Friday, January 25, 2013

de Tancarville

The muse prompted me to write about the first file I opened in today. It is a random pick. That person is – “ta-da”  

William (or Guillaume) de Tancarville, Chamberlain of Normandy.  

This well-favored Frenchman breathed his first Norman air in 1070 just four years after the Norman invasion of England – a major, world-changing event. He died in Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, England in 1129 at 59 as a well-entrenched member of the English/Norman nobility.

As noted on in reference to the de Tancarville’s in England (after 1066): “[The name de Tancarville was] first found in Lincolnshire where they were anciently seated as Tenants-in-Chief and Lords of many Manors. This family has to be considered one of the premier Norman families of all time.”
Borrowing from Wikipedia we learn that Normandy is famous in our day for its beaches where allied troops invaded in their push against the Nazi’s in World War II. We know that part of Normandy, which is approximately 5% of France, is facing the English Channel and is known for its seafood. The lower part of Normandy is known for agriculture with products such as apple cider and apple brandy, cattle and horses.

 Normandy Flag
Tancarville Coat of Arms
 Tancarville is a village in Normandy surrounded by woodland and on the banks of the river Seine. The 11th Century Château de Tancarville, has been designated Monument historique since 1862. The walls were probably new and still rising during William’s childhood. He took over the title of Chamberlain from his father, Ralph “Raoul” de Tancarville.

Château deTancarville
Tancarville park

According to the Chamberlain is ‘an official who manages the living quarters of a sovereign or a member of the nobility’ and is considered a high official of a royal court.

William’s father Raoul de Tancarville was the Chamberlain of William the Conqueror, a very high office indeed. Raoul took part in the conquest of England in 1066 right alongside the Conqueror.

Later, as confirmed by charter to King Henry I, in 1114 William de Tancarville donated the abbey of St Georges de Bocherville to the king. I find it comforting that somewhere in time our family had no money worries what so ever. Of course, after the pillage of England this was probably an act of contrition. It is also recorded that William ‘requested’ of his in-laws the donation of the abbey of Sainte-Barbe. And King Henry II confirmed the donation of Savigny abbey by William. They obviously had abbeys to spare.

William married well. His wife, Maud “Mahaut” d’Arques was descended from every royal family imaginable and was no doubt a good match and a step up the nobility ladder for the de Tancarville family. Certainly Mahaut held the key to a bright future.

Arques Coat of Arms
Arques Coat of Arms

Lately we have been reading about our great grandfather William Marshall.

“As a younger son of a minor nobleman, William had no lands or fortune to inherit, and had to make his own way in life. Around the age of twelve, when his father's career was faltering, he was sent to Normandy to be brought up in the household of William de Tancarville, a great magnate and cousin of young William's mother. Here he began his training as a knight.”

Those dates don't line up correctly as the records show that William de Tancarville died before William Marshall was born. However, it was the Tancarville estate where Sir William Marshall received his early training.

I’ve not found exactly how William de Tancarville died. He was at Kenilworth Castle which was founded in the early 1120s by Geoffrey de Clinton, Lord Chamberlain to Henry I and grandson of William de Tancarville. William died in 1129 and Geoffrey died in 1133. Geoffrey was losing favor with King Henry I. His rival was Roger de Beaumont, the Earl of Warwick and owner of the neighboring Warwick Castle was gaining favor with King Henry. Possibly William was defending his grandson's castle.

                                          Kenilworth Castle


  1. Names often recur in successive or alternating generations. The William Tancarville you first describe was, by my quick reckoning, the grandfather of the William Tancarville who trained and knighted William Marshal.

    The second William Tancarville was a son of Rabel Tancarville and his very highborn wife Theophania ("Tiphanie"), daughter of the extremely wealthy and very quietly influential Stephen Penteur, Count of Treguier, 3rd Lord of Richmond (1058/1062 - 21 April 1136) whose lifespan linked the reigns of Edward the Confessor, Harold Godwinson, William the Conqueror, William II, Henry I and Stephen of Blois.

    Penteur means "head of clan". The clan referred to is the Sovereign House of Brittany, from which Europe's later monarchs inherited the ermine symbol of majesty - possibly because in their family lore, this is the clan of the legendary Arthur, King of Britain, as well as of the contemporaneously documented kings of Britain, Ambrosius Aurelianus and Riothamus.

    Due to intermarriages between the ruling families of Brittany, Normandy and England, Stephen Penteur was a double-second cousin to William the Conqueror and a first cousin once removed of Edward the Confessor. Stephen's many brothers were all famous (in what were considered very good ways) in their time and included Count Alan Rufus who was King William's cavalry commander, builder of Richmond Castle, St Mary's Abbey in York and the great medieval port of Boston, defender of the realm, wise counsellor to William II, and lover, so it was said, of Gunhild, daughter of Harold Godwinson.

    Stephen's sons Geoffrey Boterel II and Alan, 1st (official) Earl of Richmond fought on opposite sides in the Anarchy: Geoffrey helped Empress Matilda's husband Count Geoffrey of Anjou conquer Normandy, while Alan fought for King Stephen against Matilda. Alan of Richmond's son was Duke Conan IV of Brittany, whose heir Constance married Geoffrey Plantagenet and their son was Arthur I of Brittany who should have been King of England but his uncle John murdered him.

  2. There is no evidence to support that Geoffrey de Clinton descends from the de Tancarville line. In fact Geoffrey is quite often described as being foremost amongst the men king Henry "raised from the dust".It is said that the origins of the Clinton family are to be found in St Pierre-de-Semily, St Lo, Manche, Normandy, France in the 11th century and I read somewhere recently that Geoffrey de Clinton inherited the manor of Gympton, Oxfordhire from his father William de Simillie.

  3. The added information from Zoe and Anonymous (whom I know to be a cousin) is breathtaking and enlightening. Obviously, my cursory and random glance at William (or Guillaume) de Tancarville is just a beginning at delving into this fascinating family.


Comments Welcome!