|Intro||Medieval French countess|
|Death||5 December 1079|
Mabel de Bellême (a.k.a. Mabel Talvas) (died 1079), Dame de Alençon, de Séez, and Bellême, Countess of Shrewsbury and Lady of Arundel. She was a member of the House of Bellême.
Mabel was the daughter of William I Talvas and his first wife Hildeburg. She was the heiress of her father’s estates, her half-brother Oliver apparently being excluded. She also inherited the remainder of the Belleme honor in 1070 at the death of her uncle Yves, Bishop of Séez and Lord of Bellême. When their father was exiled by her brother Arnulf in 1048 she accompanied him until both were taken in by the Montgomery family. Between 1050-1054 she married Roger II de Montgomery, later 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. Roger II de Montgomery was already a favorite of Duke William and by being given the marriage to Mabel it increased his fortunes even further.
Her husband Roger had not participated in the Norman conquest of England but had remained behind in Normandy as co-regent along with William's wife, Matilda of Flanders. He had also contributed 60 ships to Duke William's invasion force. He joined the king in England in 1067 and was rewarded with the earldom of Shropshire and a number of estates to the point that he was one of the largest landholders in the Domesday Book.
She and her husband Roger transferred the church of Saint-Martin of Séez to Evroul and petitioned her uncle, Yves, Bishop of Séez to build a monastery there on lands from her estates. The consecration was in 1061 at which time Mabel made additional gifts.
Of all of Orderic’s female subjects Mabel was the most cunning and treacherous; if not entirely for her own misdeeds then as the mother of Robert de Bellême, who had a reputation for savagery as well as cruelty. In one passage Orderic describes her as "small, very talkative, ready enough to do evil, shrewd and jocular, extremely cruel and daring."
In perpetuating her family’s feud with the Giroie family she set her sights on Arnold de Echauffour, the son of William fitz Giroie who her father had mutilated at his wedding celebration. She obtained part of his estates when she and her husband Roger convinced Duke William to confiscate his lands. In 1063 however, Arnold was promised forgiveness by the Duke and was to have his lands restored. To prevent this Mabel plotted to kill Arnold. She attempted to murder Arnold of Echauffour by poisoning a glass of wine but he declined to drink. Her husband's brother, refreshing himself after a long ride, drank the wine and died shortly thereafter. In the end though she bribed Arnold's chamberlain providing him with the necessary poison, this time being successful.
Excepting Theodoric, abbot of the abbey of Saint-Evroul, who she listened to at times, Mabel was hostile to most members of the clergy; but her husband loved the monks at Saint-Evroul so she found it necessary to be more subtle. In an incident in 1064, she deliberately burdened their limited resources by visiting the abbey for extended stays with a large retinue of her soldiers. When rebuked by Theodoric the abbot for her callousness she snapped back that the next time she would visit with an even larger group. The abbot predicted that if she did not repent of her evilness she would suffer great pains and that very evening she did. She left the abbey in great haste as well as in great pain and did not abuse their hospitality again.
Mabel continued her wickedness causing many nobles to lose their lands and become destitute. In 1077 she took the hereditary lands of Hugh Bunel by force. Two years later while coming out of her bath, she was killed by some men who had crept into the castle. Hugh had enlisted the help of his three brothers, gained entry to the castle of Bures on the Dives and struck off her head with his sword. The murderers were pursued but escaped by destroying a bridge behind them. Mabel's murder occurred on 2 December 1079 and she was buried three days later at Troarn.
Her epitaph is notable as an example of monks bowing more to “the partiality of her friends than to her own merits":
Sprung from the noble and the brave,
Here Mabel finds a narrow grave.
But, above all woman’s glory,
Fills a page in famous story.
Commanding, eloquent, and wise,
And prompt to daring enterprise;
Though slight her form, her soul was great,
And, proudly swelling in her state,
Rich dress, and pomp, and retinue,
Lent it their grace and houours due.
The border’s guard, the country’s shield,
Both love and fear her might revealed,
Till Hugh, revengeful, gained her bower,
In dark December’s midnight hour.
Then saw the Dive’s o’erflowing stream
The ruthless murderer’s poignard gleam.
Now friends, some moments kindly spare,
For her soul’s rest to breathe a prayer!
Mabel and her husband, Roger de Montgomery had ten children:
- Roger of Montgomery, oldest son, died young.
- Robert de Bellême, Count of Alençcon in 1082, he succeeded his younger brother Hugh as 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury. He married Agnes, Countess of Ponthieu and died in 1131.
- Hugh of Montgomery, 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury, died without issue 1098.
- Roger the Poitevin, Vicomte d'Hiemois, married Adelmode de la Marche.
- Philip of Montgomery.
- Arnulf of Montgomery, married Lafracota daughter of Muirchertach Ua Briain.
- Sibyl of Montgomory, she married Robert Fitzhamon, Lord of Creully.
- Emma, abbess of Almenchêches.
- Matilda (Maud) of Montgomery, she married Robert, Count of Mortain and died c. 1085.
- Mabel of Montgomery, she married Hugh de Châteauneuf.
- George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage; or, A History of the House of Lords and all its Members from the Earliest Times, Ed. Geoffrey H. White, Vol. XI, 1949), p. 689 & note (f)
- George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage; or, A History of the House of Lords and all its Members from the Earliest Times, Volume XI, Ed. Geoffrey H. White (The St. Catherine Press, Ltd., London, 1949), p. 695
- George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England Scotland Ireland Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant Extinct or Dormant, Vol. I, Ed. Vicary Gibbs (The St. Catherine Press, Ltd., London, 1910), p. 233
- George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England Scotland Ireland Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant Extinct or Dormant, Vol. IV, Ed. Vicary Gibbs (The St. Catherine Press, Ltd., London, 1916), p. Appendix I, p. 762
- ^ K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday People, Vol. I, Domesday Book (The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, UK, 1999), p. 399
- W.H. Turton, The Plantagenet Ancestry; Being Tables Showing Over 7,000 of the Ancestors of Elizabeth (daughter of Edward IV, and wife of Henry VII) the Heiress of the Plantagenets (Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1968), p. 144
- George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England Scotland Ireland Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant Extinct or Dormant, Vol. V, Ed. H. A. Doubleday & Howard de Walden (The St. Catherine Press, Ltd., London, 1926), p. 683
- J.R. Planché, The Conqueror and His Companions, Vol. I (Tinsley Brothers, London, 1874), p. 202
- K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday People, Vol. I, Domesday Book (The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, UK, 1999), p. 372