One of the families favoured with awards of land by William II was the d’Aubigny’s (also Albini, Albineo, and Albinione) one of whom was William, (known as ‘Pincerna’), Master Butler of the Royal Household. Around 1100 or so Pincerna’s younger brother, Nigel, gave the Manor of Eswalt (Eswala) to his kinsman the Abbot of St. Alban’s Abbey in Hertfordshire, possibly to help the Abbey’s finances. Some sources say that the Abbot was Nigel’s uncle, others that he was a cousin. William d’Aubigny also held the neighbouring Cnoltune (Knolton) estate which passed into the possession of the Earls of Arundal through Pincerna’s son, William “Strong Hand” d’Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel and 1st Earl of Lincoln.
Nigel had come to England with William the Conquerer and was one of his ablest commanders and William rewarded him with lands in Normandy and England. He also served the Conquerer’s successor, William Rufus, as “Bow Bearer” and was also greatly favoured by King Henry I, called Beauclerk, whom he supported against the king’s elder brother, Robert “Curthose”, Duke of Normandy, when he tried to take over the throne after Rufus’s death.
During the Battle of Tinchbray in Normandy in 1106 Nigel captured Curthose and gave him to the king. As reward for this gift Nigel received the English lands of Robert, Baron de Fronteboef, which he had forfeited for supporting Curthose. Nigel was also later further rewarded for his support of the king with the all the lands in Normandy and England of Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, both , which had been forfeited to the Crown for rebellion against William Rufus in 1095. King Henry also arranged for Nigel to marry Robert’s wife, Matilda, who had obtained an annulment for their marriage. He subsequently had his uncle’s wife as well as his lands, but at least it kept everything in the family.
Robert de Mowbray was the brother of Nigel’s mother, Amicia de Mowbray, and was imprisoned after he was captured. Some sources state that he was allowed to become a monk at St. Alban’s Abbey and died in 1106, whilst others say he was imprisoned for the rest of his life and died in 1125.
The marriage was childless and in 1118 Nigel divorced Matilda and married Gudred de Gourney, the only child of Gerard de Gournay and Edith, the daughter of William, Earl of Warren and Surrey and his wife, Gudred, the daughter of William the Conquerer.
Nigel’s land holdings eventually amounted to some 120 manors in Normandy and 140 or so in England making him a very wealthy and powerful magnate.
He had two sons, Roger and Henry, Roger succeeded him and inherited the Mowbray lands and by the special command of King Henry assume the surname of Mowbray and founded the Mowbray dynasty.