The first Grants were a branch of the FitzGeralds, who trace their roots back to Florence, Italy in AD 910, with one Rainerio. But there is no family tree for this period. Our direct roots start with Otho (or Other) arrived in England via Normandy prior to 1066. He held estates in England at the time of the conquest, and was powerful enough to have retained his lands. According to Brian Fitzgerald in The Geraldines (1951), the kinship of the FitzGeralds to the Florentine family was recognised in the 16th century by the Earls of Kildare. Whether they were really from Florence is open to doubt, but certainly Otho is a real figure.
Following their invasion of England in 1066, the Normans consolidated their position by garrisoning a chain of formidable castles. The Castillian of one of these, Windsor Castle, was Otho's son, Walter fitz Otho, noted in the Doomsday Book of 1087. Walter married Glades, daughter of Rhuvallon of Cynvyn, Prince of North Wales. They had three sons, Gerald, Robert and William. It is not clear why he married someone from Wales, if he was Constable of Windsor, perhaps she was a hostage there. As well as being Constable of Windsor, Walter was also Keeper of the forests of Berkshire, and owned extensive lands in four counties. It is noted that the monks of Abingdon suffered at his hands, when he seized some of their woods near Bagshot. He was created a baron.
Gerald of Windsor (b. @ 1070)
The first mention of their son Gerald is in 1096, when Gerald of Windsor was noted as the Constable of Pembroke and lieutenant of Arnulf de Montgomery. Gerald of Wales writes about his grandfather's (Gerald of Windsor) triumph at Pembroke Castle when it was besieged by the Welsh in 1094. He managed to fool them into abandoning the siege and he saved the colony when all seemed lost. He cut the garrisons last meat, four hogs, into quarters and hurled it over the walls at the besieging Welsh. The next day he had a letter, saying that reinforcements were due, deliberately found by the Welsh. It was enough to convince them to abandon their siege. The king took the castle of Pembroke from the Montgomerys, into his own hands in 1102. He entrusted "Dyfed and the castle" to a knight called Saer, who, in 1105, was dismissed, and replaced by Gerald of Windsor.
It is stated in Pembroke Castle (King and Charles) that Gerald rebuilt the castle at a place now universally identified as Cilgerran. They also refer to Gerald's castle as being a slender fortress of turf and stakes. And this appears to have been the form of the castle through the ownership of Gilbert fitz Richard who conquered Ceredigan in 1110, and his son Gilbert, created Earl of Pembroke in 1138. (Gilberts son Richard, Strongbow, succeeded as 2nd Earl of Pembroke in 1148) The modern stone castle dates from William Earl Marshall in 1189.
Gerald married Nest, the legendary daughter of the Prince of South Wales, in about 1100, with the object of giving himself and his troops a firmer foothold in the country. They had a number of children - including three sons, Maurice, William and David , plus a daughter, Angharet (who married William de Barri, and was the mother of Gerald of Wales). The main Fitzgerald line came from Maurice's children who became the Earls of Desmond and of Kildare. The Grant line came from the youngest of their sons, David, the Bishop of St Davids. He is described as a greedy man, ambitious and a despoiler of his bishopric. He was involved in the politics of the invasion of Ireland.
David's son Miles who took part in the invasion, and was rewarded with the title Baron of Iverk, plus extensive lands in the south of Co. Kilkenny. The other descendants of Nest in Ireland came from Mieler fitz Henry, Nesta's grandson through a union with Henry I whilst Nesta was being held hostage. Plus Robert fitz Stephen, son of Nesta's second marriage to Stephen, Constable of Cardigan Castle. The descendants of Nest's various unions went to Ireland to become the FitzGeralds, the Earls of Desmond, the Earls of Kildare, and many of the early Barons and landowners in Ireland, including the Grants. Nest died in 1136, and as she was married to Stephen after Gerald's death and bore further children, we can assume that Gerald died between 1120 and 1130. And given that his youngest son David Fitzgerald was appointed bishop in 1148, and that Nest continued to produce children by Stephen, then we can conclude that he must have died about 1120.
David FitzGerald, Bishop of St David's 1148 - 1176, born circa 1115, died 1176
St David's was the seat of Welsh bishops from the eighth century. The first Norman bishop was Bernard, appointed in 1115. He built a cathedral church at St David's in 1131 - none of this building now survives. The present cathedral dates from the third bishop. Little is known therefore of David fitzGerald, the second bishop. He was Archdeacon of Cardigan when consecrated bishop on 19 Dec 1148 at Canterbury by Archbishop Theobald. The writings of Gerald of Wales (David fitzGerald's nephew) are the source of information. The bishopric of St David's was the largest and richest in Wales. We can assume that he was born 1115 to 1120, as he was unlikely to have been appointed a bishop under the age of 28 according to the rules of the day. The bishop was a Marcher Lord, holding his lordship directly from the crown. His regalian rights included gallows, prison and the right to hold courts.The tenants had to follow the bishop in time of war. David fitzGerald was said to be constantly at loggerheads with his chapter, and spent much of his time in England. It is also recorded that the River Alun at St David's ran with wine during his time there. He died 23 May 1176 and there is a monument to him in the cathedral. It had previously been ascribed to his nephew, but the archivist now believes that it is that of David fitzGerald. The statue has been defaced - probably by Cromwellians. But a sketch does exist from earlier documents, of what the face was like.
Image believed to be David fitz Gerald
Gerald the Welshman records the dispute David fitzGerald had with Mahel, the Earl of Hereford (the youngest of the five sons of Milo fitzWalter and Sybil ). Mahel was said to be more notorious even than his brothers for his inhuman cruelty. He forced the bishop to flee into exile in England. However Mahel was killed in 1175 when a stone fell on his head in Bronllys Castle, and the bishop was able to return.
Also recorded is Henry II's pilgrimage to St David's in Sept 1171. He tells that David FitzGerald invited the king to dine with him at his court. King Henry felt that this would entail unnecessary expense for the bishop, but was nevertheless did dine with him. He entered the hall with the bishop and three canons.
On his return from Ireland on Easter Monday 1172, Henry made a second pilgrimage to the cathedral. On this occasion, after being met by the canons at the White Gate, he crossed the "Talking Stone" which bridged the River Alun, near the north west corner of the cathedral.(there was a prophesy by Merlin that a King who had just conquered Ireland would be wounded by a man with a red hand and die as he walked over the Talking Stones. Henry appeared to want to scotch the legend) During this visit a Welsh woman threw herself at the King's feet and complained loudly about the bishop. The king said he could do nothing there and then. On this occasion too he dined at St David's
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