Southern Anthology

Families on the Frontiers of the Old South

William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury

William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury[1, 2]

Male 1176 - 1226  (~ 50 years)

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  • Name William Longespée 
    House of Anjou
    House of Anjou
    Suffix 3rd Earl of Salisbury 
    Born ca. 1176 
    Gender Male 
    Military 30 - 31 May 1213  Damme, West Flanders, Belgium Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Battle of Damme 
    • Longespée was in command of the English naval force that captured the French fleet at anchor at Damme, thus ending the threat of an invasion of England by King Philip. [3, 4]
    Military 27 Jul 1214  Bouvines, Nord, Nord-Pais-de-Calais, France Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Battle of Bouvines 
    Battle of Bouvines
    Battle of Bouvines
    At Bouvines, French king Philip defeated English king John I's allied force of German, Flemish and English armies under the command of his nephew, German king Otto IV. (This was to be coordinated with the opening of a second front in Aquitaine by John.) This ended the king's efforts to recover his Angevin lands. As a military failure it cost John his remaining political capital at home.
    Military May 1216 
    • Longespée briefly went over to Prince Louis of France in the baronial rebellion of 1216. [5]
    Military 20 May 1217  Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Royalist. Lanced by Robert of Roppesley. [6]
    Battle of Lincoln
    Battle of Lincoln
    Regent William Marshal, commanding on behalf of King Henry III, defeated a combined force of French and rebel troops that were besieging Lincoln castle, then held by the Royalist, Lady Nicola de la Hay. The defeat effectively ended Capetian bid to win the English crown.
    Died 7 Mar 1226  Salisbury Castle, Salisbury, Wiltshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Effigy of William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury
    Effigy of William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury
    • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 34, "Longespée, William de (d.1226)," by William Hunt.

      LONGESPÉE or LUNGESPÉE (Longsword), WILLIAM de, third Earl of Salisbury (d. 1226), a natural son of Henry II by an unknown mother [see under Clifford, Rosamond, called 'Fair Rosamond'], received from his father a grant of Appleby, Lincolnshire, in 1188, and in 1198 from Richard I the hand of Ela, countess of Salisbury, daughter and heiress of William, the second earl (d. 1196), together with the earldom of Salisbury (Hoveden, iv. 13). In the same year he also appears as holding the castle of Pontorson in Normandy, which he exchanged with the crown early in the reign of John for certain lands in England; these, however, he surrendered to the king in 1203, receiving back Pontorson in exchange (Rolls of Norman Exchequer, ii. Preface and p. 291). He was appointed sheriff of Wiltshire by John in 1200, and held that office during the greater part of the remainder of his life (Doyle). He was with the king when William of Scotland did homage at Lincoln in November, and accompanied him to Normandy in 1201. Early in 1202 he was associated with the Archbishop of Bordeaux and others in making a treaty between John and Sancho VII (d. 1234), king of Navarre (Foedera, i. 86). In May he was appointed lieutenant of Gascony, and in September 1204 constable of Dover and warden of the Cinque ports, and held these offices until May 1206 (Doyle). He received the castle and honour of Eye in Suffolk in February 1205 (Patent Rolls, John, p. 50), was sent in June to reinforce the garrison of La Rochelle (Coggeshall, p. 154), and in November was appointed with others to treat with the king of Scots (Patent Rolls, p. 58). During 1208 he appears to have been with the king, and in December was appointed warden of the Welsh marches (ib. p. 68). In March 1209 John sent him as head of an embassy to the prelates and princes of Germany, on behalf of his nephew Otto, who was crowned emperor later in that year (Foedera, i. 103). He held command in the Welsh and Irish expeditions of 1210-12 [see under John]. During the period of John's excommunication he was reckoned as one of the king's evil counsellors who were ready to do anything that he wished (Wendover, iii. 237), and his name is associated with one of John's most tyrannical acts, for it was he who seized Geoffrey of Norwich at Dunstable [see under John]. From May 1212 to 1216 he was sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. In May 1212 he was sent on an embassy to Ferrand, count of Flanders (Foedera, i. 107).

      Philip of France, designing to invade England, gathered a large fleet together in April 1213, and wasted the dominions of Ferrand, who had made alliance with John. Salisbury was sent with the Count of Holland and the Count of Boulogne in command of a fleet of five hundred ships containing seven hundred knights and others to act against the French. He sailed in a ship given him by his brother the king, and larger and fairer than had ever been seen in the English sea (L'Histoire des Ducs de Normandie, p. 130). On arriving off Damme he found so large a French fleet assembled that the harbour could not hold all the ships, some of which were lying outside it. The fleet was guarded by a small number of mariners, for Philip had the best part of his forces with him besieging Ghent. Salisbury and his men attacked the ships that were outside the harbour, secured about three hundred of them laden with arms and provisions, and sent them off to England, burning about a hundred more that were drawn up on the shore. Next day they attacked the ships inside the harbour and the town of Damme. Philip, however, brought up a strong force against them and drove them to their ships. The victory, though not a great feat of arms, was highly advantageous, for it caused Philip to abandon his intended invasion (Wendover, iii. 257; Gulielmus Armoricus, sub anno). In May Salisbury was a surety for John's promise to satisfy the bishops and the Roman church, and witnessed his charter of homage to the pope (Foedera, i. 111, 112, 115). About Michaelmas he appears to have been sent to the Count of Flanders with money and troops. After taking a prominent part in the preparations for war in 1214 he was made marshal of the king's army in Flanders, and joined forces with the emperor Otto IV and the other allies of John against Philip of France. On 27 July he commanded the right wing of the allied army with the Counts of Flanders and Boulogne. He was taken prisoner and was given by Philip to his kinsman, Robert, count of Dreux, in order that the count might exchange him for his own son Robert, who had been taken by John shortly before (Wendover, iii. 287 sq.; Gulielmus Armoricus, sub an.). The exchange could not be effected immediately (Foedera, i. 124). On his return to England he held aloof from the confederation of the barons, though after they entered London he was forced to assent to their proceedings. He stood among the king's friends at Runnymede in June 1215, when John granted the Great Charter, in which his name appears as one of those who counselled the grant. In December John made him one of the captains of his army in the south, and he took measures with Falkes de Breauté [q. v.] to have London closely watched in order to cut off the supplies of the baronial party while he and his fellow-captains overran Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Cambridgeshire, and Huntingdonshire (Wendover, iii. 347). He also took part with Falkes in cruelly ravaging the Isle of Ely in the early weeks of 1216, joined the king, helped him at the siege of Colchester, and on John's behalf swore to the terms on which the place was surrendered by the French allies of the barons (Coggeshall, p. 179). He remained faithful to the king until after the middle of the year, but Louis having landed and taken Winchester on 14 June, Salisbury, no doubt thinking that the king's cause was hopeless, joined Louis, and yielded to him his castle of Salisbury (ib. p. 182; Chron. de Mailros, p. 191; Stubbs, Constitutional History, ii. 15).

      After the death of John, Salisbury was sent by Louis to Dover to persuade Hubert de Burgh to surrender the castle, and was severely reproved by Hubert for acting against his own nephew, the young King Henry III. By December he showed an inclination to desert the French side, attended the council of Henry's supporters at Oxford in January 1217, and on the departure of Louis joined the king's party, covering, in common with other lords, his political change by taking the cross, and professing to engage in the war at the bidding of the legate as a crusader (Walter of Coventry, ii. 235). He received the restitution of his estates and the sheriffdom of Somerset in March, fought in the royal army at the battle of Lincoln on 19 May, and was appointed sheriff of the county. In August he took part in the naval victory of Hubert de Burgh [q. v.]. He affixed his seal to the treaty of Lambeth with Louis on 11 Sept., acting then and in 1218 as one of the council (Foedera, i. 148, 152). Having been in alliance with William of Aumâle he wrote, perhaps towards the end of that year, to Hubert de Burgh informing him that the alliance was at an end and that he was not to be held responsible for any ill-doings of the earl (Royal Letters, i. 19). It is asserted by Matthew Paris (iii. 49 n.) that he joined the crusading army at the siege of Damietta in 1219, and in August greatly distinguished himself by his gallantry. It is, however, exceedingly doubtful whether this was so. Paris variously describes the crusader as 'comes de Salebregge,' 'de Sarreburge,' 'Sausbrigiæ,' and 'de Saleberge,' and appears to couple him with the Earl of Chester [see Blundevill, Randulph de]. The chronicler appears to depend on the somewhat late authority of 'L'Estoire de Eracles,' lib. 32, cap. 12, p. 343 (Dr. Rohrichte, Publications de la Société de l'Orient Latin, ii., comp. p. 51 and Index), and on passages in Wendover, iv. 54, who copied from Oliver Schol. p. 1139, or Jacques de Vitry, p. 1101. A like statement figures in the 'Gesta Crucigerorum Rhenanorum,' p. 51; but there the crusader identified with Salisbury may as well be coupled with the Counts of Holland and Weid as with the Earl of Chester (see also Bernard Thesaurar. c. 198). There is negative evidence against the presence of the earl at Damietta, specially the difficulty of fixing a date 1218-1220 when he could have been absent from England for any length of time (see Calendar of Close Rolls, pp. 360-406). It may, therefore, probably be inferred that the crusader was not the Earl of Salisbury, but was the Count of Saarbrücken. Joinville, in his 'Mémoires,' c. 59, calls the Count of Saarbrücken, his companion on the crusade of 1249, 'le Conte de Salebruche' (information supplied by Mr. T. A. Archer).

      On 28 April 1220 the legate Pandulf laid two of the foundation-stones of the new cathedral of Salisbury on behalf of the earl and of his countess. In May the earl wrote to Hubert de Burgh against the proposed appointment of William of Aumâle as seneschal of Poitou, and about June to inform him that he had been sick, but hoped to be able to attend the conference to be held at York (ib. i. 129, 136). At the excommunication of William of Aumâle at St. Paul's in January 1221, Salisbury appeared as a prominent supporter of the government, throwing, like the bishops, a lighted candle to the ground at the end of the sentence. He quarrelled with Ranulph, earl of Chester, who had joined himself to the disaffected party, upheld Hubert de Burgh, and was so active in the work of administration, that he and Hubert, the chief justiciar, are coupled together, in a notice of the Earl of Chester's disaffection in 1222, as 'rulers of the king and kingdom' (Walter of Coventry, ii. 251). In 1223 he marched to the assistance of William the Marshal, who was making war against the Welsh. In 1224 he was appointed sheriff of Hampshire and constable of the castles of Winchester, Porchester, and Southampton, and sheriff of Staffordshire and Shropshire (Doyle), and, probably in the summer, wrote to the chief justiciary urging him to call Falkes de Breauté to account for his violent conduct (Royal Letters, i. 220). Having been appointed by the king on 3 March 1225 to accompany Richard, earl of Cornwall, on his expedition to Gascony (Foedera, i. 177), he sailed on Palm Sunday. The expedition was successful [see under Richard, Earl of Cornwall], and Gascony, which was threatened by Louis VIII, was secured. Salisbury set sail on his return home in the autumn and met with rough weather, the ship being for some days driven about by the tempest, and all his goods cast overboard. While the danger was at its height he and the seamen saw a great light and a lovely maiden standing, as it seemed, at the mast-head, whom he alone knew to be the Blessed Virgin come to succour them, for from the day of his knighthood he had ever provided a light to burn before the Virgin's altar. The ship was driven upon the isle of Ré, then held for Louis by Savaric de Mauleon, but he found shelter in the abbey of our Lady of Ré. Two of Savaric's men recognised him and warned him to escape; he gave them 20l. and again set sail, landing in Cornwall at Christmastide after a voyage of nearly three months. Meanwhile it was reported in England that he was dead, and Hubert de Burgh tried to obtain the hand of the countess Ela for his nephew [see under Burgh, Hubert de]. When on reaching England the earl heard this, he was wroth, and went to Marlborough, where the king then was, to complain of Hubert's conduct. Peace having been made between them, he dined with Hubert, and on his return to his castle at Salisbury fell sick. The story that Hubert poisoned him was false; the privations that he had undergone are enough to account for his illness. Finding his end near he sent for the Bishop of Salisbury, Richard le Poore, to come to him, and when the bishop entered his chamber, rose from his bed and knelt almost naked before him with a rope round his neck, declaring that he was a traitor to God, nor would he rise until he had confessed and received the sacrament. He died on 7 March 1226, and was buried in the then unfinished cathedral of Salisbury, and it is related as a miraculous proof of his salvation, that though there was a storm of wind and rain while his body was being borne from the castle to the cathedral, the lights carried in the procession were not extinguished (Wendover, iv. 116, 117). The fine tomb attributed to him in the easternmost bay of the south arcade of the nave has his full-length recumbent effigy in chain armour, and is a remarkable work of art. His arms were azure, six lioncels rampant or.

      Salisbury was a wise and valiant man, not, indeed, to be ranked with patriotic statesmen, such as William the earl-marshal and Hubert de Burgh, but far superior to most of the nobles of his day, and sincerely attached to the interests of the royal house from which he came, faithful as long as it was possible to his brother John, and a good servant to his young nephew Henry. He seems to have been hot-tempered, but, though concerned during the war between John and the barons in some cruel ravages, was religious, and has the good word of the monastic chroniclers, being described in his epitaph given by Matthew Paris as 'Flos comitum.' He was a benefactor to the Austin priory of Bradenstoke, Wiltshire, founded by Walter of Evreux, the great-grandfather of his countess, and in 1222 gave the manor of Hatherop, Gloucestershire, to Carthusian monks for a monastery, and left them certain bequests in his will made in his last sickness. He was commemorated at the hospital of St. Nicholas, Salisbury. After his death his countess Ela (born at Amesbury, Wiltshire, 1187, succeeded her father 1196, and married 1198 at about the age of twelve), at the request of the monks of Hatherop, removed them to her manor of Henton, or Hinton, Somerset, where she built them a house called Locus Dei, dedicated in 1232. She also, in 1232, built a monastery for nuns of the order of St. Austin at Lacock, Wiltshire, where in 1238 she took the veil, and in 1239 was elected abbess. She lived a holy life and ruled her house with diligence until in 1257, being in weak health, she resigned her offices. She died and was buried at Lacock in 1261. By her Earl William had four sons, William Longespée (1212?-1250) [q. v.], Richard, a canon of Salisbury, Stephen, appointed seneschal of Gascony in 1253 and died 1260, and Nicholas, bishop of Salisbury (d. 1297), and four daughters, Isabella married to William de Vesey, Petronilla died unmarried, Ela, married first Thomas, earl of Warwick (d. 1242), and secondly Philip Basset, and Ida married first Walter FitzRobert, and secondly William de Beauchamp.

      [R. Wendover, iii. 237, 257, 287, 347, iv. 54, 116, 117 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. iii. 3, 28, 105 (Rolls Ser.); R. Hoveden, iv. 13, 142 (Rolls Ser.); R. Coggeshall, pp. 154, 179 (Rolls Ser.); W. Coventry, ii. 229, 231, 235, 251, 252 (Rolls Ser.); Sarum Charters, pp. 186, 252 (Rolls Ser.); Annales Monast., Tewkesbury, i. 66; Dunstable, iii. 34, 48, 50, 64, 82, 99; Worc. iv. 406 (Rolls Ser.); Histoire des Ducs de Normandie, pp. 129, 130, 134, 144, 187 (Société de l'Histoire de France); Chronique d'Ernoul, pp. 403, 404 (Société de l'Histoire); Chron. de Mailros, p. 191 (Bannatyne Club); Royal Letters Hen. III, i. passim (Rolls Ser.); Rymer's Foedera, vol. i. pt. i. passim (Record ed.); Rot. Mag. Scacc. Norman. ii. Preface and p. 291, ed. Stapleton; Rot. Lit. Patent, ed. Hardy, passim (Record ed.); Gul. Armoricus, ap. Recueil des Hist. xvii. 89, 94, 100; Gul. de Nangis ap. Recueil, xx. 757; L'Estoire de Eracles, xxxii. 12 (Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, iv.; Hist. Occident. ii. 343; Oliver Schol. and Jac. de Vitriaco, ap. Gesta Dei per Francos, pp. 1139, 1101; Gesta Cruciger. Rhen. and Fragmentum Prov. de Capt. Damiatæ ap. Publ. de la Soc. de l'Orient Latin, Série Hist. ii. 51, 201; Bernard. Thesaurar. c. 198 ap. Rerum Ital. SS. vii. col. 835; Joinville, Mém. c. 59, ed. Michaud, i. 197; Rot. Litt. Claus. pp. 360-406; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 175 sq.; Dugdale's Monasticon, vi. 3-5, 338, 500?-2; Doyle's Official Baronage, iii. 233; Stubbs's Constitutional Hist. i. 541, ii. 23, 38; Nicolas's Hist. of Royal Navy, i. 141, 167-9, 189, 190; Burrows's Cinque Ports, pp. 95, 96; Hoare's Wiltshire, i. 36, 543.]

      W. H. [7]
    Person ID I12670  Dickinson
    Last Modified 31 Oct 2017 

    Father Henry II, King of England,   b. 5 Mar 1133, Palais de Comtes du Maine, Le Mans, Sarthe, France Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 6 Jul 1189, Chinon Castle, Chinon, Indre-et-Loire, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 56 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Mother Ida de Tosny, Countess of Norfolk 
    Relationship Birth 
    • Mistress ca. 1176.
    Family ID F3664  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Ela of Salisbury, Countess of Salisbury,   b. ca. 1191, Amesbury, Wiltshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Aug 1261, Lacock Abbey, Lacock, Wiltshire Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 70 years) 
    Married 1198  [8
    +1. William Longespée,   b. Before 1209,   d. 7 Feb 1250, Mansoura, Egypt Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 41 years)  [Birth]
    +2. Ida Longespée, Lady Bedford,   b. After 1206,   d. After 1260  (Age ~ 54 years)  [Birth]
     3. Richard Longespée  [Birth]
    +4. Stephen Longespée, Seneschal of Gascony, Justiciar of Ireland
     5. Nicholas Longespée,   d. 1297  [Birth]
     6. Isabel Longespée, Lady Alnwick,   d. Before 1244  [Birth]
     7. Petronilla Longespée,   bur. Bradenstoke Priory, Bradenstoke, Wiltshire Find all individuals with events at this location  [Birth]
     8. Ela Longespée, Countess of Warwick,   d. 9 Feb 1298  [Birth]
     9. Ida II Longespée,   d. After 10 Apr 1262  [Birth]
    Last Modified 10 Jun 2015 
    Family ID F3663  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsMilitary - Battle of Damme - 30 - 31 May 1213 - Damme, West Flanders, Belgium Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMilitary - Battle of Bouvines - 27 Jul 1214 - Bouvines, Nord, Nord-Pais-de-Calais, France Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMilitary - 20 May 1217 - Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 7 Mar 1226 - Salisbury Castle, Salisbury, Wiltshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Sources 
    1. [S336463] Medieval Lands: A prosopography of medieval European noble and royal families, Charles Cawley, (Online: The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy at, 20XX),

    2. [S336470] Wikipedia, (Online:, "William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury,"
      "William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury (c. 1176 - 7 March 1226) ("Long Sword", Latinised to de Longa Spatha) was an English noble, primarily remembered for his command of the English forces at the Battle of Damme and for remaining loyal to his half-brother, King John. His nickname 'Longespée' is generally taken as a reference to his great size and the outsize weapons he wielded."

    3. [S164] King John and the Road to Magna Carta, Stephen Church, (New York: Basic Books, 2015), 195-196, 235.

    4. [S421] The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones, Thomas Asbridge, (New York: HarperCollins, 2014), 323.

    5. [S164] King John and the Road to Magna Carta, Stephen Church, (New York: Basic Books, 2015), 235.

    6. [S421] The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones, Thomas Asbridge, (New York: HarperCollins, 2014), 358.

    7. [S336351] Dictionary of National Biography, 63 volumes, Sir Sidney Lee, ed., (New York: McMillan and Company, 1885-1900), Public Domain., 34: 115-118.

    8. [S336465] Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life, Alison Weir, (New York: Ballantine iBook, 2008), 132.