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• From Gen-Medieval Archives: Douglas Richard's thoughts on the controversy of William of Lancester's heritage. 193
From: "Douglas Richardson" <>
Subject: William de Lancaster I's uncle, Ketel Fitz Eldred
Date: 3 Dec 2005 10:48:34 -0800

What do the records show? William de Lancaster I and his son, William II, confirmed to the brethren of St. Peter of York land in Newby, Westmorland, where they held "by the gift of Ketel, my uncle." Later, William de Lancaster II (died 1184) granted to St. Peter's "the whole of the land in Newby which Ketel son of Eldred" gave them there [Reference: Ragg, Charters of St. Peter's Hospital, York (Trans. of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiq. & Arch. Soc. n.s. 9): 237-239). So, Ketel Fitz Eldred was the uncle of William de Lancaster I.

In 1962 G. Washington wrote on the subject of Ketel Fitz Eldred's relationship to William de Lancaster I and his father, Gilbert:

"It was thereupon concluded [evidently by Mr. Ragg cited above] that that first William de Lancaster's father, Gilbert, was a brother of Ketel son of Eldred, from whom descended also the Curwens of Workington. But when in 1915 Canon James Wilson produced his valuable Register of St. Bees he remarked that "evidence to make Gilbert the brother of Chetell and not his son is to be viewed with suspicion. Though Chetell was alive after 1120, his son Orm was old enough to witness a charter in 1094 ... To regard Gilbert as a brother of Chetell would put him a generation too early.' (pp. 248-249). And again, 'Gilbert the father of William de Lancaster was the elder son of Chetell, and therefore the elder brother of Orm, father of Gospatric,' a quo the Curwens (pp. 60-61).'"

Washington continued:

"Fortunately, the attention of my learned and distinguished friend, Mr. G. Andrews Moriarty, Ll.B., F.S.A., was attracted to this problem of William de Lancaster and his antecedents in 12th-century Westmoreland .... Mr. Moriarty's solution ... is that William de Lancaster's father, Gilbert, was a Norman knight, as evidenced by the French Christian names given to all his recorded children; whilst William's mother, Godith, was clearly the sister of Ketel son of Eldred and thus of native English stock (it will be recalled that Ketel was called William de Lancaster's avunculus, a term which strictly speaking means 'maternal uncle'). It is even possible, as Mr. Moriarty surmises, that Ketel's wife, Christian or Christina, may have been a Taillebois by birth; for, according to Peter of Blois, Ivo himself 'had an only daughter, nobly espoused' (see the Duchess of Cleveland's Battle Abbey Roll, III, 345), and certainly William de Lancaster's granddaughter, Helewise, along with her husband Gilbert fitz Renfrid, later confirmed some of Ivo's grants to the abbey of St. Mary at York." [Reference: George Washington, "The parentage of William de Lancaster, lord of Kendal," in Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiq. & Arch. Soc. n.s. 62) (1962): 95-97].

Given the above discussion, I find the evidence compelling that Ketel Fitz Eldred was the uncle of William de Lancaster I. It is Mr. Moriarty's position (and also that of Dr. Katherine Keats-Rohan), that Ketel Fitz Eldred was the maternal uncle of William de Lancaster I. That likewise makes sense to me.

Best always, Douglas Richardson. Salt Lake City, Utah

Gilbert married Godith.

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