Sunday, March 7, 2010

Maigno Le Breton

The post Norman Conquest period is the beginning of recorded history for Wolverton Manor, as it was for so many parts of England. For this we can thank William's taxation register known as the Domesday Book.
The manor was in the hands of three Saxon thegns. They were dispossessed and the whole manor, as well as various other estates in Buckinghamshire were given to a man known as Maigno, which in Old French meant "great" or "big". Modern French would use "grand'. We could perhaps think of him as Magnus.
From the grant of land he was clearly an important member of William's invading army and must have contributed a number of troops. His landholding in 1086 was assessed at providing 15 knights under his feudal obligations to the crown, which probably meant that each knight would bring a number of foot soldiers - which may have added up to more than a hundred men.
Maigno chose Wolverton as his centre. He may have liked the naturally commanding position above the River Ouse where Holy Trinity Church now stands and where he built his castle. It is possible that he saw its possibilities when he came through Buckinghamshire with William's invasion in 1066. From Hastings, the army marched north, crossed the Thames at Wallingford, and continued to Wolverton and Hanslope, generally laying waste, before they turned south to London.
We know little about Maigno. We could estimate his birth as circa 1040 - which would have made him about 25 when he invaded England. He might have been a younger son attracted by the opportunity of gaining land through invasion. Who he married and when, we don't know. We don't know how many children he had. His heir was called Mainfelin and it is not at all clear whether he was a son or a grandson.
Maigno's dates are an estimated 1040 to 1114 - a long life certainly. Mainfelin's dates are 1090 to 1155, again a long life, but this takes us through 115 years in two generations - possible, but a bit of a stretch. Some historians have accepted Mainfelin as Maigno's son and he may well have been a late son born when Maigno was 50, but I think we should be open to the possibility that he may have been a grandson.

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