Searching For the First Stafford and his wife the Elusive Avice de Clare

By Neil F. Stafford

07/21/2003  (Third Revision) (with Addendum # one) 23pages in length

Preface: In the 10th century Hugh the Archbishop of Rouen, Normandy, France gave a portion of the archepiscopal estates of Rouen to his brother Ralph.  The lands consisted of the entire Arrondissement of Louviers, (District of Louviers) which included the Town of Tosny in the commune of Gaillon.  The Town of Tosny is located on the Seine River on the river plain on the south side of the bend of the river Seine across and up stream from the Chateau Gillard (which was owned by the English king Richard the Lion Hearted at Les Andelys.)  The "s" in Tosny is silent, thus it is pronounced Toeni and is frequently spelled that way. Ralph's home was Tosny and he was called Ralph de Toeni, which means Ralph of Toeni.

Ralph was the first of his family to use the surname of Toeni; Ralph was a Norman Knight and a cousin of William Longsword, the Duke of Normandy.  Why learn about

Ralph I de Toeni?   Because the Stafford family is an offshoot of the Toeni family, and the first Stafford was born in the little town of Tosny located in the province of Normandy, France.  (Note: the Province of Normandy is divided into five "Departments", Tosny is located in the Department of  "Eure").



People who seriously research the history of the Stafford family, will eventually find themselves traveling very far back in time and will probably come across the following information on the Internet: [A Frenchman, from Normandy named Roger "the Spaniard" de Toeni and his wife Godeheut (Godehilde) Borrell had a son named Robert de Stafford, who was born about the year 1030 in Leicester, England and died about 1088.]

 The above data is wrong! Unfortunately it is very widespread across the Internet and surfaces in hundreds of family genealogies.   It is completely inconsistent with recorded history:

Which clearly states that Robert de Stafford's original name was Robert de Toeni.   Histories consistently report that Robert de Toeni was in the retinue of William the Conqueror when he invaded England in 1066. In fact there were three

De Toeni brothers with William the Conqueror, Ralph de Toeni the Lord of Conches, and his two younger brothers Robert and Nigel.  


Tracing the above error back to its root, one finds a genealogical report that erroneously claims that Roger "The Spaniard" de Toeni and his wife Godeheut had two sons named Robert!  The erroneous genealogical report claims one Robert was born in 1030 in England and the other Robert was born in 1039 in Tosny, Normandy, France.  This confusion is likely due to someone's limited genealogical software capabilities. Which could not handle a situation wherein an individual changed his name. And likely they were trying to squeeze in the fact that the historically reported Robert de Stafford truly was the son of Roger "The Spaniard" de Toeni, Lord of Conches.


In fact there is a superb example of a problem like this at the University of Hull which maintains one of the best and most reliable records of the genealogy of European royalty. One of the world's most famous characters, 

Rollo Rognvaldson the notorious Viking Pirate from Norway, also known as Hrolf the Ganger is listed twice in the same report and reported to be his own father! This is due to the fact that when Rollo became a Christian and was baptized he changed his name to Robert and became the first Duke of Normandy, the easiest way to include this information in the University's data base was to show him as being two people, i.e., father and son, fortunately no harm is done because the University clearly points out this odd glitch In its report.  What is the source of the erroneous data about the first Stafford being born in England?

 Simple, the cause of the error is easy to determine, a historian somewhere along the line confused the correct Robert de Toeni Lord of Stafford with his first cousin Robert de Toeni Lord of Belvoir who was born in the year 1030 in Leicester, England and died in 1088!

In addition to his cousin, Robert de Stafford's uncle, was also named Robert de Toeni (Lord of Belvoir, 1009-August 4, 1088), It is interesting to note that Robert I de Stafford's cousin and uncle both died in the same year and on the same day, August 4, 1088. 


The following data is the correct information regarding the first Stafford:


The father of the first Stafford was named Roger "the Spaniard" de Toeni Lord of Conches  (circa. 990-1039) 

Roger was descended from Vikings, of royal Norwegian descent, i.e., from

Eystein "Glumra" Ivarson, the Jarl (earl) of the Opplands, Norway, and was thus a cousin of the Dukes of Normandy, France

Roger lived in Normandy, France, in fact he was the Standard Bearer for the Duchy of Normandy.    His wife's name was Godeheut (Godehilde) de Borrell, daughter of Raymond de Borrel the Count of Barcelona and Ermensinde de Carcassonne.


Roger de Toeni and Godeheut had 6 sons: Elbert (born 1025); Elinant (born1027); Ralph (born 1029), Gazon (born 1033, he died at the age of 1), Robert (born 1039) and Nigel (born 1040).

Note Roger was killed in battle during the same year that Robert was born (1039) and Roger’s wife must have been pregnant at the time of Roger’s death in 1039 to be exact,  (May 31 1039) because Robert’s younger brother Nigel was born in the year 1040.


[Roger had 1 daughter: Alice (Adelise) born 1035. (She became Countess of Hereford, when she married William Fitzosbern.)


[Roger was married two other times to: a woman named Adelaide of Barcelona, and

Estaphania de Barcelona Queen of Navarre.  (Godeheut de Borrell's older sister.)]


[Roger had a brother named Robert De Toeni Baron of Belvoir (abt. 1009-1088) and the Baron had a wife named Adela Osule and a son named Robert (1030-1088), the Baron and his son are often confused with Roger's son Robert De Toeni]


Roger was killed along with his two eldest sons, Elbert and Elinant by the army of Roger de Beaumont because he rebelled and protested when Robert, Duke of Normandy's illegitimate son William was named Duke of Normandy.  Roger argued that a bastard had no right to inherit the position and title of Duke of Normandy.  With the death of Roger Toeni and his two eldest sons, the ancestral right to be the Standard Bearer of Normandy fell to his next oldest son Ralph de Toeni Seigneur de Conches. 

The bitter rebellion led by Roger de Toeni against his relative young William the Duke, is referred to as the Norman Civil war. The war included large battles and attempted assassinations against the young Duke.  It was a battle between relatives for political control.


In 1066 Duke William of Normandy decided to invade England and claim the Throne of England. William had the support of Pope Alexander II in this endeavor The Pope consecrated a banner (called a Gonfanon specifically for William to use during the invasion.  (It is interesting to note that Duke William was christened in 1066 as an adult, just prior to the Norman Conquest.)


Upon arrival in England with his invasion force, Duke William called a meeting of some of his most trusted knights, among who were his cousins, Ralph de Toeni and Ralph's younger brothers Robert de Toeni and Nigel de Toeni.  Duke William offered the honor of carrying his consecrated banner into the battle of Hastings to Ralph de Toeni stating that the honor was Ralph's ancestral right. But Ralph tactfully declined the honor saying that he wanted to carry a sword into battle and fight at the side of Duke William. Duke William approved his request and gave the consecrated banner to Robert de Toeni who was next in line by ancestral right to be Duke William's Standard bearer.  Thus Robert de Toeni became the Standard Bearer for William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in the year 1066.

[Note: the first phase of the Battle of Hastings is also known as the Battle of Senlac hill.]

The Battle of Hastings was a ferocious battle wherein with young

Robert de Toeni (Stafford) near his side, William had to make use of four horses during the battle because three were killed from under him.  After his victory at Hastings in 1066, William had to fight for several years to gain true control over all of England.  As he marched through England conquering it territory by territory he established control by building a series of castles along the way: each castle was located approximately a one-day march from the other so that they could mutually support one another. One such castle was Stafford Castle. Each new castle was used to consolidate control over previously conquered territory, and to serve as a base of operations to further advance his army throughout England. He gave these castles to his most trusted and loyal officers.  William built a crude timber and earthen castle upon the same natural hill, used earlier for a fortress built around 910-915 by Ethelfleda, Lady of the Mercians and daughter of King Alfred the Great, when she established the Burh of Staithford, which means a fortified town at the landing place of the water crossing.     The name Staithford evolved into Stafford over time. William the Conqueror was a well-organized administrator. He greatly appreciated a sense of order and commanded young Robert de Toeni to change his name to Stafford to denote that he was the governor of the castle (or Castellan of Stafford).

Thus was born the first Stafford. Robert de Stafford was given a garrison of 60 knights to serve him at the castle.  This hastily built crude castle, which served both as a fortress, and a residence was completed in the year 1066. I suggest this for two reasons; [First,] it is recorded that Robert de Stafford's son Nicholas I de Stafford was born at Stafford, England in the year 1066. Thus Robert and his wife Avice were safely living in Stafford at the time (in the same year of the Norman invasion).    And, [second] because just three years later in 1069, the Battle of Stafford was fought wherein Robert de Stafford was still in the area and (with the help of King William) held off and defeated invading Welshmen who had allied themselves with rebellious Staffordshire residents who were still loyal to their former Anglo Saxon leaders.  ["Shire" a legal or political geographic English subdivision like a "County" is pronounced Sheer or Sure.]

In addition to Stafford Castle, King William the Conqueror was very generous to his loyal cousin Robert de Stafford, the original fief granted to Robert extended into 7 counties, holding 131 manors, and thus 131 Lordships or estates. Located in Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, etc., [Note Ralph de Toeni was also rewarded for his loyal service, though not as generously. Nigel, the youngest De Toeni brother lived temporarily with his brother at Stafford castle and referred to himself as Nigel de Stafford, while he lived with Robert; but changed his name to Nigel de Gresley after he moved to Derbyshire where he was the lord of 5 Manors according to the Domesday Survey of 1086, the name Gresley evolved to Greeley over time.

Robert I de Stafford served as the first Sheriff of Staffordshire, his date of death is not known, but it is known that he was still alive in 1086 and counted in the remarkable 1086 Survey of England called the Domesday survey where Robert was listed as a major land holder, his brother Nigel is also shown to be a prominent land owner in Derbyshire.

It is reported that Robert I de Stafford was still alive during the reign of King Henry I, which was from the year 1100 to 1135.   Robert I de Stafford founded an Augustinian Priory at Stone in Staffordshire, upon the spot where Enysan de Waltone had killed 2 nuns and a priest.    Robert was buried at Priory Stone, Staffordshire, England. I usually show Robert's lifespan period as (1039-1100+).


More information regarding Robert I de Stafford's father Roger:

It is both a physical impossibility and a political improbability that Roger would have had a son born in England.  There is no historical evidence to support the idea that Roger was ever in England.  On the contrary, historical records show him in France, Spain and Italy.

He spent about 20 years in Spain fighting the Saracens, and trying to carve out a territory of Spain for himself with his sword as his distant relative Rollo the Ganger had done in France (Normandy). He also tried to acquire power in Spain through marriage to Raymond de Borrel's daughter (Raymond was the Count of Barcelona).

These endeavors proved to be failures, all he got for his efforts, was a nickname, "The Spaniard" which was either an empty title or a mocking insult.


Prior to the year 1066 Duke William of Normandy had sent some of his most trusted

Allies to live in England to support his English cousin King Edward the Confessor. King Edward had requested this Norman assistance to support his throne against powerful enemies within England who were conspiring against him. (Presumably, Duke William looked upon his cousin Roger's brother Robert de Toeni, Lord of Belvoir as being a trusted ally)

Duke William would have never sent his militaristic cousin Roger de Toeni to England to represent him.   Indeed Roger "The Spaniard" de Toeni was the leader of an armed rebellion against William, claiming that William had no right to Ducal authority due to his "base birth". This widespread and bitter rebellion is also known as the Norman Civil War; based upon the militaristic life Roger led and his constant quest for personal power and his distant royal bloodline, It is possible that he sought the royal title for himself. He already held the ancestral title of "Chevalier Banneret de Normandie". (Standard Bearer of Normandy)


His rebellion led to his death, and the death of his two eldest sons in a battle that took place at Conches, Normandy in the year 1039. The army of Roger de Beaumont, a very close ally of Duke William, defeated and killed him. Some years earlier Roger had financed the construction of a monastery in Conches (Roger was buried at this monastery), In fact historians found written records regarding his sponsorship of the monastery where a son attested to Roger's signature.





Many genealogies on the Internet state simply that the name of Robert I de Stafford's wife was Avice de Clare and offer absolutely no information about her.  In fact some notable historians admit that they knew she was claimed to be Robert's wife and that they searched in vain for her family in England but could not find a single trace of her.

Thankfully, one can now say that at least they were honest and accurate researchers, unlike some others who created a phony Avice who was conveniently born in England just a few tidy years younger than Robert, but mysteriously no one could identify who her parents were… Yikes, who needs data like that? (A fudged family tree is worse than useless!)

It is no wonder serious researchers could not find her family in England, for the simple reason she was not born in England their search was fruitless because they were looking for her in the wrong country! She was French, born in Normandy, as was Robert de Stafford a.k.a. Toeni.

She was born about the year 1050 and married Robert at the age of 14 in 1064 when she gave birth to their daughter (Alice) Adeliza de Toeni in St. Saveur, Normandy, France.  Her parents were Rohese Giffard and Richard Fitz Gilbert the Earl of Clare, who became the first governor of Tunbridge Castle in Kent, England (Note: Robert and Avice's daughter Adeliza married Roger II Bigod in England).  [Also Note: Robert I de Stafford's daughter Adeliza is occasionally listed erroneously as his cousin Robert of Belvoir's daughter. Thus the  confusion erupts again! Now why would the English born Lord of Belvoir and his English born wife have a child in France?]


I assume this marriage of Robert to Avice was carefully arranged looking to increase the political, economic and social strength of both families Because Avice was a direct descendent of Rollo Rognvaldson or Rollo the Ganger a.k.a. Robert the First Duke of Normandy (the 4th Great-grandfather of William the Conqueror). She was thus a cousin of William the Conqueror, as was her husband, Robert de Stafford. The Clare name was derived from the historic treaty signed in the year 912 at the Castle St Clair- sur -Epte. In which King Charles of France ceded control of the area of France known as Normandy (Land of the Northmen or Norsemen) to Rollo Rognvaldson.   Thus the name de Clare in a manner of speaking is a form of social bragging denoting as it does the family's close association with both the founder and the founding of Normandy. In fact three of the early Stafford family spouses*** see note below were relatives of King William the Conqueror.  With each passing generation the Stafford family grew in wealth and power. Early on they ran a parallel course to the throne of England… (Cousins)… finally through marriage the Staffords became direct lineal descendants of King William the Conqueror. And thus potential claimants to the throne of England.  The Staffords became direct descendents of  William the Conqueror through the marriage of Earl Ralph de Stafford (1301-1372) to Margaret d'Audley, thus introducing Norman English royalty into the Stafford family in addition to the Saxon English royalty already possessed by the Staffords.  




****Note three early Stafford spouses:

****Also see the family trees I have prepared for the following Stafford spouses*****



Avice de Clare born about 1050, a direct lineal descendent of Rollo Rognvaldson

(4th Great- grandfather of King William the Conqueror).  Avice was also (through the wife of Rollo, Poppa de Senlis) a direct descendent of Charlemagne, King of France and her ancestry is readily traceable to the Emperors of Rome and numerous royal families throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Maude de Meolte born about 1069, a direct lineal descendent of Harlette de Falais (King William's mother through William's half sister Emma de Conteville).

Petronilla (Pernel) de Ferrers born about 1198, a direct lineal descendent of Harlette de Falais (King William's mother through William's half brother Robert the Count of Mortain de Burgo in Normandy, and also known as the Count of Cornwall in England.  Pernel was also a direct lineal descendent of Ethelfleda the "Lady of the Mercia" and thus of King Alfred the Great, the Saxon King of England.

See Illustrations and additional text on the following 18 pages:














Exhibit A (from the Internet)

Roger de Toeni shown with two sons named Robert

<!-- Rv6.02 -->

Ralph II (Rodulf) Seigneur De TOENI Seigneur de Conches

Mrs-Ralph (Rodulf) De TOENI


Roger "The Spainiard" De TOENI (CONCHES)

Godheut (Godehilde) BORRELL


b. abt 0990, <Of, Tosny, France>
d. ABT 1038/1039

b. abt 0995, <Of, Tosny, France>
d. aft 1077


spouses: 1, 2, 3



Elbert De TOENI
Elinant De TOENI
Ralph De TOENI (CONCHES) "de Conches"
Helbert (Elbert) De TOENI
Gazon De TOENI
Eliant (Eliance) De TOENI
Alice (Adelise) De TOENI Countess of Hereford
Robert De TOENI

Notice there is both a Robert de Stafford and a Robert de Toeni; both refer to Robert de Toeni who later changed his name to Robert de Stafford when he was ordered to do so by William the Conqueror.   (The two Roberts were underlined by me for emphasis).

















EXHIBIT B: (from the Internet)





*Robert De Toeni
born Abt 1009 Of, Belvoir, Leicestershire, England
died 4 Aug 1088

*Ralph II (Rodulf) Seigneur De Toeni
born bef 0970 Of, Tosny, France
died Aft 1015

*wife of Ralph II (Rodulf) De Toeni
born Bef 0974 Of, Tosny, France
died Aft 1015

*Roger "The Spainiard" I De Toeni (Conches) born Abt 0990 <Of, Tosny, France>
died: Abt 1038/1039 buried 31 May 1039 Conches, Seine-et-Marne, France
Ralph De Toeni born Abt 0992 Of, Tosny, France

*Adela Osule
born Abt 1014 Belvoir, Leicestershire, England

*Robert De Toeni born Abt 1038 Of, Belvoir, Leicestershire, England
died Aug 1088 buried Belvoir, Leicestershire, England

biographical and/or anecdotal:

notes or source:























France Provinces                  (CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE)


























Cut from Bayeux Tapestry with William the Conqueror & Robert de Toeni (de Stafford) who is carrying William's Papal Gonfananon as William's Standard bearer, Notice that Robert is pointing back at William, and William is raising his helmet so that his men could see him more clearly

He did this because his men were beginning to panic because there was a rumor circulating that William had been killed. With the exception of William, historians dispute who can be positively identified on the massive tapestry, which was created years after the battle and was commissioned by Duke William's half brother Bishop Odo to give an illustrated account of the historic event.  The small cut above represents only a tiny portion of the tapestry, which is over 70 feet long.  Notice that Robert is depicted with a mustache that was the style of the day.  (Of course, I don't know for sure that this is supposed to be Robert de Stafford).          















GOOD CLEAR (SIMPLE) MAP OF NORMANDY shows relationship to Paris and the Seine River


This map clearly shows the Seine River flowing northwest out of the city of Paris and meandering down through the Seine valley in the province of Normandy all the way to the English Channel, notice Conches to the left of Evreux.  Conches is the burial site for Roger "The Spaniard" de Toeni, Lord of Conches [the father of the first Stafford, Robert de Toeni (Stafford)]. Unfortunately, Tosny (the birthplace of the first Stafford, Robert I de Stafford [Toeni]) is not shown on this map, It is located on the left side of the river immediately to the left of Les Andelys. (Tosny is clearly shown in the next illustration) The Vikings under the leadership of Rollo the Ganger sailed and rowed up stream on the Seine river from the English Channel towards Paris, the French King Charles the Simple feared the Vikings would conqueror Paris. To protect the City, the King ceded the province of Normandy to Rollo, and offered his daughter in marriage to Rollo, the King had two key conditions that he wanted Rollo to meet.  First, Rollo had to agree to be baptized as a Christian and second, Rollo had to agree to repel any further attacks on France by other Viking groups. 
















The above map generally depicts the whole area of Normandy known as the

Arrondissement of Louviers, (District of Louviers) This entire area was owned by the de Toeni family; their home was located in the little community of Tosny.

Notice the little town of Tosny located along the Seine River across and up stream from Les Andelys.

Paris is just off the map, to the southeast up stream from Giverny. (Home of the famous painter Monet.)






















Statue of Hrolf the Ganger  (Robert I Duke of Normandy)

There are numerous statues of Rollo located throughout Europe, including

Notre Dame Cathedral, his burial place.   All Staffords today are direct descendents of Rollo, through Avice Fitzrichard de Clare born about 1050 in Normandy the wife of Robert I de Stafford.

Rollo was married to Poppa de Senlis (Poppa was then an affectionate term which meant Little Doll)

Poppa de Senlis was a direct descendent of Charlemagne, King of France whose ancestry clearly traces back to the Emperors of Rome!  Thus Avice Fitzrichard de Clare brought incredible royal ancestry to the Stafford family.




































Ethelfleda "The Lady of Mercia" was the warrior daughter of King Alfred the Great, note the sword she is holding in her right hand.   In addition to an exceptionally good classical education by some of Europe's leading scholars of the day, She was trained as a knight along with the young men in her father's service. On behalf of her father she led the military resistance against the Vikings who had invaded England and were trying to expand their area beyond the Danelaw into Mercia.                                                                                                                          Ethelfleda is credited as being the builder of the original fortified Town of Stafford in a portion of Ancient England known as Mercia (Just east of Wales and west of the area then known as the Danelaw, which was an area of England which was dominated by Danish Vikings. Around the years, 910 and 915 she built a fortress on top of a natural hill, or ridge, at a location known then as Staithford. At the bottom of the hill was a swampy-forested area with a tiny Island in the middle of the watery area. This little Island was referred to as a "staith" that is, a "Landing Place"

a "resting place"for those who were fording or crossing the watery area through the forest.

The little island or "staith" was first occupied by Saint Bertelin, who built a hermitage or monastery upon it.  The area of the tiny island is now the location of modern day Stafford's busy Market Square and the swampy water in this area over several centuries receded into the natural water channel known today as the Sow River.   Because Staithford was a fortified town it was known as a Burh, or the Burh of Staithford, which literally meant the fortified landing-place at the water crossing.  Over time residences and shops sprung up along side of Bertelin's monastery and Ethelfleda's fortress on this popular route between Mercia and Wales.  Over time, the name Staithford evolved into Stafford, and eventually the region around the town came to be known as Staffordshire.  To this day (2003), Stafford is still referred to as "the county town".  It is interesting to note that Ethelfleda's fortress location, originally intended to protect the area from Danish Vikings, in time became a fortress castle for the descendents of Norwegian Vikings, i.e., Normans.  It is also interesting to note that when Hervy de Stafford (1194-1237) married Petronilla (Pernel) de Ferrers Ethelfleda became a direct Stafford family ancestor as did her father,   King Alfred the Great.   Thus Hervy's son Robert IV de Stafford (1220-1282) was the 1st Stafford of English Royalty (Saxon Line) in addition to his numerous other Royal European bloodlines.         (CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE)







Photos: Stafford Castle ruins, summer, 2000 by Charles and Carole Felten





Exhibit J



Regarding exhibit i on the preceding page, The ruins in the photos do not, of course, depict the original castle built for Robert I de Stafford. The first stone castle, I believe was built at this location in the 14th century by Ralph de Stafford the 1st Earl of Stafford and a highly honored founding member of the Knights of the Garter.

·         When I mentioned that Ethelfleda built her fortress on top of the natural hill or ridge at Staithford, I underlined the words natural hill for a reason, for those who don’t know, the presence of a natural hill for a fortification in the early medieval period was considered to be a wonderful luxury. Many early Castles were built in the following manner: first a large circular ditch was dug and the dirt from the ditch was thrown into the center of the circle. The hill in the center was called a Motte and the castle or fortress was built upon the Motte or man-made hill. The large, wide, and deep ditch around the Motte was called a Moat.  Usually a heavily fortified drawbridge across the Moat (which was sometimes filled with water) was needed in order to gain access to the main gate or entrance of the castle.  Some historians claim that when William the Conqueror was at Hastings and just prior to the historic battle, he ordered that a large Motte be built. Then he dismantled the numerous boats of his invasion fleet and used the timbers from his boats and built a fortress upon the Motte. With all means of retreat gone and the waters of the English Channel at their backs separating them from the relative safety of their home in France. And with all the armies in England before them, William announced what was painfully obvious to his army.  "We are here to Stay"!  [Motte is from an old French word mote, which meant mound, or the medieval Latin word, mota.  Motte and Moat are confusing because they both relate to castles and they both appear to be pronounced almost the same way.] Sometimes, man made mounds or mottes (rhymes with blots) were placed on top of natural hills; there was a man-made Motte and moat (rhymes with goat) on top of the ridge at Stafford, England.  Certainly the hastily built first castle was an earthen, timber structure. William considered the Stafford area critical to the defense of his kingdom. It was adjacent to the area historians call the Welsh Marches castles in this area were intended to protect early England from invaders from Wales, and occasional incursions from Ireland. Speaking of early England look at the next exhibit, which features an ancient map of England.  If you study it very closely you should be able to locate Stafford on the map).  


·        As a youngster in snowy Buffalo, New York One of my favorite games was to build a huge snow pile about 12 feet high in front my home and play a game we called "King of the Castle", the objective of course was to remain on top as playmates climbed up and tried to push me off the top.  (It was always a good idea to have a huge supply of snowballs with you when you were at the top!  While we had no "moats" per se, during the night it was wise to secretly pour some water in strategic locations known only to yourself, of course, those devilish slippery icy spots sure were helpful if you placed them well!  I guess, being a Stafford,  my castle management skills were hereditary!








ANCIENT MAP OF ENGLAND AND NORMANDY during lifetime of King William the Conqueror, illustrating his areas of control around the year 1080. 

As you can see in the legend above, Stafford is located just east of the area of the Palatine Earls (shown in green/blue on this map)  

. King William considered this area so critical to the security of England that he gave the earls Palatine Control (Sovereign Control) over their territories.




EXHIBIT L and Parting Observations (END OF ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


This is the official Crest of Stafford, England

Note the depiction of Saint Bertelin at the top, he is the patron saint of Stafford and Stafford's first resident, he became the first resident when he built his hermitage there, in the early 8th century.

Also take note of the pretzel shaped object near the top of the shield. This is known as the Stafford Knot.  A humorist once wryly observed that a thrifty Stafford sheriff developed it so that he could hang three criminals, simultaneously with one piece of rope! Study it carefully.

Be aware that over the centuries The Stafford family had numerous Family Crests and mottoes over several centuries depicting the family's status at the time. The crest below is for the Town of Stafford.










* PARTING OBSERVATIONS: when engaging in genealogical research on the Internet, It is wise to study historical records of as many kinds as you can. Realize that absolutely anyone (including the town clown) can upload family data to the Internet, even to well known information sources such as Ancestry.Com and Info provided by "Family Tree Maker " users and even a source such as that provided by the Latter Day Saints search engine and even commercially made CD ROMS that promise to provide scads of family data!

As Ronald Reagan used to say, "Trust but verify!" Over the years, I have uncovered and corrected several errors in the historic Stafford family tree, by reading history and studying other sources of data besides genealogical web sites and family trees. And by sharing findings with fellow researchers and offering and accepting positive criticism. Each new tiny bit of correct data offers a clue that can open up fascinating areas for further research.  For example, learning a castle name or famous battle name or location may give you a clue to pursue yet more information regarding the family you are researching,

I even found the real estate records for the house owned by William Stafford and Mary Boleyn, almost by accident because I was pursuing a clue of a totally unrelated area of interest! Searching the family histories of Stafford spouses has opened up terrific windows into the live of historic Stafford family members. Try it, you'll like it! If you learn or reconfirm any good data concerning the Stafford family, please let me and everyone else at this web site know about it.

That is the purpose and spirit of this web site! ( Larry Stafford is the Webmaster of the site.

One of the key questions that occurred to me while studying Stafford family history was; why and how did they become so rich and powerful?  In order to solve those questions it was necessary to trace them from their earliest days, thus it was necessary to find the first person to use the surname of Stafford.  Finding and identifying the first Stafford has already been discussed earlier in this article.  In order to be consistent with recorded history the first Stafford had to be originally named Robert de Toeni, born in Normandy France, and a participant in the Norman invasion of England in the year 1066, and he had to have an older brother named Ralph.    Also he had to be a son of the notorious Roger "the Spaniard" de Toeni and Godheut de Borrell.  As pointed out earlier in this article, I found the first Stafford, Robert I de Stafford (1039-1100+) and his wife Avice Fitzrichard de Clare (1050-?).

Research on Robert I de Stafford's ancestry proved fruitful, It revealed Scandinavian Royal pedigree, which proved that Robert, was a cousin of William the Conqueror.  And, Robert also possessed pedigree of Spanish nobility through his mother.  Through research concerning the Battle of Hastings, I learned that Robert upheld his family's ancestral tradition of serving as the Duke of Normandy's Standard bearer, an honored function that should have been served by Robert's older brother Ralph, but Ralph declined the honor and Duke William gave his consecrated Papal Gonfanon to Robert to carry into battle.  The fact that Robert served as the Duke's Standard Bearer at the Battle of Hastings had a great deal to do with the illustrious history of the Stafford family over the centuries!  It was extremely important to William that the son of the man, who had led a civil war against him, agreed to recognize his authority to rule by serving as his standard bearer at the critical battle of Hastings! Without question this act by Robert de Toeni (Stafford) made a major impression on the other knights present at the Battle of Hastings. It cemented forever the legitimacy of William to rule over his Norman/English followers. William richly rewarded Robert de (Stafford) Toeni by giving him ownership and control over a vast amount of land in the new Norman kingdom of England, virtually ensuring that Robert and his family would be extremely rich and socially prominent.

Research on Avice de Clare's ancestry proved to be a gold mine of data!  Research revealed that like her husband Robert, Avice was also a cousin of William the conqueror,

and much more, she was a direct descendent of Charlemagne the King of France and thus her pedigree clearly traced back to the Emperors of Rome, and the royal families of numerous European nations (and Middle Eastern nations such as Persia, Israel, Egypt, etc., through her mother, Rohese Giffard).

The combined pedigrees of Robert I de Stafford and his wife Avice were extremely strong and significant to William the Conqueror.  It is interesting to note that any son born to Robert I de Stafford and his wife Avice would have essentially the same royal pedigree as a son born to William the Conqueror and his wife!  William needed to insure for both political and financial reasons that Robert and he remain good friends, William needed Robert's friendship and support and above all his loyalty to safely maintain the legitimacy of his claim to the English throne.   This helps to explain why William the Conqueror was so generous to young Robert de Stafford.  The fact that Robert was related to William the Conqueror does not adequately explain the generous grant of land, wealth and power given to Robert.  Robert's older brother Ralph was also given an attractive fief, but not even remotely comparable to the huge fief given to Robert. 

William was haunted by the fact that he was born illegitimate and spent much of his young life trying to win the friendship, support and loyalty of those around him in getting them to recognize his "Ducal" authority. He did this by showing respect to the ancestral rights of others.  This is why he offered the honor of carrying the consecrated Papal Gonfanon into battle to Robert de Toeni as his ancestral right in spite of the fact that Robert's father Roger "the Spaniard" de Toeni had been one of William's worst enemies in Normandy and had led an armed rebellion against William denying that William had any right to the title and position as Duke of Normandy, which certainly negated any claim he might make to the throne of England.  When Robert accepted the honor, it was an acknowledgement on his part that he recognized the ducal authority of William, This was of monumental importance to Duke William. It ended decades of strife for William.  This act of loyalty and support was certainly not lost in the minds of the numerous other knights who witnessed it.  This action of William and Robert effectively ended the issue among Normans regarding William's base birth; this was the birth of a new era of Norman history!

As Duke William handed the Papal Gonfanon to young Robert de Toeni (later known as Robert I de Stafford) and as Robert gripped it in his hands and raised it aloft to signify his recognition of Duke William’s authority,  The Norman Civil War officially ended at that historic moment!

It was both financially and politically shrewd of William to lavishly reward Robert de Toeni and to have this reward cemented in time by ordering him to bear the new family name of Stafford to signify that a whole new era was beginning and that Robert would be prominent within it. Financially, letting a cousin have control over the huge area of land granted to Robert de Stafford, was a means of "keeping the wealth in the family."  I have read that all of the de Toeni children of Roger “the Spaniard” de Toeni Conches and Godeheut (Godehilde) Borrell were compelled to marry spouses who also had indisputable Pedigrees of Nobility.  This is how control, power and wealth was kept firmly in the hands of the few for generations which spread back over hundreds of years, indeed, over thousands of traceable years!

Noted above is the fact that three of the earliest spouses of the Staffords were relatives of William the Conqueror.  (Avice Fitzrichard de Clare, Maud de Meolte, and Petronilla de Ferrers.)   Most marriages among the nobility in those days were either arranged by or subject to the approval of the reigning king. Note that King William's sons and successors purposely kept the Staffords close to and loyal to the throne.  With each marriage the wealth and political power of the Stafford family increased dramatically!  Each marriage brought ever-increasing control over large land areas of England.  Unfortunately, we have almost no useful information regarding the spouse of Robert II de Stafford (1101-1178) we only know that her first name was Avice, she like all the others was probably from a very wealthy and politically important family. 

Within just a few more generations the Staffords were not just cousins of the Norman Kings, but direct descendents of them through the marriage of Earl Ralph de Stafford to Margaret d'Audley, a direct descendent of William the Conqueror, again, within a couple generations King Edward III’s son Prince John of Gaunt (acting on behalf of King Richard II) was so desperate to tap into the wealth and power of the Stafford family to strengthen Richard’s throne, that he forced His niece Anne (Plantagenet) of Woodstock to marry two of Edmund I Stafford's sons!  First, at the age of 7 she was married to Thomas de Stafford in the year 1390, but he died just two years later (the marriage was never Consummated)

Later, on June 28, 1398 at the age of 15 she (by special license) married Thomas's brother Edmund II Stafford (1377-1403).  Both marriages were arranged by Prince John of Gaunt acting on behalf of his nephew the frail King Edward VI desperately trying to strengthen young Edward’s monarchy by more closely aligning it with the rich and powerful Stafford family   

 In 1402 Edmund and Anne’s son Humphrey I Stafford was born, later Humphrey was named the First Duke of Buckingham.  This honor was bestowed because Humphrey I Stafford was in fact King Edward III's great grand son. Humphrey later became commander in chief of the Lancastrian forces in the War of the Roses.  Humphrey married Margaret Beaufort; a descendent of Prince John of Gaunt (a son of King Edward III) Yet again here was another wedding of political and financial significance.  Which increased the stature of the Stafford family, while keeping power and money close to the throne of England.  This pattern of the rich and powerful wanting their children to marry into the Stafford family went on for several generations, each time another fabulous list of ancestors was added to the Stafford Pedigree, so that when the prominent and interesting ancestors of the Stafford family are listed it is so fantastic it almost looks like fantasy or science fiction.  In fact, the Stafford Family bloodline can be traced back without interruption at least over 3,000 years and beyond!   Indeed the ancestry does in fact devolve into mythology through the Scandinavian Sagas, which were a combination of History, and mythology.  Often family genealogy records can become confusing because members off the upper classes frequently gave their children the names of mythological gods; Also recall that the royal families of ancient times often claimed to be descended from gods!  It is claimed that the Scandinavian royal families descended from giants.  Indeed, Rollo Rognvaldson the notorious Viking Pirate from Norway, also known Hrolf the Ganger mentioned and pictured earlier on page # 12, a direct Stafford family ancestor was considered to be a giant in his day.  Based on my readings, my guess is that Rollo was indeed a large man, about the size and build of the popular movie star John Wayne.  (Something you should know, Vikings in general were thought to be men of large stature and Norwegian horses in those days were relatively small animals, compared to what we are accustomed to here in America and in modern day Europe.  Rollo (later known as Robert the first Duke of Normandy) or Hrolf the Ganger (the name meant Hrolf the walker because it was said he was too big to ride upon a horse.  When he led his armies into battle he walked in front of them this almost makes one picture a mountainous man like one might see in a fairy tale or science fiction.  In fact the problem was that he had exceptionally long legs, so that when he rode upon the small Norwegian horses his dangling legs caused his feet to hit and bounce along the ground, thus it looked in a comical way like he was walking. (Note that one of Rollo's descendents King Edward I of England was known as "Longshanks" due to his exceptionally long legs.)  To avoid embarrassment and possible injury he would simply get off the horse and walk.  Picture lanky John Wayne riding a mule!  I heard John Wayne's son say in an interview that when John Wayne made his famous western movies he was always given an extra large horse to ride so that he and the horse would look properly proportional.  Thinking further about the above, the question arises which came first the men or the myths.  One of the most prominent mythological gods was known as Odin or Wodin.  I have read that there really was a man named Odin who allegedly was a large, handsome and very talented man who came from Asia traveled through Russia and settled in the area of Scandinavia his deeds were remarkable and he became a legend in his own time, the legends grew over time and Odin morphed into a mythological god.

More comments about the First Stafford Castle

William the Conqueror ordered that a castle be built on the same hilltop at Stafford where Ethelfleda had constructed her fortress years before. This Castle built for Robert was a crude earthen and lumber structure, hastily built for the immediate safety of Robert and his family in 1066 so that they could survive and exert control in the hostile environment of the area now known as Staffordshire.           

It is interesting to note that old habits die hard: In spite of the fact that Duke William the Conqueror’s followers were building Stafford castle on top of a very large natural hilltop, out of habit they dug a large moat and created a large man made mound or Motte on top of the large natural hill or ridge at Stafford.  In later years, the castle was surrounded by a large wooden stockade, thus making the later Stafford castle a form of Motte and Bailey castle.      

An interesting footnote of the times is that when Ethelfleda built the fortress at Stafford, her father the Saxon King known as Alfred the Great gave ownership of land to

the peasants who agreed to live there and defend the area against invading Danish Vikings It was a very inexpensive way for King Alfred to raise an army of ferociously loyal soldiers.  In those times it was highly unusual for commoners to own land, that was a privilege usually reserved for nobility and the ruling classes. The Saxon residents fought valiantly for their homes as landowners which highly motivated them to fight against the hated Norman invaders, but they were no match for Duke William's well trained, equipped and highly experienced army.  They knew that under the Norman occupiers they would lose the right to own land, (In fact, the Normans introduced the system of Feudalism into England along with a social system of meritocracy where common people through personal effort could work their way up the social ladder by acquiring skills and leading productive lives.)  Indeed most Saxons in England did lose their ownership of land throughout England.   When the famous Domesday Survey was undertaken in the year 1086, this sealed the fate of land ownership in favor of the Normans; thus the Saxons called it the Doomsday Survey.    Robert lived in his fortress home, protected by his garrison of 60 knights and sent back to France for his pregnant wife Avice to join him in England; Their son Nicholas I de Stafford was born at the crude Stafford Castle in the year 1066, the same year as the historic Battle of Hastings.  Robert I de Stafford was given the task of holding Duke William's territory in the embattled midlands of England now known as Staffordshire, Indeed he was still there 3 years later when Robert I de Stafford with the assistance of King William fought in the Battle of Stafford in 1069 and fought off invading Welshmen who had allied themselves with rebellious Staffordshire residents who were still loyal to their former Saxon leaders who had allowed them to own land. Many Staffords were born at Stafford castle over the centuries, but if you follow the history of the colorful Stafford family you learn that Staffords were born in many locations throughout England, In fact they owned and lived in numerous castles and manors throughout England.  


For those who ask me who is my source for the information that Robert I de Stafford was originally named Robert de Toeni and that he was born in Normandy, France; My reply is that I presume that Robert I de Stafford is my source!  One of my prime historical sources for the information is the Domesday Survey ordered by King William the Conqueror.  Most Historians recognize the Domesday Survey to be the most authoritative source of reliable historical facts regarding medieval England.  When the King’s surveyors asked for information regarding Robert I de Stafford’s properties I presume that rather than have his stable hands or cook give his personal family information that Robert himself provided the information.   The references to Robert de Stafford throughout the Domesday Survey regardless of which Shire is being cited are all consistently the same. The Derbyshire portion of the Doomsday Survey points out that Robert’s younger brother Nigel de Toeni, who temporarily called himself Nigel de Stafford while he lived with Robert; but changed it to Nigel de Gresley after he moved to Derbyshire.   (The name Gresley evolved to Greeley.) 

It is interesting to note that most traditional Stafford family histories point out that young Robert de Stafford was in the entourage of William the Conqueror when he invaded England.  Thus our traditional Stafford family histories are consistent with the history contained in the reliable Domesday Survey.   In addition to the excellent and highly reliable Domesday Survey, the highly respected historian (antiquarian) Sir William Dugdale also wrote that Robert de Toeni changed his name to Stafford thus he was not originally named Stafford from birth as the erroneous data on numerous web sites report, nor did he die in the year 1088 as falsely reported on numerous copy- cat web sites that merely perpetuate errors because the writers never bothered to cross reference their material with numerous reliable historical sources. Dugdale clearly states that the real Robert I De Stafford was still alive as late as the year 1100.   Personally I am not overly impressed if someone cites Lord Hoohaw’s book of Notable British Gentry as their sole source of information, especially if it is inconsistent with numerous cross-referenced historical sources!   



See the ancestry table showing Robert I De Stafford’s direct descent from Charlemagne  through his grandmother Godeheut Borrell on the following page.







































Borell Roots of the early Stafford Family Descent from Charlemagne



Stafford Family Progenitors

Background Data, Etc.



Charlemagne (Charles the Great)

Birth:  April 2, 742 in Ingelheim, Rheinhessen, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany

Death: 28 January 28, 813

Interred: Aachen Cathedral, Aachen, Prussia

King of France and

Holy Roman Emperor

Name Unknown

(A concubine)


Louis I (The Pious) , King of Aquitaine


Judith Von Bavaria


Daughter of:

Guelph (Welf) I - Duke of Bavaria and

Hedwig Von Sachsau


Charles II (The Bald) , King of France


Ermentrude De Orleans


Judith , Princess of the Franks


Baudouin (Baldwin) I , Count of Flanders


Widnille (Guinidilda) Countess of Flanders

Born in Flanders Belgium



Wilfred I "el Velloso" (The Hairy) Count of Urgel born 0840 Of Urgel, Lerida, Spain

died: Aug. 21, 897



Sunifred , Count of Besalu & Urgel

Born in Urgel, Lerida, Spain


RIchilde de Rouergue


Borrell (Borelo) II , Count of Barcelona


Luitgarde de Toulouse


Raimund (Raymond)Borrell III Berenger, Count of Barcelona, Gerona, and Osona


Ermensinde de Carcassonne



Godheut (Godehilde) Borrell


Following the death of Roger

 Godheut married Richard the Count of Evreux.

Roger “the Spaniard” Toeni Conches  Standard Bearer of Normandy



Robert I De Stafford a.k.a. Robert de Toeni

Born in Tosny, Normandy, France in the year 1039.

Robert was in the retinue of William the Conqueror during the invasion of England. He served as William’s Standard Bearer at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

He was still alive during the reign of King Henry I, Thus Robert lived at least to the year 1100.

Both Robert and Avice were descendents of Charlemagne and both were cousins of King William the Conqueror of England.

Also they both descended from Scandinavian Royal families.


Note also: Through her mother (Rohese Giffard) Avice was also a descendent of Egyptian Pharaohs as well as prominent Jewish Kings

and, Persian Emperors.

Avice Fitzrichard de Clare

Born: abt 1050 in Normandy, France

Married: abt 1064 in Normandy, France

Daughter of:

Richard FitzGilbert de Clare and

Rohese Giffard

Neil F. Stafford prepared this chart on February 22, 2003