1st or 2nd Earl of Leicester -- what to call Robert of Meulan?

+2 votes

"Robert of Meulan, Knight, 1st Earl of Leicester, Justiciar of England, nicknamed ''le Bossu" and husband Amice de Gael" [RA III:558)

appears to be  designated the second Earl of Leicester in Burke's Peerage p. 1671.

Richardson in ''Royal Ancestry'' Vol V page 558 says of his father "was never so styled" regarding the title 'Earl of Leicester'.

When sources differ, we can designate a source to decide differences.

I've read of a decision to remove the numbers traditionally used to differentiate individuals (1st of Earl of Leicester, 2nd Earl of Leicester, etc.). I was not aware of this conversation, and would like to know more about the effects of such a decision. Not call Henry I King of England "the first" - instead say he is "Henry King of England"?

Or would it apply only to the nobility? Or only to certain titles?

It would be helpful to see as broad of a discussion as possible on this please.

WikiTree profile: Robert II de Beaumont
in Policy and Style by April Dauenhauer G2G6 Pilot (109k points)
edited by April Dauenhauer

3 Answers

+3 votes
Best answer

I don’t recall ever seeing a discussion or decision to remove numbers from titles, and I would strongly object to it.  I am not sure what Matthew is saying since he says you can add it to the Nickname field which is the only place it would appear anyways.

It is absolutely standard practice to attempt to add numbers to titles.  It is a way of clearly differentiating individuals and for showing lines of succession.  Can you name any lineage or peerage book which doesn’t follow this practice?  Even one?

This does occasionally cause some disagreements when there are different ways of numbering.  Titles occasionally become extinct and are later re-created, bringing up the question of do you start over the numbering for each creation?  I generally do not.  It defeats the purpose of clearly differentiating different holders of the title.

When there is a disagreement about numbering, I think there is an absolute gold standard which should be followed, and that’s Complete Peerage.  It has long been held as the authority on the peerage of England, even with the occasional additions and corrections over the years.

To make a decision to not use numbers for titles at all just because it is not always clear cut is to throw the baby out with the bath water.  It makes no sense.  It is also not standard genealogical practice, and would put wikitree once again out of step with what are norms everywhere else in the world.

With specific regard to the Earldom of Leicester, I think Richardson has made a mistake and gone off with his own numbering system different from standard practice.  This was extremely early in the development of the peerage, and what you were was not so much what you were called, it was what you held.  The father of Robert of Meulan was one of the richest and powerful men of his time.  The contemporary chronicler Orderic Vitalis states, that when he was granted the town of Leicester by the King he was held to have become the Earl of Leicester.  This is where Complete Peerage starts their numbering, it’s where wikitree should start its numbering, and Richardson is incorrect to start his numbering with his son.  If there is some minor disagreement over this, it is a perfect example of why we use Complete Peerage as the Gold Standard. (see Complete Peerage, vol. 7 p. 523-525 for a complete discussion).

by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (211k points)
selected by Julie Campbell
Thank you for your explanation Joe! You taught me a lot I did not know.

I'm perfectly happy to go with Complete Peerage, (as opposed to Richardson) -- I just would like guidance and consensus on exactly what the "final word" regarding numbering should be.

Maybe we can get this if enough members will join in this discussion (or am I ignorant on this point - and we already have it?)
No, you're not ignorant!  Far from that!!   ;)

Some of the other leaders are in other countries, so while we're wide awake (even though I know where you and I both live, and we both should be in bed by now!!), they're sleeping and vice versa.  Hopefully others will pipe in over the next couple/few days.
Thanks Darlene. I keep forgetting that we are not all on the same time:)
Well I realize you disagree and it's a shame I can't convince you. All I can suggest is that you try to think of someone's name, title, and cognomen (or name by which they were known) as three distinct elements.

The name is their given name(s) plus a surname, or 'house'. That is their name at birth. Of course assigning a surname for aristocrats can be difficult but that's not germane to this discussion. We can agree it's part of their name.

A title was once literally a land title. Someone may have multiple titles at any time and gain or lose titles during their lifetime. However, and this is my point, the title's name does not change. It remains 'Earl of Leicester' or whatever. There are no such titles as "1st Earl of Leicester", "2nd Earl of Leicester". These are names attached to individuals NOT part of the title. Therefore it is logical to add them to the 'Nickname' field. I'd prefer it if Nickname had a more formal-sounding description but it doesn't matter.

This isn't some assertion about historical practice, it's simply a way to capture complex data within a reasonably simplistic framework. How would you search for all Earls of Leicester, or all Kings of England if the data were stored your way?

Perhaps my wording of the question created a misunderstanding. I'm re-wording the question to make it clear we are talking about the genealogical practice of numbering titles (and not that titles incorporated numbers).

Matthew I think comments differentiate between 'genealogical practice' and historic title. I hope we can achieve consensus on exactly how WikiTree can identify historic persons who often have the same name and the same title.

I had seen parallels between title names and land holdings but didn't know that the one grew out of the other. Your comment demonstrates the complexity of identities, because there are many places in England that have the same or very similar names.

+3 votes
I'm not a member of any aristo project but this decision is correct.

The title is 'Earl of Leicester'. The possessors might be known as '1st Earl ..', '2nd Earl etc' but that is a name specific to them. It is not the title. If you want to record someone was the 3rd Earl then add it to the Nickname field.

For royalty the same logic applies. Henry I's title was King of England (chief title of many). His name was Henry of Normandy (de Normandie if you prefer). Again you can put a regnal name and number in the Nickname field.
by Matthew Fletcher G2G6 Mach 9 (94.3k points)
+1 vote
I don't recall the exact discussion or when it was (I'm thinking at least two years ago) with regard to include or delete the 'number' in the title (i.e. 2nd Earl, etc.).  It didn't include kings (for obvious reasons).  As mentioned previously, and as Joe points out, people could be one # of the first creation and another # of the 2nd creation.  This is what had originally brought up the discussion, as some people wanted one number and others wanted another.  It seemed best to just style someone 'Earl' as opposed to 5th Earl.

I've always just left the numbers in the nickname field (which is where the title belongs) when they were already there -- unless there's a disagreement about who is which number.  If EuroAristo members want to agree to use Complete Peerage as the final authority, I am totally on board with that.  I would like the other leaders of, as well as those that spend a lot of time working on, EuroAristo to agree to this.  If that is the consensus, then we can update the project page(s) to reflect this.

Thanks for bringing this up, April!

Darlene - Co-Leader, British Isles Royals and Aristocrats 742-1499 Project
by Darlene Athey-Hill G2G6 Pilot (400k points)
Thanks Darlene, for all the work you do. I would not put in the time and effort on European Aristocrats (small though it is) if it were not for the substantial efforts made by you, by Joe, and too many too name but you know who you are. You all make it worth while to add to the knowledge store at WikiTree.
I'm happy for The Complete Peerage, particularly the second edition to be the authority on titles.  Certainly much better than Burkes
Thank you John. I had not considered it but clearly which edition can make a difference.

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