Scotland History, Uncategorized

Abandoned medieval village uncovered by roadworks off the A14 near Cambridge

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Promptus Et Fidelis

 

Abandoned medieval village uncovered by roadworks off the A14 near Cambridge

 

A skeleton found at the site.jpg

A skeleton found at the site

 

An abandoned Medieval village has been found during roadworks near the A14.

Construction workers drafted in 250 archaeologists to help them investigate anything they might find during the £1.5bn scheme to improve a 21-mile section of road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

The area being investigated covers 350 hectares – equivalent to around 800 five-a-side football pitches.

They have found a village abandoned in the 12th century, with the remains of 12 medieval buildings covering an area of six hectares.

The earlier remains of up to 40 Anglo Saxon timber buildings are also identifiable, with alleys winding between houses, workshops and agricultural buildings.

It is thought to have been occupied from the eighth to the 12th centuries.

The medieval village being excavated near Houghton

The medieval village being excavated near Houghton

 

Workers also found a Roman brooch shaped like a chicken

Workers also found a Roman brooch shaped like a chicken

 

A Neolithic henge monument found during the A14 upgrade projec

A Neolithic henge monument found during the A14 upgrade project

 

Various Roman artefects have also been found at the site, as well as prehistoric henge monuments.

Archaeologists led by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) Headland Infrastructure have dug more than 40 separate excavation areas, and expect to complete work by summer.

They believe their finds have enabled a better understanding of how the Cambridgeshire landscape was used over 6,000 years of occupation.

Their other discoveries include a Roman trade distribution centre which would have played a pivotal part in the region’s supply chain, and was linked to the surrounding farmsteads by trackways as well as the main Roman road between Cambridge and Godmanchester.

The discovery of artefacts at the site relating to the Roman army indicates that this trade was controlled centrally.

Archaeologists record finds from the site

Archaeologists record finds from the site

The excavation seen from the air

The excavation seen from the air

An anglo-saxon bone flute

A bone flute.  Carbon dating can be done at the site, and DNA samples are taken and sent out for analysis.

He inspects an iron age timber ladder

He inspects an iron age timber ladder

A Roman jet Medusa head found at the site

A Roman jet Medusa head found at the site

 

Three prehistoric henge monuments, which are likely to have been a place for ceremonial gatherings and measure up to 50 metres (164 ft) in diameter, have also been found.

Other monuments include 40 Roman industrial pottery kilns along Roman roads, seven prehistoric burial grounds, eight Iron Age to Roman supply farms, two post-medieval brick kilns and three Saxon settlement sites.

Artefacts have also been uncovered, including a rare Anglo Saxon bone flute from the fifth to ninth century, an ornate Roman jet pendant depicting the head of Medusa, and a Middle Iron Age timber ladder.

Dr Steve Sherlock, archaeology lead for the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon project for Highways England, said: ‘The archive of finds, samples and original records will be stored so that the data and knowledge is preserved for this and future generations.’

Kasia Gdaniec, senior archaeologist for Cambridgeshire County Council, said the archaeology programme had exposed an ‘astonishing array of remarkable new sites that reveal the previously unknown character of ancient settlement across the western Cambridgeshire clay plain’.

 

Thank you Doug Andrews for sending this to us.

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Carruthers history, Scotland History, Uncategorized

Lady Devorgilla in Stone

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At Whitesands along the River Night which runs through Dumfries.

ladyDevongilia

Walking on from the kinetic hangings and the curved railings beyond the Devorgilla Bridge, we come to Matt Baker’s granite sculpture of Lady Devorgilla. Many people must walk past without realizing a sculpture is on the river side of the wall beside a flight of steps. She is set into the sandstone wall, looking across the river. The figure was inspired by Lady Devorgilla Baillol who reputedly had the first wooden bridge across the bridge built in the thirteenth century.

 

She was the daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway and married John Balliol when she was only 13. In her own right she was a wealthy and powerful woman. Although her husband founded Balliol College, Oxford (for poor scholars) she made a permanent endowment to the college to secure its future. She also founded Greyfriars Monastery in Dumfries. On the death of her husband she established a Cistercian Monastery at New Abbey, a few miles from Dumfries. She had his heart embalmed and carried it with her in an ivory casket. When she died she was buried at the abbey church she had founded, with her husband’s heart beside her. Is this a romantic tale, or is carrying your dead husband’s heart around a bit weird? The monks clearly decided on romantic, calling the abbey Dulce Cor, meaning sweet heart.

LadyDstatue

Now, carved in granite from salvaged harbour kerbs, Devorgilla stands gazing serenely across the caul. When the River Nith floods, which it does frequently, the sculpture is partially submerged and becomes part of the river in a powerful way.

 

Originally, a second part of Matt Baker’s installation was situated on the other side of the river. It was a translucent etching of a woman about to cross the river, laminated in glass with an oak frame. She was there for nine years before being destroyed, in 2007, by spring floods.

 

Carruthers history, Castles in Carruthersland, Scotland History, Uncategorized

Annan Castle and the Vampires

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The true vampire story of Annan Castle, Scotland

 

annancastle

The ancient red-sandstone royal burgh of Annan, Carruthersland – named for the river on which it stands – was a stronghold of the Bruce’s and the home of Robert de Brus ‘The Competitor’, Lord of Annandale, grandfather of Robert I, The Bruce.   Annan Castle was built by King Willian The Lion, in the mid 1100’s, as one of his 13 castles he built along the rivers.

Ever since the 12th century, the Bruce’s considered themselves cursed. Robert Bruce believed his contracting leprosy was ‘the finger of God upon me’ and a consequence of the family’s execration. Folklore says the bad luck came about in this way.

During his visit to the then castle-hamlet of Annan in 1138, the Irish Bishop of Armagh, Maolmhaodliog ua Morgair, named St Malachy O’More, was entertained at the Bruce’s castle (the last traces of which were removed in 1875). While he ate, Malachy overheard servants speaking about a robber who was to be hanged. Malachy asked his host – the chief lawman of the district – to spare the robber, and Brus agreed to do so.

Malachy left soon after his repast and as he rode out of the town he saw the cadaver of the robber hanging by the roadside. Angered that Brus had lied to him, Malachy laid a curse on Brus, his family, and the little castle-hamlet. After Malachy died in 1148, Robert de Brus paid for lights to be maintained at the shrine of St Malachy at the monastery of Clairvaux, France, where the soon-to-be saint had died. But folklore has it that Malachy’s curse was never expiated.

annancastle2

 

The curse of Annan

Another story was also associated with ‘St Malachy’s Curse on Annan’. Celtic myth speaks of blood-drinking spirits, even though the romanticism of the vampire is largely an eighteenth century invention, and Scottish folklore does not dwell much on the vampire of folklore even though some devotees point to Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, as the supposed birthplace of the inspiration that gave the Irish writer Bram Stoker (1847-1912) his Count Dracula.

It seems that no long after the laying of Malachy’s curse the plague came to Annan, spread by a man on the run from Yorkshire. The Bruce’s had given the man sanctuary, but Annan soon regretted the family’s generosity as the man continued the ‘wickedness’ that had led him to flee, but the man succumbed to the plague.

Not long after he had been buried, locals reported seeing the man around Annan accompanied by ‘a horrible crowd of dogs’. Terrified by the sight of the ambulant ‘rotting corpse’, the good folk of Annan sent for priests to come and cleanse the place with their prayers. Alas the plague raged, all spread, said the locals, by the undead visitation.

One evening the Bruce’s were holding a banquet for the clergy visiting the burgh to drive out the plague with new prayers they had composed, when two brothers started a conversation concerning the death of their father in the plague. The upshot was that they volunteered to rid Annan of the dread monster and wreak their own revenge for their father’s death.

As the banquet went on the two young men slipped out of the castle and through the silent streets of Annan to where the plague man had been buried. They resolved to disinter the cadaver and destroy it by fire, so they both set about digging.

At last they came to the body and observed that it had ‘swollen with much enormous corpulence, and the face red and swollen above measure’. Yet the clothes in which the man had been buried seemed to have been cut as if the body had been trying to escape from its mortal trappings.

One of the two men could not contain his anger any longer as he remembered the fate of his father and, taking up the sharp spade with which he had dug the grave, he brought its point down upon the chest of the corpse with great force. He let free a huge issue of blood which soaked their feet as they stood in the shallow grave.

It was more blood than any human body might have contained and the two young men realised that they had disinterred a vampire still full of its victims’ blood.

The cadaver was hauled out of the grave and dragged through the streets to the edge of town, where the two young men placed it on a pyre. Remembering the old superstition that the vampire could not be destroyed without removing the heart, this was done by a few deft strokes of the spade. As they tossed the heart separately into the flames the cadaver let out a huge sigh and was consumed. Thereafter Annan was never affected by the plague again.

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Scotland History, Uncategorized

Death at Greyfriars Kirk, Dumfries

andrewhillhousebruce

 

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Death at Greyfriars – Robert the Bruce and John Comyn.

On 10 February 1306 Robert the Bruce and John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, met at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries. There was no love lost between them, their respective families had become the bitterest of rivals for the Scottish crown following the death of King Alexander. Bruce had called the meeting and the two men left their swords outside as they entered the church. A fight broke out before the high altar and John Comyn ended up dead.
It is impossible to know what really happened in Greyfriars Kirk that day. For hundreds of years historians have argued about what took place and why. Had Bruce planned to murder Comyn all along? Did Red Comyn draw his dagger first?
A letter from the English court to the Pope said that ‘Bruce rose against King Edward as a traitor, and murdered Sir John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, in the church of the Friars Minor in the town of Dumfries, at the high altar, because John would not assent to the treason which Bruce planned… to resume war.. and make himself king of Scotland.’
As usual, the story is not as simple as it first seems.
The Bruce’s ancestors were of the noblest chivalry of France. De Brus, a Norman baron, who took his name from the lands of Breaux, in Normandy and who came over with the Conqueror. Bruce’s mother, daughter of the Earl of Carrick, was descended from the fighting Celtic chiefs of Galloway. The Bruce boys, Robert, Edward, Thomas, Alexander, and Nigel, were brought up in England, and educated as English knights. They must have grown up to hate John Balliol, who had been granted the vacant Scottish crown by the English king, Edward. The Bruces had been promised this crown by King Alexander himself, should he die without a male heir. Still more must they have hated Balliol when he seized their father’s lands in Annandale, and gave them to John Comyn.
Like most other Scottish nobles at the time, Bruce fought for Edward of England and, sometimes, against him, changing sides to whatever suited the Bruce cause best. This unpredictable behaviour unsettled the English king. Edward did all he could to bind Robert to him, praising and rewarding him for his services. In 1296 he spoke of “the great esteem he had for the good service of Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick.” Yet, the very next year, he “feared for the faithlessness and inconstancy of Sir Robert de Bruys” who joined, briefly, the side of Wallace. In 1298, when Edward came to Scotland to overthrow Wallace, Bruce burned down the castle of Ayr, lest Edward should take it, and retreated into the wilds of Carrick. For this, Edward punished him by marching through Annandale, taking the Bruces’ castle of Lochmaben, and wasting their estates. A few weeks later, Robert the Bruce was again fighting under the English banner. But in 1299 he tried to drive out the English garrison placed by Edward in the castle of Lochmaben. Once more, in 1304, he changed sides where he was in charge of the English force besieging Stirling Castle.
John Comyn, was the nephew of King John Balliol and grandson of Dervorguilla, lady of Galloway, and thus was a leading member of the senior Scottish royal line. It is argued that, after the collapse of John Balliol’s kingship, John Comyn would never have accepted Robert Bruce as king. Consequently, political compromise between the two men was absolutely out of the question. Called, “the Red Comyn” from his red hair, he had more than once defied King Edward, and he was always ready to pick a quarrel with Bruce.
In 1299 in Peebles, an election was held to select guardians for Scotland. The guardians chosen were Robert the Bruce, Bishop Lamberton, and the Red Comyn. During the meeting an argument erupted between Bruce and the Red Comyn. Comyn “leaped on Robert Bruce and took him by the throat,” and the Earl of Buchan (Sir John’s uncle), leaped on William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, “and they held them fast until the Steward and others went and stopped the scuffle.” There was certainly no love lost between the two men.
In January 1306 Robert the Bruce was at Edward’s court in London when news came from Scotland. The Red Comyn had written to Edward and confessed that he and Robert the Bruce had been plotting together. His letter claimed that Bruce had offered a deal to Comyn: “Give me your lands, and I will help you to win the crown for yourself; or take my lands, and help to make me king.” Comyn had agreed to take Bruce’s estates, and to help him to win the crown, and had solemnly sworn to tell no one of their compact. But the Comyn saw a fine chance of avenging himself on his old enemy, and told Edward the whole tale.
Edward promised to reward Comyn, and, in a great rage, sent for Bruce. Bruce answered the allegations so wisely that the king decided to wait until he got more news from Scotland. He decided to do nothing in the meantime, but forbade Bruce to leave the court without his leave.
One night, as the king and some of his lords sat over their wine, king Edward told the lords that he did not mean to delay any longer, but was going to have Robert the Bruce put to death on the morrow. The Earl of Gloucester, a cousin of the Bruce, heard this and he sent a trusty messenger with twelve silver pennies and a pair of spurs to warn the Bruce. Bruce guessed that his cousin’s message meant that he must fly immediately. He gave the money to the messenger, sent his thanks to the earl, and got ready to start for the north.
It was bitter winter weather. The ground was white with snow and legend says that Bruce had his horse, and the horses of his secretary and groom who rode with him, shod backwards to trick his pursuers. In fifteen days they were safely over the Border. In the wild moorland country of the Western Marches they met a man plodding along on foot. From his dress, and from the way he walked, they took him to be a Scot.
The Bruce found him to be extremely evasive upon questioning and subsequently had him searched. Letters from Comyn to the king, advising that Robert the Bruce should at once be put to death, were found upon him. Without more ado the messenger’s head was struck off, and the Bruce and his men galloped onwards.
The Bruce arranged a meeting at the church of the Greyfriars at Dumfries on February 10th, 1306. We do not know who struck the first blow at Peebles, but daggers were drawn, and the Red Comyn fell, stabbed, before the altar. As Bruce hurried out, his face showing the horror of what he had done, two of his companions, Lindsay and Kirkpatrick asked how it was with him.
“Ill,” said the Bruce, “for I doubt I have slain the Comyn.”
“You doubt!” cried Kirkpatrick, “then I’ll mak siccar!” (I’ll make sure.)
Rushing into the church, Kirkpatrick and Lindsay plunged their daggers into the wounded man’s body, and also slew his uncle, Sir Robert Comyn, who tried to save him. The church of the Greyfriars was desecrated. There was blood on the altar steps, the blood of a murdered man.
Apart from these bare facts, nothing certain can be gathered from contemporary accounts. Later Scottish sources all try to justify the crime by amplifying earlier accusations of treachery against Comyn, who certainly was no traitor to Scotland. The English sources portray Robert as a villain who lured Comyn into a church — where he should have been safe — with the intention of committing premeditated murder.
Robert Bruce had now not merely the English king for an enemy, but also all the powerful friends of the man he had slain (through time, Bruce would have to carry out a particularly brutal and murderous campaign against the people and the lands of the north east of Scotland to negate this threat to his authority). The Pope in Rome and all the priests of the Catholic Church would turn against a man who had committed what was to them so horrible and unpardonable a sin.
There was no going back for the Bruce now. Not only had he to fight for a crown and a country—he had to fight for his own life.
The rest is history.

Greyfriars Kirk, Dumfries, Scotland

Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries is now Greyfriars St. Marys Kirk

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Landscape Genealogy - Carruthersland, Uncategorized

St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle

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St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle

Castle (1)

If someone had asked me what was the oldest building in Edinburgh, I would have thought vaguely of the Old Town, the dark houses along the Royal Mile, or Holyrood Abbey.

 

As for Edinburgh Castle, most of the visible structure dates from the 16th Century, since it was largely destroyed following the ‘Lang Siege’ in 1573, which culminated in a massive cannon bombardment by English troops.

 

St Margaret’s Chapel, a tiny rectangular building perched on a lump of black volcanic rock within the castle walls, is actually the oldest building in Edinburgh.

St. Margaret’s Chapel, oldest building in Edinburgh built around 1130. Scotland’s Royals once knelt to worship in this serene chapel #scotland #edinburghcastle #edinburgh #travel #travelphotography #wanderlust #scotlandsbeauty #queen #fitforaqueen #sky #clouds #edinburghhighlights #edinburghphotography #photography

St Margaret’s Chapel

 

Traditionally, it was believed that St Margaret – formerly Queen Margaret, the wife of Malcolm III of Scotland, and mother of David I – worshipped at the chapel.  However, recent research has shown that the chapel was probably built by David I in 1130 and dedicated to his mother, who died at Edinburgh Castle in 1093. David had granted the land all around this area to the Carruthers, and over saw the building of Holyrood Abbey, and at some battle/siege in the late 1200 the land was lost, and thought to have been lost to the Normans.

 

Margaret was a very interesting and strong-minded lady.  She was born in 1046 in Hungary, where the English royal family was living in exile after the Danes, headed by King Canute, had overrun much of England.  As an English princess, she was sister to the uncrowned Edgar Atheling and traced her ancestry back through Edmund Ironside and King Alfred.

 

Royal lineage didn’t do Margaret much good, however; in 1066 England was again under attack, this time from the Normans.  To escape them, Margaret and her family boarded a boat from Northumberland and set sail for the continent, but strong winds took them north to Scotland, where they made landfall in the south of Fife.

 

The royal party was met by Malcolm III of Scotland, who offered them protection and immediately fell in love with the beautiful and devout Margaret.  They were married in Dunfermline in 1069.

 

As Neil Oliver says in his recent book, ‘A History of Scotland’, “Malcolm and Margaret together became a legend – a legend that is in truth much more about her than him.”  Margaret soon became known for her kindness and for her devotion to her faith.  Although Malcolm never learned to read or write, Margaret would apparently read to him from the scriptures, and she helped to soften his warlike nature.

Inside St Margaret's Chapel

Inside St Margaret’s Chapel but Margaret’s influence extended way beyond her husband.  She reformed the church in Scotland and brought it more in line with Rome; she replaced the native Gaelic with Latin for the celebration of Mass (which didn’t go down too well with many of her subjects); she promoted the sanctity of the Sabbath, allowing a rest day for ordinary people; and she founded a number of churches and monasteries.

 

Keen to attract more interest in the shrine of St Andrew, Margaret also established a ferry over the Forth estuary, making the journey a much easier one for pilgrims.  The towns of North and South Queensferry are named in her honour.

 

Margaret bore Malcolm eight children, including six sons.  Three of them, Edgar, Alexander and David, would become kings of Scotland in their time.  But tragedy struck Margaret’s blessed existence in 1093 when Malcolm was killed in a raid on Northumbria, a territory which he had long believed was the rightful property of the Scots.  Their eldest son, Edward, was also killed.  Heartbroken, Margaret took to her bed and died within a month.

 

In 1124 David became the last of Margaret’s sons to succeed to the throne of Scotland.  In her honour, he founded the little chapel on top of the castle rock in Edinburgh.  With echoes of early Christian chapels elsewhere in Scotland, its walls are two feet thick, and it has an internal width of only ten feet, with a 16-foot nave.  Originally, the chapel may have been incorporated into a larger part of the castle that has since been demolished.

 

Despite the fact that Edinburgh Castle suffered repeated attacks and, in 1314, almost complete destruction by forces acting under Robert the Bruce, St Margaret’s Chapel has somehow survived.  In fact, on his death bed in 1329, Robert the Bruce paid tribute to Queen Margaret (who was canonised by Pope Innocent IV in 1250), and issued instructions for the upkeep of her chapel.

 

There are records of the chapel being used regularly as a place of worship in the 1300s, but from the 17th century until about 1845 it fell into disrepair and was used as a store for gunpowder.  Restoration work was carried out in 1853, and  in 1922 the small round-headed windows were adorned with beautiful stained glass by Douglas Strachan, illustrating St Andrew, St Margaret, St Columba and William Wallace.

 

St Margaret, depicted in a window of St Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh Castle

St Andrew’s window

 

St Columba’s window

William Wallace’s window

Looking out onto the ramparts with Mons Meg, the great cannon of James II

Looking out onto the ramparts , the great cannon of James II

In 1942, the St Margaret’s Chapel Guild was established, with the purpose of upholding the teachings and principles of St Margaret, and encouraging the use of the chapel for worship.  In accordance with tradition, those members of the Guild who bear the name of Margaret place flowers in the chapel every week, to welcome tourists and other worshippers.

 

In contrast to the dark, oak-paneled walls of the Royal Apartments, this simple sanctuary has a light, restful feeling, and it still enjoys wonderful views across the Firth of Forth.

Landscape Genealogy - Carruthersland, Uncategorized

Holding the Forts at Caerlaverock

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Holding the Forts at Caerlaverock

 

The barnacle geese and whooper swans can see them as they fly in from the northlands: the patterns of mud, merse and channel where the fertile lands of Caerlaverock meet the waters of the Nith and the salt of the Solway. And more: the way a mark in the fields by Wardlaw shows a rectangular outline in darker soil, like a giant’s playing card tossed aside. It’s all that now survives of a Roman fort that once looked out across the estuary to the hills beyond.

Mudflats and saltmarsh on the Nith Estuary, Caerlaverock NNR. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

On the mound of that same hill, those wildfowl newly arriving can see how trees sprout on encircling ditches and ramparts of older earthworks. This boundary place was important to the warlords of the Iron Age Britons who dug those defenses, as it would be to later garrisons fighting for the territorial rights of emperors, kings and nobles.

 

Barnacle Geese in flight. ©David Whitaker

Caer givers

 

Caerlaverock sits at the southern edge of the Britons’ Kingdom of Strathclyde, looking south to the Kingdom of Rheged. Their Cumbric speech, which would sound like a strange form of Welsh to modern ears, gave this place the name that has held down millennia of human changes. It’s the ‘Caer’ that’s the give-away, meaning ‘fort’ to both ancient Briton and contemporary Welsh speaker. The last part is trickier. Some reckon it means ‘lark’ (a pleasing image in a National Nature Reserve); others that it signifies ‘Llywarch’ (pronounced ‘KL-UWaaRK’) a king of Rheged.

 

Whatever the original meaning, the outline of the castle building that sits between the old forts at Wardlaw and the sea is clear enough. Seen from swan’s-eye overview, its triangular shape combines elegance of geometry with an undoubted impression of power.

Caerlaverock Castle from the Air. © Simon Ledingham from Geograph.org.uk. Creative Commons

When it was built for the Maxwell family in the late 1200s, no other castle in Britain had its distinctive shield shape, designed to be defended by even a modest force of soldiers. This feature was put the test soon after the castle was completed.

 

Long legs, short fuse

 

It was the summer of 1300. Edward 1 of England – known as ‘Longshanks’ for his height and notorious for his fierce temper – had brought his army north. The previous year, soldiers from Caerlaverock had attacked the English garrison at nearby Lochmaben. Now Edward was determined to re-assert his authority as feudal overlord.

 

His army was 3,000 strong, including 87 knights. It must have been a fearsome sight, as men, warhorses, pack animals and wagons carrying tents and provisions moved across the flatlands to take up position across the moat from the newly built castle. The king’s 16-year-old son, later to be crowned Edward II and suffer defeat by the Scots under Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, was part of the English force. He was on his first military expedition, in command of the rearguard.

 

Amazingly, an account of the English army’s preparations and the attack that followed survives. It’s one of the most detailed descriptions of its kind from anywhere in medieval Europe, further adding to Caerlaverock’s historic importance.

 

Composed around 1300 and written in French verse (but possibly by an English Franciscan friar), ‘Le Siege de Karlavreock’ tells how Edward I besieged the castle: ‘Caerlaverock was so strong a castle that it did not fear a siege,’ writes the poet-monk.

 

‘Therefore, the king came himself, because it would not consent to surrender. But it was always furnished for its defence, whenever it was required, with men, engines and provisions.

 

‘Its shape was like a shield, for it had but three sides round it, with a tower at each corner; but one of them was a double one, so high, so long and so large that under it was the gate, with a drawbridge well-made and strong.

 

‘…And I think you will never see a more finely situated castle,’ he adds.

Caerlaverock Castle. © Kenny Taylor

Going ballistic

But even Caerlaverock’s clever design couldn’t protect it from the missiles flung from huge wooden ‘siege engines’ over the castle walls. These damaged masonry, shattered shields and crushed the helmets of defenders. When the garrison surrendered after bombardment, the assailants realised that a mere 60 soldiers had withstood their army’s might of thousands.

Siege engine at Caerlaverock. © Kenny Taylor

 

That in itself is the stuff of heroic tales. But it’s the detail in the verse account that is breathtaking. Each knight is given a thumbnail word portrait, including a description of his coat of arms.

 

There was Roger de Montaigne, for example, ‘who bore yellow with six blue lions’ and William de Conqueror  who ‘has at all times lived in honour’. He had a red shield with an alternating pattern on it, ‘with three fleur de lis of gold issuing from leopard’s heads.’

 

The list runs and runs, ending with an account of the fighting and surrender. As I look at the castle walls, on a day of bright sun, my mind’s eye fills with colours. Even at ground level, this place, and the history of the fields and mounds and hollows beyond it, is breathtaking.

 

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Historic Scotland: K Taylor

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Scotland History, Uncategorized

Joan of the Tower, Queen of Scotland

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joan_queen_of_scotland1

In research you frequently discover instances of happy medieval marriages – and even if a marriage was not based on love, it did not mean that it would not be successful. Indeed, in many such instances the young woman concerned found her own way of succeeding, whether it was through her children or the management of estates – or the fact that a lasting peace was achieved between her 2 countries.

 

Unfortunately for Joan of the Tower, later to be known as Joan Makepeace, her marriage achieved none of these things.

 

Joan was born in the Tower of London on 5 July, 1321; hence her rather dramatic name. She was the youngest of the 4 children of Edward II and his queen, Isabella of France, and had 2 older brothers and 1 sister. Her eldest brother, Edward, who was 9 years older than Joan, succeed his father as King Edward III in 1327, following Edward II’s deposition. While her 2nd brother, John of Eltham, was born in 1316 and died shortly after his 20th birthday, while campaigning against the Scots. Joan’s only sister, Eleanor of Woodstock, born in 1318, was only 3 years older than her baby sister and would go on to marry Reginald II, Count of Guelders.

 

Joan also had an illegitimate brother, Adam FitzRoy, a son of Edward II by an unknown woman. He was born in the early 1300s, but died whilst campaigning in Scotland with his father, in 1322.

 

Little Joan was named after her maternal grandmother, Queen Joan I of Navarre, wife of Philip IV of France. The king, also in London at the time of Joan’s birth, but not at the  Tower, granted an £80 respite on a £180 loan to Robert Staunton, the man who brought him news of the birth.¹ By 8th July Edward was visiting his wife and baby daughter at the Tower of London and stayed with them for several days.

 JoansfatheredwardII

Joan’s father, Edward II

As the last of the children of Edward II and Isabella, it seems likely that the royal couple’s relationship changed shortly after her birth, their marriage heading for an irretrievable breakdown that would see the king deposed in favour of his son. Edward II was well known for having favourites; the first, Sir Piers Gaveston, met a sticky end in 1312, when he was murdered by barons angry at the influence he held over the king. Isabella’s estrangement with her husband followed the rise of a new favourite, Sir Hugh le Despenser, and, by the time of Joan’s birth, his influence on the king was gaining strength and alienating powerful barons at court. In March 1322 those barons were defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, with many prominent barons killed, including the king’s erstwhile brother-in-law Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford. The leader of the insurrection, the king’s cousin Thomas, earl of Lancaster, was executed 6 days later at Pontefract Castle.

 

Joan was, therefore, growing up amid a period of great turmoil, not only within England, but within her own family. It is doubtful that, as she grew, she was unaware of the atmosphere, but  Isabella and Edward were both loving parents and probably tried to shield their children as much as they could, ensuring stability in their everyday lives. Joan was soon placed  in the household of her older siblings, and put into the care of Matilda Pyrie,  who had once been nurse to her older brother, John of Eltham.

 

Sometime before February 1325, Joan and her sister were established in their own household, under the supervision of Isabel, Lady Hastings and her husband, Ralph Monthermer. Isabel was the younger sister of Edward II’s close companion, Hugh Despenser the Younger, and this act has often been seen by historians as the king removing the children from the queen’s custody. Although it could have been a malicious act it must be remembered, however, that Ralph Monthermer was the girls’ uncle-by-marriage through his first wife, Joan of Acre, Edward II’s sister, and it was a custom of the time that aristocratic children were fostered among the wider family.

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Joan’s brother Edward III

Joan and her elder sister, Eleanor, remained with Isabel even after Ralph’s death in the summer of 1325; however, the following year, they were given into the custody of Joan Jermy, sister-in-law of the king’s younger half-brother Thomas, Earl of Norfolk. Joan was the sister of Thomas’s wife, Alice Hales, and took charge of the girls’ household in January 1326, living alternately at Pleshey in Essex and Marlborough in Wiltshire.

 

As with all her siblings, Joan played a part in her father’s diplomatic plans; an attempt to form an alliance against France, Edward sought marriages in Spain for 3 of his 4 children. While Eleanor was to marry Alfonso XI of Castile, little Joan was proposed as the bride for the grandson of Jaime II of Aragon – the future Pedro IV – but this would come to nought.

 

By this time their mother, Isabella, was living at the French court, along with her eldest son, Edward, refusing to return to her husband whilst he still welcomed Hugh Despenser at his court. Within months Isabella and her companion (possibly her lover), Roger Mortimer, were to invade England and drive Edward II from his throne, putting an end to the proposed Spanish marriages. He was captured and imprisoned in Berkley Castle, forced to abdicate in favour of his eldest son, who was proclaimed King Edward III in 1327.

 

With her father exiled or murdered (his fate remains a bone of contention to this day), Joan became the central part of another plan – that of peace with Scotland. Isabella and her chief ally, Roger Mortimer, were now effectively ruling the kingdom for the young Edward III – still only in  his mid-teens. With the kingdom in disarray Isabella sought to end the interminable wars with Scotland, much to the young king’s disgust. Joan was offered as a bride for David, Robert the Bruce’s only son and heir, by his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh.

 david_ii_of_scotland_by_sylvester_harding_17971

David II

The 1328 Treaty of Northampton was seen as a major humiliation by Edward III – and the 16-year-old king made sure his displeasure was known. However, he was forced to sign it, agreeing to Scotland’s recognition as an independent kingdom, the return of both the Ragman Roll (a document showing the individual acts of homage by the Scottish nobility) and the Stone of Scone (the traditional stone on which Scotland’s kings were crowned and which had sat in Westminster Abbey since being brought south by Edward I) and the marriage of Bruce’s 4-year-old son, David, to his 7-year-old sister, Joan.

 

Although the Stone of Scone and Ragman Roll were never returned to Scotland, the marriage between Joan and David did go ahead, although with a proviso that, should the marriage not be completed within 2 months of David reaching his 14th birthday, the treaty would be declared invalid. With neither king present – with Edward III refusing to attend, Robert the Bruce did likewise, claiming illness – the children were married at Berwick-on-Tweed on 17 July 1328, in the presence of Queen Isabella. The wedding was a lavish occasion, costing the Scots king over £2500.²

 

Following the wedding, and nicknamed Joan Makepeace by the Scots, Joan remained in Scotland with her child-groom. With Robert the Bruce’s death the following year, and David’s accession to the throne as David II, Joan and David attained the dubious record of being the youngest married monarchs in British history. They were crowned, jointly, at Scone Abbey in Perthshire, on 24th November 1331. It was the 1st time a Scottish Queen Consort was crowned.

 

Virtually nothing is known of Joan’s early years in Scotland. We can, I’m sure, assume she continued her education and maybe spent some time getting to know her husband. Scotland, however, was in turmoil and Edward III was not about to let his sister’s marriage get in the way of his own ambitions for the country. Unfortunately for Joan, Edward Balliol, son of the erstwhile king, John Balliol, and Isabella de Warenne, had a strong claim to the crown and was, as opposed to her young husband, a grown man with the backing of Edward III. What followed was a tug-of-war for Scotland’s crown, lasting many years.

 

 DavidIIand Joan being greatedby David VIof France

David II and Joan being greeted by Philip VI of France

David’s supporters suffered a heavy defeat at Halidon Hill in July 1333 and shortly after Joan, who was residing at Dumbarton at the time, and David were sent to France for their safety, where they spent the next 7 years. An ally of Scotland and first cousin of Joan’s mother, Philip VI of France gave the king and queen, and their Scottish attendants, accommodation in the famous Château Gaillard in Normandy.

 

Their return to Scotland, on 2nd June 1341, was greeted with widespread rejoicing that proved to be short-lived. When the French asked for help in their conflict with the English, David led his forces south. He fought valiantly in the disastrous battle at Neville’s Cross on 17th October 1346, but was captured by the English; he was escorted to a captivity in England that would last for the next 11 years, save for a short return to Scotland in 1351-2.

 

Joan and David’s marriage had proved to be an unhappy, loveless and childless union and, while a safe conduct was issued for Joan to visit her husband at Windsor for the St George’s Day celebrations of 1348, there is no evidence she took advantage of it. Although we know little of Joan’s movements, it seems she remained in Scotland at least some of the time, possibly held as a hostage to David’s safety by his Scottish allies. She may also have visited David in his captivity, taking it as an opportunity to visit with her own family, including her mother; Queen Isabella is said to have supported Joan financially while her husband was imprisoned, feeding and clothing her. Joan does not appear to have taken an active role in negotiations for David’s release, despite her close familial ties to the English court.

 

When David returned to Scotland he brought his lover, Katherine Mortimer, with him. They had met in England and it was said “The king loved her more than all other women, and on her account his queen was entirely neglected while he embraced his mistress.”³ Katherine met a grisly fate and was stabbed to death by the Earl of Atholl.

 

At Christmas 1357 Joan was issued with a safe conduct from Edward III “on business touching us and David” and again in May 1358 “by our licence for certain causes”.² Although the licences are understandably vague on the matter, Joan had, in fact, left David and Scotland.

 

Joan spent the rest of her life in England, living on a pension of £200 a year provided by her brother, Edward III. She renewed family connections and was able to visit her mother before Isabella’s death in August 1358. As Queen of Scotland, she occasionally acted on her husband’s behalf. In February 1359 David acknowledge her assistance in the respite of ransom payments granted by Edward III saying it was “at the great and diligent request and instance of our dear companion the Lady Joan his sister.”²

 

Little is known of Joan’s appearance or personality. Several years after her death she was described as “sweet, debonair, courteous, homely, pleasant and fair” by the chronicler Andrew of Wyntoun.² Having led an adventurous life, through no choice of her own, if unhappy in love, Joan of the Tower, Queen of Scotland, died at the age of 41 on 7th September 1362, and was buried in the Church of the Greyfriars, Newgate, in London, where her mother had been laid to rest just 4 years earlier.

 

Following his wife’s death David II married his lover, Margaret Drummond, the widow of Sir John Logie, but divorced her on 20th March 1370. He died, childless, at Edinburgh Castle in February 1371, aged 47, and was succeeded by the first of the Stewart kings, his nephew, Robert II, son of Robert the Bruce’s eldest daughter, Marjorie.

 

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Footnotes: ¹Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen by Kathryn Warner; ² Oxforddnb.com; ³Walter Bower quoted in Oxforddnb.com

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