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Saer de Quincy, 1st Earl of Winchester (c. 1170 – 3 November 1219) (or Saieur di Quinci) was one of the leaders of the baronial rebellion against King John of England, and a major figure in both Scotland and England in the decades around the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Saer de Quincy's immediate background was in the Scottish kingdom: his father, Robert de Quincy, was a knight in the service of king William the Lion, and his mother Orabilis was the heiress of the lordship of Leuchars in Fife (see below). His rise to prominence in England came through his marriage to Margaret, the younger sister of Robert de Beaumont, 4th Earl of Leicester: but it is probably no coincidence that her other brother was the de Quincys' powerful Fife neighbour, Roger de Beaumont, Bishop of St Andrews. In 1204, Earl Robert died, leaving Margaret as co-heiress to the vast earldom along with her elder sister. The estate was split in half, and after the final division was ratified in 1207, de Quincy was made Earl of Winchester.
Earl of Winchester
Following his marriage, de Quincy became a prominent military and diplomatic figure in England. There is no evidence of any close alliance with King John, however, and his rise to importance was probably due to his newly acquired magnate status and the family connections that underpinned it.
One man with whom he does seem to have developed a close personal relationship is his cousin, Robert Fitzwalter (d. 1235). They are first found together in 1203, as co-commanders of the garrison at the major fortress of Vaudreuil in Normandy; they were responsible for surrendering the castle without a fight to Philip II of France, fatally weakening the English position in northern France. Although popular opinion seems to have blamed them for the capitulation, a royal writ is extant stating that the castle was surrendered at King John's command, and both Saer and Fitzwalter had to endure personal humiliation and heavy ransoms at the hands of the French.
In Scotland, he was perhaps more successful. In 1211 to 1212, the Earl of Winchester commanded an imposing retinue of a hundred knights and a hundred serjeants in William the Lion's campaign against the Mac William rebels, a force which some historians have suggested may have been the mercenary force from Brabant lent to the campaign by John.
In 1215, when the baronial rebellion broke out, Robert Fitzwalter became the military commander, and the Earl of Winchester joined him, acting as one of the chief negotiators with John; both cousins were among the 25 guarantors of the Magna Carta. De Quincy fought against John in the troubles that followed the signing of the Charter, and, again with Fitzwalter, travelled to France to invite Prince Louis of France to take the English throne. He and Fitzwalter were subsequently among the most committed and prominent supporters of Louis' candidature for the kingship, against both John and the infant Henry III.
The Fifth Crusade
When military defeat cleared the way for Henry III to take the throne, de Quincy went on crusade, perhaps in fulfillment of an earlier vow. In 1219 he left to join the Fifth Crusade, then besieging Damietta. While in the east, he fell sick and died. He was buried in Acre, the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, rather than in Egypt, and his heart was brought back and interred at Garendon Abbey near Loughborough, a house endowed by his wife's family.
The family of de Quincy had arrived in England after the Norman Conquest, and took their name from Cuinchy in the Arrondissement of Béthune; the personal name "Saer" was used by them over several generations. Both names are variously spelled in primary sources and older modern works, the first name being sometimes rendered Saher or Seer, and the surname as Quency or Quenci.
The first recorded Saer de Quincy (known to historians as "Saer I") was lord of the manor of Long Buckby in Northamptonshire in the earlier twelfth century, and second husband of Matilda of St Liz, stepdaughter of King David I of Scotland by Maud of Northumbria. This marriage produced two sons, Saer II and Robert de Quincy. It was Robert, the younger son, who was the father of the Saer de Quincy who eventually became Earl of Winchester. By her first husband Robert Fitz Richard, Maud was also the paternal grandmother of Earl Saer's close ally, Robert Fitzwalter.
Robert de Quincy seems to have inherited no English lands from his father, and pursued a knightly career in Scotland, where he is recorded from around 1160 as a close companion of his cousin, King William the Lion. By 1170 he had married Orabilis, heiress of the Scottish lordship of Leuchars and, through her, he became lord of an extensive complex of estates north of the border which included lands in Fife, Strathearn and Lothian.
Saer de Quincy, the son of Robert de Quincy and Orabilis of Leuchars, was raised largely in Scotland. His absence from English records for the first decades of his life has led some modern historians and genealogists to confuse him with his uncle, Saer II, who took part in the rebellion of Henry the Young King in 1173, when the future Earl of Winchester can have been no more than a toddler. Saer II's line ended without direct heirs, and his nephew and namesake would eventually inherit his estate, uniting his primary Scottish holdings with the family's Northamptonshire patrimony, and possibly some lands in France.
By his wife Margaret de Beaumont, Saer de Quincy had three sons and three daughters:
- Lora who married Sir William de Valognes, Chamberlain of Scotland
- Arabella who married Sir Richard Harcourt
- Robert (d. 1217), before 1206 he married Hawise of Chester, Countess of Lincoln, sister and co-heiress of Ranulf de Blundeville, Earl of Chester.
- Roger, who succeeded his father as earl of Winchester (though he did not take formal possession of the earldom until after his mother's death);
- Robert de Quincy (second son of that name; d. 1257) who married Helen, daughter of the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great.
- Hawise, who married Hugh de Vere, 4th Earl of Oxford.