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.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Alexander II knighted by John I

Alexander II was knighted by King John of England on the 8th of March, 1212.

The King of Scots known as Alexander II wasn't named after his dad, but he did pass on his name to his son, who became Alexander III. And in case you're wondering, yes there was an Alexander I, who was his great-grand-uncle, being the brother of his great-grandfather, David I. Alexander II was the only son of William I (a.k.a. William the Lion), and Ermengarde de Beaumont, and he was born in Haddington, East Lothian, on the 24th of August, 1198. Whatever other nicknames he might have had, like 'the Red', Alexander II could be described as the King of ‘three treaties’. During his eventful career, he made three treaties with the same English King, Henry III, the son of King John; he of Magna Carta infamy. The three treaties were:
the Treaty of Kingston; the Treaty of York; and the Treaty of Newcastle. They liked to spread things around in those days, a bit like bringing soccer to the provinces when the national stadium was being rebuilt.

King Henry III of England was to play a big role in Alexander's life, but English interference began with Henry's predecessor. On the 8th of March, 1212, when aged just thirteen, Alexander was knighted by King John of England at Clerkenwell Priory. Nobody can say why Alexander was knighted by John of England. You might have expected his own father to have knighted him, but maybe there was an etiquette about such things. Perhaps being knighted by a foreign king carried a bit of prestige. Maybe John, then merely the brother of Richard I (Richard the Lionheart), had offered to do the honours when he and Alexander's father had met at the signing of the 'Quitclaim of Canterbury', yet another treaty, back in 1189, which of course was before Alexander was born.

Just three years later, Alexander became King of Scots, at the age of sixteen. That transition occurred on the 4th of December, 1214, the day his father died, in Stirling.He was proclaimed Alexander I on the 6thof December, 1214, at Scone Abbey, in the traditional manner. Despite his youth at the time of his accession to the throne, King Alexander II made quite a strong early impression. The year after succeeding to the throne, in 1215, Alexander made it his business to quell a rebellion by the persistently revolting mac Williams and mac Heths, whose territory lay in Moray and Angus.

On Alexander’s orders, the mac Williams were totally wiped out in a brutal reprisal, which was gruesome enough, even by the standards of the time. The last surviving member of the mac William family didn’t survive for long after her adult relations were all killed. Days later, a wee bairn,  the infant daughter of the Chief MacWilliam, had her brains bashed out against the Mercat Cross in Forfar, just in case she grew up and gave birth to rebellious offspring. The dirty deed wasn't carried out by Alexander II in person, mind you; he got someone else to grab her by the ankles and swing her against the pillar. In fact, Alexander wasn't present and you can argue that the child's barbarous execution wasn’t even done by Royal command; it was more down to over enthusiasm on the part of Alexander's men, you might say.

Young Alexander made a vigorous start to his dealings with England and has the honour of being the only Scottish King to take an invasion force all the way to the south coast of England. In 1215, the same year as he was dealing with the rebellious mac Williams and mac Heths, Alexander threw his weight behind the rebellion of the English barons against John I. Obviously, knighting someone wasn't a safeguard against their later hostility as, hoping to secure the territories of Northumbria as his prize, Alexander's army invaded England.

King John didn't like that much and determined that he'd smoke out “the little fox cub” and set to burning Berwick. Later that year, in the summer of 1216, a French invasion force under Prince Louis of France, a claimant to the English throne, landed in Kent. Alexander’s invading Army marched south, where he met Louis at Canterbury and was granted the land of ‘Loonois’ (probably Northumberland). Having gained that concession from the French Prince, exactly what he'd been after, Alexander returned whence he'd came.

The death of John I in October of 1216, saw the English Barons change their allegiances, preferring John’s Plantagenet son to any French popinjay. The French were defeated at the Battle of Lincoln in 1217 and the Papal Legate, Gualo, excommunicated Alexander for his support of the French. Alexander’s plans for expansion into England were abandoned and he was left with nothing more than a renewed grant of his Earldom of Huntingdon. A peace then ensued between Henry III, Prince Louis and Alexander, which was formally settled on the 12th of September, 1217, by the Treaty of Kingston.

Diplomacy between the English and Scots was further advanced by Alexander’s marriage to Henry’s eleven years old sister, Joan of England, in June, 1221, at York Minster. Joan died back in England in March, 1238, having born Alexander no heir, and the following year, in May of 1239, Alexander married Marie de Coucy, daughter of Enguerand, Baron de Coucy. Their only son, the future Alexander III, was born in 1241. However, the year before Joan died, after the Kingston treaty had expired, the bold Henry III issued the Scots King with a claim for homage, based on the Treaty of Falaise. Alexander promptly issued a counter claim to the northern English counties of Northumbria and Cumbria.

The ensuing dispute, which was a bit of a none event, was settled by the Treaty of York on the 25th of September, 1237. Incidentally, that Treaty is the one which defined the boundary between England and Scotland, essentially the border we know today. Seven years later, in 1244, another half-hearted attempt at aggression was made by Henry, but his barons sued for peace and the Treaty of Newcastle was the result, in which a marriage alliance between Alexander’s son and Henry’s daughter was arranged.

In the late 1240s, Alexander II ramped up his efforts to regain control of the Hebrides from Norway. Having long since been controlled by Norse rulers, Alexander had made numerous attempts to purchase the islands, however, in 1249, when efforts at negotiation and purchase had failed, he mounted a military campaign and sailed forth in a fleet to take the isles by force. On the way to deal with Ewen, the heir to Argyll, Alexander suffered from a fever and died in the bay of the Isle of Kerrera, on the 6th of July, 1249. He was buried at Melrose Abbey and his ambitions for expanding his realm in the north and west passed on to his son, Alexander III.

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