Humphrey "the bearded" de Bohun seigneur de Bohon
(-Bef 1093)


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Humphrey "the bearded" de Bohun seigneur de Bohon

  • Born: St. Georges-le-Bohun, Manche, England
  • Marriage: Unknown
  • Died: Bef 1093, England/France

bullet   Another name for Humphrey was Humphrey "the old" de Bohn.176

bullet  General Notes:

For more information on the Earls of Hereford, see The Journal of British Archaeological Association, Vol. 27, June 1871 by J.R. Planché, pp.179-191 1526

bullet  Noted events in his life were:

• Background Information. 176
Humphrey I, also called The Old, was the founder of the house of Bohon. He is mainly known as a companion of William the Conqueror at the conquest of England and as the founder of the Bohon priory. Old English books designate him Humfridus cum Barba or Humphrey with the Beard. His beard distinguished him from other Norman knights of the period because they habitually shaved. Humphrey was the godfather of William and was certainly close to him because we see the names of William, duchess Mathilde, and their children associated with Humphrey's children. The oldest mention of Humphrey that we know of is in William's journals. It confirms a donation made at the abbey of St. Trinite du Mont at Rouen by Gilbert, Osbern's vassal. William's signature is accompanied by that of Humphrey, son of Richard, listed with the rest of William's men.

In 1062 we find Humphrey again with William at the Hogue de Biville, along with Roger de Montgomery and William, son of Osbern. At a meal in the middle of the road, William said they should be free like the common people of the neighboring priory of Heauville. In recounting the story, a monk said that a fellow diner criticized William's liberalism. Not taking too kindly to criticism, William threatened to strike him with a shoulder of pork.

According to a paper from about 1060, the knight Humphrey, a rich and noble man, granted the priory he founded, St. Georges de Bohon, to the abbey of St. Martin of Marmoutier. Humphrey tells us "with the inspiration of God and the patronage of lord earl William for the relief of my soul, and those of the late Richard of Mary, my father, and of the late Billeheude, my the octave of the Pentecost before the venerable father Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances... I protect the abbey of St. Martin, the servants Arnouf, Heribert, and Roger, and the other people whose names are inscribed here." The authenticity of this act, of which the original documents were unfortunately destroyed, does not seem to bear to be contested.

The latest dates proposed for the founding of the priory come from dates of estate foundings (from Martene and Miss Gantier 1068; Gerville and the Bernard abbey 1092; L. Musset between 1066 & 1087). However, the title of earl was given to William before 1066 and the founding of the priory was earlier. Originally the priory was settled by four secular canons. The act of including the priory with the abbey was precisely to entrust it with the lands of a knight. (A knight cared for and protected his lands and those who lived there from thieves, warring lords, etc.)

In later years St. Martin became very popular. It was at Marmoutier that William himself joined the Battle Abbey, founded to commemorate the Battle of Hastings where it was fought.

A document signed by Sir William, duke of the Normands, before 1066 shows that Humphrey de Bohon gave a garden from his fief (holdings) in Puchay to the nuns of St. Amand in Rouen for the repose of his soul and those of his three wives when one of his daughters became religious.

The monastery of St. Leger in Preaux was given the deeds to Barbeville, St. Marie's Church, the town of Carentan, and the neighboring rectory. Later Humphrey bequeathed the monastery a convent that his second daughter entered. Humphrey's sons Robert and Richard agreed with his actions.

By 1066 Humphrey had been married three times, two daughters had entered the convent, and sons Robert and Richard were old enough to assume their inheritance. Humphrey was a senior citizen.

Wace cited among the soldiers of Hastings: E de Bohon the older Humphrey.

Humphrey's name, a bit distorted, is seen on a majority of other lists of William's battle companions. As Wace's poem was written more than a hundred years after the events happened, some feel that Humphrey was not among the people at the Battle of Hastings. Taking into account the type of document (poem), it is very probable that Humphrey did participate in the battle. He was also with several neighbors of Cotentin and probably vassals, whose names were associated with his.

On the Bayeux tapestry, in a meal scene presided over by Bishop Odo, a bearded man is sitting to William's right. It is possible that this is Humphrey de Bohon--with the Beard--who would occupy a place of honor at the table out of respect for his age.

Ten years after Hastings, William was in England, so Queen Mathilda was left in charge of the government in Normandy. We know Humphrey was also in Normandy because of the act of Cherbourg, about 1076. Under the king's orders, he rendered justice with the monks at the Heauville priory against Bertram de Bricquebec, viscount of Cotentin, who had levied unfair taxes on his people.

Humphrey is mentioned in the Domesday Book (a great census taken of all the lands and people in England as ordered by William, between 1080 and 1086) as a champion and defender of the throne, and as lord of Taterford in Norfolk. Much of his wealth is attributed to the goodwill of William and the spoils of the campaigns, which was not a unique situation. However, the possession of large estates and properties in England was not all fun; they were hard to protect from raiders and warring lords. Humphrey probably also benefitted from Normandy's continued growth and profits from his holdings.

Humphrey's signature is on:

A treaty at Bayeaux. The king presided over the treaty between the abbey of Mont St. Michel and William Paynel.
Two documents of Boscherville on 30 January 1080, with the signatures of his son Richard, and William, Mathilda, and their two sons. One is the endowment of the church of St. Georges de Boscherville; the other documents a gift of St. Gervais Church and St. Portais to St. Florent de Saumur with other revenues by William de Briouze.
A document of William the Conqueror at Caen confirming the foundation of the Lessay Abbey on 14 July 1080.
Another document for the foundation of the Montebourg Abbey.

Humphrey's decision to combine the priory with the abbey was contested by Geoffrey (son of Nervee) who reclaimed the priory. The case was settled in favor of Humphrey by a judgment of the king's court on 27 December 1080 at Cherbourg. Among the witnesses were Humphrey de Bohon, his son Richard, and Torchetil de Bohon.

Continually Humphrey added his border lands to his holdings. In answer to his request, he received a formal deed from King William at Bernouville, probably at the end of 1081.

Other religious establishments benifitted from his generosity.

Humphrey died between 1080 and 1093. He had four sons that we know of: Robert, Humphrey, Richard, and Enguerran, and two daughters. Robert died young, before his father. Enguerran became a monk at Marmoutier in the Bohon priory. Richard began another branch, whose descendents include (in France) Enjuger de Bohon and Richard de Bohon, bishop of Coutances, and (in England) the Bohons of Midhurst, Jocelin, bishop of Salisbury, and Reginald and Savary, bishops of Bath. Humphrey became the illustrious ancestor of the earls of Hereford.

~Les Seigneurs de Bohon by Jean LeMelletier *

* The site that I found this on often disappears.

• Web Reference: Charles Cawley's Medieval Lands, Humphrey de Bohoun.
A manuscript which narrates the descents of the founders of Lanthony Abbey records that "dominus Hunfredus de Bohun, cum barba" accompanied William "the Conqueror" to England, adding that he was "cognatus" of William [Dugdale Monasticon VI, Lanthony Abbey, Gloucestershire, II, Fundatorum progenies, p. 134]. Domesday Book records "Humphrey de Bohun" holding Tatterford in Norfolk [Domesday Translation, Norfolk, XL, p. 1171].


© Nancy Lucía López

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