William Peverel

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William Peverell c. 1040 – c. 1115, Latinised to William Piperellus), was a Norman knight. Although he is not one of the fifteen proven Companions of William the Conqueror, he probably fought at the Battle of Hastings, and is listed in the Battle Abbey Roll of dubious origin.


William Peverell the Elder was allegedly the illegitimate son of William the Conqueror[dubious ] by a Saxon princess named Maud Ingelrica (daughter of the noble Ingelric),[1] although this cannot be supported by historical records.[2] Maud Ingelrica was later married to Ranulph Peverell, from whom William took his surname. Beryl Platts suggested that the Peverel family in Normandy derive in fact from Flanders.[3] Maud and Ranulph's known legitimate son, Ranulph Peverel, was almost as well favoured by the king as was his uterine brother William Peverel and was granted 64 manors in Nottingham, although these were forfeited by his family to King Henry II for their support of King Stephen against the Empress Matilda. The baronial family of Peverel descends from Ranulph Peverel, not from William Peverel.


There exist two possible etymological explanations of the surname Peverell. J.R. Planché sources it from the Latin puerulus, the diminutive form of puer (a boy), thus "a small boy", or from the Latin noun piper, meaning "pepper".


J.R. Planché derives the name as follows:[4] "The name of Peverel ... was not derived from a fief or a locality ... the name was Peverell or Piperell, and in Domesday we find it continually spelt Piperellus (as in) Terra Ranulphi Pipperelli (i.e. "The lands of Ralph Pipperellus"). This, however, does not illustrate its derivation, and the detestable practice of Latinising proper names only tends to confuse and mislead us, as they become in turn translated or corrupted till the original is either lost or rendered hopelessly inexplicable. It may be that like Mesquin lesser, or junior, translated into Mischinus, and distorted into de Micenis, "Peverel" is the Norman form of Peuerellus, as we find it written in the Anglo-Norman Pipe and Plea Rolls. The "u" being pronounced "v" in Normandy, and Peuerellus being simply a misspelling of the Latin Puerulus, a boy or child, naturally applied to the son to distinguish him from his father. William Peverel was therefore, literally, "boy-" or "child-William". We see in the instance of the descendants of Richard d'Avranches how Mesquin, used to distinguish a younger son, became the name of a family, and so it may have been with Peverel, which, originally applied to William, was afterwards borne by so many of his relations in England."


The Norman name Peverel was commonly Latinised by mediaeval scribes as Piperellus, apparently derived from the diminutive of the Latin noun piper, meaning "pepper",[5] thus "little pepper". Derived from the Latin word pǐpĕr is the Old-Norman French word peivre in, in modern French poivre,[6] meaning "pepper". In slang the meaning then as now was "angry, irascible, aggressive, atrabilarious, angry, fulminant, furious, fractious, anxious, irritable, stormy, touchy", which produced such ancient surnames as Peiverel, Pevrel and Peivrel. In French, this may give Poivret and Poivrot). (See also Placenames)

Lands held in England

William Peverel was a favourite of William the Conqueror. He was greatly honoured after the Norman Conquest, and received as his reward over a hundred manors in central England from the king. In 1086, the Domesday Book records William as holding the substantial number of 162 manors, forming collectively the Honour of Peverel, in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, including Nottingham Castle.[7] He also built Peveril Castle, Castleton, Derbyshire. William Peverel is amongst the people explicitly recorded in the Domesday Book as having built castles.[8]

Marriage & progeny

William married Adelina of Lancaster, who bore him a daughter Adeliza (or Adelaide) (b.1075), and a son, William Peverel the Younger, born circa 1080, following the death of whose first wife married secondly Avice de Lancaster, daughter of Roger of Poitou, Earl of Lancaster.

Place names

The Peverell name was otherwise spelled "Peverel", and it appears in both forms in modern town names across England, for example Peverell, Sampford Peverell, Hatfield Peverel, etc.

The name is also known in the Isle of Man as "Peveril", e.g. Peveril Avenue / Road / Terrace, Peel, and Peveril Hotel / Buildings / Road / Square / Street / Street Lane / Terrace, in Douglas. This association derives from Sir Walter Scott's novel "Peveril of the Peak" (1822) which features the character Fenella (Manx Gaelic female name meaning 'white shoulder, Irish "fionnghuala"), as part of the story centres around Peel Castle, Peel, Isle of Man. The names "Peveril" and "Fenella" have also been used on freight and passenger steamers of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. Ltd. (George Broderick, Mannheim). In addition the IOMRLy Company names a number of its locomotives after characters from the novel such as No8 Fenella, No6 Peveril (various sources including Boyd, Preston & Powell Hendry).


  1. A Genealogical Companion and Key to the History of England Consisting of Copious Genealogical Details of the British Sovereigns, p. 62, by George Fisher of Swaffham, Norfolk, pub. 1832 by Simkin & Marshall, which states: "A Natural Son of William I: William de Peverel, begotten on Maud, daughter to Ingelric, a noble Saxon, one of the most celebrated beauties of the age, who afterwards marrying Ranulph de Peverel, that surname was attached to the son of the Conqueror." (https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=H78IAQAAMAAJ&rdid=book-H78IAQAAMAAJ&rdot=1)
  2. See, e.g., The Complete Peerage, Vol IV, App. I, pp 761–770, "Peverel Family"
  3. A history of Langar Hall (http://www.baronage.co.uk/langar/langar-1.html)
  4. http://patp.us/genealogy/conq/peverel.aspx
  5. Cassell's Latin Dictionary
  6. Larousse Dictionnaire de la Langue Francaise
  7. A description of holdings in Derbyshire, from the Domesday Book (http://www.infokey.com/Domesday/Derbyshire.htm). A local history of Duston, Northampton (http://www.duston.org.uk/peverel.htm).
  8. Harfield 1991, p. 391
  • Harfield, C. G. (1991), "A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book", English Historical Review, 106: 371–392, doi:10.1093/ehr/CVI.CCCCXIX.371, JSTOR 573107<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>