m. ABT 1120
Facts and Events
Aubrey de Vere III (c. 1110 – 26 December 1194) was the eldest son of Aubrey de Vere and Alice, the daughter of Gilbert de Clare. He was influential in the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, and was created Earl of Oxford by the Empress in July 1142.
Aubrey de Vere was born about 1110, the son of Aubrey de Vere, royal chamberlain, and Alice (died c. 1163), the daughter of Gilbert de Clare. He had four brothers, Geoffrey, Robert, William, Bishop of Hereford, and Gilbert, and four sisters, Alice, Rohese, Juliane, and a sister whose first name is unknown.
In 1139 de Vere married Beatrice, the daughter of Henry, Constable of Bourbourg, and the granddaughter and heiress of Manasses, Count of Guînes in the Pas de Calais. After Manasses' death late in 1139 de Vere traveled to Guînes, did homage to Thierry, Count of Flanders, and was made Count of Guînes.
Two years later de Vere succeeded his father, Aubrey de Vere, slain in a riot in London on 15 May 1141. He came into his inheritance at a time of civil war. King Henry I had died on 1 December 1135, and in the ensuing conflict between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda over the succession to the crown, de Vere's loyalties appear at first to have lain principally with the Empress, at least during the lifetime of his brother-in-law, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex. After King Stephen was captured at the Battle of Lincoln on 2 February 1141, de Vere defected to the Empress. However it is likely that he was briefly reconciled to the King after the latter was released from captivity on 1 November, as about that time the King appears to have granted de Vere a charter confirming his inheritance from his father.
According to Cokayne, in 1142 Oxford 'joined the plot of his brother-in-law, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex, against King Stephen', and in that year, presumably in return for his support, the Empress granted de Vere 'a general charter of confirmation, in particular of the office of Master Chamberlain', and in July 1142 a charter as 'Earl or Count Aubrey'. The latter charter provided that de Vere would be Earl of Cambridgeshire, with the third penny, unless that county were held by the King of Scots, in which case he was to have a choice of four other titles. In the event, de Vere took the title of Earl of Oxford.
At some time between 1144 and 1146 Oxford refused to live with his wife, Beatrice. Her father, the Constable of Bourbourg, arranged a divorce with the Earl's consent, after which Oxford ceased to be Count of Guînes.
Although Oxford had perforce become reconciled to King Stephen after 1143, in 1150 he attested a royal charter without using the title comes, suggesting that at that time the King still refused to recognize the earldom conferred on Oxford in 1142 by the Empress Matilda.
In or before 1152 Oxford married again. His second wife, Euphemia, is said to have been the daughter of William de Cantilupe. King Stephen and his wife, Queen Maud, gave the manor of Ickleton, Cambridgeshire, as part of Euphemia's marriage portion. The marriage was brief; Euphemia was dead by late 1153, leaving no known issue. She was buried at Colne Priory.
On 3 May 1152 Queen Maud died at Oxford's seat of Castle Hedingham, and in the winter of 1152-3 Oxford was with the King at the siege of Wallingford. King Stephen now recognized him as earl, as Oxford attested both a royal charter at Wallingford and the Treaty of Westminster on 6 November 1153, which established the succession and ended the period of civil war, as 'Earl Aubrey'.
King Stephen died 25 October 1154, and was succeeded by Henry II, son of the Empress Matilda, who confirmed most of Oxford's earlier grants. Oxford attested royal charters in 1158 and 1160, but his name does not again appear as a witness until 1176.
In 1162 or 1163 Oxford took as his third wife Agnes, the daughter of Henry de Essex, Lord of Rayleigh. At the time of the marriage Agnes was a child of 11, and within a year Oxford tried to repudiate her, allegedly because Agnes had lived with his brother, Geoffrey de Vere, but in reality, according to Cokayne, because her father had been disgraced and ruined. Oxford reportedly 'kept his wife shut up and did not allow her to attend church or go out, and refused to cohabit with her'. Agnes' friends appealed to the Bishop of London, and ultimately to Pope Alexander III, who in 1171 or 1172 directed the Bishop to order Oxford to restore her to her conjugal rights within 20 days or suffer interdiction and excommunication. By Agnes Oxford had four sons, Aubrey de Vere, 2nd Earl of Oxford, Ralph, Robert de Vere, 3rd Earl of Oxford, and Henry, and a daughter, Alice.
In 1184 Oxford obtained the wardship of the person of Isabel de Bolebec, daughter of Walter de Bolebec, but not custody of her lands, and in 1190 paid 500 marks to marry her to his eldest son and heir, Aubrey de Vere, later 2nd Earl of Oxford.
Oxford attended the King during the latter part of his reign, and served during the wars of 1173–4, helping to repel a force under Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl of Leicester, which landed in Suffolk on 29 September 1173. Henry II died in 1189. Oxford was present on 3 September 1189 at the coronation of his successor, King Richard I, and in 1194 was required to contribute when King Richard was held for ransom by the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VI.
Oxford died 26 December 1194, and was buried at Colne Priory. His third wife survived him, and was buried by his side.
Crouch assesses Oxford's political influence during the conflict between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda as significant, noting that his alliance with his brother-in-law, Geoffrey de Mandeville, rendered Essex unstable and threatened King Stephen's hold on London in the 1140s, and remarking on the fact that 'he was able to achieve so much on so narrow a landed base'.