Facts about Robert's life
Father: Roger de Beaumont
Mother: Adeline de Meulan, sister to Hugh II, Comte de Meulan
Siblings: Aubree, Abbess of St. Leger de Preaux (sister); Henry, Earl of Warwick (younger brother)
Titles: Comte de Meulan (succeeded upon the death of his maternal uncle Hugh in 1081); Earl of Leicester (appointed by King Henry I of England in 1107)
Medieval naming conventions have always interested me, especially among the nobility. Most took the names of their birthplaces or territories they seized or inherited. It's a fair assumption that Robert came into the world at Beaumont, where Roger had built a castle on the hill above Vielles. Roger had married Robert's mother Adeline a year before their eldest son's birth. Adeline was sister of Hugh, Comte de Meulan, a rich territory to the east in the French Vexin. Roger and Adeline also became parents to Aubree and Henry; the sons of Roger would grow to have a special closeness with each other. From an early age, Roger ensured his sons were literate and taught them about administrative functions. Robert witnessed his first recorded charter, a gift to the abbey of Marmoutier, when he was only nine years old. He also became acquainted with the ducal court from an early age.
Keep in mind that when the Normans claimed the duchy, technically, they owed fealty to the Kings of France, a fact that would have personal consequences for Robert later in life. With the accession to Meulan, Robert moved into the sphere of the French court and owed the King of France homage for the county, as he owed loyalty to the Dukes of Normandy. Despite his riches, Robert wanted more. In 1088, he appeared outside the abbey of Bec and demanded of Abbott Anselm a pledge of fealty. It would be the first of many troublesome encounters between Robert and Anselm. The new Duke of Normandy arrested Robert for threatening the abbey and without his father's intervention, Robert would have remained imprisoned. After Roger's death in the 1090's, Robert became lord of the most important castles in his family's holdings; Beaumont, Pont-Audemer, Vatteville and Brionne. Robert also served successive Norman Kings of England William Rufus and Henry I as chief counselor. Only one thing remained glaringly absent.
Nearing his fiftieth year, he had no wife despite a proposed match with Godehilde de Toeni. Since she married Baldwin, son of Comte Eustace de Boulonge and died in the Holy Land, Robert sought another bride. He chose Isabel, daughter of Comte Hugh de Vermandois. On her father's side, Isabel was a granddaughter of King Henry I of France. She would have been a teenager when Robert married her around 1096, at least forty years younger than her husband. With the births of their children, Emma (1102), the twins Waleran and Robert (1104), Hugh (around 1106), Isabel (1107-1113), Aubree (1108-1109), Adeline and Maud, plus the newly created earldom of Leicester, Robert's future seemed bright....but of course, things changed. Find out how in The Burning Candle, coming summer 2012.
Next Sunday, more on the historical figures, with William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey.