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Hubert de Burgh

Hubert de Burgh (c.1175-1243), a younger son from a family of  Norfolk gentry, entered the service of King John in the 1190s.  His reputation was made by his obstinate defence of the castle  of Chinon in 1205. Appointed seneschal of Poitou in 1212 he  held that province against French attack. Recalled to England in  he was appointed Justiciar at the height of the Magna Carta  crisis and remained in that office, with overall responsibility for  the administration of England, until 1232.   He was one of the great Constables of Dover Castle. From his  first appointment until he finally vacated the office was a period  of thirty years, 1202-1232, but from 1203-1215 four other men  filled the office for short periods. During his first period of  tenure in 1203 he founded the Maison Dieu in the town.   Hubert played a decisive part in the war against France of 1215  to 1217. He defended Dover Castle against Prince Louis of  France, who invaded England to help the barons in their fight  against King John. In 1216, the French laid siege to the Castle  with a large army and great siege engines that could hurl rocks  against the walls. Hubert only had 150 men to defend the castle  with. Part of the outer curtain wall of the castle was undermined by the French and collapsed. But Hubert and his heroic  defenders were able to plug the breach and fight off the  attackers. With the death of King John, and the accession of his infant son Henry III, the French withdrew. The French returned in August 1217 with a fleet of eighty great  ships and many smaller vessels. They were met, off the  Goodwin Sands, by Hubert with only forty ships at his  command. But, unlike the French he understood the difficult  Channel currents. He sank some of the French ships, ramming  them with the iron tipped bows of his galleys. With his own  vessels to windward of the remaining French ships he threw  quicklime to burn his enemy and the French commander was  captured. This defeat finally ended Louis’s hopes of becoming  King of England.   From 1219 onwards Hubert was the most influential figure in  Henry III’s minority government.  In 1221 he married, as his  third wife, Margaret, sister of King Alexander II of Scotland, and  four years later was created Earl of Kent.  In 1232 his long-time  rival for royal favour, Peter des Roches, persuaded Henry to  dismiss and imprison him. He made a dramatic escape from  prison in 1233 and was reconciled to the king next year, but  never recovered his former influence. In Dover Hubert de Burgh  will be remembered as the heroic defender of Dover Castle and  the founder of the Maison Dieu.
Hubert de Burgh. Depicted in a stained glass window in the church of St Mary the Virgin. The Arms of Hubert de Burgh. Constable's Gate at Dover Castle. Built after the French siege of 1216. The Maison Dieu was founded in 1203 by Hubert de Burgh.