• Richest of the Rich position: 1
  • Birth/Death: died 1093
  • Origin of wealth: Land
  • Wealth: £11,000
  • Net National Income: £150,000
  • Net National Income Percent: 7.33%
  • In Today’s Money: £81.331 billion

Alan Rufus was a man born in the right time and place. The second of at least seven legitimate sons of Count Eudo, regent of Brittany from 1040 to 1047, and Orguen, or Agnes, his Angevin wife. Alan was called Rufus (‘the Red’) to distinguish him from a younger brother, Alan Niger (‘the Black’). His father, Eudo, was a brother of the Breton duke Alan III; the mother of Eudo and Alan III was an aunt of William the Conqueror. He was probably recruited into the service of his second cousin William of Normandy before the 1066 invasion.

A Breton contingent, probably including Rufus and another of his brother’s, Brien, played an important role at the Battle of Hastings and settled in England thereafter. After helping to defeat an attack on Exeter by the sons of Harold in 1069, Brien apparently returned to Brittany, leaving Rufus as indisputably the most senior of the Bretons in England. He then proved his loyalty to William between 1069 and 1072, by helping to crush a rebellion in the north of England. The brutal suppression of the rebellion, known as the Harrying of the North, led to the loss of 150,000 lives and the ensuing scorched earth policy reduced survivors to cannibalism.

Rufus already held a great deal of land in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk and was rewarded with land in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, extending to Northampton and London. His position was then further enhanced by the fall of Ralph de Gael in 1075, much of whose forfeited land in East Anglia he acquired.

Rufus became Earl of Richmond and built Richmond Castle to police the remaining local populace. By 1086, he was one of the richest and most powerful men in England and remained close to William I, accompanying him to Normandy and Maine on several occasions after 1066. He died in 1093 and was succeeded by his brother, Alan Niger.

His huge land holdings gave him an annual income of around £1,100 a year, and a fortune at his death of around £11,000. That was around 7.33% of the net national income (NNI) of £150,000 at the time. If he had an equivalent percentage of today’s NNI, Rufus would be worth the staggering sum of £81.3bn, making him easily the richest Briton of all time.

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