William de Mowbray

Click here for his chief manor at Thirsk, North Yorkshire

Small William de MowbrayWilliam de Mowbray (c. 1173-c. 1224), a landowner with Yorkshire estates centring on Thirsk and Lincolnshire lands in the Isle of Axholme, was son of Nigel de Mowbray and his wife Mabel, probably the daughter of William de Patri. In the Histoire des Ducs de Normandie he is described as being as small as a dwarf, but very generous and valiant. There was much in William’s background and personal circumstances that can be seen, with hindsight, as pointing the way to his involvement in the rebellion against King John.

His forebear, Roger de Mowbray, had taken part in the great uprising against Henry II in 1173-4, which had convulsed the whole Angevin world. He himself had become entangled in financial dealings with King John which were to cost him dearly. His problems lay in his family’s early rise to power, specifically in their acquisition from Henry I a century before of the lands of Robert de Stuteville, a supporter of Henry’s brother Robert Curthose in his failed bid for the English crown, and who had forfeited his property to Henry.

In 1200 Robert’s descendant, William, reactivated his family’s claim against the Mowbrays, and in that year William offered the sum of 2000 marks (over £1300) to John to secure a judgement in the matter. When the case was brought before the king’s justices, however, it ended in a compromise, and one highly favourable to Stuteville. William was nonetheless still under obligation to pay and, like others before him, had little alternative but to borrow from the Jews. William had gambled everything on the favourable outcome of a risky legal action and had failed. It is clear that, when he embarked on rebellion against John, he had nothing to lose.

Mowbray was taken prisoner at the battle of Lincoln in May 1217, and had to surrender the manor of Banstead in Surrey, which had formed his mother’s marriage portion, to Hubert de Burgh as the price of redemption. His family never succeeded in recovering the estate. Mowbray founded the chapel of St Nicholas at Thirsk, and was a benefactor of his father’s foundation, Newburgh priory, where, on his death at Axholme around 1224, he was buried.

Mowbray was typical those lords, particularly in northern England, who had suffered at the hands of John, felt a burning sense of grievance, and were longing for the opportunity to get their own back.

Text courtesy of Professor Nigel Saul and the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee, the arms were drawn and painted by Mr Ron Lovell and are reproduced courtesy of the Suffolk Heraldry Society


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Marilyn Roberts August 13, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I wonder if you might be interested in further information on Sir William de Mowbray and the rest of his noble family at http://www.queens-haven.co.uk

Best wishes,

Marilyn Roberts
(Author of’ The Mowbray Legacy’ and ‘Lady Anne Mowbray – the High and Excellent Princess’.)


Joe Salmon November 23, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Hi, Marilyn,
I am very interested in what you are doing. I am a member of Thirsk Rotary and because William de Mowbray was ‘our’ Baron, I am organising a celebration of his part in the signing of the Magna Carta on Thirsk Racecourse next June 13th.

The content of this will be a main programme comprising mediaeval re-enactment group Historia Normannis mixed with falconry displays from Birds of Prey Display. Running in parallel with this will be a separate programme of small entertainments of a mediaeval nature (e.g. minstrels, troubadors, conjurers, jugglers, singers, jesters) set up at various spots in the arena and running concurrently.

I have asked the senior and the primary schools to be involved and also am going out to the local community groups to encourage them to join in with anything that will reflect the time and the life. For example, I hope the Young Farmers’ Club will do ‘stocks’!

We are taking this celebration as an opportunity to raise money for a local hospice amongst others.

One thing we hope to promote alongside this effort will be a programme of talks relevant to the time and of course to Baron de Mowbray to give to schoolchildren and to local membership groups. For example, a local man has previously been the world champion jouster, still has his armour and is happy to be involved. He is a great start and we would welcome other names.

I see you live not that far away in North Lincolnshire. Is there any possibility of your visiting us?


Joan S. Grist January 5, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Greetings from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

There are a large number of descendants of Baron William de Mowbray through Emma Ogle Baxter here in America. We are all members of the American Society and hang our plaques proudly in our homes. Our pride in our heritage has keep us connected. A large number of us plan to travel to England in June. Many will come with the American Society and others separately We believe this is a quest to learn as much of our proud British genealogy and heritage as possible.

Please keep me informed on events that are planned that revolve around our Baron. We will be visiting Thirsk and will be thrilled to participate in the festivities there in June.

Also, it would be a great highlight if we were able to hear Marilyn Roberts speak. We would welcome the opportunity to meet our British descendants of Baron de Mowbray.

Joan S. Grist
2432 Summerlake Road
Charlotte, NC 28226, USA


Bettye Ogle Barrett January 19, 2015 at 1:13 am

I am a decendent of Robert of Delaware Ogle. He is gateway Ancester for the Baronial Order of the Marna Carta with Baron William de Mowbray as my Ancester. Have you been able to find proofs between John Ogle and William that you could direct me to.


Marilyn Roberts January 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Dear Joan,

I apologise for not having replied sooner, but I have only just seen your message.
It is possible that I shall be speaking at Thirsk, but am definitely speaking at Epworth Parish Church on Friday 5th June at 3 pm and repeating the talk at 7pm. I shall also be available on the Saturday for an informal question-and-answer session on Magna Carta and the Mowbray family in general. The Epworth Magna Carta Committee is currently organising a full programme of events for that weekend – details to follow soon. (Epworth is also famous for being the birthplace of John and Charles Wesley, founders of Methodism: their father was the Rector of Epworth. I am a Collections Care Coordinator at the Old Rectory Museum, where Samuel and Susanna Wesley raised their large brood of children.)

We would be delighted to see you and your fellow Mowbray descendants at Epworth, one of the most important of the family’s manors, which numbered over 200. Magna Carta baron Sir William died at the manor house in 1224. I am in the process of refining a booklet ‘The Bare Bones of King John and Magna Carta’ which also includes a profile of Sir William.

Best wishes,
Marilyn Roberts


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