown a shield of: quarterly 1 & 4: Azure, a lion rampant guardant or; 2&3: Gules a cross or (Oddo and Doddo, Dukes of Mercia, Saxon founders of Tewkesbury Abbey[1])impaling: Gules, a lion rampant or. Bodleian Library Manuscript: Top. Gloucester, d. 2, Founders' and benefectors' book of Tewkesbury Abbey, made in Tewkesbury c.1500-1525
Spouse(s) Sybil de Montgomery
Father Hamo Dapifer
Born c. 1045-1055
Died March 1107
Attributed arms of Robert FitzHamon: Azure, a lion rampant guardant or. As shown in the Tewkesbury Abbey Founders Book c.1500-1525[2]

Robert Fitzhamon (died March 1107), or Robert FitzHamon, Seigneur de Creully in the Calvados region and Torigny in the Manche region of Normandy, was the first Norman feudal baron of Gloucester and the Norman conqueror of Glamorgan, southern Wales. He became Lord of Glamorgan in 1075.

As a kinsman of the Conqueror and one of the few Anglo-Norman barons to remain loyal to the two successive kings William Rufus and Henry I of England, he was a prominent figure in England and Normandy.

Not much is known about his earlier life, or his precise relationship to William I of England.

Parentage and ancestry

Robert FitzHamon (born c. 1045-1055, d. March 1107 Falaise, Normandy) was, as the prefix Fitz (fils de, "son of") suggests, the son of Hamo Dapifer the Sheriff of Kent and grandson of Hamon Dentatus ('The Betoothed or Toothy', i.e., probably buck-toothed). His grandfather held the lordships of Torigny, Creully, Mézy, and Evrecy in Normandy, but following his death at the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes in 1047, the family might have lost these lordships.

Career in England and Wales

Few details of Robert's career prior to 1087 are available. Robert probably did not fight at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and does not appear in the Domesday Book of 1086, although some of his relatives are listed therein. He first comes to prominence in surviving records as a supporter of King William Rufus (1087-1100) during the Rebellion of 1088. After the revolt was defeated he was granted as a reward by King William Rufus the feudal barony of Gloucester[3] consisting of over two hundred manors in Gloucestershire and other counties. Some of these had belonged to the late Queen Matilda, consort of William the Conqueror and mother of William Rufus, and had been seized by her from the great Saxon thane Brictric son of Algar, apparently as a punishment for his having refused her romantic advances in his youth.[4] They had been destined as the inheritance of Rufus's younger brother Henry (the future King Henry I); nevertheless Fitzhamon remained on good terms with Henry.

Conquest of Glamorgan

The chronology of Fitzhamon's conquest of Glamorgan is uncertain, but it probably took place in the decades after he received the feudal barony of Gloucester.

The Twelve Knights of Glamorgan

One explanation is the legend of the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan, which dates from the 16th century, in which the Welsh Prince Iestyn ap Gwrgan (Jestin), prince or Lord of Glamorgan, supposedly called in the assistance of Robert Fitzhamon. Fitzhamon defeated the prince of South Wales Rhys ap Tewdwr in battle in 1090. With his Norman knights as reward he then took possession of Glamorgan, and "the French came into Dyfed and Ceredigion, which they have still retained, and fortified the castles, and seized upon all the land of the Britons." Iestyn did not profit long by his involvement with the Normans. He was soon defeated and his lands taken in 1091.

Whether there is any truth in the legend or not Robert Fitzhamon seems to have seized control of the lowlands of Glamorgan and Gwynllwg sometime from around 1089 to 1094. His key strongholds were Cardiff Castle, which already may have been built, on the site of an old Roman fort, new castles at Newport, and at Kenfig. His descendants would inherit these castles and lands.

Rhys's daughter Nest became the mistress of King Henry I of England and allegedly was mother of Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester who married Mabel, Fitzhamon's daughter and heiress and thus had legitimacy both among the Welsh and the Norman barons.[5] (Robert of Caen's mother is however unknown to historians and genealogists).

Founder of Tewkesbury Abbey (1092)

He also refounded Tewkesbury Abbey in 1092. The abbey's dimensions are almost the same as Westminster Abbey. The first abbot was Giraldus, Abbot of Cranborne (d. 1110) who died before the abbey was consecrated in October 1121. The abbey was apparently built under the influence of his wife Sybil de Montgomery. [3], said to be a beautiful and religious woman like her sisters.

Fitzhamon and His Kings

Legend has it that Robert had ominous dreams in the days before Rufus' fatal hunting expedition, which postponed but did not prevent the outing. He was one of the first to gather in tears around Rufus' corpse, and he used his cloak to cover the late king's body on its journey to be buried in Winchester. How much of these stories are the invention of later days is unknown.

In any case Fitzhamon proved as loyal to Henry I as he had been to his predecessor, remaining on Henry's side in the several open conflicts with Henry's brother Robert Curthose. He was one of the three barons who negotiated the 1101 truce between Henry I and Robert Curthose.

In 1105 he went to Normandy and was captured while fighting near his ancestral estates near Bayeux. This was one of the reasons Henry crossed the channel with a substantial force later that year. Fitzhamon was freed, and joined Henry's campaign, which proceeded to besiege Falaise. There Fitzhamon was severely injured in the head; although he lived two more years he was never the same mentally. He was buried in the Chapter House at Tewkesbury Abbey, which he had founded and considerably enriched during his lifetime.

Marriage and progeny

Fitzhamon married Sybil de Montgomery around 1087 to 1090, apparently the youngest daughter of Roger of Montgomery, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury by his first wife Mabel Talvas, daughter of William I Talvas. She survived her husband and is said to have entered a convent with two of her daughters. By his wife he is said to have had four daughters including:

  • Mabel FitzHamon, eldest daughter, who inherited his great estates and in about 1107 married Robert de Caen, 1st Earl of Gloucester, a natural son of King Henry I (1100-1135). Fitzhamon's huge land-holdings in several counties formed the feudal barony of Gloucester[6] which was inherited by his son-in-law Robert de Caen, who in 1122 was created 1st Earl of Gloucester.[7] Fitzhamon is sometimes called Earl of Gloucester, but was never so created formally. Robert Fitzhamon's great-granddaughter Isabel of Gloucester married King John (1199-1216).
  • Isabella (or Hawisa) FitzHamon, said to have married a count from Brittany, but no further details exist.

1860 Depiction at Kilkhampton

1860 imaginary depiction of Robert FitzHamon (d.1107) (left) and his younger brother Richard I de Grenville ( 1142) (right), Church of St James the Great, Kilkhampton, Cornwall

An imaginary depiction of Robert FitzHamon (d.1107) and his younger brother Richard I de Grenville ( 1142)[8]) is contained within one of the two Granville windows by Clayton and Bell[9] erected in 1860 by descendants of the latter within the Granville Chapel of the Church of St James the Great, Kilkhampton, Cornwall. The seat of the Grenville family ("Granville" after 1661 when elevated to the Earldom of Bath[10]) was Stowe within the parish of Kilkhampton. Below the left-hand figure is inscribed: "Rob. FitzHamon Earl of Corboyle", with attributed arms under showing: Azure, a lion rampant guardant or impaling Azure, a lion rampant or a bordure of the last. The right hand figure is of Richard de Granville, the younger brother of Robert FitzHamon and one of the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan who followed his brother in effecting the conquest of Glamorgan. He holds in his hands the church of his foundation of Neath Abbey, Glamorgan. Below is inscribed: "Ric. de Granville Earl of Corboyle" with attributed arms under showing: Gules, three clarions or (the arms of the Grenvilles' later overlord and Robert FitzHamon's heir in the feudal barony of Gloucester,[11] Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, which arms were later adopted by the Grenvilles[12]) with an inescutcheon of pretence of Gules, three lions passant argent. The Granvilles claimed in the 17th century to have been the heirs male of Robert FitzHamon (who left only a daughter as his sole heiress) in his supposed Earldom of Corboil.[13] The windows were erected in 1860 by the heirs of the Grenville family: George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke of Sutherland KG (1786-1861); John Alexander Thynne, 4th Marquess of Bath (1831–1896); George Granville Francis Egerton, 2nd Earl of Ellesmere (1823–1862); Lord John Thynne (1798-1881), DD, Canon of Westminster, a younger son of Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath (1765-1837), KG.[14]



  1. Sir Charles Isham's "Registrum Theokusburiæ" gives a full-page illustration of these noble brothers, "par nobile fratrum," as Dr. Hayman calls them, in which they are termed "duo duces Marciorum et primi fundatores Theokusburiæ" i.e., two Earls of the Marches and first founders of Tewkesbury. Each knight is in armour, and bears in his hand a model of a church. Both are supporting a shield (affixed to a pomegranate tree) bearing the arms of the Abbey, which the blazoning on their own coats repeats.(Massé, H. J. L. J., The Abbey Church of Tewkesbury with some Account of the Priory Church of Deerhurst Gloucestershire (Bell's Cathedrals)) original illustration as shown on folio 8 verso, Bodleian Library Manuscript: Top. Gloucester, d. 2, Founders' and benefectors' book of Tewkesbury Abbey [1]
  2. Bodleian Library Manuscript: Top. Gloucester, d. 2, Founders' and benefectors' book of Tewkesbury Abbey [2]
  3. Sanders, I.J., English Baronies, Oxford, 1960, p.6, Barony of Gloucester
  4. According to the account by the Continuator of Wace and others, quoted in Thorn, Caroline & Frank, (eds.) Domesday Book, (Morris, John, gen.ed.) Vol. 9, Devon, Parts 1 & 2, Phillimore Press, Chichester, 1985, part 2 (notes), 24,21, quoting "Freeman, E.A., The History of the Norman Conquest of England, 6 vols., Oxford, 1867–1879, vol. 4, Appendix, note 0"
  5. Four Ancient Books of Wales: Introduction: Chapter VI. Manau Gododin and the Picts
  6. Sanders, p.6
  7. Sanders, p.6
  8. Round, J. Horace, Family Origins and Other Studies, London, 1930, The Granvilles and the Monks, pp.130-169, p.137
  9. Church Guidebook, St James the Great Kilkhampton, 2012, p.11
  10. Round, J. Horace, Family Origins and Other Studies, London, 1930, The Granvilles and the Monks, pp.130-169
  11. Sanders, I.J., English Baronies, Oxford, 1960, p.6, Barony of Gloucester
  12. Round, J. Horace, Family Origins and Other Studies, London, 1930, The Granvilles and the Monks, pp.130-169
  13. Round, J. Horace, Family Origins and Other Studies, London, 1930, The Granvilles and the Monks, pp.130-169
  14. Per brass plaque below easternmost window