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Lisle [Insula], Sir Brian delocked

(d. 1234)
  • S. D. Church

Lisle [Insula], Sir Brian de (d. 1234), soldier and administrator, was the son of Robert de Lisle, seneschal of the honour of Eye for William de Longchamp (d. 1197), bishop of Ely. His family came from Mottistone, Isle of Wight, where it had been since at least the 1130s. Lisle was in the service of King John by April 1200, and was first described as a household knight in November 1204. He appears to have become a close intimate and even a gambling partner of the king. His status raised by his marriage in January 1205 to Grace, widow of Norman of the Chamber, and daughter and heir of Thomas fitz William of Saleby, Lisle took his place among the king's familiares. In the same year he became one of the custodians of William de Stuteville's lands, and when these were redeemed, retained control of the major northern strongholds of Knaresborough and Boroughbridge. He came to hold a number of other custodies and offices in the north midlands and Yorkshire, helped to organize John's continental campaigns, and himself served in France and Poitou. In 1213 he became a royal steward. When civil war broke out in England, his position in the north, based on his command of the castles of the Peak and Bolsover in Derbyshire as well as of Knaresborough and Boroughbridge, was vital to John's cause.

In the meantime Lisle had begun a long-lasting association with the royal forest. In May 1207 he was appointed chief forester for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire under Hugh de Neville, a position that he held until November 1217, after which he went on crusade. In February 1221 he was made chief justice of the forest for the whole of England and although he lost this office to Hugh de Neville in January 1224, he continued to act as one of Hugh's deputy foresters, before returning in October 1229 as chief forester for the counties in the north and east of England. During these years Lisle's position fluctuated according to the state of English politics. Although he joined the king's forces besieging Bedford Castle in 1224, and witnessed the 1225 reissue of Magna Carta, he was often found in opposition to the justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, and in 1232 supported the regime of the justiciar's victorious enemy Peter des Roches, which once more entrusted him with the custody of Knaresborough Castle. He died between 15 and 18 August 1234.

Lisle was evidently an extremely valuable, if sometimes difficult, royal servant. In 1205, for example, the sheriff of York was ordered to inquire into complaints that Lisle and others of the king's fideles had been improperly operating the York mint, and this was only the first of many occasions on which his conduct was questioned by the king. During the civil war John repeatedly ordered Lisle to hand over custody of the Peak Castle, first to Ranulf (III), earl of Chester, and then to William de Ferrers, earl of Derby, but he steadfastly refused to comply, and in the end Derby and Lisle went to war. When Lisle's activities as constable of Knaresborough during the civil war came under scrutiny in the mid-1220s, it became clear that he had frequently acted arbitrarily and to his own profit.

But there is another view of him, for it seems that Lisle was a close friend and supporter of St Robert of Knaresborough (d. 1218). According to the metrical life of the saint, it was Lisle who introduced King John to St Robert and induced the king to offer the saint land in Knaresborough Forest for himself and his followers. For his pains St Robert foretold the time of Lisle's death, causing him to leave 'wyth drery mod'. Nevertheless, the author had one crumb of comfort for those who might have felt sorry for him:

And to Northe Cuntre he rayd,And thair he dyed als Robertt sayd;His saule passed unto paradyseFor in this warld Bryan was wyse

Life of St Robert of Knaresborough, 68His heirs were his sister Alice (wife of Thomas le Bret), William of Glamorgan (son of his sister Constance), and Ralph de Stopham (son of his sister Annabel).


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, PRSoc. (1884–) [pipe rolls]
Record Commission