Roger Bigod II: Earl of Norfolk – circa 1146 -1221
By Elizabeth Chadwick
Introduction: Roger Bigod II is the male lead in THE TIME OF SINGING. I set out to write about him after being made curious by a remark in a reference work mentioning that his career path was in many ways similar to that of the great William Marshal. They were both self-made men, if for different reasons. Both had clawed their way up the ladder of fame and fortune. Both had been born in troubled times and had cut their political teeth at the courts of the Angevin kings and their familiers. Each of them was to marry an heiress in the King’s gift and wield great power that would help shape England’s future.
William Marshal is fortunate and almost unique in having a history written about him shortly after he died; thus his deeds and his life story have remained for posterity.
Roger of Norfolk has no such history to track his days on earth Even so, there are traces of his tale in chronicles and charters and these can be pieced together to make a larger body of knowledge. Roger’s son and heir married William Marshal’s eldest daughter and so we get a brief glimpse of him in the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal, where Roger is called ‘a man who was never very slow in doing what was to his advantage and honour, when it was appropriate for him to do so’. So what was Roger Bigod’s story? What kind of man was he, and what sort of life did he live?