Sir William de Warenne, Knight, 1st Earl of Surrey

Sir William de Warenne, Knight, 1st Earl of Surrey

Male - 1088

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  • Name William de Warenne 
    Title Sir 
    Suffix Knight, 1st Earl of Surrey 
    Born Y  [1
    Gender Male 
    Possessions Lewes Castle, East Sussex, England  [2
    Also Known As Seigneur de Varennes  [1
    Military 0___ 1066  [1
    Died 20 Jun 1088  [1, 2
    Person ID I46723  The Hennessee Family
    Last Modified 26 Mar 2017 

    Family Gundred of Flanders, Countess of Surrey,   b. Flanders, Belgium Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 May 1085, Castle Acre, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married Bef 1070  [1, 2
     1. William de Warenne, Knight, 2nd Earl of Surrey,   b. 0___ 1065, East Sussex, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 May 1138  (Age ~ 73 years)
    Last Modified 23 Apr 2018 
    Family ID F17119  Group Sheet

  • Photos
    Coat of Arms of the de Warenne Earls of Surrey
    Coat of Arms of the de Warenne Earls of Surrey

    a companion of William the Conqueror who fought with him at the Battle of Hastings, 1066

    and ancient forefather of the grandchildren of Vernia Elvira Swindell Byars

  • Notes 
    • William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, Seigneur de Varennes (died 1088), was a Norman nobleman created Earl of Surrey under William II Rufus. He was one of the few who was documented to have been with William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. At the time of the Domesday Survey, he held extensive lands in 13 counties including the Rape of Lewes in Sussex, now East Sussex.

      Early career[

      William was a younger son of Ranulf I de Warenne and his 1st wife Beatrice (whose mother was probably a sister of duchess Gunnor, wife of duke Richard I).[a] Likewise, Orderic Vitalis describes William as Roger's consanguineus, literally 'cousin', more generically a term of close kinship, but not typically used to describe brothers, and Roger de Mortimer appears to have been a generation older than William de Warenne, his purported brother.[2] Charters report several earlier men associated with Warenne. A Ranulf de Warenne appears in a charter dated between 1027 and 1035, and in one from about 1050 with a wife Beatrice, while in 1059, Ranulf and wife Emma appear along with their sons Ranulf and William. These occurrences have typically been taken to represent successive wives of a single Ranulf, with Beatrice being the mother of William and hence identical to the Gunnorid niece (Thomas Stapleton,[3] in spite of the 1059 charter explicitly naming Emma as his mother.[4] A reevaluation of the surviving charters led Katherine Keats-Rohan to suggest that, as he appears to have done elsewhere, Robert of Torigny has compressed two generations into one, with a Ranulf (I) and Beatrice being parents of Ranulf (II) de Warenne and of Roger de Mortimer (a Roger son of Ranulf de Warenne appears in a charter dated 1040/1053), and Ranulf (II) and Emma were then parents of Ranulf (III), the heir in Normandy, and William, as attested by the 1059 charter. Associations with Vascœuil led to identification of the Warenne progenitrix with a widow Beatrice, daughter of Tesselin, vicomte of Rouen, appearing there in 1054/60. As Robert of Torigny shows a vicomte of Rouen to have married a niece of Gunnor, this perhaps explains the tradition of a Gunnorid relationship.[5] On Robert's genealogies, see also Eleanor Searle,[6][7][8] William was from the hamlet of Varenne, near to Arques-la-Bataille, Duchy of Normandy, now in the canton of Bellencombre, Seine Maritime.[9][10][11] At the beginning of Duke William’s reign, Ranulf II was not a major landholder and, as a second son, William de Warenne did not stand to inherit the family’s small estates. During the rebellions of 1052-1054, the young William de Warenne proved himself a loyal adherent to the Duke and played a significant part in the Battle of Mortemer for which he was rewarded with lands confiscated from his uncle, Roger of Mortemer, including the Castle of Mortimer and most of the surrounding lands.[12] At about the same time he acquired lands at Bellencombre including the castle which became the center of William de Warenne’s holdings in Normandy[7]

      Conquest of England

      Coat of Arms of the de Warenne Earls of Surrey
      William was among the Norman barons summoned to a council by Duke William when the decision was made to oppose King Harold II's accession to the throne of England.[7][13] He fought at the Battle of Hastings and was well rewarded with numerous holdings. The Domesday book records his lands stretched over thirteen counties and included the important Rape of Sussex, several manors in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, the significant manor of Conisbrough in Yorkshire and Castle Acre in Norfolk, which became his caput (see below).[7][8] He is one of the very few proven companions of William the Conqueror known to have fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.[14][15][16] He fought against rebels at the Isle of Ely in 1071, where he showed a special desire to hunt down Hereward the Wake who had killed his brother-in-law Frederick the year before.[17][18] Hereward is supposed to have unhorsed him with an arrow shot.[19]

      Later career

      Sometime between 1078 and 1082,[20] William and his wife Gundred traveled to Rome visiting monasteries along the way. In Burgundy they were unable to go any further due to a war between Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII. They visited Cluny Abbey and were impressed with the monks and their dedication. William and Gundred decided to found a Cluniac priory on their own lands in England. William restored buildings for an abbey. They sent to Hugh, the abbot of Cluny, for monks to come to England at their monastery. At first Hugh was reluctant but he finally sent several monks, including Lazlo who was to be the first abbot. The house they founded was Lewes Priory, dedicated to St. Pancras,[21][22] the first Cluniac priory in England[23]

      William was loyal to William II,[17] and it was probably in early 1088 that he was created Earl of Surrey.[24] He was mortally wounded at the First Siege of Pevensey Castle and died 24 June 1088 at Lewes, Sussex, and was buried next to his wife Gundred at the Chapterhouse of Lewes Priory.[25][26]


      He married first, before 1070, Gundred, daughter of William the Conqueror and Matilda his wife. This is shown in a charter of William referring to Gundrada (Gundred in Latin) as "Filae Meae" (my daughter),[27][28] sister of Gerbod the Fleming, 1st Earl of Chester. Ordericus Vitalis made many errors in his Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy, which he wrote a hundred years after the Conquest. Ordericus Vitalis was a seventy-year-old man with an intense dislike for Normans, and continually made errors in his history (see Reverend Thomas Warren: History of the Warren Family); since then numerous English historians have tried to authenticate its account of Conqueror and his family, but have not succeeded. Gundred De Warren was buried at Lewes Castle. Her grave cover still exists as a marble slab of exactly the same design as that of her mother's grave cover, which is also in the same black decorated marble. DNA is likely to prove that Gundred and Matilda were mother and daughter. Such was the English dislike for the Normans, that they stole both William De Warren's and his wife's grave covers to place over graves of their own.[29][30][31]

      William married secondly a sister of Richard Gouet, who survived him.[32]


      By Gundred Surrey had:

      William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey (d. 1138), who married Elisabeth (Isabelle) de Vermandois, widow of Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester.[33]
      Edith de Warenne, who married firstly Gerard de Gournay, lord of Gournay-en-Bray, and secondly Drew de Monchy.[34]
      Reynold de Warenne, who inherited lands from his mother in Flanders[34] and died c. 1106–08.[35]
      An unnamed daughter, who married Ernise de Coulonces.[36]
      Surrey, by his second wife, had no issue. [1]

  • Sources 
    1. [S9971] "William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey" biography, accessed & downloaded Thurssday, November 17th, 2016 by David A. Hen.

    2. [S9972] "Gundred, Countess of Surrey" biography, accessed & downloaded Thurssday, November 17th, 2016 by David A. Hennessee, htt.