Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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ROBERT ‘ OF GLOUCESTER ’ ( fl. 1099-1147 ) .

Natural son of king Henry I of England ; b. before his father's accession to the throne. The legend (found in the ‘ Gwentian Brut ,’ Myv. Arch. , ii, 540) that his mother was Nest , daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr , is one of Iolo Morganwg 's fabrications, though Henry did, indeed, have a son by Nest later on. Robert has a great and honourable place in English history (see D.N.B. ), but the present note will refer only to his contacts with Wales .

The first Norman lord of Glamorgan was Robert Fitzhamon (d. 1107 ) (see D.N.B. ). He left an heiress, Mabel (‘ Mabli to the Welsh — she d. 1157 ), and Henry bestowed her on his son Robert , raising him, at some time in the year 1121-3 , to the earldom of Gloucester , including the lordship of Glamorgan . He is lauded on all sides — as a brave soldier , as a wise statesman , and as a patron of letters . Geoffrey of Monmouth dedicated one version of his Historia to him. Robert Fitzhamon had already built Cardiff castle , and the town is referred to as a ‘borough’ in his time, but it was Robert of Gloucester and his son William (below) who granted Cardiff its charter in the oldest form known to us ( Mathews , Cardiff Records , i, 10-11). He favoured the monastic movement : it was under his aegis that Richard de Grenville in 1130 founded Neath abbey , and it was Robert himself, in the last year of his life, who founded Margam . He d. 31 Oct. 1147 .

All that is remembered of his son WILLIAM (d. 1183 ) is the somewhat ludicrous incident of 1158 , when he and his family were abducted from Cardiff castle by Ifor Bach of Senghennydd . Of William 's children, the son, ROBERT , predeceased him in 1166 . The eldest daughter, ISABEL (also called ‘ Hawise ’) was m. to prince (afterwards king ) John ; and although the marriage was dissolved, John clung to her lands till 1214 . They finally passed to Isabel 's sister AMICIA ; her marriage to Roger de Clare ultimately brought Gloucester and Glamorgan into the hands of the Clare family .

Sources:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ;
  • J. E. Lloyd A History of Wales: from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest (index).

Author:

Emeritus Professor Robert Thomas Jenkins, C.B.E., D.Litt., Ll.D., F.S.A., (1881-1969), Bangor

Published date: 1959