Miles FitzWalter, Earl of Hereford & Gloucester, Sheriff of Gloucester, Constable of England
Each daughter had a 1/3 interest in the Barony of Goucester.
The Tale of the Sheriffs of Gloucester
When William the Conqueror had set himself upon the throne of England and had made his rule secure, he turned his attention to the lands of Wales. Three earldoms along the border were granted to trusted men: Chester in the north to Hugh d'Avranches, Shrewsbury in the middle to Roger of Montgomery, and Hereford in the south to William FitzOsbern. These marcher earls built many castles to defend England and from these strong points began the conquest of Wales.
Roger de Pitres and his brother Durand were among the administrators of Earl William FitzOsbern of Hereford. They came from an estate in Normandy which Earl William had acquired from marriage into the Tosney family. Like many young men of the time, the brothers left their home to seek adventure.
When Earl William FitzOsbern died, his second son Roger de Breteuil was made Earl of Hereford, but he was not given the sweeping powers of his father. In particular, local administrators like Roger de Pitres and Durand were now answerable only to the King. Earl Roger rebelled in 1075, was defeated and imprisoned for life, and his lands were declared forfeit to the crown. Thus the former vassals to the Earl of Hereford were now tennents of the King. This raised the prestige and power of men like Roger de Pitres and Durand even more. Sometime in the 1080's Durand was made Sheriff of Gloucester.
Durand's son Walter of Gloucester was another capable and loyal official of the crown, and was made Sheriff of Gloucester at the death of his father. By his day the Normans had taken land all along the south coast of Wales, and built castles for their defense.
In particular, William FitzBaldwin, Sheriff of Devon, held the castle of Rhyd y Gors near Carmarthan, Merlin's town, before his death in battle in 1096 when the Normans were defeated and driven out by the Welsh. In 1105 William's brother Richard FitzBaldwin re-established the castle. At Richard's death in 1109, King Henry sent Walter of Gloucester, then perhaps his most experienced administrator, to command the castle. The defense of this territory now depended upon the castle built on a bluff above the river at Carmarthan. That was to remain a royal castle and the center of royal influence in south Wales.
For this and other service, Walter of Gloucester had reaped a succession of comparatively minor rewards in lands and offices. But his family was greatly enriched in 1121 when King Henry gave Sybil, the heiress of Bernard of Neufmarche in marriage to Walter's son Miles, with right to all her father's possessions, including the lordship of Brecknock when Bernard died in 1125. Miles was made Sheriff of Gloucester after the death of Walter in 1126 and Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1130.
By this arrangement, Miles has consolidated a substantial block of territory: an English honour with its caput at Caldicot in Gwent, some of the richest manors in Gloucestershire, and the Lordship of Brecknock.
Miles of Gloucester is on excellent terms with the great lords of his area. His closest friend is Payn FitzJohn de Lacy, Lord of Ewias and Sheriff of Hereford. As Payn has no sons, there is talk of marriage between one of his daughters and Miles' eldest son Roger. Brian FitzCount, an illegitimate son of the Duke of Brittany, is Lord of Abergavenny, and has often allowed Miles to administer his lands while he is away at his other holdings. Robert the Earl of Gloucester, illegitimate son of King Henry is also on friendly terms with Miles. All these men are fiercely loyal to King Henry.
The Tale of Brecknock Mere
I cannot miss the opportunity of telling you about an event which happened at Brecknock Mere a few years ago. As it happened, the Welshman Gruffydd, son of Rhys ap Tewdwr, was lord of a commote, that is the quarter of a cantref, in Cantref Bychan, called Caeo, which he held in tenure from King Henry. It was considered equal in importance and repute to South Wales, which the Welsh call Deheubarth, that is Right-Hand Wales.
One day Gruffydd, who was returning home from the King's court, passed by this lake which, it being the cold winter season, was covered with waterfowl of one sort and another. He was accompanied by Miles, Sheriff of Gloucester and Lord of Brecknock, and by Payn FitzJohn, who holds Ewias, both of them secretaries and Privy Councillors of the King, and men of great importance.
Lord Miles was chaffing Gruffydd about his claim to noble blood. His remarks were not meant to be taken seriously, for he was trying to be funny. "There is an old saying in Wales," he went on, "that if the rightful ruler of the land comes to this lake and orders the birds there to sing, they all burst into song."
Gruffydd had more wit than wealth, for, although he had not inherited much property, he was ambitious enough and second to none in self-esteem. "Well, he answered, "you now rule the country, so you had better be the first to speak to them." The waterfowl took no notice at all of Miles. Then Payn spoke to them, but again they took no notice.
Gruffydd saw that his two companions would insist that he should address the birds in his turn. He got off his horse, knelt down facing the east, and then, as if he were about to fight a battle, he fell forward face to the ground and lay there flat. Then he raised his eyes and hands to heaven and prayed devoutly to God. When his prayer was finished, he stood up, marked his face and forehead with the sign of the Cross, and said in a loud clear voice: "Almighty and omnipotent God, Jesus Christ our Lord, show Your miraculous power to us here today. If You have ordained that I should descend in direct line from the five princes of Wales, make these birds declare it in Your name." Immediately all the birds, each according to his kind, beat the water with their wings and began to sing with one accord and to proclaim him master.
All present were dumbfounded and astonished. Miles and Payn hurried back to the King's court. They were greatly impressed by what had happened and gave the King a detailed account of it. He listened to what they had to say and then replied: "By the death of Christ," for that was his favourite oath, "I am not the slightest bit surprised. It is we who hold the power, and so we are free to commit acts of violence and injustice against these people, and yet we know full well that it is they who are the rightful heirs to the land."
The local inhabitants will assure you that the lake has many miraculous properties. It sometimes turns bright green, and it has been known to become scarlet, not all over, but as if blood were flowing along certain currents and eddies. What is more, those who live there sometimes observe it to be totally covered with buildings or rich pasture-lands, or adorned with gardens and orchards. In the winter months, when it is covered with ice, and when the surface is frozen over with a smooth and slippery coat, it emits a horrible groaning sound, like the lowing of a vast herd of cattle all driven together in one place. It is possible, of course, that this is caused by the cracking of the ice and the sudden violent eruption of enclosed pockets of air through vents imperceptible to the eye.
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