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The Herefordshire Contingent – #2 de Braose

Hay Castle ass it is today

Among the group of men that accompanied King Henry II to Ireland in 1171/2 were brothers William and Philip de Braose. Their ancestors arrived in England with William I and were granted lands in the Welsh border country, including Shropshire and Herefordshire. By the time of the expedition to Ireland William was married to a daughter of the Earl of Hereford and the castle at Hay-on-Wye was in his possession. Philip was initially put in charge of Wexford but in 1177 Henry granted him the kingdom of Limerick. The citizens set fire to the town and Philip was unable to hold it. It was later awarded to his nephew, William.

When de Lacy and Strongbow were called to Normandy in 1173 to help put down the rebellion incited by his ex-wife and their sons, the older William de Braose was recalled to Hereford where he was appointed Sherriff of the county and maintained the king’s interests there for the next two years. Later the same position was held by one of his sons, also called William. This is the same William to whom King John granted the lordship of Limerick to add to a long list of Welsh border lordships including Hay, Abergavenny, Builth, Kington, Painscastle and Grosmont.

Influential off-spring

This William married Maud de Clare, the great-granddaughter of Strongbow’s uncle. They had many children including:

  • another William who, with his mother, led a rebellion against King John and was starved to death in Corfe castle in 1210
  • Giles who became Bishop of Hereford
  • Reginald who produced yet another William who married Strongbow’s grand-daughter Eva
  • Margaret, who married Hugh de Lacy’s son Walter. She is buried in the churchyard at Holme Lacy.

Pursued by the king

The story of William junior and his mother’s dispute with King John is worth retelling here because much of the action takes place in Hereford and Ireland. The precise cause of the dispute is not clear. William’s testimony that the king was responsible for the murder of his own nephew, Arthur, can’t have helped relations between the king and the de Braose clan.

Trim Castle; temporary refuge for Maud and her son

Trim Castle; temporary refuge for Maud and her son

Whatever the cause the outcome was that the King brought troops to the Welsh border where he stripped the de Braose’s of all their castles. The 55 year-old Maud who, a dozen years before had held off a Welsh army besieging Painscastle, fled with her son to Ireland to seek shelter with her daughter and son-in-law in Trim castle.

John sent an expedition to Ireland in order to apprehend the pair. They escaped but were captured on the Antrim coast whilst attempting to sail for Scotland. After a brief incarceration in Carrickfergus castle they were taken first to Windsor castle and finally to Corfe castle in Dorset where both starved to death. Maud’s husband disguised himself as a beggar and fled to France where he died shortly afterwards.

Corfe or Windsor?

Some of the details of this account, which comes from The Conquering Family by Thomas Costain, are disputed however. An article on BerkshireHistory.com suggests that Maud made it to Scotland and was captured in Galloway. The same article does not mention Corfe castle, claiming instead that Maud and her son met their demise in Windsor castle.

Margaret founded the Hospital of St. John at Aconbury in Herefordshire in her mother’s memory. By then her husband Walter de Lacy had become Sheriff of Herefordshire and it was to him that King John sent the instruction ceding land at Aconbury for the purpose six years after Maud’s death.

Reginald’s daughter, also Maud, married a Roger Mortimer* and was instrumental in the restoration of Henry III to the throne following the rebellion led by Simon de Montfort. But that’s another story!

*There are several men with this name in our story. The first name, Roger, passed down through alternate generations for two centuries.


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