Ranulf le Meschin, 3d Earl of Chester

Male 1070 - 1129  (59 years)

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  • Name Ranulf le Meschin 
    Suffix 3d Earl of Chester 
    Born 1070  Bessin, Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died Jan 1129  Cheshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Chester Abbey, Chester, Cheshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Wikipedia

      He was a late 11th and early 12th-century Norman magnate based in northern and central England. Originating in Bessin in Normandy, Ranulf made his career in England thanks to his kinship with Hugh d'Avranches - the Earl of Chester, the patronage of kings William II Rufus and Henry I Beauclerc, and his marriage to Lucy, heiress of the Bolingbroke-Spalding estates in Lincolnshire.

      Ranulf fought in Normandy on behalf of Henry I, and served the English king. After the death of his cousin Richard d'Avranches in the White Ship Disaster of November 1120, Ranulf became Earl of the county of Chester on the Anglo-Welsh marches. He held this position for the remainder of his life, and passed the title on to his son, Ranulf de Gernon.

      Ranulf le Meschin's father and mother represented two different families of viscounts in Normandy, and both of them were strongly tied to Henry, son of William the Conqueror. His father was Ranulf de Briquessart, and likely for this reason the former Ranulf was styled le Meschin, "the younger." Ranulf's father was viscount of the Bessin, the area around Bayeux. Besides Odo, bishop of Bayeux, Ranulf the elder was the most powerful nobleman in the Bessin region of Normandy.

      Ranulf le Meschin's mother, Margaret, was the daughter of Richard Goz. Richard's father Thurstan Goz had become viscount of the Hiémois between 1017 and 1025, while Richard himself became viscount of the Avranchin in either 1055 or 1056. Her brother (Richard Goz's son) was Hugh d'Avranches "Lupus" ("the Wolf"), Viscount of the Avranchin and Earl of Chester (from c. 1070). In addition to being heir to the Bessin, Ranulf was the nephew of one of Norman England's most powerful and prestigious families.

      Between 1098 and 1101 (probably in 1098) Ranulf became a major English landowner in his own right when he became the third husband of Lucy, heiress of the lands of Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire. Marriage to a great heiress came only with royal patronage, which in turn meant that Ranulf had to be respected and trusted by the king. Ranulf was probably, like his father, among the earliest and most loyal of Henry's followers.

      Ranulf was however not recorded often at the court of Henry I, and did not form part of the king's closest group of administrative advisers. He witnessed charters only occasionally, though this became more frequent after he became earl. Ranulf was, however, one of the king's military companions. When, soon after Whitsun 1101 Henry heard news of a planned invasion of England by his brother Robert Curthose, he sought promises from his subjects to defend the kingdom. A letter to the men of Lincolnshire names Ranulf as one of four figures entrusted with collecting these oaths. Ranulf served under Henry as an officer of the royal household when the latter was on campaign; Ranulf was in fact one of his three commanders at the Battle of Tinchebrai.

      1120 was a fateful year for both Henry I and Ranulf. Richard, earl of Chester, like Henry's son and heir William Adeling, died in the White Ship Disaster near Barfleur on 25 November. Only four days before the disaster, Ranulf and his cousin Richard had witnessed a charter together at Cerisy. Henry probably could not wait long to replace Richard, as the Welsh were resurgent, raiding Cheshire, looting, killing, and burning two castles. Perhaps because of his recognized military ability and social strength, because he was loyal and because he was the closest male relation to Earl Richard, Henry recognized Ranulf as Richard's successor to the county of Chester.

      In 1123, Henry sent Ranulf to Normandy with a large number of knights and with his bastard son, Robert, Earl of Gloucester, to strengthen the garrisons there. He also assisted in the capture of Waleran, Count of Meulan.

      Although Ranulf bore the title "earl of Chester", the honor (i.e., group of estates) which formed the holdings of the Earl of Chester were scattered throughout England with only only a quarter of the value of the estates actually lay in Cheshire, which was one of England's poorest and least developed counties. Estates elsewhere were probably given to the earls in compensation for Cheshire's poverty, with the possibility of conquest and booty in Wales to supplement the lordship's wealth.

      Ranulf died in January 1129, and was buried in Chester Abbey. He was survived by his wife and countess, Lucy, and succeeded by his son Ranulf de Gernon. A daughter, Alicia, married Richard de Clare, a lord in the Anglo-Welsh marches. One of his offspring, his fifth son, participated in the Siege of Lisbon, and for this aid was granted the Lordship of Azambuja by King Afonso I of Portugal.

      Ranulf distributed land to the church, founding a Benedictine monastic house at Wetheral. This he established as a daughter-house of St Mary's Abbey, York.

    Person ID I36243  Master File
    Last Modified 5 Oct 2016 

    Family Lucy of Bolingbroke,   b. Lincolnshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. ca 1138, Spalding, Lincolnshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Alice de Gernon
    Last Modified 5 Oct 2016 
    Family ID F14956  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart