Friday, 5 July 2013



          William the Conqueror, led an army of three groups. The right wing was Flemish, the centre Norman, and the left Breton. The Bretons were commanded by Alan Fergant, who had been guardian to the young William. He was Breton - traditionally an enemy of the Normans. 

          But four years before the battle, William married him to his daughter, Princess Constance, partly to ensure his loyalty, and partly because she was a royal pain. She continued to be so, and the marriage was a disaster. Eventually, Alan poisoned her after William’s death.

          The other Breton commanders were Alan Rufus (Alain le Roux), Brien, and Alan Niger (Alain le Noir), all brothers of Geoffrey Boterel and sons of Eudes, Duke of Brittany. As a reward for their services, Alan Fergant got the title of Count Palatine, but returned to Brittany.  Brien got Cornwall and built castles at Talkarn (Boscastle) and Launceston and others.  He went back to Brittany in 1073 and died childless.

          Alan Rufus, who had defended the king during the battle, got all the lands in six different counties that belonged before the conquest to Earl Morcar.  These included three ‘Wapentakes’ in North Yorkshire, formerly known in Old English as the ‘Soke of Gilling.’  He also got the lands of Edwin Earl of Mercia in 1071, when Edwin rebelled. The whole became known as the great ‘Honour of Richmond’, and its owner as Earl of Richmond. He died childless and unmarried in 1089, so his lands went to his brother.

          Alan Niger got 120 manors in Hampshire, Dorset, Norfolk and Suffolk and inherited Alan Rufus’ lands and his mistress, a former nun and daughter of the King of Scotland. He also died unmarried and childless in 1093 (what did they get up to?), so the title and lands passed to another brother, Stephen.

          Had he lived, Geoffrey Boterel, the eldest brother who had refused to support William, would have inherited all. But he also died in 1093, fighting Alan Niger at the sacred stone at Dol, Brittany – a double fratricide. It isn’t known if he actually married but his son, Conan, died on 1st Crusade in 1098, while the younger son, Nicholas, was given Talkarn in Cornwall, one of Brien’s old manors, and gave rise to the Barons Bottreaux.

You can read about all this at 

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