Hugh was the son of Richard Goz, Viscount of Avranches, in the far southwest of Normandy, and inherited from his father a large estate, not just in the Avranchin but scattered throughout western Normandy.
Hugh became an important councillor of William, Duke of Normandy. He contributed sixty ships to the invasion of England, but did not fight at Hastings, instead being one of those trusted to stay behind and govern Normandy.
After William became king of England, Hugh was given the command of Tutbury Castle Staffordshire but in 1070 he was promoted to become Earl of Chester, with palatine powers in view of Cheshire's situation on the Welsh border. Tutbury with its surrounding lands was passed to Henry de Ferrers.
Hugh spent much of his time fighting savagely with his neighbours in Wales. Together with his cousin Robert of Rhuddlan he subdued a good part of northern Wales. Initially Robert of Rhuddlan held north-east Wales as a vassal of Hugh. However in 1081 Gruffydd ap Cynan King of Kingdom of Gwynedd was captured by treachery at a meeting near Corwen. Gruffydd was imprisoned by Earl Hugh in his castle at Chester, but it was Robert who took over his kingdom, holding it directly from the king. When Robert was killed by a Welsh raiding party in 1088 Hugh took over these lands, becoming ruler of most of North Wales, but he lost Anglesey and much of the rest of Gwynedd in the Welsh revolt of 1094, led by Gruffydd ap Cynan, who had escaped from captivity.
In time Hugh became so fat he could hardly walk; he is often referred to as Hugh the Fat. The Welsh called him Hugh Flaidd (Hugh the Wolf or Hugh Lupus).
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