Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Ralph I de Gael

Male Bef 1040 - Aft 1096  (> 58 years)

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Generation: 1

  1. 1.  Ralph I de Gael was born before 1040 (son of Ralph "The Staller"); died after 1096 in Palestine.

    Other Events:

    • Alternate death: Bef Jul 1099, Palestine


    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.

    Ralph married Emma de Breteuil in 1075 in Exning, Cambridgeshire, England. Emma (daughter of William fitz Osbern and Adeliza de Tosny) died after 1096 in Palestine. [Group Sheet] [Family Chart]

    1. Ralph II de Gael was born in in of Montfort de Gael, Brittany, France.

Generation: 2

  1. 2.  Ralph "The Staller" was born before 1011 in of Brittany, France; died between 1068 and 1070.

    Other Events:

    • Alternate death: Bef Apr 1070


    Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk.

    "Ralph (the Staller), although said to have been an Englishman born in Norfolk, was more probably a Breton, or possibly of mixed English and Breton parentage. The date of his birth is uncertain, but he was probably b. before 1011. He is almost certainly identical with a Ralph the Englishman who (otherwise unknown) attested charters of Alan, Duke of Brittany, circa 1031 and in 1032. His first appearance in England seems to be in 1060, when he attests a charter of the Confessor as 'dapifer.' In 1061 he attests as 'minister,' and in 1062 as 'regis aulicus.' He also attests a charter of Abbot Aelfwig (1060-6) as 'steallere.' That Ralph was one of the royal Stallers is proved by the numerous passages in Domesday Book in which he is styled 'stalra' or 'stake.' The great survey proves that he held extensive estates in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Lincoln, and one estate in Cornwall, whether wholly by grant from the Crown, or partly by inheritance or by marriage to an English heiress, is uncertain. It is probable that he was also in possession, either by inheritance or marriage, of the barony of Gael in Brittany, from which his son took his name. It is possible, but unlikely, that he received his Earldom from the Confessor, in whose reign he made gifts from his lands in Norfolk to the Abbey of St. Riquier in Ponthieu. Ralph survived the Conquest, was taken into favour by the new King, and seems to have been appointed a joint commissioner with William, Bishop of London, and Ingelric (the Priest) apparently for a redemption of certain lands by Englishmen. He was cr. EARL OF NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK (or the East Angles), and was almost certainly the Earl Ralph to whom (jointly with Bishop Aethelmer of Elmham and the thegns of Norfolk and Suffolk) the Conqueror addressed a precept in the English language directing that Abbot Baldwin (of St. Edmundsbury) should deliver to the King the lands of his tenants slain fighting against the King. Probably he is also the Earl Ralph addressed, with the same bishop, in two royal notifications in the same language. He made grants with his wife to St. Benet of Hulme, at least one of these being after the Conquest. In Feb. or Mar. 1068 Ralph and his son were present at the Conqueror's court in England, and are referred to by the King as his friends in the charter confirming the Earl's gifts to St. Riquier. The name and parentage of his wife are unknown, but she was probably an Englishwoman and sister of a certain Godwin, who held land in Norfolk and was still in possession in 1069. Besides his son and successor Ralph, he seems to have had a son Hardwin, as a Hardwin brother of Earl Ralph is mentioned in Domesday Book under Suffolk. There is reason to believe that Ralph had either a sister or a daughter married to an Englishman, as an Alsi nepos of Earl Ralph is mentioned in Domesday Book under Suffolk. Ralph was still living in Feb. 1068, but probably died not later than 1069, and definitely before Apr. 1070." [Complete Peerage]

    1. 1. Ralph I de Gael was born before 1040; died after 1096 in Palestine.