The Original Warennes
William de Warenne was a distant relation of William I, ( also variously known as William the Conqueror, or William the Bastard) who took his name from the family castle on the river Varenne, which now lies within the departement of Seine-Inferieure in France. After first coming to notice at the battle of Mortemer in 1054, de Warenne was later one of the undoubted Companions of the Conqueror who accompanied Duke William on his invasion of 1066, and was subsequently rewarded with the grant of some three hundred manors scattered across twelve separate counties and created the Lord of Lewes rape in Sussex. William de Warenne was later created Earl of Surrey by William Rufus as a reward for his support during the Baronial Revolt of 1088, but died within a few months, being succeeded by his eldest son who was also named William.
William the 2nd Earl was briefly Henry I's rival for the hand of Matilda of Scotland, and later seems to have been deprived of his earldom in 1101 as a result of his support for Henry's brother, Robert Curthose, but soon made his peace with the king and commanded at the battle of Tinchebrai in 1106 which resulted in the defeat and capture of Curthose. The 2nd Earl died in 1138 and was followed by his son who was also very naturally named William.
The 3rd Earl William became one of the key supporters of king Stephen against his rival the Empress Matilda and fought on his behalf at the battle of Lincoln in 1141 , where his decision to quit the battlefield early contibuted much to Stephen's defeat. Afterwards he supported Stephen's wife and queen Matilda of Boulogne in her efforts to restore the king's authority but in 1146 he went to the Holy Land on crusade where he was killed at Laodicea in January 1148.
It is worth noting that these first three earls, together with their Blois and Planatgenet successors were equally well known as the Earls Warenne (or sometimes Earls of Warenne). The use of the family title 'Earl Warenne' is an alternative rather than additional to the territorial title of 'Earl of Surrey'.
Blois and Plantagenet
The 3rd Earl William died without legitimate male issue in 1148, leaving only a daughter Isabel de Warrene, who was thus a valuable heiress and regarded as Countess of Surrey in her own right. Not long after the death of her father, in the year 1149 or 1150, she was married off to one William de Blois who just happened to be the younger son of the reigning king Stephen. William therefore claimed the earldom by right of his wife and seems to have additionally assumed the surname 'de Warenne'.
This William however died in the October of 1160 at the siege of Toulouse by which time his father Stephen was also dead and had been replaced as king by Henry II. Hence in 1164 Henry gave Isabel to Hamelin Plantagenet, an illegitimate son of his father Geoffrey of Anjou, and therefore his half-brother.
Like his predecessor Hamelin too assumed the name of de Warenne, so that on his death in 1202 (Isabel having died in 1199) he was succeeded by his son, yet another William de Warenne. This, William who is generally counted as the 6th Earl, and was one of king John's most dedicated supporters only abandoning him in 1216 when he switched his support to Louis of France. Although he later accepted the accession of Henry III he emerged as one of the leaders of the baronial opposition to the king by 1238. He was twice married, firstly to a daughter of the Earl of Arundel, and then Maud daughter of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke.
The son of this latter marriage named John de Warenne, succeeded to the title in 1240. Having married Alesia de Lusignan, half-sister of Henry III he took the king's side during the Barons' war of 1264/65. He fought on Henry's behalf at the battle of Lewes in 1264, fled to France after that defeat, but returned with the restoration of the king's authority in 1265 and later served Edward I in both his Welsh and Scottish campaigns, most notably being in charge of the English army that was defeated by William Wallace at the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. The 7th Earl died on the 27th September 1304 and since his son William had predeceased him in 1286, he was followed by his grandson John.
John the 8th Earl, was one of the leading opponents of Piers Gaveston during the early part of the reign of Edward II, but later supported the king against the Lords Ordainers and fought a long private war with the Earl of Lancaster as a result. He remained one of the king's supporters for the remainder of this reign but was one of the last to abandon Edward II following the successful invasion of 1326. John was later much involved in the Scottish Wars and joined with Edward Baliol, who was his cousin, in his attempt to gain the Scottish throne and received from him the Scottish title of Earl of Strathearn, but seems never to have established effective possession of that particular dignity.
Although he married Joanna of Bar in 1306, they were separated soon afterwards and John therefore died without issue at Conisborough in Yorkshire on the 30th June 1347.
Fitzalan, Holland and Mowbray
The 8th Earl's heir was his sister Alice de Warenne, who had earlier married Edmund Fitzalan, 2nd Earl of Arundel; both Alice and Edmund had died in 1138 but their son, Richard Fitzalan, 3rd Earl of Arundel now claimed the title of Surrey in addition to that of Arundel. This Richard was followed in 1376 by his son another Richard, who was one of the Lords Appellant and was beheaded for treason in 1397.
Thomas Holland, 3rd Earl of Kent was then granted Surrey only this time as a dukedom, as a reward for assisting Richard II against the aforsedaid Lords Appellant; but this tenure was brief as he was he was degraded from his dukedom in 1399 once Richard had been deposed by his cousin Henry IV, and was beheaded in January of the following year for his part in the Epiphany Rising against king Henry.
With Thomas Holland now out of the picture, the way was clear for Thomas Fitzalan to be restored to his father's ealdoms of Surrey and Arundel in 1400. Thomas however died in 1415 without heirs and the earldom of Surrey reverted to the crown (Whilst that of Arundel passed to a cousin John Fitzalan.)
The earldom remained vacant for a number of years until granted in 1451 to John Mowbray who later became the 4th Duke of Norfolk in 1461, but became extinct on his death in 1476.
(For further details of the Fitzalan, Holland and Mowbray holders see Earl of Arundel, Earl of Kent and Duke of Norfolk respectively.)
The Howard family generally regarded themselves as the rightful heirs to the Mowbray collection of titles, and by supporting the coup of Richard III in 1483 were able to make good this desire. The senior member of the family John Howard, being created Duke of Norfolk whilst John's eldest son and heir Thomas was created Earl of Surrey on the 28th June 1483. Both Howard senior and junior later fought on Richard's side at the battle of Bosworth in 1485; John Howard was killed, and although Thomas survived, he was captured by the victorious Henry VII and stripped of his titles for his treasonous support of the usurper Richard.
Thomas was later able to gain the confidence of Henry VII and was restored as Earl of Surrey in 1490; success in defeating the Scots at the battle of Flodden in 1514 brought with it the reward of the further restoration of the title of Duke of Norfolk. The Howard Dukes of Norfolk
retained the earldom of Surrey and the title was used as a courtesy title by the eldest son, and thus the son of the 3rd Duke is known as Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, even though he predeceased his father and never actually held the title.
Successive Howard dukes of Norfolk were attainted for treason, firstly between 1547 and 1553 and then again in 1572 when the 4th Duke was executed and attainted for treason. It was not until 1604 that the Howards where back in favour again, when Thomas Howard a grandson of the 4th Duke was was restored to the Earldoms of Surrey and Arundel in 1604 and also created Earl of Norfolk. Subsequently the Howards regained the title of Duke of Norfolk in 1660 and since 1604 they have continued to hold the title of Earl of Surrey as one of their many hereditary dignities.
Although the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica states that the "courtesy title of the duke's eldest son is Earl of Surrey" (which may well have been the case at the time), currently the Dukes of Norfolk prefer to use the title Earl of Arundel to dignify the heir apparent to their dukedom.
THE EARLS OF SURREY
DE BLOIS\DE WARENNE
as Duke of Surrey
- Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Surrey (1483-1485)
Title forfeit 1485 restored 1490
Forfeit 1547 Restored in 1553
Forfeit 1572, restored 1604
The the 3rd Earl Thomas Howard was restored as Duke of Norfolk in 1660
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for
SURREY, EARLDOM OF and WARENNE, EARLS
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
- THE ENGLISH PEERAGE or, a view of the ANCIENT and PRESENT STATE of the ENGLISH NOBILITY London: (1790)
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com
- Stirnet Genealogy at
- The Peerages of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom at http://www.angeltowns.com/town/peerage/Peers.htm