Eustace Families Association

Eustace de Vesci

ca. 1170-1216

Eustace de Vesci was a northern baron and hadthe same ancestry as the Magna Charta Surety John de Lacy. He wasthe son of William Fitz Eustace who assumed his mother's name ofVesci, by Burga, daughter of Robert de Stuteville.

Eustace de Vesci's ancestry is interesting. Because it helps toshow how interrelated the Magna Charta Barons were, it will begiven here.

The earlier ancestry is the subject of controversy. As thisdispute is irrelevant to our history of the Barons who enforcedMagna Charta from King John, it will not be discussed here. Thefirst undisputed paternal forefather of the Vesci was one John"Monoculos," who came to England from Normandy in thereign of William the Conqueror, and acquired large holdings inNorfolk, Essex, Somerset, Northumberland and Hereford. In somepedigrees John "Monoculos" is called John Fitz Eustacede Burgh,and is reputed to be descended from the Counts ofBoulogne and Ponthieu who were descended from Charlemagne. Inother pedigrees John "Monoculos" is called John FitzRichard, and is reputed to be descended from one Ranulf theMoneyer, a wealthy Norman banker and merchant, owner of thecelebrated Mill of Vains,who died in Normandy about 1061.

The origin of the epithet "Monoculos," i.e. the"One Eyed," is explained in the "History of theCounts of Ponthieu." A tendency to blindness was hereditaryin the family of the Counts of Boulogne and Ponthieu. CountEustace I of Boulogne, 1046-1049, was called "Oculatus"or "Clear Eyed" because his eyesight was exceptionallygood for a member of his family. John Fitz Eustace de Burgh, Lordof Pembroke in England, who died in 1157 and was reputed to berelated to Count Eustace I, was also called"Mono-culos" or "One Eyed" because he wasblind in one eye, as too was his son Eustace.

Whatever the parentage and ancestry of John"Monoculos," he was one of the foremost noblemen inEngland after the Norman Conquest. Burke's "Peerage ofEngland," pg. 547, quoting from Dugdale's"Baronage," which in turn quotes the contemporaryhistorian Ailred of Rievaulx, calls John
"Monoculos" "one of the chiefest peers in England,of intimate familiarity with King Henry I, and also a person ofgreat wisdom and singular judge-ment in Councils." He hadimmense grants from the crown, and was con-stituted Governor ofthe Castle of Harptree in Somerset by King Henry I; of whichgovernorship, however, he was deprived, temporarily, by KingStephen, successor of King Henry I, in retaliation for John'sadherence to King Henry's daughter Matilda, who opposed KingStephen. Later Stephen recustoted John. He was "a great andaged man" relates Ailred of Rievaulx," and one of thechiefest peers, most eminent for his wealth and wisdom." Theidentity of John's wife is not now known.

John "Monoculos" must indeed have lived to a great age,because he lived to see his great-great-grandchildren. He wasstill living in 1138.

John "Monoculos" had at least three sons and twodaughters, as follows:

I. Payn Fitz John, of whom follows.
II. Eustace Fitz John
III. William Fitz John, a Steward of King Henry I of England andalso a justice in Normandy, appointed at the direction of KingHenry, who, after his victory at Tinchebrai in 1106, took overthe government of Normandy from his eldest brother, Duke RobertCurthose. During the Civil War of1138-1149, William Fitz Johnsupported the Empress Matilda, daughter of his old patron KingHenry I, against King Stephen.
IV. Alice, who became Abbess of Barking before1137.
V. Agnes, who married Roger de Valognes and died in 1185.

The three sons of John "Monoculos" were highly regardedby King Henry I of England. The two older sons, Payn and Eustace,were intimate friends and confidants of King Henry, who appointedthem to important offices and positions and bestowed on them manycastles and estates, sometimes as temporary custodians, but moreoften as permanent proprietors, subject of course to the King'sfeudal and other rights.

Payn Fitz John, the eldest son of John "Monoculos," wasborn before 1100 and died on July 10, 1137, while fighting Welshmarauders who were attempting to despoil some of his extensiveproperties. Payn married Sibyl, daughter of Geoffrey Talbot andhis wife Agnes, daughter of Walter de Lacy, Lord of Meath inIreland, and brother of Ilbert de Lacy, ancestor of the LacyEarls of Lincoln, including John de Lacy,the Surety. Payn andSibyl were survived by two daughters, Cecily and Agnes, both ofwhom married well. Cecily died without issue, but Agnes becamethe ancestress of a line of Munchensys by her first husband WarinI de Munchensys. Their grandson Warin II de Munchensys marriedJoan, daughter and ultimately heiress of William Marshall, Earlof Pembroke. Warin II's and Joan Marshall's daughter, Joanmarried King Henry III's half brother William de Valence deLusignan, who after 1264 was often styled Earl of Pembroke jureuxoris. Their son Aymer de Valence became Earl of Pembroke in1307.

The VESCI family had control of AlnwickCastle (pronounced "Onick") built as athreat to Scotland in Northumberland. The Vesci family came to anend, and the Castle went to the Percys in 1309.

EUSTACE de VESCI, the Surety, was feudal lord of Alnwick Castle.He came of age in 1190 and, in 1199, was sent by King John as oneof the ambassadors to King William the Lion of Scotland. Hemarried one of William's daughters. Soon he became closelyconnected with the rise and progress of the Baronial cause. In1212 he and Robert FitzWalter, the Surety, were called to givesecurity for faithful allegiance, whereupon they fled toScotland. De Vesci's English possessions were seized and also hisCastle of Alnwick, which was to be destroyed, but the order wasnever carried out. This order so embittered de Vesci that hebecame the most persistent of the King's enemies, and a principalleader in the insurrection. He soon was taking a prominent partin all their conventions, endeavoring to revive the laws ofEdward the Confessor. He was one of the Barons to whom the Cityand Tower of London were committed. He was excommunicated, andwas one of those who urged the Dauphin to come to England. Whileattending his brother-in-law, Alexander, King of Scots, as hewelcomed Prince Louis and paid him Scotland's homage in 1216,Eustace de Vesci passed Bernard Castle in Yorkshire and notedthat it displayed the Royal banner. He approached the Castle tosee if and how it could be captured, and was mortally wounded inthe attempt.

Taken from: National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons

Barons of the Magna Carta
Wurt's Magna Charta