Appendix 3
Porchester shall see its broken walls in its harbour until a rich man with the
tooth of a wolf shall restore it.
Portchester Castle is a medieval castle built within a former Roman fort at
Portchester and is located at the northern end of Portsmouth Harbour. The
Normans, at the beginning of the 12th century, commenced the erection of
the Castle, under the orders of Henry Ist, and in 1133, at the instigation of
Henry Blois. He gave a Charter to the Augustinian Monks of Normandy: This
Charter, 'Granted to God, and the Church of the Blessed Mary of Portcestre,
and to the Canons regularly serving there, the Church of St. Mary, there
founded by him, with the land and titles belonging to the Church, for the
benefit of the souls of his father and mother and William, his brother, his
ancestors and successors, and for the prosperity and safety of his Kingdom.
Dated at Burnham on our passage overseas, 1133.
It seems that the church was already erected and functioning in 1133 with
the monks in possession. The Church is one of the finest Romanesque
churches in Wessex and the most precisely dated. The Canons did not stay
long at Portchester, for they were moved away between 1145 and 1153, to a
more spacious house at Southwick and there built a new Priory by Henry
Blois who controlled Southwick and its brothels. Papal Bulls issued by Pope
Eugenius II in 1145 and 1153 were addressed to the Priors of Portchester
and Southwick respectively, setting forth that the Pope received the
Churches and the Priories under his protection.
After the Norman Invasion the manor of Portchester was granted to
William Maudit, a powerful magnate, and it was probably he who built
Portchester Castle. At this time it would probably have been defended by a
wooden palisade and a moat, with the original Roman stone walls of the
fort acting as the defence of the outer bailey. Maudit died in about 1100,
and his property passed onto his son, Robert Maudit. He died in 1120, and a
few years later the family estates came into the hands of William Pont de
l'Arche through marriage to Robert Maudit's daughter. This same William
Pont de l'Arche was also the man who refused to give Henry Blois the keys
to Henry Ist coffers at Winchester just after King Stephen’s arrival.
The evidence for building at this time is that the stonework of the castle
is similar to that of St Mary's parish church, which was built in the 1130s in
the outer bailey. The church was built for an Augustinian priory which Pont
de l'Arche established within the castle in 1128. Given the relationship
between Henry Blois and William, it is hard not to see that since the
cannons were moved to Southwick, after the death of William Pont de
l'Arche in 1148, one assumes it was taken over by Henry Blois. Although
who inherited it is uncertain.
However, when the Bishop supported the Empress Matilda…. William
Pont de l'Arche handed the royal castle over to the Empress for he was still
Castellan. After the rout at Winchester when Henry Blois’ allegiance
reverted to his brother and after the Angevin victory at Wilton, William
Pont de l'Arche, picked a very serious quarrel with the King’s brother, the
bishop of Winchester
1
and was sent reinforcements in the person of Robert
son of Hildebrand a person of low birth.
However, while holed up with the Castellan Hildebrand seduced William
Pont de l'Arche’ wife and locked William in his own dungeon in portchester
castle. Henry Blois as the writer of the Gesta Stephani takes great pleasure
in describing Robert’s downfall from what sounds like syphilis: the
traitorous corrupter lay in the unchaste bosom of the adulteress and crept
through his vitals, and slowly eating away his entrails it gradually consumed
the scoundrel. There is little doubt thatWilliam Pont de l'Arche would have
been released after starting the calamity and one must assume since the
cannons were moved to Southwick, that Henry had appropriated
Porchester castle in 1143 in the episode described in the GS before a grant
reinstating it to Henry Maudit.
The earliest extant reference to the castle is in a grant from 1153 in
which Henry II granted the castle to Henry Maudit even though Henry II
ascended to the throne in 1154 and Stephen was not even dead. Another
reason for Portchester castle’s inclusion in the prophecy in the Vita Merlini
is no doubt the connection to Marcus Aurelius Carausius; a one-time self-
appointed Emperor of Britain.
2
‘Geoffrey’ refers to Portchester as Kaerperis
so as to conflate it with one of Nennius’ unidentified cities and is then
borrowed as such by Henry of Huntingdon.
1
Gesta Stephani- Henry Blois
2
See chapter on Henry Blois and Magister Gregorius, De mirabilibus urbis Romae
One would suppose the rich man in the prophecy is Henry Blois himself
even though history does not record his involvement in any rebuilding of
walls; we might assume this is autobiographical. His reference to himself as
the ‘fang of a wolf’ is part of his camouflage. When we understand that it is
Henry writing Porchester shall see its broken walls in its harbour until a rich
man with the tooth of a wolf shall restore it… one assumes he is alluding to
himself. The wolf is derived from the association of ‘Wulf Island’, the old
bishop of Winchester’s residence and this is why it is termed ‘Wolvesey
Palace’, Henry Blois residence of splendour. My guess is that Henry
organized the rebuilding of the wall’s and ‘Merlin’ just happened to see into
the future way back in the sixth century, a wealthy person (with a
connection to a wolf) doing the same.