Southern Anthology

Families on the Frontiers of the Old South

Ranulf de Blundeville, 6th Earl of Chester, Vicomte d'Avranches

Ranulf de Blundeville, 6th Earl of Chester, Vicomte d'Avranches[1, 2, 3]

Male 1170 - 1232  (~ 62 years)

Personal Information    |    Sources    |    Event Map    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Ranulf de Blundeville 
    The ancient arms of the Earls of Chester
    The ancient arms of the Earls of Chester
    Suffix 6th Earl of Chester, Vicomte d'Avranches 
    Born ca. 1170  Oswestry, Powys, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Military 20 May 1217  Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Led the Royalist attack on the north city gate. [4]
    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 28 Oct 1232  Wallingford Castle, Wallingford, Oxfordshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • BLUNDEVILL, RANDULPH de, Earl of Chester (d. 1232), warrior and statesman, was son and heir of Hugh 'de Kivelioc,' earl (palatine) of Chester, whom he succeeded in 1180 (Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iii. 218) or 1181 (Walter of Coventry, i. 317). His surname, like his father's, was derived from his birthplace, 'Blundevill' being identified by Dugdale with Oswestry. In 1187 he received in marriage, 'per donationem regis Henrici' (Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi, ii. 29), Constance, daughter and heir of Conan, duke of Brittany, and widow of Geoffrey, second son of Henry II, and jure uxoris 'duke' (or 'count') of Brittany, who died 19 Aug. 1186. By this marriage he became stepfather of Arthur, and, in consequence of it, he occasionally assumed the styles of Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond (see two charters printed by Ormerod on p. 37, and also an Inspeximus in Cart. 22 Ed. Ill, n. 6). He is said by Matthew Paris to have carried the crown (but cf. Ben. Abb. p. 558; Roger de Hoveden, p. 650) at the coronation of Richard I. In 1190 his sister Maud was married to David, earl of Huntingdon, brother to William, king of Scots (W. Cov. i. 423 ; Gesta Regis Ricardi, ii. 146). In the fifth year of Richard's reign he was among those before whom fines were levied (Hunter, Fines, pref. p. lxiii), his sole exercise of judicial functions. With his brother-in-law, David, in Richard's interest, he joined in the siege of Nottingham (February 1194), which surrendered, after Richard had joined them, on 28 March (W. Cov. ii. 62). He was then present at the second coronation (17 April), where he bore one of the three swords. After this he accompanied Richard to Normandy. We find him at variance with his wife as early as 1196, when he intercepted her at Pontorson on her way to Richard and confined her in his castle of St. Jean Beveron. Her son's forces, failing to rescue her, ravaged the earl's lands (W. Cov. ii. 98 ; Hoveden, iv. 7).

      On the accession of John he was one of those suspected magnates whose oaths of fealty were exacted at Northampton before the king's arrival (W. Cov. ii. 145; Ann. Burt. p. 139). He was, however present at the coronation on 27 May 1199 (W. Cov. ii. 146). Having accompanied John abroad, he was, in October, deserted by his wife (Hoveden, iv. 97), who fled with Arthur to Angers, and there married Guy, brother to the Vicomte of Thouars. Dugdale repeats the legendary story that he divorced her in consequence of John's attentions. The earl, soon after her desertion, married Glemence, widow of Alan de Dinan, daughter of William, sister of Geoffrey, the great-niece of Ralph de Fougeres, and niece of William de Humez, constable of Normandy. Dugdale's account is here inaccurate. She appears as his wife in the deeds of agreement between the earl and the house of Fougères 7 Oct. 1200 (printed in Ormerod's Cheshire, i. 39-40), by which he obtained, with her, lands both in England and Normandy. He also gave the king 100l. (Angev.) to pursue his claims in France. Remaining abroad, he was entrusted by John with Similly Castle in Normandy, 23 Sept. 1201. But the king a year and a half later, hearing reports of his infidelity, came to Vire Castle (13 April 1203), whither the earl with Fulk Paynell hurried the next morning, and the two cleared themselves of the charges made against them. Blundevill, however, was constrained to surrender the castle and give pledges. But he was then entrusted (31 May 1203) with the keep of Avranches, on which he had some hereditary claim. On 20 Dec. 1204 he had a safe conduct to a great council on 7 Jan. 1205, and on 6 March 1205 he was given the honour of Richmond (save the constabulary) as it had been held by Geoffrey, earl of Richmond, his former wife's first husband, in compensation for the lands he had lost beyond sea (Ann. Worc. p. 893). He accounted for it in 1211 as forty and a half knights' fees.

      On 30 Nov. 1205, and again on 10 April 1209, he was appointed to escort the King of Scots to the south, and in the autumn of 1209, with Geoffirey Fitzpiers and the Bishop of Winchester, he led an army into Wales (Ann. Dunst. p. 32). The next year, with the Earl of Salisbury, he again marched into Wales (Gervase of Canterbury, ii. l06), and was henceforth constantly fighting the Welsh. There is a well-known story that in the course of these struggles he had to take refuge in Rhuddlan Castle, and was there besieged by the Welsh till relieved by a rabble from Chester fair, sent to his aid by his constable (Dugdale). On 1 May 1214 he founded his abbey of Dieulacres ('Dieu l'accroisce !') in Leek, Staffordshire, dedicated to the Virgin and St. Benedict, and transferred thither the white monks from Pulton Abbey, Cheshire (founded 1153), which was too exposed to the Welsh (Mon. Angl.)

      In the summer of 1214 he accompanied John to Poitou, and Matthew Paris asserts that the preference of Hubert de Burgh to him, in October, as surety for the king to France in 8,000 marcs, laid the foundation of their rivalry (iii. 231). He remained, however, with John on their return, and witnessed his grant of freedom of election to churches on 21 Nov. 1214 (Stubbs, Sel. Chart. 281). He was also present at the parliament of 6 Jan. 1215 at the Temple. He was entrusted with the castle of Newcastle-under-Lyme, 20 May 1215, and was among those who adhered to John when the barons entered London on 24 May (Matt. Pakis). He was one of the few witnesses ex parte regis to the charter, 15 June. Unswerving in his loyalty, he thenceforth placed himself at the head of John's adherents (W. Gov. ii. 225), and was rewarded with the custody of the Leicester fief, belonging to his uncle, Simon de Montfort, 21 July (1215), and with the castle of the Peak 13 Aug. (1215). He was also (31 Oct.) given the lands of all the king's enemies within his fiefs. Throughout the struggle which followed the charter he was staunchly faithful to John, and afterwards to his son Henry. On Jan. 1216 the king's constable of Richmond Castle was instructed to obey his orders, and on the 30th (Jan. 1216) he was entrusted with the castle and county of Lancaster. On Ash Wednesday (4 March) he took the cross with John and others (Gervase, ii 109), and on 13 April (1216) re- ceived the castles of Shrewsbury and Bridgenorth with their shires. Ordered on 5 June (1216) to destroy Richmond if untenable, he stormed and plundered Worcester in conjunction with Fulk de Bréauté, 17 July (Ann. Wig. p. 400; Tewk. p. 62). John died on 19 Oct., and the earl, who was one of his executors (Foedera, i. 144), was present at Henry's coronation (28 Oct.) at Gloucester (Ann. Wav. 286; Burt. 224), and at the Bristol council (11 Nov.), where he was one of the witnesses to Hemys 'First Charter.' He now, like many others, fought as a crusader against the aliens at home (Contin. Hoved. in Bouquet, xviii. p. 183) :

      Bajulosque crucis crux alba decorans
      Instabiles statuit fidei fundamine turmas.,
      (Pol. Song. p. 23.)

      Placing himself at the head of the king's forces at Easter 1217 he laid siege to Mountsorrel (Leicestershire), which was held for Louis, out on the latter's return to England (26 April) he despatched a French force with the barons (Ann. Dunst. p. 49) under Robert Fitzwalter, who raised the siege early in May (Matt. Paris). The earl, retiring before him, withdrew to Nottingham, and joined the regent (Pembroke) in his critical advance on Lincoln, where ne shared in the royalist victory ('The Fair of Lincoln') on 20 May (1217). A highly mythical account of his conduct on this occasion, by Walter de Wittlesey, is reproduced by Dugdale. His services were rewarded (23 May) with the earldom of Lincoln, forfeited by Gilbert de Gant, his cousin and rival, to which he had a claim through his great-grandfather, jure uxoris earl of Lincoln. He then, with Earl Ferrers of Derby, led the royalists against Moimtsorrel (Ann. Burt. p. 224), and, finding it abandoned, razed it (Ann. Dunst p. 50). The honour of Lancaster was now entrusted to him; he was granted (6 June) the lands of all the king's enemies within the fief of Lincoln, and on 8 July 1217 it was proposed to the pope that he should share the regency with Pembroke (Royal Letter, i. 532). The honour of Brittany was now again entrusted to him, but, free at length to discharge his vow, he left for the Holy Land (W. Cov. ii. 241) at Whitsuntide (May 1218) with Earl Ferrers of Derby (Ann. Wav. 289, Dunst. 54), after granting a charter to his barons of the Palatinate (Dugdale), and reached Jerusalem 'peregre' (Ann. Burt. 225, Wint. 83). In the autumn, with his constable and following, he joined the besiegers of Damietta (Matt. Paris, ii. 230), and distinguished himself greatly at its capture, 6 Nov. 1219 (Ann, Dunst. p. 55), 'ubi, dux Christianæ cohortis, præstitit gloriâ' (Mon. Angl.) He subsequently returned to England, which he reached about 1 Aug. 1220 (Ann. Dunst. p. 60 ; W. Gov. ii. 246).

      It is from this point that we begin to trace the change in his policy. He found on his return that the regent, his old ally, had been dead for a year, and that Hubert de Burgh was now supreme. He had thus lost his chance of succeeding to the regency himself. 'The peculiar jurisdiction of his palatine earldom, and the great accumulation of power which he received as custos of the earldom of Leicester, made his position in the kingdom uniaue, and fitted him for the part of a leader of opposition to royal or mmisterial tyranny ' (Const Hist. ii. 46). At first, however, his royalist sympathies blinded him to the state of the case, and on the outbreak of the Earl of Aumale, who had surprised the castle of Fotheringhay, which he had happened to leave unguarded (W. Gov. ii. 248), he attended his excommunication at St. Paul's, 25 Jan. 1221 (Ann. Dunst. p. 64), and assisted to besiege him in Biham, which fell 8 Feb. (Matt. Paris, ii. 244). The fief of Leicester had now again been committed to him. But early in the following year he appears as 'the spokesman of the malcontents' (Const. Hist. ii. 34), the primate intervening between Hubert and himself at a stormy interview in London, January 1222 (W. Gov. ii. 251 ; Royal Letters, i. 174). An appeal was sent him from Palestine this year by Philip de Albini (Wesdover, iv. 75).

      Hubert's demand for the restoration of the royal castles bv the earl and his other opponents in 1228 brought matters to a crisis. The earl, with Aum&le and De Bréauté, planned to surprise the Tower, as a counter-blow to Hubert's coup d'état, but at Henry's approach withdrew with them to Waltham (Ann. Dunst. p. 83). Thence they came to the king at London and violently demanded Hubert s dismissal. Failing to obtain it, they departed to Leicester, where the earl held his court at Ghrist mas, while the king held bis at Northampton (ib. p. 84 ; Matt. Paris, ii. 260). But finding the king's party the stronger, and threatened by the primate with excommunication, they came to Northampton (30 Dec.), and surrendered their castles. Shrewsbury and Bridgenorth were transferred from the earl to Hugh le Despenser, and Lancaster to Earl Ferrers of Derby. The primate, however, was accused of duplicity in the matter by the earl and his allies, who sent envoys to lay their case before the pope (W. Cov. ii. 262). On the outburst of DeBréauté against the justiciar in 1224, Fulk fled for refuge to the earl as the chief opponent of Hubert (Matt. Paris, ii. 261), and the earl wrote to Henry to plead for Fulk and for his brother (then besieged in Bedford), while assuring him of his own fidelity, in proof of which he had made a truce with Llewellyn that he might be free to serve him (Royal Letters, ii. 233-5). In the previous year (1228), however, he had averted an expedition against Llewellyn as his 'amicus et familiaris' (Ann. Dunst. p. 82). On receiving a safe-conduct he reluctantly joined the besiegers of Bedford with Peter des Roches. Finding themselves suspected, they returned home (Ann. Dunst. p. 87), but came back before its fall (14 Aug. 1224). He also persuaded Fulk to submit (W. Gov. ii. 205). The latter afterwards protested that he had been led on by the earl (Matt. Paris, ii. 205, iii. 260). The earl now again appealed to Rome in vindication of his policy, but without effect (Ann. Dunst. p. 89).

      On 11 Feb. 1225 he was among the witnesses to Henry's 'Third Charter' (Sel. Chart, p. 345), and in 1220 made peace with William Marshall and Llewellyn (Ann. Dunst. p. 100). In 1227 beheaded the opposition which supported the Earl of Cornwall against the king (Matt. Paris, ii. 290), and in the same year he again received the honour of Brittany (Richmond) as he had held it under John.

      In April 1229 he attended the council of Westminster to oppose the grant of a tenth to the pope (Ann. Tewk. p. 77), and forbad those within his dominion to contribute. On 17 July he was ordered to be at Portsmouth with his knights on 14 Oct., and when there (19 Oct.) received from the king a confirmation of the territory between Ribble and Mersey, being the three wapentakes he had purchased from Roger de Mersey (Eg. MS. 15664, fo. 47; Ormerod's Cheshire, i. 36-7). The expedition being postponed to the spring, he sailed with the king, and landing at St. Malo, 2 May 1230 (Royal Letters, No. 288), took part in the siege of Nantes (Pat. de Transfr. in Britan. p. 1, m. 3). On Henry's departure (20 Oct. 1230) he was left in Brittany, with Aumâle and William Marshall, in charge of the army (500 knights and 1,000 men-at-arms), and having fortified his castle of St. Jean Beveron, he made raids into Normandy and Anjou (Matt. Paris, ii. 328-9). In June 1231 he captured the train of the French army, then invading Brittany, but arranged a truce with them for three years, 5 July (1231), and, reaching England about 1 Aug., joined the king in Wales at Castle Maud (ib. ii. 333; Ann. Worc. 422). He found him at war with Llewellyn (Ann. Tewk. 79), and, though honourably received by him, left him in anger, being accused of favouring Llewellyn (Ann. Dunst. 127). In a council at Westminster next spring (7 March 1232), he headed the opposition to a grant to the king on the plea that the barons had served in person (Matt. Paris, ii. 339); but when Henry gave the Londoners permission that summer to drag Hubert from sanctuary at Merton, the earl intervened to prevent it (ib. ii. 347 ; Ann. Tewk. 80). He died at Wallingford on 26 (ib. 87) or 28 (Matt. Paris) Oct. 1282, 'almost the last relic of the great feudal aristocracy of the Conquest' (Const. Hist. ii. 47).

      His body was borne to its burial-place at Chester with great and unusual honour (Ann. Osn. 73); but his heart, in accordance with his wish; was interred at Dieulacres (Ann. Tewk. 87). He is said to have been of fiery spirit, but of small stature (Dugdale, Ann. Osn. 73). His long tenure of the earldom of Chester (more than half a century), and the power of the influence he wielded, greatly impressed his contemporaries; monkish fables clustered round his memory (Man. Angl.), and his name fibres as a household word in the 'Vision of Piers Ploughman:'

      kan rymes of Robyn Hood,
      And Randolph, Erle of Chestre.

      Possus, vii. l. 11.

      a passage which has been held to imply the existence of a lost ballad-cycle on his life (Hales, Percy Folio, i. 258; Sweet, Notes to Piers the Plowman, pp. 130-7; Ritson, Ancient Songs, i. vii. xlvi).

      Shortly before his death he divested himself of his earldom of Lincoln in favour of his sister, Hawys de Quency (Vincent MSS. 215, 216). By her it was granted to her son-in-law, John de Lacy, constable of Chester, the grant being confirmed by the king, 23 Nov. 1232 (Nichols, Leicester, App. i. 39 b; Coll. Top. and Gen. vii. 130: Third Report on the Dignity of a Peer, p. 238).

      Three of his charters to his men of Chester are printed in the Appendix to 'Eighth Report on Historical MSS.' (i. 350), and translated in Harland's 'Mamecestre' (i. 188-9), in which there is also (i. 200-2) a translation of his charter to Salford (circ. 1230), inaccurately printed in Baines's * Lancashire' (ii. 170). His charter to the nuns of Grenefield (Cart. Harl. Ant. 52, A. 16) is printed in Nichols's 'Leicester' (App. i. 39 b), and in Ormerod's 'Cheshire' are his charter of confirmation to St. Werburgh (i. 33) and his two charters to Stanlaw Abbey (i. 38). In the 'Monasticon' (vi. 114) is his confirmation of Cheshunt parsonage to his canons of the priory of Fougères. Three of his Dieulacres charters are printed s. v. and another one (Add. MS. 15771) at v. 325. His sundry benefactions are recorded by Dugdale (Baronage, i. 44 b).

      Engravings of his seals are given in Vincent's 'Discovery of Brooke's Errors ' (p. 317), Nichols's ' Leicester ' (i. pi. xii.), Onnerod's 'Cheshire' (i. 33, 37, 38, 41), 'Topographer and Genealogist' (ii. 315).

      Leaving no issue by either of his wives, of whom the second survived him twenty years, dying 1252 (Ann. Burt. 305), the great estates of his house passed to his four sisters: (1) Maud, wife of David, earl of Huntingdon, and mother of John 'de Scotiâ,' who succeeded him in the earldom of Chester; (2) Mabel, wife of William de Albini, earl of Arundel; (3) Agnes, wife to William, Earl Ferrers of Derby; (4) Hawys, wife of Robert de Quency, son to Laher, earl of Winchester.

      Bale (De Script Brit.), followed by Pits, enters him as a writer, by a strange confusion, as 'Ranulfus de Glaunvyle, cestrie comes.'

      [Patent and Close Rolls; Matthew Paris (Historia Anglorum), ed. Madden (Rolls Series); Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi, and Gesta Regis Ricardi, in Stubbs's Chronicle of the Reigns of Henry II and Richard I (ib.); Annals of Burton, of Osney, of Worcester, of Dunstable, of Tewkesbury, of Winchester, and of Waverley, in Annales Monastici, ed. Luard (ib.); Historical Collections of W. of Coventry (ib.); Chronica Magistri Rogeri de Hovetlen (ib.); Gervase of Canterbury (ib.); Shirley's Royal Letters (ib.); Hunter's Fines; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 41-45; Monasticon Anglicanum (ed. 1825), v. 626-; Rymer's Foedera; Ormerod's Cheshire, i. 33-41; Nichols's Leicester; Wright's Political Songs; Topographer and Genealogist, ii. 311-16; Stubbs's Constitutional History; Stubbs's Select Charters; The Reliquary, ii. 55-231.]
      J. H. R. [5]
    Person ID I14550  Dickinson
    Last Modified 31 Oct 2017 

    Father Hugh of Kevelioc, 5th Earl of Chester, Vicomte d'Avranches,   b. 1147, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 30 Jun 1181, Leek, Staffordshire Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 34 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Mother Bertrade de Montfort, Countess of Chester,   b. ca. 1155,   d. 1227  (Age ~ 72 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Family ID F4455  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Constance de Bretagne, Duchess de Bretagne,   b. 1161, Brittany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Sep 1201, Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 40 years) 
    Married 1188  [6
    Last Modified 27 Dec 2015 
    Family ID F4893  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - ca. 1170 - Oswestry, Powys, Wales Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMilitary - 20 May 1217 - Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 28 Oct 1232 - Wallingford Castle, Wallingford, Oxfordshire 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:, "Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester" at

    3. [S421] The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones, Thomas Asbridge, (New York: HarperCollins, 2014), 288.
      Chester was involved in Angevin court affairs, having fought with Richard I and John I on the continent, but retired to his estates when John lost Normandy.

    4. [S421] The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones, Thomas Asbridge, (New York: HarperCollins, 2014), 357.

    5. [S336351] Dictionary of National Biography, 63 volumes, Sir Sidney Lee, ed., (New York: McMillan and Company, 1885-1900), Public Domain., "Blundevill, Randulph de", 5: 267-71.

    6. [S336465] Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life, Alison Weir, (New York: Ballantine iBook, 2008), 393.