Urse d'Abetot

Urse d'Abetot
Sheriff of Worcestershire
In office
c. 1069 – 1108
Preceded byCyneweard of Laughern[1]
Succeeded byRoger d'Abetot
Royal constable
In office
after 1087 – 1108
Personal details
Bornc. 1040
Normandy, France
ChildrenRoger d'Abetot, Emmeline

Urse d'Abetot[a] (c. 1040 – 1108) was a Norman who followed King William I to England, and became Sheriff of Worcestershire and a royal official under him and Kings William II and Henry I. He was a native of Normandy and moved to England shortly after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, and was appointed sheriff in about 1069. Little is known of his family in Normandy, who were not prominent. Although Urse's lord in Normandy was present at the Battle of Hastings, there is no evidence that Urse took part in the invasion of England in 1066.

Urse built the earliest form of Worcester Castle in Worcester, which encroached on the cathedral cemetery there, earning him a curse from the Archbishop of York. Urse helped to put down a rebellion against King William I in 1075, and quarrelled with the Church in his county over the jurisdiction of the sheriffs. He continued in the service of William's sons after the king's death, and was appointed constable under William II and marshal under Henry I. Urse was known for his acquisitiveness, and during William II's reign was considered second only to Ranulf Flambard, another royal official, in his rapacity. Urse's son succeeded him as sheriff but was subsequently exiled, thus forfeiting the office. Through his daughter, Urse is an ancestor of the Beauchamp family, who eventually became Earls of Warwick.


Norman conquest of England

The Château de Tancarville in Normandy. Urse was a tenant of the lords of Tancarville.

On 5 January 1066 Edward the Confessor, King of England, died. Edward's lack of children meant there was no clear legitimate successor, leading eventually to a succession dispute. Some medieval writers state that shortly before Edward's death he named his brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, as his heir. Others claim that Edward had promised the throne to his cousin, William, Duke of Normandy, a powerful autonomous ruler in northern France. Harold, the most powerful English noble, took the initiative and was crowned king on 6 January. William, lacking Harold's proximity to the centres of English royal government, gathered troops and prepared an invasion fleet. He invaded England in October, and subsequently defeated and killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066. William was crowned on Christmas Day at Westminster, becoming William I.[6]

Between his coronation and 1071, William consolidated his hold over England, defeating a number of rebellions that arose particularly in the north and west of the country. Immediately after Hastings, only those English noblemen who fought in the battle lost their lands,[7] which were distributed to Normans and others from the continent who had supported William's invasion.[8] The rebellions of the years 1068 to 1071 led to fresh confiscations of English land, again distributed to William's continental followers.[9] By 1086, when William ordered the compilation of Domesday Book to record landholders in England, most of the native English nobility had been replaced by Norman and other continental nobles.[10]


The main sources for Urse's life are English documents such as charters and writs which mention his activities.[11] Often these are contained in collections of such documents, known as cartularies, which were assembled by monasteries and cathedral chapters to document their landholdings. Cartularies frequently contain documents from landholders surrounding a monastery,[12] which is the case with many of the documents mentioning Urse.[13] Other sources of information on Urse are Domesday Book, which mentions his landholdings in 1086, and a number of chronicles, including William of Malmesbury's Gesta pontificum Anglorum, Florence of Worcester's Chronicon ex chronicis, and Hemming's Cartulary, a mixed chronicle and cartulary from Worcester Cathedral.[11] There are also mentions of Urse in Norman sources, such as charters for Saint-Georges de Boscherville Abbey.[13]

Other Languages
français: Urse d'Abbetot