NORMAN ORIGINS.

It can be said that written records of English history first began when the Normans invaded in 1066 and, to the extent that what has been preserved is reasonably reliable, this is true…but there remains considerable difficulty in understanding those earliest efforts!

When examining Domesday – the massive survey of land ownership together with what might be expected by way of taxable production carried out in the year 1085/6 – there are special background factors that must be borne in mind.

One of the first things done by William, Duke of Normandy after being crowned King of England, was to reject virtually all previous Anglo-Saxon land ownership….and then to grant new title! After reserving approximately one-third of the country as Crown Estate, William then allocated the remaining two-thirds to only a handful of Norman, Breton and Flemish nobles he selected on the basis they had contributed most to the invasion success…and could be trusted!

That original select group is believed to have numbered only about a dozen or so but, by the time Domesday was being drawn-up, land exchanges would have unquestionably taken place by way of dowries as well as a desire to consolidate. This last mentioned feature was particularly important because estates originally given were widely scattered across the country so as to make it difficult to get together a potential threat without the Crown hearing of it!

That was something to be guarded against in a newly conquered country where a vanquished people could be persuaded to revolt….in addition to which the King permitted the dozen or so chosen to appoint their own “household” knights to whom land could be given in return for sworn loyalty: known as “fiefdoms”.

Getting back to Domesday (which was compiled in Norman Latin and a curious form of shorthand) that background, along with changes which had taken place over twenty years, have to be borne in mind, as does the fact that teams of commissioners sent out to conduct the survey, being given responsibility for collecting details from individual counties and districts…which would have to have been done so in a uniform way.

Recognising long-held beliefs that the estate in Sussex named “Stopham” has been retained in possession of the Barttelot (Bartelot) family back to marriage with the de Stophams , and by the de Stophams back to Norman arrival, that estate was an obvious place to begin research. Especially perhaps because of very ancient burials of ancestors on the place!
What is then discovered is that Stopham was granted by King William to a “Compte” (Count)..and that this Count gave it to a “Robert” (Robertus), who in turn leased Stopham to a “Ralph” (Radolphus)!

The researcher is left to identify these three significant players in the game…but has to reconcile the knowledge that “Robert” was the owner of Stopham and not Ralph, whoever he proved to be!

If credence is given the Bartelots’ pedigree, then it’s identification of Robert and Ralph whose names are displayed at the very start as Robert, son of the supposed Norman progenitor and Ralph as the first of the “de Stopham” family, questions such as who owned Stopham, and were those two names correct, would seem to be clarified by Domesday!

However, complications arise when a closer examination of Domesday and other records of the time are studied.

The Robert of Domesday is found to have been a significant landholder throughout Sussex, Dorset, Somerset,Wiltshire and Devonshire…predominantly through patronage of Robert, Count of Eu; Roger de Montgomery (Earl of Shrewsbury and Arundel); Robert de Mortain, and Baldwin Count of Meules, Sap and Brionne. Of those, two in particular – Robert of Eu and Baldwin de Brionne -share a common descent link to the name “Berthelot” and the Carolingian legend in which that character figures….they are both descended from Angilbert, Count of Ponthieu… who was father of the children born to Bertha, daughter of King Charles I (Charlemagne)!

“Berthelot” is, of course, the name long believed to have been brought to England by the first of the Bartelot bloodline: a legal determination concerned with original land ownership dated 1194 found the name “Bertelot” to be correct, whilst one of those recorded in attendance upon King William at the Great Oath of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1086 is known in history as “Robert de Bertelot”.

Given all that information, and knowing that Robert, Count of Eu and Lord of the Rape of Hastings, was a benefactor of the Robert to whom Stopham was given, what are we to make from the fact that Domesday tells us he also bestowed the grant of Hastings upon that same Robert!

Hastings was of enormous significance to Normans and the King as the site of their victory over the Anglo Saxons…and also as the site of the great Abbey King William had built to commemorate that victory and those he named his “Companions” …of which the Count of Eu was a prominent inclusion, for he supplied no less than 60 ships, along with a large contingent of mounted knights and armed footsoldiers!

To have been granted Hastings was a significant honour – indeed was called an “Honour” – so we must wonder who the Robert could have been to whom the Count would have entrusted it?…which may have taken place when he returned to France, which history tells he did.

Seeking an answer, the obvious choice is the Count’s younger son, named Robert after his father, which becomes even more attractive when noting how like “(Ro)..bert de l’Eu” would be to “—Bertelet” or “Bertelot”.

There is some support for that explanation in the mistaken inclusion of the name “Bertuilay” (phonetic “Bertelet”) in the version of Battle Abbey Roll by John Foxe (1516-87), which might very well have been used in construction of the Bartelot’s Elizabethan pedigree where the name first appears.

But there is a complication, for there is a suggestion the Count of Eu’s son Robert may have died whilst a child and reason to suppose it was another Robert – son of Rollo de Bec, a close friend and marshall of the Count’s military contingent,– to whom Stopham, Hastings and all the other land grants listed in Domesday were given!

The fact that this Robert and his father Rollo were also descendants of Angilbert and Bertha, and therefore related to Eu and de Brionne branches explains the bond that drew the three names together in the newly conquered country*….but which of those two was the “Robert” who became known as “Robert of Hastings” and became the title holder for Stopham ?

In view of shame and disgrace brought upon the Eu name by the Count’s elder son (William), who was blinded, castrated and finally executed for rebelling against the King, in conjunction with the early identification of the name “Bertelet”, the balance of probabilities favours, - and this researcher has accepted -Robert of Eu.

Peter Bartlett…2003.

*…see Bartlett History.

The Background in France

The period during which France was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty was notable for many things but none more so than the spread of Christianity along with royal encouragement given to all forms tithe arts during the reign of it's most charismatic member, King Charles the First, commonly known as Charlemagne.

The son of King Pepin and Queen Bertha, Charlemagne held the throne for forty-six years from 768 A.D. until his death in 814, and was consecrated Emperor of the holy Roman Empire by Pope Leo III in 800 A.D. He was a staunch believer in the bonds of family and was very fond of his sister Bertha (named after her mother) even though it is said he sent her into exile for a period. This Bertha was wife of Milo, Duke of Aiglant.

Coronation of Charlemagne
Coronation of Charlemagne
(Courtesy of the Bettman Archive)

Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, succeeded his father, Pepin, on the throne in the year 768. This prince, though the hero of numerous romantic legends, appears greater in history than in fiction. Whether we regard him as a warrior or as a legislator, as a patron of learning or as the civilizer of a barbarous nation, he is entitled to our warmest admiration. Such he is in history; but the romancers represent him as often weak and passionate, the victim of treacherous counsellors, and at the mercy of turbulent barons, on whose prowess he depends for the maintenance of his throne. The historical representation is doubtless the true one, for it is handed down in trustworthy records, and is confirmed by the events of the age. At the height of his power; the French empire extended over what we now call France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, and great part of Italy. In the year 800 Charlemagne, being in Rome, whither he had gone with a numerous army to protect the Pope, was crowned by the Pontiff Emperor of the West.
Figure 1

Perhaps it was remorse for that exile that led to the King taking a special interest in a son born to Milo and Bertha and baptised "Berthelot" - a diminutive of his mother's name - to such an extent that he insisted the child be reared under his direction and close to him. Berthelot was of delicate health and for that reason grew-up preferring studious pursuits in preference to the boisterous games played by others of his age.

He remained close to Charlemagne, becoming a member of his Court when reaching manhood, marrying and fathering children; in view of his scholarly nature it seems more than likely his influence was significant in his uncle's patronage of the arts. Berthelot also became a renowned player of the game of chess, then popular in Courtly circles, and as we shall learn it was this skill that would bring about his death under circumstances that assured him a place in French romantic legend and history.

The story of that death has been the subject of national stories and songs as well as paintings that have become known in many other countries. In England the first translation was printed and published by William Caxton in the year 1484, being reproduced many times since. To illustrate the event in this history the priceless -miniature by Jean le Tavernier in 1460 is reproduced in Figure 2 below. It is from Caxton's version printed in England that the following excerpt has been selected:

THE TOURNAMENT

The winter passed, all summer came once more, when, as usual, Charlemagne celebrated the Festival of Pentecost by holding a great Court and Tournament in his royal city of Paris. The chronicler tells how to this Court came fifteen kings, thirty dukes and sixty earls, besides knights, esquires and all the fairest ladies in the land. There came also the four sons of Duke Aymon. At the tournament none dared to hold a lance against these four knights save only Roland and his cousin Oliver. Raynard, the eldest of the four, had come to the Court on purpose to avenge his uncle's death, and in his anger at failure in the tournament he determined to slay some kinsman of the Emperor. His recorded words were " If I take not vengeance I shall waxe madde." He thereupon strode uninvited into the very presence chamber of the King." I have come", said he "to claim the blood fine that is due for the death of my uncle Bevis: six times his weight in gold was promised, but it has never been paid." It was now the Emperor's turn to be angry. He spoke not a word, but with his right hand drew off his left-hand glove and threw it straight in the face of the too bold Raynard. "If thou wert not a King exclaimed the enraged knight " thou shouldest fight me on this challenge."

THE PENTECOST FESTIVAL

After these things the whole company went to the church to hear the fayre masse of Pentecost that was sung, and much rich was the offering. When they had heard the masse they came again to the Palace and asked for water to wash their hands, and then dinner was ready. So they washed and set them down to dinner. The fifteen kings were all set except the King Salamon, that served that day with Duke Godfraye.

But Raynard at this dinner would not sit down because that King Charlemagne had rebuked him so shamefully. " Ha ! " said Raynard. " Alas, how shall I come to do so much that I may avenge the death of my uncle that was so much beloved."

The Barons came out after dinner [or to play and sport themselves. Some sat at tables for their sport, and the wisest of them played at the games of draughts and chess. Then Sir Ganclon, the mischief-maker, spake and said unto Berthelot that was the King's nephew, " Do you Berthelot, challenge Raynard in play at Chess you have never been beaten at the game, nor is it possible that you should be".So Berthelot called Raynard for to play with him. at chess, whereof grew a great rnischief, for afterwards many a good knight died thereof, and many a fayre child was father less, as hereafter ye shall hear if ye harken well....

THE FATAL GAME OF CHESS

Now was set Berthelot and the doughty Raynard for to play at chess. On the one side stood the three umpires of Raynard, namely, Count Roland and Ogier the Dane, and Duke Namon. On the other side were stationed the three umpires of Berthelot, namely, Prince Charlot, and Ganelon, and young Pinabel of Mayenee. The chessmen of Raynard were of silver but those or Berthelot were of gold, whereof the chessboard was of massy gold.

THE MURDER OF BERTHELOT

So they played six games, and then they came to angry words and blows, whereupon Raynard took up the heavy golden chessboard and with it smote Berthelot on the head and felled him to the ground. Then drawing his sword "Flamberge", he clave Berthelot's skull to the brain and left him dead at his feet.

THE FLIGHT OF RAYNARD AND HIS BRETHREN

Now began a strong cry in the palace that Raynard had slain Berthelot, the King's nephew. And when the King understood this, he went out of his witte, and called out, "Heigh! Barons! Keep well that Raynard escape not, for by Saint Denys of France he shall not escape. Quick, if we may hold him, for he hath slain our nephew Berthelot."

Then ran some of the Knights upon Raynard, but his kinsmen defended him, and there was a great strife and many gownes were torne, and such afraye there never was seen as that day in the Palace. but the brethren of Raynard having their horses ready in the courtyard they mounted and took flight with Raynard riding on his famous horse 'Bayard'. soon a thousand me at arms mounted their horses and gave chase.

Bayard
Bayard
(Courtesy of the Bettman Archive)

Outside the city they overtook the fugitives and a desperate fight ensued in which all the followers of the four brethren were either killed or taken prisoners, and all the horses were slain save only Bayard, the famous steed of Raynard. Then Raynard bade his brethren mount behind him, and so on Bayard's long back they galloped away with the speed of a storm cloud, till the gallant steed bore his fourfold burden far beyond the reach of Charlemagne's vengeful anger.

So when the four sons of Aymon arrived at Dordogne they came to their lady mother and Raynard said to her, " Ladye , I h ave slayne Berthelot the nephew of King Cha rlemagne." As soon as the lady understood this she fell down in a swoone. Then Raynard tooke her up, and as soon as she recovered she begged them to flee from the wrath of the Emperor. So they fled to the Forest of Ardennes, and there they built their Castle of Mountayneford and there dwelt in safety.

THE TRUTH OF THE STORY

There can be no doubt that this story of Berthelot, recorded in the ancient chronicles so fully, and with such circumstantial detail, bears every mark of veracity. It evidently contains the tragedy of a real and outstanding personality prominent in the court of the King. This story has inspired artists in several countries, and we reproduce No. 57 of those 105 priceless miniatures by Jean le Tavernier, drawn in 1460, which prior to 1939 were preserved in the Royal Library at Brussels.

The murder of Berthelot by Raynard
The Murder of Berthelot by Raynard

Figure 2

Here In this remarkably detailed accounts we have been provided with more than just the knowledge of how Berthelot died and some understanding of his life... we have learned how Berthelot's sons, and through the centuries those descended from them, became identified by the coat-of-arms designed as a direct result of his murder.

When Emperor Charlemagne struck Sir Raynard's face with his left-hand glove which then fell to the ground, it was Berthelot standing alongside that picked it up; after his death at Raynard's hands, the ring decreed that his family would ever be recognised by three left-hand gloves with gold tassels to be emblazoned on it's coat-of-arms and so it has ever since been!

It is also of interest that it was this event that brought about the accepted way of challenge to combat by striking the cheek with a glove.

Following their father's death, the sons of Berthelot and those descended from them, made their homes in many parts of France and elsewhere, but it is to Liseux and the country surrounding it along the River Touques in Normandy that we must turn to pick-up the thread of our history, for it was there in the fateful year 1066 that Adam de Berthelot was living as a minor nobleman.

Liege overlord for the district was Count Guido de Brionne - a member of the de Brionne family, Dukes of Burgundy - whose castle known as "Brionne" stood a mile or so from Liseux and is to-day harked by the small town of the same name. Not far away there also lived the Montgomery family, close friends of Guillaume, Duke of Normandy, and as will be seen as this history unfolds the Roger de Montgomery from here was to become an influential friend of those close to him after the Norman invasion of England, where this same Roger became known as "Arundel".

When the Duke of Normandy took the decision to carry out that invasion and gathered together an army for the purpose, virtually all who owed him allegiance (as well as others invited to participate for a share in the spoils!) were called upon to assemble, bringing with them men and materials.

Among those so commanded was Guido de Brionne, who in turn gathered together all those sworn to serve him: it is known that one of these was Adam de Berthelot, who is understood to have been chosen by de Brionne as his personal esquire as well to have brought family retainers with him. That appointment as esquire demanded a rather special oath of fealty and service to be sworn by Adam, carrying with it as was the custom a two-way obligation on the part of both de Brionne and Berthelot.

When the invading army was assembled, de Brionne and his contingent, including Adams was put under the immediate command of Robert de Mortaine but in what we might term the division led by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. Robert and Odo were brothers and, importantly for their future and the future of those close to them, were also half-brothers trusted by the Duke of Normandy. After the successful invasion of England these family connections were to prove extremely beneficial to Berthelot and others.

And so it was that when the Normans came ashore on the beaches of Pevensey near Hastings in Sussex, on Michaelmas Day 29th September 1066, not only was the name Berthelot amongst them.. but with him, the coat-of-arms commemorating the event of two hundred years earlier.

The bloody battle that followed ended as history tells us, with the death of Harold Godwinnson who had claimed the English throne for himself, and a great many killed and wounded on both sides. The Anglo-Saxon army was defeated, with the invaders in control of key parts of England from which to set about the country's complete subjugation.

This was not achieved quickly however; those to whom land and property belonged continued to resist Normans who came to take it away, whilst there was still plenty of fight left in other parts with tribes of Wales, Clans in Scotland and marauding Scandinavians ever eager to take advantage of any opportunities to blunder!

Even before being crowned King of England, Duke Guillaume had made plans for exercising the controls he knew were essential in a conquered country, and he wasted no time putting these in place. He did not disband all his army but retained the best fighting men and their commanders when he could be sure would carry out his wishes.

The record shows that Adam de Berthelot was amongst the first to be given land, receiving 6000 acres along the River Arun in Sussex, stretching from Northam to, and including, the hamlet of Stopham after which the estate was named. That he was not retained for military service and got the grant so soon and able to take up residence there not long after, all point to him having received injuries in the battle severe enough to incapacitate him, whilst the nature of the grant suggests he enjoyed influential patronage presumably from de Brionne and Mortaine since the Roger de Montgomery, also in their company, was given the huge estates that became part and parcel of the Earldom of Arundel, making him a next-door neighbour to Adam de Berthelot in Sussex!

However there is another dramatic piece of evidence of the regard with which Adam must have been held, this being the inclusion of his name upon the list of those chosen by King William himself to make up what was termed his "Roll of Honour" and accordingly inscribed upon the walls of the Abbey the King had built at Hastings to -for ever- commemorate both his victory there and those who had served him well in the battle that is, upon the walls of Battel (sic) Abbey.

Readers will have noted the change in spelling of "Guillaume" to "William", and this brings us to so many of the changes made in England to Norman names as the result of the Anglo-Saxon scribes putting into written form the sounds being heard out of Norman mouths.

Not just the King's name was Anglicised but so also were such others as de Brionne, which became "de Bryan"; Mortaine that ultimately became "Martyn"... and de Berthelot that became "de Bartelot"!

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