William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford

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William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford ( French Guillaume de Crépon , dit Fitz-Osbern ; * 1020 ; † February 22, 1071 ), was a relative and advisor to William the Conqueror , who became one of the greatest landlords of early Norman England .

Origin and family

William (e) is the former Norman form of the name Wilhelm, corresponding to the French Guillaume .

He was born the son of Osbern de Crépon (Fitz = son), who worked as a chamberlain in the house of his cousin, Duke Robert I. When Robert left the duchy to his son Wilhelm, Osbern was one of Wilhelm's guards and was killed in an attempted assassination attempt on the young duke around 1040. Osbern had married Emma, ​​a niece of Robert I, and through her inherited a large property in Normandy , namely the fiefs of Pacy and Breteuil. William FitzOsbern's younger brother, Osbern FitzOsbern, was one of the chaplains of King Edward the Confessor and owned the wealthy Church of Bosham in Sussex . His high position made it possible for him to convey information about England's military to his brother and, through him, to his cousin Duke Wilhelm. In gratitude for this, he became Bishop of Exeter in 1072 .


William FitzOsbern was probably brought up at the court of his cousin Wilhelm and, like his father, became one of the ducal chamberlains. He was one of the earliest and strongest advocates of an invasion of England and is said to have convinced the doubters among the Norman nobles.


When Duke William seized power in England, he gave FitzOsbern the Isle of Wight to administer, and in 1067 he made him Earl of Hereford . However, this county was not under Norman control when the fief was awarded. Apparently FitzOsbern was supposed to conquer the area itself. For most of 1067 the king returned to Normandy, leaving his brother Odo von Bayeux and FitzOsbern as its governors. The next year he accompanied the king in the subjugation of South West England and attended the king's court in May. He then paid a visit to his Norman fiefdom himself, where he stayed for a few months because of an illness.

In February or March of 1069, the York castle was placed under FitzOsbern's care, but he soon left to attend the king's court at Easter. The resistance in the western Midlands was finally broken in 1070, and it is likely that FitzOsbern played an important part in it, although details are unknown. During this time, FitzOsbern and his companions invaded Wales at the behest of the king to conquer the kingdom of Gwent . In order to expand the Norman power base in England and Wales, FitzOsbern, as one of the largest builders of this phase, had some castles built, for example in Carisbrooke , Chepstow , Monmouth and Wigmore , (probably also Castell Dinas ) and improved the fortifications of the towns of Hereford and Shrewsbury .


In 1070 King Wilhelm's brother-in-law, Baldwin VI, died. of Flanders , and left his land and little sons in the hands of his widow Richilde . Her husband Baldwin's brother, Robert , however, tried to seize power in the country, and desperate for help, she asked FitzOsbern to marry. Unable to resist the temptation to become count of a rich country in the Holy Roman Empire and near Normandy, he moved with his army to Flanders, where he was defeated and killed on February 22, 1071 at the Battle of Cassel .


FitzOsbern first married Adeliza, the daughter of Rogers I von Tosny . It is believed that he also married Countess Richilde shortly before his defeat at the Battle of Cassel. His eldest son Guillaume de Breteuil succeeded him as a feudal lord in Normandy, and his younger son Roger de Breteuil inherited his estates in England and Wales. His daughter Emma married Ralph de Gael , the Earl of Norfolk .


  • David C. Douglas, "The Ancestors of William Fitz Osbern", English Historical Review , 59 (1944), 62-79
  • Chris P. Lewis, "The early earls of Norman England", Anglo-Norman Studies , 13 (1991), 207-23
  • Lynn Nelson, The Normans in South Wales, 1070-1171 (especially pages 24-33 in chapter 2)
  • WE Wightman, "The palatine earldom of William Fitz Osbern in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire (1066-1071)", English Historical Review , 77 (1962), 6-17

Web links


  1. See also: Companion of Wilhelm the Conqueror
predecessor Office successor
New title created Earl of Hereford
Roger de Breteuil