Who is Alice?

Some of you will know that I’ve already written about the burial at Norton Priory and the subsequent exhumation of the remains of Richard de Cestria, a main character in my novel The de Lacy Inheritance. You can find that blogpost here.

My previous blog also mentions another burial at the site – that of Alice (de l’Aigle) de Lacy.

When I found out that Norton Priory had been granted some Heritage Lottery Funding to Norton Priory Oct 13 001update their museum and display more artefacts I was very interested, especially when I saw that some work had already been done on the lid of Alice’s coffin.

When I saw that their knowledge of the identity of Alice and of Richard seemed sketchy to say the least (even though I told them about Richard three years ago!) I sent them some links from my own research and I thought it was worth sharing that information here.

Alice de l’Aigle (de Lacy):

This is an extract from Monasticon Anglicanum which appears in the section concerning Kirkstall Abbey:

“cui successit Johannes de Lacy (primus comes Lin. colniae) filius ejus et hacres, et duxit in uxorem Aliciam filiam Gilberti de Aquila, qua defuncti et sepulta apud Norton,”

It refers to John de Lacy, first Earl of Lincoln, and his wife Alice, daughter of Gilbert de Aquila, who is buried at Norton. Alice was the first wife of John de Lacy, one of the barons who witnessed the Magna Carta. John was the son of Roger de Lacy and Maude de Clere.  It was Roger who took the name de Lacy after inheriting the lands from his grandmother.

After the death of Robert de Lacy, his widow Isabel/Isabella Warenne ( the second daughter of Hamelin, Earl of Warenne and sister of William Warenne, sixth Earl of Surrey) married Gilbert de l’Aigle/de Aquila. Alice was their daughter.

Considering that Robert de Lacy died in August 1193, the marriage of Isabel and Gilbert could not have been before then and the earliest birth date for Alice would have been approximately 1194. She was certainly dead before 1221 when John de Lacy remarried (Margaret de Quincy). So at her death she could have been no more than 27 years old. The information at Norton gives her age as between 35 and 45, but I’m not convinced that this would rule out my identification of her as Alice de l’Aigle.

How she died is unknown. My first thought was that she may have died in childbirth – although I don’t believe there were any remains of a child at the burial site. According to the information at Norton Priory the skeleton retrieved from the grave had a damaged knee and a dental abscess – so maybe she died of an infection. Poor Alice.

The information at the priory dates the lid of the coffin to around 1330 because the figure of Alice is depicted with buttoned sleeves, a fashion of that time. However, it seems that the priory church was damaged by fire in 1236 and it was after this that William de Warenne, sixth earl of Surrey, gave the canons a rent of 30s. a year from lands in Sowerby (Yorks.) to maintain a pittance for the soul of his niece, Alice, who was buried at Norton (See the Victoria History of Cheshire). So, it is possible that the coffin lid was a later edition, carved in the fashion of the times. Or another possibility is that button sleeves came into fashion earlier than thought.  But as the coffin lid bears her name and was found in the nave of the church I don’t think there is much doubt as to her identity. I just hope that Alice can be properly identified and remembered.

Whether she and John de Lacy had any children is a teasing question. If you’ve seen my previous post you’ll notice that I was contacted by a lady named Virginia Mylius who corrected the name of Alice’s father and provided some extra information. She has done a lot of research into the de l’Aigle family. She believes that John and Alice may have had two daughters: Mathilda and Idonia (Alice) de Lacy.  Whilst I know that John and his second wife, Margaret de Quincy, had a daughter named Maud, I’m unsure if Mathilda is the same person and I can find no trace of a daughter of Margaret’s named either Idonia or Alice.

This throws up another interesting conundrum connected with another burial at the priory. The first time I visited I was confronted with a full skeleton displayed in the museum. The identity of the man was not known but the recent research has suggested that he is Geoffrey de Dutton. There’s an article about it here. If it is Geoffrey, then his wife was Idonia (Alice) de Lacy. I’ve seen a suggestion that this Alice may have been a sister of Roger de Lacy and I have also seen her named as Helen, but looking at the dates and the fact that she went on to remarry after Geoffrey’s death, it seems more likely that she was the daughter of John de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, rather than John, the father of Roger de Lacy.

Could the burial and coffin lid relate to her? Possibly, but  Idonea (Alice) de Lacy went on to marry Roger de Camville and so her links with Norton Priory may have been lost. But, the name is also correct for the coffin and the later date would fit the effigy with the buttoned sleeves.

However, we know for sure that Alice de l’Aigle (de Lacy) was buried at Norton Priory, whereas information about Idonea (Alice) de Lacy is more difficult to confirm.

If you know something that I don’t please leave a comment and if I find anything new I’ll update the information.

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One Response to Who is Alice?

  1. Art Kavanagh says:

    Hugo De Lacy was a very prominent Norman who was part of the force that invaded Ireland in 1170 and went on to become a great landed baron Lord of Meath – his descendants died out in a short time

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