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My Ancestors Came with the Conqueror

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My Ancestors Came with the Conqueror

  • by Anthony J. Camp
  • published by Society of Genealogists, London, 1988; corrected reprint 1990
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<span id='Camp'></span>Camp, Anthony J. ''[[Space:My Ancestors Came with the Conqueror|My Ancestors Came with the Conqueror]]'' (1988)
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Not available online.

Camp's small book in the Society of Genealogists' My Ancestors... series has two separate components.

The first component consists of a short introduction (by Camp) and reprints of 3 articles (not by Camp) which appeared in the Society's journal Genealogists Magazine in 1931, 1932 and 1944. The articles discussed the identification of those few people who are stated in credible early sources to have fought at Hastings, or at least, to have landed in England with the expeditionary force.

The second component, titled The Battle Abbey Roll, is a new comparative synopsis (by Camp) of 8 earlier and much longer lists of companions of the Conqueror. The 8 include the 19th-century "Dives Roll" and the 20th-century "Falaise Roll" (which had provoked the aforesaid articles).

(There is no definitive "Battle Abbey Roll" in existence, even as a copy)

What follows is an abstract/review of the first part of the book.

In 1931 a celebration was held at Falaise, described as "gastronomically laudable" and "socially delightful". The proceedings included the unveiling of a bronze tablet listing the names of 315 companions of William the Conqueror.[1]

In London, the Society of Genealogists was appalled at all this, and not only because they weren't invited. The brave Norman knights of Burke's had long been regarded as the bane of English genealogy.

One T.R Thomson was commissioned to write a critical article, which was published in the Genealogists' Magazine in December 1931,[2] accompanied by a harrumphing editorial.

An emergency meeting was held in February 1932 to discuss the matter further. A (not unbiased) account of this meeting appeared in the next Genealogists' Magazine.[3]

At the meeting, Geoffrey H. White (one of the editors of Complete Peerage 2nd edn)[4] gave a paper in which he set out his list of people who fought at Hastings.[5] Thomson also spoke, and a similar paper from a Dr Holman was read.

The Chairman then summarized a consensus among these writers that

  • We have the names of at most 20 people who fought at Hastings [6]
  • There are no extant male-line descents from any of those [7]
  • Descents through females can be claimed from about 10 of them
  • And in fact anybody with a descent from the medieval baronage can probably claim descent from all of those.

Other people spoke, and clearly the position being taken by the Society wasn't universally popular. One suspects the proceedings might have been much more heated and less one-sided than the published report might suggest.

White's 1st paper

White gave 15 names as certain (in that they were explicitly stated to have fought) and 4 as almost certain (in that they were explicitly stated to have been members of the expedition, though in a context other than the battle itself).[5][8]

He chose to regard only 3 sources as reliable:

  • William of Poitiers. He was the Conqueror's chaplain and, in modern terms, the ghostwriter of the Conqueror's official autobiography. On many issues, his version is what his employer would want you to think, but his account of the battle is probably not particularly distorted. William named 12 people at the battle. He also mentions 2 bishops as members of the expedition, though he doesn't place them at the fighting. Total so far 12 + 2.
  • The Bayeux Tapestry. This shows Bishop Odo at the battle, sword in hand,[9] revising the count slightly to 13 + 1. It also gives 3 other names in the scenes before the battle. Total 13 + 4.
  • Orderic Vitalis. Orderic was born in England, but spent most of his life in Normandy and wrote a history of the era. He used the list of 12 given by Poitiers, so can't be taken as an independent source for those names, though evidently he was aware of no reason to doubt them. He doesn't mention the bishops, but supplies 2 additional names. Grand total 15 + 4.[10]

Douglas's paper, and White's response

The issue was discussed again 10 years later in a published paper by Professor David C. Douglas.[11][12] Douglas was an historian rather than a genealogist, a distinction that some find important. He worked independently and was unaware of the earlier Genealogists' Magazine articles.

Douglas gave a list of 27 people who in his judgment were proved by reliable evidence to have crossed the Channel in the 1066 expedition (though not necessarily to have fought at Hastings).[13] His list included the same 19 names already given by White, and added a further 8.

White discussed these 8 additional names in a lecture in May 1944.[14] He disagreed to a significant extent, though respectfully and amicably.

2 of the 8 additional names came from Orderic. They're mentioned by him in other contexts, but with the implication that they were involved in the 1066 expedition. In the case of Goubert d'Auffay, White was prepared to concede that "nor can it be doubted that his fights would include the Battle of Hastings".

4 more names came from charters, a source not previously examined by White. Douglas had noted that some of these contain relevant narratives. In two cases, White conceded that the knight concerned was in the 1066 expedition, but he regarded the other 2 as much more problematic.

The last 2 names came from a poem known as the Carmen and attributed by some to Guy of Amiens. The poem mentions "the noble heir of Ponthieu" as one of those who mutilated the body of Harold, and also tells the story of Taillefer the juggler. White was unable to identify the heir of Ponthieu, and rejected both stories as fictional embellishments by the poet, on the grounds that Poitiers and Orderic would have used the stories had they been already in circulation. He conceded that historians would probably say genealogists have unduly suspicious minds.

Douglas went on to give two further lists, not mentioned by White.[15] One is of those who witnessed charters shortly after the coronation:

  • Gerald the Seneschal (grandfather of William de Roumare)
  • Rodulf the Chamberlain (?of Tankerville)
  • Hugh d'Ivry, Pincerna
  • Richard fitz Gilbert (de Clare)
  • Pons (?ancestor of the Cliffords

The other is of those who witnessed a charter of the Conqueror at Caen in June 1066:

  • Richard the Vicomte of the Avranchin
  • Ranulf the Vicomte of the Bessin
  • Ralf Tesson
  • Fulk d'Aunou.

It is of course reasonable to suppose that those who were close aides of the Conqueror in the months before and after the Battle are likely to have been at the Battle, or at least, in the expedition; but these names don't meet the original criterion of being explicitly given by the sources in direct connection with the expedition.

Douglas's paper was reviewed by G. Andrews Moriarty in TAG in Oct 1944.[16] Moriarty ignores White's review and lists the 27 without comment. He indicates those from whom a descent can be traced.

White's 3rd paper

White read another paper on the battle to the Society on 16 Dec 1650, and this was printed as an Appendix in Complete Peerage.[17] Mostly he deals with conflicting accounts of the death of Harold.[18]

White pays more attention here to the Carmen poem, and demonstrates that the writer had the work of William of Poitiers in front of him; from which it follows that the writer wasn't Guy of Amiens, and wasn't an independent authority.

He also discusses another poem, by Baudri, proposed elsewhere as a first-rate source, and points out that this also was derivative.

He reiterates his previous list of 15+5 names without change.[19]

This table gives Professor Douglas's list of 27 names, as discussed in White's 1944 lecture:

G - the 12 + 2 names given by William of Poitiers
G* = not said to have fought
B - the 1 + 3 names given by the Bayeux Tapestry
B* = shown before but not during the battle
O - the 14 names given by Orderic (of which 1-12 were copied from William of Poitiers)
D - the 27 names given by Douglas
D++ = accepted by White (1944)
D+ = considered by White likely to have been on the 1066 expedition, though with reservations
D* = regarded as doubtful or problematic by White
D** = rejected by White
R - Appears in a purported copy of the "Battle Abbey Roll"
H = Holinshed
L = Leland
D = Duchesne
T - He or his kin were Domesday tenants-in-chief or subtenants, see note below.
P - Biography by Planche (Volume-chapter), see note below. (Reference not in the Camp book, but added here for convenience)
C - Biography by the Duchess of Cleveland (Volume-page). Reference given by Camp, with hesitation
L - Biography by Loyd (Page). Reference given by Camp

(The overlapping W, B, O groups united (nos. 1-19) give the 15 + 4 names of the 1931 White paper, nos. 1-15 being classed as "certain")

WikipediaWikiTree-IDGBOD RT PCL
1Robert de Beaumont, later Count of MeulanBeaumont-29G OD HLT 1-061-14513
2Eustace, Count of BoulogneBoulogne-8G OD - 1-05
3William, Count of ÉvreuxEvreux-18G OD - 1-08 41
4Geoffrey, Count of Mortagne & lord of Nogent Châteaudun-20G OD - 1-08
5William fitz Osbern [20]FitzOsbern-21G OD - 1-0642
6Aimeri, Viscount of ThouarsThouars-18G OD - 1-07
7Walter Giffard, lord of LonguevilleGiffard-6G OD HLT 1-052-12045
8Hugh de Montfort, lord of Montfort-sur-RisleMontfort-64G OD HLT 1-052-29368
9Ralph de Tosny, lord of ConchesToeni-4G OD HLT 1-073-171104
10Hugh de GrandmesnilGrandmesnil-17G OD -T 2-03 47
11William de Warenne, later 1st Earl of SurreyWarenne-112G OD HLDT 1-043-262111
12William Malet?Malet-128G OD HLT 2-042-6156
13Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, later Earl of KentBayeux-54G*B D HLT 1-03
14Turstin fitz Rolf OD H 1-072-69
15Engenulf de Laigle[21]Aigle-13 OD - 2-06 52
16Geoffrey de Mowbray, Bishop of CoutancesMowbray-201G* D HLD 2-012-23571
17Robert, Count of MortainConteville-2 B* D HLDT 1-032-239
18WadardWadard-4 B* D -
19Vital B* D -
20Goubert d’Auffay D++ - 8
21Robert de Vitot D+ -
22Roger son of Turold D+ -
23Gerelm de Panilleuse D+ -
24Erchembald D* -
25Robert fitz Erneis D* - 2-07
26"The noble heir of Ponthieu" D** -
27Wikipedia: Taillefer D** -

A Wikipedia contributor adds a further name, proposed more recently:[22]

  • Humphrey of Tilleul-en-Auge

It's not clear whether this name was missed or discounted by White and Douglas.

It is remarkable that of those known from direct evidence to have been present, a majority do not appear on any of the purported copies of the "Battle Abbey Roll".

Thomson noted the importance of a Domesday reference in tracing descents, in view of the shortage of other documentation in that period. He stated that 12 of the first 15 can be plausibly identified with Domesday tenants; but many of those who fought in 1066 must have been dead by 1086 and replaced by their heirs.

Thomson's article talks briefly about the existence of descendants, and the question was also alluded to at the meeting. The Falaise people had apparently claimed to have verified descents from all of their 315 listed Companions, and it is evident that the SoG was highly unimpressed.

James Robinson Planche's book The Conqueror and his Companions (1874) provides short biographies of 18 of the 27, as indicated above. The book was somewhat ahead of its own time, but was overtaken by major advances in scholarship later in the century. It cannot now be regarded as a reliable source of genealogical detail, though it remains interesting and insightful reading. Vol. 1, Vol. 2


  1. 1.0 1.1 Camp, Anthony J (Wikipedia): My Ancestors Came With The Conqueror, publ. Society of Genealogists, London, 1990, Introduction, p. 3. (Apart from the three reprinted articles cited here, the rest of Camp's book is taken up by a long but uninteresting comparative listing of the versions of the "Battle Abbey Roll")
  2. 2.0 2.1 Genealogists Magazine, Dec 1931, Vol. 5, pp. 394-7. Reprinted in Camp, ch. 1, pp. 5-8. Not online, but back numbers are available in sets on DVD.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Genealogists Magazine, Vol 6, pp. 50-7, reprinted in Camp, ch. 2, pp. 9-14
  4. 4.0 4.1 Geoffrey H. (Henllan) White, WorldCat
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Summarized in the meeting report: Genealogists Magazine, Vol. 6, p. 50, reprinted in Camp, ch. 2, p. 9. Doesn't seem to be published in full.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Meaning, on the Norman side. We have the names of a few of the English dead, but they weren't part of this discussion.
  7. 7.0 7.1 The possibility of male-line descendants of Malet was evidently unknown at the time.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Major names of the time who were not in the expedition include Roger de Beaumont (Vielles-7), Count of Meulan, and Roger de Montgomery (Montgomery-133), later Earl of Arundel, who are both stated to have remained in Normandy as advisers to the Duchess. Richard fitz Gilbert (Clare-15), ancestor of the Clares, is mentioned by no writer before Wace.
  9. 9.0 9.1 White's 1950 paper calls the brandished stick a mace, not a sword.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Guillaume de Jumieges is normally a prime source for the life and times of the Conqueror, but gives no information on who fought at Hastings.
  11. 11.0 11.1 David C. (Charles) Douglas, WorldCat.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Douglas, David C: "Companions of the Conqueror", in History, Vol. 28, pp. 129-147.
  13. 13.0 13.1 The number does not include one Osmund de Bodes who joined the expedition but probably died before sailing.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Genealogists Magazine, Vol. 9 (1944), pp. 417-24. Reprinted in Camp, pp. 15-23.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Français.
  16. 16.0 16.1 The American Genealogist, Oct 1944, Vol. 21 no. 2, p. 111, extract online.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Appendix L in Complete Peerage (2nd edn), Vol 12 pt 1.
  18. 18.0 18.1 No writer mentions Harold being shot in the eye. This tradition comes from the Bayeux Tapestry, but the tapestry is ambiguous.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Goubert d'Auffay being reckoned as explicitly on the expedition, but not explicitly at Hastings.
  20. 20.0 20.1 William FitzOsbern might be identical with the Breteville intended by some "Battle Abbey Roll" listings.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Orderic says he was killed in the battle.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Wikipedia: Companions of William the Conqueror#"Proven_Companions".

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