Roger d'Aubigny (changed to de Montbray)
Born about 1120, son of Nigel d'Aubigny by Gundred (de Gornay). His name was changed to de Montbray by royal command, presumably that of Henry I.
He acquired from his father vast areas of land, the Montbray estates in Normandy plus others in the English midlands and Yorkshire. In the centre was Axholme in Lincolnshire, ultimately the base of Mowbray power. Roger's own life was on his Yorkshire lands at Thirsk castle in the area still known as the Vale of Mowbray. Under the guidance of his mother he became a generous benefactor to the church.
In 1138 he was taken as to the Battle of the Standard, against Scots near Northallerton. At Thirsk the monks of Calder had to shelter, fleeing from the Scots raiders. Roger gave them a tenth of the victuals of Thirsk castle and in 1143, bestowed on them his villa of Byland, later in life making additional gifts to Byland Abbey. In 1145 he founded the great abbey at Newburgh, near Byland. Other gifts of land were made to the Yorkshire abbeys of Fountains, Bridlington and Rievaulx, and he doubled his father's endowment to the priory of Hurst in Axholme. In Normandy he gave all his lands in Granville to the Abbaya des Dames in Caen when his daughter was a nun there.
Burke's claims he was taken prisoner with King Stephen at the battle of Lincoln in 1141, supporting him in his contest with the empress.
In 1146 he was in Normandy defending his title to the castle of Bayeaux. Induced to join King Louis VII of France to the Holy Land. His services to the crusading movement were valued by the Knights Hospitallers so highly that later, in 1335, they proclaimed the Mowbrays should be treated 'beyond the seas' as those to whom they were most obliged, discounting the king himself.
1174 saw Roger as a rebel. The sons of Henry II, Henry, Richard (later Richard I) and Geoffrey, were encouraged by their mother Eleanor (of Aquitaine) to rebel against their father. After Easter, Roger and sons Nigel and Robert joined the coalition that had taken up arms the previous summer. He fortified his castle at Kinnardferry in Axholme and garrisoned his Yorkshire strongholds of Thirsk and Kirkby Malzeard. This defection blocked the way through Yorkshire to any royal army sent against the Scots who were destroying English border castles in Northumberland and Cumberland. The king's warlike son Geoffrey, Bishop of Lincoln, gathered a force and laid siege to Kinnairdferry. Although surrounded by waters of a fen, lack of water within led to surrender in a few days. After demolishing the castle, Geoffrey took Kirkby Malzeard and then attacked Thirsk, but Roger had escaped to join the Scots king who was besieging Prudhoe-on-Tyne. He obtained a promise of help in exchange for a promise to assist the Scots in their invasion of Yorkshire. However, news arrived that Yorkshire was rallying around its sheriff , so Roger and the Scots king retreated northwards across the Tyne. Although overtaken and captured at Alnwick, Roger escaped into Scotland, remaining there three weeks until hearing of the rebellion's failure.
He came south and surrendered to Henry II at Northampton, where, surprisingly, he was taken back into grace and favour. However, the careful Henry ordered the total demolition of Roger's castles in 1176, and we can date this weakening of Mowbray power in Yorkshire as the time the family took up residence in Axholme.
In 1186 Roger crusaded for a second and final time. When the extension of the truce between Saladin and Guy de Lusignan allowed the crusaders to return home, Roger and Hugh de Beauchamp chose to remain in Jerusalem 'in the services of God'. In Saladin's great victory on 6 July 1187 he was taken prisoner with King Guy, was redeemed in the following year by the Knights Templar, but did not long survive his liberation. Tradition has it that he was buried at Tyre, an old warrior of nearly seventy years. Burke's states he was buried at Sures, with 'some authorities say he returned to England and after living fifteen years longer, was buried in the abbey of Byland.
By his wife Alice de Gant he had sons Nigel, Robert (of Easby, Yorks.) and possibly William.