Tag: King of England

The sinking of the White Ship.

Several of my children’s ancestors were among the hundreds who perished in the sinking of the White Ship off Barfleur, France in 1120.
The sinking of the White Ship

Depiction of the sinking of the White Ship.

During my years of researching the medieval ancestry of Mark and our children, I’ve noticed a recurring theme. Several of the ancestors were casualties of the disastrous shipwreck of the “White Ship”. Although there were actually closer to 300 passengers aboard, I was only able to locate a list of twenty of the casualties. It is well known though that the ship was loaded with nobles and contemporaries of King Henry I, of England.

Henry I, King of England

Henry I, King of England

The “White Ship” was a new, state of the art vessel under command of Thomas FitzStephen. His father had been Stephen FitzAirard, captain of the ship “Mora” under William the Conqueror during his invasion of England in 1066. Captain FitzStephen offered transport to England on his ship to Henry I for his return to England, but since the King had already made other arrangements, he declined. King Henry did, however, arrange for his son, William “Aetheling” Adelin and two of his illegitimate children to sail on the ship.

The familiar account of the events leading up to the sinking as delivered by the known sole survivor state that all aboard had been drinking and partying liberally and by the time they set sail, most on board were very drunk. It is interesting to note that there are conflicting accounts of survivors. Based upon the “Orderic Vitalis”, some believe there were two survivors, the butcher and Geoffrey de l’Aigle.

Amidst the drunken revelry described by the survivor, a challenge was issued to the Captain to overtake the King’s own ship, which had set sail earlier. Upon setting off, the White Ship struck a hidden rock in the shallow waters of the channel, quickly capsizing and sinking.

Etienne de Blois

Stephen of Blois, King of England

Those on shore saw what was occurring and sent a boat out to get William “Aetheling” Adelin, the King’s son, who was on his way back to shore when he heard his half-sister Matilda du Perche cry out for help and had the boat return to assist. Unfortunately, there were several scrambling to get on board the small boat, causing it to be swamped and to sink. William drowned right along with his half-sister and all the other unfortunate passengers. The common belief through the centuries has been that the Captain, Thomas FitzStephen, upon hearing of William Adelin’s drowning, just surrendered to the waters and drowned rather than take such terrible news back to the King.

As a result of Prince William’s death, King Henry named his only remaining legitimate child, his daughter Matilda, to be heiress to the throne. He forced the noblemen to swear to support Matilda, who was unpopular because she was married to Geoffrey V, Comte d’Anjou who had been an enemy of the Norman nobility. When the noblemen refused to support Matilda after the death of King Henry I, they turned to the King’s nephew, Etienne de Blois and named him King. Etienne de Blois had originally planned to travel on the “White Ship” as well and had even boarded her, but had to leave before the ship’s departure because he became ill with diarrhea.

Mathilde and her husband initiated war against Etienne and his followers to gain the English throne, as her father had wished. This period of civil war known as “The Anarchy” spanned almost two decades from 1135 to 1153 and became a pivotal time in the history of England, resulting in the end of Norman rule.

The closest ancestor to my children who played a part in the story of the “White Ship” disaster was:

  • Etienne de Blois, King of England. He was the 31st great grandfather to my children.

The known casualties from among the approximately 300 on board, listed in order of the closeness of relationship to our children (if any) include:

  • William the Atheling, son of King Henry I and heir to the English throne – 26th great granduncle to my children.
  • Mathilde du Perche, Countess of Perche, illegitimate daughter of King Henry I – 26th great grandaunt.
  • Richard of Lincoln, illegitimate son of King Henry I – 26th great granduncle.
  • Godfrey de l’Aigle, knight. – 28th great granduncle (brother to Engenulf)
  • Engenulf de l’Aigle, brother to Godfrey – 28th great granduncle
  • Mathilde de Blois, sister to Stephen de Blois, King of England and wife of Richard d’Avranches – 31st great grandaunt
  • Robert Mauduit, nobleman. – 31st great granduncle
  • Richard d’Avranches, 2nd Earl of Chester, nobleman. – 1st cousin 31 times removed
  • Outher d’Avranches, brother of Richard, Earl of Chester. – 1st cousin, 31 times removed
  • Geoffrey Riddell, Lord of the Judiciary, nobleman.  – 2nd cousin 30 times removed
  • Ottuel, Illegitimate half brother of the 2nd Earl of Chester.
  • Hugh of Moulins, nobleman.
  • Walter of Everci, nobleman.
  • Lucia Mahout, wife of the 2nd Earl of Chester.
  • Othver, Prince William’s tutor.
  • William Pirou, the king’s steward.
  • Geoffrey, Archdeacon of Hereford.
  • Richard Anskill, son and heir of a Berkshire landowner.
  • Captain Thomas FitzStephen, ship’s captain.
  • William Grandmesnil, nobleman.


photo credit: Wikipedia.org


King Richard III’s genome to be sequenced by scientists.

Richard III, King of EnglandPrevious posts I’ve written described our fascination with King Richard III and the search for his grave, which ended successfully when his skeleton was unearthed in a Leicester parking lot in England.

Now scientists have announced they will be sequencing Richard III’s DNA, which is of great interest to us and numerous other descendants of Richard III and his family.

He is an ancestor of Mark’s family and has been the subject of some research on my part. The resulting posts were:

Richard III's grave in Leicester parking lot.I’ve been toying with the idea of getting Mark’s and my DNA, and now that DNA profiles are more prevalent, it’s looking more and more like it would be a worthwhile endeavor.

Tombstone plaque for Richard III.Research can only be so accurate. Every family and generation has experienced their scandals and secrets that were never documented, and which may have affected the recorded ancestries, such as a child born from an illicit affair that was never disclosed. Even more questionable are the undocumented connections.

DNA might be helpful in solving some mysteries in more recent generations of branches of my family, as it is the one and only way we might have to prove blood connections to family and ancestors, either confirming or refuting the documentary evidence. It would be wonderful to have some of my questions answered and suspicions and theories confirmed.

photo credit: University of Leicester via photopin cc

photo credit: OZinOH via photopin cc

photo credit: lisby1 via photopin cc

Edward “Longshanks” I, King of England

Edward Longshanks I Edward “Longshanks” I, King of England was born 17/18 June 1239, eldest son of Henry III, King of England (1207-1272) and Eléonore de Provence (1223- ), in Westminster Palace, London.

Edward I, King of EnglandEdward was created Earl of Chester and granted the Dukedom of Gascony on 14 February 1254, after arriving in France.

Leonore de CastileEdward’s father arranged his  marriage to Infanta doña Leonor de Castile y León (1240-1290) with an eye to preventing the barons obtaining help for their rebellion from Castile. What started as an arranged marriage on 18 October 1254 at Abbey of Las Huelgas, Burgos, Castile, Spain, later became a love match. Leonore was born to Infante don Fernando, III, de Castilla y León, King of Castile, Toledo and Extremadura from his second marriage to Jeanne, de Dammartin, Comtesse de Ponthieu.

Their children were:

Eleonore (1264-1297)
Joan, of England( -1265)
John, of England( – )
Henry, of England(1267-1274)
Katherine of England (1271- )
Joan D’Acre, of England( -1307)
Alfonso, Earl of Chester(1273-1284)
Margaret (1275-1318)
Berengaria, of England(1276-1276)
Mary, of England(1278-1332)
Alice ( – )
Edward, II, King of England(1284-1327)
Beatrice (1286-1286)
Blanche (1990- )

Edward initially supported the rebellious barons under Simon, de Montfort, Earl of Leicester (26th great grandfather to Mark). He later changed to support his father, served and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Lewes on 14 May 1264 by Simon de Montfort’s rebel Barons, but escaped after only 12 days on 16 May 1264. With the objective of making peace and ending the war, Edward gave Simon de Montfort the Earldom of Chester on 24 Dec 1264. The Earldom of Chester was restored to Edward after he killed Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham, on 4 Aug 1265.

Although originally planning to join Louis IX, King of France (27th great grandfather to Mark) in Tunisia in the summer of 1270, his plans were changed upon hearing the news of the King’s death when he arrived in Africa. After spending the winter with King Charles in Sicily, he sailed for Acre, Palestine,  to join the seventh crusade, landing on 9 May 1271.

Lacking resources against the Mameluk Sultan Baibars, he and the Sultan signed a peace agreement at Caesarea on 22 May 1272.

In an assassination attempt, Edward I was stabbed him with a poisoned dagger. Although he survived, the effects of the poison left him incapacitated until he left Acre to return to England 22 September 1272. He succeeded his father as Edward I, ‘Longshanks’, King of England while stopped in Sicily during his return from the Crusade.

He returned to England just prior to being crowned King of England on 19 Aug 1274 at Westminster Abbey in London.
Edward turned out to be a strong king and managed to increase the power and influence of the crown at a high cost to the Barons.

Caernarvon Castle

Caernarvon Castle

In 1277, Edward initiated a war with Llewelyn ap Gruffydd (25th great grandfather to Mark), ruler of Wales, and husband to Eleanor de Montfort, the daughter of Simon de Montfort, after Llewelyn he refused to submit to the English crown. As a result, the dominions of Llewelyn were halved. In 1282, Llewelyn’s brother David rebelled. Llewelyn joined him in the revolt but was soon killed in a small foray. With no leader remaining, Wales became annexed by England in 1284, and soon after, Edward saw several large castles built including Caernarvon, Harlech and Conway, to prevent any further revolt. Edward resided in Caernarvon Castle, Caernarvonshire, Wales, where his own son Edward II, future King of England, was born in 1284.

Edward Longshanks I presiding over parliament.

Edward I presiding over parliament.

In 1290, the same year Edward I lost his wife Leonore, the royal line of Scotland ended, and Edward agreed to arbitrate the negotiations with claimants to the throne of Scotland on condition that he was recognized as overlord of Scotland. In the end, the Scots acted against him, allying with France. To support his efforts to resolve the situations in Scotland and Wales, Edward formed the ‘Model Parliament’, the forerunner to following parliaments. Buoyed by this support, Edward was able to quell the Welsh rebellion in the field, conquering northwest Wales and ending the rule of the native Princes of Wales, naming his own son Prince of Wales. After his invasion and conquest of Scotland in 1296, he named himself King of Scotland and began a rather brutal, ruthless rule. In 1298, he was again called to invade Scotland to suppress a new revolt under Sir Walliam Wallace. Although victorious at the Battle of Falkirk, he was unable to win the war.

In 1299, peace was made with France and Edward married Marguerite de France (1275-1318), daughter of Philippe III, King of France (son to Louis IX above, and 26th great grandfather to Mark) and his second wife Marie de Brabant, on 8/9 September 1299 at Canterbury Cathedral.

Free of conflict with France, he again attempted to conquer Scotland in 1303. Sir William Wallace was captured and executed in 1305, only for another revolt to start up, this time successful and culminating in Robert Bruce’s coronation as King of Scotland.

Edward once again sought to subdue the Scottish, but before he could, he died 8 July 1307 near Carlisle and was buried 28 October 1307 at Westminster Abbey in London.

John Fines, author of “Who’s Who in the Middle Ages” describes Edward Longshanks I, King of England as:

Son and father of weak and ineffectual kings, Edward I had many fine qualities which seem to make nonsence of heredity. He was tall and strong, a fine horseman and a doughty warrior. A great leader of men, he was also able to lead to success. He was interested in government and law in a very genuine way. As a personality he was pious, but easily provoked to rage and often vindictive. He was fond of games—so passionately did he love his hawks that when they were ill he sent money to shrines to pray for their recovery. He was generous to the poor, and often a gay companion: he played chess, and loved music and acrobats; once he bet his laundress Matilda that she couldn’t ride his charger, and she won! Every Easter Monday he paid ransom to his maids if they found him in bed. He loved his two wives, and fussed over their health and that of his children with a pathetic concern—sometimes threatening the doctor with what would happen to him if his patient did not recover. His people feared, respected and remembered him.


  1. Kings and Queens of England – The Plantagenets, The Royal Family online [http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page58.asp].
  2. Gary Boyd Roberts, The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants, (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983).
  3. T. H. Owen, Compiler, Cross Index of Ancestral Roots of 60 American Colonists and Supplement (Supplement by Frederick Weiss,). David Faris, The Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth Century Colonists (English Ancestry Series, Vol. I, Second Edition; New England Historic Genealogy Society, 1999).
  4. John Fines, Who’s Who in the Middle Ages (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1995).
  5. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Th.D., The Magna Carta Sureties, 1215, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc.), 5th Ed., c1999. George Smith, Dictionary of National Biography, Vols. 1-21 (: Oxford Press, 1885-1990).
  6. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came To America Bef ore 1700, 8th Edition (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 2004).
  7. The Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth Century Colonists. Directory of Royal Genealogical Data, Brian Tompsett, Dept. of Computer Science, Hull University online [http://www.hull.ac.uk/php/cssbct/genealogy/royal/].
  8. Ernst-Friedrich Kraentzler, Ancestry of Richard Plantagenet and Cecily de Neville (Selp-published, 1978).
  9. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdon, Extant, Extinct or Dormant (G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, new ed., 13
  10. volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I.).
  11. Sir Bernard Burke, LL.D., A Genealogical History of the Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited and Extinct Peerages of the British Empire; New Edition, 1866; London, Harrson, 59, Pall Mall; Bookseller to her Majesty and H.R.H. the Prince of Wales..
  12. Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, online [http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/ENGLAND,%20Kings%201066-1603.htm#HenriIIdied1189A].