Despenser Family Tree – Origins to Hugh the Elder and Children

At last, here it is – after a week or so of frustration, headaches and crossed eyes – the Despenser Family Tree – as complete as possible and as correct as possible (allowing for discrepancies in the records of course, and any silly mistakes of my own!).



Yes, it does look tiny, I admit. But if you double click on the image, it should bring a larger version up on your screen. It is still hard to read (sorry!) but it’s the best I can do with the limitations of Blogger. The original was an A3 size, so it was inevitable that quality was going to suffer a bit to get it on here. Still, hopefully – and maybe with the aid of a magnifying glass – you will be able to see it! Once I get the website up, I shall try and upload a more reader-friendly version.

The information comes from a number of sources – all of which I feel are reliable, given that the researchers I’ve used often go back to primary sources for their info. Much of the work on the earlier Despensers can be credited to a brilliant genealogy researcher named John P. Ravilous, but mention must also be made of other giants of genealogical research on the GEN-MEDIEVAL newsgroup including Douglas Richardson, Leo van de Pas, Brad Verity, Tim Powys-Lybbe, Cristopher Nash and D. Spencer-Hines (the list is too long to include everyone so apologies to any I’ve left out). Also, I’ve used Kathryn Warner’s tentative datings for the dates of birth of Hugh the elder’s children. I have great faith in these people’s research so any glaring errors on the chart are, most likely, mine and mine alone!

The chart itself, is, as far as I know the only one in this format tracing the Despenser genealogy. If anyone wants to use it, you’re welcome, but please ask first and credit me too (see copyright notice above). One more thing: I have stopped the lines of descent at Hugh the younger and have purposely not put his, or his siblings’ marriages and children in. This is because, for a start, I didn’t have room, and secondly, because I shall construct a new chart for those details!

There may be things on this chart that are different to stuff on other genealogy sites on the net. For example, many genealogies contain a Thurstan le Despenser – but I’ve not seen any evidence that connects such a person with a direct line of descent to Hugh the younger. On the other hand links can be made between the individuals shown on this chart from such documents as charters, close rolls etc. The problem, I think, is that the title of ‘Dispenser’ or ‘Dispensator’ as it was correctly called, was quite common (being an office similar to a steward), so quite a few individuals ended up with it as a name. Therefore, the trick is, to find the right Dispensator line, which is what Mr Ravilious seems to have done.

The other oddity that anyone with any knowledge of Despenser ancestry might note is that of the children of Hugh the Justiciar (died 1265). Most books and historians claim that his one son (Hugh the elder – father of Hugh the younger) and all three daughters were from one wife, Aline Basset. However, on closer examination it appears that certainly two, and maybe three of the girls were born before he married Aline in 1260 (it is hard to pin down their exact birth dates but they are certainly earlier than 1260). Also, he was in his late thirties when he married Aline – quite a late age for a first marriage. According to Susan Higginbotham in an article called ‘Hugh the Justiciar‘, “in 1238, the king had permitted him to marry as his friends thought best”. Therefore it seems very likely that Hugh had already been married and probably widowed before 1260; it would just be nice to have the actual primary documentary evidence to say so.

The interesting thing about this chart is that it clearly shows the familial relationships between the Despensers and other families – such as the Beauchamps of Warwick. Understanding these is important when it comes to the study of support for the Despensers and the crown (or not) throughout the period 1318-1326, as well as distributions of grants and favours during that time.

As always, new bits of information are always coming to the surface, so this chart may need updating from time to time Also if any human errors – (most probably mine!) are picked up then they will need correcting. If you have any new additions or corrections (that can be backed up by documentary evidence) then please, please, get in touch.

Sources: As above in the text.

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23 Responses to Despenser Family Tree – Origins to Hugh the Elder and Children

  1. It’s great to see a Despenser family tree online! And that’s a nice looking chart as well–I’ve been looking for software that would generate something like that, but haven’t found anything.

  2. Brian says:

    Very interesting, Lady D!

    By the way have you come across the theory that the Despensers were a cadet of the Dutton family? This seems to be based on the fact that the Despenser arms are virtually the Dutton ones with a bar of cadency – the black diagonal line.

    Another family with very similar arms is Norreys. In fact, when I visited Speke Hall I wondered why there were Despenser arms all over the place. The difference is quite subtle, though I can’t remember just what it is!

  3. Alianore says:

    Very nice, Lady D! And I hadn’t heard about the Despensers and the Duttons – very interesting.

  4. Lady D. says:

    Susan: Thanks. I didn’t use any particular software. To begin I used scraps of paper, then progressed to a big whiteboard. Thn on the computer I used a rather expensive DTP program called Adobe InDesign to set it all out. Then I had to export it in PDF before I could load it into something else to change it into a JPG for Blogger. Phew!

    I’ve really had enough of genelogy for a while now though!

  5. Lady D. says:

    Brian: I know that the Despensers have been put forward as a cadet branch of several familes including de Lacy and de Mandeville. I may have read about the Duttons but to be honest I can’t remember – I looked at so many posts. If you go to the Gen Medieval archive search page and type in Despenser and Dutton you may find something there.

    It seems the further back you go, the murkier everything gets!

    • Robert Spencer says:

      This record should clarify the Despenser Dutton connection. A little background is in order: Geoffrey Despenser- Dispenser to Earl of Chester ( proven by charters) was also a Vassal of Count of Aumuale at Bollington, Chester. Geoffrey donated the chapel of Bollington, Cheshire. Then fast forward to the time period (1192-1199). Thomas Despenser whos first wife was Recuara and his 2nd wife who was found to be Matilda. had sister named Muriel Despenser who married Hugh de Dutton.
      Her brother Thomas Despenser (the head of the family)gave 4 bovates of Bolington, Cheshire upon her marriage to Hugh Dutton sometime between 1192-1199. The arms of Despenser were assumed by Kinship by this one branch of the Duttons, not all the branches of Duttons. Hope this clarifies it for you.

  6. Lady D. says:

    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚
    I know you posted a couple of minor glitches to me in a private mail. I’d just like to say that I’ll wait to see if any more corrections come in, then I’ll get and amend the chart.

    Corrections so far: Joan to be shown as a daughter of Hugh the Justiciar and Aline Basset.
    Changing the birth years of Hugh the younger and his sister Aline so that they don’t appear as twins!!

  7. Sara says:

    I know this is perhaps a little off topic, but what do you say about the connection of the Despenser family to today's Spencers?

    • Robert Spencer says:

      This is an update to the theory putforth by some to link the Spoencer’s of Bedforshire to the Despenser family. There is no proven link as of yet, a group currently studying this, there have been some intriguing finds such as the young brother of Thomas Despenser who. d. 1218( Dispensator to the Earl of Chester) who was named William Despenser who holds land at Etaon Socun in 1243. The Bedfordshire Spencer’s claim their origins in the same place starting in abt. 1433 , where a Thomas and John Spencer appears as Gent. of the place. Thomas turns out to be b.cir. 1372, and John is his son b. abt. 1402-04, based on deeds. WE do know that Thomas is named a son of a Robert Despenser, who held the pleasure of Biggleswade, beds. in 1360. That’s a s close as they can determine at this time.

  8. Robert Spencer UEL says:

    Look at this story and then read my comments please regarding another De Berges who is a cousin of Hugh Despenser who helps Roger Mortimer from the Tower of London, the good and the evil..Hugh Despenser the younger became royal chamberlain in 1318. As a royal courtier, Despenser manoeuvred into the affections of King Edward, displacing the previous favourite, Roger d’Amory. This was much to the dismay of the baronage as they saw him both taking their rightful places at court and being a worse version of Gaveston. By 1320 his greed was running free. Despenser seized the Welsh lands of his wife’s inheritance, ignoring the claims of his two brothers-in-law. He forced Alice de Lacy, Countess of Lincoln, to give up her lands, cheated his sister-in-law Elizabeth de Clare out of Gower and Usk, and allegedly had Lady Baret’s arms and legs broken until she went insane. He also supposedly vowed to be revenged on Roger Mortimer because Mortimer’s grandfather had killed Hugh’s grandfather, and once stated (though probably in jest) that he regretted he could not control the wind. By 1321 he had earned many enemies in every stratum of society, from Queen Isabella to the barons to the common people. There was even a plot to kill Despenser by sticking his wax likeness with pins.
    Finally the barons prevailed upon King Edward and forced Despenser and his father into exile in August 1321. His father fled to Bordeaux, and Despenser became a pirate in the English Channel, “a sea monster, lying in wait for merchants as they crossed the sea”.[7] Following the exile of the Despensers, the barons who opposed them fell out among themselves, and the King summoned the two men back to England. Early in the following year, King Edward took advantage of these divisions to secure the surrender of Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer, and the defeat and execution of the Earl of Lancaster, the Despensers’ chief opponents. The pair returned and King Edward quickly reinstated Despenser as royal favourite. His time in exile had done nothing to quell his greed, his rashness, or his ruthlessness.[citation needed] The time from the Despensers’ return from exile until the end of Edward II’s reign was a time of uncertainty in England. With the main baronial opposition leaderless and weak, having been defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge, and Edward willing to let them do as they pleased, the Despensers were left unchecked. They grew rich from their administration and corruption.[citation needed] This period is sometimes referred to as the “Tyranny”.[citation needed] This maladministration caused hostile feeling for them and, by proxy, Edward II. Despenser repeatedly pressed King Edward to execute Mortimer, who had been held prisoner in the Tower of London, following his surrender. However, Mortimer escaped from the Tower and fled to France. My notes: Gerard de Alspath, Servant of Roger Mortimer, whom he rescued from the Tower of London, his mother being Annabelle le Bret, his ancestor is traced back via 2 Alspath lineages back to the same Ivo de Alspath, brother of Ivo de Alspath, who d. aft 1178 Constable of Coventry, witness to charter in 1141. aka “Ivone”. Ivo was brother to Geoffery le Despenser, dispensator (also, ‘dispensarius’) to Ranulf, the Earl of Chester , at some point resided at Hickling, Norfolk. The Hickling property was still in the family at the time of Henry Despenser- Bishop of Norwich and his brother Hugh le Despenser, descendants. In a deed regarding Rampston, he is named as of Hickling.

    ‘Gaufrido dispensatore.’ witness to charters of the Earls of Chester,
    together with others [once with his brother Ivo de Alspath:
    ‘Gaufrido dispensatore et Ivone fratre suo..’, charter #82 ]
    ca. 1135-1153. Barraclough, The Charters of the Anglo-Norman
    Earls of Chester, charters #25, 35-37, 50, 55-59, 64, 73, 85, 99[13]
    [also, ‘Gaufrido dispensario..’ and ‘Galfrido dispensatore.’ ]

    ‘Gaufrido dispensatore’, witness together with brother Ivo de
    Alspath of recognition of Eustace fitz John as constable of
    Chester, ca. 1144-45
    [Barraclough, charter #73, cites B. L. Cott. Charter xvi, 36;
    collated, where mutilated, with Bodleian Library, Dugdale MS.
    17, p. 82 and P.R.O., D.L. 42/1[13]]

    “Geoffrey ‘dispensario’ “,witness to a charter ca. 1155-67 with his
    brother Ivo de Alspath (“Ivo de Hallespad’ “) – PRO, Shakespeare
    Birthplace Trust Records Office: Gregory of Stivichall
    [DR10/1 – DR10/467] , DEEDS AND PAPERS: Warwickshire: Combe alias
    Smite, [ DR10/192 ][11]

  9. Robert Spencer UEL says:

    regarding the Henry le Despenser d. after 1213 in yout chart, I suggest that this Henry is the same as Henry le Despenser, removed to Willington , Beds. Kt. in the service of Lord of Stapleford, in Willington, Beds. Willington, held by his brother Hugh le Despenser, which then fell to Henry, and in turn gave to the Abbot.Willington being assocaited also closesly to the D’lisle family , on his mothers side of Campton, Biggleswade and also Beeston, Beds.

  10. Robert Spencer UEL says:

    In regards to the Robert le Despenser named as , son of Thomas le Despenser, I suggest that he is the same as Robert le Despenser b. bef. 1197 d. after 1219 ” Dispensarium” of Beeston, and Shefford, Beds.,fls. 1219, of Beeston, Bedfordshire, (near Biggleswade, Beds. ) , Named in a 1219 litigation, : William Le [ Cuure], against Robert le Despenser and Agnes his wife, Half a Virgate of Land in Beeston, Assize of Mort. d”ancestor by right of Robert and Agnes. He is also named in early charters dated between 1207 -1217).
    Source : Publications of the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society, Volume 5, Page 50 & Baraclough’s early Charters, his brothers Hugh and Henry held lands in Willington. as proved by Baraclough’s charters and the History of Willington, Beds.
    Henry le Despencer ( charter- 214 1210-1218) [1] Hugh and ‘ Hugone
    Thomas and et Thoma
    Robert and et Roberto
    Dispensarium et Henry dispensariis,..’
    Source: confirmation of Henry le Despenser’s rights in Willington, Beds.

    Robert is the Ancestor of the Spencer’s of Biggleswade Hundred. Any comments corrections are welcome..

  11. Robert Spencer UEL says:

    An unknown sister of Henry Le Despenser and Robert le Despenser married a John de St. John , they had issue:
    John de St. John of Liesc. Sheriff of Glamorgant, appointed by Despenser’s.

    Note: Geoffrey Le Despenser ( his uncle) paid ยฃ100 for “custody of the land and of the heir of John de St.
    John” (Roger), 23 Jan 1229/30 – fine recorded, Excerpta e Rotulis
    Finium 2:193
    (memb. 9)[19] [also ref., CP Vol XI -St. John, p. 347)[12]

  12. Robert Spencer UEL says:

    Message to Sara in response to her question of any Spencer’s being of the Despenser family shown in the chart . as far as iI can determine there is only one line so far identified and those are the Spencer’s of the Biggleswade Hundred, that stayed close to the roots for over 400 years not moving very far indeed, located in a small 12 mile radius of Shefford, Beds. , having manors at Brightville (Brytville),and Cople, this family was a minor cadet family although producing the Engineer Arnold Spencer- Gent. – c.6 November 1587 at Cople, Beds, d. 03 February 1654 – Will PROB. 11/236/147 Will of Arnold Spencer, Gentleman of Eaton Socon, Bedfordshire.
    . In 1618, he was the Engineer who built first sluices and the most advanced Pound locks in all of England on River Ouse, Beds. by Kings Patents.

    • Julie Frusher says:

      Hi Robert. Thank you very much for your various comments on the Despenser family tree – I’m sure other readers will find them useful if they wish to know more of the genealogy of the Despenser family.

  13. Frank Dispenza (yes, really!) says:

    I am curious to know if the “Italianized” name Dispenza is in any way related to the Despenser/Despensatore family line, or if it is simply an old Italian word for the occupation. I know the Normans migrated to southern Italy and Sicily and remained there. We’ve been trying to do a genealogy, but family records in Sicily are non-existent. I am thinking of a personal DNA test to find out if my family is indeed of northern European heritage (we tend to look it). Thanks for any tidbits of info anyone may have.

    • Julie Frusher says:

      As far as I’m aware, the name comes from the occupation, so there may be several Despensers out there who are actually unrelated by blood but once had the same job ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Frank Dispenza says:


        I recently did the personal DNA test I mentioned, and it turns out that my family does indeed have Northern European, specifically Scandinavian, German and French, ancestry. With a lot of UK (not pinpointed) and some Irish ancestry. The tests can’t pinpoint the individual ancestors, but by association with other people who’ve tested and know their genealogy and ancestry, a link can be made. Now I’m sure beyond any doubt the name came to Sicily with the Normans. I found that my grandfather spelled it Dispensa. I’m finding genealogical records, finally. I don’t know when, where or how the ‘z’ worked its way in there. There’s enough evidence to say “jรก ek em vikingr” (Old Norse, “yes, I am Viking”). ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Julie Frusher says:

          I think that those DNA tests are fascinating – I hope to have one done one day too.As the name Despenser was originally associated with an office (that of dispensing justice), it seems logical that it did get to Sicily via the Normans. As for spellings, it is only fairly recently (18/19th C) that spellings and surnames became standardised and even then people still had their own way of spelling things!

  14. Yvonne Ingram says:

    Thank you for all your endeavours with the family chart for the Despenser family. I now feel confident about the date of birth of Isabel being 1290. I had been misinformed and that would have made Sir Hugh a father at the age of eleven!

    I have just realised that the Hastings connection goes back yet another generation to the father of Sir Hugh Despenser and the father of Sir John Hastings, Henry. Both were closely involved with Simon de Montfort in the Baron’s revolt against the King, however both were reprieved and afterwards I think both families were loyal to their respective Kings totally and maybe to a fault. The Despenser, both father and son lost their lives sooner. The loyalty of the Hastings was to be later at the court of Richard III.

    Thank you for your dedicated endeavours.

    Best wishes
    Yvonne Ingram

  15. Yvonne Ingram says:

    I have often paused at the name Despenser because most of the French who arrived with the invasion of William I have a surname de
    ———- there were so many. William de Hastings was a new title named after the Battle of Hastings. Unfortunately I was not able to focus your clever family tree for the Despenser’s, so I tapped into Wikipedia to look for Spencer (surname) and wonder if this is the same direction that the Despenser family tree leads to.

    Could it be that the (de)?became Despenser because of the great gains in lands and property during the reign of Edward II by the Despenser family? I can imagine that dispossessed gentry would regard this as an apt polite but dubious description in such circumstanses. Although as always I could be quite wrong. If correct the family shield is very splendid.

    Thank you for the article, I do appreciate hearing of your endeavours.

  16. Robert Spencer says:

    Pleasee update the Despenser chart it is inaccurate re: the Berges line in relation to Anschetil Despenser.
    Anschetil Despenser d. bet. 1120-1126, this is proved by Burton abbey records.
    New sons have now been proved for anschetil, please see the Charters of the Skipton Fee. William brother of Ivo is seen there, and in a recent discover Simon, brother Geoffrey Despenser is clearly named, in a charter of the Earl of Chester c.1137. Anschetil was probably early on the Castellon of the Castle of Shrewsbury under Earl Roger Montgomery, being named so as “Anschetillus Castello”. He is also found in a 1114 record holding land at Church Stretton and named “Anschetil of the Castle”.

    As per the de Berges line it begins with Anschetils son Hugh son of Anschetil (Haschat), who accounted
    for his father’s land in 1130 (Pipe Roll, 31 Henr. I, p. 59).

    The reord from which you gained your original de Berges connection did not hav ethe proper dating and guessed wrong in determing same, Anketil de Berges existed c.1200 , so its off by about 90 years. The berges are a line from Anschetil not necessarily his anscestors. The Berges bame derives for a small place in leiescester which was part of Barrow, held by the Despensers and Jorts called “wet Berges” it was his son Hugh line whiuch later holds this property and that line in c. 170 to 1220 tiem frame taking the name “de Berges” from this place. If you wish the complete sources /citatiosn which are my original finds and verified at SMG, please email me at teamviewer_tech at

  17. Robert Spencer says:

    Further to the Despenser family male line may not be extant, for we find Robert le Despenser connected to HHessewell, Yorkshire, and his his son William fls. in 1281. This Robert was a younger son of Thomas Despenser and Recura. Recently the same Thomas Despenser has been assigned a 2nd wife named Matilda.
    please peruse the following charters, rest assured this is the same family as Emma ,wife of Geoffrey Despenser of Martley is also named in the same charter.

    Curia Regis Roll 145. Mich., 35-6, Henry III, 1251,
    m. 46, I/eyc.: Walter de Segrave, the essoiner of
    Matilda, who was the wife of Thomas le Despenser, v.
    William Knot in a plea of a bovate of land in Cusington,and v. Emma, who was the wife of Geoffrey le
    Despenser, in a plea of a third part of a virgate of land in Cusinton as dower.

    Patent Roll. 28 June, 1251. Grant to Emma, late the
    wife of Geoffrey le Despenser, of the wardship of the
    land and heir of the said Geoffrey, during the minority of the heir, with wards, reliefs, escheats, advowsons of churches and other appurtenances.

    Fine Roll. 29 June, 1251. The king, for a fine of 400
    marks which Emma who was the wife of Geoffrey le
    Despenser made with the king, has granted her the
    custody of the land and heir, viz., John, son and heir of the said Geoffrey, until his legal age.

    Extract from: Medieval Cossington, Leicestershire
    By S. H. Skillington

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