William de Forz (latinised as de Fortis or de Fortibus) was a son of William de Forz and Hawisa, Countess of Aumale in NE Normandy. His birth date is uncertain but is likely to have been in the early 1190s, and he may have been born in Poitou, though some sources suggest Holderness in Yorkshire (see below).
Inheritance, Marriage and Children
Through his mother he was titular Count of Aumale, a County in Normandy, though this was a title without any substance in the form of landholdings - Philip Augustus of France captured Aumale in 1196.
In 1214 William came to England, under safe-conduct, to secure his inheritance of the English lands held by his mother. These were mainly in Yorkshire, Cumberland and Lincolnshire. His English inheritance included the Baronies of Burstwick and of Skipton, both in Yorkshire. King John, fairly unusually, did not charge him a large fine for coming into his inheritance but made it a condition of his enjoying the revenues from these lands that he marry Aveline de Montfichet. Aveline died in 1239.
In 1214 William served in King Johns campaign in Poitou but the next year he joined the Barons who compelled King John to sign the Magna Carta, of which he was one of the Surety Barons. During the rebellion that followed, William supported King John, who granted him lands and castles confiscated from rebels. For a few months in the summer of 1216 William abandoned the royal cause, but, by the accession of Henry III in October he was again supporting the royal government.
Reign of Henry III
When rebel Barons returned to allegiance, William resisted official attempts to make him restore confiscated lands to them. By May 1220 he had surrendered most of them, though he held onto Castle Bytham, Lincolnshire, which had been in his family's possession in the past. Later that year he was twice denied the post of Seneschal of Poitou and Gascony.
At the end of 1220 William left the court and rebelled. The reasons are not entirely clear, but it is likely the main motive was his desire to retain Caste Bytham. He was excommunicated in January 1221, and fled North, but made his peace with the government. As part of the terms of this, he was required to pay for some of the costs of the campaign against him. Castle Bytham was destroyed, though he made an unsuccessful legal attempt in 1236 to recover it.
William's relationship with Henry III's administration remained difficult until the later 1220s, when he was sent of diplomatic missions. In 1230 he went to Poitou with Henry III. He appears on occasion to have engaged in piracy: in 1227 Henry III wrote to him , "just as we have enjoined you orally other times", to restore to one William Burghley 21 barrels of wine which he had seized from a ship.
William died in 1241, in the Mediterranean on his way to Jerusalem. His burial place is not known. J W Clay, in his The Extinct and Dormant Peerages of the Northern Counties of England, states that he was buried in Meaux Abbey but there is no good source for this.
Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Biography
by Professor Nigel Saul
"William de Forz (Fortibus) (1191x6–1241), holder of the Norman title of count of Aumale, was a mercurial personality whose apparent self-interestedness and frequent changes of allegiance raise questions, difficult to answer, about the balance of personal ambition and concern for the common good in the motivation of the medieval aristocracy.
"Forz was the son of the wealthy Aumale heiress, Countess Hawise, a much married lady, by her third husband, the Poitevin naval commander, William de Forz, who died in 1195. He came to England, probably from Poitou, in 1214, and in September or October of that year secured possession of the English lands of his mother’s inheritance on the condition that he married Aveline, daughter of Richard de Montfichet. In this way he was brought into contact with another lord to be chosen one of the Twenty-Five. William’s English lands consisted principally of the honours of Holderness and Skipton in Yorkshire, Cockermouth in Cumberland, and lands in Lincolnshire around Barrow-on-Humber in the north and Castle Bytham in the south.
"In the spring of 1215, perhaps as a result of his links with Mountfitchet, he joined the baronial opposition to King John and after the meeting at Runnymede was nominated to the Twenty Five. By August, however, he had changed sides, returning to the king’s allegiance, and he accompanied John on his punitive expedition to the north of England in December. He deserted John a second time in June 1216 but had returned to royal service by the autumn, after Henry III’s accession, and attested the reissue of Magna Carta in November.
"In the course of the civil war from 1215 William acquired many lands, some of which belonged to the Crown, which the Minority Government was keen to recover from him. He surrendered most of these properties in or before May 1220, but clung onto Castle Bytham in Lincolnshire, to which his family had an ancestral claim. At the end of 1220, apparently annoyed at being passed over for the appointment of seneschal of Poitou and Gascony, he rebelled against the Minority Government, suddenly left court to garrison Bytham, and then, faced with the ravaging of his lands, fled to the north of England, where he took refuge at Fountains. The Government treated him remarkably leniently, and he and his men were pardoned.
"In his later years Forz was employed on a range of diplomatic and military business for the king, treating with the Holy Roman Emperor at Antwerp in 1227 and accompanying Henry III on his expedition to Poitou in 1230. In the spring of 1241 he set out for Jerusalem, but died on the way. His wife, Aveline, was buried at Thornton Abbey, but his own burial place is unknown.
"At the village of Castle Bytham, north of Stamford, the enormous earthworks of the castle still tower over the streets to recall the most turbulent episode of this man’s enigmatic career."
Neither William de Forz (b: ca. 1192-1241) nor his father ever lived in the Norman County of "Aumale" (translated in English, Aumale = Albemarle) although the family held the title of "Comte d'Aumale" = Earl of Albemarle, in English.
As William's father was from Fors in Poitou (a former French province consisting of the Charentes and Vienne areas sometimes counted as being in Aquitaine, sometimes not), and as some biographies indicate that he traveled to England from Poitou at about 21 years old to claim his English-lands birthright from the English King, in 1214, this would lead one to believe he was most-likely born in "Poitou, France".
Some genealogies, however, state he was born in Holderness, East Riding, Yorkshire, where his parents apparently also had a castle, and he was later also known as "Lord of Holderness" - but that is a lesser title than Earl of Albemarle (Comte d'Aumale).
↑ 1.01.11.21.18.104.22.168.7 Ralph V Turner. William De Forz, Count of Aumale: An Early Thirteenth-Century English Baron, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 115, No. 3 (Jun. 17, 1971), pp. 221-249, JSTOR
↑ 4.04.14.2 Cokayne, George Edward. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, new edition, Vol. I, St Catherine Press, 1910, p. 355, AUMALE 5
↑ I J Sanders. English Baronies, A Study of their Origin and descent 1086-1327, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1960, pp. 83 and 142
↑ Douglas Richardson. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 4 vols (ed. Kimball G. Everingham), 2nd edition. Salt Lake City: the author, 2011, Vol I, pp. 455-456
↑ Douglas Richardson. Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols (ed. Kimball G. Everingham), Salt Lake City: the author, 2013, Vol II, pp. 189-190
↑ John William Clay, The Extinct and Dormant Peerages of the Northern Counties of England, James Nisbet & Co, London, 1913, p. 2, Internet Archive
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, entry for 'Forz [Fortibus], William de, count of Aumale', print and online 2004, revised online 2005, available online via some libraries
Cokayne, George Edward. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, new edition, Vol. I, St Catherine Press, 1910, p. 355, AUMALE 5
Turner, Ralph V. William De Forz, Count of Aumale: An Early Thirteenth-Century English Baron, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 115, No. 3 (Jun. 17, 1971), pp. 221-249, JSTOR (free registration required
As a surety baron, William de Forz is managed by the Magna Carta Project, even though he is one of the eight barons with no traced ongoing line of descendants. ~ Noland-165 00:45, 27 January 2018 (EST)
This biography was reviewed and revised for the Magna Carta Project by Michael Cayley in April 2020.