Theme: de Lacy family history


1000’s 1100’s 1200’s


The de Lacy family developed a number of branches in Herefordshire and exerted substantial influence in the County and elsewhere in the centuries following the Norman Conquest. This paper deals only with the branch who became Lords of Ewyas [later Ewyas Lacy] in the period from 1066 to 1241, after which the male line terminated.

Walter de Lacy, the first Baron de Lacy, was born c.1042 in France at Lacie, now called Lassy, where he and his brother Ilbert shared a Norman estate which they held as men of the bishop of Bayeux. The brothers both accompanied William the Conqueror in the invasion of England in 1066. In that same year Walter married Ermeline [surname and parentage not known] by whom he was to have five children, Roger, Hugh, Walter [who entered Gloucester Abbey as a child and was abbot of Gloucester from 1130 to his death in 1139], Ermeline and Emma [Emme, Emmaline].

In 1069 he was sent into Wales alongside William fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford, against the people of Brecknock [Brycheiniog] and Gwent led by their Prince of Wales, whom they defeated. Presumably, this campaign also resulted in the annexation of Welsh lands into the Lordship that was to become Ewyas Lacy, though the bulk of Walter’s lands in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire had already been taken from an Englishman, Eadwig Cild and other lesser thegns. Walter de Lacy also extended his holdings into Shropshire and Worcestershire through links with Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, and the bishops of Hereford and Worcester. Walter made his headquarters at Weobley, and was second in the region only to Earl William fitz Osbern and his son, Roger de Breteuil, although he was not subordinate to them and after the rebellion of Roger de Breteuil against the king in 1075 [which Walter de Lacy helped to ensure failed] Walter became the leading baron in the region.

Like many of the Norman barons, Walter de Lacy was a generous benefactor to the Church, donating to Gloucester Abbey and founding St Peter’s Church in Hereford. On the 2nd April 1084 [27th March 1085?] he is said to have fallen from a ladder at the Church while inspecting the nearly finished work, and died on the spot [other sources suggest this may have been at another favoured church, St Guthlac’s in Hereford, a priory that stood within the walls of the Norman castle]. His body was taken to the Chapter House of the Cathedral at Gloucester and buried there.

Walter de Lacy was succeeded in 1084 by his eldest son Roger de Lacy, who thus became the 2nd Baron de Lacy. The so-called Marcher Lords along the Welsh border had considerable power and autonomy, but Roger went too far, rebelling twice against King William II [William Rufus], first in 1088 and then again in 1094-5 with Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, after which he was dispossessed and banished from England. He died in 1106. All his lands, including some 96 lordships, were given by the king to Roger’s brother Hugh, who thereby became the 3rd Baron de Lacy, and according to some sources founded Llanthony Priory [Llanthony Prima].

Hugh de Lacy was the second son of Walter de Lacy, and was born c.1073. He married Adeline [surname and parentage not known] but died in 1121 [?1115] without issue, and his two sisters, Emma and Ermeline [Walter de Lacy’s daughters] therefore became the heiresses to Ewyas Lacy. Ermeline had no children, and so the inheritance passed to Hugh’s nephew Gilbert, the son of his sister Emma, born c.1082 in Lacy, Herefordshire. Emma had married Hugh de Talbot about 1095, but their son Gilbert chose to take the de Lacy surname and inherited the Baronetcy and properties when Hugh died in 1121. Gilbert de Lacy thus became the 4th Baron de Lacy He was born c1104 [1110?] in Ewyas Harold, Herefordshire, and died in 1163. He married Agnes [no surname or parentage known] in about 1132 and was succeeded by his son Hugh de Lacy. According to some sources it was Gilbert who recovered the family’s lands [including Ewyas Lacy] from the Crown [Henry II] after Roger de Lacy’s banishment.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes an alternative view of this period and the succession, in that this Gilbert de Lacy may have been the son of the Roger de Lacy disinherited and banished in 1096, who had succeeded his father on the family’s Norman estates of Lassy and Campeaux by 1133. He is said to have returned to England during the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud and, profiting from the anarchy prevailing in the southern Marches, recovered most of his father’s lands which had been given to Pain fitz John, Joce de Dinan and Miles of Gloucester after 1096. It is also said in this account that in 1158 or 1159 Gilbert de Lacy resigned his lands to his eldest son Robert [who was succeeded by his younger brother Hugh in 1162] and joined the Knights Templar, travelling first to France and then to Jerusalem which he reached in 1161 or 1162. He became preceptor of the Templars in ‘the county of Tripoli’, and in 1163 he is said to have been among the leaders of a Crusader army resisting Nur-ad-Din. The year of his death is not known in this account

Gilbert’s son Hugh de Lacy,  born c 1125 [1138?] in Ewias Lacy, became the 5th Baron de Lacy, Lord of Ludlow, on his father’s death in 1163. In October 1171 he accompanied King Henry II to Ireland and attained a prominent position in the king’s entourage. Before the king left Ireland in April 1172 he had granted Hugh de Lacy the kingdom of Mide [as Earl of Meath] as well as custody of the City of Dublin. De Lacy himself returned to England by the end of December 1172, but seems to have spent little time in his Herefordshire estates. In 1173 he was in Normandy fighting on behalf of Henry II against Louis VII of France and subsequently seems to have spent much of his time in Ireland. In later years his relationships with the king over the domains there were often strained as suspicions arose over his actions in treating with his Irish opponents and collecting tribute, and he was recalled by the king on several occasions. Hugh de Lacy was assassinated on 26th July 1185 [1186?] in Ireland, beheaded with an axe by the Irish, although King Henry II is reported to have welcomed his death.

Hugh de Lacy had married Rose [Rohese] de Monmouth, the daughter of Badion (Baderon) de Monmouth and Rohese de Clare, in about 1170 [1163?]. Their eldest surviving son and heir was Walter [II] de Lacy, and their other children were Hugh [died 1242], Gilbert and Robert. After the death of Rose sometime before 1180, Hugh married the daughter of the Irish King of Connacht [Connaught], apparently to the displeasure of King Henry II, and had another son, William Gorm, who was later deemed illegitimate.

Hugh de Lacy, like his earlier namesake, was a substantial benefactor of Llanthony [Prima] Abbey and is credited with endowing the monastery with lands in Ewyas including the Honddu valley, Walterstone, Llancillo and Rowlestone and beginning a lavish rebuilding project. After Hugh’s death in 1186, his son Walter II de Lacy continued the patronage, and the church at Llanthony – ‘one of the largest and finest in Wales’ – was completed between 1200 and 1230. [Click here for more on Llanthony Abbey and Priory ]

Hugh’s son Walter de Lacy was born in about 1172 in Ewias Lacy and was a minor at the time of his father’s death in 1185/6. He eventually succeeded to Hugh’s estates in England, Wales and Normandy, becoming Lord of Ludlow and Weobley in the final quarter of 1188/9 – although Ludlow Castle, which had been taken from his father by Henry II to curb the power of the de Lacys in the Marches, remained in the King’s hands. It was not until 1194 that Walter de Lacy regained full possession of the Irish estates as Lord of Meath [Mide], after considerable political and other difficulties.

It was not only in Ireland that Walter de Lacy had problems; by 1197 he was in the position of having to offer payments to King Richard to try and recover his Norman and English lands, which the King had sequestrated, probably for actions taken by de Lacy to reinforce his position in Ireland. However by 1199 Walter de Lacy seems to have been restored to favour in King John’s court, and by 1205 had not only extended his own lands in Ireland but also seen his brother Hugh de Lacy installed as Earl of Ulster.

Walter de Lacy married Margaret [?Margery] de Braose [Briouze], the daughter of William de Braose of Brecknock, Lord of Bramber, in November 1195 [?November 1200], and his son and heir Gilbert de Lacy  was born c.1205 [1196?] in Ewyas. Walter’s new father-in-law also had extensive holdings in the Welsh Marches and in Ireland, so the alliance had considerable mutual benefit as the two men looked after each others interests in both places. The downside of this was that the King’s suspicions of the powerful Marcher Lords with additional holdings in Ireland were reinforced, and the power struggles continued, especially after William de Braose rebelled against the King and fled across the Irish Sea in 1210, and Walter de Lacy’s English and Irish estates were again confiscated by King John.

By 1213 an English Baronial revolt in alliance with Welsh ruler Llewellyn ap Iorwerth had placed the security of the Marches under threat, and Walter de Lacy returned to England as King John’s ally, recovering all his lands [on payment of a substantial sum to the crown] by about 1215. The following year he was additionally made Castellan and Sheriff of Hereford, and appointed custos of the vacant see of Hereford.

In 1220 Walter de Lacy returned to Ireland after a long absence, and in the years following was heavily engaged in a series of wars that had broken out there. Matters again became complicated when, in 1233, his brother Hugh arrived in Ireland and, having failed to negotiate the recovery of the Earldom of Ulster that King John had taken from him, proceeded to ‘wage war against the King and pillage the King’s land’. Hugh was captured and detained, but by 1227 the earldom of Ulster was restored to him. He died in Ulster shortly before 26th December 1242 without male heirs, and his lands reverted to the crown.

Meanwhile, Walter de Lacy in 1225 again found himself having to raise money to pay fines to the King and became heavily reliant on loans from Jewish financiers, although this did not deter him from making substantial donations to religious houses including Llanthony Prima and Secunda, and founding the Grandmontine priory at Craswall in Herefordshire. However, his profligacy finally caught up with him, and on 19th November 1240 the Crown issued orders for the distraint of his estates for the recovery of debts. At the time of his death on the 24th February 1241 in Meath, Ireland, Walter de Lacy was blind and feeble, bankrupt, and without male heirs, a sad end for a man and a family line that had shaped and ruled Ewyas Lacy and wider estates in the Marches, Herefordshire and Ireland for nearly two centuries.

Walter de Lacy’s only son Gilbert had died in 1234 [1230?] in Trim, Meath, Ireland and was buried in Llanthony. He married Isabel Bigod, daughter of Hugh [?Ralph] Bigod, 3rd Earl of Norfolk, in about 1225 and had two daughters, Margery [born c.1228 [1230?] in Ewyas Lacy, and Maud [born c.1230 [1228?] in Dublin. Because Gilbert predeceased his father the de Lacy estates including Ewyas Lacy passed down to his daughters [Walter II de Lacy’s grand-daughters] who on Walter’s death received a moiety of Ewyas Lacy and a share of the Lordship with the taxes and revenues that attached to it. Later documents refer to the lordship as being ‘held in coparcenary’, and the split of the lordship and lands of Ewyas Lacy thus created in 1241 persisted to modern times. The Lacy sisters are also said to have had marriages personally arranged for them by King Henry III, to ensure that the estates they had inherited were retained in the hands of trusted royal servants. Margery died about 1256 and Maud died on the 11th of April 1304 in Ireland, bringing to an end this branch of the de Lacy line.

Further information on the de Lacy family can be found on the Internet at the following sites:




http://www.oxforddnb.com/ [the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which includes entries on all the principal de Lacy family members]


Not all sources agree on every detail, and where there are significant differences or uncertainties the alternatives have been explained or shown in the text in square brackets.

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