REIGN OF KING WILLIAM THE LION (1165-1214)
by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot
William (born 1143) became King of Scots in December 1165 on the death of his older brother King Malcolm IV. Their grandfather was King David I, youngest son of King Malcolm Canmore. Their father Henry, who was the heir apparent, died in June 1152, a year before King David's death in May 1153. William was not known as 'the Lion' during his lifetime but received this sobriquet because he had adopted the red lion rampant on a yellow field as his standard which later became the basis of the Royal Standard of Scotland.
King William was an effective monarch and improved the feudal administration of Scotland. However, William was obsessed with the goal of regaining Northumbria. In 1158, William offered military assistance and joined the campaign under the Henry's standard in his French wars with the hope of getting Northumbria back. Rebuffed, and still resenting the loss of Northumbria, William concluded a formal alliance in 1165 with France, which became known as the 'Auld Alliance'. In 1166, Earl Malcolm (second earl) gave the tithes from the Church of Moulin to Dunfermline Abbey for "the safety of his soul and his predecessors". King William was a witness to his charter.
In September 1173, the Scots under William invaded the north of England to help Prince Henry, 'the Young King', in his rebellion against his father (King Henry II) and regain Northumbria which the Prince had promised to return to him for Scottish assistance in gaining the English throne. Scottish claims to Northumbria had been lost to England in 1157 during the reign of Malcolm IV.
The Scottish army proceeded to lay waste the north of England. An English army drove the Scots back across the border, devastated the whole of Lothian with fire and sword and forced King William to sue for a truce until January 1174.
The Earl of Atholl at this time was Earl Malcolm, son of Malcolm the brother of King Duncan II, and grandson of King Malcolm Canmore from his first marriage. Prior to 1198, Earl Malcolm was a witness to a charter giving the Church of Logierait to the Abbey of Scone. Logierait was the location of the castle and court of the celtic earls of Atholl.
Earl Malcolm eldest son Henry became the third and last celtic Earl of Atholl on his father's death in August 1198. Henry's legitimate son Constantine predeceased him leaving by his marriage two daughters. On Earl Henry's death in 1211, his two granddaughters each successively became countesses of Atholl and their husbands were earls. Earl Henry left to his natural son Conan the male fief of Glenerochty. Conan was the great-grandfather of our first recognized clan chief, Duncan.
In June 1174, the Scottish army again crossed the border and laid siege to Alnwick castle in Northumbria. The sheriff of Yorkshire achieved a decisive victory with a relief force and in a skirmish, King William was unhorsed, captured and imprisoned at Richmond Castle. This was the second time a battle between the two countries occurred near Alnwick and both times the Scots lost. At the first battle in December 1093 both Malcolm Canmore and his eldest soon Edward were killed.
The defeat and capture of King William was catastrophic for the English rebels as well. In July they renewed their allegiance to King Henry II. The Young King lost his right to the English throne and instead his father gave him the dukedom of Normandy to rule. Richard I (the Lion Heart) would become king of England on King Henry's death in 1189. In 1176 Earl Malcolm granted the little monastery or abbey of Dull with its chapels of Foss and Glenlyon to the Prior of Saint Andrews. This grant was confirmed by the Bishop of Dunkeld.
Taken in chains to Normandy, King William was forced to sign the Treaty of Falaise surrendering Scotland to King Henry as an absolute fief, pay homage to Henry as his overlord and promise that the Scottish nobles would follow suit. He also had to surrender the castles of Edinburgh, Stirling, Roxburgh, Jedburgh and Berwick and pay for the cost of maintaining those English soldiers who garrisoned these castles. After William's release from English captivity in 1178, he founded Arbroath Abbey and dedicated it to the martyred Archbishop St. Thomas of Canterbury.
In 1179 and 1187 and again in 1211 and 1212 the grandsons of King Donald II rebelled in attempts to regain the throne. The elder grandson was killed in 1187 and the younger was captured and executed in 1212. Earl Henry was one of the commanders in putting down the 1211 rebellion.
In 1185, William bought back the sovereignty of Scotland for 10,000 silver merks from Henry's son Richard. This was about ten percent of William's total annual income from taxes and fees. Richard needed funds to finance his participation in the Third Crusade to the Holy lands. On King Henry's death in 1189, King Richard recognized Scotland as an independent nation in the 'Quitclaim of Canterbury' but not to its claims to Northumbria.
On William's death in 1214 after almost forty-nine years on the throne, he was buried at Arbroath Abbey and his son became King Alexander II at the age of sixteen. Earl Henry was at King Alexander II's coronation at Scone. In 1216, Conan of Glenerochie granted the abbey of Cupar the use of these woods which he had inherited from his father Earl Henry of Atholl.
Bingham, Caroline, "Kings and Queens of Scotland", New York, 1976, pp. 27-28,150.
Cowan, Samuel, "Three Celtic Earldoms", Edinburgh, 1909, pp. 12-15, 56.
Fry, Peter and Fiona Somerset, "The History of Scotland, New York, 1992, pp. 64-66.
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy, "A Concise History of Scotland, New York, 1970, pp. 31.
Paton, Sir Noel, "The Descendants of Conan of Glenerochie", privately printed, 1873, p. 3.
Robertson, James A., "The Earldom of Atholl", privately printed, 1860, pp. 15-18.
Weir, Alison, "Eleanor of Aquitaine", 1999, pp. 205-210.