The Career of William III de Briouze in the Reign of King John: Land, Power and Social Ties. By Matthew Boulter

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The Career of William III de Briouze in the Reign of King John: Land, Power and Social Ties.

By Matthew Boulter
William de Briouze was one of the most prominent figures during King John’s reign. His rise to power during the reigns of Henry II and Richard I reached its apex in the early thirteenth century and his persecution at the hands of John between 1208 and 1211 became a potent and bitterly remembered episode by both barons and chroniclers alike.1 William’s fortunes and misfortunes in tenure, politics and social ties are widely observable across an array of primary sources, from Exchequer records to chronicles. Yet, due to the mystery that surrounds the true explanation for his demise, Briouze remains an enigmatic and alluring figure for the historian to study. There are other reasons, however, which justify this interest. William de Briouze was one of the few characters to link many of the main themes and events that flowed through John’s reign. William was a powerful baron in the Welsh March and Ireland but also a sizeable landholder in England. He was a confidant of John, helping him to the throne after the death of Richard2 and accompanied his lord on the various expeditions to defend Normandy from Philip II Augustus.3 It was due to this loyalty that Briouze suffered the loss of his Norman lands in 1204. William was also party to the fate of John’s opponent to the throne, Arthur of Brittany. William himself caught Arthur at Mirebeau in 1202 and handed him over to the king.4 As one can see, William de Briouze was a crucial member of medieval society but despite these observations, there has yet to be a comprehensive study of this baron.

This study will analyse William’s life through the factors of land, power and social ties, with the aim of showing that his personal involvement in John‘s rule had great implications on each. Furthermore, the study will demonstrate that William represented a very unique stage in the history of the Briouze family. Chapter one will describe the history of William’s landholding and the role his relationship with John played in this. It will also argue that William was the only Briouze to unite the family lands under one head of the family. Chapter two will assess more closely the personal relationship between William and King John, suggesting that William was the only Briouze to integrate wholesale into the king‘s court. Chapter three concludes the exercise with an assessment of the social network that surrounded William and the significance his political position played in informing this network. First, however, an evaluation of the primary sources available to the historian must be undertaken, followed by a brief outline of William de Briouze’s character.

Though there is a wealth of diverse and valuable sources available to the historian studying William de Briouze there remain limitations. The majority of William’s tenurial business can be observed through the dry and functional records of government. The pipe rolls, Book of Fees and the Red Book of the Exchequer are all invaluable to this study. King John’s reign saw the first comprehensive logging and storing of the pipe rolls even though records were not produced for 1213 and 1215/16. Much debate has surrounded the rolls over their reliability and historical worth.5 Barrett, an advocate for the use of pipe rolls as evidence, viewed them as fundamentally incomplete records that failed to show the entire audit process. The pipe rolls, therefore, are unable to show a complete survey of landholding in the period. Barratt’s view is corroborated by the need to supplement the pipe rolls with the Book of Fees and the Red Book of the Exchequer, both of which contain extra information on William‘s lands that the pipe rolls do not possess. However, it can be argued that the pipe rolls provide an accurate account of the information they do have, which despite the criticism is still vast.6 Furthermore, by supplementing the rolls with additional sources, one can have a fuller appreciation of Briouze’s lands than if each source was taken separately.

The evidence from the exchequer is further enhanced by the curia regis rolls. These court documents reveal the importance of medieval justice within the baronage’s daily life.7 They documented the litigation that William was involved in during John‘s reign, as well as the later years of Richard‘s reign. Through these documents one can identify which of William’s lands brought the most legal dispute in court. Furthermore, they give a clear indication of the amount of litigation that took place after William’s death showing that his son, Reginald de Briouze, played a key role.

Another important branch of administrative evidence is the royal charters that were issued concerning William. The Rotuli Chartarum, Rotuli Litterarum Clausaram and Patentium, allow the historian to explore some of the causes and activities behind the financial goings-on of the Exchequer. These sources provide a different view of William as opposed to the Exchequer documents. Here, William can be seen as a prominent member of John’s court and not just one of many who owed the king money for land and privilege. Again, one benefits from a comprehensive enrolment of these sources in John’s reign, though the Rotuli Clausarum only started this process in 1204. A drawback to this evidence is that one cannot tell whether the orders in the charters were carried out in the way the king wished. Furthermore, the reasons why many of the grants were made is not explained. In summary, though each source has specific limitations in what it can impart to the historian, the combination of charter, exchequer and court evidence nevertheless provides a wealth of detailed evidence from which to study the career of William de Briouze.

Narrative accounts allow the historian to, as B. A. Lyon stated, add colour to the administrative records.8 They also allow the historian to read about events outside the direct business of government. Monastic annals were a good source in recounting the lives of barons. Some of these annals existed in Briouze territory, like Margam abbey which was in William’s administrative authority in Glamorgan between 1202 and 1207.9 It is from these annals one can obtain reliable accounts of the events surrounding William’s life.10 The Margam Annals themselves remain a contentious source. The nineteenth century historian M. Belmont did not support the view of Margam as a reliable centre for accurate historical information.11 Likewise, Gransden only gave it a cursory evaluation in her masterful book on medieval historical writing, merely stating it’s value lay in local affairs and that it’s entries were ‘very brief’.12 It is also significant that the relevant entries of the annals were written in the 1230s and were not contemporary to William’s life. However, despite these reservations, it is hard to disagree with Powicke’s argument that Margam was a well connected abbey, which not only had direct links to William de Briouze but also King John.13 The king had graced the abbey with his presence both on the way to and from the 1210 expedition to Ireland where he captured Matilda de Briouze.14 The annals are accompanied by various chronicles like the Brut Y Tywysogyon, as well as the writings of Gerald of Wales, both of which were produced in or near to Briouze territory. This study, therefore, is fed by a body of primary narrative material which relates mainly to William‘s holdings in Wales, though the royal administrative documents allow for a broader look at William’s other territories. Both the non-narrative and narrative sources have distinct methodological problems but on the whole the evidence can be considered reliable and accurate in its accounts.15

The use of a mixture of administrative and narrative records when researching William is best highlighted in the study of his decline. There are two main primary texts that recount William’s demise. Roger of Wendover gave the fullest narrative account, stating that King John had been enraged by Matilda de Briouze’s outspokenness in 1208 about the supposed murder of John’s nephew, Arthur of Brittany, at the king‘s own hand.16 Wendover’s date of 1208 for Matilda’s outburst and the start of John’s persecution seems an accurate one because all of William’s land and castles were confiscated in that year.17 The other major source for this event was a letter issued by John in 1210 and stored in the Black Book of the Exchequer. John’s letter justified his actions against William and his family. In this open letter to his barons, John explained that it was William’s failure to financially account for Limerick and nothing to do with Matilda, that was the cause of his expulsion from the realm and the capture of his wife and son.18 Comparing these two conflicting accounts show, therefore, that by using texts from different sources the historian can provide a much more balanced view of William’s history, than restricting oneself to exclusively narrative or administrative accounts.
Before this study can start, one must briefly outline William de Briouze‘s personality because no study of an historical figure can proceed without some evaluation of that person’s character. It is important to bear in mind the type of person William was, especially when assessing his relationships with other kin, colleagues and neighbours. Did William’s personality have a part to play in his collection, consolidation and eventual loss of land and power? Unfortunately, this task is rendered almost impossible by the lack of evidence. However, the historian can afford brief glimpses through certain sources. The twelfth century writer, Gerald of Wales, wrote pointedly about William painting him as an ‘exceedingly devout’ man who prayed whenever and wherever he saw the cross of Christ. He was also kind and benevolent, always greeting even the lowliest commoner.19 However, it is common knowledge that Gerald wrote these observations under the shadow of William’s immediate authority in Brecon and suppressed his initial harsh criticisms of Briouze in fear of reprisals.20 William de Briouze would have been an ambitious and exploitative individual,21 whose time spent on the unstable borders of Wales and Normandy would have accustomed him to violence.22 For example, in 1175 William tricked Seisyll ap Dyfnwal, who had killed his uncle the earl of Hereford, to Abergavenny castle where he killed him and his followers then proceeded to kill Seisyll’s seven year old son Cadwaladr.23

The Brut Y Tywysogyon further testified to William’s brutality by recounting his treatment of another of his Welsh tenants, Trahaearn Fychan. In 1197, Fychan was drawn by his feet on a horse through the streets of Brecon before being hanged. The Brut gives no explanation for this treatment.24 It was actions such as these that caused the deep hatred of William de Briouze and his wife, Matilda de St. Valéry, by the native Welsh population a hatred that was still remembered as late as 1230.25 As was stated before, the historian cannot profess to comment accurately on William de Briouze’s character but the majority of sources we can call upon as trustworthy are unanimous in their portrayal of him as a powerful but ruthless individual.

Chapter One: Land.
This chapter will provide a detailed summary of how William de Briouze acquired and consolidated his landholdings to become one of the most influential and powerful men in the first half of King John’s reign. For the purposes of later analysis, this chapter will also chart the fate of these lands in the years immediately following William’s death in relation to his sons, Giles and Reginald de Briouze.
Though William de Briouze appropriated much land in King John’s reign he had significant holdings before John’s accession in 1199. These holdings were, on the whole, accrued through family inheritance but some were from William’s own speculation. First and foremost, William inherited the family caput of Briouze, which lay in the deep south of Normandy between Falaise and Domfront.26 The caput was a valuable asset to the family enhanced by being located in one of the richest fiefs of the Angevin dynasty.27 The Briouzes were significant benefactors there, especially at the priory cell of the abbey of Saint-Florent-les-Saumar.28

The Briouzes had also, for a long time, been influential in Devon and Sussex.29 In Sussex, Bramber was given to William I de Briouze by William the Conqueror as reward for his participation in the conquest, a grant that was duly recorded in the Domesday Book.30 Bramber was a territory rich in towns and villages and the Briouze family administered Knepp, Washington, Findon, Steyning and Horsham among others as lords of that honour.31 There is no doubt that William I de Briouze was a trusted companion of the Conqueror to have received such vital lands so close to the king’s centre of power in London.32 In 1186-1187, William III owed the Exchequer £20 for these Sussex lands, lands which by then had become the cornerstone of the Briouze holdings in England.33

Lands in Devon had been another early acquisition for the Briouze family, though they were obtained through marriage rather than as a reward from the king. The acquisition of the barony of Barnstaple was attained through the marriage of William III’s grandfather, Philip de Briouze, to Aenor daughter of Juhel de Mowbray, who had held the barony from the king since 1095.34 After the death of Juhel and his son Alfred (the latter c.1139) Philip and Aenor acquired half of Barnstaple, which was worth twenty-eight knight’s fees by the mid-1180s.35 The second half of Barnstaple went to another of Juhel’s daughters, who married Henry de Tracy.36 The division of the honour between two heiresses later proved a problem for William III. Upon John’s accession in 1199, William had to fight in court for his possession of his half against an unwilling Oliver de Tracy.37 Barnstaple was to prove a costly but beneficial honour for the Briouzes. It was large and William II de Briouze owed 1000 marks for it in 115838, while the scutage alone in 1186/1187 was £28.39

As well as the Devon and Sussex lands, William III inherited and expanded upon a vast territory in the March of Wales. Philip de Briouze had been the first to make acquisitions in this land, taking Radnor and Builth as early as 1095.40 This acquisition was enhanced a generation later by the marriage of William II to Bertha, daughter of Miles fitz Walter, earl of Hereford.41 This marriage introduced many new Welsh lands into the Briouze domain. The lands included Brecknock, perhaps the richest of these new entitlements, which contained the castles of Blaenllyfni, Brecon and Pencelli.42 Abergavenny was also obtained through the marriage but did not come into Briouze hands until 1175, after the various bizarre and unfortunate deaths of the earl of Hereford and his immediate heirs.43 Therefore, William III de Briouze was by no means a man of humble origin. He belonged by birthright to a powerful and fiercely independent Marcher society, who held significant English lands as well. However, the combined inheritance William III possessed made him unique among the Briouze family and distinct from his ancestors. William I, Philip and William II had all obtained and added land to the Briouze holdings but none had united them under one caput generis like William III had.

Though William inherited a considerable amount of land from his family, he did not relax his own ruthless speculation into new territory before John‘s reign. From his already strong Welsh base William annexed Elfael in 1195, which had remained weakened since the death of it’s ruler Einion o’r Porth in 1191.44 This ambitious move caused dissent among the local native Welsh population and William built the castles of Colwyn and Painscastle to protect his newly landed interests, though Colwyn was subsequently razed in 1196.45 Likewise, William obtained Kington an honour previously held by Adam de Port, who had forfeited it to the king in 1171.46 Evidence suggests that William was not the first baron to have seisen of Kington after Port‘s forfeiture because William fitz Aldelm accounted for its scutage in 1175.47 However, by 1194, William de Briouze had possession and owed £22 and 13s. for the privilege.48 The pipe rolls also reveal that Briouze gained land in other parts of the country associated with the Port honour. He gained the lands of Stratton St. Margaret and Berewick in Wiltshire, where his lordship was acknowledged in the 1198 pipe roll. His possession of King’s Arley in Staffordshire was similarly recognised a year earlier.49

Another source of land acquisition for William, prior to John’s reign, was through wardships of minor heirs. In 1190, he offered an appreciable 1000 marks for the temporary custody of the lands of the late Gilbert of Monmouth whose son, John of Monmouth, did not come of age until 1205.50 Likewise, he sought the wardship of Walter II de Beauchamp in c. 1197/8 when William II de Beauchamp died. Holden and Turner have stated that Briouze did not receive this wardship until 1202 but the pipe roll of 1199 already calls William to account for 14 marks for the lands.51 Furthermore, in 1201 William was called to account for the second scutage of King Richard that was owed for the Beauchamp fiefs.52 Therefore, there is clear indication in the Exchequer records that William held this ward before 1199. The wardship of Walter, who did not come of age until between 1211 and 1214, was profitable for William giving him Salwarpe and the forest of Feckenham in Worcestershire,53 as well as one knight’s fee in Berkshire.54

Finally, William seems to have gained lands in Gloucestershire, namely the manors of Tetbury and Hampnett. These lands may have been obtained through his marriage to Matilda de St. Valéry. This seems the most likely scenario because both William and Matilda were in dispute over these estates with Thomas de St. Valéry, Matilda’s brother, in 1199.55
In the first half of King John’s reign, 1199 to1207, William was able to add to his landholdings considerably and this was due to him becoming a trusted curialis in John’s court. William’s relationship with John was on a more personal footing than the baron had had with previous kings. This period, therefore, represented a break from the normal patterns of land acquisition that William had previously been familiar with, in that all the land he received after 1199 was through John’s personal patronage, rather than gained through the act of marriage or inheritance. The lands William gained in this period, combined with those he acquired on his own initiative in the 1190s, compounded his landholding status even further beyond that of his ancestors. The land gains were significant enough to ensure that William became one of the most extensive landholders in England.56

A large portion of William’s land acquisitions in this period was based in the localities where he already had landed interest. In the March of Wales, John gave William licence to considerably expand and consolidate his estates. In 1200, William was granted the right to take as much of the lands surrounding his barony of Radnor as he could. John expected William’s expansion to be vast as he stated in the charter that William was to save Cardigan for him.57 In 1202 John entrusted Glamorgan, the land of his former wife Isabel of Gloucester to Briouze.58 This fief contained the castles of Llangenydd, Oystermouth and Swansea, all of which William controlled by 1203.59 Around the same time as this grant William was also entrusted with Gower, an area west of Glamorgan for the fee of one knight.60 Therefore, not only were these grants sizeable, they were also crucial to the maintenance of royal control on the frontier. It was significant that both Glamorgan and Gower had been in direct Royal hands since the 1180s.

Other lands near Wales came into Briouze’s domain when he successfully fined for the custody of the lands of his son-in-law, Walter de Lacy, who was regularly abroad in Ireland or Normandy by 1201. As a consequence, William was granted significant holdings in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire and for the royal confirmation of this custody he paid one palfrey and 20 marks.61 In being granted these lands that were so crucial to the defence of the realm, William was shown to be a reliable and trusted servant of the king, like his great-grandfather William I de Briouze had been trusted with land by William the Conqueror. However, as one can see, William III was entrusted with much more.

In Devon, William asserted his presence further by gaining the custody of the heir to John of Torrington’s estates, which amounted to seven fiefs.62 The death of Henry de Nonant in 1206 also led to William securing half of the barony of Totnes.63 Briouze had previously been in conflict with Nonant over the boundaries of this honour and had claims to it that reached back to Philip de Briouze, his grandfather.64 Nonant’s death, therefore, allowed William to utilise royal favour to consolidate his position in that county.65 Furthermore, between 1200 and 1202, William successfully fined for the land of Shoreham in Sussex.66

These early grants consolidated William’s already established position in the localities. However, 1199-1205 also saw him obtain territory in places where he had previously had none. The pipe rolls show that in the first six years of John‘s reign, William acquired two knight’s fees in Warwickshire and Leicestershire67 and it is highly likely that he obtained the custody of Buckingham castle in this period too.68 Likewise, William received various rights over lands in Surrey due to the favour of the king. For example, John granted William the land of Paddington in the hundred of Wudetun’, as well as one half of the village of Gomshall on the death of its previous lord, Alan Trenchemer in 1204.69 Finally, the fine rolls show that William possessed the honour of Winton in Dorset by 1205.70

William’s acquisition of new territory was not confined in this period to England. In 1201, King John offered William the county of Limerick in Ireland and shortly after, in 1203, the city too.71 Henry II had offered Limerick to previous family members but William was the first to accept it. For this privilege William owed 5000 marks, where 500 marks was to be paid annually.72 It seems that William acquired other lands in Ireland too. He had custody of Carrickfergus castle in Ulster and he also enjoyed the temporary custody of some of his Irish neighbours’ lands. A letter patent from John on 16th September 1204, revealed that William had had the temporary custody of William de Burgh’s land in Munster.73 Likewise, upon the granting of Limerick to Briouze, Theobald fitz Walter and Philip of Worcester both of whom had lands in the north Tipperary and Limerick region, were ordered to relinquish their holdings to him.74 Philip of Wigorn was also commanded to hand over his land to William, including the castle of Knocgrafan.75

In the first three years of the thirteenth century, due to his close association with John, William was able to increase his presence in Normandy too. The threat of Philip II Augustus encouraged John to hand over land in the duchy to capable and trusted men and William was one such man. As has already been stated, William gained the custody of Walter de Lacy’s English lands in 1202, however, he also fined with the king at the same time for the custody of Lacy’s lands in Normandy, an offer that was granted by the king.76 William was also given charge of strategic sites surrounding important Norman centres. For example, in 1203, John ordered Longueil near Rouen to be handed over to his faithful man.77 This success in Normandy was short lived as William lost all his Norman land, including the family caput of Briouze in 1204. The loss of Normandy forced barons to decide their allegiance between John and Philip II. William was a constant companion of John during the defence of the duchy and naturally supported him at the cost of his Norman lands. The loss of a family caput, for any baron, would have been a disheartening blow but the decision to side with a generous lord and the majority of his landed wealth was a logical one for William to make.

William continued to enjoy favour from the king in the years immediately preceding his fall from grace. In Gwent in December 1205, William was re-granted the custody of the castles of Grosmont, Skenfrith, Abergavenny and Llantilio, which had been given to Hubert de Burgh who had then been captured abroad that year.78 Two years later in 1207, William added Ludlow to his growing list of castles on agreement of his son-in-law, Walter de Lacy.79

Though there were political considerations that dictated the granting of these lands and privileges, the underlying issue of the personal bond between John and William must not be overlooked. It was William’s good relationship with John that allowed him to acquire these vast amounts of land. Therefore, William’s career in John’s reign demonstrates that ‘aristocratic power and property was quintessentially “personal”’.80 The variety of these lands allowed William, not only to strengthen his pre-existing position in his lands in the Marches and Devon but also, allowed him to exercise authority in new territories most notably Ireland. This elevated position gave William distinction from his ancestors but also his peers in both land and authority. Not only had William united the Briouze legacy but he had also expanded it considerably.

1208 represented a sharp decline in William’s fortunes and for the next two years he lost possession of all of his lands and power.81 His decline was compounded by the capture of his wife Matilda and his eldest son, William IV, in Ireland. John subsequently imprisoned them in Windsor castle where they starved to death in 1210.82 William himself died in France a year later as a landless exile.

From 1208 to 1213, William’s land was widely distributed among those favoured by King John. However, John kept some Briouze territory in his own domain. The extensive Sussex estates, including Bramber and Knepp castle were kept by him, as well as Radnor, Hay and Brecon castle, which were surrendered by William himself.83 John’s acquisition of these Welsh castles was described in the statement he issued explaining and recounting his actions against Briouze. William had handed over these Welsh castles, according to John, as part repayment for the debts he owed to the crown.84 It is within this source that one can also read how John obtained, by force, Carrickfergus castle in Ulster while pursuing Matilda de Briouze.85 The castles of Totnes and Builth were also kept under strict royal control.86

Despite John‘s initial requisitioning of Briouze’s land, the large majority of William’s landholding was distributed among the baronage. The Book of Fees, compiled in 1212, stated that John had possession of the Briouze honour of Tavistock in Devon but this was granted to Henry de Tracy in 1213, along with the whole of Barnstaple.87 Before 1213, it is most likely that the Briouze’s half of this barony was in the custody of Peter fitz Herbert.88 This baron also gained from the redistribution of Briouze land in other areas. The fitz Herbert family had claims to Brecknock that went back to the mid-twelfth century.89 William had already faced Peter’s father, Herbert fitz Herbert, over land rights in 1199.90 Peter continued the family’s claims and proceeded against Briouze in 1206 for his third of Brecknock. However, the case was postponed for more than a year because William had essoined due to illness.91 However, with William’s fall from grace, Peter fitz Herbert gained possession of his third of Brecknock which included the lordship and castle of Blaenllyfni.92

The remaining Briouze lands in Wales went to a myriad of other men. The honour of Kington was acquired by Adam de Port, baron of Basing in Hampshire.93 Adam de Port was not the same Port who had forfeited the honour in 1171 but was, in fact, a relation who had married William’s sister Sibyl de Briouze.94 Port also received the lands in Wiltshire and Staffordshire that were associated with Kington, namely Berewick, Stratton St. Margaret and King‘s Arley. Gower and Glamorgan went into the custody of John’s trusted official Falkes de Bréauté,95 though Gower soon passed to William Marshal in October 1213, before coming into the possession of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth in 1218.96 The Welsh also took control of a number of William’s castles, Llywelyn gaining possession of Radnor and Painscastle.

The piecemeal lands that William had accrued outside of the family estates similarly found new lords or re-established old ones. The Lacy lands of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire, in 1208, went back to Walter de Lacy.97 The villages of Gomshall and Paddington in Surrey were in the custody of Peter de Maulay by 1212, while the knight’s fee in Berkshire dissipated between various owners.98 The pipe roll of 1209, for example, stated that the sheriff there held some of the chattels of William de Briouze.99 The honour of Limerick likewise went to a new owner and the Annals of Worcester stated that in 1208 Geoffrey Marsh had custody of it.100

William’s inheritance and the considerable amount of land he amassed during his time as curialis had well and truly dissipated into the baronage of England by 1212. The redistribution of land allowed John to reward his immediate followers, such as Bréauté and Maulay, with baronies that had been kept from his disposal by the Briouze inheritance. More importantly, the dispute damaged the power of the Briouze family and ended their close association with the kings of England, as well as their ability to attain land from them. However, upon his death, William left behind a family that was eager to reclaim the lands and the glory he once enjoyed. The move to reclaim this land by the Briouze family, between 1215 and 1220, was motivated by William’s two surviving eldest sons Giles, bishop of Hereford and Reginald de Briouze.
The civil unrest King John faced between 1214 and 1216, provided an opportunity for the Briouze family to seek restitution of the lands that William de Briouze had lost some five years earlier. However, no family member would be able to emulate William’s success in landholding again. Giles de Briouze, after being in exile in France since the interdict, returned to England in late June 1213 and became the first to try.101 Though the small peripheral lands that William had gained through wardship or speculation were largely irretrievable, the core family lands of Devon, Sussex and the March were legitimate targets for Giles.

Upon Giles’s return, or soon after, John granted the restitution of Briouze land to the bishop. However, this promise failed to be honoured and Giles implemented a policy of harassment to regain the lands. Giles, seeing opportunity in the unrest of 1215, instigated rebellion in the March to pressurise John into restoring the Briouze inheritance.102 The rebellion, which occurred across most of Herefordshire and Brecknock allowed Giles and his brother, Reginald, to seize back pivotal lands in the March. In May of that year, Reginald was able to take the castles of Pencelli, Abergavenny, Grosmont and Skenfrith in just three days. Likewise, the castles of Hay, Radnor, Brecon, Builth and Blaenllyfni, the latter being hard won by Peter fitz Herbert in 1208, were surrendered to Giles.103

Giles bolstered the strength of his cause by forming an alliance with rebels in other parts of the country. The Barnwell Chronicler noted for instance that Giles was among the rebels who marched to Northampton in mid-April 1215.104 This alliance allowed the bishop to ally with a number of very powerful barons such as Geoffrey de Mandeville and Robert fitz Walter. Giles’s strategy quickly paid off as John made peace with him and restored the core of the Briouze inheritance for 9000 marks.105 John, no doubt, conceded to the agreement because 9000 marks was a sizeable payment into his war fund. This agreement, however, broke down when Giles died in late 1215. It is unlikely that Giles was able to fully resume control of all the Briouze lands in this short space of time. However, he seemed to have secured the lands of Herefordshire because William Marshal was immediately granted the right to control them upon his death.106 Similarly, Roland Bloet was granted Bramber including Knepp castle and Henry fitz Count was granted Totnes and the manor of Tetbury in Gloucestershire.107

Reginald, who replaced Giles, did not maintain the good relationship his brother had established with the king and when John appealed for his help in 1216 Reginald, who had already reclaimed a lot of the March by force refused.108 However, the death of John in 1216 led to Reginald reconciling with John’s son Henry III in 1217. It was also in this year that the Briouze inheritance began to be restored. The lands that came into Reginald’s possession were the family lands in Sussex, Gloucestershire and Devon (including parts of Barnstaple and Tavistock), as well as the majority of William’s former Welsh territories namely Radnor, Builth, Abergavenny and Brecknock.109 Reginald also regained the castle and city of Limerick and the lands of Munster that his father had held in the time of King John.110 Finally, he regained Gomshall in 1218.111

Reginald de Briouze became the first of William’s sons to properly possess his father’s land but he did not possess them in their entirety and the ones he did reclaim were constantly under threat from rivals. In the March, Briouze lands were continually threatened by Welsh princes and in other locations by family members.

A number of lands were distinctly absent from the Briouze restitution and many others were not wholly regained. Reginald faced difficulty over Barnstaple, for example, when Henry de Tracy refused to return parts of the honour.112 Likewise, Henry fitz Count refused to return parts of Totnes.113 Reginald also faced opposition in Sussex when Matilda de Clare, William IV’s wife, claimed rights over the lands of Bramber, Steyning, Knepp and many others, as well as the lands in Gloucestershire.114 The claims to these lands by family members became so complex that their ownership and status became ‘far from clear’.115 To compound Reginald‘s inability to emulate his father‘s landholding, many of the castles that William had previously held, had found new custodians outside of the immediate family.116 Carrickfergus castle in Ulster was in the custody of William de Serland by 1223, while Blaenllyfni in Brecknock was returned to Peter fitz Herbert in 1217.117 The custody of the castles in Gwent that William de Briouze had secured in 1205 were also lost and returned to Hubert de Burgh in 1219.118 One cannot say that William III did not face such difficulties himself, as he had faced many claims on the family lands both before and during John’s reign by families including the fitz Herberts. William had also faced similar troubles over Barnstaple that Reginald had experienced with the Tracy family. However, the difference between William and his son was that William could and did surmount these claims, whereas the dispute put Reginald into a far less politically strong position to do so.

Reginald’s return to the king’s peace under Henry III had also caused the native Welsh to campaign against him for his seemingly treasonous behaviour. Where once Reginald had been eager to support his Welsh neighbours in their fight against John and Henry III, in 1217 he abandoned them for the king in order to secure his own lands.119 Reginald’s nephews, Owain and Rhys ap Gruffudd actively opposed their uncle, seizing Builth from him soon after his reconciliation with the king.120 Llywelyn had also been enraged by Reginald’s behaviour and ravaged Brecknock before seizing Gower and bestowing it to Rhys Gryg. During these campaigns Reginald surrendered to Llywelyn, submitting himself to the Welsh prince.121 This submission not only weakened the Briouze dominance in the Welsh March but it also allowed Llywelyn to keep a number of castles that had once been in the possession of the Briouze family, namely St. Clear’s which he delegated to Maelgwn ap Rhys.122

Reginald had little choice in this state of affairs. To remain opposed to Henry III would have denied him the opportunity of reclaiming his inheritance in Sussex and Devon, as well as legitimising his lordship in the March. Opposition to royal power would have also kept him an outsider from a baronage that was increasingly reconciling with the new king. However, by legitimising the Briouze land that he had forcibly seized during the turmoil of 1215, Reginald alienated the Welshmen he had previously allied with. However, the difference between 1220 and say 1203, was that Llywelyn ap Iorwerth had become a far more formidable opponent.

Llywelyn was aware of the importance of politics and the damage that could be done through manipulating marriage and inheritance. Reginald had inherited his father’s land to a sizeable opposition by other members of the nuclear and extended family. The son of William IV, John de Briouze, represented the greatest contestant and when he had come of age in 1218, had immediately started legal action to claim his right to the Briouze inheritance over his uncle.123 Llywelyn played on these schisms to obtain more influence in the March and granted Gower to John to fuel his opposition to Reginald.124 By 1227, when Reginald died, the Briouze lands had fractured between two owners. John de Briouze successfully gained the family lands in Sussex, as well as Gower. The larger share of the Welsh lands and the family baronies in Devon went to Reginald’s son William V de Briouze.

Reginald’s time as caput generis did not emulate that of his father’s. Indeed, Reginald had managed to reclaim the old inheritance of the Welsh, Devon and Sussex lands, giving him the control of united territories that his grandfather and great-grandfathers had not enjoyed. However, there were some lands that William III had gained through wardships, expansion and John’s grace that were never reclaimed. Furthermore, the core of Briouze lands were open to more claims of inheritance under Reginald because he was in a weaker political situation and could not rely on the king‘s support as his father had done. The case of John de Briouze and Matilda de Clare have already been mentioned but there was also a concerted effort by the St. Valéry family to claim inheritor’s rights. For example, Henry de St. Valéry, Reginald’s uncle, claimed rights in Sussex though the claims were later found false by the court.125 The fate of William’s land after 1211, therefore, reiterated his unique career. The lands that he acquired on his own initiative between the 1190s and 1207 enhanced his position above and beyond that of his successive family, who failed to copy his success. In other words, William III was the only Briouze to have everything.

The division of William III de Briouze’s lands between his two grandsons in 1227 provides an opportune point at which to conclude this summary. William’s importance and position both before and during the reign of King John, allowed him to remain uncontested as lord of the family estates. The dispute and his demise between 1208 and 1211 weakened the authority of his heirs, both in the eyes of the king and their peers. The death of William also caused the family to fracture between the claims of William’s younger sons and the offspring of his eldest son. It also gave voice to the claims of various junior branches of the family.

The death of Reginald’s son William V at the hands of Llywelyn in 1230 marked the end of Briouze hegemony over its lands.126 Like so many other baronial families of the Middle Ages, the Briouzes eventually succumbed to the lack of male heirs.127 When William V died with no sons to succeed him, the bulk of his holdings were split between four daughters. Maud took Radnor to her marriage with Roger de Mortimer. Isabel and Dafydd, son of Llywelyn took Builth, Eleanor and Humphrey V de Bohun took Brecon, while Eve and William de Cantilupe took Abergavenny.128 The lands of Devon were likewise divided between the daughters and their husbands. Notably, Dafydd and Isabel secured parts of Totnes.129 The oldest family lands of Sussex, as well as Gower, survived a little longer within the Briouze family. John de Briouze continued to possess these lands until his death in 1232 and his grandson, Sir William de Briouze, died in 1326 still carrying the title of lord of Bramber and Gower.130

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