Essays on the Nobility of Medieval Scotland

By K. J. Stringer | Go to book overview

3
THE EARLY LORDS OF LAUDERDALE, DRYBURGH
ABBEY AND ST ANDREW's PRIORY AT NORTHAMPTON

Keith Stringer

It can easily be forgotten that the turbulent history of Anglo-Scottish relations in the later Middle Ages stands in sharp contrast to the many years of peace and friendly contact between the realms prior to Edward I's attempts to subdue Scotland in 1296. Despite occasional hostility and discord, Scots kings from David I to Alexander III enjoyed impressive personal and territorial connexions south of the Tweed, while a large minority of their lieges controlled estates in England and even in Ireland, Wales or France. In the twelfth century, it is indeed scarcely conceivable that the great advances set in train by King David I would have been possible unless he and his successors had been able to exploit fully their ties outwith the realm and attract into Scotland barons and knights, and churchmen and merchants, from England and other parts of the French-speaking world in order to strengthen and extend their rule. Remarkably, it is only in the last two decades or so that systematic scholarly attention has begun to be focused upon the seminal contribution made by this movement of peoples to the rise of the medieval kingdom of Scots. The rewards of this historiographical step forward are peculiarly valuable; and yet such concentration on the country of the colonists' destination has obscured the fact that the incoming lay dependants from England and northern France, though they generally lacked inherited riches, were often just as anxious to keep in close touch with the background from which they had sprung as they were to profit from their estates as tenants-in-chief in Scotland. Those royal vassals thus inclined were the forerunners, and sometimes the lineal predecessors, of the great Anglo-Scottish barons who were to play a major role in the life of England and Scotland in the thirteenth century, up to the 1290s the most formative period in the development of 'cross-Border' fief-holding. But just as there is a danger of underestimating the English or French attachments of the twelfth-century Braces, Comyns, Giffards, Lindsays, Morvilles, Olifards, Stewarts, Vieuxponts and many others besides — and just as there is a risk of continuing to neglect the 'external' commitments of their often wealthier and better-documented counterparts after about 1200 — so we must not ignore the dynastic and tenurial links which families of native Scots descent were able to forge outside Scotland in a manner emulating that of the royal house itself. Although we have been taught that the Border had been stabilised along roughly its present line by the eleventh century, for such men the Tweed-Solway boundary was not the obstacle it would become during the years of protracted warfare from 1296. As this study will suggest, the Border can be shown to have been of little real significance in their private concerns and activities.1

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