Rollo, Poppa and Will III, the Murderer

William III da Braose’s great grandmother, Agnes St. Claire, made him a descendant of Rollo and Poppa, the ancestors of the Dukes of Normany, and of William the Conqueror himself.  It seems like nearly all the Norman conquerors eventually managed to marry into some line coming from Rollo ‘the Dane’ Ragnvaldson (Rollo is “Robert” in French, and Ragnvald is “Reginald.”)  Rollo married Poppa of Valois, a descendant of Charlemagne through his son, the Italian King (Pepin).  Poppa was the daughter of the Count and Justiciar of Rennes, who in turn was a descendant of the Kings of Brittany.  In short, Rollo the Dane was a key figure in the Norman conquest of Normandy, and Rennes was a key city with which to ally oneself.  Poppa’s name was likely a play on the name Pepin.

Rollo can be considered the first Duke of Normandy, and he made sure his son Guillaume was considered the second Duke of Normandy.  Dropping their northern tongue, the Dukes of Normandy quickly switched to French (Norman-French, with a slightly different accent than the French of the Ile).  William could therefore consider himself both a Norman highborn lord and the grandson of a Scottish lord who joined the Norman conquest, not to mention a descendant of the Prince of Wales.

An intense and ambitious man, William III da Braose was also one of the most trusted companions of Prince John, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitane, late King John.  William wasn’t content to sit home on his own lands when there was fighting, plundering and looting to be done.  While he couldn’t hope to bring home as much treasure as the King, he did well for himself.  In those days, killing and plundering and raping was so common, that you had to be a special kind of guy to earn the nickname ‘The Ogre’, as William III did.  It isn’t clear whether he got that nickname before or after he married Maud.   He was about 28 when he married.  There are a couple of different pedigrees for Maud, she was either 4 years or 11 years younger than William.  It is likely, given her prompt fertility, that she was 11 years younger, so 17 when they married.  She gave him 5 children, including 2 sons, all of whom survived to have further children, as William IV managed to marry and reproduce before meeting his grisly end.

Maud’s pedigree also made her a descendant of Rollo and Poppa, so William III and Maud were cousins.  Maud was a St. Valerie and a Montlhery.  Richard II, Duke of Normandy was her 4 times great grandpa (he was William the Conqueror’s grandpa, so Maud was a fourth cousin, two times removed, or thereabouts from William the Conqueror).  Everyone in William the Conqueror’s line intended to stay on the throne of England and probably no one had been as successful at enlarging the domain or ruling it so ably as Henry II, King John’s father.  Prince John was the fourth and youngest son of Henry II, and was never expected to sit on the throne.  It’s amazing to think that Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine had 5 total sons, and the youngest ended up with the crown.  Prince John is often made out to be an evil, terrible person from nearly the beginning of his life, but it looks like he had high aspirations for his reign and very bad luck.  He also, undeniably, had a mean streak that he probably learned by emulating his gruesomely fond-of-violence older brother:  Richard the Lion-Heart.

Like William the Ogre, Maud could claim an esteemed ancestry dating back to prehistory in northern Europe, although unlike William, she had more continental ancestry.  In place of his occasional Goth ancestor, she had the occasional German (Allemanian) ancestor.  Her family had been rooted in and around Dijon, France, not Scotland like William’s.  Her father had been one of William’s men at the Battle of Hastings, and like so many others, was rewarded with land and a highborn wife:  her mother was Eleanor de Domnart (Dammartin).  The problem with Maud’s family history though, is that her parents appear to be quite closely related (both Dammartin’s).  But, this could be forgiven as both were descendants of Hugh Capet; Robert II, King of France; Princess Constance of France and then, her son Hugh, Count of Dammartin.  Maud’s father’s grandpa was her mother’s great grandpa.

Now this degree of inbreeding was prohibited by Holy Mother Church (7 degrees of kinship, counted by the lineage was prohibited) and needed a special dispensation from the Pope.  There is no evidence that Maud’s parents got such a dispensation, they really weren’t important enough, they could fly under the radar.  But the desire to “keep it in the family” was very strong in Maud’s proud kin, who insisted they were double descendants of Robert II of France – a man whose stature was similar to Henry I Beauclerc of England’s at the time.  This was claiming high heritage.

So when Prince John chose his closest friends, he wasn’t choosing street ruffians, he was choosing aristocratic ruffians.  Now the thing is:  did William become ‘the Ogre’ before or after he killed the boy who might have been King Arthur?



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Will: The Will of William the Conqueror « The Furies and the Muses

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