|Remains of Bramber Castle (Wikimedia)|
In addition to Bramber, William I de Breos administered Knepp, Washington, Findon, Steyning & Horsham. He was succeeded by his son Phillip, who gained half of Barnstaple in Devon through marriage, and took Radnor and Builth in the Welsh Marches in 1095. The Welsh held out against the conquest of England, so the king granted that his barons could keep any land in Wales that they could take and hold. These were the first de Breos holdings in Wales, but by no means the last.
Phillip's son William II gained control of Brecknock and Abergavenny by marriage to Bertha, the daughter of Miles of Gloucester. William III was William's son, and served King Henry II and Richard the Lionheart, and then served King John, who proved to be both his patron and his nemesis.
By the time John became king, William III had inherited all the lands of his predecessors and added Elfael & Kington in Wales, Stratton St Margaret & Berewick in Wiltshire, and King's Arley in Staffordshire. He gained Tetbury & Hampnett in Gloucestershire through marriage to Matilda St Valery. He was already a powerful man.
But it was under John's patronage that he rose to the greatest heights. In 1200 John gave William the right to take as much of the lands surrounding his barony of Radnor as he could. In 1201 John gave him the county of Limerick in Ireland. Lords with lands in north Tipperary and Limerick were then told to hand them to William, and Knocgrafan Castle. Between 1200-1202 John gave William Shoreham in Sussex and entrusted him with lands in Normandy, including Walter de Lacy's lands and Longueil near Rouen.
|Limerick Castle (Wikimedia)|
By 1204 William had Carrickfergus Castle in Ulster, custody of some neighbours' lands, and temporary custody of William de Burgh's land in Munster. In 1204 all his lands in Normandy were lost, when King John lost Normandy to the French. But in compensation, John gave him more land in England and Wales.
|Grosmont Castle (Wikimedia)|
In Briouze William had the power to summon people to attend pleas concerning the ruler. As a Marcher Lord he also had power independent of English law. The combination of land and local authority in English, Marcher, Norman and Irish counties meant that William was crucial to the centralising government of the king and his exercise of national power. The large amount of castles that William was custodian of, by 1208, ensured that he acted as an administrator and a defender of the king's will in the localities.
|Approximate extent of William's lands in Wales (by Carrie Francis)|
And then King John turned on him.
For more of the story read my book Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John. Available in print from me for £4.99 postage free, or from Amazon UK. Available on Kindle from Amazon UK or US and in all other ebook formats from Smashwords.