William Longespée: Yet One More Younger Brother

In the mid 1170s, after his Great Revolt was brought to an end, Henry the Young King learned about a new arrival into the family. His youngest brother entered the world. Born on the wrong side of the blanket, as we would say today, baby William was Henry's half-brother, to be precise. With Henry's mother, Queen Eleanor imprisoned and Rosamund Clifford dead Henry II took young Ida de Tosney for his mistress. Ida was the old king's ward at the time. She came from an aristocratic and well connected family. Her father Roger de Tosney held vast estates in Normandy. Her mother, whom she was named for, came from the powerful Beaumont family. 

Young William, who was to come down in history as William Longespée, was raised at his father's court, while his mother married Roger Bigod, the earl of Norfolk and had other children with him. William's younger half-brother, Hugh Bigod - the eldest of Ida and Roger's children and heir to the earldom - was to marry the eldest daughter of William Marshal one day, drawing the Bigods and the Marshals together, and thus William himself closer in his mother's family connections. 

Whether Henry the Young King, twenty years senior to William, pay his young half-brother any heed, we do not know. He was dead by the time William reached maturity. If they ever had any relationship it must have been admiration a little brother felt for a "big" one, with the Young King a glittering but distant figure. Other brothers, however, provided for young William. His star began to rise with Richard I and was to shine most brightly during the reign of John. In Anglo-Norman society what  mattered was a family. The royals were no exception. When they sought allies, they sought and found them among thier relatives, both close and distant ones. There was a place in that scheme for royal bastrads, as well. They were cared and provided for and then used in their parents' or - as in William's case - in their siblings' policy.

To learn more about William Longespée and his long and distinguished career as both diplomat and military leader read James Turner's article in the Royal Bastards series.

Written by Katarzyna Ogrodnik-Fujcik


  1. Great to read another rollicking tale of Young Henry. Ida is a fascination historical figure, and it is my feeling she knew Henry, Mathilda, Richard, Geoffrey, and Eleanora as children. If you go up the family tree you see Ida's grandfather was Robert Beaumont, the chief justicer to Henri II and a friend to Eleanor. Beaumont had estates in England and France and they may well have been altogether at various periods. Perhaps even when Eleanor and children were at Old Salisbury when Henri, Becket and Beaumont were hashing it out at Clarendon.


    1. Dear Mark, thank you for your comment. I am back to blogging. Hopefully, for good.
      You may be right about Ida and the children of Henry II, but since Longespee was born somtime in the mid 1170s they were all teenagers, when she became Henry's mistress. In 1175 the Young King was twenty. Although she might have known them as children as well. Her father died in mid 1160s and it must have been then when she came to court as Henry's ward. With Eleanor imprisoned and Rosamund dead (the latter died in the mid 1170s) it seems quite possible that Ida was Henry's consolation of sorts.
      Through her mother she could boast falmily connections with the royal House of Scotland.

    2. BTW, Katarzyna is my full name (English "Katherine"), Kasia being a diminutive.


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