About Hugh de Morville, Knt.
Sir Hugh de Morville (d. 1173/4), one of the murderers of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1170, was the son of an elder Hugh de Morville (d. 1162) and Beatrice de Beauchamp. He was a member of a notable Anglo-Scottish baronial family, and, according to Benedict of Peterborough, was the most eminent of the four knights who played the principal roles in Becket's murder, although at the time of the crime itself, he did not strike a blow. He had no known wife or children.
Hugh de Morville and three other of King Henry II's knights, Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton (or de Brito), plotted Thomas Becket's murder after interpreting the king's angry words (supposedly "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?") as a command. They assassinated the archbishop in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170 and after Henry advised them to flee to Scotland they subsequently took refuge in de Morville's Knaresborough Castle.
Hugh de Morville, Richard de Brito, and William de Tracy built a church at Alkborough, near Scunthorpe in today's North Lincolnshire, where, until 1690, an inscribed stone on the chancel recorded the benefaction. This benefaction failed to impress Pope Alexander III, however, who excommunicated Tracy and the other murderers on Maundy Thursday, 25 March 1171. Tracy paid scutage on his lands in 1171 and set out for Rome after the end of September but before Henry II's expedition to Ireland in October. The departure of Hugh de Morville and the other knights to Rome was delayed until two of them, FitzUrse and de Morville, had taken part in the rebellion against the king in 1173-4. The Archbishop's murderers finally gained their audience with the Pope, who, despite their penitence, decreed they should be exiled and fight "in knightly arms in The Temple for 14 years" in Jerusalem, and after the given time return to Rome.
Sir William de Tracy's journey east is confirmed by Romwald, Archbishop of Salerno, and Roger of Hoveden, who report that the Pope instructed the knights, once their duties were fulfilled, to visit the holy places barefoot and in hair shirts and then to live alone for the rest of their lives on the Black Mountain near Antioch, spending their time in vigil, prayer and lamentation. Romwald continues that, after their death, the bodies of the knights were buried at Jerusalem before the door of the temple though this does not conform exactly to the tradition that the murderers were buried under the portico in front of the Aqsa mosque, which was the refectory of the Knights Templar. Another tradition is that the bodies of the knights were returned to the island of Brean Down, off the coast of Weston-super-Mare, and buried there.
The Lordship of Westmorland passed to Hugh's sister (some sources say niece), Maud, in 1174; she held the lands until Hugh's expiation. Hugh must have been confirmed dead before 1202 or 03, when his English lands were in the hands of co-heiresses.
- from R. M. Franklin, ?Morville, Hugh de (d. 1173/4)?, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com.proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu:2048/view/article/19379, accessed 25 May 2007]
Confusion between Hugh de Morville, the murderer, and Hugh de Morville, lord of Burgh by Sands (d. 1202), has led to the suggestion that the murderer survived into the thirteenth century. In fact, he was dead certainly by 1174, and probably by the end of 1173, and Roger of Howden is probably correct in asserting that he died while on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land ordered by Pope Alexander III. His castle of Knaresborough had been committed to the custody of William de Stuteville by Easter 1173, and it has been suggested that this was the result of Morville's own involvement in the northern revolt of 1173. However, punishments for this were imposed on two former servants, not himself, and it is more probable that he was in the Holy Land at the time of the revolt. At least part of his lands in Westmorland passed to his sister Maud, since he died without heirs, and through her to the Vieuxpont family. There is, in any case, no indication that he suffered any immediate royal forfeitures for his role in the murder. Like the other murderers he made at least one penitential grant to religion, of 5 marks to the brothers of St Lazarus in Jerusalem.