Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bernard (fl.1093)

BERNARD (fl. 1093), of Neufmarché (de Novo-mercatii), often called in English ‘of Newmarch,’ was the son of Geoffrey, son of Thurcytel, lord of Neufmarché by the forest of Lions, and of Ada, daughter of Richard of Hugleville, famous for his faithfulness to his duke, William, in the war of Arques, and a grandson of Richard the Good by his daughter Papia. Bernard came over to England with the Conqueror, and his name appears as a witness to two charters granted by William to his abbey of Battle. He married the daughter of Osbern, son of Richard Fitz Scrob, the Norman lord who built his castle in Herefordshire before the Conquest. This marriage led him to settle in Herefordshire. During the general rebellion of the Norman lords against William Rufus in 1088 he joined with Roger of Lacy, and Ralph of Mortemer, with the men of Earl Roger of Shrewsbury, and the confederate lords at the head of the forces of Herefordshire and Shropshire, and with a large number of Welsh allies harried Worcestershire and threatened to burn the city of Worcester, to plunder the minster and take the king's castle. Encouraged, however, by the exhortations of their bishop, Wulfstan, the men of Worcester attacked and routed the rebel army. Later in the reign Bernard invaded and settled in Brecheiniog, building his castle on the hill of Aberhonwy on the site where now stand the ruins of Brecknock Castle. In 1093 Rhys ap Tewdwr, king of Deheubarth, who attacked the intruders, was slain, and Bernard conquered and occupied the three ‘cantrevs’ of Brecheiniog. He married, probably as his second wife, Nest, the daughter of another Nest, daughter of Gruffydd ap Llewelyn and his English wife Ealdgyth, though it is possible that the elder Nest was the wife of Osbern, and that her daughter was the only wife of Bernard. The English called her Anneis, and hence her name sometimes appears as Agnes. In the reign of Henry I Bernard founded and liberally endowed the priory of St. John at Brecknock, without the walls of the castle, granting to it lands and tithes in Herefordshire, Staffordshire, and Somerset, as well as in Wales. He made his new foundation subordinate to Battle Abbey. His wife and his principal tenants joined him in this work. The date of his death is not known. He was a benefactor to St. Peter's, Gloucester, and Leland saw a stone in the chapter-house of that abbey purporting to mark his tomb. The monks of Brecknock, however, claimed to have the body of their founder. In spite of the pious benefaction made by Nest to her husband's priory, her wickedness caused her son Mahel the loss of his father's estates. Mahel caught her lover coming from her, and beat and mutilated him. In revenge Nest went to King Henry and swore that her son was not the son of her husband Bernard. The king, we are told, allowed himself to be swayed by his wishes rather than his judgment. He made Nest's daughter, Sibyl, whom she declared to be her husband's child, the heiress of all her father's wealth, and gave her in marriage to Miles Fitz Walter, constable of Gloucester, afterwards made earl of Hereford by the Empress Matilda.

[Giraldus Cambrensis, Itin. Kambriæ, i. 12; Orderic, 606; Florence, 1088; Anglo-Sax. Chron. 1088; Brut y Tywywsogion, 1091; Chron. de Bello, 31, 35; Monasticon, i. 545, iii. 264, 245; Freeman's Norman Conquest, iii. 132, v. 109. and William Rufus, i. 34, ii. 89-91.]

W. H.