William I (Scotland)

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Seal of King William of Scotland

Wilhelm I the Lion ( Scottish Gaelic (middle): Uilliam mac Eanric , modern Scottish Gaelic: Uilleam mac Eanraig (German Wilhelm, son of Heinrich ), English William I the Lion , William Dunkeld , William Canmore ; * um 1142 - December 4, 1214 at Stirling Castle ) was King of Scotland . At 49, his reign was the longest reign of any Scottish king in the Middle Ages and since the reign of James VI. the longest reign of a Scottish king.

Origin, youth and succession to the throne

Wilhelm was the second of three sons of Henry, Earl of Northumberland and his wife Ada de Warenne. As a child he made some early public appearances, unusual for his time, and a charter was issued in his name before 1150. Otherwise little is known about his childhood. Shortly after the death of his father in June 1152 it stood his grandfather King David I to the Earl of Northumberland . After the death of his grandfather in May 1153, Wilhelm's older brother Malcolm IV became King of the Scots. In June or July 1157 he concluded the Treaty of Chester with King Henry II of England . In this treaty, the Scottish king renounced the northern English counties, with which Wilhelm lost his title. He tried to regain this loss all his life. In compensation he received Northumberland estates in the Tynedale , from which he had an annual income of about £ 10. He kept these possessions until his death. In addition, his royal brother took care of his maintenance. In return, Wilhelm loyally supported his brother. He regularly witnessed royal documents and accompanied his brother when he traveled to Poitiers in 1159 and then supported the English king in the siege of Toulouse in the south of France . Wilhelm was knighted by his brother in Périgueux . It was not until 1160 that the king and William returned to Scotland. In 1163, William and his younger brother David accompanied Malcolm IV when he traveled to Woodstock and paid homage to the English king there . According to older information, Wilhelm is said to have taken over the reign of Scotland for his childless brother Malcolm while he was still alive, but this is not the case. However, he stayed at the royal court and was undoubtedly ready to take over the rule after the early death of his brother in December 1165. His succession to the throne was safe, and on December 24, 1165 he was enthroned as King of Scots in a traditional ceremony at Scone .

King of the Scots

Choppy relationship with Henry II of England

In 1166 Wilhelm traveled to the English King Henry II in Normandy . The reason for the trip is unknown, but William may have tried to get Northumberland back from the English king. Perhaps he was also making claims on Brittany . Heinrich II had deposed Duke Conan IV there , who was married to Margarete , a sister of Wilhelm. Subsequently, the English king took over increasing influence in Brittany on behalf of Wilhelm's niece Konstanze , Conan's heiress. Wilhelm is said to have separated from the English king in a dispute. In addition, he successfully participated in tournaments during his stay in France. In August or September 1166 he was in Fougères and on Mont-Saint-Michel . In 1168 Wilhelm is said to have made contact with the French King Louis VII , an opponent of Henry II. He offered him his friendship and support in the conflict with the English king and probably hoped for support himself in the recovery of Northumberland. On April 5, 1170, however, Wilhelm and his brother David attended a council meeting of the English king in Windsor . At that time, the English king was planning the coronation of his eldest son, Henry the Younger . Wilhelm and his brother probably stayed in southern England for the next several months. On May 31st, William was back in Windsor and on June 14th, 1170, he attended the coronation of the younger Henry in London. He and David then paid homage to the younger Heinrich for their English possessions.

War against Henry II

Reluctant support for the rebellion of the King's Sons

According to a later written chronicle, William asked the younger Henry to hand over Northumberland, but this is not documented. If Wilhelm made the request, it was in any case refused. In March 1173 the younger Heinrich, together with his brothers Gottfried and Richard, began a rebellion against their father . They fled to the French king and also asked the Scottish king for support. In return, the younger Heinrich Wilhelm offered the northern English counties and his brother David the titles Earl of Huntingdon and Earl of Cambridgeshire . As a result, Wilhelm called his barons to a council meeting in the summer of 1173. At that meeting it was decided that William Henry II should ask for the return of Northumberland. Should the English king refuse this request, Wilhelm should revoke his homage. When Henry II, as expected, again refused Wilhelm's request, the Scottish king summoned his barons again. While Wilhelm was ready for war, several barons opposed it. The decisive factor was the promise of the French king and Count Philip of Flanders to send a mercenary army to England. To do this, they confirmed Henry the Younger's offer to cede the northern English counties. Thereupon Wilhelm joined the alliance against Heinrich II. This anti-England alliance with France became an integral part of Scottish politics from 1295 as the Auld Alliance .

The Scottish Campaign of 1173

After William had mustered his army at Caddonlea near Selkirk , the Scots invaded Northumberland around August 20, 1173. First, they attacked Wark Castle . A truce was granted to the commander of the castle while Hugh de Puiset , the Bishop of Durham, evaded a fight. The Scots advanced to Alnwick , Warkworth and Newcastle . They pillaged the villages of the region while unable to conquer the castles. From Newcastle the Scots advanced west to Carlisle . There, too, they could not conquer the castle , and when they learned that an English relief army was approaching under the command of Justiciars Ranulf de Glanville , they withdrew to Roxburgh . Glanville then burned the border town of Berwick down. When Glanville learned, however, that an enemy army from Flanders had landed in England, he concluded an armistice with Wilhelm that ran until January 13, 1174. Then the English army moved south again. The armistice was later extended to March 24, 1174 after the Bishop of Durham had paid William 300 marks .

The Scottish Campaign of 1174

After the armistice had expired, Wilhelm's brother David led a campaign as far as the English Midlands after Easter 1174 . Together with mercenaries from Flanders, another Scottish army under Wilhelm's leadership plundered the coast of Northumberland. The army again besieged Wark Castle. After the attempt to burn down the castle had failed, the Scots broke off the siege. Then the Scottish army moved back to Carlisle, but again the attack on the castle failed. In contrast, the crews of Appleby and Brough Castle surrendered . Wilhelm moved east again with his army, but the attack on Prudhoe Castle failed. When he heard of an approaching English army, he retreated north to Alnwick. There parts of the army undertook raids in the area, causing the army to disperse. On July 13, 1174, the English attacked the Scots by surprise. In the following battle Wilhelm's horse was killed. He was trapped under the dead horse and had to surrender to Ranulf de Glanville. The Scottish king had started the war against Henry II, and with his capture, the war was lost for the Scots.

The capture of Wilhelm at Alnwick. Illumination from the 13th century.

Conclusion of the Falaise contract

Glanville first brought his prisoners to Newcastle. On July 24th, William had to face Henry II in Northampton , who had meanwhile regained control of England. The English king had the Scottish king brought to Normandy, where he was imprisoned first in Caen and later in Falaise . The Scots quickly tried to secure their king's release. Bishop Richard of St Andrews and Bishop Richard of Dunkeld, both former royal chaplains, and Abbot Geoffrey (II) of Dunfermline traveled to Normandy as negotiators. They began negotiations with Henry II about a peace and the release of the king. The English king had already made a generous peace with his rebellious sons, but a separate treaty was signed with the Scots. For his release, Wilhelm had to recognize the sovereignty of the English king over Scotland in the Treaty of Falaise on December 1, 1174 . The contract was confirmed in Valognes on December 8th . In the treaty, the Scottish king had to recognize the fiefdom of the English king over Scotland and over his other possessions. Wilhelm, his brother David and a group of Scottish clergy had to assure that the Church of Scotland would in future be subordinate to the English Church. Roxburgh , Berwick , Jedburgh , Edinburgh and Stirling Castle were given to the English king , with the Scottish king still having to pay for the upkeep of the castles. No serious criminal was allowed to find refuge from the law of the other realm in England or Scotland. The Scots had to hold over 20 well-known nobles as hostages. As a result of the military disaster, Scotland lost its political independence through the treaty. On December 11, 1174, William was allowed to leave Normandy. He first traveled to England, where he presumably stayed until the Scottish castles were handed over. In February 1175 he returned to Scotland.

Wilhelm as a vassal of the English king

Suppression of the rebellion in Galloway

Like his brother Malcolm IV after his return from the south of France in 1160, Wilhelm also faced a rebellion after his return. Galloway in southwest Scotland had been under the rule of Uhtred since 1160 and was considered pacified. After the capture of Wilhelm, however, there was a revolt in which Uhtred was murdered on September 22, 1174 by his brother Gilbert . Gilbert tried now to subordinate Galloway directly to Heinrich II, who was a cousin of his. The English king did not immediately accept this assumption, but did not expressly reject it either. Under the terms of the Treaty of Falaise, William was not allowed to take action against a possible vassal of the English king. On August 10, 1175, William, his brother David, and leading Scottish nobles and clergy in York pledged allegiance to Henry II. The clergy swore that they would submit to the Church of England, as their predecessors did and as they legally had to. As a token of his submission, Wilhelm placed his helmet, lance and saddle on the altar of York Minster , which had both ecclesiastical and secular significance. The English king then allowed him to put down the rebellion in Galloway. A Scottish army occupied the region and was able to reach an understanding with Gilbert. On October 9, 1176, William came to Henry II while he was holding court at Feckenham , Worcestershire . It is unclear whether he came of his own accord or on the orders of the English king. But in his company was Gilbert of Galloway, who submitted to the English king. He held his son Duncan hostage and offered a payment of 1,000 silver marks, which Henry II accepted. Thus Galloway remained under Gilbert's rule under the sovereignty of Henry II, but the region was pacified for the next few years.

Church politics

Dispute over spiritual sovereignty over Scotland

After 1175 Wilhelm had to endure further provisions of the Treaty of Falaise. Roxburgh, Berwick and Edinburgh Castle were occupied by English troops, for the maintenance of which lands had to be transferred and taxes levied. Jedburgh and Stirling Castle were possibly only briefly in English hands and then were cleared again, because shortly after 1175 Wilhelm issued documents in Stirling. In accordance with the York vows, Henry II convened a council meeting in Northampton in January 1176, to which he called William and the Scottish bishops. At Northampton he required the bishops to take the oath of obedience to the Church of England . However, the Scottish bishops stated that their predecessors had never taken such an oath. Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow was even able to present a document according to which his diocese was expressly exempted from the spiritual sovereignty of the English Church. When there was a dispute between Archbishop Richard of Canterbury and Archbishop Roger of York as to which of them the Scottish bishops were now subject to, the meeting ended without result. Scottish ambassadors then traveled to Pope Alexander III. On July 30, 1176, in the Bull Super anxietatibus, the latter revoked the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of York until the dispute had been investigated and resolved. The Scottish Church thus remained independent of the English Church for the time being. Presumably in August 1176 Cardinal Vivian (also Vibiano ) arrived in Scotland as papal legate . He also traveled to Ireland and England before holding a council at Holyrood on August 1, 1177 . Since no written resolutions have come down to us from the council, it remains open whether the cardinal recognized or rejected the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of York over Scotland. King Wilhelm was not present at the council because before it met, Henry II had called him to him. He was supposed to be in Winchester on July 1, 1177 to take part in a campaign by the English king in Normandy.

Arbroath Abbey Foundation

Wilhelm probably did not cross the English Channel because the campaign was postponed. While the Scottish king was entirely under the authority of the English king, the Scottish bishops had already begun negotiations to relax the provisions of the Falaise Treaty. It is probably no coincidence that Wilhelm founded Arbroath Abbey as a daughter monastery of Kelso Abbey at that time . Since his accession to the throne, he had shown little interest in the monasteries that his family had previously donated. He had only confirmed the last donation his brother Malcolm made to Dunfermline Abbey , but otherwise he had only confirmed other previous donations and made only occasional small donations himself. The foundation was both a political and a religious gesture. The patron saint of the abbey was Thomas Becket , with which a victim of the politics of Henry II was honored. In addition, Henry II had to penance for the murder of Becket for 24 hours on the day that Wilhelm was captured. This coincidence was undoubtedly important for Wilhelm. The abbey was richly donated and was officially founded in the autumn of 1178, but there is no sign that construction of the convent began early . In the 1190s, Wilhelm and other nobles made further donations, and by 1200 the monastery was operational. The construction of the church was so advanced by 1214 that the king could be buried in it. The ruins that remain show that the church was to match the status of a new royal burial place, architecturally surpassing the churches of Dunfermline Abbey and St Andrews .

The ruins of the monastery church of Arbroath donated by Wilhelm

Dispute over the Diocese of St Andrews

After the death of Bishop Richard of St Andrews in May 1178, the monks of the cathedral priory ignored the king's wishes and elected John the Scot as the new bishop. The king ignored the election and had his chaplain elect Hugh bishop and ordained. Meanwhile, John the Scot turned to the Pope and protested against Hugh's ordination. Pope Alexander III had already shown in his bull Super anxietatibus that he was not prepared to allow lay people like Henry II to make decisions about spiritual authority. The Pope therefore opposed Wilhelm and supported John, who was elected according to canon law . The papal legate Alexius held a council on June 15, 1180 in Holyrood . During that meeting, Hugh was formally removed from office, while John was ordained. Hugh continued to act as bishop, while the king persecuted clergy who supported John the Scot. Before this pressure, John and his relatives had to leave Scotland. They traveled to Henry II in Normandy and asked him for support as William's liege lord. Hugh, excommunicated by the legate , then turned to the papal curia . William and his brother David were summoned to Normandy by Henry II, where they made a superficial compromise with the English king in the dispute over St Andrews. This compromise was not accepted by John the Scot and his supporters. In 1181 Wilhelm, his constable Richard de Moreville and other courtiers were ordered by Pope Alexander III. excommunicated by Archbishop Roger of York. The interdict was imposed on Scotland . In August 1181, however, the Pope died and in November 1181 Archbishop Roger also died. King Wilhelm took the opportunity to reach an agreement with the curia. An embassy led by Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow could in early 1182 the new Pope Lucius III. convince them to lift the excommunication and interdict. In an extraordinary gesture of friendship, Wilhelm even received the Pope's Golden Rose in March 1182 . Then Bishop Hugh returned from Rome with a papal legate. During three days of negotiations with the king, it was proposed in June 1182 that both Hugh and John should become bishops of other dioceses. However, King William insisted that Hugh remain Bishop of St Andrews. A compromise was reached in new negotiations only a year later. John became Bishop of Dunkeld while Hugh remained Bishop of St Andrews. Hugh had to pay John 40 marks a year. This agreement lasted until 1186, when John sued Hugh again because the king allegedly had failed to keep his promises to him. Thereupon Hugh was on January 16, 1188 by Pope Clement III. deposed while John was to be re-appointed Bishop of St Andrews by the Pope's order. However, this arrangement was not implemented. Hugh traveled to the Curia again. He received absolution from the Pope personally in the summer of 1188, but died shortly afterwards. The king now appointed his cousin and chancellor Roger as the new bishop of St Andrews, which John the Scot also accepted. The dispute over the diocese was over and the king was able to get his way. With a few exceptions, royal candidates and officials were elected as new bishops until the king's death in 1214.

Rebellions in Moray and Galloway

1179 began the first of a series of revolts by the Macheth and Macwilliam families , which continued until the reign of Wilhelm's son Alexander II . Malcolm Macheth probably tried to win Earldom Ross during the reign of David I. He was made Earl of Ross during the reign of Malcolm IV, but no new Earl of Ross was appointed after his death in 1168. The Macheth's claim to Ross was supported by the Macwilliam family, descended from King Duncan II and his younger son William Fitz Duncan . William Fitz Duncan is said to have been Earl of Moray, but no other Earl of Moray was appointed after his death. Instead, the Scottish kings tried to increase their influence in the region through the establishment of boroughs , the building of castles and the enfeoffment of knights. This aroused resistance from other local nobles , especially in Ross , who preferred to see the region under the rule of a local earl, who was also of royal descent, than under the direct rule of the crown. Because of the unrest, Wilhelm and David led an army to Ross in 1179. There he built two castles, Red Castle and Dunskeath , which should control the access to Moray . It was also agreed to strengthen the fortifications of Inverness . Presumably the king has now confirmed the bestowal of the Earldom Lennox and the rule of Garioch to his brother David. Both areas were of great strategic importance, especially for access to northern Scotland. With this award, Wilhelm clearly demonstrated that he fully trusted his brother, and the measures were initially sufficient to keep Moray and Ross under the control of the king. However, when the king and his brother were in Normandy in April 1181 and the king did not return to Scotland until August at the earliest, new unrest broke out. Donald Ban Macwilliam , a son of William Fitz Duncan, took advantage of the king's absence and led a rebellion in Moray and Ross. This rebellion became a difficult challenge for the king. According to a later chronicle, Ross and Moray remained under the control of Donald Macwilliam for a long time. This information is probably correct, because between 1179 and 1187 the king in Moray did not issue any documents. For more than two years, between September 17, 1184 and March 1, 1187, no successor to Simon de Tosny as the new Bishop of Moray was appointed. Gillecolm , a royal official and marshal, turned Auldearn Castle over to the rebels and switched sides himself. In November 1186 the outlawed Aed (also Heth ), a son of Donald Macheth, made an advance south with his nephew and 58 men who were not named. It was not until Coupar Angus Abbey that they fell into a trap. Aed and all of his men were killed in the monastery church.

In addition to the rebellion in Moray, the king faced another revolt in Galloway. Gilbert of Galloway had hardly paid any tribute to Henry II there, as he had agreed. In 1184, William, whose own estates in south-west Scotland had been sacked by rebels from Galloway, tried to subdue Gilbert. When the rebels learned that Heinrich II was also approaching, they signed an armistice, whereupon Wilhelm dismissed his army. In the late summer of 1184 Wilhelm belonged to Heinrich II's entourage. Wilhelm probably wanted to try again the next year to subjugate Gilbert, but Gilbert died on January 1, 1185. Thereupon Wilhelm Gilbert's nephew Roland , the son of Uhtred, who was murdered in 1174, supported. This fell, probably with the tacit approval of Henry II, with an army in Galloway and on July 4, 1185 defeated the troops of the followers of Gilbert. In another skirmish on September 30, 1185, Gillecolm , one of the surviving leaders of Gilbert's supporters, was killed. In July 1186 Wilhelm presented Roland to the English King in Carlisle. Thereafter, at the latest around 1190, Wilhelm Galloway handed over to Roland. Duncan , the son of Gilbert, was made lord of Carrick. Roland was able to pacify Galloway and remained a loyal supporter of Wilhelm until his death in 1200. After south-west Scotland was subjugated again in 1186, Wilhelm was able to turn back to northern Scotland. In 1187 he led a large army as far as Inverness, which the citizens handed over to the king. On July 31, 1187, Roland of Galloway defeated the rebels in a battle near Mam Garvia . The location of this battle cannot be located, but it was probably on the north bank of the Beauly Firth . Donald Macwiliam and 500 of his supporters are said to have died in the battle. Donald's severed head was given to the king. Roland of Galloway remained loyal to Wilhelm until his death in 1200. His son and successor, Alan , continued this policy. Alan and his brother Thomas both served the English king as mercenary leaders. However, they did not harm the interests of the Scottish kings, so that there was no more unrest in Galloway until well after Wilhelm's death.


The rebellions in Moray and Galloway made Wilhelm or perhaps Henry II aware that in the 1180s, in the event of the Scottish king's death, his succession to the throne was still unresolved. Wilhelm was previously unmarried, but had several illegitimate children. As the overlord of Wilhelm, it fell to the English king to arrange for his marriage. In 1184, probably in July or August, Wilhelm visited the court of Heinrich II. The English king planned to marry him to his granddaughter Mathilde von Sachsen , a daughter of Heinrich the Lion . This intention became Pope Lucius III. presented, which she refused due to close relatives. After the death of Earl Simon III. de Senlis ignored Heinrich II the possible inheritance claims of his relatives on his English possessions. He awarded the Earldom Huntingdon to Wilhelm, who immediately passed it on to his brother David. This made David a magnate with rich estates in England. As a result, he was then mainly active in England and Normandy and less in Scotland. Nevertheless, as the only surviving brother of the king, he remained a possible heir to the throne. In May 1186, Henry II proposed during a council meeting in Woodstock that Wilhelm Ermengarde , a daughter of Richard , should marry Viscount de Beaumont-sur-Sarthe . Although she was only the daughter of a minor nobleman from Normandy, her father was the son of an illegitimate daughter of King Henry I of England. Nevertheless, the Scottish reaction was initially negative, which was understandable due to the relatively low rank and the presumed youth of the bride. The Scottish king had little political advantage through the marriage, but after further consultation, William agreed to the marriage. The marriage took place on September 5, 1186 in Woodstock. The cost of the four-day celebrations was paid for by Henry II, who gave the bride Edinburgh Castle as a dowry. Wilhelm undertook to give his wife £ 100 annual income and 40 knight's fees in Scotland.

Regaining independence

The Canterbury Waiver

When a new crusade movement developed in Europe from 1187, the French King Philip II and the English King Henry II levied a tithe tax on all movable goods and income, the so-called Saladin tithe . In February 1188, the English king sent Bishop Hugh of Durham to persuade the Scots to pay the crusade tax. King Wilhelm offered 4,000 marks, but in return he demanded the return of the castles of Roxburgh and Berwick. Henry II was generally ready to return the castles, but he insisted on tithing. After a meeting of Scottish magnates refused to pay tithes, the return of the castles was not pursued. After Henry II died in July 1189, his son Richard succeeded him as king. He was determined to carry out the planned crusade . King William traveled to England in November 1189 and met Richard in Canterbury . There he paid him homage for his possessions in England. He did not pay homage to him for Scotland, however, because Richard needed even more money for his crusade. On December 5, 1189 he released King William from his feudal oath for Scotland in exchange for 10,000 marks. With this renunciation of Canterbury , not only did Roxburgh and Berwick revert to Scotland, but the English king completely renounced his supremacy over Scotland. In order to raise the high sum, William raised a tax in Scotland.

The bull Cum universi

A little later, Wilhelm was able to achieve another diplomatic success. On March 13, 1992, Pope Celestine III sealed the seal . the bull Cum universi . In this bull the Pope recognized the Scottish Church as a special daughter of the Curia. Thus the Scottish Church was directly subordinate to the Popes and not to any metropolitan , especially not to the English Archbishops of York or Canterbury. The bull was later confirmed, possibly as early as 1200, with certainty 1218. With these two successes, the renunciation of Canterbury and Cum universi, William had taken advantage of the change of ruler in England. He had managed to regain independence from England and maintain spiritual independence.

Renegotiations on Northumberland

Scotland was now pacified, and William tried again to win Northumberland back. King Richard had sold life to Bishop Hugh of Durham in 1189. Wilhelm now tried to get support in the county itself. In 1191 he married his illegitimate, already widowed daughter Isabella to Robert de Ros, Lord of Wark . In 1193 he married Margaret , another illegitimate daughter, to Eustace de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick . He had thus succeeded in marrying two barons from the northern part of the county. To this end, a few years earlier, the Scottish magnate Duncan, Earl of Fife, had acquired the custody of the Barony of Mitford . Nevertheless, Wilhelm was still anxious to maintain his good relationship with King Richard. In 1193 he voluntarily contributed 2,000 marks for the ransom that was demanded for the release of Richard, who had fallen into German captivity. After Richard's release and return to England in early March 1194, the two kings soon met. On April 5, 1194, William asked the English king in Nottinghamshire for two acts of favor. The first token of favor was the assurance of an honorable escort and proper accommodation when the Scottish king was in England on his way to the English king. King Richard granted this request on April 17th, but it was only implemented after his death under his brother and successor Johann . The second request was for Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland , which William claimed under the law of his ancestors. Wilhelm even went so far as to ask for the release of Lancaster , which the Scottish kings had already given up in the 1140s. Richard consulted with his counselors, and surprisingly, his April 10th or 11th response was not negative. On April 17th, Richard was crowned a second time in Winchester. Wilhelm was given the honor of carrying one of the three state swords before the king. On April 19, the Bishop of Durham renounced his rights to Northumberland. Wilhelm offered the English king 15,000 marks for the county. Richard then agreed to give him Northumberland, but wanted to keep control of the royal castles. Under these circumstances, however, Wilhelm refused the release. On April 21, Wilhelm renewed his offer, but Richard insisted on keeping the castles. However, he gave William hope to negotiate again about a surrender of Northumberland after his return from Normandy. But since Richard did not return to England until his death in 1199, Wilhelm's attempt to get Northumberland had failed again.

Clarification of the king's succession

Although Bishop Hugh of Durham renounced his rights to Northumberland, the county remained under his administration. After his death on March 3, 1195, William could not take advantage of the situation to come into possession of Northumberland, because due to his unexplained succession there was a domestic political crisis in Scotland. Presumably in April or May 1195 Wilhelm was seriously ill in Clackmannan . According to a report, the Scottish magnates recognized his eldest legitimate daughter Margaret as heiress. According to another report, it was planned to marry her to the German Duke Otto von Braunschweig . This was a brother of Matilda , who was previously intended as a bride for Wilhelm. With this marriage, the Scottish crown would have passed to Otto if Wilhelm had died. However, a group of magnates under the leadership of the Earl of Dunbar rejected this because it would contradict the customs and traditions of Scotland. According to these customs, in the event of the king's death, a brother or nephew would inherit the throne. As the king's brother, David of Huntingdon was the closest male relative and had further improved his social standing through his marriage to a sister of Ranulf, Earl of Chester . However, the king recovered from the disease, so that the succession was no longer urgent. In 1196 the English government made another attempt to clarify the Scottish succession to the throne. Wilhelm rejected this, however, pointing out that the queen was pregnant. The queen did not have a son in 1196, but two years later.

Conflicts in Caithness and with Jarl Harald of Orkney

Shortly after the succession crisis, peace in Scotland was disrupted by a conflict in the north of the country. 1196 a battle broke out near Inverness between royal troops and the supporters of a Ruaridh . Also called Roderick, he was perhaps a descendant of Somerled of Argyll and an ancestor of the north-west Scottish Macruaridhs family. Ruaridh was assisted by Thorfinn , a son of Earl Harald Maddadson of Orkney and Caithness. The reason for the feud is unclear, but Hvarflod , Earl Harald's second wife, with whom he lived in a bigamic marriage, was a daughter of the former rebel Malcolm Macheth. She may have made claims on Ross or had a feud since the death of her nephew Aed Macheth in Coupar Angus in 1186. The king then moved to Moray himself in 1196 and 1197. Without the king, part of the army reached Thurso , the capital of Caithness , and burned it down. Earl Harald then submitted to Nairn in the fall of 1197 . He was imprisoned in Roxburgh and was only released when Thorfinn also surrendered. Thorfinn was then taken to Roxburgh as a prisoner. Wilhelm now encouraged Harald Ungi to claim the title of Earl of Caithness and Orkney. After Harald Ungi was killed in 1198, Wilhelm turned to Ragnvald , King of Man and the Isles for assistance. Although this appeared with an army in northern Scotland, but could not assert itself in Caithness. When Bishop John of Caithness was seriously injured after an argument with Earl Harald, Wilhelm had to move to northern Scotland again himself. Preparations for the campaign began in autumn 1201. Before that, Wilhelm had Thorfinn blinded and emasculated , whereupon he later died in dungeon. Probably because of his age, but perhaps also out of fear of death during the campaign, Wilhelm made the Scottish magnates swear in Musselburgh on October 12, 1201 that they would recognize the succession of his son Alexander to the throne . The winter campaign to northern Scotland was unsuccessful, whereupon the king planned another campaign for the spring of 1202. But then Earl Harald came to Perth after Bishop Roger of St Andrews had assured him safe conduct. In return for the payment of 2,000 pounds of silver, Wilhelm allowed him to repossess Caithness. Thereafter, Harald kept peace until his death in 1206, as did his two sons David and John , who shared rulership after his death.

The late period of rule

Stressed relationship with Johann Ohneland

When Johann Ohneland became King of England in 1199, he already had a bad reputation and was considered untrustworthy. When King Richard was on his crusade, King William is said to have made a secret agreement with the English justiciar William de Longchamp to recognize his nephew Arthur of Brittany as heir in the event of the death of the English king . This was also a great-nephew of Wilhelm. The relationship between Wilhelm and Johann Ohneland was strained from the start. At first, however, Wilhelm behaved correctly when John became King of England. He met him in Lincoln , where he paid homage to him on November 22nd, 1200 for his English possessions. He asked again for the cession of the northern English counties. Johann asked to suspend the discussion until Pentecost 1201. Since Johann was about to leave for Normandy in May 1201, he asked for the question to be postponed again. Johann did not return until December 1203. There is evidence that he had been in contact with Wilhelm in 1204 and met him from February 9 to 12, 1206 and from May 26 to 28, 1207 in York. Little is known about the purpose of these meetings, except that the fiefs William held at Tynedale were confirmed and that in 1206 John granted Arbroath Abbey trading privileges. However, there were also signs that William mistrusted the English king, who then protested his goodwill. A suggestion that the kings should meet again in October 1207 was not followed up. Probably the English king had refused the request for the cession of the northern English counties, so that relations between the two kings were tense.

The Norham Treaty

After the death of Bishop Philip of Durham in April 1208, Johann took over the administration of the properties of the vacant northern English diocese. Presumably during a visit to northern England in August 1208, Johann ordered the construction of Tweedmouth Castle that threatened the access to the main Scottish port, Berwick . Wilhelm therefore had the castle under construction destroyed. Since he was presumably also negotiating a marriage alliance with the French king Philip II, a serious political crisis arose between Scotland and England in 1209. King John was already at war with the French king and moved quickly north in April 1209 to eliminate the threat of a second front. Two meetings between Johann Ohneland and the ailing Wilhelm remained without rapprochement, as did the subsequent negotiations through embassies. At the end of July a Scottish and an English army faced each other on the border near Norham . Wilhelm had to realize that the English army was superior and started new negotiations on July 25th. Until August 7, 1209, he had to make substantial concessions to the English king in the Treaty of Norham . Although the construction of Tweedmouth Castle did not take place, William had to pay the English king a large sum of money and hand over hostages and his two daughters, whom Johann Ohneland was allowed to marry. In fact, Wilhelm had submitted to the suzerainty of the English king.

Another uprising by the Macwilliams

By 1211, Wilhelm had paid Johann most of the agreed 15,000 marks, but the king's daughters and the Scottish hostages were still in England. At the beginning of February 1211 Guthred Macwilliam and his followers attacked the northern Scottish horse. Guthred had presumably lived in exile in Ireland as the head of the Macwilliams and had been driven from the island by a campaign by Johann Ohneland the previous year. Local Ross nobles are believed to have encouraged him to raid, and he brought along Irish to support him. Wilhelm had been seriously ill in Kintore since Christmas 1210 , so that at first he could hardly do anything about the attack. He was not healthy again until February 24th. He sent an army to northern Scotland and had the fortifications of the castles of Dunskeath and Red Castle reinforced. From around the end of June until the autumn of 1211 the king himself was in Moray. The king certainly hoped to repeat the success of 1187 at Mam Garvia . A selected force was sent against the rebels under Guthred. In fact, it was able to crush Guthred's army, killing many rebels. Guthred himself escaped, however. Before mid-October 1211 William had withdrawn to Forfar and had entrusted Malcolm, Earl of Fife with the further fight against the rebellion. However, this could not prevent Guthred from conquering and burning down an unnamed castle in Ross. The enraged king was unable to retaliate against the rebels in the face of a particularly harsh winter in northern Scotland.

The successes of Guthred made it clear that Wilhelm could not put down the rebellion with his strength. Presumably Wilhelm then asked the English king for assistance. In February 1212 negotiations took place in Durham , in which not Wilhelm, but Queen Ermengarde actively participated. During these negotiations it was agreed that the heir to the throne Alexander should be married to a daughter of King John and knighted by John. In fact, the English king knighted the Scottish heir to the throne on March 4, 1212 at Clerkenwell , but the marriage was delayed. This made it clear again that the English king continued to claim sovereignty over Scotland. Scotland was still a separate kingdom, but the heir to the throne and his three sisters were supposed to marry members of the English royal family. The hostages taken in 1209, including two daughters of Wilhelm, were still in England. After the accolade, Alexander returned to Scotland. Presumably he brought mercenaries that King John had made available to him. In midsummer 1212 Alexander set out for Ross. King Wilhelm wanted to follow him, but at the end of June he met with Johann in northern England for three days. Ultimately, the Guthred rebellion was not put down by either Wilhelm or Alexander. Guthred was betrayed and brought to Alexander in Kincardine in chains . There Alexander was brought the news that the king did not wish to see Guthred, whereupon he was beheaded. The uprising was put down, but the Macwilliams were not finally defeated until the end of the 1220s.

The funerary monument of William at Arbroath Abbey

Last years and death

In January or February 1213, both Wilhelm and Johann had traveled to the Scottish border, but the two kings did not meet again. The proposal that Alexander should meet the English king was rejected. Wilhelm was now probably permanently ill. He spent 1213 in the Lowlands, where he still performed government duties. Among other things, he regulated the succession in the Earldom Menteith in December 1213 . Wilhelm also spent the first months of 1214 in the Lowlands. David, Earl of Caithness, died in the spring or early summer. Since the mother of his brother and heir John had been a member of the rebellious Macheth family, Wilhelm traveled to Moray with a final exertion. On August 17th, 1214 the king was in Elgin . There he signed a peace agreement with Earl John, who held his daughter hostage. Then Wilhelm returned to Stirling in short daily stages. There he recommended his son Alexander to the bishops and magnates as his successor and settled further personal questions before his death. On December 6th, two days after Wilhelm's death, Alexander was installed as the new king in Scone. William was buried on December 10, 1214 in his Arbroath Abbey Foundation.

The reign of the king

The person of the king

Wilhelm spoke as a native language Anglo-Norman . There is no evidence that he spoke Gaelic or English. Nevertheless, as King of the Scots, Wilhelm embodied, as he called himself, his people and his kingdom. As king he was very conscious of his dignity. Perhaps following the example of Henry II, he reacted very upset when he saw her hurt. He regularly had rebels executed, but it is certainly no coincidence that most of the major revolts broke out during Wilhelm's rule, when he was out of the country or when he was ill. Except when Wilhelm was sick, he was active as a ruler. He competed in tournaments or went hunting, and even as an older man he still led his own troops. Despite having at least six illegitimate children, his religiosity was beyond doubt and there are even reports of miraculous healings from him.

Organization of government and jurisdiction

When Wilhelm became king, his brother's senior officials, Chancellor Engelram , Constable Richard de Moreville and Stewart Walter fitz Alan retained their offices. But soon other barons also confirmed the royal documents. Wilhelm trusted the advice of his magnates, but he also had his own firm opinions. During his reign there were much less frequent large council meetings than during the reign of his brother, and these then also decided on the collection of taxes. From taking over rule from his brother Malcolm until shortly before his death at the age of probably 72, Wilhelm conscientiously carried out his duties as ruler. The government of Scotland was expanded during his reign. His chapel , which did the paperwork, increasingly consisted of trained civil servants whose documents were of constant quality. Well-trained officials such as William Malvoisin or William de Bosco took over the office of Chancellor , while on the other hand it was given as a sinecure to relatives of the king such as Roger of Leicester or Florence of Holland . New burghs were established, including border towns such as Nairn , Dumfries and Ayr , while Clackmannan and Forfar emerged from royal possessions and Dundee from a trading settlement. A sheriff was usually appointed for the Burghs . Until 1214 there were sheriffs in Moray, Nairn, Inverness and probably also in Aberdeen as well as in Ayr and Dumfries. The sheriffs represented the interests of the king, but also the church and forced payment of tithes for the church. There were also initial reports that the sheriffs were serving as judges. As a higher judge for Scotia served a justiciar , whose office was occupied continuously with nobles. As the chief judge, the king himself passed judgments and tried to improve the legal system. Some of his court sessions dealt with specific issues such as prosecuting thieves in Galloway or improving justice through local courts. Others were more general and dealt with specific criminal cases. A Gaelic judge was present at least as a witness at his court sessions, but for the judiciary, Wilhelm orientated himself on the Anglo-Norman legal practice, above all on the Assis of Clarendon issued in 1166 or the peace of the land proclaimed by Hubert Walter on 1195 , which William transferred to Scotland in 1197.

Coins minted in 1205 during the reign of Wilhelm

Trade development and financial management reform

While the Scottish Lowlands were largely pacified from around 1190, the revolts in Moray and northern Scotland, but also in western Scotland, had caused considerable damage. In other parts of Scotland, however, trade flourished. The population increased, and some burghs in particular, such as Perth and Dundee, grew rapidly. The cattle and sheep breeding and subsequently the export of wool and hides to Flanders and England became important around 1200 at the latest. By 1200, the use of coins in the cities and the Lowlands increased sharply. There were mints at times in Roxburgh, Berwick, Edinburgh and Perth. In 1195 there was a coin reform that made the Scottish penny equivalent to the English penny . This ensured the acceptance of Scottish coins in international trade. As a result, the dues to the king were increasingly paid in cash instead of in kind. During Wilhelm's reign there was a camera with its own staff and documents as the central authority, which was probably set up in Stirling shortly after 1175. From the 1180s there were annual audits of the accounts. The king levied duties on goods and was able to levy taxes. Presumably in 1190 a council meeting confirmed the taxes that William wanted to raise in order to raise the sum for the replacement of the feudal relationship from England. Towards the end of the rule it had become common for the magnates to give advice on the collection of taxes and to give their consent.

Feudalization of the nobility

Wilhelm tried to bring other areas in Scotland into a feudal relationship with the Crown. The old Gaelic earldoms such as Lennox , Menteith , Strathearn , Atholl and Buchan continued to exist , but they had a quasi-feudal relationship with the king. During Wilhelm's reign it became common for the magnates to perform vassal services for their country . Until 1214, this practice was also common in northern Scotland north of the Tay and in Moray. However, the local contingents, which continued to be drawn up according to Celtic custom, probably continued to form the majority of the royal armies, while mercenaries were rarely used. The offices of justiciare, sheriffs and chamberlains were mostly given to noblemen, most of whom were descended from the nobles who had come to Scotland during the reigns of David I and Malcolm IV in the first half of the 12th century. These Anglo-Norman new nobles included the Moreville , Brus , Lindsay , Stewart , Seton, and Comyn families . With a few exceptions, however, these families quickly had the focus of their possessions and interests in Scotland and formed the Scottish nobility alongside the Gaelic-Celtic earls that still existed. Larger magnates like the Earls of Fife or Dunbar as well as the Stewarts and Brus had their own knightly entourage. Most of these knights had come to Scotland before 1165, married one another and named themselves after the region where they lived, such as Moray , Polloc or Hume .

Relationship to the Church

The consolidation of the Scottish Church, the Ecclesia Scotiana , and its official recognition by the Pope shows the consolidation of the Kingdom of Scotland. The Scottish bishops were in direct contact with Pope Alexander III. and his successors. Vacant dioceses were quickly reoccupied. In the dioceses, further ecclesiastical offices such as archdeacons were established during Wilhelm's reign , and more and more clergymen who had attended a university took over the higher offices. Although the king did not directly control the church, numerous royal officials rose to become bishops. This cemented royal authority, even if the bishops were not overly spiritual. Apart from the Cistercian Waltheof von Melrose , no 12th century Scottish clergyman was canonized. Thanks to the increasing prosperity through the export of wool, numerous monasteries and cathedrals such as those of St Andrews and Glasgow , but also churches in cities such as Aberdeen, Dundee and Crail as well as village churches such as Symington or Leuchars could be expanded.

Family and offspring

Wilhelm had four children with his wife Ermengarde de Beaumont:

In addition, Wilhelm had at least six illegitimate children:

His daughter Isabella married Wilhelm in 1183 to Robert de Brus, the eldest son of Robert (II) de Brus, Lord of Annandale . After his untimely death, she married the northern English baron Robert de Ros. His illegitimate son Robert de London attested to royal documents regularly from the early 1180s and was endowed with land from the crown estate.


In the 14th century, the chronicler John Fordun referred to King Wilhelm as the lion of justice ( German  lion of justice ). An Irish annalist previously referred to him as garbh ( German  the bullish ), which was appropriate because of his bravery, but also because of his character. But Wilhelm the Lion survived as an epithet. One reason for this is that Wilhelm devoted himself fully to his duties as ruler. He modernized the legal system, the financial system and the administration, and the church was reformed further during his rule and its independence from England was confirmed. Wilhelm's son Alexander inherited an initially difficult legacy. His father's attempts to win the counties in northern England had failed. Alexander's three sisters were not yet married and served as hostages with other Scots. King John of England had a significant influence on Scottish politics, and in Scotland the Macheth and Macwilliams rebellions were still not completely crushed. But despite all the defeats, disappointments and rebellions during his reign, Wilhelm had handed over the imperial territory with all the castles, as he had inherited from his brother Malcolm IV, to his son. The royal rule in large parts of the empire had been consolidated and strengthened, and the claim to the throne of the Canmore dynasty was safe. During Wilhelm's reign, Scotland was still a Celtic country in many areas, as demonstrated by the enthronement of kings, the language of many residents, regional peculiarities, the way the army was deployed and some legal peculiarities. Through his tenacity and perseverance, William had continued the work of his grandfather David I to forge a new Scotland. During his reign, Scotland had dynastically, ecclesiastically and economically further drawn closer to the Central and Western European empires. Many of the problems Wilhelm had left his son had been resolved by 1221.

Web links

Commons : Wilhelm I.  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 229.
  2. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 224.
  3. ^ Geoffrey WS Barrow: Scotland and Its Neighbors in the Middle Ages . Hambledon, London 1992, ISBN 1-85285-052-3 , p. 72.
  4. ^ Geoffrey WS Barrow: Scotland and Its Neighbors in the Middle Ages . Hambledon, London 1992, ISBN 1-85285-052-3 , p. 74.
  5. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 183.
  6. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 264.
  7. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 271.
  8. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 272.
  9. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 167.
  10. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 194.
  11. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 231.
  12. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 238.
  13. ^ Geoffrey WS Barrow: Scotland and Its Neighbors in the Middle Ages . Hambledon, London 1992, ISBN 1-85285-052-3 , p. 82.
  14. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 194.
  15. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 196.
  16. ^ Geoffrey WS Barrow: Scotland and Its Neighbors in the Middle Ages . Hambledon, London 1992, ISBN 1-85285-052-3 , p. 84.
  17. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 238.
  18. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 241.
  19. ^ Geoffrey WS Barrow: Scotland and Its Neighbors in the Middle Ages . Hambledon, London 1992, ISBN 1-85285-052-3 , p. 86.
  20. ^ Geoffrey WS Barrow: Scotland and Its Neighbors in the Middle Ages . Hambledon, London 1992, ISBN 1-85285-052-3 , p. 70.
  21. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 212.
  22. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 209.
  23. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 204.
  24. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 203.
  25. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 201.
  26. ^ AAM Duncan: John King of England and the kings of Scots . In: SD Church: King John: new interpretations . Boydell, Woodbridge 1999, ISBN 0-85115-947-8 , p. 248.
  27. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 201.
  28. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 208.
  29. ^ Geoffrey WS Barrow: Scotland and Its Neighbors in the Middle Ages . Hambledon, London 1992, ISBN 1-85285-052-3 , p. 79.
  30. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 178.
  31. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 205.
  32. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 266.
  33. ^ Archibald AM Duncan: Scotland. The Making of the Kingdom (The Edinburgh History of Scotland; Vol. I ). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-05-00203-7-4 , p. 174.
predecessor Office successor
Malcolm IV King of Scotland
Alexander II