Robert de Comyn, Earl of Northumberland

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Robert de Comyn

Also Known As: "Robert or Osbert Cumton/Comyns/Cumin's/de Comines"
Birthplace: Comines, Flanders
Death: January 28, 1069 (46-47)
Durham, Durham, England (United Kingdom) (Killed by the Northumbrians)
Immediate Family:

Son of John de Comyn and wife of John de Comyn
Husband of Maud Cumton and Felicia Warwick
Father of William Comyn, Lord Chancellor to David I and John de Comyn

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Robert de Comyn, Earl of Northumberland

Robert de Comines, Earl of Northumberland (between 1068 and 28 January 1069).

He was created by king William the conqueror earl of Northumberland in 1069.

He died on 28 January 1068/69 in Durham, England, killed by the Northumbrians along with 700 of his men.

See "My Lines"

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from Compiler: R. B. Stewart, Evans, GA

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Robert Comine (also Robert de Comines, Robert de Comyn) was very briefly earl of Northumbria.

His name suggests that he originally came from Comines, then in the County of Flanders, and entered the

following of William the Conqueror. He was sent to the north as earl from 1068 to 1069 after the deposition of Gospatric. He got as far as Durham with his 700 men, where the bishop, Ethelwin, warned him that an army was mobilised against him. He ignored the advice and, on 28 January 1069, the rebels converged on Durham and killed many of his men in the streets, eventually setting fire to the bishop's house where Robert was staying. He was consumed in the blaze. [1]

After this attack, Ethelwin turned against the Normans and gathered an army in Durham before marching on York, leading to the Harrying of the North in retaliation by King William's army.

Robert de Comines was the father of John de Comines. John de Comines had issue:[2]

Robert Comyn Born [date unknown] [location unknown] Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown] [sibling%28s%29 unknown] [spouse(s) unknown] Father of John Comyn	 Died 1070 [location unknown] Profile managers: Jacques Charles Pictet private message [send private message], Katherine Patterson private message [send private message], and David Robinson private message [send private message] This page has been accessed 226 times. Nominate for Profile of the Week by posting the link in our G+ Community. Vote by clicking the +1 button above.

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This person was created through the import of Acrossthepond.ged on 21 February 2011. The following data was included in the gedcom. You may wish to edit it for readability. User ID

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Robert Comyn is the father of one child and the grandfather of one grandchild. Listed below are details on up to five generations of descendants. Icons after childrens' names link to their family tree charts ancestors and descendant lists descendants. Click here for Robert Comyn's ancestors.

   John Comyn ancestors descendants (0100 - ) m. Unknown Giffard
       William Comyn ancestors descendants (1084 - 1140) m. Maud Banastre
           Richard Comyn ancestors descendants (1115 - 1177) m. Hextilda Tynedale
               William Comyn of Tynedal ancestors descendants (1163 - 1233) m. Margery Buchan m. Sarah Fitzhugh
                   Richard Comyn ancestors descendants ( - )
                   Walter Comyn Lord of Ba ancestors descendants (1190 - 1258)
                   Johanna (Comyn) Ross ancestors descendants (1198 - 1274)
                   Alexander Comyn II Earl of ancestors descendants (1217 - 1290)
                   Margaret (Comyn) Keith ancestors descendants (1218 - 1236)
                   Elizabeth Comyn ancestors descendants (1223 - 1267)
               Margaret (Comyn) Atholl ancestors descendants (1166 - August 9, 1232) m. Henry Atholl
                   Isabella Atholl ancestors descendants (1190 - 1236)
                   Forflissa Ferelith Atholl ancestors (1196 - 1244)


When William the Conqueror came to England he had a companion named Robert of Comyn, believed to have been so named from Comines in Flanders, whom he made Earl of Northumberland in 1069. When David I came to Scotland, Robert’s grandson Richard came with him, and was made Chancellor of Scotland in 1133.

COMIN, COMINES, or CUMIN, ROBERT DE, Earl of Northumberland (d. 1069), was apparently a native of Flanders to judge from his name. He was one of the barons who followed William I in his invasion of England, and so commended himself to the king by his military skill that he was chosen at the end of 1068 for the difficult task of reducing the north of England to obedience. William I conferred on him the earldom of Northumberland, vacant by the flight of Gospatric ; and in January 1069 Comin set out from Gloucester with forces which are variously estimated at five hundred, seven hundred, and nine hundred men. The winter was severe, and Comin advanced unopposed to the city of Durham. The bishop of Durham, Ethelwin, advanced to meet him, and warned him of the ill-will of the men of the bishopric; he advised him not to enter the city. Comin disregarded his warning, and Ethel win did all he could to protect him from the results of his rashness by lodging him and his chief knights in his own house next to the cathedral. The Normans treated Durham as a captured town, and the news of their doings spread into Northumberland. The men of the Tyne rose, forced the gates of Durham in the night, and massacred the Norman soldiers. Comin vainly took refuge in the bishop's house ; it was set on fire, and he was slaughtered. The failure of this expedition was William I's first experience of the intractability of the northern folk, and was one of the causes of his severity in the 'harrying of the north.' Comin was the founder of the family of Comyn, many of whom played an important part in the history of Scotland

His name suggests that he originally came from Comines, then in the County of Flanders, and entered the following of William the Conqueror. He was sent to the north as earl from 1068 to 1069 after the deposition of Gospatric. He got as far as Durham with his 700 men, where the bishop, Ethelwin, warned him that an army was mobilised against him. He ignored the advice and, on 28 January 1069, the rebels converged on Durham and killed many of his men in the streets, eventually setting fire to the bishop's house where Robert was staying. He was consumed in the blaze. [1]

After this attack, Ethelwin turned against the Normans and gathered an army in Durham before marching on York, leading to the Harrying of the North in retaliation by King William's army.

Robert Comine (also Robert de Comines, Robert de Comyn) was very briefly earl of Northumbria.

The Harrying (or Harrowing) of the North was a series of campaigns waged by William the Conqueror in the winter of 1069–1070 to subjugate northern England, and is part of the Norman conquest of England. It effectively ended the quasi-independence of the region through large-scale destruction that resulted in the relative "pacification" of the local population and the replacement of local Anglo-Danish lords with Normans. A contemporary Anglo-Norman chronicler wrote that the death toll, due to the Harrowing, was over 100,000. Because of the scorched earth policy, much of the land was laid waste and depopulated, a fact to which the Domesday Book, written almost two decades later, readily attests.


 [hide] 1 Background information 2 The Harrying 3 Legacy 4 See also 5 Footnotes 6 References

Background information[edit]

See also: Gwynedd's alliance with Mercia and Northumbria

At the time of the Norman Conquest the North consisted of what became Yorkshire, Durham, and Northumberland on the east and Lancashire with the southern parts of Cumberland and Westmorland on the west.[1] The population of the north pre-conquest can be described as “Anglo-Scandinavian” carrying a cultural continuity from a mixing of Viking and Anglo-Saxon traditions. The dialect of English spoken in Yorkshire was likely unintelligible to people from the south of England, the aristocracy was primarily Danish in origin.[2] Further, communications between the north and south was difficult, partly due to the terrain but also because of the bad state of the roads. The more popular route between York and the south was by ship.[3] In 962 Edgar the Peaceful had granted legal autonomy to the northern earls of Danelaw in return for their loyalty, this had limited the powers of the Anglo-Saxon kings, north of the Humber, that succeeded him.[2] The earldom of Northumbria stretched from the Tees to the Tweed.[2]

After the defeat of the English army and death of Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings, English resistance to the conquest was centred on Edgar Ætheling, grandson of Edmund, half-brother of Edward the Confessor.[4] It is said that the English conceded defeat, not at Hastings, but at Berkhamsted two months later when Edgar and his supporters submitted to William in December 1066.[4] However, of all the men who submitted to William at Berkhamsted it was only Ealdred, Bishop of York who would remain loyal to the Norman king.[5] William faced a series of rebellions and border skirmishes in Dover, Exeter, Hereford, Nottingham, Durham, York and Peterborough.[6]

Remains of the motte at Baile Hill, York 1068-69. Copsi, a supporter of Tostig (a previous Anglo-Saxon earl of Northumbria who had been banished by Edward the Confessor), was a native of Northumbria and his family had a history of being rulers of Bernicia, and at times Northumbria. Copsi had fought in Harald Hardrada's army with Tostig, against Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, in 1066. He had managed to escape after Harald's defeat. When Copsi offered homage to William at Barking in 1067, William rewarded him by making him earl of Northumbria.[7] After just five weeks as earl, Copsi was murdered by Osulf, son of Earl Eadulf III of Bernicia. When, in turn, the usurping Osulf was also killed, his cousin, Cospatrick, bought the earldom from William. He was not long in power before he joined Edgar Ætheling in rebellion against William in 1068.[7]

With two earls murdered and one changing sides William decided to intervene personally in Northumbria.[8] He marched north and arrived in York during the summer of 1068, the opposition melted away with some of them, including Edgar, taking refuge at the court of the Scottish king Malcolm III.[9]

Back in Northumbria William changed tack and appointed a Norman, Robert de Comines as earl, rather than an Anglo-Saxon. Despite warnings from the bishop, Ethelwin, that a rebel army was mobilised against him, Robert rode into Durham with a party of men on 28 January 1069, where he and his men were surrounded and slaughtered.[10] The rebels then turned their attention to York where they killed the guardian of the castle there plus a large number of his men.[8][10] William's response was swift and brutal, he returned to York, where he fell on the besiegers killing or putting them to flight.[11]

Possibly emboldened by the fighting in the north, rebellions broke out in other parts of the country. William sent earls to deal with problems in Dorset, Shrewsbury and Devon while he dealt with rebels in the Midlands and Stafford.[12]

Edgar Ætheling had sought assistance from the king of Denmark, Sweyn II, a nephew of King Canute. Sweyn put together a fleet of ships under the command of his sons. The fleet sailed up the east coast of England raiding as they went. The Danes plus their English allies retook the city of York.[13] Then in the winter of 1069 William marched his army from Nottingham to York with the intention of engaging the rebel army. However by the time William's army had reached York the rebel army had fled, with Edgar returning to Scotland. As they had nowhere suitable to stay for the winter, on land, the Danes decided to go back to their ships, in the Humber estuary. After negotiation with William it was agreed that if he made payment to them then they would go home to Denmark, without a fight.[14]

With the Danes returned home, William's patience seems to have run out with the rebels. As they were not prepared to meet his army in pitched battle, he put together a strategy that would attack the rebel army's sources of support and their food supply.[12]

The Harrying[edit]

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Norman conquest of England

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William's strategy, implemented during the winter of 1069-1070 (he spent Christmas 1069 in York), was an act of genocide, that became known as the Harrying of the North.[15][16] From the Humber to the Tees, William's men burnt whole villages and slaughtered the inhabitants. Food stores and livestock were destroyed so that anyone surviving the initial massacre would succumb to starvation over the winter. The land was salted to destroy its productivity for decades to come. The survivors were reduced to cannibalism.[17]

Contemporary biographers of William considered it to be his cruelest act and a stain upon his soul, but the deed was not mainstream knowledge before Whig history.[18] The Harrying of the North is regarded as the worst act of genocide in the history of Britain. In his Ecclesiastical History the Anglo-Norman chronicler Orderic Vitalis, said:

The King stopped at nothing to hunt his enemies. He cut down many people and destroyed homes and land. Nowhere else had he shown such cruelty. This made a real change. To his shame, William made no effort to control his fury, punishing the innocent with the guilty. He ordered that crops and herds, tools and food be burned to ashes. More than 100,000 people perished of hunger. I have often praised William in this book, but I can say nothing good about this brutal slaughter. God will punish him. —Orderic Vitalis, 12th century.[19]

Other 12th century chronicles by William of Malmesbury, Symeon of Durham and Florence of Worcester report the Harrying with an obvious feeling that it was not an acceptable act.[20]

The wasting of the countryside must have continued for some time, as in 1086 the Domesday Book entries indicate wasteas est or hoc est vast (it is wasted) for estate after estate.[20]

Oderic Vitalis was born in 1075 and would have been writing his Ecclesiastical History some 55 years after the event. It is possible that the figure of 100,000 was used in a rhetorical sense, as the estimated population for the whole of England, based on the 1086 Domesday returns was about 2.25 million, thus a figure of 100,000 represented a large proportion of the entire population of the country at that time (~4.5%).[20][21]


Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire a ruined Cistercian monastery, founded in the 12th Century.[22] In 1071 William appointed another Earl of Northumbria, this time it was William Walcher a Lotharingian, who was the first non-English bishop of Durham.[23][24]

Having effectively subdued the population, William carried out a wholesale replacement of Anglo-Saxon leaders with Norman ones in the North. To Hugh d'Avranches was given the Earldom of Chester in the north-west of England.

The new aristocracy in England was predominately of Norman extraction, however one exception was that of Alan Rufus a trusted Breton lord who obtained in 1070-1071, a substantial fiefdom in North Yorkshire which the Domesday Book calls "the Land of Count Alan".[25][26] Here Alan governed, as it were, his own principality: the only location held by the King in this whole area was Ainderby Steeple on its eastern edge, while Robert of Mortain held one village on its southern fringe; the other Norman lords were completely excluded; whereas Alan retained the surviving Anglo-Danish lords or their heirs. Alan also exercised patronage in York, where he founded St Mary's Abbey in 1088. By 1086 Alan was one of the richest and most powerful men in England.[27]

In Scotland, Malcolm married the Ætheling's sister, Margaret, in 1071.[9] Edgar sought Malcolm's assistance in his struggle against William.[8] The marriage of Malcolm to Edgar's sister profoundly affected the history of both England and Scotland. The influence of Margaret and her sons brought about the Anglicisation of the Lowlands and also provided the Scottish king with an excuse for forays into England which he could claim were to redress the wrongs against his brother-in-law.[28]

The formal link between the royal house of Scotland and Wessex, was an obvious threat to William who marched up to Scotland in 1072 to confront the Scottish king. The two kings negotiated the Treaty of Abernethy (1072) where Malcolm became William's vassal and amongst the other provisions included expelling Edgar Ætheling from the Scottish court.[29] Edgar finally submitted to William in 1074. William's hold on the crown was then theoretically uncontested.[29][30]

In 1080 Walcher the Bishop of Durham was murdered by the local Northumbrians. In response, William sent his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux north with an army to harry the Northumbrian countryside. Odo destroyed much land north of the Tees, from York to Durham, and stole valuable items from Durham monastery. Many of the Northumbrian nobility were driven into exile.[31]

As a result of the depopulation, Norman landowners sought settlers to work the agricultural fields. Evidence suggests that such barons were willing to rent lands to any men not obviously disloyal. Unlike the Vikings in the centuries before, Normans did not settle wholesale in the shire, but only occupied the upper ranks of society. This allowed an Anglo-Scandinavian culture to survive beneath Norman rule. Evidence for continuity can be seen in the retention of many cultural traits:

Many personal names of a pre-conquest character appear in charters that date from the 11th century to the 13th century. The vigorous northern literary tradition in the Middle English period and its distinctive dialect also suggest the survival of an Anglo-Scandinavian population. The relative scarcity of Norman place-names implies that the new settlers came in only at the top rank. Domesday Book shows that at this level, however, Norman takeover in Yorkshire was virtually complete.[32]

The Normans used the church as an agent of colonisation and post 1070 founded several monasteries in the north. There had been no monasteries north of Burton-on Trent before the Harrying.[22] Of the monasteries built Fountains Abbey became one of the largest and richest.[33] Along with the foundation of the northern monasteries, the Normans increased the number of motte-and-bailey castles they built there.[22]

From the Norman point of view, the Harrying of the North was a successful strategy, as large areas, including Cheshire, Shropshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire were devastated, and the Domesday book confirms this although in those counties it was not as complete as in Yorkshire. The object of the Harrying was to prevent further revolts in Mercia and Northumbria however it did not prevent rebellions elsewhere

Henry of Scotland (Eanric mac Dabíd, 1114 – 12 June 1152) was a prince of Scotland, heir to the Kingdom of Alba. He was also the 3rd Earl of Northumberland and the 3rd Earl of the Honour of Huntingdon and Northampton.

He was the son of King David I of Scotland and Maud, 2nd Countess of Huntingdon. His maternal grandparents were Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria and Huntingdon, (beheaded 1075) and his spouse Judith of Lens.

Henry was named after his uncle, King Henry I of England, who had married his paternal aunt Edith of Scotland (the name Edith gallicised as Matilda after becoming Queen consort in 1100). He had three sons, two of whom became King of Scotland, and a third whose descendants were to prove critical in the later days of the Scottish royal house. He also had three daughters.

His eldest son became King of Scots as Malcolm IV in 1153. Henry's second son became king in 1165 on the death of his brother, reigning as William I. Both in their turn inherited the title of Earl of Huntingdon. His third son, David also became Earl of Huntingdon. It is from the 8th Earl that all Kings of Scotland after Margaret, Maid of Norway claim descent.

On Henry's death, the Earldom passed to his half-brother Simon II de Senlis.

Family[edit source]

Henry married Ada de Warenne, the daughter of William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey (died 1138), and Elizabeth of Vermandois, daughter of Hugh of Vermandois. Ada of Huntingdon (1139–1206), married in 1161, Floris III, Count of Holland. Margaret of Huntingdon (1145–1201) Married [1] in 1160 Conan IV, Duke of Brittany, (died 1171) Married [2] Humphrey III de Bohun, Lord of Trowbridge. Married [3] Sir William fitz Patrick de Hertburn

Malcolm IV of Scotland. William I of Scotland. David of Scotland, 8th Earl of Huntingdon. Matilda of Huntingdon, born and died 1152. Marjorie of Huntingdon, married Gille Críst, Earl of Angus.

Cummins History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Origins Available: England England Ireland Ireland Scotland Scotland

It is generally believed that this name comes from a Breton personal name, derived from element "cam," meaning "bent," or "crooked;" or perhaps from the herb called "cummin" (cumin). Or the name may have come from the place name Comines, in Flanders, Northern France. [1]

"This ancient family claim descent from the great house of Comines in France. They seem to have come into Britain at the Conquest, though they do not appear eo nomine in Domesday. " [2]

Early Origins of the Cummins family

The surname Cummins was first found in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire in England, in the 12th and 13th centuries. Robert of Comyn (Comines,) a noble who accompanied William the Conqueror in 1066 and was made Earl of Northumberland. [3]

Other early records of the family shown with a myriad of early spellings include:

Godwinus filius Cumine in the Pipe Rolls of Norfolk in 1173; Eustachius filius Cumini in the Assize Rolls for Lincolnshire in 1219; Petrus filius Kymine in the Subsidy Rolls for Yorkshire in 1301; Hugh Coumini listed in France in 1157; Walter Cumin in the Pipe Rolls for Wales in 1158; John Comin in

Source for the immediate above: House of Names (yes, I know so commercialized, but this article is helpful).

Janet Milburn 1/2/2022

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Robert de Comyn, Earl of Northumberland's Timeline

Comines, Flanders
January 28, 1069
Age 47
Durham, Durham, England (United Kingdom)
Altyre, Morayshire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Norman Knight from Comines in Flanders