I always enjoy discovering little details about Cayley family history which reflect customs and practices of the past. Who would have thought that an Anglo-Norman nobleman would have given up a hawk for the good of a medieval Cayley forebear?
William de Cailly was one of the first members of the Cailly family to acquire estates in England. Whether he fought at the Battle of Hastings is extremely debatable – some versions of the Battle Abbey Rolls which include a Sieur de Cailly are extremely unreliable, as is the 12th century Roman de Rou of the court poet Wace which also refers a Sieur de Cailly. What is certain is that a William de Cailgi held a fief in Berkshire at the time of the Domesday Book, a William de Cailly was Lord of Trumpington (now part of Cambridge) in 1086, and that a William de Cailly held lands at Heacham, Norfolk before 1106, when William 2nd Earl of Warenne made grants of some of them to the monastery of St Pancras at Lewes, Sussex. The likelihood is that all these references to William de Cailly/Cailgi are to the same person.
Move on to the mid 12th century, and we find the Normandy deed which gives rise to the title of this blog post. By way of background, it was common for religious houses to have to make some sort of gift or payment to Lords with local interests. (Another example is the obligation of the Priory of Wymondham in Norfolk to provide bread and ale to Thomas de Cailly whenever he was nearby – see Drinks on the (monastic) house.)
The Abbey church of St Ouen in Rouen had its own obligation: to supply Walter Earl of Giffard, one of the powerful Giffard family with whom the Cailly family were closely associated and intermarried, with a hawk. This was probably a non-trivial obligation. One surmises that what it involved was making a trained hawk available for hunting by Walter Giffard and his entourage when they were staying in the Rouen area. So it probably meant maintaining a falconer and making sure they always had at least one trained hawk.
Some time between 1140 and 1160 Walter decided to be generous and to forgo this right. He did so as a gift to the Abbey of St Ouen for the benefit of the soul of William son of Osbern de Cailli, the William who came to England around the time of the Norman Conquest. The deed of gift was witnessed by, among others, another Osbern de Cailli, who, with other members of the Cailly family, no doubt encouraged it for the health of their ancestor’s soul. Whether it cut short William de Cailli’s time in Purgatory is something I leave others to judge.
Source: ‘Seine Inférieure: Part 1’, in Calendar of Documents Preserved in France 918-1206, ed. J Horace Round (London, 1899), pp. 1-36