||Herleva (Falaise) de Mortain was a member of aristocracy in Europe.|
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Bree Ogle | Mar 2014 WikiTree -- The earliest accounts of Herleva come from Orderic Vitalis (1075 – c. 1142). 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.
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.
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.
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. 
There is some controversy as to whether Herleve married Robert. Freeman reports their relationship as a marriage: "Herleve married first Robert, Duke of Normandy. Issue: William the Conqueror 
There is also the possibility that they were married according to "More danico", the "Danish Way".  She was referred to in the Grestain abbey as "a legitimate wife according to old Norman traditions." 
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.
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.
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. And by the time the Conqueror was on the throne, the papacy was lucky to have any influence on him at all. Incidentally, William was born around c.1028 in Falaise, Normandy.
Nevertheless, contemporary genealogists such as Douglas Richardson state that "she became the mistress of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and by him had one illegitimate son, William the Conqueror, King of England, Duke of Normandy."
It should also be noted that while William was never known as "the Conqueror" during his life time, he was often referred to as "William the Bastard." 
About 1030 Herleve married Herluin de Conteville, Vicomte, seigneur of Conteville.  Some writers assume that the marriage to Herluin occurred only after Robert's death.
Herleve and Herluin had two sons, and one daughter:
At some point, Herlave's second husband supposedly had leprosy. This is said to have inspired the couple to found the Abbey Notre-Dame de Grestain in 1050, but other sources state Herleva had no part in it. It's assumed Herlave is buried there or Mortain, Haute-Normandie.
Herluin's wife, Herleve, is thought to have been living in 1050-51, but died soon afterwards. 
Herluin and his first wife, Arlette, were buried in Grestain Abbey. 
Herluin married, 2nd, Fredesende. They had two sons, Jean, who appears to have died young, and Raoul Fitz Herluin (or de Conteville), seigneur of Corneville-sur-Risle and Martainville-en-Lieuvin, presumably Domesday tenant of Chapel Allerton, Huish (in Burnham), Adber (in Trent) and Brent, Somerset. Herluin de Conteville died about 1066. 
His widow, Fredesende, granted part of dower lands at Le Neubourg, Cantelou, and Honnaville, to Grestain Abbey. 
Herleve had children by both Robert and Herluin. Herleve and Herluin had two sons, and one daughter:
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
Falaise CastleEngland's first Norman king, the formidable William I, was born in 1028 at Falaise Castle. Wiliam was the illegitimate son of Robert 'the Devil' or the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy and his mistress Herleve, (sometimes called Arlette) the daughter of Fullbert, a tanner of Falaise. Before history renamed him the Conqueror he was more commonly known to his contemporaries as William the Bastard. Herleve was reported to have attracted Duke Robert with her dancing, in some accounts, he is said to have first caught sight of her while she was washing her linen in the castle moat.
The Norman dynasty had been founded by Robert's ancestor Rollo or Hrolf the Ganger, a Viking raider chief, who was granted the duchy by Charles the Simple, King of France, in 911, at the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, in exchange for feudal allegiance and conversion to Christianity at which he took the baptismal name of Robert.
William's mother, Herleve, also had a daughter, Adelaide, to Duke Robert. Although they had a long relationship, the gap in their social standing rendered marriage out of the question and Herleve was married off to one of Robert's vassals, Herluin, a knight. From this marriage, Herleve produced two further sons, Robert, who later became Count of Mortain and Odo, destined to become Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent and also to play a part in England's history.
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