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William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey

William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey

Earl of Surrey
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Earl of Surrey
A.K.A. Earl Warenne, Earl of Warenne
Gender male
Birth January 1, 1100
Death May 11, 1138
Mother: GundredCountess of Surrey
Father: William de Warenne1st Earl of Surrey
Spouse: Elizabeth of VermandoisCountess of Leicester
Children: Ralph de WarenneReginald de WarenneWilliam de Warenne3rd Earl of SurreyAda de Warenne
The details

William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey (died 11 May 1138) was the son of William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey and his first wife Gundred. He was more often referred to as Earl Warenne or Earl of Warenne than as Earl of Surrey.


His father, the 1st Earl, was one of the Conqueror's most trusted and most rewarded barons who, at his death in 1088, was the 3rd or 4th richest magnate in England. In 1088 William II inherited his father's lands in England and his Norman estates including the castles of Mortemer and Bellencombre in Haute-Normandy. But William II was not as disposed to serve the king as his father was. In January 1091, William assisted Hugh of Grantmesnil (d.1094) in his defence of Courcy against the forces of Robert de Belleme and Duke Robert of Normandy. In 1093 he attempted to marry Matilda (or Edith), daughter of king Malcolm III of Scotland. She instead married Henry I of England, and this may have been the cause of William's great dislike of Henry I, which motivated him in the following years.

When Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy invaded England 1101 William joined him. But when Curthose promptly surrendered to Henry I, William lost his English lands and titles and was exiled to Normandy. There he complained to Curthose that he had expended great effort on the duke's behalf and in return lost all of his English possessions. Curthose's return to England in 1103 was apparently made to convince his brother, the king, to restore William's earldom. This was successful, though Curthose had to give up his 3000 mark annual pension he had received after the 1101 invasion, after which William's lands and titles were restored to him.

To further insure William's loyalty Henry considered marrying him to one of his many illegitimate daughters. Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury forbade the marriage based on the couple being related in the 4th generation on one side, and in the 6th generation on the other. William was one of the commanders on Henry's side (against Robert Curthose) at the Battle of Tinchebray in 1106. Afterwards, with his loyalty thus proven, he became more prominent in Henry's court.

In 1110, Curthose's son William Clito escaped along with Helias of Saint-Saens, and afterwards Warenne received the forfeited Saint-Saens lands, which were very near his own in upper Normandy. In this way king Henry further assured his loyalty, for the successful return of Clito would mean at the very least Warenne's loss of this new territory. He fought for Henry I at the Battle of Bremule in 1119. William, the second Earl of Surrey was present at Henry's deathbed in 1135. After the king's death disturbances broke out in Normandy and William was sent to guard Rouen and the Pays de Caux.

William was a donor to a number of priories, with his donations being mentioned in charters issued between 1130 and 1138 to Longueville Priory near Rouen, Normandy and to the priory of Bellencombre (also near Rouen) in 1135. His sons and his wife were witnesses to many of these charters.

William's death is recorded as 11-May-1138 in the register of Lewes Priory and he was buried at his father's feet at the Chapter house there. His wife, the countess Elizabeth, survived him, dying before July 1147.


In 1118 William finally acquired the royal-blooded bride he desired when he married Elizabeth de Vermandois. She was a daughter of count Hugh of Vermandois, a granddaughter of Henry I, King of France, and was the widow of Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester.

By Elizabeth his wife he had three sons and two daughters:

  • William de Warenne, 3rd Earl of Surrey
  • Reginald de Warenne, who inherited his father's property in upper Normandy, including the castles of Bellencombre and Mortemer. He married Adeline or Alice, daughter of William, lord of Wormgay in Norfolk, by whom he had a son William (founder of the priory of Wormegay), whose daughter and sole heir, Beatrice married first Doun, lord Bardolf, and secondly Hubert de Burgh. Reginald was one of the persecutors of Archbishop Thomas in 1170.
  • Ralph de Warenne
  • Gundred de Warenne, who married first Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick and second William, lord of Kendal, and is most remembered for expelling king Stephen's garrison from Warwick Castle.
  • Ada de Warenne, who married Henry of Scotland, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, the mother of two Scottish kings, she made many grants to the priory of Lewes.


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