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Norman Families of Note

Dear Friends,

I have been reading a variety of works on Norman history recently. The wide-ranging power and influence of the Normans is really startling. Ranging out from the consolidation of the Dukedom of Normandy itself, Norman power extended its influence over most of southern Italy, extended to battles for the papacy, created the Kingdom of Sicily, founded the Norman Kingdom of England, later laid the foundations for English democracy, stretched into Spain and founded the Kingdom of Portugal, conquered the principality of Antioch and played a significant role in the Crusades. To add to all of these, the leading noble families of England, Ireland and Scotland are nearly all of Norman origin.

The names of all the Dukes of Normandy are well known and, please note, none of them were St Clairs. The Dukes of Normandy became the royal family of England after 1066. Only one St Clair name is to be found in the Rolls of Battle Abbey which lists all the leading supporters of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

The long list of Norman families who played such a major part in Italy and Sicily includes Robert of Guiscard, Count Robert of Loritello, William d'Echauffour, William of Montreuil, Richard of Capua, Tancred of Hautville,Roger of Barneville, William of Grandmesnil etc.

Those who took part in the first Crusade included Robert Duke of Normandy, Odo of Bayeux, members of the families of Montgomery, Grandmesnil, Gournay and St Valery, and lastly, Bohemund son of Guiscard.

Bohemund founded the principality of Antioch and left the rest to proceed to Jerusalem without him.

Now, for reasons that I cannot explain, the chronicles of those times signally fail to mention the family of St Clair. Furthermore, having recently read a comprehensive history of Scotland from the time of King Malcolm up to the Act of Union, I only found one reference to a St Clair and that because of his failure as a general.

We know, thanks to a fairly recent posting by Sinclair, that one St Clair Lord of Roslin, did indeed play a vital role in the Battle of Roslin. However, that apart, the only significant mention of the St Clairs is restricted to the founding of Rosslyn Chapel, the abject failure of Earl William's son Oliver as a military leader and the suspicious abstention of a St Clair Lord in the vote for the Act of Union. 

Perhaps the last mentioned piece of deliberate inaction may give us the clue as to why the St Clairs survived so long on the outer fringes of political power? 

The leading families who committed themselves to one side or another in the long litany of Scottish internecine strife that forms Scottish History, sooner or later ended up on the losing side and were dispossessed, executed or otherwise came to a sticky end. The St Clairs, who stayed at the periphery of real power, threatened no-one and thereby survived. 

Or am I being unfair?

Best wishes