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Robert (Conteville) of Mortain (abt. 1031 - abt. 1090)

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Robert (Robert, Comte) "2nd Earl of Cornwall" of Mortain formerly Conteville
Born about in Normandie, Francemap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died about [location unknown]
Profile last modified | Created 1 Feb 2011
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Categories: Companions of William The Conqueror | Domesday Book | EuroAristo - Profiles that need work.

European Aristocracy
Robert, Comte (Conteville) of Mortain was a member of aristocracy in Europe.
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This profile includes a list of sources but they remain unclear because it has insufficient footnoted references (most of the references listed are not available online). Please help to improve this profile by introducing more precise citations.



Robert was the half-brother of King William I and full brother to Bishop Odo, being the second son of Herleva, former concubine of Robert (II), duke of Normandy, and her husband, Herluin de Conteville. Herluin, who is of obscure origin, was created a vicomte shortly after his marriage, c.1030.

Robert was probably brought up in the company of Duke William, of whom he was always to be a loyal supporter. His reward was the county of Mortain, close to the Norman frontier with Brittany and Maine, a region both strategically vital for Normandy's interests and politically sensitive.

Little is known of Robert's activities before the conquest: he witnessed only ten ducal acta, considerably fewer than either Roger de Montgomery or William fitz Osbern; and he only once appears as a ducal judge, when he was ordered, with Maurilius, archbishop of Rouen, and the bishops of Lisieux and Évreux, to hear a case brought by the abbey of St Magloire-de-Lehon.

Keats-Rohan however reports (p.371) that:

His work in the region [of Mortain] was of critical importance in achieving harmony both with west Normans and their eastern counterparts, and between the Normans and the Bretons; his diplomatic successes were alater to provide a model for Henry I.


As Keats-Rohan mentions (p.372): "He accompanied his brother on the expedition of 1066 and is one of the few known to have fought at Hastings."

In 1066 the Brevis relatio records that he provided 120 ships for his brother's invasion fleet, more than any other magnate, and both Orderic Vitalis and William of Poitiers (though not William of Jumièges) attest his importance and refer to his presence at his brother's invasion councils. He is depicted in the Bayeux tapestry seated with his brothers at dinner, and according to a suspect charter in favour of Mont-St Michel, he carried St Michael's standard at the battle of Hastings.

In 1069 Robert, with Robert, count of Eu, destroyed the Danish forces in Lindsey. In the following few years he witnessed a number of royal acta and also heard three cases in the royal curia, including the Ely land pleas. His itinerary, however, is uncertain, though he was certainly in England for at least part of 1068 and 1069, and perhaps also in the early 1070s; and he may have acted as justiciar for his brother in 1071. Thereafter charter evidence suggests that he spent most of his time in Normandy.

Concerning his lands in England, Keats-Rohan explains that:

He was given one of the important defensive Rapes of Sussex at Pevensey, where he built a castle. He received extensive holdings throughout the country, with a notable predominance in the south-west, where some of his holdings in Cornwall came to him as a result of the withdrawal c.1069/70 of Count Brien of Brittany. brother of Alan Rufus.

Sanders explains how Robert Cornish possessions, which made up most of the county, were a feudal barony with its caput at Launceston. Eventually the possessors were Earls of Cornwall, but the lands switched owners many times over the generations.

Robert's own son William, a rebel who fought at Tinchebrai, lost the family possessions, in the next generation.

Marriages and children

In addition to a son, William, there were at least three daughters from his first marriage to Matilda. Emma married Guillaume (IV), count of Toulouse (who died, perhaps in 1093, in the Holy Land) and their young daughter, Phillippa, married Sanchez-Ramiro, king of Aragon, in 1086. Agnes married André de Vitré; and the third daughter married Gui (II) fitz Haimon de Laval. These last two marriages were clearly intended to reinforce Robert's interests in the south-west of Normandy. Another daughter, Sybil, became abbess of Notre Dame de Saintes.

Keats-Rohan reports that he married...

1. Matilda (died about 1084), daughter of Roger de Montgomery, and Mabel de Bellême, by whom had had:

  • William
  • Emma, wife of William, count of Toulouse
  • Agnes, wife of André I de Vitré (a tenant of the count in Cornwall)
  • Denise, wife of Guy II de Laval

2. Almodis, by whom he had issue, "although apparently none survived into adulthood".


Although Grestain tradition records Robert's death, and his burial next to his first wife in the abbey, in 1090, he did not die until 1095, perhaps on 9 December as stated on the obit roll of St. Evroult, Mortain. He was succeeded by his eldest son, William, who is not known to have married and who first appears as a witness of acta from the 1080s.


  • Keats-Rohan, Domesday People, under "Robert Comes De Moritonie", pp.371-372
  • Sanders, I.J. (1960) Launceston, English Baronies, p.60
  • Royal Ancestry by Douglas Richardson Vol. V page 487
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Online requires subscription)
  • Frederick Lewis Weis, "Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists," 7th Ed. Text b. 1030 d 1095. half brother of Wm.the Conqueror m. Maud de Montgomery.
  • W.H. Turton, "The Plantagenet Ancestry." 2011, (not available to see online)
  • Roderick W. Stuart, "Royalty for Commoners." Searching 4th edition on Ancestry. No information found

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No known carriers of Robert, Comte's Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests.

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On 13 Nov 2018 at 12:01 GMT Andrew Lancaster wrote:

We do not have good sources confirming the son Richard or the daughter Isabel. The spelling of both of their surnames would not normally be correct for this family. Probably need to be disconnected.

Robert, Comte is 32 degrees from Walter Morrison, 35 degrees from Alison Wilkins and 22 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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