Elizabeth of Vermandois

Elizabeth de Vermandois, or Elisabeth or Isabel de Vermandois (c. 1081–13 February 1131), is a fascinating figure about whose descendants and ancestry much is known and about whose character and life relatively little is known. She was twice married to influential Anglo-Norman magnates, and had several children (among whose descendants are numbered many kings and some queens of England and Scotland). Her Capetian and Carolingian ancestry was a source of much pride for some of these descendants (who included these arms as quarterings in their coats-of-arms [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~pillagoda/ch4-02.htm] ). However, the lady herself led a somewhat controversial life.


Elizabeth de Vermandois was the third daughter of Hugh Magnus and Adele of Vermandois. Her paternal grandparents were Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev. Her maternal grandparents were Herbert IV of Vermandois and Adele of Vexin.

Her mother was the heiress of the county of Vermandois, and descendant of a junior patrilineal line of descent from Charlemagne. The first Count of Vermandois was Pepin of Vermandois. He was a son of Bernard of Italy, grandson of Pippin of Italy and great-grandson of Charlemagne and Hildegard.

As such, Elizabeth had distinguished ancestry and connections. Her father was a younger brother of Philip I of France and her mother was among the last Carolingians. She was also distantly related to the Kings of England, the Dukes of Normandy, the Counts of Flanders and through her Carolingian ancestors to practically every major nobleman in Western Europe.

Countess of Leicester

In 1096, while under age (and probably aged 9 or 11), Elizabeth married Robert de Meulan, 1st Earl of Leicester. Meulan was over 35 years her senior, which was an unusual age difference even for this time period. He was a nobleman of some significance in France, having inherited lands from his maternal uncle Henry, Count of Meulan, and had fought bravely and with distinction at his first battle, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 then aged only 16. His parents Roger de Beaumont, Lord of Beaumont-le-Roger and Pont-Audemar and Adeline of Meulan, heiress of Meulan had died long before; Roger had been a kinsman and close associate of William the Conqueror. Meulan had inherited lands in Normandy after his father died circa 1089, and had also been given lands in the Kingdom of England after his participation in the Norman conquest of England. However, at the time of the marriage, he held no earldom in England while his younger brother was already styled Henry de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Warwick.

Planche states that the bride (Elizabeth) agreed willingly to the marriage, although this means little in the context. Despite the immense age difference, this was a good marriage for its times. Meulan was a respected advisor to three reigning monarchs: William II of England), Robert Curthose of Normandy and Philip I of France.

According to Middle Ages custom, brides were often betrothed young - 8 being the legal age for betrothal and 12 for marriage (for women). The young betrothed wife would often go to her husband's castle to be raised by his parents or other relatives and to learn the customs and ways of her husband's family. The actual wedding would not take place until much later. Some genealogists speculate that the usual age at which a noble bride could expect the marriage to be consummated would be 14. This is consistent with the date of birth of Elizabeth's first child Emma in 1102 when she would be about 15 to 17.

The marriage produced several children, including most notably two sons who were twins (born 1104), and thus remarkable in both surviving and both becoming important noblemen. They are better known to historians of this period as the Beaumont twins, or as Waleran de Beaumont, Count of Meulan and his younger twin Robert Bossu (the Humpback) or Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester. (Readers of Ellis Peters' Cadfael historical mystery series will find both twins mentioned frequently). Another notable child of this marriage was Elisabeth or Isabel de Beaumont, one of the youngest mistresses of Henry I of England and later mother (by her first marriage) of Richard Strongbow.

Some contemporaries were surprised that the aging Count of Meulan (b circa 1049/1050) was able to father so many children, given how busy he was with turmoil in England and Normandy from 1102 to 1110 (or later) and acting as Henry I's unofficial minister. One explanation is offered below; another might simply be an indication of his good health and energy (expended mostly in dashing from one troublespot in Normandy to England back to Normandy).

William II of England died suddenly in a purported hunting accident, and was hastily succeeded not by the expected heir but by the youngest brother Henry. This seizure of the throne led to an abortive invasion by the older brother Duke Robert of Normandy, followed by an uneasy truce between the brothers, followed by trouble in both England and Normandy for some time (stirred up by Duke Robert, and by an exiled nobleman Robert of Bellême, 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury). Finally, Henry invaded Normandy and in the Battle of Tinchebray (September 28, 1106) destroyed organized opposition to his takeover of Normandy and imprisoned his ineffectual older brother for his lifetime. Meulan and his brother Warwick were apparently supporters of Henry during this entire period, and Meulan was rewarded with the earldom of Leicester in 1103. By 1107, Meulan was in possession of substantial lands in three domains. In 1111, he was able to revenge himself on the attack on his seat Meulan by Louis VI of France. He avenged himself by harrying Paris.

Countess of Surrey

Elizabeth, Countess of Meulan apparently tired of her aging husband at some point during the marriage. The historian Planche says (1874) that the Countess was seduced by or fell in love with a younger nobleman, William de Warenne (c. 1071-11 May 1138) himself the thwarted suitor of Edith of Scotland, Queen consort of Henry I of England. Warenne, whose mother Gundred has been alleged (in modern times) to be the Conqueror's daughter and stepdaughter by some genealogists, was said to want a royal bride, and Elizabeth fitted his requirements, even though she was also another man's wife.

In 1115, the Countess was apparently carried off or abducted by Warenne, which abduction apparently concealed a long-standing affair. There was some kind of separation or divorce between Meulan and his wife, which however did not permit her to marry her lover. The elderly Count of Meulan died, supposedly of chagrin and mortification in being thus publicly humiliated, in the Abbey of Preaux, Normandy on 5 June, 1118, leaving his properties to his two elder sons whom he had carefully educated.

Elizabeth married, secondly, William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey, sometime after the death of her first husband. By him, it is alleged, she already had several children (all born during her marriage to Meulan). She also had at least one daughter born while she was living out of wedlock with Warenne (1115-1118). It is unclear whether this daughter was Ada de Warenne, wife of Henry of Scotland or Gundrede de Warenne, wife of Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick (her half-brothers' first cousin).

The later life of Elizabeth de Vermandois is not known. Her sons by her first marriage appear to have a good relationship with their half-brother William de Warenne, 3rd Earl of Surrey although on opposing sides for much of the wars between Stephen and Matilda. Her eldest son Waleran, Count of Meulan was active in supporting the disinherited heir William Clito, son of Robert Curthose until captured by King Henry. He was not released until Clito's death without issue in 1128. Her second son Robert inherited his father's English estates and the earldom of Leicester and married the heiress of the Fitzosbern counts of Breteuil. Her daughter Isabel however became a king's concubine or mistress at a young age; it is unclear whether her mother's own life or her eldest brother's political and personal travails in this period played any part in this decision. Before her mother died, Isabel had become wife of Gilbert de Clare, later (1147) Earl of Pembroke, so had adopted a more conventional life like her mother.

There are no known biographies of Elizabeth de Vermandois, nor any known fictional treatments of her life.

Children and descendants

During her first marriage (1096-1115) to Robert de Beaumont, Count of Meulan (d 5 June 1118), Elizabeth had 3 sons (including twin elder sons) and 6 daughters:

* Emma de Beaumont (born 1102) whose fate is unknown. She was betrothed as an infant to Aumari, nephew of William, Count of Evreux, but the marriage never took place. She probably died young, or entered a convent. [http://genealogy.patp.us/conq/beaumont.shtml]

* Waleran IV de Beaumont, Count of Meulan (born 1104) married and left issue.

* Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester (born 1104) married and left issue (his granddaughter Hawisa or Isabella of Gloucester was the unfortunate first wife of King John.

* Hugh de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Bedford (born c. 1106) lost his earldom, left issue

* Adeline de Beaumont (b ca 1107), married two times:
**Hugh IV, 4th Lord of Montfort-sur-Risle to whom she was married firstly by her brother Waleran;
** Richard de Granville of Bideford (d. 1147)

* Aubree (or Alberee) de Beaumont (b ca 1109), married by her brother Waleran to Hugh II of Châteauneuf-en-Thimerais (possibly son of Hugh I of Châteauneuf-en-Thimerais and his wife Mabille de Montgomerie, 2nd daughter of Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury)

* Maud de Beaumont (b ca 1111), married by her brother Waleran to William Lovel, or Louvel or Lupel, son of Ascelin Goel, Lord of Ivri.

* Isabel de Beaumont (b Aft. 1102), a mistress of King Henry I of England. Married two times:
** Gilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke by whom she was mother of Richard Strongbow, who invaded Ireland 1170;
** Hervé de Montmorency, Constable of Ireland (this marriage is not conclusively proven)

In her second marriage, to William de Warenne, Elizabeth had three sons and two daughters (for a total of fourteen children - nine during her first marriage, and five during her second):

* William de Warenne, 3rd Earl of Surrey and Warenne (b. 1119 dspm 1147) whose daughter Isabelle de Warenne, Countess of Surrey married 1stly
** William, Count of Boulogne (dsp), yr son of King Stephen, and married 2ndly
** Hamelin Plantagenet, an illegitimate half-brother of King Henry II of England by whom she had issue, later earls of Surrey and Warenne.

* Reginald de Warenne, who inherited his father's property in upper Normandy. He married Adeline, daughter of William, lord of Wormgay in Norfolk, by whom he had a son William, whose daughter and sole heir Beatrice married first Dodo, lord Bardolf, and secondly Hubert de Burgh;

* Ralph de Warenne (dsp)

* Gundrada de Warenne, (Gundred) who married first
** Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick and had issue; second (as his 2nd wife)
** William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Warenne and Surrey and is most remembered for expelling king Stephen's garrison from Warwick Castle; and they had issue.

* Ada de Warenne (d. ca. 1178), who married Henry of Scotland, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, younger son of King David I of Scotland, Earl of Huntingdon by his marriage to the heiress Matilda or Maud, 2nd Countess of Huntingdon (herself great-niece of William I of England) and had issue. They were parents to Malcolm IV of Scotland and William I of Scotland and their youngest son became David of Scotland, 8th Earl of Huntingdon. All Kings of Scotland since 1292 were the descendants of Huntingdon.

The second earl had married Isabella, daughter of Hugh, Count of Vermandois, widow of Robert de Beaumont, earl of Leicester. The arms of Warenne "checky or and azure" were adopted from the Vermandois coat after this marriage.

The original Vermandois arms were "checky or and sable" but there was no black tincture in early medieval heraldry until sable was discovered, being the crushed fur of this animal. A very deep indigo was used instead which faded into blue so the Vermandois arms became "checky or and azure".

The Vermandois arms were inherited by the earls of Warenne and Surrey, the Newburgh earls of Warwick, the Beauchamp earls of Warwick and Worcester and the Clifford earls of Cumberland.

External links

* Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700 by Frederick Lewis Weis, Lines: 50-24, 50-25, 53-24, 66-25, 84-25, 88-25, 89-25, 140-24, 170-23 184-4, 215-24
* [http://www.thepeerage.com/p10466.htm#i104653 Elizabeth de Vermandois]
* [http://www.stirnet.com Stirnet genealogy database]
* [http://www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/british/bb4ae/beaumont01.htm#link2 Beaumont]
* [http://www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/british/ww/wzmisc01.htm#hunt Warenne]
* [http://www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/continent/cc/capet02.htm#isaver Capetian]
* [http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/W/WA/WARENNE_EARLS.htm Warenne earls in 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica]
* [http://genealogy.patp.us/conq/beaumont.shtml Robert de Beaumont, Earl of Meulan]
* [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~pillagoda/ch4-02.htm Vermandois arms used by Isabel's descendants]

ee also

*Elizabeth de Vermandois is also the name of the daughter of Raoul I of Vermandois, brother to this Elisabeth or Elizabeth (d. 1131).

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Look at other dictionaries:

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