Past and Present
by Janet McNeilly © 2002
01 April 2015
de Lacy (Laci, Lacie, Lascy, Lacey) is the surname of an old Norman noble family which originated from Lassy, Calvados. The family took part in the Norman conquest of England and the later Norman invasion of Ireland. The name is first recorded for Hugh de Lacy (1020-1085). His sons, Walter and Ilbert, left Normandy and travelled to England with William the Conqueror. The awards of land by the Conqueror to the de Lacy sons led to two distinct branches of the family: the northern branch, centred on Blackburnshire and west Yorkshire was held by Ilbert's descendants; the southern branch of Marcher Lords, centred on Herefordshire and Shropshire, was held by Walter's descendants.
Until 1399, the northern branch of the family held the great Lordship of Bowland before it passed through marriage to the Duchy of Lancaster, as well as being Barons of Pontefract and later Earls of Lincoln.
The southern branch of the family became substantial landholders in the Lordship of Ireland and was linked to the Scottish royal family; Elizabeth de Burgh, whose great grandfather was Walter de Lacy, married Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland.
Hugh de Lacy
(30 + 31x great grandfather)
Hugh de Lacy had two sons -
Walter de Lacy
(29x great grandfather)
The son of Hugh de Lacy. Walter married Emmeline and they had the following children -
Walter was originally from Lassy, in Normandy.
Walter was given the lordship of Weobley in Herefordshire after the Conquest. He is already attested in the Welsh Marches by 1069, when he is recorded stopping a Welsh attack and then raiding into Wales in retribution. Walter and his brother Ilbert may have come to England in the household of Odo of Bayeux, the Bishop of Bayeux and half-brother of King William the Conqueror. Although some historians, such as W. E. Wrightman, have argued that Walter was a follower of William fitzOsbern, others, including C. P. Lewis and K. S. B. Keats-Rohan, have argued that Walter was an independent agent in England.By the time of Walter's death, he held a block of lands in Herefordshire along the border with Wales. Another group of lands was centred on Ludlow in Shropshire. These two groupings of lands allowed Walter to help defend the border of England against Welsh raids. Walter also had other lands in Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, and Oxfordshire. Walter kept a large number of his manors in demesne, managing them directly rather than giving them as fiefs to his knightly followers.Some of these lands in Hereford, including Holme Lacy, were held of the Bishop of Hereford through feudal tenure.In total, Domesday Book records Walter's lands as being worth £423 in income per year and as comprising 163 manors in 7 different counties.He was one of 21 individuals with land valued at more than £400 at the time of the survey.
In 1075, Walter was one of the leaders of the force that prevented Roger de Breteuil from joining up with the other rebels during the Revolt of the Earls. Walter had joined forces with Wulfstan the Bishop of Worcester, Æthelwig the Abbot of Evesham Abbey, and Urse d'Abetot the Sheriff of Worcester.
Walter died on 27 March 1085, falling off some scaffolding at Saint Guthlac's Priory when he was inspecting the progress of the building at that monastery. He was buried in the chapter house at Gloucester Abbey.He was a benefactor to Gloucester Abbey,as well as Saint Guthlac's.
Emma de Lacy
(28x great grandmother)
The daughter of Walter de Lacy and Emmeline. Emma married Sir Hugh Talbot of Shrewsbury, son of Sir Richard Talbot of Battlesden and Aimée D' Aubigny and they had the following children-
Gilbert de Lacy *
(27x great grandfather)
The son of Emma de Lacy and Hugh Talbot. He married Agnes and they had the following children-
* 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 1069, 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.
Hugh de Lacy
(26x great grandfather)
The son of Gilbert de Lacy and Agnes. He married Rohese de Monmouth, daughter of Baderon de Monmouth and Rohais de Clare and they had the following children -
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.
Walter de Lacy
(25x + 26x great grandfather)
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.
Gilbert de Lacy
(24x great grandfather)
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.