Tag Archives: King Alexander II

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

John’s last days

king-john-of-england-grangerJohn’s worst fault perhaps was that he was an unlucky king.  The mercenaries he’d amassed to challenge his barons in 1215 were scatted and drowned during autumn storms at sea.  Things went from bad to worse for him after that.  By the following year John was fleeing from castle to castle with King Louis VIII in hot pursuit. He’d lost London and Winchester.  The french seemed to be everywhere and it was the fact that they pursued John into Cambridgeshire that sent John north to Lincolnshire where he followed a scorched earth policy and relieved Lincoln which was being besieged by the revolting barons.  John chased them off but failed to intercept King Alexander `ii of Scotland who was making the most of the chaos in England.  John’s letter record the fact that he was in Lincoln on September 22nd.  He inspected the castle and made its custodian, the indefatigable Nichola de la Haye Sheriff of Lincolnshire in her own right (I feel a post on her coming on even as I type).

From Lincoln John travelled back towards East Anglia via Grimsby, Louth, Boston and Spalding.  He arrived in Bishop’s Lynn on October 9th.  Historians cannot be sure what John was planning but Lynn was an important port and John arranged to have supplies sent to his northern castles.  It is reasonable to assume that he was planning a campaign in the north.  John was taken ill whilst in Lynn.  Ralph of Coggeshall assumed it was gluttony.  Morris makes the very good point that at 49 the king had been setting a ferocious pace.  He could simply have been exhausted.

In any event John set out once again for Lincolnshire on the 12th October. He travelled via Wisbech whilst his baggage appears to have taken a different and rather more disastrous route near Sutton Bridge.  He spent that night in Swineshead Abbey where famously he ate rather too many peaches, pears and cider becoming ever more ill.  Bereft of his household belongings and his treasures he arrived at the Bishop of Lincoln’s castle at Sleaford  on the 14th October where he stayed overnight.  On the 15th he wrote to Pope Honorius III (Innocent had died in July) that he was suffering from an ‘incurable infirmity.’  John took the opportunity to put his kingdom under the Church’s protection.  This was a stratagem that he hoped would save England from Louis for Prince Henry who would shortly become King Henry III.

By then he was too ill to ride, so John was carried by litter to Newark – a journey of some twenty or so miles.  He arrived at Newark on the 16th of October.  He wrote his will and that night the king died having given Margaret de Lucy who was the daughter of William and Matilda de Braoze, permission to found a Hospital of St John along with land for its foundation in memory of her mother and brother who’d starved to death in Windsor. John’s will along with his tomb can be seen in Worcester Cathedral.

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Filed under Cathedrals, Kings of England, The Plantagenets, Thirteenth Century