William Longespée was one of 16 Illustrious Men, counselors to King John, who were listed in the preamble to Magna Carta.
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In 1196 his half-brother Richard I gave him the hand of Ela, whose father had died that year, making her Countessof Salisbury in her own right: she was then still a child. Through this marriage, William became Earl of Salisbury. They had the following children:
William fought with Richard I in Normandy in 1196-1198. He was present at the coronation of King John in 1199 and was closely associated with him. He held a number of appointments under King John and during the minority of Henry III, including:
He also headed several diplomatic missions. In 1204 he escorted Llywelyn the Great to a meeting with King John. In 1206 he escorted William the Lion, King of Scotland, to meet King John at York.
At various times in his life he fought in France, Flanders and Wales. In 1214 he was captured during the Battle of Bouvines: he was exchanged by May 1215 for Robert, son of the Count of Dreux.
At the time of the signing of the Magna Carta he was one of the "Illustrious Men" who were with King John and he stayed loyal to John over the following months. But in late June 1216 he submitted to Prince Louis, who had made rapid gains in southern England. King John ordered his lands to be seized. In May 1217 he returned to royalist allegiance, taking a prominent role in the Battle of Lincoln and the naval battle off Sandwich which paved the way for the negotiations which led to Louis leaving England.
In 1225 William was de facto leader of a military expedition, nominally under Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to secure English possessions in Gascony. He was taken sick there, and set sail for England. On his way back he was shipwrecked and narrowly escaped capture.
William Longespée died at Salisbury Castle, Wiltshire on 7 March 1226. The chronicler Matthew Paris gives an almost certainly false story that his death was due to poisoning by Hubert de Burgh. Hubert was a close friend of his from childhood and William's death may well have been due to the illness he had contracted in Gascony. He was buried at Salisbury Cathedral. The tomb can be seen in the South Transept. He is the first person known to have been buried in the Cathedral.
William's birth date is unknown. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that in 1188 Henry II granted him the Manor of Appleby, Lincolnshire, pointing to his being of age then. But according to a statement in a legal dispute between John Malherbe and the Abbot of Thornhill Priory, the grant was to Henry II's brother William, who was also nicknamed Longespée. The earliest certain reference to the William Longespée of this profile seems to be on 5 February 1190/1, when Richard I ordered that the manor of Kirton in Lindsey be given to his brother William. That may suggest that William was just of age then.
It has long been known that William Longespée was an illegitimate son of Henry II, but the identity of his mother was established only recently. For some time there was speculation that she was the 'Fair Rosamund', Rosamund Clifford. Besides issues around dates, this is disproved by a charter in which he refers to "Comitissa Ida, mater mea" - "Countess Ida, my mother". Paul C Reed's 2002 article in The American Genealogist discusses the identity of Countess Ida. There were two Countesses called Ida in the relevant period. One was Ida of Eu, who was a countess by birth and whose mother was born no earlier than 1138, and quite likely several years later. Ida of Eu would have been too young at the time of William Longespée's birth to be his mother. The other Ida is Ida de Toeni who became Countess of Norfolk by her marriage to Roger Bigod. A list of prisoners taken at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214 confirms that Ida de Toeni was indeed William Longespée's mother: it includes Ralph Bigod, described as brother (in fact half-brother) of the Earl of Salisbury, and Roger was Ida’s son.
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that William Longespée and Ela, Countess of Salisbury had only four daughters, giving only one Ida, whose husbands are stated to be Walter FitzRobert and William de Beauchamp.
Some trees on the internet give a further daughter, Lora, said to have been a nun at Lacock Abbey. This suggestion appears in T C Banks's The Dormant and Extinct Baronage of England (1809). The book Annals and Antiquities of Lacock Abbey suggests that Lora was a granddaughter.
It is sometimes suggested that Roger de Meulan (or Meuland or Meyland etc), c.1215-1295, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, may possibly have been an illegitimate son of William de Longespée. In 1738 Thomas Cox, in a series of books on Britain, described Roger as "3d son of William Longespe, Earl of Salisbury, and Eva his wife," suggesting he was actually a legitimate child. As the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states, these suggestions are speculation and guesses ultimately inspired by the fact that Matthew Paris, chronicler of the first half of the 13th century, once appears to refer to him as "Master Longespée" without naming a father, and there is no good evidence for the relationship. In a 2007 discussion in soc.genealogy.medieval (post by Peter Stewart dated 3 December 2007), some doubt was expressed as to whether Matthew Paris was actually referring to Roger de Meulan or to someone else. An 1835 book on Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire seems to imply that the idea of this possible relationship originated in a conjecture by a Dr Pegge. The Victoria County History of Staffordshire cites a grant of 1259 by Henry III to "Bishop Roger de Meuland or Longespèe... his kinsman" but with nothing to indicate how Roger might be connected to the Longespée family.
The 2007 discussion on soc.genealogy.medieval confirms the doubts about a relationship between Roger de Meulan and William Longespée, and other possibilities for Roger's parentage are floated. A 2012 post there by Douglas Richardson suggests that Roger de Meulan's father may have been an illegitimate son of King John, which would rule out William Longespée as his father. Richardson cites a document in which a Roger, cleric, describes himself as nephew of the King of England and Richard Earl of Cornwall.
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On 11 Sep 2019 at 17:33 GMT Michael Cayley wrote:
On 28 Jun 2019 at 14:49 GMT Michael Cayley wrote:
I will probably do some work on his wife and children over coming days.
On 26 Jun 2019 at 12:20 GMT Michael Cayley wrote:
On 21 Jun 2019 at 19:52 GMT Michael Cayley wrote:
On 21 Jun 2019 at 19:29 GMT Michael Cayley wrote:
On 21 Jun 2019 at 18:44 GMT Isaac Taylor wrote:
Do we have a name or location for his presumptive mistress who was the mother of Roger de Meyland (Meulan), bishop and sheriff; and his NN sister (possibly also called de Meyland) who married Henry de Napton?
Is there any reason not to include those natural children in the bio, even if we don't have profiles for them yet?
On 5 Dec 2017 at 16:09 GMT Liz (Noland) Shifflett wrote:
Could you add the appropriate EuroAristo project account as manager?
Please contact me if this is not feasible & I'll work on getting a fourth Magna Carta project box for the Illustrious Men.
Thanks, Liz ~ Project:Magna Carta
On 19 Apr 2017 at 14:20 GMT David Douglass wrote:
On 19 Apr 2017 at 12:02 GMT Jack Day wrote:
On 19 Apr 2017 at 01:31 GMT David Douglass wrote: