Constable of England (c.1130-1143)
Lord of Brecon (1125-1143) and 1st Earl of Hereford (1141-1143)
Born 1097 Died 1143
Also known as Miles Fitz Walter and Milo of Gloucester.
His father, Walter Fitz Roger was a prominent landowner in Gloucestershire and was sheriff of that county between 1104 and 1121. Walter was himself the son of Roger de Pitres, a contemporary of William the Conqueror and also sheriff of Gloucester. By the time his father died in 1121, the sherriffdom was clearly viewed as hereditary within the family as Miles now simply assumed that office. It was also in the year 1121 that Miles married one Sybil sole daughter and heiress of Bernard of Neufmarche, a Herefordshire landholder who was also the conqueror of the former Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog. Hence when Bernard died in 1125 Miles obtained not only the Marcher Lordship of Brecon but also Bernard's original lands in Herefordshire as well.
Thus a man of some considerable influence in the west, Miles was chosen by king Henry I as one of his trusted 'new men' whom he relied upon to administer his realm in preference to the representatives of the more established familes, and having served as both sheriff and justiciar for Gloucestershire he was additionally, sometime around the year 1130, appointed as Constable of England, the first recognised holder of that particular office of state.
With the death of Henry I in 1135, Miles declared his support for Stephen, and assisted the king in his attempt to supress the Welsh Revolt in 1136. But he remained loyal to Stephen only until the year 1139, when Henry's daughter, the Empress Matilda landed in England. At which point Matilda's brother Robert de Caen persuaded Miles to switch sides.
since Robert also held extensive lands in Gloucestershire, as well as Glamorgan and Gwynllwg in south Wales it may well be that Miles thought it wise not to oppose such a powerful neighbour.
His immediate reward was to be granted the castles of St. Briavel’s and Abergavenny as well as the whole of the Forest of Dean. Thus inspired by the prospect of further reward Miles proceeded to secure Gloucester, sack Worcester and reduce Herefordshire to obedience to the Empress' cause. At Matilda's coronation in July 1141 he received the title of Earl of Hereford and appears to have been additionally appointed by her as a sort of military viceroy in the southern Marches.
Miles was present at the battle of Winchester and only managed to escape the general rout by abandoning both his weapons and armour and thus arrived at Gloucester "weary, half-naked and alone". But despite his unfortunate experience at Winchester he remained loyal to the Empress, and busied himself with the task of collecting taxes to finance her military campaigns. Miles saw no reason why the church should not pay its fair share, a view which naturally earned him the condemnation of many ecclesiasts who resented such impositions, and Robert of Bethune, bishop of Hereford even placed him under an interdict. This probably explains why another cleric John of Salisbury saw fit to class him with Geoffrey de Mandeville and others who were "non tam comites regni quam hostes publici"; (not one of those counts who ruled in the public interest). But despite his condemnation by John of Salisbury, Miles never exhibited the same level of thugishness or single-minded self-interest as the Earl of Essex, and the judgement seems over-harsh. Having calculated that his political advantage was best served in switching sides in 1139 he remained conspicuous loyal to Matilda thereafter and his administration of the southern Marches was, by the standards of the times, comparatively benevolent.
Milo died when he was accidentally shot by one of his companions whilst hunting in the Forest of Dean on the 25th December 1143 and was buried at Llanthony Priory in Gloucester. He left four sons: Roger, Walter, Henry, and Mahel, all of whom were to die without issue by the year 1166 and his inheritance was eventually divided amongst his daughters: Margery, who married Humphrey de Bohun; Bertha, who married Philip de Braose; and Lucy who wed Herbert Fitz Herbert.
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for MILO OF GLOUCESTER
- The excerpt from Who's Who in Early Medieval England, by Christopher Tyerman, (Shepheard-Walwyn, Ltd., London, 1996) reproduced atwww.childsfamily.com/reunion/ps13/ps13_336.htm
- The excerpts from Les Seigneurs de Bohon by Jean LeMelletier, (Coutances: Arnaud-Bellee, 1978) reproduced at www.rand.org/contact/personal/Genea/bohon.html.