03.09.27, Keats-Rohan, Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography

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Stephanie Christelow

The Medieval Review baj9928.0309.027


Keats-Rohan, K.S.B.. Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166: II Pipe Rolls to 'Cartae Baronum'. Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2002. Pp. 1169. ISBN: 0-85115-863-3.

Reviewed by:
Stephanie Christelow
Idaho State University

Domesday Descendants is the second of a two volume reference work for historians of Anglo-Norman England. It provides invaluable biographical information for over two thousand individuals who surface in administrative sources from roughly 1100 to 1166 AD. Encyclopedic in format, weighty and prosopographic, it will elicit breathtaking pleasure in those for whom such people as William of Aubigny Pincerna or Alexander bishop of Lincoln are fascinating figures. The volume will occupy a conspicuous niche along with its partner, Domesday People, on the desks and shelves of historians of Anglo-Norman and Angevin England, for clearly, the two volumes form a set. There is a chronological overlap between them: frequently, names sought in one will be found in the other, a consequence of the very young age of many of the Conqueror's followers and their tendency to serve the Anglo-Norman kings in succession.

There are differences-perhaps improvements-between the first and the second volume pertaining both to subject matter and to organization. Whereas Domesday People concentrates on the inhabitants of England, Domesday Descendants has a more noticeable international component. This, of course, reflects social and political change-by the early twelfth century, fewer English people can be detected in Anglo-Norman records and England itself is more involved in continental politics. Sources for Domesday Descendants include not only insular collections of published documents and manuscripts found in the British Library, but printed sources from French archives as well.

I will discuss imperfections in the work later, but I want to stress, at the outset, that the contribution that this work makes to novices and experienced researchers alike far outweighs any flaws that one might detect in its 1169 pages. The biographical information alone suggests subjects for additional study and the sources provide leads for further inspection. Domesday Descendants may form the starting point in an inquiry, and as such, it is a model of meticulous, investigative research.

There will be names included here for whom some of us will possess birth or marital data, details of career advancement, or documentary materiel that the author has omitted. There will even be mistakes. But no one will be more assiduous in pointing out omissions or errors than K.S. B. Keats-Rohan: she has already published a short corrigenda on her Linacre College (Oxford) Prosopographical Research web site. Domesday People and Domesday Descendants may not form the final biographical source on important individuals active in post-Conquest England, but the set is not intended, nor should it be, definitive. This will be left to the specialized articles and monographs that Keats-Rohan and others will publish in Medieval Prosopography, among other venues, particularly the PASE and the COEL data bases. The latter will be easier to amend than the book, which will continue to require updating.

Most appreciated will be the many cases of successful sleuthing that are emblematic of Keats-Rohan's scholarship. Scrutiny of Charters of the Redvers Family, the Stoke-by-Clare Cartulary and the Compete Peerage, for example, enabled her to identify Lucy countess of Clare (245-46) as the daughter of Richard fitzGilbert of Clare and Adelisa of Chester (daughter of earl Ranulf and the famous Lucy). By combining evidence from Regesta Regum Anglo-Normanorum III, the Pipe Roll of 1130, the Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society and BL Add. Ch 28321, Keats-Rohan discerned the family and feudal ties of Eustace of Barrington (d. ca. 1150) and his son, Humphrey (304). Where records permit, the fortunes of some individuals are traced into the 13th century, as in the case of Ingelran of Abernon, whose descendants held land in Okehampton, Surrey in 1242. (261). The author not only identifies individuals and activities from main sources, but analyses multiple pieces of evidence, when available, to construct affiliations and family histories.

Domesday Descendants is, thus, the result of singular dedication and a staggering amount of work. But it is occasionally puzzling to its reader and often frustrating to use. The book begins with a highly detailed and somewhat defensive description of methodology and follows with corrections to Domesday People. It follows with descriptions of sources and comparative tables correlating names and records; names and persons; persons, statuses and origins; and types of surnames. It is not clear to me how parenthetical sources within the text differ in significance or content from those listed below an entry. The techniques used in translating name/alias totals into person totals worried me: for example, the Pipe Rolls from 1129 to 1166 apparently yield 20,048 names with 16,462 aliases which translate into approximately 36,500 names, which apply to 2984 persons (3-7). But Pipe Roll scribes, like the chaplains and clerks who worked in chanceries, were not uniform in their nomenclature. After naming an individual once, he will be referred to as "the same Robert," or "the same William." Often it is difficult to determine which person is being referred to, especially when a number of different Roberts or Williams were active in the administration of a certain county, and some, but not all utilized surnames.

In her introductory essay, "Normans, Non-Normans, Nobles and New Men: Social Elitism in the Period 1066 to 1135," Keats-Rohan questions the origins and importance of new men, the nature of the aristocracy, and the uses of marriage in creating entitlement to land during Henry I's reign. She exhorts her readers to rethink historical canon by taking a prosopographical approach to the evidence, which she conveniently summarizes here. Her implication is that tenurial and family connections will be among the information supplied, but while sometimes this is indeed the case, most often, possibilities arise from the reader's conjecture. In fact, the entries vary widely in substance and quality: many people lack a context and a range of activity, even when the source indicated might provide them. For example, Radulf de Calgi's entry reads "From Caugé, near Moidrey, Manche." But the sources given are a series of four pipe rolls dating from Henry II's reign, relating to Northumberland and would have indicated a financial interest or function (371). A fairly extensive description is included for Nigel archdeacon of Calne (ibid.), but only one source, and not a pertinent one, is mentioned. Entries concerning the same individuals may possess contradictory material: Roger Bigod, who died in 1107, was given a second wife on p. 175 and denied one on p. 396. Some entries are mystifying, as the entry for "de Brie, Arnald: Clare, c. 1100" (349) attests.

Such cryptic accounts may reflect the obscurity of the individual concerned, yet often, when it is possible to provide context, it is not given. For example, William of Calz' entry contains only "occurs Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire" (375). Keats-Rohan's source is the Pipe Roll of 1130, in which we are informed of Calz' danegeld exemptions. Calz, then, possessed estates of at least ten hides in Buckinghamshire and of at least one hide in Bedfordshire, but we are not told this. The fact that he received these exemptions suggests he had performed some act of service to the king at some point in his life.

Confusion arises when one attempts to find an entry for a person one knows by a certain name, say "William II of Warenne." Although the entries proceed alphabetically in their Latin form (for example, single names, A-W, surnames, A- and titles intermixed, names with "de," episcopus, filius, rex to surnames W) he is not to be found among the Williams, the de Warennes or the Comes de Sudrei. He is listed, curiously, under Comes de Warenne, Willelm II (235). Similarly, Gilbert fitzGilbert de Clare "Strongbow" is described under the rubric Comes de Penbroc rather than the more familiar fitzGilbert or Clare (ibid). Robert Curthose appears under Comes Normanniae, Robert instead of either Robert or his distinguishing by-name (242). Tables conflating varying forms of forenames and surnames, and giving the Latin forms of religious houses known by their English or French names are helpful, but they lack page references. Moreover, the absence of an index makes cross-referencing impossible and the Latin rendering of names (rather than, say, their accustomed English or French) may obscure rather than illuminate identity.

Different groups of people are treated in different ways: in the case of clerics, and possible dapifers and sheriffs, it appears that an individual will be listed under the final position/name/office that person occupied. Adelulf, prior of Nostell and bishop of Carlisle, will be found under Episcopus Carliolensis, Adelulf (824) and Warin the sheriff in Wiltshire during the 1130s is listed under Vicecomes, Warin (1138). But this means that only people conversant with the Anglo-Norman and Angevin world will be able to use this tome, and even then, it may be time-consuming. But the rule doesn't always apply: Richard Basset II, who acted in many formal and ex officio roles under Henry I, including co-sheriff, appears under his surname.

Some fairly prominent individuals who dot the pages of Keats-Rohan's sources seem to be missing altogether. Everard the chaplain, son of Roger of Montgomery, who was not listed under Everard, Capellanus, filius Rogeri or Montgomery, witnessed a number of Henry I's charters (Regesta II, nos. 472, 669,1091, among others). Robert I de Brus is omitted both in Domesday People and in Domesday Descendants, although his wife and son are included (355). I was unable to locate Robert Pecche bishop of Chester from 1115-1127, although I looked in the obvious places (Robert, Peccatum, Episopus and Cestrensis). Nonetheless, I will continue to refer to Domesday Descendants out of hopeful curiosity, and I expect to be rewarded, most of the time, for my efforts.

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Author Biography

Stephanie Christelow

Idaho State University