Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Alexander McAlexander, son of Alexander III

Alexander McAlexander, son of Alexander III, died on the 28th of January, 1284.

Alexander III, the 'Glorious' King of Scots, was careless enough to have lost all three of his children, before he was lost, himself, in the early hours of the 19th of March, 1286. Actually, Alexander didnae lose his bairns, in the sense that they were tint; the tragic fact is that they had all died. All three of his children pre-deceased their father. With those premature deaths and the mysterious manner of the King's passing, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the family were cursed. Indeed, an omen surrounding the death of Alexander III appears to have been fulfilled by proxy, involving the rest of his family.

Alexander's wife, Margaret, daughter of Henry III and sister of Edward I, Kings of England, died in the February of 1275 (or 1274). And his youngest son, the seven year old David, died in 1280 (or June 1281, according to WikiPee). Alexander III’s eldest child, his daughter Margaret, she who had married Eric of Norway to become Queen, died on the 9th of April, 1283, shortly after giving birth to Alexander's granddaughter, the 'Maid of Norway'. At that point, all Alexander had left was his second child, eldest son and namesake, the great Scots hope, Alaxandair mac Alaxandair, Prince of Scotland.

 Alexander, Prince of Scotland, was born at Jedburgh, on the 21st of January, 1264. At the time of his sister's death, Alexander Jnr. was a healthy young man of nineteen. He had been married to Marguerite, daughter of Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders, on the 15th of November, 1282, at Roxburgh. That marriage strengthened Scotland's ties with an important trading partner of the time, however, as the history books recorded, “No children were born of this union.”

The match also marked Scotland's re-emergence onto the European stage. However, it was ill starred. Like his ma and siblings, the young Alexander was to die before his time. Sadly for Scotland, that he did and suddenly, at Lindores Abbey in Fife, on the 28th of January, 1284. Wee Alexander – he lived to be a week over twenty years of age – was buried in Dunfermline Abbey, with his mother and brother. Nigel Tranter recounts these events in his novel, ‘Envoy Extraordinary’, in which he has Patrick, the 7th Earl of Dunbar and March, responding to an urgent message from the King; to collect him at Leith and ferry him to Fife so that he could conduct his son’s funeral to the royal burial place at the Abbey in Dunfermline.

Ominously, when the young prince Alexander died, Edward I sent his condolences to the King of Scots in a letter, in which Ed assured his brother-in-law, Alex, that they remained “united together perpetually, God willing, by the tie of indissoluble affection.” Edward's was an affection not reserved for Alexander‘s successors, Balliol and Bruce, as history and Hollywood has recorded. You can read more about the consequences in 'Anglo-Scottish Relations 1174-1328', ed. E. L. G. Stones, 'The Kings & Queens of Scotland', ed. Richard Oram, and ‘Robert the Bruce' by Caroline Bingham.
Because he was left with no male heir, Alexander had need of marrying again. All he had left as potential heir was his granddaughter, Margaret, the 'Maid of Norway'. So it was that Alexander contracted to marry Yolande (var. Yolent, Joleta, Iolanthe, & Violette), Comtesse de Montfort, daughter of Robert IV, Comte de Dreux. She was French, in case you hadn’t guessed, and by all accounts quite attractive. She was also much younger than Alexander, being twenty-two years his junior. The marriage was celebrated on St. Calixtus' day, the 14th of October, 1285, at Jedburgh Abbey. Five months later, tragedy struck.

On the night of the 18-19th March, 1286, King Alexander III, then still an active and virile forty-four, decided to return to Kinghorn Castle on horseback. He was no doubt keen to get back to his marital bed for a bit of siring. Nevertheless, he was advised not to make the journey over to Fife, because it was after dark and the weather was very bad. Nothing loath, he rode off anyway. On the way, he became separated from his escorts in the fog and whatever happened next, nobody really knows. In any case, that morning (the 19th) he was found dead, with a broken neck, at the foot of a very steep rocky embankment. The common belief is that his horse stumbled and threw him, pitching him to his untimely and accidental death.

One prophecy relating to the death of Alexander III was the work of Thomas Learmonth, better known as Thomas the Rhymer, True Thomas or Thomas of Ercildoune. Thomas was a 13th Century Scottish laird from Ercildoune (now Earlston) who is the protagonist of the ballad 'Thomas the Rhymer' (Childe Ballad number 37). Thomas was a bard and a harpist, and a bit of a prophet in his day, having gained his 'powers' from a chance meeting with a Faerie on a grey horse by the Eildon Tree on Huntlie Bank, near Melrose. The Faerie gave Thomas a magic apple, which he ate and in so doing gained the gift of prophecy in rhyme or the 'tongue whit canna lee'. Thomas is also reputed to have been the author of the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Isolde.

Thomas foretold the King's death after being encouraged to make a prophecy by the Earl of Douglas, at Dunbar. In most records, True Thomas is said to have spoken thus: “Alas for the morrow, day of misery and calamity! Before the hour of noon there will assuredly be felt such a mighty storm in Scotland that its like has not been known for long ages past. The blast of it will cause nations to tremble, will make those who hear it dumb, and will humble the high, and lay the strong level with the ground.”

Another prophecy, which you can read about in Marion Campbell's 'Alexander III', involves an omen, which occurred at the wedding of Alexander III and Yolande de Druex. According to Bower, in his 'Scotichronicon', at the wedding masque, an apparition was seen gliding in behind the musicians, which brought their playing to a sudden halt. All present were appalled at what was seen and the vision was taken as a premonition of the King's death.

Omen, premonition or prophecy, the 'blast' that occurred overnight on the 18-19th March was indeed a body blow to Scotland, notwithstanding the ramifications took a while to be fully understood. Alexander's death resulted in the crisis of succession that led directly to the Wars of Independence with Edward Longshanks and Norman England.


  1. carter_ian@hotmail.com11 March 2013 at 22:07

    My grandmother's (Marjorie Weatherly) grandmother was Agnes Kinghorn, and she was related to Thomas Rhymer.

    I was born March 19, 1961, exactly 675 years after AKIII died!

    Ian Carter
    Marnoo, Wimmera, Australia

    1. That's pretty cool, Ian; nice to hear from you.

    2. thanks Ian !

      Here is Marjorie Weatherly

      Do you know any link from Learmonth to Weatherly?

      Here is the Kinghorn - Weatherly link - is Agnes related to AKIII??

    3. Hi Ian,
      thanks for the link to Marjorie; obviously a talented lady, of whom you should be proud.

      I've not come across any links in the way you suggest; that level of detailed genealogy is beyond my limited resources, I'm afraid.


  2. Hey Ian, was wondering what you think might have happened had Alexander Prince of Scotland not died

    1. Hi Vivek; that's easy! Alexander's heir, by Yolande, would have gone on to conquer England, that is, after a weak Edward II was usurped by his nobles, who then invited Alexander IV to become their king. So, after a few obligatory battles, which Eck won, with the majority of English nobles on his side, he took up residence in Westminster. He then turned his attention to France and after a few skirmishes, aided by an emergent warrior called Wallace, he was able to assume that throne, too, making him a very powerful monarch. Challenged by some tart called Joan, from Arc, he humoured her for a while, then had her burned at the stake as a heretic. He died in peace, in Stirling castle, and his son became Alexander V, who went on to become the Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of all Europe west of the Danube. Cheers, IanC