Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vere, Robert de (1170?-1221)

VERE, ROBERT de, third Earl of Oxford (1170?–1221), was the second son of Aubrey de Vere, the first earl (1142–1194) [see under Vere, Aubrey de, (d. 1141)], by his third wife, Lucy, daughter and heir of Henry of Essex. Born about 1170, Vere had reached middle age when the death of his childless elder brother Aubrey, second earl of Oxford, in 1214, made him third earl and hereditary great chamberlain of England (Complete Peerage, vi. 163). On payment of a thousand marks he obtained livery of his lands and the wardship of the heir of William FitzOates to marry to his niece (Dugdale, Baronage, i. 191). His brother had been reckoned among the ‘evil counsellors’ of King John, but he took the side of the barons, became one of the twenty-five executors of Magna Charta, forfeited his estates, and was excommunicated by the pope (Matt. Paris, ii. 585, 604, 613). After John's death he recovered his lands.

Oxford has by some writers been reckoned a judge of the royal court, on the strength of a solitary record of fines levied before him in 1220, and as a younger son he might have been brought up to the law. But he may only have been presiding, as peers frequently did, over a body of itinerant justices. Indeed, he is found acting in that capacity in Hertfordshire later in the same year (Foss).

Oxford died on 25 Oct. 1221, and was buried in the Benedictine priory at Hatfield Broadoak (Regis), near Bishop's Stortford, founded by his grandfather as a cell of St. Melaine at Rennes (Tanner; Nichols, Alien Priories, ii. 124; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. pp. 587–8). He has himself sometimes been accounted its ‘primus fundator’ ({sc|Camden}}, p. 453; Leland, Itinerary, vi. 41). Perhaps he secured for it independence of the mother house. His effigy, cross-legged, remains in the parish church, whither it was removed from the old priory church. Vincent called attention to the fact that on his shield the silver mullet in the first quarter was borne, not as by all other Veres upon a field gules, but upon one of France ancient. This anomaly does not seem to have been explained.

Oxford married Isabella (b. 1176?), daughter and coheir (ultimately sole heir) of Walter de Bolebec (d. before December 1185), the last male of the Buckinghamshire family of that name (Lipscomb, History of the County of Buckingham, iii. 508; Dugdale, i. 452). His father, whose ward she was, had purchased her hand for his younger son in 1190–1, but this arrangement in some unexplained way fell through, and she married about 1197 Henry de Nonant, lord of Totnes in Devonshire (ib. i. 522). In spite of the proof he gives of this, Dugdale elsewhere (ib. i. 191, 452) makes Nonant her second husband. He must have been dead before 1208, when Oxford bought a license to marry her and obtained his desire, although she had given a larger sum not to be compelled to marry (ib. i. 191). She bore him a son, Hugh, born about 1210, who succeeded his father in the peerage and died in December 1263; he was great-grandfather of John de Vere, seventh earl [q. v.] The third earl's widow died on 3 Feb. 1245. In the year of Oxford's death she gave a site in the city of Oxford to the Dominicans (the black friars) who had just come into England (Matt. Paris; Leland, Itinerary, vi. 41).

[Matt. Paris's Chronica Majora (Rolls Ser.); Dugdale's Baronage; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage; Leland's Itinerary, ed. Hearne; Tanner's Notitia Monastica, ed. 1787; Foss's Judges of England; Newcourt's Repertorium Parochiale Londinense; Proceedings of the Archæol. Institute, 1850; other authorities in text.]

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