Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain: From the Picts to Alexander III

By Dauvit Broun | Go to book overview

6

The Inauguration of Alexander III (1249) and the
Portrayal of Scotland as a Sovereign Kingdom

On the face of it, Scottish independence had finally been secured by the end of the twelfth century. In the Quitclaim of Canterbury, Richard I had agreed that the objectionable Treaty of Falaise be cancelled, while in Cum universi the papacy had recognised that the kingdom was not part of England. This is all very well as far as it goes. On closer examination, though, it is not at all clear that anyone in 1200 thought of Scottish independence in a straightforward sense that we might recognise today; Scotland was not yet seen by its leading figures as a single jurisdiction under a sovereign ruler. Cum universi may have rescued the kingdom from the authority of foreign archbishops, but it did not give Ecclesia Scoticana, the Scottish Church, an institutional identity of its own as a province with its own metropolitan. It is true that, at least in the ecclesiastical sphere, there had been those who had pressed for the kingdom to be recognised as an independent entity in the normal way with an archbishop of St Andrews; but, as we have seen, this was not universally welcomed, and in the end a rather different notion of ecclesiastical independence had won the day. The Quitclaim of Canterbury, for its part, signified the restoration of the previous relationship between the kings, not a recognition that the king of Scots stood on an equal footing with his neighbour. There is nothing to suggest that William saw himself as anything other than a client of Richard I. When it came to performing homage to Richard's successor, John, in November 1200, there is no reason to suppose that William was uncomfortable with the special arrangements John made for the event: an impressive gathering of the great and good of the Angevin realm were invited to Lincoln to witness William's act of subordination on a conspicuous mound outside the city walls.1 What William had foremost on his mind was that he should regain the northern counties of England which his brother, Mael Coluim IV, had agreed to hand over to Henry II in 1157. He may, indeed, have hoped that, now that John had made such a conspicuous display of becoming his superior, John might be

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