Ebal III and Ebal IV de Grandson

by David Williams[1]


The notion of the existence of an Ebal IV de Grandson has proved so pervasive that it has been accepted as fact by most historians and genealogists during the past 150 years. It derives from the researches of the 19th-century Swiss historian Louis de Charrière, who postulated that Ebal III de Grandson could not have lived much beyond 1177; and that the Ebal de Grandson who appears in documents subsequent to that date must therefore be Ebal III's sole son and heir, Ebal IV. Charrière's conclusions were rejected by the Swiss historian and genealogist Olivier Dessemontet in the mid-20th century, who argued that there is no certain evidence for the existence of an Ebal IV, and that Charrière's particular interpretation of a laudatio parentum clause in a 12th century text was unsound. Since then contemporary scholarship has remained silent on the matter, seemingly accepting Charrière's opinion without reservation or further investigation. This paper sets out the results of a detailed examination of the relevant sources and the secondary literature, in which all the evidence is reviewed and critically assessed. An analysis of charter evidence permits a new familial chronology to be developed, which enables a more realistic dating of the lifespans of Ebal III and his immediate forebears and descendants than hitherto. This, in turn, calls into question previous presumptions and preconceived notions about relationships within the Grandson dynasty of the 12th and 13th centuries. Evidence is presented as to the relevance, application, and effect of the laudatio parentum in contemporary documents; demonstrating that the particular interpretation of the textual evidence offered by Charrière in support of his hypothesis is questionable and open to serious challenge. However, no evidence has been found which proves the parentage or ancestry of an Ebal IV de Grandson, and it seems highly likely that Ebal III and Ebal IV are one and the same person. Charrière's interpolation of an Ebal IV in the Grandson genealogy should therefore be regarded as unsafe. A certain lord of Grandson of the same period is the subject of a popular legend making him a near centenarian. Previously identified as Ebal IV de Grandson, an analysis of the original story shows that this legendary figure was very probably the famous chevalier Othon I de Grandson.

Foundations (2021) 13: 2–43                                  © Copyright FMG and the author

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