1st 'Earl of Arundel' 1067-1094
1st Earl of Shrewsbury 1071-1094
Born 1022 Died 1094
Oft on the mouldering Keep by night
Earl Roger takes his stand,
With the sword that shone at Hastings' fight,
Firm grasped in his red, right hand!
So reads one poetic account of the battle of Hastings, but as it happens the one thing we can be fairly certain about is that Earl Roger's sword did not shine at "Hastings' fight" as we have the authority of Orderic Vitalis that Roger of Montgomery was actually in Normandy at the time of the invasion. To be more precise he had, together with William's wife Matilda of Flanders, been left in charge of Normandy whilst the Duke William was off fighting Harold Godwinson at Hastings.1
Our Earl Roger was the son of another 'Roger de Montgomeri' and Josceline de Ponteaudemer. His father was an extremely powerful man in his native Normandy as well as being a cousin and close friend of William. He was present at the Council of Lillebonne in 1066 which laid out the invasion plan where he agreed to contribute sixty ships for the expedition. Roger's position as William's deputy in Normandy at the time of the invasion suggests that Roger was firmly within William's inner circle of advisors.
The first time that Roger came to Britain was when he set sail with William from Normandy] on the 6th of December 1067. He was later with William at Gloucester over Christmas and it was at this Christmas court at Gloucester that Roger, as one of William's most trusted men was given his reward for services rendered.
This amounted to one hundred and fifty-seven manors scattered across nine counties, the honour of Eye in Suffolk, control of the cities of Chichester and Shrewsbury, and the title of Earl of Arundel. The rape of Arundel commanded one of the key cross-channel invasion routes between Normandy and England whilst Shrewsbury was one of the key frontier defences that stood between England and the turbulence of Wales beyond.
The foundation of Montgomery
The years between 1067 and 1071 proved to be rather more turbulent than perhaps William had previously expected, as significant resistance emerged to Norman authority in the north of England, in East Anglia and along the Welsh Marches. It was in response to the last of these problems that Roger was made Earl of Shrewsbury in 1071 and granted palatine authority over the county of Shropshire.
Shropshire had been the stronghold of Eadric the Wild in his resistance to the new Norman masters of England and Roger's task was therefore to consolidate his control over territories that were not yet firmly under Norman governance. In this he followed the standard Norman practice of establishing a number of followers in strategic locations to assist in bringing the local population to heel. Picot de Say was granted the lordship of Clun; Reginald de Bailleul built a castle at Maesbury and established the lordship of Oswestry and the Corbet family were given Caus to the south-east of Shrewsbury.
Due to mixed nature of the borderlands many of these areas were unmistakably Welsh in character, but at this time Roger's only serious advance into Wales proper was his penetration a few miles to the west of Offa's Dyke, where he built a motte and bailey castle. This castle was established to guard a crossing of the Severn that controlled one of the key communication routes into mid Wales, leading to Arwystli and beyond that Ceredigion. The castle and the subsequent settlement that grew up were named by Roger as 'Montgomery' after the 'Montgomeri' in Normandy from whence he had originated.2
The Revolt of 1087
In the year 1081, Roger was named as one of those who interceded with William at Rouen after the battle of Gerberoi, in order to effect the reconciliation between the king and his eldest son Robert Curthose. Six years later, after the accession of William Rufus as king of England he further proved his affection for Robert when he supported a revolt against the younger William.
Both Odo of Bayeux and Robert of Mortain oppenly opposed William Rufus' 'seizure' of the English throne and promoted the alternative claim of Robert Curthose as the eldest son and rightful heir to the crown. Although Roger did not himself appear to openly taken up arms against William Rufus, his three sons were amongst those who helped man Odo's castle at Rochester, but in any event within the year Roger appeared to have changed his mind and decided to support William Rufus after all.
Quite why Roger changed his mind is unclear, contemporary accounts provide no clear explanation beyond suggesting that William Rufus won Roger over by making some unspecified extravagant promises. In any event Roger was to become an enthusiastic supporter of William and shortly after the fall of Rochester and the collapse of the revolt, Roger was busy fortifying his castles of Belesme and Alencon in Normandy against Robert Curthose, who indeed took Roger's son Robert prisoner.
The Advance into Wales
As Earl of Shrewsbury with palatine powers over the county of Shropshire, Roger's task was to secure the border with Wales. As we have noted, to the west of Offa's Dyke he built Montgomery Castle as a forward defensive outpost, but apart from this minor incursion Roger appears to have sought to establish good relations with his immediate Welsh neighbours to the west. Even when his counterpart at Chester, Hugh of Avranches began rampaging across north Wales in 1081, Roger made no attempt to follow his example.
It was not until 1093, with the death of Rhys ap Tewdwr, ruler of Deheubarth, at the hands of Bernard of Neufmarche that circumstances provided an opportunity that could not be ignored. Roger led an invasion force that moved up the Severn Valley from Montgomery and across the Cambrian mountains into Ceredigion before swinging south into the heartlands of Deheubarth itself. With castles soon erected at Cardigan and Pembroke, this bold move, demonstrated Roger's clear intention of claiming Deheubarth for himself.
Unfortunately for Roger he was never granted the time to consolidate his grip on Deheubarth, he fell ill during the early part of 1094, and as was typical of the times, Roger took holy orders in anticipation of his own demise. He died on the 27th July 1094 at the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul at Shrewsbury, three days after entering the very monastery which he himself had previously founded and endowed.
The children of Roger of Montgomery
Roger first married a young lady by the name of Mabel Talvas, daughter of the the Count of Alencon. This was a useful dynastic alliance as eventually in 1070 Roger came eventually to inherit estates at both Belesme and Alencon through his wife. His wife Mabel Talvas earned herself an unfortunate reputation for cruelty and wickedness and was eventually murdered on the 2nd December 1079 by one Hugh de la Roche d'lgé in retaliation for some of her earlier crimes.
In 1082 Roger married his second wife Adelaide de Puiset described as;
an amiable and virtuous lady, who wrought by her advice and her example a great change for the better in his character, which, naturally good, had been warped by the arts and influence of his former Countess. 3
By his first wife, Mabel Talvas, Roger had five sons and four daughters:
Hugh died in 1098 at the hands of Magnus Bareleg in Anglesey and Robert thereby inherited the earldom of Shreswbury only to lose it as a result of his revolt against Henry I in 1102. Both Arnulf and Roger were dispossed of their lands as a consequence.
The daughters by Mabel were;
By his second wife he had only a son named Everard Montgomery, who took holy orders, and was later became chaplain to King Henry I.
1 However according to William of Poitiers it was Roger de Beaumont who was the person appointed by the Duke to assist Matilda in the government of Normandy. Despite this the preference seems to be to follow Orderic Vitalis if only because Orderic was the son of Odelirius of Orleans, one of the followes of our Roger and as such Orderic was born and raised in the vicinity of Shrewsbury and likely to have been better informed regarding Roger's early career.
2 The remains of Roger's first castle are still to be seen in Montgomery, now in the modern county of Powys and is known as the Hen Domen, the 'old mound' in order to distinguish it from the later stone castle built by Hubert de Burgh.
3 J.R. Planché as source below.
Lynn H. Nelson The Normans in South Wales 1070-1171 (University of Texas Press, 1966)
John Davies A History of Wales (Allen Lane, 1993)
J.R. Planché The Conqueror and His Companions (Tinsley Brothers, 1874)
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica entry for the Earls of Shrewsbury
Genealogical information on Robert of Montgomery from