The Early Career of William of Ypres in England: A New Charter of King Stephen

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This article discusses a newly discovered writ addressed by King Stephen to his military commander and leading supporter William of Ypres. This undated writ, copied by the French antiquary Étienne Baluze from a twelfth-century cartulary of the abbey of Saint-Bertin in northern France, was most probably issued in or around 1140. It sheds interesting new light on the English holdings of Stephen of Blois before his coronation, as well as on the (poorly documented) early career of William of Ypres in service to the new king. It records a grant to William of two knight's fees in Suffolk, along with the port of Orford, which, as we learn from the text, had been previously awarded to Stephen by King Henry I. Orford was indeed associated with the honour of Eye, held by Stephen after 1113-5 and - as we can now confirm - transferred to William's own custody around 1137. It mattered to both men as a strategic sea connection between East Anglia and their continental interests, i.e. the county of Boulogne and the recruitment area of Flemish mercenaries. This is probably why William retained it after his appointment in Kent around 1139. William of Ypres' early tenancy in Eye eventually helps us to reassess his traditional image as a 'mercenary captain', and gives new insight into King Stephen's administrative reforms on the eve of the civil war.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-545
Number of pages19
JournalThe English Historical Review
Issue number544
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


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