• The Saint-Clair Narrative

A narrative is a spoken or written account of connected events; a story. Iterations of Saint-Clair surnames have appeared in medieval written records from before the Norman Conquest. Therefore, one might think it easy to make genealogical connections to those in the narrative. It’s not.

This is that story broken down into places, associations, and events so that we can look for connections that may solve our genealogy questions.

France to 1204 A.D.

The ‘Anglo-Norman realm’ collapsed in 1204. Up until then, cross-channel landholding and benefaction provided clues useful to us.



Wace wrote that the St Clers were with Hugh de Mortemer at Hastings. If this is accurate then we should see further connection with the Mortermers, and we do in early England. Loyd has Mortimer holding of Warenne in England. The St Clairs were benefactors to William II Warenne’s Castle Acre Priory and Ricardo de Sancto Claro witnessed a charter of Warenne to the priory. Baron Robert de Vaux (b. c. 1095) also gave land to Castle Acre Priory. This entire area regarding the Mortimer connection to the Warenne family is currently under much debate and best avoided until medieval experts get it sorted out.

The church of Airaines – department of the Somme, about twenty miles to the northwest of Amiens – was given, c. 1100 by Stephen, count of Aumale (son of Odo, Count of Champagne), to the Cluniac priory of St. Martin des Champs in Paris. The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy has Stephen count of Aumale giving this gift to Saint Martin des Champs with the consent of “Hauisa his wife and her father Ralf de Mortuomari / Mortimer (Stapleton exx).


Loyd (p. 88) states that they were tenants of Eudo Dapifer and that they originated in the Arrondissement of St. Lo. In Loyd, the connection to the abbey of Savigny is stated.
Also stated is ownership of land at Thaon and Vilers. Moretonii / Mortain is also mentioned. Keats-Rohan (KR 2, p.684) has Haimo (Hamo) and brother William giving the land of Richard de Vilers to Savigny with the assent of Stephen count of Mortain. This at once may indicate a relationship between the three surnames. In fact, a thorough study of Keats-Rohan (KR 2) shows relationships or proximity between several families: Bigod, Mortain, Lanvallay, Mayenne/Mayor, Montcanisy, Esselega/Ashley, Vilers


“Hubert I de Ria, son of Hubert de Ryes (Calvados), brother of Eudo dapifer  (q.v.). He married Agnes, youngest daughter of Robert de Tony of Belvoir, widow of Ralph I de Belfou, Domesday lord of Hockering, Norfolk, a lordship he now assumed. He died before 1127, leaving a son Henry.” K-R Domesday p.661

In the time of Henry I, he gave the church and manor of Aldeby to the monks of Norwich. Some researchers think Hubert helped Duke William out of danger when coming back from the Cotentin Peninsula. That might explain why Eudo became lord of Colchester and William the Conqueror’s dapifer.


Abbey of St. Peter, Préaux

William I gave five hides at Aston (Extona) with the curht and the burying of the whole vill, having received from the abbey the vill of St. Clair (Santus Clerus), and given it to his brother Robert count of Mortain.


The Abbey of the Holy Trinity Savigny

  • It’s interesting to note that a Geoffrey de Mowbray was bishop here 1049 – 1093. The de Mowbray family held Rosslyn while the Sinclair family were in disfavor. Rondo B.B. Me has a Geoffrey de Mowbray (possible descendant of the above?) side by side with William I Sinclair of Rosslyn in a confirmation by King Alexander III in 1279, Scotland.

Loyd (p. 88) states that the St. Clairs were tenants of Eudo Dapifer and that they originated in the Arrondissement of St. Lo.  Loyd also pointed out the close connection to the abbey of Savigny.

Keats-Rohan (KR-2, p.684) has Haimo (Hamo) and brother William giving the land of Richard de Vilers to Savigny with the assent of Stephen count of Mortain. This at once may indicate a relationship between the three surnames. In fact, a thorough study of Keats-Rohan (KR-2) shows relationships or proximity between several families: Bigod, Mortain, Lanvallay, Mayenne/Mayor, Montcanisy, Esselega/Ashley, Vilers

Savigny was also a surname, likely someone who took it from the very same land mentioned above. The name shows up in the list of benefactors to Roger Bigod’s Thetford Priory. Hamo St. Clair married Cecilia Bigod, daughter of the very powerful Roger Bigod. Cecilia was the granddaughter of Robert de Tosny. Roger Bigod had several tenants on his lands, one of the most important was the de Vaux family.

Anonymous (p. 290) has:

1114-1129 – Letter of William de Sancto Claro addressed to Richard bishop of Bayeaux and all, both cerk and lay, in Normandy. He has given and granted for ever his land of Thaun and of Vilers etc. to the Holy Trinity, Savigny.
T[estibus] his: Thurstano archiepiacopo de Ewrehic, et Audoeno episcopo Ebroicensi, et Radulfo Raiocenai, et Willelmo camerario de Tankarvilla, et Willelmo filio Odonis.
He begs the bishop for the love of God, to uphold this [gift].

? circ. 1150 – Notification by William de Sancto Claro to Mathildis countess of Gloucester that he has given the abbey of Savigny all his land of Vilers and of Taun as quit as he held it in the time of Henry king of the Engish, and that all the men of that land used to come to his court to plead and to do right in all causes and disputes between him and them wherever he was in Normandy; and this they are bound to do to the abbot and monks of Savigny. Wherefore he prays her (vos), as his lady, for the love of of God, to guard that endowment for the abbey, and to bid his men do for the monks what they used to do for him.

There is much to be learned about Odo de Bayeux

Pays d’Auge

The Pays d’Auge is a small part of Normandy, straddling the départements of Calvados and Orne. The largest  town there is Lisieux. Wace wrote about the Norman invasion and mentioned that Hugh of Mortemer had with him the lord of Auvilliers, the lords of Les Oubeaux, and of Saint Cler. Auvilliers and Saint Cler show up on a map of the Pays d’auge.



Saint-Clair-sur-Epte is a commune in the Val-d’Oise department of Île-de-France in northern France.

St. Mary Coutances

Anonymous – edited by J. Horace Round, M.A. – has Sancto Claro as benefactors to The Cathedral Church of St. Mary Coutances for Secular Canons.

In 1173, Rogero de Sancto Claro was a witness to the charter of Richard bishop of Coutances. (p. 343-344)

Hugh de Monteforti (Montford) witnessed the charter of William the Conqueror to St. Mary Coutances.

Other names showing up in the records of this cathedral are Warenna (Warrene), Sauchervilla (Sackville), Bigot.

See Anonymous p. 341 – 344

The Norman Conquest

One of the most impressive early mentions of our family was by a writer named Wace in his chronicle of the Norman people, The Roman de Rou. Wace was likely commissioned by Henry II, the work possibly to be read out at Henry’s court. Wace told us he was born c.1100 on the island of Jersey and educated in Caen, France. While he began working on the Roman de Rou in 1160, he would have known many people with living memories of the Norman Conquest.

In the Roman de Rou, Wace wrote:

Normant a pie e a cheual
Les assaillment comme uassal
Donc poinst Hue de Mortemer,
Od lui li sire d’Auuiler,
Cil d’Onebac e de Saint Cler;
Engleis firent mult enuerser.

Translated to English –

The Normans attacked them
courageously on foot and on horse.
Then Hugh of Mortemer spurred his horse;
he had with him the lord of Auvilliers,
and the lords of Les Oubeaux and of Saint-Clair.
They overthrew many Englishmen.
(Wace, p. 188)



Some researchers think Roger de Mortimer was the son of William de Warenne. Burke wrote that he was one of the principal commanders in the battle. As a result of his success, he was sent to the west of England to tame the marches of Wales. (Burke, p. 371)

St Clears Priory – Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, in Wales

Interestingly, a Mortimer was the lord of St Clears Priory – founded late 12th C. in Wales as an alien cell of St. Martin des Champs, Paris. The fact that the St. Clairs were with Mortimer at Hastings, and the place is named St. Clears makes several credible medievalists think we were associated with St. Clears Priory

There is some dispute about whether or not this small priory is associated with the Saint-Clair family. Here’s your first clue – the website Monastic Wales says lordship of the area at the time of the foundation was the Mortimer family.

Furthermore, St Clears Priory was a dependent of Montacute Priory, Somerset. Montacute was founded between 1078 and 1102 by William, Count of Mortain. It was the only Somerset dependency of Cluny Abbey until 1407. Bretel St Clair was a witness to the foundation charter of the priory of Montacute by William, Earl of Moreton (Mortain), son of Earl Robert.

I have not found hard evidence that the church in Wales was founded by the St Clairs, but the fact that the Mortains were the lords of the land, and the association with Montacute make it extremely likely. Also, the veneration of Mary Magdalene, relatively new at the time, is very interesting.

Auvilliers / Villers

The Vilier / Viler family were closely associated with the St Clairs associated with Savigny Abbey.

Planché (p. 281) has:
Auvilliers, “Sire d’,” 1. 13.747.- There are two communes of this name, one near Pont-l’Eveque, and the other near Mortemer-sur-Eaulne. As the “Sire d’Auvillers” is described by Wace as charging in company with Hugh de Mortemer, it is probable he hailed from the latter, and was a vassal of the Mortemers. A Hugh de Aviler was a vassal of Robert Malet, in Suffolk, in the days of the Conqueror, and a benefactor to the Priory of Eye, founded by him [Malet]; but I find nothing more to learn more about the Sire d’Auvilliers who fought at Senlac.

This Robert Malet is a good line of enquiry. Briefly, here’s what I found:

Robert Malet‘s Eye Priory received a charter of assent from his sister Beatrice. Later, a precept of Henry I made it clear that she was the wife of William de Arques of Folkstone in Kent (Eye Cart., no. 2). There is a St Clair connection here. A Main de Sancto Claro who attested a charter of Beatrice Malet to the Abbey of St. Peter, Preaux. William de Arques was a Domesday tenant of Hugh de Montford in Kent.

In further research on Malet’s Eye Priory, Vivien Brown’s Eye Priory Cartulary and Charters shows connections between several families involved in benefaction to Eye: Malet, St. Clair, Warenne, and Glanvill, to name just a few.

Following that Preaux Abbey connection, Fauroux (p. 33) shows that Richard Croc and his wife Benceline left to Préaux Abbey land at St-Clair. The identity of the place is obscure but could be either Saint-Clair-d’Arcey, near Bernay, Eure, or Saint-Clair-sur-les-Monts, near Yvetot, Seine-Maritime.

Lewis C. Loyd has the Avillers (Auvilliers from the Seing-Inf., Arrandossimennt of Neufchatel. They held Brome in Suffolk, and Shelfhanger in Norfolk. We know that because a Hugh de Avilers was a man of Robert Malet, the wealthy land owner about whom K.S.B. Keats-Rohan wrote such an interesting paper. In that paper, she mentioned Main de St. Clair as a witness of a gift of Beatrice Mallet, wife of William de Arques, which was witnessed by Main de St. Clair. So now we suspect a small affinity group comprised of St. Clair, Malet, Avilers, and likely Mortemer and Arques. (Loyd, p.9)

The name Aviler never figured prominently in Norman England, but the above-mentioned Hugh d’Aviler was a vassal of Robert Malet of Suffolk and was one of the benefactors to Eye Priory. Eye was founded circa 1086.

“Hugh de Avilers gave two thirds of his tithe of Brome and Shelfanger (1.xxxvii). There is no evidence that Hugh held land of Robert Malet who had only small parcels of land in Brome and no holding is Shelfanger in 1086. The King held land in Shelfanger and a manor of 60 acres in Brome for which no under-tenant is given. The Aviler family in the thirteenth century held the majors of Brome and Erwarton and land in Shelfanger by serjeanty tenure of the Crown, and the gift of Hugh to Eye traces this holding back to at least the early twelfth century. In 1254 the tithe was valued at 1/2m, in 1291 at 5s.” (Eye, p. 63)

Eye goes on to mention the Aviler family holding in Beria in Samford hundred (likely Bowen Hall in Wherstead), Erwarton, and Laxfield.

“The family continued in England, for in 1212 Bartholomew de Auviliers was holding Brome and Selfhanger of the king by serjeanty. It would appear therefore that the superiority over these lands was not granted out again with the rest of the honour of Eye after the forfeiture of Robert Malet.” (Loyd, p.9)

Anonymous (Round, p. 338) has the Ricardo Osovilla (Avilers) as a witness to a charter of Henry II in about 1185 to the Abbey “De Voto” Cherbourg. Other witnesses include William Malet and William de Vaux, among others. This may pull the de Vaux family into the affinity group.

Auvilliers, Neufchâtel-en-Bray, france
Mortemer, Neufchâtel-en-Bray, Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandie

They’re less than 3 kilometers from each other.


Trying to identify the Lord of Onebac was somewhat more problematic. In 1827, the French editor of the Roman de Rou identified this place as Asnebec, which he claimed was near Vire in the Calvados department of Normandy. The only place Rondo had been able to identify as having been known as Asnebec in medieval times is Saint-Georges-d’Annebecq, some 50km south-east of Vire in the Orne region.3  Its first seigneur was Roger de Beaumont, a close associate of Duke William. For these reasons, I am sceptical of the assertion that this was Onebac. See the blog post HERE>>

Instead, I am leaning towards the claim by the Annebaut family that Onebac is one and the same place as the village of Annebaut, 17km north-west of Lisieux, in Calvados in the region named Le Pays d’Auge. As early as the turn of the 10th century it was recorded as Olnebac. Annebaut boasts the vestiges of a feudal moat which can still be seen today.



Lewis C. Loyd’s Index of Tenants-in-chief and the Families Holding of them in England lists the major tenants in chief and their landholders in the back of his small but important volume Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families. It makes sense that those tenants of the same great men might have had other dealings. For instance, there are many examples of Sachevilla and St. Clair both being involved with the Warenne family. I present this as points of interest to guide further research.

People and Places

Eudo Dapifer

Tenants: Amblie, Berners, Caron, Matuen, Sachevilla, St. Clair

Add details on the land they held.


Tenants: Corbun, Cuelai, Savenie

Add details on the land they held

Earl of Gloucester

Tenents: Champernowne, Portmort, Vilers

Add details on Gloucester’s history in Normandy and land these people held of him.


Tenants: Avilers, Clavilla, Coleville, Conteville, Esmalevilla, Rovile

Add details on the Malet paper from K.S.B. Keats-Rohan and of the land they held of him.

Reviers / Redvers

Tenants: Foliot, Lestre, Moreville, Oglander

Details of Redvers in Normandy and his land. then of the land these folks held.


Tenants: Bosville, Cailli, Chesney, Grandcourt, Grimnosavilla, Malquenci, Mortimer (of Attleborough), Pierrepont, Poynings, Rosel, Spinevilla, Wancy (Vaux?)

Details on all these people and their land… especially Chesney, Mortimer of Attleborough, and Wancy/Vaux

Bishop Odo of Bayeux

“There is much about land-ownership of which DB (Domesday Book) does not tell us. Haimo de St. Clair is never mentioned in the Suffolk Domesday. But the IE (Inquisitio Eliensis – 7oa2, 273, 207a2) shows him to have been a well-endowed tenant of Bishop Odo of Bayeux.” –
SOURCE – R. Welldon Fin, M.A. “An Introduction to Domesday Book” p.27, 1963
And then we learn that Bishop Odo of Bayeux was a land-grabbing opportunist.
Odo of Bayeux was the maternal half-brother of William the Conqueror. His mother was Herleva (and Herluin) de Conteville. Count Robert de Mortain was his younger brother.

Pipe Rolls to ’Cartae Baronum’

By the time of the great inquest, many of the Norman Saint-Clairs’ descendants had risen to become relatively large land holders in England. K.S.B. Keats Rohan’s Prosopography has many mentions of the surname in the written records of early England.

People and Places

Gilbert de Sancto Claro

He held two parts of a knight’s fee from Bury St Edmunds in 1166. In 1200 Gilbert de St Clare held two fees at Bradfield and Wattisfield.

Haimo de Sancto Claro

Brother and successor of William de Saint-Clair, tenant of the honour of Eudo Dapifer. Occurs from before Eudo’s death in 1120 until c. 1137. Twice married, first to Gunnor, eldest daughter of Roger Bigod, and then to Margaret, daughter of Robert fitz Walter de Caen, he left a son Hubert by Gunnor. He was accounting for one of these marriages, probably the second, in 1129/39. Occurs with his brother in Cart. St John Colchester in his own right with his wife Gunnor, a charter of his wife Margaret’s brother occurs. He and his brother William gave the land of Richard de Vilers to Savigny, with the assent of Stephen count of Mortain.

Hubert de Sancto Claro

Son of Haimo de St Clair and Gunnor Bigod. Lord of Walkern, Hertfordshire, part of the Domesday barony of Eudo Dapifer, he was alive in 1155, His heir was his daughter Gunnor, wife of William de Lanvallay (d. 1185), Dead in 1185, when his widow Clemencia, aged 60, occurs in the Rotuli de Dominabus.

Johannes de Sancto Claro

In 1166 John and Robert de St Clair each held two fees of Walter de Mayenne in Kent. In 1242/43 John de St Clair held half a fee in Eslingham of Warin de Montcanisy under the bishop of Rochester. Thomas de St Clair was his tenant there.

Main de Sancto Claro

This Saint-Clair family member who got overlooked by all the other books on our family history was a Domesday tenant of Hugh de Montfort in Kent. However, K.S.B. Keats-Rohan found he attested a charter of Beatrice Malet, wife of William of Arques, Domesday lord of Folkstone in Kent. Richard Croc and his wife Benceline left to Préaux land at St-Clair. The identity of the place is obscure but could be either Saint-Clair-d’Arcey, near Bernay, Eure, or Saint-Clair-sur-les-Monts, near Yvetot, Seine-Maritime. His successor may have been the Normand de Assactesford (Ashford) who was an early benefactor of Monk Horton priory. (KR-3)

That land at Preaux Abbey is very interesting. It was held in 1070 by Eudo Rye. The Montfort family, a name very familiar to Sinclair researchers, was donating land to this abbey, some 40 kilometers East of Caen, in the Eastern part of the Department of Calvados, about halfway between the villages of Saint-Clair-Sur-l’Elle and Saint-Clair-sur-Epte.

Philip de Sancto Claro

In 1164 the sheriff of Dorset accounted for a purpresture of a liberate of land that had belonged to Philip de St Clair. Probably a descendant of Bretel de Sancto Claro, perrhaps a son of William de Sancto Claro.

William de Sancto Claro

Brother of Haimo de Saint-Clair, with whom he was closely associated throughout his life. He occurs between c. 1120 and 1139. Tenant of Eudo Dapifer, from whom he held Chalk, Kent, Hamerton

Willelm de Sancto Claro

Occurs in the Pipe Roll of 1129/30 in Dorset and Wiltshire. Apparently successor, perhaps son, of Bretel de St Clair in the barony of Stoke Trister, held of Robert de Mortain in 1086, Perhaps the same as the William who occurs in the Pipe Rolls until 1164/65. Possibly father of Philip de St Claro (q.v.). Walter de Esselega (Ashleigh) held the barony of Stoke Trister in 1166. He got that land because he was married to Felicia, Bretel’s daughter.


Anonymous, “Calendar of Documents Preserved in France: Illustrative of the History of Great Britain and Ireland. A.D. 918-1206, Volume 1,” Edited by J. Horrace Round, M.A., Printed for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office by Kyrk and Spottiswoode, printers to the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty. 1899

KR-1 Keats-Rohan, K.S.B. V-1 “Prosopography of persons occurring in English documents, 1066-1166, Volume 1,” Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1999

KR-2 Keats-Rohan, K. S. B. V-2, “Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166 II: Pipe Rolls to `Cartae Baronum’ “ (Vol 2) (Hardcover), by K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, Boydell Press (April 15, 2002) ISBN-10: 0851158633, ISBN-13: 978-0851158631

KR-3 Keats-Rohan, K.S.B. Paper – “Domesday Book and the Malets: patrimony and the private histories of public lives,” 1996 Printed Nottingham Medieval Studies 41 (1997) 13-56.

Me, Rondo B B, and Gerald Sinclair, “The Enigmatic Sinclairs, The Definitive Guide to the Sinclairs of Scotland,” St Clair Publications, 2015 ISBN 978-1-935786-99-3

Sinclair, Peter, Website: “St. Clair Sinclair Genealogy” http://www.sinclairgenealogy.info/hubert-de-saint-clair

Stapleton, Thomas, “Magni rotuli Scaccarii Normanniae sub regibus Angliae: contains “the later Roll of Richard I.” Society of Antiquaries of London, 1844

Wace, Elisabeth M. C. Van Houts, “The History of the Norman People, Wace’s Roman de Rou”, Boydell Press, Woodbridge 2004 ISBN 1 84383 007 8