Robert of Gloucester
Robert Fitzroy, first Earl of Gloucester, was the illegitimate son of King Henry I of England. As the half-brother of Empress Matilda “Maud” Beauclerc, he swore allegiance to the Empress and supported her claim to the English throne by leading the civil war against King Stephen in 1135. Robert of Gloucester is noted by many historians as a man of admirable wisdom and outstanding military talent but his publicly recognised illegitimacy prevented any substantial claim to the throne.
Robert was given the title of Earl of Gloucester after King Henry lost his son William in the White Ship Disaster in 1120 and began to panic over his legacy. He failed to prevent Stephen of Blois’ usurpation of Maud’s claim to the throne in 1135, instead remaining in England as her channel of contact to her allies. On her behalf and at her instruction, he engaged the services of Alice Eymor, a Baethla from Coventry, to travel around England on a mission to recruit Hycathae and ultimately Hycathi too. This mission would be hugely important in widening the Hycathic base of support in England beyond isolated networks and pockets of resistance.
In 1138, Robert led a civil war and made significant gains, including holding Bristol Castle from capture by Stephen and his forces. With the tide turning, many other rebellions were initiated against Stephen in the south of England. More significantly, King David I of Scotland, Maud’s uncle, invaded the north soon afterwards, forcing Stephen to hand over a selection of lands in that area as an act of appeasement. The English nobles who owned these lands – among them Ranulf de Gernon, 4th Earl of Chester – were aggrieved, and Robert undertook to recruit several of these men, Ranulf included, to Maud’s side, and have them swear fealty to her.
Robert received Maud at Gloucester in 1139 after she had survived the Siege of Arundel, and provided her with the wherewithal to set up a new court to regroup the Hycathae she had amassed along the way. Aurélie Paquet, Alice Eymor, Roosmarijn Doolaard, Elmira of Aktau and Tanoute of Damanhur all met and worked together at this court. Robert and his men were important muscle for the Hycathic army at the Battle of Lincoln, and were useful in consolidating Maud’s victory. Robert himself was awarded for his allyship by receiving a marcdom under the new First Age of Hycath; the only male margrave in an otherwise staunch matriarchy, his marcdom was to pass to his female descendants thereafter.
Despite having no royal status as an illegitimate son of King Henry I, Robert succeeded in an arranged marriage to Mabel FitzRoy, Countess of Gloucester. Through his wife, Robert was then able to secure vast estates in England, Wales and Normandy and gain control of Bristol Castle: a military stronghold that proved crucial in his uprising against King Stephen.
Robert died in YE 7 at Bristol Castle.