Facts and Events
For the historian Mark Hagger, the Verdun family lived lavishly in Normandy where they were minor land holders, and after the Norman conquest of England they were granted land in England. Other hypothesis argue Bertram I was related to the lotharingian family of counts of Verdun, the house of Ardennes-Verdun.
Bertram I de Verdun is said to be one of the knight of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings (1066). In the Domesday Book (1086), Bertram de Verdun holds the land and the manor of Farnham Royal in Buckinghamshire, held before by princess Goda of England. Some historians say Bertram was probably a son (or nephew) of Godfrey III, Duke of Lower Lorraine. In Domesday Book Bertram is said to have been in Normandy for King William II business, "duc est transmare in servicio regis", and appears in two charts of William de Saint-Calais, bishop of Durham, and King's chief advisor. Bertram's wife's name is unknown, but his son and heir was Bertram II de Verdun (? – c. 1129/30). His son continued to amass land in England, and by 1128 also had been granted land in Staffordshire and Leicestershire. Hagger suggests that he also had assumed an administrative position for Henry I, and was possibly sheriff of Yorkshire in 1100.
Bertram II's grandson was Bertram III de Verdun, one of the familiares of king Henry II. His parents are Norman de Verdun, son of Bertram II, and Lesceline de Clinton, daughter of Geoffrey de Clinton, chamberlain of king Henry I. Bertram would, in the course of his life, hold very high office. He married Maud the daughter of Robert de Ferrers 2nd Earl of Derby. Maud was a minor and it is unlikely that the marriage was ever consummated; in any event she died young without progeny. Soon after, Bertram married Rohese de Salford who gave her husband eight children.
In "The Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families", it could be read : "In 1166 Bertram de Verdun held two knights' fees in chief. In a return of the knights of Le Mont St-Michel in 1172 there is the entry "Radulfus de Fulgeriis debet unum militem de medietate de Buillun et de Chavei et de quadam parte Olivi. Istud autem servicium debet facere pro eo Bertramnus de Verdum, filius Normanni." The places are Bouillon (Manche, arr. Avranches, cant. Granville) and Chavoy (arr. and cant. Avranches)." The third place is very likely Lolif, (Olivi in Latin, close to Avranches).
In 1168 William Basset of Sapcote was Sheriff of Warwickshire and was accused of misappropriation of treasury monies. Bertram, who was at that time with the king in Caen, was sent, together with Richard de Humet, to investigate with the result that Bertram was in 1169 given the dual shrievalty of Warwickshire and Leicestershire in Basset's place. Four years later he rebuilt in stone his house at Alton, which had, up to that time, been little more than a wooden hall. In 1179 Bertram founded the Cistercian abbey of Croxden in Staffordshire, where settled monks from abbey of Aunay in Normandy.
At the beginning of the reign of Henry II a papal bull had been obtained authorizing the King to conquer Ireland and bring the Irish church in line with the rest of Europe. Henry had not found the time to act upon it but, in 1169, Dermot MacMurrough, the expelled king of Leinster, together with Richard FitzGilbert (Strongbow) Earl of Pembroke and Clare landed in Ireland. Dublin was taken and held against both Norse and Irish attacks. Henry II decided to go to Ireland to clarify his own position as Strongbow's liege Lord. Bertram de Verdun was appointed Seneschal for the undertaking, that is to say he was responsible for provisions and stores. The expedition left for Waterford on October 16, 1171. Further to this campaign, Bertram was granted by king of land in Louth, north of Ireland, where he held the town of Dundalk and several castles.
From 1172 Bertram was one of the king's "Justices in Eyre" (circuit judges) along with William Basset. Later, in 1175, he became one of the regular members of the Curia Regis.
Henry II had undertaken policies to put the kingdom into good order after the anarchy of the previous reign. This however did not meet with everyone's approval and many of the powerful barons rebelled against the crown. The French were not slow in attempting to gain an advantage from the situation and neither were the Scots. Bertram de Verdun, whose lands were in the main surrounded by rebel lords, supported the king and successfully defended Kenilworth. He also fought at Alnwick against the Scots. Here William the Lion, the Scottish King, was taken and shortly afterwards the rebellion was finally put down. Henry Plantagenet was now able to devote his time to completing his reforms in England.
Bertram de Verdun was sheriff of Leicestershire until 1183 but it is unclear as to whether he held this office continually. He spent a good deal of his time in both Ireland and Normandy where he founded or endowed many monastic houses not to mention his patronage in England. He was a close friend of his sovereign Henry II and it is likely that he was with the king in France when Henry became ill in 1189. The king retired to Chinon, where he died on July 6.
Undignified by any great office yet close to the king, but ready for any kind of business, Bertram was sometime custodian of Pontorson, sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire from 1169 to 1184, itinerant justice, sent to a mission to Spain in 1177, despatched to clear up dangerous muddle in Ireland in 1185, guardian of the heir to the earldom of Chester. Clearly he was a man of many parts (he was put in charge of Acre on the Third Crusade and died in Jaffa); but again, when not entrusted with a special task, he was to be found constantly with the king Henry II and numbered among his most intimate counselors.
After Henry’s death Bertram III remained an influential figure with king Richard I, he became castellan and went on Holy Land with king. Richard's wish was to lead a crusade and gain glory in the holy land. Bertram de Verdun set sail with Richard on what has come to be known as the Third Crusade and after many delays (including the king's marriage to Berengaria of Navarre) finally reached Acre in 1191. The Christians lay siege to the city, which soon fell and Bertram together with Stephen Longchamp was appointed governor. On August 25, 1192, St Bartholomew's day in the old calendar, Bertram died at Jaffa three days before the signing of the treaty allowing free passage to Jerusalem for pilgrims. His sword, banner and armour were returned to Alton Castle.