Rosamund Clifford (before 1150 – c. 1176), often called "The Fair Rosamund" or the "Rose of the World", was famed for her beauty and was a mistress of King Henry II of England, famous in English folklore.
Rosamund was the daughter of the marcher lord Walter de Clifford and his wife Margaret Isobel de Tosny (referred to as "de Toeni" on the Page of her husband, Walter de Clifford). Walter was originally known as Walter Fitz Richard, but his name was gradually changed to that of his major holding, first as steward, then as lord. This was Clifford Castle on the River Wye.
Rosamund had two sisters, Amice and Lucy. Amice married Osbern fitz Hugh of Richard's Castle and Lucy Hugh de Say of Stokesay. She also had three brothers, Walter II de Clifford, Richard and Gilbert.
Rosamund probably first met the King when he passed by Clifford Castle in 1163 during one of his campaigns in Wales against Rhys ap Gruffydd.
Her name, Rosamund, may have been influenced by the Latin phrase rosa mundi, which means "rose of the world."
Historians are divided over whether or not Rosamund's relationship with the King produced children. The question is complicated by the difficulty of separating the facts of Rosamund's life from the profusion of legends surrounding it. Many historians have concluded that Rosamund most likely bore Henry a single child but cannot identify it or even provide a specific date of birth. Some modern writers, including Alison Weir, are of the opinion that Rosamund had no children; but whether this means she never gave birth or merely that none of her children survived remains unclear.
Legend has attributed to Rosamund two of King Henry's favourite illegitimate sons: Geoffrey Plantagenet (1151–1212), Archbishop of York, and William Longespee (17 August before 1180–1226), Earl of Salisbury. Her maternity in these two cases was only claimed centuries later. Neither was Rosamund's son. Henry and Rosamund met about 1163, and their relationship lasted until 1176. Geoffrey and Rosamund would therefore have been about the same age. Further, Geoffrey is directly attested as son of an otherwise unknown Ykenai, presumably another mistress of Henry. William Longespée's maternity was a mystery for many years but the truth was discovered when charters issued by him were found to contain references to "Comitissa Ida, mater mea" (my mother, Countess Ida) (Bradenstoke Cartulary, 1979). She was Ida de Toeny, Countess of Norfolk.
Full article ▸