Maud de Braose

Maud de Braose, Lady of Bramber (c. 1155 – 1210) was an English noble, the spouse of William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber, a powerful Marcher baron and court favourite of King John of England. She would later incur the wrath and enmity of the King who caused her to be starved to death in the dungeon of Corfe Castle along with her eldest son.[1] In contemporary records, she was described as beautiful, very wise, doughty, and vigorous. She kept up the war against the Welsh and conquered much from them.[2]

Maud de Braose
Lady of Bramber
Bornc. 1155
Died1210 (aged 54–55)
Corfe Castle, Dorset, England (died of starvation)
Spouse(s)William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber
IssueWilliam de Braose
Giles de Braose, Bishop of Hereford
Reginald de Braose
Matilda de Braose
Margaret de Braose
Annora de Braose
Loretta de Braose
John de Braose
Flandrina de Braose, Abbess of Godstow
FatherBernard de St. Valéry

She features in many Welsh myths and legends; and is also known to history as Matilda de Braose, Moll Wallbee, and Lady of La Haie.

Family and marriageEdit

She was born Maud de St. Valery (Maud de Saint-Valéry) in France in about 1155, the child of Bernard de St. Valéry[3][4] of Hinton Waldrist in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire)[5] and his first wife, Matilda. Her paternal grandfather was Reginald de St. Valéry (died c.1162).

She had many siblings and half-siblings, including Thomas de St. Valéry (died 1219), who was a son of Bernard by his second wife Eleanor de Domnart. Thomas married Adele de Ponthieu, by whom he had a daughter, Annora, who in her turn married Robert III, Count of Dreux, by whom she had issue. Thomas fought on the French side, at the Battle of Bouvines on 27 July 1214.[6]

Sometime around 1166, Maud married William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber, son of William de Braose, 3rd Lord of Bramber and Bertha of Hereford de Pitres. He also held the lordships of Gower, Hay, Brecon, Radnor, Builth, Abergavenny, Kington, Painscastle, Skenfrith, Grosmont, White Castle and Briouze in Normandy. When King John of England ascended the throne in 1199, Braose became a court favourite and was also awarded the lordship of Limerick, Ireland. Maud had a marriage portion, Tetbury from her father's estate.

Maud supported her husband's military ambitions and he put her in charge of Hay Castle and surrounding territory. She is often referred to in history as the Lady of Hay. In 1198, Maud defended Painscastle in Elfael against a massive Welsh attack led by Gwenwynwyn, Prince of Powys.[7] She successfully held off Gwenwynwyn's forces for three weeks until English reinforcements arrived. Over three thousand Welsh were killed. Painscastle was known as Matilda's Castle by the locals.[8]

Maud and William are reputed to have had 16 children.[9] The best documented of these are listed below.


Enmity of King JohnEdit

In 1208, William de Braose quarrelled with his friend and patron King John. The reason is not known but it is alleged that Maud made indiscreet comments regarding the murder of King John's nephew Duke Arthur I of Brittany. There was also a large sum of money (five thousand marks) de Braose owed the King. Whatever the reason, John demanded Maud's son William be sent to him as a hostage for her husband's loyalty. Maud refused, and stated loudly within earshot of the King's officers that "she would not deliver her children to a king who had murdered his own nephew."[14] The King quickly led troops to the Welsh border and seized all of the castles that belonged to William de Braose. Maud and her eldest son William fled to Ireland, where they found refuge at Trim Castle with the de Lacys, the family of her daughter Margaret. In 1210, King John sent an expedition to Ireland. Maud and her son escaped but were apprehended in Galloway by Donnchadh, Earl of Carrick.[15] After being briefly held at Carrickfergus Castle,[16] they were dispatched to England.

Imprisonment and deathEdit

Maud and William were first imprisoned at Windsor Castle, but were shortly afterwards transferred to Corfe Castle in Dorset where they were placed inside the dungeon. The contemporaneous History of the Dukes of Normandy and Kings of England claims Maud and William both starved to death.[16] It is also said that John had her with her son imprisoned at Corfe castle and ordered that a sheaf of oats and one piece of raw bacon be given to them. He did not allow them to have any more meat. After eleven days, the mother was found dead between her son's legs. Her son, who was also dead, was found sitting straight, bent against the wall. So desperate was the mother that she had eaten the flesh from her own son's cheeks. The manner in which they met their deaths so outraged the English nobility that the Magna Carta, which King John was forced to sign in 1215, contains clause 39: "No man shall be taken, imprisoned, outlawed, banished or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land."

Her husband died a year later in exile in France where he had gone disguised as a beggar to escape King John's wrath after the latter had declared him an outlaw, following his alliance with Llywelyn the Great, whom he had assisted in open rebellion against the King, an act which John regarded as treason. He was buried in the Abbey of St. Victor, Paris.

Corfe Castle; within whose dungeon Maud de Braose and her son William were starved to death

Maud's daughter Margaret de Lacy founded a religious house, the Hospital of St. John, in Aconbury, Herefordshire in her memory.[2] On 10 October 1216, eight days before his death, King John conceded three carucates of land in the royal forest of Aconbury to Margaret for the construction of the religious house. He sent the instructions to her husband Walter de Lacy, who held the post of Sheriff of Hereford, by letters patent.[17]


Maud de Braose features in many Welsh folklore myths and legends. There is one legend which says that Maud built the castle of Hay-on-Wye single handed in one night, carrying the stones in her apron.[18] She was also said to have been extremely tall and often donned armour while leading troops into battle.[19]

The legend about her building Hay Castle probably derives from the time she added the gateway arch to a tower which was built in the 1180s.[20]

In fictionEdit

A book entitled Lady of Hay was written by author Barbara Erskine. It is a highly fictional account of Maud's life simultaneously set in the past and in 20th century England where she was fictitiously reincarnated as a modern Englishwoman. Maud is also mentioned in the novel Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman, and in the novels To Defy A King and The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick, and in Jean Plaidy's novel The Prince of Darkness about King John. The incident of Maud's starvation and death at the hands of King John is fictionalized in Pamela Kaufman's The Prince of Poison.


  1. ^ a b c Cokayne, G.E., ed V. Gibbs (1910). The Complete Peerage, Vol. 1. London: The St. Catherine Press Ltd. pp. 21/22.
  2. ^ a b Histoire des Ducs de Normandie et des Rois d' Angleterre
  3. ^ Histoire des Ducs de Normandie et des Rois d' Angleterre, ed. Francique Michel (Paris 1840) "Extract E". translated on Dr Helen Nicholson's website. Archived from the original on 19 June 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  4. ^ Richardson, Douglas; Everingham, Kimball G. Everingham (2004). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. p.133
  5. ^ Ford, David Nash (2003). "Matilda De St. Valery, Lady Bergavenny (c.1153-1210)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  6. ^ Xenophon Group, Military History Database
  7. ^ MHRA Tudor & Stuart Translations: Vol. 5: The Breviary of Britain By Humphrey Llwyd, p.163
  8. ^ The Barons de Braose, Blood Feuds, by Lynda Denyer (History of Family de Braose website)
  9. ^ a b c d F.M. Powicke, "Loretta, Countess of Leicester", in Historical Essays in Honour of James Tait, ed. J. G. Edwards et al. (Manchester: 1933), pp. 247-274
  10. ^ Bridgeman, George Thomas Orlando (1876). History of the Princes of South Wales). Thomas Birch. p. 81. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  11. ^ a b c "Cawley, Charles, Medieval Lands, Untitled English nobility, A-C Briouse". Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  12. ^ D. G. C. Elwes, "A History of the Castles, Mansions and manors of western Sussex" (London: 1876) opp p48
  13. ^ L. F. Salzman (ed.), The Victoria History of the County of Oxford, (London: 1907) p75
  14. ^ Costain, Thomas B. The Conquering Family, pp. 260-62
  15. ^ Turner, RV (2006). "Briouze [Braose], William de (d. 1211)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3283. Retrieved 22 January 2012. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.); Holden, BW (2001). "King John, the Broases, and the Celtic Fringe, 1207–1216". Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies. 33 (2): 1–23. doi:10.2307/4053044. JSTOR 4053044.
  16. ^ a b Histoire des Ducs de Normandie et des Rois d'Angleterre, pp.112-5
  17. ^ Cambridge Journals, Cambridge University Press, retrieved 26 October 2008
  18. ^ Wirt Sikes, British Goblins, (London: 1880) p370
  19. ^ Costain, page260
  20. ^ Mike Salter, Hay Castle


  • Costain, Thomas B. (1962). The Conquering Family. Graden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc.