Herlève  (Falaise) de Mortain

Herlève (Falaise) de Mortain (1003 - abt. 1055)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Herlève (Herleva) "Arlette, Harlette" de Mortain formerly Falaise aka de Falaise
Born in Calvados, Normandy, Francemap [uncertain]
Daughter of and [mother unknown]
Wife of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Wife of — married about [location unknown]
Died about in Mortain, Normandy, Francemap
Falaise-2 created 14 Sep 2010 | Last modified
This page has been accessed 9,849 times.

Categories: Royal Mistresses | 11th Century.

Herlava; Arlette (c.1003- c.1050)[1][2]
living 1049.[4]
father: Fulbert de Falaise.[5][6][3]
mother: Doda (Duwa).[7]
m.1 Robert, Duke of Normandy. Issue: William the Conqueror[4]
m.2 Herluin de Conteville. Issue: 3



Bree Ogle | Mar 2014 WikiTree -- The earliest accounts of Herleva come from Orderic Vitalis (1075 – c. 1142).[5] They were not written down until 80 years after she met Robert the Magnificent. It was only through Wace and Benoit in the 12th century, and later 17th century writings, that she became known as a the daughter of tanner.[6]

Scholarship discounts this based on examination of the original source, the context of the public heckling of Duke William, and the Latin and French words later chroniclers had trouble translating.[6]

According to van Houts (1986), Fulbert was probably a mortician. He is described as, "a person who laid out corpses," and "might have embalmed bodies." As Chamberlain of the ducal court, this was one of Fulbert's duties.[6]

♥ Danesche Manere ♥

Herleve married Robert II, Duke of Normandy according to the "Danish Way."[7] "A legitimate wife according to old Norman traditions,"[7] she eventually had William the Conqueror. At the same time, up-and-coming reformists like pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand of Sovana) hoped to ban these customs and establish authoritarian rule. As a "concubine" through this lens, a "frilla" like Herleve is a glance at the long process of the Christianization of Europe, and the outing of indigenous culture.[8][9]

Still struggling for power and legitimacy, the seat of Rome had barely cleaned up its own house, before it got caught between the Roman aristocracy, and the slaughter of the Saracens and unstoppable Norman "barbarians." Unable to maintain its own security, the papacy cut a deal with the devil, and asked for the backing of the Norman military. It worked, but Rome paid a fateful price before it was able to achieve absolute rule.[9]

So at this juncture, the lack of a wedding sanctioned by the Roman church was no threat to the rank or inheritance of England's future Norman king.[10] And by the time the Conqueror was on the throne, the papacy was lucky to have any influence on him at all.[11] Incidentally, William was born around c.1028 in Falaise, Normandy.[12]

Herluin de Conteville

It is assumed that after Robert died in 1035, Herleve married Herluin de Conteville. They had three children:

✝ Abbey Notre Dame de Grestain ✝

At some point, Herlave's second husband supposedly had leprosy.[14] This is said to have inspired the couple to found the Abbey Notre-Dame de Grestain in 1050,[14] but other sources state Herleva had no part in it.[15] It's assumed Herlave is buried there or Mortain, Haute-Normandie.[16]


  • Royal Ancestry by Douglas Richardson Vol. V page 487

  1. Cawley, C. (2006). Medieval Lands. [1]
    Wikipedia: Herleva; Wikipedia: Grestain Abbey; Abbey Notre-Dame de Grestain;
    Abbott, J. (1903). William the Conqueror (pp. 41). N.p.
    Chronicle of St-Maxentius.
    Crouch, D. (2002). The Normans- The History of a Dynasty, (pp 52–53, 58). Hambledon.
    Douglas, D.C. (1964). William the Conqueror, (pp. 15, 381-382). Berkeley and LA: University of California Press.
    Freeman, E. A. (1867). The History of the Norman Conquest, (pp. 530, 615). N.p.
    McLynn, F. (1999). 1066: The Year of the Three Battles, (pp. 21–23). N.p.
    Palgrave, F. (1864). The History of Normandy and of England, (pp.145). N.p.
  2. place of birth unknown. Some say family was from Chaumont in diocese of Liège but moved to Falaise, Calvados, Basse Normandie. Other state they were from Huy.[citation needed]
  3. parents: Fulbert de Falaise and Doda (Cawley, 2006;[2] Royals and Nobles: A Genealogist's Tool. pp.45. iUniverse, 2002).[3]
  4. "When the said William had been born, in that same year Duke Robert took as his wife the boy's mother, whom he had deflowered." (Freeman, 1870, pp.615)
  5. Wikipedia: Orderic Vitalis
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Van Houts, (1986). The Origins of Herleva, Mother of William the Conqueror. The English Historical Review, 101(399), pp. 399-404. Oxford University Press. JSTOR. Retrieved 26 Mar 2014.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Arlette. Abbey Notre-Dame de Grestain
  8. Abbey Notre-Dame de Grestain: The family of Arlette.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Norwich, J. J. (2011). A History of the Papacy: Absolute Monarchs. NY: Random House. eBook.
  10. Danish Way
  11. Wikipedia:Pope Gregory VII
  12. "William the Conqueror," (n.d.). bio.com. Web. Accessed 08 Mar 2014.
  13. 1 GEDCOM asserts she had another daughter with Robert named Adelaide of Normandy (1029-1090).[citation needed]
  14. 14.0 14.1 Wikipedia: Grestain Abbey
  15. Wikipedia: Herleva
  16. Ogle, B. (2014, March 26). Herlave Falaise Mortain: Biography. WikiTree. Web.

More: Family Tree & Genealogy Tools

Sponsored by MyHeritage

Memories: 1

On 4 Dec 2011 Roger Wehr wrote:

According to one legend, still recounted by tour guides at Falaise, it all started when Robert, the young Duke of Normandy saw Herleva from the roof of his castle tower. The walkway on the roof still looks down on the dyeing trenches cut into stone in the courtyard below, which can be seen to this day from the tower ramparts above. The traditional way of dyeing leather or garments was for individuals to trample barefoot on the garments which were awash in the dyeing liquid in these trenches. Herleva, legend goes, seeing the Duke on his ramparts above, raised her skirts perhaps a bit more than necessary in order to attract the Duke's eye. The latter was immediately smitten and ordered her brought in (as was customary for any woman that caught the Duke's eye) through the back door. Herleva refused, saying she would only enter the Duke's castle on horseback through the front gate, and not as an ordinary commoner. The Duke, filled with lust, could only agree. In a few days, Herleva, dressed in the finest her father could provide, and sitting on a white horse, rode proudly through the front gate, her head held high. This gave Herleva a semi-official status as the Duke's mistress.[

Login to add your own memory.

Searching for someone else?
First: Last:

Do you have a GEDCOM? Login to have every name in your tree searched. It's free (like everything on WikiTree).

Sponsored by MyHeritage

No known carriers of Herleva's mitochondrial DNA have taken an mtDNA test.

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Family Tree DNA.

Images: 2
Herleva de Falaise
Herleva de Falaise

Shell Tile
Shell Tile


On 4 Aug 2016 at 15:56 GMT RJ Horace wrote:

What am I missing here? When I look at Unknown-290714, there's a bio that explains exactly who she is.

On 19 Mar 2016 at 17:50 GMT Marc Cohen wrote:

Unknown-290714 and Falaise-2 do not represent the same person because: Unknown-290714 contains nothing but a name and a DOB that is wildly different from Falaise-2. There is no useful information in it, and no way of knowing what person it represents. This merge was previously proposed and has already been rejected.

On 19 Mar 2016 at 05:29 GMT Marc Cohen wrote:

I agree with David Robinson. About Unknown-290714 all we have is a name and a DOB that is nowhere near Falaise-2. The simplest solution is just to drop the nearly vacuous profile for Unknown-290714.

On 19 Mar 2016 at 04:24 GMT David Robinson wrote:

Unknown-290714 and Falaise-2 do not represent the same person because: Dates way off; not enough info in Unknown-290714. More research needed.

On 18 Mar 2016 at 09:54 GMT Paul Skinner wrote:

Unknown-290714 and Falaise-2 do not represent the same person because: not the same

On 3 Nov 2014 at 07:10 GMT RJ Horace wrote:

Follow the links - UNKNOWN-2800 is the mother of William the Conqueror (duplicate) and her "husband" is Duke Robert.

On 31 Oct 2014 at 15:01 GMT Robin Wood Mr wrote:

UNKNOWN-2800 and Falaise-2 are not ready to be merged because: Too little info to be certain they are the same person

On 31 Oct 2014 at 15:00 GMT Robin Wood Mr wrote:

Unknown-248089 and Falaise-2 are not ready to be merged because: not convinced they are the same person

On 31 Oct 2014 at 14:46 GMT RJ Horace wrote:

UNKNOWN-2800 and Unknown-248089 are not ready to be merged because: Merge both into Falaise-2

On 23 Sep 2014 at 20:03 GMT Kyle Dane wrote:

Herleva De Falaisse-3 and Unknown-248089 appear to represent the same person because: Based on relationships, these are the same person.

more comments

Herleva is 27 degrees from Kevin Bacon, 35 degrees from Bob Dylan, 29 degrees from AJ Jacobs, 29 degrees from Michael Phelps and 22 degrees from Queen Elizabeth II of the Commonwealth Realms on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

F  >  Falaise  |  D  >  de Mortain  >  Herlève (Falaise) de Mortain