Généalogie and Heritage

Source: "Warwick castle and its earls : from Saxon times to the present day," by Frances Evelyn Maynard Greville, Countess of Warwick, 1861-1938


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Title "Warwick castle and its earls : from Saxon times to the present day," by Frances Evelyn Maynard Greville, Countess of Warwick, 1861-1938

Entries assigned to this source

LEOFRIC Mercia III Earl of Mercia




Turkill, the Traitor Earl— Why he was not at Hastings— How the Conqueror favoured him— How he changed his Name, and was the Ancestor of William Shakespeare.

WE have now done with the collapsing legends, and may tread upon the solid floor of history. Facts are at last at our disposal — trustworthy, though not as yet superabundant. We cannot go into many details; but we are sure of our ground, such as it is.
The last Earl of Warwick whom we mentioned was Wygotus, who is said to have married the sister of the Lady Godiva's husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia. A Harleian MS. is our authority for the statement that he had by her Alwine, Earl of Warwick, slain by the Danes at Stamford Hill, in the first year of the reign of Harold, son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex; and that Alwine, in his turn, had a son, Thurkill, Earl of Warwick, who married a Countess of Perche. About Thurkill (or Turchill, as the name is sometimes written) we really know facts, from Domesday Book, from Dugdale's "Baronage," and from a few other sources.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that he was present at the consecration of the minster of Assandune in 1020; that he was outlawed by King Cnut, 1021, but received into favour again, and entrusted with the government of Denmark in 1023; also that he marched against the Welsh with "Elfyet and many good men" to avenge the death of Edwin, brother of Leofric of and vanquisht King Harold, and though he were then a man of especial note and power yet he did give no assistance to Harold in that Battail, as may easily be seen from the favour he received at the hands of the Conqueror, for by the General Survey begun about the 14. of King William's Reign, it appears that he then continued possest of vast lands in this Shire, and yet whereof was neither the borough,or castle of Warwick any part."
His possessions are enumerated in Domesday Book. There are no fewer than seventy entries under his name, of which the following may serve as examples : —
"Robert de Olgi holds of Turchil, in Dercelai (probably Dosthill), 2 hides in mortgage. The arable employs 3 ploughs. There are 7 villeins, with 2 ploughs, and 2 bondmen. A mill pays 3 2d., and there are 10 acres of meadow. Wood 2 furlongs long, and the same broad. It was worth 3CS., now 40s. Untain held it."
The reason why Thurkill refrained from opposing the Conqueror is clear enough. His relatives, the Earls of Mercia, Leofric, and his successors ^Ifgar and Morkere, had been constantly in arms against Harold, whom Mercia generally had never really recognised as King of England. Posterity, however, without taking account of his reason, has contemptuously styled him "the Traitor Earl," and he certainly profited by his treachery. Though William later on took some of his estates for the endowment of the new Earldom of Warwick, Thurkill's son held of the new Earl, holding by sergeantry in his household, and taking the name of de Arden; and Thurkill himself, as a mark of special favour, was allowed to retain his property for life, and was even appointed custos ofthe newly fortified town of Warwick.
That is all there is to be said about him, except that he has a further claim on our interest through the most illustrious of his descendants. Observe : —
"TuRCHiLL was twice married; by his second wife Leverunia, daughter, according to Drummond, of Algar, son and successor of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, he had a son, Osbert de Arden, whose daughter and heir. Amice, carried the ancient seat of the Mercian kings, called after them Kingsbury, to her husband Peter de Bracebridge, of Bracebridge, co. Lincoln, and one of their descendants, Alice Bracebridge, became the wife of Sir John Arden, Knight, elder brother of Thomas Arden, maternal great-grandfather of William Shakspeare."
So it is written in "Shakespeareana Genealogica." Among the literary associations of the Earldom of Warwick — which it will be seen, as our narrative pro- ceeds, are fairly numerous — this, the earliest and most glorious, is also, in all probability, the least known. Most Earls of Warwick have almost certainly lived and died without ever discovering their connection with England's greatest poet.