Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Ralph I de Gael

Male Bef 1040 - Aft 1096  (> 58 years)

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  • Name Ralph I de Gael  [1
    Born Bef 1040  [1
    Gender Male 
    Died Aft 1096  Palestine Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Alternate death Bef Jul 1099  Palestine Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID I822  Ancestry of PNH, TNH, and others | Ancestor of AP, Ancestor of DDB, Ancestor of JTS, Ancestor of LDN, Ancestor of TNH, Ancestor of TSW, Ancestor of TWK
    Last Modified 6 Jan 2018 

    Father Ralph "The Staller",   b. Bef 1011, of Brittany, France Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Between 1068 and 1070  (Age > 57 years) 
    Family ID F6423  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Emma de Breteuil,   d. Aft 1096, Palestine Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married 1075  Exning, Cambridgeshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    +1. Ralph II de Gael,   b. of Montfort de Gael, Brittany, France Find all individuals with events at this location
    Last Modified 26 Dec 2015 
    Family ID F3774  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • Earl of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridge. Seigneur of Montford de Gael in Brittany.

      "There have been various theories regarding the parentage of Ralph de Gael. Taylor surmised that his father 'Ralf vetus comes' might be the same person a 'Ralf Stalra,' and supposed that he was an Englishman who no doubt married a Breton heiress (Master Wace, pp. 225-6) Andresen merely refers to Taylor (Roman de Rou, vol. ii. p. 705). Freeman accepted Taylor's view, and the identity of Ralph the old Earl, with Ralph the Staller as definitely established (Norman Conquest, vol. iii, pp. 751-4). Planché denied the identity of Ralph the old Earl with Ralph the Staller and argued that Ralph de Gael was the son of Ralph, Earl of Hereford, son of Dreu, Count of the French Vexin, by Godgifu, sister of the whole blood of the Confessor, and subsequently wife of Eustace, Count of Bologne (Conqueror and his Companions, vol. ii, pp. 5-13). Planché's theory was accepted with cauthion by Watson (Complete Peerage, 1st ed., vol vi, pp. 36-7). Round followed Taylor and Freeman, with some reluctance, owing to the difficulty of an Englishman born before the Conquest being named Ralph (V.C.H. Norfolk, vol. ii, p. 11)." [Complete Peerage IX: 571, note (h).]

      From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

      Ralph [called Ralph de Gael, Ralph Guader], earl (d. 1097x9), magnate, was the elder son of Ralph the Staller, earl of East Anglia (d. 1068x70), and his unnamed Breton wife. He seems to have been in Brittany in the reign of Edward the Confessor and to have come to England only after the conquest; Wace, indeed, represents him as leading a contingent of Bretons at the battle of Hastings. By 1069 he had succeeded his father as earl in East Anglia; he defended Norwich in that year against the Danish fleet sent to aid the English rebellion in the north. His English holdings were very extensive, for he received the lands of the English magnate Eadgifu the Fair as well as those of his father. His honour extended into Essex and Cambridgeshire as well as Lincolnshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk. Only in Cambridgeshire is he called Ralph Waders, Guader, or de Wather--that is, Ralph de Gael (Domesday Book, 1.196v; Chronicon abbatiae Rameseiensis, 174 - 5). Many Bretons accompanied him to take up land in England and it was probably he, rather than his father, who established the 'French borough' at Norwich (Domesday Book, 2.118).

      In 1075 Ralph married Emma, daughter of William fitz Osbern, and it was at their marriage-feast at Exning, Suffolk--the 'bride-ale that was many men's bale' (ASC, s.a. 1075, text D)--that Ralph and his brother-in-law, Roger de Breteuil, earl of Hereford, planned a rebellion against King William. Earl Waltheof was also involved, and the plotters sought help from both Brittany and Denmark. Their motives are obscure, but it is probable that their powers were more circumscribed than those of their fathers had been: Ralph's authority seems to have been confined to East Anglia (and perhaps to Norfolk), whereas the earldom of East Anglia had once embraced the whole of the east midlands; Roger likewise held only the earldom of Hereford, whereas his father had authority over the whole of western Wessex; and Waltheof's power was confined to the lands north of the Tees, whereas his father, Earl Siward, had held all Northumbria.

      It is clear that the earls had little support in England. The D version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that 'they plotted to drive their royal lord out of his kingdom' (ASC, s.a. 1075), highly pejorative language smacking of treason. Archbishop Lanfranc, too, did not hesitate to brand Ralph 'traitor' and describe his army of 'Breton dung' as 'oathbreakers', though he took a milder line with Earl Roger and (according to John of Worcester) with Waltheof. Waltheof, in fact, took no part in the revolt, but revealed all to the king and threw himself on William's mercy; and the Danes proved a broken reed, for their fleet (commanded by Cnut the Holy) arrived only when everything was over. Roger and Ralph attempted to raise their earldoms, but Roger was prevented from crossing the Severn by a force commanded by Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, and other western magnates. In East Anglia both the castle garrisons and the local levies opposed Ralph and he was brought to bay at his manor of Fawdon by Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances, and other loyal magnates. His army was scattered and Ralph fled to Norwich, whence he escaped by ship. Emma held the castle against the king's men and eventually arranged safe conduct for herself and her men, joining her husband in Brittany. The prisoners taken after Fawdon were not so fortunate; at the Christmas court of 1075 those who were not exiled were blinded and mutilated. Roger de Breteuil was imprisoned for life and Waltheof was beheaded for treason in the following year.

      Ralph was deprived of his office and of all his English lands, as was his brother Hardouin and his vassal Walter of Dol. His Breton lands of Montfort and Gael were beyond King William's reach and in 1076 Ralph joined a Breton revolt aimed against both Duke Hoel and William himself. He seized the castle of Dol and held it against William, who was forced to break off the siege by the approach of a relieving force commanded by King Philippe I of France and Foulques le Réchin, count of Anjou (d. 1109); it was the first serious reverse which William had suffered for many years. Ralph continued to prosper in Brittany. In 1095 the first crusade was preached and Ralph and Emma were among those who answered the call, in the following of Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy. Ralph fought at the siege of Nicaea and the battle of Dorylaeum in the summer of 1097, but died before the fall of Jerusalem in July 1099. Emma, too, died on crusade, as did one of their sons, Alan. Ralph's lands passed to his remaining sons, first to William de Gael (d. 1119) and then to Ralph. In 1103 William de Breteuil, the elder brother of Roger and Emma, died and William de Gael claimed the honour of Breteuil in right of his mother; but both he, and later his brother Ralph, had to fight both the illegitimate son of William de Breteuil and the barons of the honour. Eventually Breteuil passed to Robert, earl of Leicester (d. 1168), to whom Henry I gave, probably in 1121, the younger Ralph's daughter Amice in marriage.

  • Sources 
    1. [S128] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant. Full citation details here.

    2. [S76] The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004-ongoing.