|Died||27 July 1101|
|Resting place||St Werburgh's Abbey, Chester|
|Other names||le Gros (the Fat)|
|Title||Earl of Chester (2nd creation)|
|Predecessor||Gerbod the Fleming, 1st Earl of Chester (1st creation).|
|Spouse(s)||Ermentrude of Claremont|
|Parent(s)||Richard le Goz, Viscount of Avranches|
Early life and career
Hugh d'Avranches was born around 1047 as the son of Richard le Goz, Viscount of Avranches. His mother was previously identified as Emma de Conteville; however, C.P. Lewis, author of Hugh's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, states that the identification was made "on the basis of unsatisfactory evidence" and that his mother is unknown.
Earl of Chester
Hugh was given the command of Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire after Duke William became William I of England. In 1071, Gerbod the Fleming, 1st Earl of Chester was taken prisoner at the Battle of Cassel in France. Taking advantage of the circumstances, the king declared his title vacant, giving Hugh the earldom. The new Earl was also given palatine powers in view of Cheshire's strategic location on the Welsh Marches. On Hugh's promotion, Tutbury and its surrounding lands were passed to the Norman Knight, Henry de Ferrers.
After his father's death, as late as 1082, Hugh succeeded his father as Viscount of Avranches, and inherited large estates, not just in the Avranchin but scattered throughout western Normandy. The earl regarded St Anselm his friend and, during his lifetime, founded the Benedictine Abbeys of Sainte-Marie-et-Saint-Sever, Saint-Sever-Calvados, Normandy and St. Werburgh in Chester as well as giving land endowments to Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire. Hugh remained loyal to King William II during the rebellion of 1088. He later served Henry I as one of his principal councillors at the royal court.
Hugh spent much of his time fighting with his neighbours in Wales. Together with his cousin Robert of Rhuddlan he subdued a good part of northern Wales. Initially Robert of Rhuddlan held north-east Wales as a vassal of the tenant-in-chief. In 1081 Gruffudd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd was captured through the treachery of one of his own men at a meeting near Corwen. Gruffudd was imprisoned by Earl Hugh in his castle at Chester, but it was Robert who took over his kingdom, holding it directly en liege from the king. When Robert was killed by a Welsh raiding party in 1093 Hugh took over these lands, becoming ruler of most of North Wales, but he lost Anglesey and much of the rest of Gwynedd in the Welsh revolt of 1094, led by Gruffudd ap Cynan, who had escaped from captivity.
In the summer of 1098 Hugh joined forces with Hugh of Montgomery, 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury, in an attempt to recover his losses in Gwynedd. Gruffudd ap Cynan had retreated to Anglesey, but then was forced to flee to Ireland when a fleet he had hired from the Danish settlement in Ireland changed sides. Things were altered by the arrival of a Norwegian fleet under the command of King Magnus III of Norway, also known as Magnus Barefoot, who attacked the Norman forces near the eastern end of the Menai Straits. Earl Hugh of Shrewsbury was killed by an arrow said to have been shot by Magnus himself. The Normans were obliged to evacuate Anglesey altogether leaving Gruffydd who had returned from Ireland to take possession the following year. Hugh apparently made an agreement with him and did not again try to recover these lands.
Marriage, death and succession
Owing to his gluttony, Hugh became so fat that he could hardly walk, earning him the nickname of le Gros (the Fat). He would also posthumously earn the nickname Lupus (Wolf) for his savage ferocity in battle against the Welsh.
Hugh d'Avranches married Ermentrude of Claremont, daughter of Hugh I, Count of Clermont-en-Beauvaisis, by whom he had his son and heir, Richard d'Avranches, 2nd Earl of Chester, who died in the White Ship disaster of 1120.
He received many of the local manors held by Edwin the last Saxon Earl of Mercia (died 1071). Edwin was the grandson of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. Leofric had been a holder of the Saxon title "Earl of Chester".
Hugh fell ill and became a monk in July 1101. He died four days later and was buried in the cemetery of St. Werburgh. He was succeeded as Earl of Chester by his son Richard, who married Matilda of Blois, a granddaughter of William the Conqueror. Both Richard and Matilda died in the White Ship disaster (1120), and Richard was then succeeded by Hugh's nephew Ranulph le Meschin, Earl of Chester, son of his sister Margaret by her husband Ranulf de Briquessart, Viscount of Bayeux.
- Cokayne, George E. (1913). The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, extant, extinct or dormant. 3 (2nd ed.). London: The St. Catherine Press. pp. 164–165.
- Lewis, C. P. (2004). "Avranches, Hugh d', first earl of Chester (d. 1101)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14056. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Cunliffe, Barry W. (2001). The Penguin atlas of British & Irish history. Penguin. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-14-100915-5. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
- The New Encyclopædia Britannica: Micropaedia. Encyclopædia Britannica. 1995. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-85229-605-9. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 107. .
- "GRUFFUDD ap CYNAN ( c. 1055 - 1137 ), king of Gwynedd". The National Library of Wales. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
- Anderson, James (1742). A genealogical history of the house of Yvery, in its different branches of Yvery, Luvel, Perceval and Gournay. H. Woodfall. p. 87.
|Peerage of England|
|New creation|| Earl of Chester