Famous Faces and Places

A Tale of Two Roberts (of Burgundy)

On this day, 21 March, in the year 1076, Robert I of Burgundy, nicknamed “le Vieux” (the Old), died. Robert I of Burgundy was my 29th great-grandfather through his daughter Constance, my 29th great-grandfather through his daughter Hildegarde, and my two-times 30th great-grandfather through his son Henry.

In 1011, Robert I of Burgundy was born to Robert II of France and Constance of Arles.

In 1025, Robert’s eldest brother Hugh Magnus died. Robert and older brother Henry rebelled against their father, Robert II of France, defeating him and forcing him to retreat to Paris.

In 1031, Robert II of France passed away. With the death of his father, Robert I rose up against his brother Henry I, who was next in line for the throne. Their mother Constance of Arles supported Robert’s efforts. In 1032, peace between the brothers was achieved, when Henry relinquished Burgundy to Robert, thereby making Robert I Duke of Burgundy.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that he was a duke, Robert I was little more than a robber baron. He had little control over his vassals, whose estates he frequently plundered. He also raided Church properties, seizing the income of the diocese of Autun, confiscating the wine of the canons of Dijon, and robbing the Abbey of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre.

Circa 1033, Robert I married Helie of Semur. Together, Robert and Helie had five children: Hugh, Henry, Robert, Simon, and Constance.

In 1048, Robert I repudiated his wife. Not long after he turned out his wife, Robert I killed both her brother Joceran and father Dalmace I of Semur.

At some point prior to 1056, Robert I married Ermengarde d’Anjou. Together, they had one daughter, whom they named Hildegarde.

Two of Robert I’s sons predeceased him: his first son, Hugh, who died in battle, and his second son, Henry. Because of this, when Robert I died on 21 March 1076, in Fleurey-sur-Ouche, France, Henry’s eldest son, Hugh I, became the Duke of Burgundy.


Also, on this day, 21 March, in the year 1306,  Robert II of Burgundy passed away. Although Robert II is not my direct ancestor, he is my 25th great-uncle. (His sister Adelaide of Burgundy is my 24th great-grandmother.) In addition, Robert II is the 6th great-grandson of Robert I (discussed above).

Robert II was the third son of Hugh IV of Burgundy and Yolande of Dreux.

In 1272, when his father died, Robert II became Duke of Burgundy.

In 1279, Robert II married Agnes, the youngest daughter of Louis IX of France (my 24th great-grandfather). Together, they had eight children: Hugh V, Blanche, Margaret, Joan, Odo IV, Louis, Mary, and Robert.

In 1284, Rudolf of Habsburg invested Robert II with the duchy of Dauphiné. Unfortunately, this action resulted in two years of warfare; hostilities ceased when Philip IV of France (my 22nd great-grandfather) paid Robert 20,000 livres tournois to renounce his claim to the Dauphiné.

Robert II ended the practice of gifting parcels of the Burgundian estate to younger sons and as dowries to daughters. Because of this previous practice, the duchy had already diminished by earlier dowries and gifts. Upon Robert II’s death on 21 March 1306, the entire duchy passed to his eldest son, Hugh V.

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John Beaufort

On this day, 16 March 1410, John Beaufort passed away. He was my 18th great-grandfather through his daughter Joan and my 19th great-grandfather through his son Edmund.

Born circa 1373, John Beaufort was the eldest child of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Swynford.

In both 1390 and 1397, John and his siblings were declared legitimate by Parliament, as well as by the Pope in September 1396, after his parents were married. Despite being made legitimate by both the church and state, Henry IV barred John and his Beaufort siblings from succession to the throne, even though they too were the grandchildren of Edward III.

Between May and September 1390, John Beaufort embarked on the Barbary Crusade, led by Louis II, Duke of Bourbon. The objective of this crusade was to curtail piracy in and around Mahdia; however, the siege proved unsuccessful.

In 1394, John Beaufort served in Lithuania with the Teutonic Knights.

On 10 February 1397, John was created Earl of Somerset. Also in February 1397, he also was appointed constable of Dover Castle, warden of the Cinque Ports, and admiral of the Irish fleet. In May 1397, John Beaufort’s admiralty was extended to include the northern fleet.

In the summer of 1397, John Beaufort helped Richard II extricate himself from the power of the Lords Appellant. As a reward, John Beaufort was married to Margaret Holland, niece of Richard II on 27 September 1397. (Together, John Beaufort and Margaret Holland had six children.)

On 29 September 1397, John Beaufort was named Marquess of Somerset and Marquess of Dorset.

In late 1397, John Beaufort was honored as a Knight of the Garter and was appointed Lieutenant of Aquitaine.

In 1398, Richard II banished John Beaufort’s half-brother Henry Bolingbroke (a.k.a. Henry IV) from England; however, John Beaufort remained in Richard II’s good graces.

In 1399, Henry Bolingbroke came back to England and deposed Richard II. As the reigning king, Henry IV rescinded the titles Marquess of Somerset and Marquess of Dorset;, making John Beaufort only Earl of Somerset again. Despite this demotion, John Beaufort remained loyal to Henry IV.

In 1404, John Beaufort was named Constable of England.

Then, at the age of 37, John Beaufort died on 16 March 1410, in the Hospital of St Katharine’s by the Tower. He was buried in St Michael’s Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral.

#englishhistory    #familyhistory     #genealogy

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Urraca of León, Castile, and Galicia

On this date, 8 March 1126, Urraca of León, Castile, and Galicia, passed away. She was my 27th great-grandmother through her grandson Fernando II of Léon, my 28th great-grandmother through her grandson Sancho III of Castile, and my 28th great-grandmother through her granddaughter Sancha of Castile.

Urraca was born circa April 1079 in Burgos, Spain to Alfonso VI and Constance of Burgundy. As the eldest and only surviving child of Alfonso VI, Urraca was heir presumptive to Castile and León until 1107, when her father recognized his illegitimate son Sancho as his heir.

Urraca’s place in the line of succession, however, made her the focus of dynastic politics.  Circa 1086, Raymond of Burgundy arrived in Spain. In 1087, Urraca, who was eight years old at time, was betrothed and possibly even wedded to Raymond of Burgundy. Although canon law set a minimum age for marriage at 12 years old for women, exceptions did occur. Some evidence that they might have been married, instead of just betrothed, was in protocol documents, which, almost immediately, began labeling Raymond of Burgundy as Alfonso VI’s son-in-law. Nevertheless, it appears their marriage was formalized by 1090, when Alfonso VI issued a charter to the church of Palencia in their name.

Together, Urraca and Raymond had two surviving children: daughter Sancha and son Alfonso VII of Léon (my 27th great-grandfather through his son Sancho III, my 26th great-grandfather through his son Fernando II, and my 27th great-grandfather through his daughter Sancha.)

In 1107, Raymond of Burgundy died. In late September 1107, Urraca succeeded her late husband as ruler of Galicia.

In 1108, Urraca again became the heir presumptive to her father when her brother Sancho died at the Battle of Uclés. Alfonso VI reunited the nobles of Toledo, announcing that he had chosen Urraca to succeed him. The nobles agreed with his choice, on the condition that Urraca would marry again. Several candidates for her hand were proposed, including Count Gómez González and Count Pedro González de Lara. However, Alfonso VI feared that the rivalries between the nobles of Castile and of Léon would increase if Urraca were to wed one of these suitors; therefore, Alfonso VI decided that Urraca would marry a relative, Alfonso I of Aragon, thereby uniting Castile and Léon with Aragon.

When Alfonso VI died on 30 June 1109, Urraca ascended to the throne. In October 1109, in accordance with her father’s wishes, she married Alfonso I of Aragon. For Alfonso I of Aragon, the match was politically advantageous, while for Urraca it meant a loss of the power she had held since 1107.

Unfortunately, many were opposed to the marriage. The marriage agreement between Urraca and Alfonso I stipulated that if either party left the other against the other person’s will, he or she would forfeit the loyalty of his or her followers. Alfonso I of Aragon promised not to leave Urraca for reasons of blood relationship or excommunication. If Alfonso I of Aragon and Urraca had a child, that child would inherit Alfonso I of Aragon’s territories jointly with Urraca, in the event of Alfonso I of Aragon’s death. If no child were conceived, Urraca and her heirs would be the inheritors. If Urraca died first, Alfonso would be entitled to the profits from her lands until he died; following his death, the lands would fall to her son by her first marriage, Alfonso VI.

In the summer of 1109, the Muslims threatened to occupy Aragon. Alfonso I of Aragon, accompanied by Urraca, defeated the Muslim forces on January 24, 1110.

However, increasing tensions between the couple became more evident, and by May 1110, Urraca and Alfonso I of Aragon had separated. Two years later, Urraca led her forces against those of Alfonso I of Aragon in an attempt to retake Castile, which her estranged husband had seized. By 1113, Alfonso I of Aragon had laid claim to Toledo, Léon, Castile, and Aragon. Finally, in 1114, their marriage was annulled.

With continued fighting between Urraca and Alfonso I of Aragon, Urraca named her son Alfonso VI co-ruler and heir. By the winter of 1116, Urraca had reclaimed most of Castile. By that time, Alfonso I of Aragon was planning to lay siege to the Muslim stronghold of Zaragoza. To free up his forces for this siege, Alfonso I of Aragon negotiated a truce with Urraca in 1117.

In 1118, Alfonso I of Aragon wrested Zaragoza from the Moors. In 1120, he captured Calatayud in 1120. In 1125, he raided Andalusia, encouraging Christians in Muslim lands to settle in his domain. Meanwhile, Urraca focused her attention on securing Toledo.

In 1120, Urraca made the tactical mistake of seizing Bishop Gelmirez, who had served her father but favored a faction surrounding her son following the death of Alfonso VI. The act placed her at risk of excommunication and could have led to her deposition. But by appealing directly to the pope, Urraca escaped excommunication.

On March 8, 1126, Urraca died in Tierra de Campos, Spain. Initially, Uracca’s heir Alfonso VII was refused the crown in favor of Count Pedro Gonzalez of Lara and his brother, Rodrigo Gonzalez, Count Astururias de Santillana. But with the support of his allies, Alfonso VII of Léon ascended to the throne. Alfonso VII of Léon then began to recover the lands that had been lost to his stepfather Alfonso I of Aragon. Finally, in 1134, Alfonso VII of Léon defeated Alfonso I of Aragon, who died in battle.

#familyhistory     #genealogy     #spanishhistory

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William de Longespée and Joan of Valois

On this day, 7 March, in the year 1226, William de Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury, died in Salisbury, England.  He was my 24th great-grandfather through his son William II Longespée and my 25th great-grandfather through his son Stephen Longespée.

Circa 1176, William de Longespée was born. He was the illegitimate son of Henry II and  Ida de Tosny, who married Roger Bigod, 2nd Earl of Norfolk  (my 26th great-grandfather through their son Hugh) in 1181.

In 1188, Henry II acknowledged William as his son. He gave William de Longespée the honor of Appleby, Lincolnshire and granted him the use of the coat of arms of his grandfather, Geoffrey IV of Anjou.

In 1196, William de Longespée married Ela of Salisbury, 3rd Countess of Salisbury. Together, they had the following children: William II (my 23rd great-grandfather), Richard, Stephen (my 24th great-grandfather), Nicholas, Isabella, Petronilla, Ela, Ida, Ida II, Mary, and Pernel.

William de Longespée was at court on several important ceremonial occasions and held various offices, including constable of Dover, sheriff of Wiltshire (1199–1202, 1203–07, 1213–26), lieutenant of Gascony (1202), warden of the Cinque Ports (1204–06), honor of Eye (1205), warden of the Welsh Marches (1208), and sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire (1212–16).

William de Longespée was sent on missions to France in 1202 and to Germany in 1209. In 1213 through 1214.

William de Longespée organized Flemish allies on behalf of his half-brother John “Lackland” of England (my 24th great-grandfather). In 1213, William de Longespée, along with these allies, took part in the destruction of the French fleet at the port of Bruges, Belgium.

On 27 July 1214, at the Battle of Bouvines, William de Longespée, one of the leaders of the allied army, was captured and held prisoner. William de Longespée was exchanged for Robert III de Dreux (my 26th great-grandfather).

By May 1215, William de Longespée had returned to England, where he was employed by John “Lackland” of England to inspect the defenses of royal castles and to fight the rebels in the southwest.

In May 1216, William de Longespée deserted John “Lackland” of England after the landing of Louis VIII of France (my 24th great-grandfather through his son Robert I and my 25th great-grandfather through his son Louis IX). However, by March 1217, William de Longespée had returned to royal allegiance, fighting at Lincoln in May and Sandwich in August and attesting the Treaty of Lambeth in September 1217.

During the young reign of Henry III (my 23rd great-grandfather through his grandson Edward II, my three-times 25th great-grandfather through his granddaughter Joan, my 23rd great-grandfather through his grandson Edmund, and my both 24th and 25th great-grandfather through his grandson Henry of Lancaster), William de Longespée fought in Wales in 1223 and in Gascony in 1225.

William de Longespée and his wife were benefactors of Salisbury Cathedral and laid foundation stones of the new cathedral in 1220.

On 7 March 1226, William de Longespée died and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral; his effigy still survives.


Also on this day, 7 March, in the year 1342, Joan of Valois, Countess of Hainault, died. She was my 22nd great-grandmother through her grandson Thomas of Woodstock, my 23rd great-grandmother through her grandson Lionel of Antwerp, my two-times 20th great-grandmother through her grandson John of Gaunt, and my 20th great-grandmother through her grandson Edmund of Langley.

Born circa 1294, Joan of Valois was the second eldest daughter of Charles of Valois and Margaret of Anjou.

On 23 May 1305, Joan of Valois married William I of Hainault.

Together, William I of Hainault and Joan of Valois had the following children: William II, John, Margaret, Philippa (my 21st great-grandmother through Thomas of Woodstock, my 22nd great-grandmother through Lionel of Antwerp, my two-times 19th great-grandmother through John of Gaunt, and my 19th great-grandmother through Edmund of Langley), Agnes, Joanna, Isabella, and Louis.

Joan of Valois supported her cousin Isabella of France (my 22nd great-grandmother) in her struggle against her husband Edward II (my 22nd great-grandfather). In December 1325, Joan of Valois traveled to France to attend the funeral of her father. While in France, Joan of Valois spoke at length with Isabella and her brother, Charles IV. An alliance was formed between those in opposition to Edward II and his favorite, Hugh le Despenser “The Younger” (my 22nd great-grandfather). During this time, Isabella and Roger Mortimer (my 21st great-grandfather) finalized their plans to invade England.

On 7 June 1337, William I of Hainault passed away. Soon after her husband passed away, Joan of Valois took the veil, entering Fontenelle Abbey.

In 1340, Joan of Valois’ son-in-law Edward III defeated her brother Philip IV of France (my 22nd great-grandfather) at sea near Sluys, Belgium. Edward III then besieged Tournai, Belgium. Pope Benedict XII requested that Joan of Valois mediate. Joan of Valois first pleaded for peace from Philip VI. She then visited Edward III, begging for pace. Her pleas and the Pope’s intercession resulted a signed truce with no loss of honor on either part.

On 7 March 1342, Joan of Valois died at the Fontenelle Abbey, Maing, France (which is no longer standing, see left.)

#englishhistory    #familyhistory     #frenchhistory

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Marjory Bruce

On this day, 2 March 1316, Marjory Bruce died. She was my 19th great-grandmother through her grandson John (who became Robert III), my 19th great-grandmother through her grandson Robert, my 20th great-grandmother through her granddaughter Egidia, and my 20th great-grandmother through her granddaughter Elizabeth.

Marjory was the only child of Robert the Bruce and Isabella of Mar. On 12 December 1296, soon after Marjory’s birth, Isabella died; she was only 19.

Six years later, Robert the Bruce married Elizabeth de Burgh. On 27 March 1306, Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scots at Scone, Perthshire. Marjory was nine years of age.

In June 1306, three months after the coronation, Robert the Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven. Consequently, he sent Marjory, his wife, and his two sisters north, accompanied by Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan, an ardent supported. Unfortunately, the women were betrayed by the Earl of Ross, who handed them over to Edward I “Longshanks” of England (my 22nd great-grandfather through his son Edward II, my three-times 24th great-grandfather through his daughter Joan, and my 22nd great-grandfather through his son Edmund.)

Although a cage had been built for Marjory at the Tower of London, Edward I decided against this. Instead, he sent Marjory to the convent at Watton. Marjory’s aunt Christina Bruce was sent to another convent. Marjory’s stepmother was placed under house arrest at a manor house in Yorkshire. Marjory’s aunt Mary Bruce and Isabella MacDuff were imprisoned in wooden cages; Mary Bruce was at Roxburgh Castle, and Isabella MacDuff was at Berwick Castle. For the next four years, Marjory, Elizabeth, Christina, Mary, and Isabella endured solitary confinement. Mary and Isabella were also subjected to public humiliation on a daily basis.

On 7 July 1307, Edward I died. He was succeeded by his son Edward II (my 21st great-grandfather), who continued to hold Marjory captive at the convent for seven more years. Marjory was finally freed in 1314.

Not long after, in 1314, Marjory Bruce was wed to Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland, who had distinguished himself in battle. Her dowry included the Barony of Bathgate.

Two years later, on 2 March 1316, Marjory was riding in Gallowhill, Paisley, Renfrewshire. She was heavily pregnant. Suddenly, her horse was startled, and Marjory was thrown to the ground. She was seriously injured in the fall, suffering a dislocated neck and going into premature labor.

Marjory was transported to nearby Paisley Abbey, where a son was delivered via cesarean section. Like her mother, Marjory died at the age of 19 from childbirth. Her body was interred at Paisley Abbey.

Marjorie’s son, Robert II, eventually would become king. Robert II was the first monarch of the House of Stewart.


Today, at the junction of Renfrew Road and Dundonald Road in Paisley, a cairn marks the spot near where Marjory fell.


#familyhistory     #genealogy    #scottishhistory

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