Possible Ancestry of Ralph de Limesi
(born about 1040-1056 AD)
by R. Clayton Brough
8 July 2006
During the past thirty years, occasional questions have been raised about the medieval ancestry of Ralph de Limesi (born about 1040/1056 AD), who appears as an ancestor of the Broughs of Staffordshire, England in various Richard Brough Family Organization (RBFO) books (see RBFO books: 1981, p.4; 1982, p.2; 1988, p.7; 2000, p.7; 2004, p.23). Some of the research, findings and diversity of opinions surrounding this subject are summarized below:
In the late 1970's and early 1980's, David Bethell, a genealogist and historian (living in Staffordshire, England, and author of the book English Ancestry, 1981), documented that the "Brough" surname of "de Burgo" was adopted by Philip (fitz Bishop) and his brother Hamon in the late 1100's. Philip and Hamon de Burgo were descendants of Ralph de Limesi. In 1982, Bethell submitted an extensive research report to the RBFO entitled The Possible Parentage of Ralph de Limesi, which stated that "In 1631," historian "John Weever" stated in his Ancient Funerall Monuments that "the monks" of Hertford Priory "report[ed]" that Ralph de Limesi "came into England with [William] the Conquerour, and was his [William's] sister['s] sonne [son]." (Bethell, 1982, p.8). Bethell then concluded that since "the only known sister (as opposed to half-sister) of William [the Conqueror] is Adelaide or Adeliza…[and] if we assume that the monks of St. Albans were correct in claiming that Ralph de Limesi was son of William the Conqueror's sister, and that…Adeliza's first two marriages [to Enguerrand II, Count of Ponthieu; and Lambert, Count of Lens] left no male heirs, it seems likely that Ralph de Limesi would have been a younger son of [Adelaide and her third husband] Odo, Count of Champagne [also known as Eudes, Count of Aumale] (Bethell, pp.11-12).
However, in 1990, Robert Gunderson, a genealogist with the Medieval Department of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, informed the RBFO that he did "not feel that the mother of Ralph de Limesi [was] Adela, the sister of William the Conqueror, but that it might be Matilda, the half-sister through his mother." He then enclosed a reference he had used in his research, Europaischen Kayser-und Koniglichen Houser Historische und Genealogische Erlauterung (a book published in 1730 in Germany) as "the only source that shows Mathilde married to Lambert de Leusii" and stated that he felt "the book may have been misprinted and the spelling of Lamberts surname might be Lemsi." He concluded his findings with the statement: "There is no proof either way [that Ralph de Limesi was either the son of Adela or Matilda]." [The above mentioned book, Der Europaischen Kayser-und Koniglichen Hauser Historische und Genealogische Erlauterung, by Georg Lohmeier and Johann Ludwig Levin Gebhardi, published in Germany in 1730, can be found on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, as: FHL International High-Density Film # 1051694, Items 4-6, pp.100-101.]
In 1993 and 1994, the RBFO asked Peter Jackson, another genealogist (living in Oxford, England), to conduct additional research into the possible parentage of Ralph de Limesi. On May 26, 1994, Jackson sent a research report to the RBFO which contained the following summary statements: "The first thing I ought to say is that I am now quite definite that Ralph was not William's [the Conqueror] nephew. ...All one can say at this point is that the de Limesies were a family of considerable importance (though not of first importance) in the vicinity of Rouen.... ...To construct a tentative family tree, I would need to examine a good many more of the Norman family charters. ...I would be happy to carry out further research along the lines I have mentioned...on the understanding that this research may yield no more than a list of the members of the de Limesy family in pre-conquest Normandy, with no indications of relationships." Three years later, in May 1997, Jackson, published a short article entitled "Ralph de Limesy: Conqueror's Nephew? The Origins of a Discounted Claim" in Prosopon: Newsletter of the Unit for Prosopographical Research (Number 6, May 1997). In his article, Jackson made the following statements: "The name of Ralph de Limesy is well enough known to medieval prosopographers, both as a substantial tenant-in-chief in several counties in post-Conquest England and as the founder (ca 1095) of a Benedictine house at Hertford as a cell of St Alban's. From the seventeenth century, attempts have been made to put some flesh on the bones of this powerful but obscure figure by asserting that he had a very specific claim to royal patronage: that he was, in fact, the 'sister's son' of William the Conqueror. The purpose of the present note is not to test this claim (which has long been discounted) but to trace its origin a little further back--and to demonstrate its surprising resilience. [After discussing and documenting how the claim originated and expanded, Peter Jackson then concludes with the following statement:] ...The claim...would seem to originate, as perhaps one might have expected, in a late medieval attempt by the Benedictines at Hertford to exaggerate the connections of their founder. Some colour may have been lent to it by the supposed marriage of one of William's sisters, Adelaide, to Lambert of Lens. That there were connections of patronage, and perhaps of kinship, between the Limesys and the dukes of Normandy is not in question. Indeed, the granting of so many estates to Ralph by the Conqueror virtually proves as much, and bearers of this name witnessed Norman ducal charters before the Conquest; but there is no contemporary evidence whatever for a marriage between a sister of William and a member of the Limesy family. Nevertheless, the story has died hard: the editor's notes to the Phillimore edition of Norfolk Domesday (1984) report that Ralph was 'the sister's-son to King William.' It is a salutary reminder that a claim made orally in a medieval monastery and committed to writing by an early modern antiquary can still circulate in print even in our own day." [A copy of the above mentioned Norfolk Domesday book, originally published in 1858, was microfilmed in 1984 and can be found at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, as FHL British Isles Film # 994042, Item 5, pp.41-42.] Peter Jackson's entire article can be found on the following website: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~prosop/prosopon/issue6-1.pdf .
In 1999, the following information on Ralph de Limesi was published in the book Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents, 1066-1166, Volume 1, by K.S.B. Keats-Rohan (Boydell Press, 1999, page 334): "Radulf De Limeseoi: Norman from Limesy, Seine-Maritime [Normandy, France, see map on page 74], arr. Rouen, cant. Pavilly (Loyd, 54). Domesday tenant-in-chief, lord of Cavendish, Suffolk. Founder c. 1093, with his wife A. of Herford priory, a cell of St. Albans. Appears to have died soon after 1093 leaving a son Ralph II, d.c. 1129. He was probably the father of Matilda, wife of Nicholas of Stafford [see page 300] (q.v). A Hugh de Limesi occurs in a charter of c. 1070 for Sainte-Trinite de Rouen (Guerard, Cart., p.439). Sanders, 29."
In March 2002, the Newsletter of the Australian Lindsay Society published an article on the findings of Mrs. Beryl Platts, who had previously conducted historical research for the Clan Lindsay Society of Scotland. Part of this article stated the following about the ancestry of Ralph de Limesi: "The great Charlemagne provided the northern part of Europe with its nobility. Charlemagne's children married his civil and military administrators. Those families retained some of that responsibility and power into future generations, giving a structure to the society of those distant times. The Carolingian families were found in the comtes north of the Ile de France, east of Normandy, and west of Germany. The Carolingians were also found in Flanders…. The descendants of the Counts of Flanders followed two lines. The primary line, the descendants of the Counts of Flanders, arrived in England in the person of Matilda of Flanders (granddaughter of Count Baldwin IV of Flanders and Ogive of Luxembourg), wife to William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. The secondary line, the descendants of the Lords of Alost, arrived in England when the sons of Ralph, Lord of Alost and Gisela of Luxembourg (Ogive's sister) accompanied William, Duke of Normandy…. Ralf de Limesi was born in Alost about 1040 AD. He had a small Norman manor in Limesi, on the north side of the Seine valley. He was the Chamberlain, to the Flemish Court. Ralph de Limesi left a son, Alan, in Warwickshire and heirs of unknown name in Limesi. Ralph de Limesi (or Ralph de Ghent or Ralph de Lindsay) came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066 AD. He received Domesday estates in Somerset, Devonshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire (his most important holdings), Nottinghamshire, Essex, Norfolk and Bedingfield, Suffolk as tenant in chief. Ralph's coat of arms was gules, an eagle displayed or. Ralph de Limesi and his wife, Hawisa, founded Hertford Priory and they were generous benefactors to the Priory thereafter. Ralph died in mid-1090's in the monastery of St. Albans…. Knights such as Ralph de Limesi had probably received their lands from the Montforts at the time of Gilbert and Alice's marriage as part of the general reconciliation. Hainaut had ruled Alost itself before the Flemish seizure of Valenciennes." This article can be found at: http://www.clanlindsay.com/flemish_descent_of_the_lindsays.htm.
On March 15, 2006, Catharine Ann Brough Hind (of Yorkshire, England), arguably the most knowledgeable Brough historian in the world, emailed the following comments to the RBFO: "It is probable that the de Limesi's were close kin of [William] the Conqueror. The monks of Hertford Priory reportedly said so, and why would they if it were not so? …Apart from the testimony of the monks…what cannot speak cannot lie. Whilst William rewarded his most noble followers with land and prestige on an enormous scale, those of untitled rank expected smaller portions of his new kingdom. Not so [with] the Limesi's: manors allotted to Ralph and Robert [de Limesi] were numerous and in many counties. This was not only generosity, they were in those places to represent, defend and support all that he wanted and all that he stood for. If they were not deeply committed to him by kinship and political belief they would be in some quiet corner and happy to be so…for they had to be capable of commanding loyalty from soldiery and to build trust amongst the unhappy Saxon and Angles and Brits already here, for they would still work their land but not to their own advantage."
On July 7, 2006, the RBFO Research Committee in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, decided to "support and conduct further research into the possible parentage and ancestry of Ralph de Limesi", which is currently in progress.
Robert de Limesi, Bishop of Chester,
Lichfield and Coventry, 1086-1154
by Catharine Ann Brough Hind, March 2004
Kinsman of The Conqueror or not, Robert de Limesi, came with William in 1066 as a young man already in his retinue and employ. In his capacity as a clerk, whether layman or priest is not clear, he was with the now King William at his great Winter Court at Gloucester in South West England and near the Welsh border in 1085 when one of the subjects under Deep Discussion was the organisation for the 1086 Survey of the Realm, the Domesday Book.
The known and pertinent records of the period leading up to the Survey; and the Anglo Saxon Chronicle--another great record of that time and of the several hundred years before 1066--were all used as background and revelation of the reasons and reasoning behind the ways and means of the Domesday by Historians in 1986, its nine-hundredth anniversary. These "Domesday Studies," edited by J.C.Holt, bring together the results of their labours, amongst them a small but pleasing cameo on Robert de Limesi.
Early in his assemblage of the submissions by those involved, on pages 6 & 7, I quote from a chapter called "The Beyond of Domesday Book," by H.R. Loyn, in which he says, " analysis of Domesday ascribes the territorial side to Anglo Saxon roots, the feudal to the Norman;administrative procedures to English precedent and use, personal energy and initiative that gave the survey its characteristic nature and feudal direction to Norman vigour. Certainly the Norman Bishops were invigorated enough and one of the delights of the (1986) anniversary celebrations of Domesday Book has been the way in which scholars have been forced to move to a reappraisal of episcopal activities as they examined the pricipal key texts...." the fine purple passage from the Chronicle (Anglo-Saxon) describing the scene at Gloucester where the book was planned....a Christmas feast; a solemn court that lasted five days and an ecclesiastical Synod that went on a further three and the final Deep Speech itself.
The Archbishop (Canterbury) Lanfranc himself presided over the synod and at it there were elected three bishops, all described as King`s clerks--Maurice Bishop of London, William of Thetford and Robert of Chester. "King William had about him men qualified to give the best,up-to-date advice on aims and strategy, discreet men of business, of great energy and success. As a point of antiquarian interest nearly all of them enjoyed over twenty years in office and nearly all were remembered as organisers,administrators and builders."
By the following year,1066, the Staffordshire Survey recorded that Bp Robert of Chester already had in that county forty-one manor's, including Brewood, Eccleshall, Ellastone, Lichfield, Coley nr Calwich.
From the great Magnum Registrum of Lichfield Cathedral the entry most pertinent to our interest in Robert is perhaps...item 18. Noted at Westminster 1155. King Henry confirms to Walter Durdant the Bishopric of Coventry. Witness Robert de Limesy, Bishop of Chester. From this we know that Robert has retired from Coventry before surrendering Chester. With no mention of Lichfield from which he has presumably also retired.
From another survey of "Staffordshire" by Arthur Mee (1929) I take the following which has detail in which Robert must surely have had involvement since they were in his holdings when Norman building took place ECCLESHALL for centuries the home of the Bishops of Lichfield in its fortress palace, built on the site of the Saxon manorhouse by Bishop Walter Langton.(14thc). The base of the church is Saxon the tower above it being Norman.(later church building is 13thc.) ELLASTONE Calwich Priory,of Norman foundation was an Augustinian monastery; its fishponds still traceable. BREWOOD was from Saxon times a Royal Forest. At Brewood, of Norman foundation was Blackladies, a convent of nuns.
1917 Publication on the
Limesi Families of Great Britain
In 1917 a book entitled "The Lindeseie and Limesi Families of Great Britain, Including the Probates at Sumerset House, London, England, of all Spellings of the Name Lindeseie from 1300-1800, Volume 1", was "privately printed" in "Boston, Massachusetts" by "John William Linzee, A.B., S.B." This publication is available online (https://archive.org/stream/linzeefamilyofgr01linz#page/n13/mode/2up) and presents the following descendants of the Limesi family:
HUGO DE LIMESI, born about 1010-1015, of Normandy, France
"Hugo de Toesni, surnamed de Limesi, from his Norman Seigneurie, son of Ralph de Toesni who flourished about 1011; b. about 1010-15 in Normandy; he is probably the Hugo de Limeisi who witnessed charters of the Monastery of Saint Trinity de Monte Rothomagi, Rouen, France, about the year 1060. He probably held a manor of the name of Limesi, adjacent to the holdings of the family of Toesni or Toni, from the Viscounts D'Arques in the Pays de Caux, in Normandy. His name is not with that of his son Ralph among the Norman knights who conquered England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and no proof exists showing that he was ever in England; but if he was alive in 1066, then there can be little doubt that some time before his death he followed his King to England. He must have died before the compilation of Domesday Book, as his name does not appear there either as a Limesi, Toesni or Todeni. Hugh de Limesi, it is claimed, m[arried] a sister of King William the Conqueror." (See page 186).
"[The birth of] Hugo de Limesi (1) could be about 1010-1015…. It is important to notice that the year 1010 is as far back as the birth of Hugo de Limesi can be safely adjusted." (See pages 101,198-199.)
Note: The supposed ancestry of Hugh de Limesi-back to Odin (born about 76 B.C.), King of Asgardia and the first kind of Scandinavia--is shown in pedigrees on pages 178-185.
RADULFUS or RALPH DE LIMESI, born about 1040, of Normandy, France:
"Radulfus or Ralph de Limesi, son of Hugo de Limesi (1); b. about 1040 in Normandy; he was also called Radulfus de Limesi in 1086. He came with the Conqueror into England and fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. …Whether he m[arried] 1st or 2d, Maria daughter of William Fitz Osborn, Earl of Hereford, and sister of Roger, Earl of Hereford, or C[h]ristina, sister of Prince Edgar Athleing, cannot be exactly determined. The probabilities are that he married both, Maria being his first wife." (See page 191.)
"The Princess Christina was born in Hungary, and after the battle of Hastings went with her family into Scotland in 1068-69, when her sister Margaret married [King] Malcolm [of Scotland], she was then in all probability not a nun, and certainly not the wife of Ralph de Limesi. But Christina was back again in England and held land in the Domesday Survey in 1086, from which it can be argued that she was not a nun at that time, so that she could be the second wife of Ralph de Limesi who exercised control over her real estate by making gifts of a portion of it to the Priory of Hertford between 1087-1093. Ralph de Limesi had for arms: Gules, three eagles displayed, or; which was very unusual for so early a period, except for members of royalty. The charters by Ralph de Limesi and his descendants to the Priory of Hertford indicate the authentic genealogy of his family in England, and are interesting relics of the customs of their times." (See page 192.)
"His [Hugo de Limesi] son Ralph [de Limesi] was certainly of full age when he fought at Hastings, and also of sufficient age to be one of the leading knights under King William, the twenty six years of age assigned to Ralph in 1066 seem proper to account for the circumstances surrounding him at that time; no record exists of his marriage in Normandy, or that he had any issue in that country." His descendants can now be linked up with the following dates: his son and heir Ralph [de Limesi 2] who married Hawisia could be born about 1067, his grandson Alan born about 1095, and his great-grandson Gerard born 1120-1125, which last date is about right when compared with the age of said Gerard's wife Amicia, who was born 1125. The interval of twenty-eight years, or even as much as thirty, would be none too large for a line of exclusive male succession, when the possibility of the existence of elder deceased sons, or the births of daughters, is taken under consideration." (See pages 198-199.)
"Hawisia [was the] wife of a second Ralph de Limesi, the father of Alan and Raer…." (See page 200).
ROBERT DE LIMESI, born about 1042, of Normandy, France:
"Robert de Limesi, Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry from 1085-1117; he appears to be another son of Hugo de Limesi, as his birth if it occurred about 1070, which would be necessary to make him the son of Ralph de Limesi, ought to exclude him from the bishopric at the age of about fifteen. The Bishop of Litchfield Diocese, Robert de Limsey, removed the see to Coventry in 1095, and was King's chaplain, he died 30 Aug. 1117, and was buried at Coventry, the see was vacant above three years." (See page 190.)
RADULFUS or RALPH DE LIMESI, born about 1067
"Radulfus or Ralph de Limesi, son of Radulfus de Limesi…; b. about 1067; probably the Radulfo de Limesi a witness to a charter by Henry I., who reigned from 1100-1135…. Radulfus de Limesi m[arried] Halewise or Hawisia whose dowry were the lands of Nigel de Bradwell; she d. after he son Raerus had attained his majority, as he witnessed his mother's grant. Radulfus was probably alive in 1120, as his son Alanus is not mentioned until after 1131." (See page 206.)