15 August, 2010

Some Scottish Earls Of Edward II's Reign

Here's a post about six Scottish earls connected to Edward II (I've already written a post about Earl Donald of Mar, a close friend and ally of the king). Firstly, a very quick and rather simplistic overview of Scottish political history of the era: in March 1306, Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick and lord of Annandale, was crowned king of Scots at Scone, a few weeks after stabbing his greatest rival John Comyn, lord of Badenoch, to death in the Greyfriars church in Dumfries. (Comyn was the nephew of John Balliol, king of Scots from 1292 to 1296.) With little support among the Scottish nobility, Robert Bruce fled to the west of Scotland or perhaps to Ireland soon after his coronation. Edward I of England, furious, captured and executed three of Bruce's brothers, several of his brothers-in-law, and a few other Bruce adherents in 1306 and 1307. Bruce's wife Elizabeth, his sisters Mary and Christina, his young daughter Marjorie, young nephew Donald of Mar, the countess of Buchan and the bishops of Glasgow and St Andrews were captured by the earl of Ross and imprisoned in England (Mary Bruce and the countess of Buchan in cages on the walls of castles, nastily). The death of Edward I on 7 July 1307 - he died at Burgh-by-Sands near Carlisle, on his way to campaign against Robert Bruce - and the accession of Edward II made Bruce's attempts to make himself king of Scots in more than name only immeasurably easier. He spent the next few years consolidating his position, a task aided by his defeat of Edward at Bannockburn in June 1314, and the earls and lords of Scotland, over time, either submitted to him and recognised him as king, or removed themselves to England. The Scottish prisoners in England were released after Bannockburn; Donald of Mar chose to remain with Edward II.

Duncan MacDuff, earl of Fife (1289/90-1353)

Donnchadh Mac Dhuibh in Gaelic. Duncan was born in late 1289 or early 1290 as the posthumous son and heir of Earl Duncan, murdered by some of his own followers in September 1289, and through his mother Joan de Clare was the grandson of Gilbert 'the Red', earl of Gloucester (1243-1295), and his first wife Alice de Lusignan. The de Clare siblings Gilbert, Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth, children of Gilbert the Red's second marriage to Edward II's sister Joan of Acre, were thus Duncan's half-uncle and aunts, though they were younger than he was.

Duncan grew up in England, and in the early 1300s Edward I arranged a marriage for him: to the king's granddaughter Mary de Monthermer, eldest child of Ralph de Monthermer and Joan of Acre, second wife of Duncan's grandfather Gilbert the Red. (For the de Clare siblings, this meant, confusingly, that their half-nephew married their half-sister.) Edward II asked Pope Clement V to grant a dispensation for the couple to marry - they were third cousins via common descent from King John's wife Isabella of Angoulême - on 6 September 1307, and this was duly granted a few weeks later, Clement stating that "the marriage is to be contracted as a confirmation of the peace made between the English and the Scots." [1] Mary, Edward's niece, was born in October 1297 and thus was not quite ten at the time; Duncan was seventeen or eighteen. Unfortunately, I don't know when their wedding took place. Their only child, Isabella, wasn't born until around 1320.

As far as I can tell, Duncan seems to have remained in England during the Bannockburn campaign, fighting neither for Robert Bruce not for his uncle-in-law Edward II. Edward granted permission and a safe-conduct in December 1314 for Duncan ('Donkan') to go on pilgrimage to France and to return to England, at the request of his (Duncan's) father-in-law Ralph de Monthermer. [2] At the Cambuskenneth parliament in November 1314, Robert Bruce had declared that any Scottish lords who held lands in England would forfeit their lands and titles in Scotland, and thus Duncan made what must have been a momentous decision and returned, possibly by April 1315 and certainly by October 1316, to the homeland he hadn't seen for many years, to reclaim his earldom, considered the senior earldom in Scotland. [3] His wife Mary was still in England in January 1320, or at least had returned there for a while, but must have travelled to Scotland by May 1321, when Edward granted a safe-conduct for her servants to travel to England "to make purchases in London for her chamber." [4] In August 1317, Edward granted two manors in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire formerly held by Duncan (his name here spelt 'Donegal de Fyf'), his mother Joan de Clare and stepfather Gervase Avenel to Hugh Despenser the Younger, whose wife Eleanor was Joan's decades-younger half-sister, "because they lately adhered to his [Edward's] Scots enemies." [5]

Duncan supported Robert Bruce for the rest of Bruce's life, and subsequently Bruce's son David II. He died in 1353 in his mid-sixties, leaving an only child, Isabella, and his widow Mary de Monthermer, who lived until at least 1371.

John Comyn, earl of Buchan (1250s-1308)

John was the cousin of John Comyn, lord of Badenoch, killed by Robert Bruce in 1306. His father was Alexander Comyn, earl of Buchan (d. 1289), and his mother Elizabeth was one of the three daughters and co-heirs of Roger de Quincy, earl of Winchester (d. 1285). The Comyns and Bruces were hereditary rivals, and after the murder of the lord of Badenoch, there was of course no chance that John would be anything but an implacable enemy of Robert Bruce. John's wife Isabel, however, a MacDuff by birth and either the sister or aunt of the earl of Fife above (I always thought she was his sister, but the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says she was his aunt, the daughter of Earl Colban who died c. 1270), crowned Bruce as king of Scotland, which was the hereditary right of the MacDuffs. For this 'crime', Edward I imprisoned her in a cage on the castle wall of Berwick-on-Tweed. John Comyn was the only person who might have persuaded Edward I to release her; presumably furious at her betrayal, he didn't.

John was one of the Scottish lords who swore fealty to Edward II at Dumfries, where his cousin the lord of Badenoch had been killed, in early August 1307. On 20 May 1308, Edward wrote to thank John for his "good service" to him and Edward I, but around this time, John suffered a heavy defeat to Robert Bruce at the battle of Inverurie. [6] He fled to England, and Edward welcomed him, appointing him joint warden of the western marches, that is, Annandale, Carrick and Galloway, the seat of Robert Bruce's power. [7] In John's absence, Bruce ravaged his lands, an act known as the Harrying or Herschip (hardship) of Buchan, to ensure that the Comyns - the most powerful family in Scotland in the thirteenth century - would never rise again. John did not live long after his flight to England: he was dead by 27 November 1308, when the "lands late of John Comyn, earl of Boghhan, deceased, tenant in chief" were taken into the king's hand. Edward granted custody of them, and the marriage of John's heirs, to Hugh Despenser the Elder on 5 December. [8] John left no children, and his heirs were his nieces Alice and Margaret; Alice was a lady-in-waiting of Isabella of France, and married the influential Henry Beaumont, who claimed the earldom of Buchan by right of his wife. John's widow Isabel was released from captivity into Beaumont's care in late April 1313, having been freed from the awful cage a few years before; her subsequent fate is unknown. [9] John Comyn and Isabel MacDuff are major characters in Barbara Erskine's novel Kingdom of Shadows, where John, unfortunately for him, is portrayed as an abusive, violent wife-beater.

Robert Umfraville, earl of Angus (c. 1277-1325)

Second but eldest surviving son of Gilbert Umfraville, earl of Angus (who died shortly before 13 October 1307), and, through his mother Elizabeth, the nephew of John Comyn, earl of Buchan (above) and first cousin of Patrick, earl of Dunbar (below). The Umfravilles were English barons who inherited the earldom of Angus through Robert's grandmother Maud, countess of Angus in her own right, who married Gilbert Umfraville of Northumberland. Robert's father Gilbert, who was born in about 1245, was the ward of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. Robert's elder brother, Gilbert III, who died childless in about 1303, was married to Margaret de Clare, later Lady Badlesmere. As his brother pre-deceased their father, Robert succeeded as earl.

Robert served Edward II faithfully throughout his reign. The king appointed him and William Ros on 8 November 1307 to "defend the county of Northumberland against the incursions of the king's enemies and to punish rebels," i.e. the Scots, and in June 1308 appointed them "to be the king's lieutenants and keepers in Scotland," a demonstration of his great trust in Robert. [10] Robert fought for Edward at Bannockburn in 1314 with his younger brother Ingram, and both of them were captured at Bothwell Castle after the battle with Edward's brother-in-law the earl of Hereford and held in Scotland for about a year. Unlike Duncan MacDuff of Fife, Robert chose to settle in England rather than Scotland after Robert Bruce's Cambuskenneth declaration of November 1314, although the earldom of Angus technically remained in his hands until near the end of Bruce's reign, when Bruce finally granted it to Sir John Stewart of Bunkle. [11]

Edward gave Robert Umfraville a silver cup as his New Year gift in 1317/18, and Robert took part in the king's unsuccessful siege of Berwick against Robert Bruce in 1319 and accompanied him to France in June 1320, when Edward performed homage to Philip V for his French lands. In November 1320, Robert and the earl of Atholl (see below) were empowered by Edward II to "receive into his peace those Scots who feel their conscience troubled by the Papal excommunication [of Robert Bruce], as secretly as he can, and to attend the king personally if he wishes further instructions." [12] Robert fought for Edward during his campaign against the Contrariants in 1321/22, and was one of the men who condemned the earl of Lancaster to death in March 1322, although he seems - rather oddly, for such a staunch supporter of Edward II - previously to have been a member of Lancaster's retinue (exactly when is unclear). [13] Earl Robert was married firstly to Lucy Kyme, an heiress in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and secondly to a woman named Eleanor who is believed to have been a member of the de Clare family, though the precise connection remains elusive. He died shortly before 12 April 1325, leaving a fifteen-year-old heir, Gilbert, a daughter and two younger sons. [14]

Patrick of Dunbar, earl of Dunbar (or of March) (c. 1285-c. 1369)

Son of Earl Patrick, who died in 1308 and was known as 'Patrick with the black beard'. Through his mother Marjorie Comyn, the younger Patrick was the nephew of John Comyn, the earl of Buchan above, and was the first cousin of Robert Umfraville, earl of Angus. He was married first to a woman named Ermigarda, who was pregnant in 1304, and secondly to Agnes, daughter of Robert Bruce's ally and friend Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray, who was known as Black Agnes, presumably because of her dark complexion. She was many years his junior, born in about 1312.

Patrick took part in the siege of Caerlaverock Castle in 1300, probably aged fifteen, on Edward I's side, and must have met the future Edward II, who was close to his own age. He remained in Scotland after Robert Bruce's rise to power, but did not submit to Bruce; on 14 December 1307, he was one of the men whom Edward II, "about to set out to Boulogne" to marry Isabella of France, requested to "keep the peace" in Scotland in his absence, along with the earls of Buchan, Ross, Angus and Lennox, two men named Gilbert Glenkarny, Dougal MacDowell, five bishops, nine abbots and several others. [15] Patrick did not fight at Bannockburn in 1314, but helped Edward II after the battle by opening Dunbar Castle to him and finding a boat for the king to sail down the coast to safety. Having - understandably - lost all confidence in Edward, Patrick submitted to Robert Bruce shortly afterwards, and was one of the men who helped take the port of Berwick-on-Tweed from English hands in 1318 and who signed the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath (as did Duncan MacDuff of Fife). Edward II made reference in January 1317 to the "rebellion of Patrick de Dunbar, a Scotsman." [16] The date of Earl Patrick's death is not certain, but he was still alive in June 1368 and had died by 1371, and therefore lived to be over eighty.

Malise of Strathearn, earl of Strathearn (early 1260s-c. 1317)

Maol Íosa in Gaelic. Son of Earl Malise and Maud, daughter of the earl of Orkney and Caithness, Malise succeeded his father as a child in 1271. His wife Agnes (or perhaps Emma) was the sister of John Comyn, earl of Buchan, who was related to absolutely everybody.

Although Malise didn't attend Robert Bruce's coronation as king of Scots, it is possible that he fought on Bruce's side at the battle of Methven in June 1306 - when Edward I's cousin Aymer de Valence, later earl of Pembroke, defeated Bruce - and certainly he was captured around this time and sent to England, where he was imprisoned at Rochester Castle. He claimed that Bruce had captured him and forced him with threats of death to perform homage to him, but to no avail, and Malise spent the rest of Edward I's reign in prison. Edward II ordered the constable of Rochester Castle to send him (his name spelt 'Malisius') to York in November 1307, "under safe custody and honourably, not in irons," and ordered the sheriff of Yorkshire to guard him "without irons." Malise's wife Agnes/Emma shared his captivity, and Edward allowed Malise two servants and two yeomen and Agnes two damsels. They were also allowed a chaplain, who had to be an Englishman. A 'Cristin de Stratherne', presumably a relative, is also mentioned as a prisoner in 1309. [17]

Malise was freed in November 1308, Edward II declaring that he had been loyal to his (Edward's) father and himself and had been acquitted of "evil fame," and judged him "legally competent in all things" (frank de sei en toutes choses). Malise was at Berwick with Edward during the king's Scottish campaign of 1310/11, and in January 1313, Edward paid him ten marks "by his own hands, to account of his allowance from the king." [18] The divided loyalties of the era are illustrated by events of later in 1313: Malise, helping to defend Perth Castle for Edward II, was captured by his own son Malise, who was loyal to Robert Bruce. Bruce spared Malise's life, but compelled him to give up his earldom to his son.

Malise died in or shortly before 1317 leaving four children, including his heir Malise (d. c. 1329) and a daughter Maud, who married the English nobleman Robert de Toeni (1276-1309), brother of the countess of Warwick and one of the men who absconded from the Scots campaign in 1306 to go jousting in France with Piers Gaveston, Roger Mortimer and Giles Argentein. Malise's widow Agnes/Emma was implicated in an unsuccessful plot to murder Robert Bruce in 1320.

David de Strathbogie (or Strabolgi), earl of Atholl (mid to late 1280s-1326)

Son of John de Strathbogie, earl of Atholl and Marjorie, sister of Gratney, earl of Mar; nephew by marriage of Robert Bruce and first cousin of Donald, earl of Mar (Bruce's first wife Isabella, mother of his daughter Marjorie and grandmother of King Robert II, was also Gratney's sister); son-in-law of John Comyn, lord of Badenoch murdered by Bruce in 1306. David's father John was a staunch supporter of Bruce, and was executed by Edward I in London on 7 November 1306. John de Strathbogie was the great-grandson of Richard, one of the illegitimate sons of King John, Edward I's grandfather, and was thus closely related to the king; a relationship which did not prevent Edward hanging John on a high gallows and having him decapitated and his head stuck on London Bridge. John was the first earl to be executed in England since Waltheof in 1076.

David de Strathbogie submitted to Edward I in May 1307 and recovered his father's earldom and lands for a payment of 10,000 marks. At first, he remained loyal to Edward II, who commended him for good service in May 1308, and joined Edward on his Scottish campaign of 1310/11. He switched sides in 1312, however: he was with Edward II in August that year, but attended Robert Bruce's parliament at Inverness three months later, and Bruce appointed him constable of Scotland. Before too long, though, David switched sides again. Supposedly, he was furious with Bruce's brother Edward (yes, yet another one) for seducing his (David's) sister and refusing to marry her, and although he did not fight for Edward II at Bannockburn, he took revenge on the Bruces by attacking the Scottish stores at Cambuskenneth on the eve of the battle; another example of the intensely personal politics of the era.

Thereafter, David remained loyal to Edward II, for which he forfeited his title and lands in Scotland. Edward addressed him affectionately as "the king's cousin Sir Davy," though like the earl of Angus he served in the earl of Lancaster's retinue at some point and was pardoned as an adherent of Lancaster in October 1318. [19] David took part in Edward's campaign against the Marcher lords in 1321/22 as constable of the king's army, and was, with the earl of Angus, one of the men who sentenced the earl of Lancaster to death in March 1322. Edward granted David in December 1321 the castle, manor and honour of Chilham in Kent, the inheritance of his ancestor Rose of Dover, who married King John's illegitimate son Richard; in return, David "binds himself to adhere to the king against all men and to maintain his quarrels against all men." Edward II granted a safe-conduct for a Scotsman with the excellent name of Tassyn de Loran to visit England to speak to David in November 1323, as long as Tassyn didn't come more than ten leagues beyond the Scottish border. [20] David and Edward's nephew-in-law John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, led Edward's army to Gascony in the spring of 1325, during the Anglo-French war of St-Sardos. He died sometime between 18 December 1326, when he was called the "surviving husband" of his wife Joan, and 11 January 1327, when Henry Beaumont was granted custody of his son; his wife Joan Comyn, one of the heirs of her maternal uncle the earl of Pembroke, had died in July 1326. [21] He left a son David, born on 1 February 1309, who married Katherine Beaumont, eldest daughter of Henry Beaumont and Alice Comyn (niece and co-heir of the earl of Buchan) and sister of the duchess of Lancaster. The younger David joined Earl Henry of Lancaster's unsuccessful rebellion against Isabella and Roger Mortimer in 1328/29. [22]


1) Foedera 1307-1327, p. 5; Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-1341, p. 30.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1313-1317, p. 203; Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1307-1357, p. 78.
3) G.W.S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, . pp. 390-391; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
4) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 415, 587.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 5-6, 10.
6) Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 66; Foedera 1307-1327, p. 45.
7) Cal Docs Scot, p. 9; Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 92; Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 69.
8) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 32; Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 95; Cal Docs Scot, p. 12. The lands were first granted to Ralph de Monthermer on 3 December.
9) Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 529.
10) Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 14, 79, 415. Robert's father's death before 13 Oct 1307 is in Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 4.
11) Barrow, Robert Bruce, p. 386.
12) Thomas Stapleton,'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), p. 344; ODNB; Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, p. 455; Cal Docs Scot, p. 134; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 280.
13) G.A. Holmes, The Estates of the Higher Nobility in Fourteenth-Century England, pp. 140, 142; J.R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II, pp. 56, 274, 312.
14) Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 342.
15) Cal Docs Scot, pp. 5-6.
16) Cal Docs Scot, p. 103.
17) Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 19; Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 5, 9, 10; Cal Docs Scot, pp. 16-17.
18) Cal Docs Scot, pp. 22, 42, 59.
19) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 427; Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, p. 227.
20) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 452, 462, 509-510, 522; Cal Docs Scot, p. 154.
21) Cal Docs Scot, p. 162; Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 431.
22) Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, p. 274; Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 529.


Satima Flavell said...

I'm always blown away by the amount of detail you manage to dig up! Many thanks:-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Satima - really glad you enjoyed it! :)

Clement Glen said...

I agree with Satima, there is so much amazing detail in your work Kathryn. You must spend hours and hours on your research.

Us blog readers are truely spoilt :)

Kathryn Warner said...

Awww, thank you for your kind words, Clement! You and Satima are going to give me a really big head...;-)

Susan Higginbotham said...

Fascinating, as ever!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Susan!

Gabriele Campbell said...

I agree with the others: great detective work. Can't come up with a more intelligent comment since I don't know that much about the time. *grin*

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Gabriele - and I really like your comment. ;-)

Christy K Robinson said...

Thank you, Kathryn. At some point, I'll come back and figure out which ones were my ancestors. Robert Bruce for sure, but several of the earls, also. My mom's side were Norman, but my dad's side were Scots and Welsh. Brittania really is a small place!

Kathryn Warner said...

Good luck with the research, Christy! I dare say there's a good chance that Comyn of Badenoch is an ancestor of yours as his two daughters have plenty of descendants, and Henry Beaumont and Alice Comyn too.

Anerje said...

have to agree with everyone else - fscinating!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Anerje! (You're all going to give me a really swollen head. ;-)

Carla said...

"confusingly, that their half-nephew married their half-sister.) " How anyone kept track of all the family relationships even at the time is beyond me, much less at the distance of 700 years :-) I take off my hat to you.

Perhaps John Comyn has to be made an unpleasant character in Kingdom of Shadows in order for the reader to sympathise with Isobel MacDuff having a romantic affair. I suppose that if John didn't try to persuade either Edward to let Isobel out of the ghastly cage it might be indicative that he was less than concerned about her welfare.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Carla! Somehow, I just have an ability to keep family trees straight in my head...:-)

I think you're right about John's depiction, though I can't help thinking it would have made better fiction to make him less one-dimensionally horrible; as it is, there's absolutely no conflict or dilemma for Isabel as to whether she should choose her husband or Robert Bruce, her kind, handsome, brave, chivalrous lover.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Yet more evidence of the complex and shifting alliances of the time. Thanks for laying it all out so clearly, Kathryn!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Gemini! Those shifting alliances can be really hard to keep track of, can't they...?! ;-)

Diana Cosby said...

Fabulous and interesting insight on a complex historical era.