Robert de Romille

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Robert de Romille (also de Rumilly) was an adventurer from Brittany who joined the Normans in their Conquest of Britain. After 1086 King William I made him lord of the estates of Bolton Abbey. Romille built the first Skipton Castle in 1090 to repel the expansions of Malcolm III of Scotland. In 1102 Romille's lands were greatly increased by Henry I of England to include all of upper Wharfedale and upper Airedale. His male line died out before 1310; he has many descendants today.


File:Banner Robert-de-Romille-of-Skipton.gif
Skipton tradition says the arms of Robert Romille were "a Banner barry of eight Or and also Gules"

Little is known of Robert de Romille's previous life except this paragraph in a 17th-century History of Normandy[1]

“Romille, Romilli, Romilley, famille anciaenne et considerable en Bretagne et en Normandie. Le premier dont en a connaiscence par les histories en Robert de Romilles qui se trouve compris dans le catalogue des seigneures renommes Normadie qui accompanagnerent leur duc Guilliame le Batard dans sa conquete d'Angleterr en 1066."

— Gabriel de Moulin, 1631

"Romille, Romilli, Romilley, an old and respected family in Brittany and Normandy. The first mention of whom is in the stories of Robert de Romille, in a list of renowned Norman lords who joined their Duke, William the Bastard in his conquest of England in 1066".

The heraldic coat of arms of the town of Skipton is surmounted by a griffin holding a banner behind the image of a castle. The banner is horizontal bars of red on yellow and local tradition is that it is the arms of Robert Romille.[2] Some describe the red bars as being on Or however they are often depicted on Argent.[3]

Shield of arms of
Barry of six Or and Gules, sixteen lozenges counterchanged 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 1.

It is uncertain where Robert de Romille came from. The oldest references state that the family was located in both Brittany and Normandy. Although there is a town in eastern Brittany named Romillé the heraldic arms of the Romillé family there are different: two golden leopards on blue.[4] Robert may have been a younger son of Rainfred Rumille from Remilly-sur-Lozon (simply named Rumilleio at the end of the 11th century),[5] 14 km from Saint-Lô in the County of Mortain (fr) -- then third largest city in the Duchy of Normandy. The municipal canting heraldic arms display "Rumillé on Lozenges".[6] When the commune was simply named Rumille when Robert was flourishing, it is likely there were no lozenges on the town shield of arms. Traditionally if the blazon of "barry" does not describe the number of bars, the heraldic artist decides quantity (yet always an even number).

Robert was probably well known to Robert, Count of Mortain, and based on the value of his properties had participated in the Norman conquering of England in 1066 and thereafter. Comparing the location of the Count of Mortain's non-Cornwall properties with the location of Robert de Rumille's holdings shows that he was a capable and trusted soldier.


In the Domesday Book the multiple estate of Bolton Abbey was listed as going from the lordship of Edwin, Earl of Mercia to the Clamores of Yorkshire.

The Bolton Abbey estate then included 77 carucates of ploughland (9240 acres/3850ha): Halton East, Embsay, Draughton, Skibeden, Skipton, Low Snaygill, Thorlby, Addingham, Beamsley, Holme, Gargrave, Stainton, Otterburn, Scosthrop, Malham, Anley, Coniston Cold, Hellifield, Hanlith.

But after 1086 that lordship was transferred to Romille. Finding the Saxon manse at Bolton Abbey beyond repair Romille selected a rocky outcrop in more strategic location in 1090 and built the eminently defensible Skipton Castle[7][8]

After 1102 King Henry I confiscated the nearby Craven lands of the rebellious lords Roger the Poitevin, Erneis of Burun and Gilbert Tison. He put those in upper Wharfedale and upper Airedale into the governance of Romille. Clearly intent that Craven become a compact structure the King added-in estates from his own demesne.[9]


Robert de Romille's heir was his daughter Cecilia.

Cecilia de Romilles married William le Meschines, the lord of Copeland. Cecilia became famous as foundress of the Embsay Priory that became Bolton Abbey. And William is notable in that by this marriage his saxon family became possessed again of land they had held before the Norman conquest of England[7]

Cecilia and William had two sons: Ranulph and Matthew but both died without issue, so their daughter Alice became heir.

Alice de Romilles married Prince William fitz Duncan but their only son William died young so the heir was their daughter Cicely.

Cicely MacWilliam married Alexander Fitz Gerin but he died young so she married William le Gros, 1st Earl of Albemarle and lord of Holderness. Their co-heirs were two daughters Hawise and Amice.[7]

Hawise married William de Mandeville, 3rd Earl of Essex but he died in 1189, so Hawise next married William de Fortibus, who became the 2nd earl of Albermarle and lord of Skipton. Their son William de Fortibus became 3rd earl of Albermarle and lord of Skipton.

William married Aveline, the daughter and heir of Richard de Montfichet. Their son was William III de Forz, 4th Earl of Albemarle and lord of Skipton.

William III first married Christian, daughter and heir of Alan of Galloway but then married Isabella de Fortibus, Countess of Devon, the daughter and heir of Baldwin de Redvers, 6th Earl of Devon.

William and Isabella had three sons who all died without issue so the heir was their daughter Aveline de Forz.

Aveline de Fortibus, countess of Albermarle married in 1269 Edmund Crouchback the second son of King Henry III of England but she died without issue.

A relative of Romille, John of Eshton, then put in a claim for the baronacy of Skipton and earldom of Albernmarle, for he was a descendent of Amice the sister of Hawise le Gros. But King Edward I of England bought-him-out for 100 pounds so from thence the honors were vested in the Crown.[7]

In 1310, Edward II granted Skipton castle to Robert Clifford and the Clifford family was thenceforth Lord of Skipton and Guardian of Craven


  1. de Moulin, Gabriel (1631). Historie Generale de la Normandie. Jean Osmont de Rouen.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Heraldry of the World: Skipton. Access date July 2012
  3. Civic Heraldry: Skipton. Access date July 2012
  4. heraldic arms of Blason Famille Romillé Wikimedia Commons
  5. Nègre, Ernest (1998). Toponymie générale de la France. Formations préceltique, celtiques, romanes (in French) (1 ed.). Genève. p. 583.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Canting arms of the French commune of Remilly-sur-Lozon
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Whitaker, Thomas Dunham (1805). The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven, in the county of York. British Library. ISBN 978-1-241-34269-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> page 210
  8. Castle Explorer: Skipton Castle Access date July 2012
  9. Dalton, Paul (1994). Conquest, Anarchy & Lordship: Yorkshire 1066-1154. UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521524644.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>