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William was a son of Rodulf or Ralph de Warenne and Emma, and reported to have descended from a sibling of duchess Gunnor, wife of duke Richard I. Chronicler Robert of Torigny reported, in his additions to the Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumièges, that William de Warenne and Anglo-Norman baron Roger de Mortimer were brothers, both sons of an unnamed niece of Gunnor. Unfortunately, Robert's genealogies are somewhat confused, (elsewhere he gives Roger as son of William, and yet again makes both sons of Walter de Saint Martin), and several of Robert's stemma appear to contain too few generations.Orderic Vitalis describes William as Roger's consanguineus, literally "cousin", more generically a term of close kinship, but not typically used to describe brothers, and Roger de Mortimer appears to have been a generation older than William de Warenne.
Charters report several earlier men associated with Warenne. A Radulf de Warenne appears in two charters, one dated between 1027 and 1035, the second from about 1050 and naming his wife, Beatrice. In 1059, a Radulf and wife Emma appear along with their sons Radulf and William. These occurrences have typically been taken to represent a single Radulf with successive wives, of which Beatrice was the mother of William and hence identical to the Gunnorid niece described by Robert de Torigny, yet the 1059 charter explicitly names Emma as William's mother. Reevaluation of surviving charters led Katherine Keats-Rohan to suggest that, as he appears to have done elsewhere, Robert of Torigny compressed two generations into one, with Radulf (I) and Beatrice being parents of Radulf (II) de Warenne and of Roger de Mortimer (a Roger son of Radulf de Warenne appears in a charter dated 1040/1053), and Radulf (II) in turn married Emma and as attested by the 1059 charter, they had Radulf (III), the heir in Normandy, and William. Associations with the village of Vascoeuil led to identification of the Warenne progenitrix with a widow Beatrice, daughter of Tesselin, vicomte of Rouen, appearing there in 1054/60. Robert of Torigny shows a different vicomte of Rouen to have married a niece of Gunnor, perhaps suggesting that it was through Beatrice that William de Warenne was linked with Gunnor's family.[a]
William was from the hamlet of Varenne, near to Arques-la-Bataille, Duchy of Normandy, now in the canton of Bellencombre, Seine Maritime. At the beginning of Duke William's reign, Radulf de Warenne was not a major landholder, and as a second son, William de Warenne did not stand to inherit the family's small estates. During the rebellions of 1052-54, the young William de Warenne proved himself a loyal adherent to the Duke and played a significant part in the Battle of Mortemer for which he was rewarded with lands confiscated from his kinsman, Roger of Mortemer, including the Castle of Mortimer and most of the surrounding lands. At about the same time he acquired lands at Bellencombre including the castle which became the centre of William de Warenne's holdings in Normandy.
Sometime between 1078 and 1082, William and his wife Gundred traveled to Rome visiting monasteries along the way. In Burgundy they were unable to go any further due to a war between Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII. They visited Cluny Abbey and were impressed with the monks and their dedication. William and Gundred decided to found a Cluniac priory on their own lands in England. William restored buildings for an abbey. They sent to Hugh, the abbot of Cluny, for monks to come to England at their monastery. At first Hugh was reluctant but he finally sent several monks, including Lazlo who was to be the first abbot. The house they founded was Lewes Priory, dedicated to St. Pancras, the first Cluniac priory in England.
^There are three places in Norfolk called Rockland. Rockland All Saints and Rockland St Peter lie to the south-west of Norwich, and together make up the modern civil parish of Rocklands. Rockland St Mary lies to the south-east of Norwich. It is uncertain which one was meant. Rockland St Peter is listed separately, and Rockland St Mary was mentioned in the Domesday Book; but neither of those facts helps resolve the question
^ abcdK. S. B. Keats-Rohan, "Aspects of Torigny's Genealogy Revisited", Nottingham Medieval Studies 37:21-27
^Lewis C. Loyd, "The Origins of the Family of Warenne", Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 31:97-113
^Thomas Stapleton, "Observations in disapproval of a pretended marriage of William de Warren, earl of Surrey with a daughter ... of William the Conqueror", Archaeological Journal, 3:1-12
^ abG. H. White, "The Sisters and Nieces of Gunnor, Duchess of Normandy", Genealogist, n. s. 37:57-65
^Eleanor Searle, Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066, pp. 100-105
^Elisabeth M. C. van Houts, "Robert of Torigni as Genealogist", Studies in Medieval History presented to R. Allen Brown, pp. 215-33
^Kathleen Thompson, "The Norman Aristocracy before 1066: the Example of the Montgomerys", Historical Research 60:251-63.
^K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday People, a Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1999), p. 480.
^Lewis C. Loyd, The Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families, ed. Charles Travis Clay (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992) pp. 111-12
^G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, Vol. XII/1 (London: The St. Catherine Press, 1953), p. 491.
^David C. Douglas, William the Conqueror (Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1964), p. 100.
^ abcG. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, Vol. XII/1 (London: The St. Catherine Press, 1953), p. 493.
^ abWilliam Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters, Volume VIII; The Honour of Warenne (The Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1949), p. 3.
^Elisabeth M.C. van Houts, "The Ship List of William the Conqueror",Anglo-Norman Studies X; Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1987, ed. R. Allen Brown (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1988), pp. 159 and 161.
^The Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers, ed & trans. R.H.C. Davis and Marjorie Chibnall (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 134-35.
^G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, Vol. XII/1 (London: The St. Catherine Press, 1953), Appendix L, "Companions of the Conqueror", pp. 47-48.
^A. Duchesne, Historiae Normannorum Scriptores Antiqui (Lutetiae Parisiorum 1619), pp. 202 and 204 (one of 12 nobles named by William of Poitiers).
^Elisabeth van Houts, "Frederick, Brother-in-Law of William of Warenne", Anglo-Saxon England, New York, Vol. 28 (1999), p. 218.
^Appleby, Outlaws in Medieval and Early Modern England (2009), pp. 28-29.
^William Farrer; Charles Travis Clay, Early Yorkshire Charters, Volume VIII; The Honour of Warenne (The Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1949), p. 4.
^Brian Golding, "The Coming of the Cluniacs", Anglo-Norman Studies III; Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1980, Vol. III ( Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1981), pp. 65 and 67.
^William Farrer; Charles Travis Clay, Early Yorkshire Charters, Vol. VIII; The Honour of Warenne (The Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1949), pp. 50-55.
^David Knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 2nd ed. (Cambridge University Press, 1966), pp. 151-52.
^C. P. Lewis, The Earldom of Surrey and the Date of the Domesday Book, Historical Research; The Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, Vo. 63, Issue 152 (Oct. 1990), p. 335 (between the end of 1087 and March 24, 1088).
^G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, vol. xii/1 (The St. Catherine Press, London, 1953), pp. 494-95.
^Hyde Abbey, Liber Monasterii de Hyda: Comprising a Chronicle of the affairs of England, ed. Edward Edwards (Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, London, 1866), p. 299.
^G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, Vol iv (The St. Catherine Press, London, 1916), p. 670.
^David C. Douglas, William The Conqueror (University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1964) pp. 267 and 392.
^Elisabeth van Houts, 'Frederick, Brother-in-Law of William of Warenne', Anglo-Saxon England, Vol. 28 (1999), pp. 218-20.
^G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, vol. xii/1 (The St. Catherine Press, London, 1953), p. 494 & note (l).
^G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, vol. xii/1 (The St. Catherine Press, London, 1953), pp. 495-96.
^ abG. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, vol. xii/1 (The St. Catherine Press, London, 1953), p. 494 note (b).