Tag Archives: Alexander III

Thomas of Galloway -sixty years a prisoner.

DSC_0004John Baliol was an important man. He was also a very rich one thanks to his marriage to Devorguilla of Galloway 1223.   She and her husband had nine children.  It was through Dervorguilla that the Baliols made their claim to the Scottish crown. Such was her love for John that after his death she founded Sweetheart Abbey – she also had his heart embalmed…as you do. Whilst John may have been much loved by his wife I doubt whether her half brother Thomas – somewhat confusingly sometimes known as Thomas of Huntingdon- felt so warmly towards the man for a variety of reasons.

Devorguilla’s father, Alan of Galloway, died without legitimate male heirs meaning that his daughters, or rather their husbands, inherited – except in Scotland at that time the law did not restrict male heirs to those born inside wedlock. Alan’s illegitimate son Thomas was able to gain enough support and finance to make a bid for the lordship of Galloway. Unfortunately this was not what Alexander II of Scotland wanted at a time when he was trying to control an assortment of earls and lords as well as negotiate a peace deal with the English. By breaking up Alan of Galloway’s estates between the three sisters Alexander was able to weaken the power of the Lord of Galloway and prevent it from behaving as a semi-independent kingdom. It probably helped that the Anglo-Scottish lords that the sisters were married to were either jolly good friends of his or vaguely related to him.

Mathew Paris described the mini war that followed whilst The Lannercost Chronicle records that Thomas was captured in 1235 as well as the rest of his sorry tale.

Thomas, whose father had once tried to secure him the crown of the Isle of Man, soon found himself securely confined behind Barnard Castle’s stout walls in the heart of Baliol territory, not on the whim of John Baliol but on the orders of King Alexander II who was decidedly unimpressed by the people of Galloway who wanted Thomas in charge of them rather than the husbands of Thomas’s three half-sisters.  He put down their uprising against his authority with a degree of gusto.

In 1286 Thomas’s nephew also called John Baliol tried to have Thomas released but the Scottish council refused. Barrow suggests that Thomas’s plight reflects the fact that the ordinary people of Scotland wished to follow their Celtic traditions whilst the leadership of the country had an Anglo-Norman feudal agenda (Barrow:9).

Thomas remained in Barnard Castle for sixty years until he was released, aged eighty-eight, in 1296 by the Bishop of Durham on the orders of King Edward I who had his own reasons for upsetting the balance of power in Scotland. By that time Alexander III had hurtled off a cliff on his way home to his young bride, the Fair Maid of Norway had died on her way to Scotland and the country was knee deep in contenders for the crown.  Edward I suggested that he would choose who would be king and Scotland would recognise English overlordship as well as getting a king who owed everything to Edward – cue Scottish Wars of Independence. Thomas was sent home to Galloway with a charter listing the liberties on offer to the men of Galloway by Edward and which underlined the fact that Edward was not supporting the Baliol claim to the Scottish throne.

Barrow, G. W. S. (2005) Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univeristy Press

Oram, Richard (2012)  Alexander II: King of Scots 1214-1249. Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd

Watson, Fiona (1998) Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland, 1286-1307. Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Castles, Thirteenth Century

Castles, pele towers and bastle houses on the borders.

castleCastle building began with the Normans –  motte and bailey affairs – or in straight forward terms a huge pile of earth topped off with a wooden crown of  wall and keep.  The aim was to dominate the landscape and afford themselves protection (keeping their fingers firmly crossed that no one turned up with the equivalent of an early medieval box of matches).

The key to Cumberland is Carlisle Castle which was begun by William Rufus during the eleventh century.  It’s history reflects the political upheavals of the medieval period as well as the fact that the border between England and Scotland was sometimes apt to shift quite dramatically!

In 1122 Henry I ordered that it should be strengthened with stone.  By the time of his death it was still unfinished and making the most of the civil war between Stephen and Matilda, King David of Scotland moved into Carlisle and finished the building.  He died in Carlisle Castle in 1135.  Carlisle was regained by the English.

Henry II commanded that there should be further strengthening which was just as well because William the Lion of Scotland  attacked Carlisle twice with a large force in an attempt to regain the territory that his brother had lost.

King John stayed in the castle on several different occasions reflecting the fact that having lost his continental possessions he was the first Plantagenet king who really turned his attention to the north and the northern English barons – it wasn’t a happy relationship leading as it did to rebellion and for a time Carlisle ending up in the hands of the Scottish again – the town made no resistance to Alexander III but the castle garrison did.  It fell to the Scottish because miners sapped the south curtain wall.  The Scots also bombarded it with missiles but when John died in 1216 the Scots withdrew.  The fact that the roof of the castle needed repair by the mid thirteenth century demonstrates that the borders did undergo a period of peace.

That all changed with the death of Alexander III.  Edward I visited Carlisle many times, eventually dying at Burgh-By-Sands on his way to yet another campaign against the Scots.  The next two hundred and fifty years were pretty turbulent if you happened to live on the border and this is reflected once again in the Castle’s history.

July 1315 – Robert Bruce besieges Carlisle but it is ably defended by Sir Andrew Harclay who tried to establish peace but got himself hung, drawn and quartered for his efforts.

It was during this period of increased militarization that Hexham Goal was built and also Thirlwall Castle which used dressed stone from a rather large nearby wall… It is situated near the Tyne-Irthing Gap a way used by Scottish raiders so its strategic position is immediately obvious.  Some miles down the road, Aydon Castle turned from being a manor house into a fortified manor with its own barmkin wall.

In fact, those who could fortify their dwellings did so on both sides of the borders.   Peles or peel towers dot the border region and the Eden Valley.  They were not built to stop raiders they were built to keep families and their livestock safe during incursions.  They tend to be rectangular with a barrel-vaulted basement and two further stories above including a roof with a beacon to summon help.  The Vicar at Corbridge had his own pele tower and there’s one in the grounds of Carlisle Cathedral.  In other locations churches included fortified protection for local villagers in their design creating a landscape of romantic looking ruins today but which reflect the difficulties of living on the border until the two kingdoms came under the rule of one monarch.

Bastle Houses are very similar to peels but built on a smaller scale – they tended to be owned by better off tenant farmers. Most of them were built in the Sixteenth Century and lie within 15 miles of the border.

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Border Reivers, Carlisle

Edward I and Alexander III

Prior to the death of Alexander III of Scotland in 1286, relations between the two kingdoms had been amicable.  Alexander III of Scotland was married to Edward’s sister Margaret – not in itself a guarentee of peace , just look at Henry VIII’s relationship with his brother-in-law James IV of Scotland.  Certainly Edward shared Alexander’s grief when on  Alexander’s eldest son, also named Alexander, died aged 20 without children.

The Scottish king’s younger son had died in 1281, and his daughter, Margaret, in 1283, leaving him with an infant granddaughter, also called Margaret, living in Norway.  The grieving king had not only lost his sons he’d also lost his wife in 1275.  After ten years as a widower he remarried.  There was, after all, a need for an heir.

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Jedburgh Abbey

Alexander married Yolande de Dreux at Jedburgh Abbey and then famously charged out from a council meeting into a dark and stormy night to be with his young bride.  He fell from his horse and was killed.  His only heir was his granddaughter Margaret, The Maid of Norway.  She was just three years old. Her mother, also called Margaret wife to King Eric II of  Norway, had died giving birth to her.

In September 1290, The seven-year-old Queen of Scots left her home in Norway but died en route to Scotland of sea sickness.  With her died an arranged marriage to Prince Edward of England and a stable relationship between the two kingdoms.

There were now many competing claims to the Scottish throne.  In 1292 Edward agreed to oversee the selection between competing claims to the Scottish throne, on condition he is acknowledged as Lord Superior of Scotland. Thirteen competitors were narrowed down to two.  In the end  John Balliol was selected rather than Robert Bruce.  Balliol did homage to Edward I of England following in the footsteps of Malcolm Canmore who had sworn fealty to William the Conqueror but it gained King John no popularity in Scotland.

The stage was set for rebellion by King John’s subjects and war between the two nations – a war that would shape the landscape and people of the border region for centuries to come.

For more information:

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/warsofindependence/deathofalexanderiii/index.asp

http://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2013/01/11/margaret-maid-of-norway/

Resources:

Ridpath, George. (1979) Border History. Edinburgh: The Mercat Press

Sadler, John. (2006) Border Fury England and Scotland at War 1296-1568. London: Pearson Education Ltd

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Anglo-Scottish history – establishing a border.

The Romans built a wall, actually two walls, there’s some question as to whether they wanted to keep the locals in and the Picts out or whether they were considering the more salient aspects of effective customs and excise.  Whatever its main uses were, other than keeping Roman squaddies busy building it and then miserable guarding it, a nice solid stone (or soil and turf) structure with gates at regular intervals is quite hard to argue with.

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During the medieval period the border between England and Scotland shifted depending upon the strength of the English and Scottish monarchs and,of course, what else was occupying their attention.  During the Anarchy or the Nineteen Long Winters as the war between Stephen and Matilda in England was known the Scots were able to extend their borders in a southerly direction.  Carlisle was in King David of Scotland’s hands at this time.

The reign of King John (a.k.a. Lackland or Softsword depending on how mean you’re feeling) is also a good example of  Scottish kings availing themselves of convenient opportunities. In 1209 William I of Scotland and King John of England signed the Treaty of Norham which stopped the English building a fort at Tweedmouth, but at the cost of a £10,000 payment to the English: and William’s two oldest daughters, who John later married to English nobles. On the 4th December 1214 Alexander II succeeded to the Scottish throne and the following year took advantage of King John’s weakness after the signing of the Magna Carta to try to capture Northumberland. He was beaten back but a period of cross border warfare followed until John’s death in 1216.

In 1237 The Anglo-Scottish border was established at The Treaty of York but like most next door neighbours with a shared fence there was still some argument about who was responsible for what.

By 1244 cross border tension led to the betrothal of the three-year-old future Alexander III and four-year-old Margaret, daughter of Henry III.   In October 1245 both kings sent men to agree where the border line lay from the Solway Firth in the West to the mouth of the River Tweed in the East so as to avoid any future unpleasantness.  In total that’s between 97 and 120 miles, depending on what you’re reading, with lots of ups and downs.  Six English knights and the six Scottish knights  were sent off to ‘perambulate’ the borderline but weren’t able to agree.  Twelve more knights were sent for a hike in December 1246.  Again, what could have been a pleasant though rather lengthy walk turned into a rather undignified argument with the two nationalities unable to agree about which bits of land were Scottish and which were English. In the end Henry arranged for twenty-four knights to take a stroll and they all agreed.  They were also all English which perhaps explains the unexpected harmony.

 

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