Where did the builder of Castle Rising come from?


This work began as an attempt to clarify the origins of William D’Albini, builder of Rising Castle as a way of placing its construction within a firm historical context. However, the study gradually began to incorporate an array of other genealogical lines in order to distinguish Norfolk (Arundel) D’Albinis with their Leicestershire (Belvoir) name-sakes. The placing of each named figure and defining their marital connections has proved to be a difficult process, particularly as the most reliable source for the Belvoir genealogy published by Nichols (1795, p27) was essentially flawed.

Early years
The name D’Albini which applies to various pre-Conquest family lines simply derives from de (of) Aubigny, a town in north-west of Normandy. The Belvoir line which also springs from the same region possesses a slightly different source for their name which is Aubigné which is located in Brittany. However, the original focus for both families is a region of Normandy known as the Cotentin which has held Coutances as its capital since Roman times and later became a cathedral city.

While the two families developed separately before the Conquest of England they were subsequently brought together via intricate marital connections during the eleventh-century. Apart from the two ambiguous strands of family lines, study of their genealogies is further complicated by the diverse spellings which occur within early documents and charters of which D'aubigny, De Albiniaco, Daubeney and D’Albini are good examples. However, there was one line which descended to Belvoir and the other to Arundel; the latter ultimately resulted in the building of Castle Rising and established both the Fitzalan and Howard dynasties.

Principally one line which later held the Honour of Belvoir originated from St Sauveur of which, five generations held the title of vicomte of Cotentin (CITE Hepworth), the family line having descended from Norwegian Vikings dating back to AD 800 (Appendix 1).
According to Brown (1999 p.9) the other line came from St Martin d’Aubigny the earliest of which, is recorded (nd) as Lord William, the progeny of whom later held the Honour of Arundel. This William D’Albini (1) married the sister of Grimold (sic) du Plessis and produced three sons; Nigel who the Domesday Survey of 1086 associates with Cainhoe in Bedfordshire where his motte and bailey castle still remains, Richard who held the abbacy of St Albans and the eldest Roger D’Albini whose marriage to Amice d’Mowbray (sister of Geoffrey bishop of Coutances and Roger de Mowbray) generated three brothers Nigel D’Albini who was later re-named d’Mowbray on the orders of Henry I (Roberts 2004), Rualoc and finally William (2) who eventually rose to become pincerna or butler to Henry I.

Hepworth’s recent genealogical study of the Daubeney family reveals that the St Sauveur line lost the title of vicomte when both Niel de Sauveur and his son William were banished from Normandy following the Battle of Val és Dunes in 1047. According to Douglas (pp.49-54) they apparently belonged to a group of vicomtes from western Normandy whose main objective was to overthrow William Duke of Normandy and replace him with Guy of Burgundy. The family subsequently relocated to Aubigné in Brittany and the next generation saw the emergence of William d’Aubigné (de Bosco de Rohardi) who became butler to William I of England. Douglas (ibid p.146) cites references to the office of butler variously referred to as pincerna or buticularis around the time of the Conquest and to the prestige the position held. Hugh of Ivry is recorded as being butler to William Duke of Normandy who crossed over to England in 1066. However, his continuation in office back at Normandy and his death a year before that of the Conqueror’s clearly indicates that William had two butlers, one for Normandy and another for his new kingdom of England.
Regarding the Belvoir line, Roger d’Aubigné (Calvus) d’Ivri followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming butler to King William whilst also holding the rank of castellan of Rouen; he is also recorded as having rebelled against the Conqueror’s eldest son William Rufus. Married twice, Roger’s union with Adeliza de Grantmesnil produced four sons including William d’Aubigné Brito who subsequently married Cecily Bigod, daughter of the earl of Norfolk.

After the Conquest
For the sake of clarity the two dynasties which emerged from the eleventh-century i.e. the titles of Arundel, Rising, Wymondham and Buckenham will henceforth be referred to as D’Albini while those attributed to the Belvoir line will be termed d’ Aubigné.
To understand how the D’Albini and d’Aubigné lines were eventually drawn together, a third family group, namely Todeni needs consideration here. Robert de Todeni was lord of Belvoir and builder of the first castle in that region of north-east Leicestershire.

There is a common factor linking d’Aubigné (de Bosco de Rohardi) and Todeni; that is both men married Adeliza Oswulf Frane in sequence. First, Adeliza married William d’Aubigné which generated the Belvoir line, then second to Robert de Todeni which contributed to the development of the Arundel line. Adeliza and Robert then produced six children, one of which was also called Adeliza married Roger Bigod; thus forming the ‘illusive’ Norfolk connection. This marriage not only resulted in a son Hugh but more importantly two daughters each of whom were paired to important Williams of that age; Cecily to William d’Aubigné Brito and Maud to William D’Albini (2), butler to Henry I; the former developed into the Belvoir and Rutland lines while the latter led to that of Arundel.

Arundel and Rising
After the Conquest, Rising was confiscated from the errant Archbishop Stigand who held Rising as a subordinate part of his Norfolk manor of Snettisham (cite Domesday) and the site briefly passed to King William’s half-brother Odo who later fell from grace due to his rebellion and lost Rising together with many other properties. The royal connection passed briefly to Rufus then Henry I who assigned William D’Albini as his butler and to whom subsequently gave Rising as a gift.
The marriage of William D’Albini to Maud Bigod sparked a period of significant building activity in Norfolk which probably resulted in a motte and bailey defense at Denton but certainly included the building of a stone castle at Old Buckenham. The same William also founded the priory Wymondham in 1107 (Martin-Jones 1953 p.17) and was also responsible for building the first stone church within the manorial enceinte of Rising which later became the castle yard.

William and Maud had two children, Olive and William’s namesake – it is this William D’Albini (3) who helped transform Rising into something we see today. His fortuitous marriage to Henry I’s second wife and widow Adeliza produced a family of four children; daughters Adeliza and Olive, and sons Reyner and William D’Albini (4). This William married Maud de St Hillare of Normandy and the couple generated two sons, Godfrey and yet another William (5) who married Mabel le Meschin who may have had distant family links with William d’Aubigné Brito and thus strengthened the association with Belvoir.

The next stage of this study considers how the aristocratic line of D’Albini drew to a close. William and Mabel produced six children two males William (6) and Hugh who married Isabel de Warenne (Brown 1999 p.15) – daughter of William earl of Surrey and lord of Castle Acre, both men died without issue leaving the remaining four sibling daughters. Of the female descendants recorded we know nothing of Nichola apart from her marriage to Roger de Somery. However, genealogical studies reveal that Isabel married John Fitzalan and thus developed the Arundel line, Maud married Robert de Tattershall to whom the Honour of Buckenham passed, but more importantly it was Cecily who married Roger de Montalt who ultimately gained Rising as part of her dowry.

© Norman Fahy 2006

This writer wishes to thank Jenny Allsop and Mary Hatton for their tenacity in helping un-pick the erroneous Belvoir genealogy published by Nichols. Also Tony Hepworth who’s privately published ‘Pedigree of the Daubeney’s’ drew many valuable unconnected strands together.


Brown, R. A., 1999. Rising Castle Castle. English Heritage. London.

Daubeney, G., 1951. The history of the Daubeney family. Prvately published

Douglas, D. C., 1999. William the Conqueror. Yale.

Hunt, P.E., 1979. The story of Melton Mowbray. Leicestershire County Council Libraries & Information Service.

Martin-Jones, S., 1953. Wymondham and its Abbey. Stone & Co. Wymondham.

Morris, J. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book (Norfolk). Vols. 1 & 2. Phillimore. Chichester.

Nichols, J (ed), 1795. The history and antiquities of the county of Leicester. Leicestershire County Council.

Roberts, M.,2004. The Mowbray Family 1066 to 1481. ?

William de Albini in Liber Eliensis (The Book of Ely) – Book III

Fairweather, J., (trans) 2005. Liber Eliensis. Boydell & Brewer. Woodbridge. Suffolk.

The records of the ancient monastery of the ‘Isle of eels’ founded by the East Anglian Saint Æthelthryth is a major resource for historians. The recent Fairweather volume neatly combines the three primary books recording seven centuries of East Anglian history during periods of immense social change and upheaval. Each book is divided into numbered entries headed by a descriptive title. While the system of dating of each entry may vary, Fairweather clearly explains the various complicated forms employed.

The documents examined date to the first third of the twelfth-century (Henry I r. 1100-1135) and mostly relate to financial and military relief from the king to the house of Ely. Despite the rather mundane nature of the charters they do represent vital economic decisions of the day which required the support and ‘witnesses’ of the ruling class. Unfortunately, none of those documents signed by William D’Albini (pincerna) relate directly either to Castle Rising or the original Norfolk seat of Buckenham. However, the very presence of William’s signature in East Anglia at this time tells us that he was not simply an absentee landlord.

William the butler is clearly present in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire contemporary with the building of his castle at Buckenham and is regarded as a reliable co-signatory of some important financial documents.
Interestingly, section 12 records witness of both William de Albini pincerna and William de Albini Brito who is associated with a parallel family line based at Belvoir castle in north-west Leicestershire.
Later in the record, (section 20) the charter is not only witnessed by William the Butler, but also his brother Nigel de Albini and Hugh the steward.

Charters in Liber Eliensis

Book iii Henry I (r. 1100 – 1135)

8. Henry I Charter granting the monks of Ely a ‘fair’ share of the properties of the abbey.
Witness – William de Albini (Pincerna)

12 Henry I Charter relieving the church of Ely from guarding Norwich
and ‘burdonsome servitude.’
Witnesses – William de Albini & William de Albini (Brito) i.e Belvoir.

13 Henry I Charter against individuals who withheld properties and services from the church
Witness – William de Albini (the butler)

15 Henry I Charter regarding ‘Scutage’ (i.e. knight’s military service)
Witness -William de Albini (the butler)

16 Henry I Charter relieving the church of Ely from financial demands previously extracted.
Witness – William de Albini

18 Henry I Charter concerning the grant incorporating the abbey of Chatteris.
Witness – William de Albini (the butler)

19 Henry I Charter from the king relieving Ely of payments from the church of Chatteris.
Witness- William de Albini.

20 Henry I Charter release of a Vill of Hadham from a claim.
Witnesses – Willliam de Albini, Hugh the Steward and Nigel de Albini (d.1129)

40 Henry I Charter exempting Ely from the jurisdiction of Shire and Hundred.
Witness – William de Albini.