Note: N1179 Lord of Breteuil, in Normandy, was a relative and close counsellor of William the Conqueror and one of the great magnates of early Norman England. He was created Earl of Hereford before 22 February 1067, one of the first peerage titles in the English peerage. William FitzOsbern was probably raised at the court of his cousin and namesake Duke William, and like his father, became one of the ducal stewards. As a Norman nobleman, he founded or helped to found the monasteries of Cormeilles and Lyre on his lands, and gave the abbey in the land of Ouche the church and land of Saint-Evroul-Notre-Dame-du-Bois.
He was one of the earliest and most vigorous advocates of the invasion of England, and tradition holds that he convinced the doubters amongst the Norman barons of the feasibility of the invasion. He is one of the very few proven Companions of William the Conqueror known to have fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
FitzOsbern was given charge of the Isle of Wight, and then before 22 February 1067 he was made Earl of Hereford as well as Gloucester, Worcester and Oxfordshire. That part of England was not yet fully under Norman control; the understanding must have been that FitzOsbern was to take charge of their conquest when he was able. In the summer of 1067 the King returned to Normandy, leaving FitzOsbern and Bishop Odo of Bayeux in charge of England in his absence. The King was back in England in 1068, and fitzOsbern accompanied him in the subjugation of southwest England. He attended the King's Whitsun court in May, and then himself paid a visit to Normandy, where he fell ill for some months.
In February or March 1069 FitzOsbern was given charge of the new castle at York, but he returned south in time to attend the King's Easter court in April.
Anglo-Saxon resistance in the West Midlands was subdued later in 1069, and it is likely FitzOsbern played a major part in this, though the details are not certain. During this time FitzOsbern and his followers pushed on into Wales, beginning the conquest of the Welsh Kingdom of Gwent.
In 1070 trouble arose in Flanders, where King William's brother-in-law Baldwin VI of Flanders had died, leaving his county and his young sons in the hands of his widow Richilde, Countess of Mons and Hainaut. Her control of Flanders was challenged by the brother of her late husband, Robert the Frisian. Looking for help, she offered herself in marriage to fitzOsbern. He could not resist the chance to become also Count of the rich Principality in the German Empire, close to Normandy. He hurried there with his army, but nevertheless was defeated by the Count of Flanders, losing his life in the Battle of Cassel on 22 February 1071.
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