Alexander II of Scotland

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Alexander II
Alexander II (Alba) i.JPG
King of Scotland
Reign4 December 1214 6 July 1249
Coronation 6 December 1214
Predecessor William I
Successor Alexander III
Born24 August 1198
Haddington, East Lothian
Died6 July 1249(1249-07-06) (aged 50)
Kerrera, Inner Hebrides
Joan of England
(m. 1221;died 1238)

Marie de Coucy (m. 1239)
Issue Alexander III of Scotland
House Dunkeld
Father William the Lion
Mother Ermengarde de Beaumont

Alexander II (Mediaeval Gaelic: Alaxandair mac Uilliam; Modern Gaelic: Alasdair mac Uilleim; 24 August 1198 6 July 1249) was King of Scotland from 1214 until his death. He concluded the Treaty of York (1237) which defined the boundary between England and Scotland, virtually unchanged today.

Middle Irish is the Goidelic language which was spoken in Ireland, most of Scotland and the Isle of Man from circa 900–1200 AD; it is therefore a contemporary of late Old English and early Middle English. The modern Goidelic languages—Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx—are all descendants of Middle Irish.

Scottish Gaelic Celtic language native to Scotland

Scottish Gaelic or Scots Gaelic, sometimes also referred to simply as Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Celtic and Indo-European language family, native to the Gaels of Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish. Most of modern Scotland was once Gaelic-speaking, as evidenced especially by Gaelic-language placenames.

The Treaty of York was an agreement between the kings Henry III of England and Alexander II of Scotland, signed at York on 25 September 1237, which affirmed that Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland were subject to English sovereignty. This established the Anglo-Scottish border in a form that remains almost unchanged to modern times. The treaty detailed the future status of several feudal properties and addressed other issues between the two kings, and historically marked the end of the Kingdom of Scotland's attempts to extend its frontier southward.


Early life

He was born at Haddington, East Lothian, the only son of the Scottish king William the Lion and Ermengarde of Beaumont. He spent time in England (John of England knighted him at Clerkenwell Priory in 1213) before succeeding to the kingdom on the death of his father on 4 December 1214, being crowned at Scone on 6 December the same year.

Haddington, East Lothian town in East Lothian, Scotland

The Royal Burgh of Haddington is a town in East Lothian, Scotland. It is the main administrative, cultural and geographical centre for East Lothian, which as a result of late-nineteenth century Scottish local government reforms took the form of the county of Haddingtonshire for the period from 1889-1921. It lies about 17 miles (27 km) east of Edinburgh. The name Haddington is Anglo-Saxon, dating from the sixth or seventh century AD when the area was incorporated into the kingdom of Bernicia. The town, like the rest of the Lothian region, was ceded by King Edgar of England and became part of Scotland in the tenth century. Haddington received burghal status, one of the earliest to do so, during the reign of David I (1124–1153), giving it trading rights which encouraged its growth into a market town.

William the Lion King of the Scots from 1165 to 1214

William the Lion, sometimes styled William I, also known by the nickname Garbh, "the Rough", reigned as King of Scotland from 1165 to 1214. He had the second-longest reign in Scottish history before the Act of Union with England in 1707. James VI would have the longest.

Clerkenwell Priory Grade I listed priory in the United Kingdom

Clerkenwell Priory was a priory of the Monastic Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, in Clerkenwell, London. Run according to the Augustinian rule, it was the residence of the Hospitallers' Grand Prior in England, and was thus their English headquarters. Its great landholding near London until Protestant monarch Edward VI of England was in the former north of Marylebone: St John's Wood which it had farmed out on agricultural tenancies as a source of produce and income.

King of Scots

In 1215, the year after his accession, the clans Meic Uilleim and MacHeths, inveterate enemies of the Scottish crown, broke into revolt; but loyalist forces speedily quelled the insurrection. In the same year Alexander joined the English barons in their struggle against John of England, and led an army into the Kingdom of England in support of their cause. [1] This action led to the sacking of Berwick-upon-Tweed as John's forces ravaged the north.

The Meic Uilleim (MacWilliams) were the Gaelic descendants of William fitz Duncan, grandson of Máel Coluim mac Donnchada, king of Scots. They were excluded from the succession by the descendants of Máel Coluim's son David I during the 12th century and raised a number of rebellions to vindicate their claims to the Mormaerdom of Moray and perhaps to the rule of Scotland.

The MacHeths were a Celtic kindred who raised several rebellions against the Scotto-Norman kings of Scotland in the 12th and 13th centuries. Their origins have long been debated.

Kingdom of England historic sovereign kingdom on the British Isles (927–1649; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

The Scottish forces reached the south coast of England at the port of Dover where in September 1216, Alexander paid homage to the pretender Prince Louis of France for his lands in England, chosen by the barons to replace King John. But John having died, the Pope and the English aristocracy changed their allegiance to his nine-year-old son, Henry, forcing the French and the Scots armies to return home. [2]

Dover town and major ferry port in Kent, South East England

Dover is a major ferry port in Kent, South East England. It faces France across the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury and east of Maidstone. The town is the administrative centre of the Dover District and home of the Dover Calais ferry through the Port of Dover. The surrounding chalk cliffs are known as the White Cliffs of Dover.

Louis VIII of France King of French

Louis VIII, called the Lion, was King of France from 1223 to 1226, the eighth from the House of Capet. From 1216 to 1217, he also claimed to be King of England. Louis was the only surviving son of King Philip II of France by his first wife, Isabelle of Hainaut, from whom he inherited the County of Artois.

Henry III of England 13th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Henry III, also known as Henry of Winchester, was King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death. The son of King John and Isabella of Angoulême, Henry assumed the throne when he was only nine in the middle of the First Barons' War. Cardinal Guala declared the war against the rebel barons to be a religious crusade and Henry's forces, led by William Marshal, defeated the rebels at the battles of Lincoln and Sandwich in 1217. Henry promised to abide by the Great Charter of 1225, which limited royal power and protected the rights of the major barons. His early rule was dominated first by Hubert de Burgh and then Peter des Roches, who re-established royal authority after the war. In 1230, the King attempted to reconquer the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father, but the invasion was a debacle. A revolt led by William Marshal's son, Richard, broke out in 1232, ending in a peace settlement negotiated by the Church.

Peace between Henry III, Louis of France, and Alexander followed on 12 September 1217 with the treaty of Kingston. Diplomacy further strengthened the reconciliation by the marriage of Alexander to Henry's sister Joan of England on 18 June or 25 June 1221. [3]

In 1222 Jon Haraldsson, the last native Scandinavian to be Jarl of Orkney, was indirectly implicated in the burning of Bishop Adam at his hall at Halkirk by local farmers when this part of Caithness was still part of the Kingdom of Norway. A contemporary chronicler, Boethius the Dane blamed Haraldsson for the bishop's death. After the Jarl swore oaths to his own innocence, Alexander took the opportunity to assert his claims to the mainland part of the Orkney jarldom. He visited Caithness in person, and hanged the majority of the farmers while mutilating the rest. His actions were applauded by Pope Honorius III, and a quarter of a century later, he was continuing to receive commendation from the Vatican, as in the reward of a bull from Celestine IV.

Jon Haraldsson was a Norwegian noble who served as the Jarl of Orkney between 1206 and 1231. Jon Haraldsson and his brother David were the sons of Harald Maddadsson with his second wife Hvarflod, daughter of Earl Máel Coluim of Moray. Jon and David were joint Earls of Orkney after the death of their father in 1206. David Haraldsson died of sickness in 1214, leaving Jon Haraldsson to rule alone. William the Lion, king of Scotland, took Jon's daughter hostage in August 1214 as part of a peace agreement with the new sole Earl.

Adam of Melrose was Abbot of Melrose and Bishop of Caithness, famously burned to death by the husbandmen of Caithness. At the time, Caithness was part of the Jarldom of Orkney, which formed part of the Kingdom of Norway.

Halkirk village on the River Thurso in Caithness, Scotland

Halkirk is a village on the River Thurso in Caithness, in the Highland council area of Scotland. From Halkirk the B874 road runs towards Thurso in the north and towards Georgemas in the east. The village is within the parish of Halkirk, and is said by locals to be Scotland's first planned village.

Alexander the warrior and knight: the reverse side of Alexander II's Great Seal, enhanced as a 19th-century steel engraving. Legend: Alexander Deo rectore Rex Scottorum
(Alexander, with God as his guide, king of the Scots) Alexander II (Alba) ii.JPG
Alexander the warrior and knight: the reverse side of Alexander II's Great Seal, enhanced as a 19th-century steel engraving. Legend: Alexander Deo rectore Rex Scottorum (Alexander, with God as his guide, king of the Scots)

During the same period, Alexander subjugated the hitherto semi-independent district of Argyll (much smaller than the modern area by that name, it only comprised Craignish, Ardscotnish, Glassary, Glenary, and Cowal; Lorn was a separate province, while Kintyre and Knapdale were part of Suðreyar). Royal forces crushed a revolt in Galloway in 1235 without difficulty; [2] nor did an invasion attempted soon afterwards by its exiled leaders meet with success. Soon afterwards a claim for homage from Henry of England drew forth from Alexander a counter-claim to the northern English counties. The two kingdoms, however, settled this dispute by a compromise in 1237. [1] This was the Treaty of York, which defined the boundary between the two kingdoms as running between the Solway Firth (in the west) and the mouth of the River Tweed (in the east).

Joan died in March 1238 in Essex. Alexander married his second wife, Marie de Coucy, the following year on 15 May 1239. Together they had one son, the future Alexander III, born in 1241.

A threat of invasion by Henry in 1243 for a time interrupted the friendly relations between the two countries; but the prompt action of Alexander in anticipating his attack, and the disinclination of the English barons for war, compelled him to make peace next year at Newcastle.

Alexander now turned his attention to securing the Western Isles, which were still part of the Norwegian domain of Suðreyjar. [1] He repeatedly attempted negotiations and purchase, but without success. [2] Alexander set out to conquer these islands but died on the way in 1249. [4] This dispute over the Western Isles, also known as the Hebrides, was not resolved until 1266 when Magnus VI of Norway ceded them to Scotland along with the Isle of Man. [5]

The English chronicler Matthew Paris in his Chronica Majora described Alexander as red-haired:

[King John] taunted King Alexander, and because he was red-headed, sent word to him, saying, 'so shall we hunt the red fox-cub from his lairs. [6]


Coat of arms of Alexander II as it appears on folio 146v of Royal MS 14 C VII (Historia Anglorum). The inverted shield represents the king's death in 1249. The blazon for the arms was Or, a lion rampant and an orle fleury gules. Alexander II, King of Scotland, coat of arms (Royal MS 14 C VII, 146v).jpg
Coat of arms of Alexander II as it appears on folio 146v of Royal MS 14 C VII ( Historia Anglorum ). The inverted shield represents the king's death in 1249. The blazon for the arms was Or, a lion rampant and an orle fleury gules.

Alexander attempted to persuade Ewen, the son of Duncan, Lord of Argyll, to sever his allegiance to Haakon IV of Norway. When Ewen rejected these attempts, Alexander sailed forth to compel him, but on the way he suffered a fever at the Isle of Kerrera in the Inner Hebrides. [1] He died there in 1249 and was buried at Melrose Abbey


1. Joan of England , (22 July 1210 4 March 1238), was the eldest legitimate daughter and third child of John of England and Isabella of Angoulême. She and Alexander II married on 21 June 1221, at York Minster. Alexander was 23. Joan was 11. They had no children. Joan was Alexander's 3rd cousin, their closest common ancestor being Henry I of England. Joan died in Essex in 1238, and was buried at Tarant Crawford Abbey in Dorset.

2. Marie de Coucy , who became mother of Alexander III of Scotland. She was Alexander's third cousin once removed by their common ancestor Hugh, Count of Vermandois.

Fictional portrayals

Alexander II has been depicted in historical novels:

Related Research Articles

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Harald Maddadsson Earl of Orkney and Mormaer of Caithness

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Events from the year 1249 in the Kingdom of Scotland.

The Scottish expedition into Argyll (1221—22) was an Scottish expedition into Argyll and the surrounding region. The expedition led by King Alexander II of Scotland, appears to have been undertaken to counter the threat of Clann Somhairle and alliances created between the Crovan dynasty of the Isle of Mann and Ailean mac Lachlainn, Lord of Galloway and Constable of Scotland and old alliances with the Meic Uilleim and MacHeths. The sub kingdom of Argyll was brought into the Kingdom of Scotland, after expelling Ruaidhrí mac Raghnaill from the area and the submission and swearing of fealty given by Donnchadh of Argyll. Alexander II set about formalising Norman feudal law and Scottish administration of the area and ordered the building of royal castles at Dunoon, Cowal and Tarbet, Kintyre.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alexander II."  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 563.
  2. 1 2 3 "Alexander II, King of Scots 1214 – 1249", Scotland's History, BBC
  3. Chisholm 1911.
  4. Scotland A Concise History, Fourth Edition. New York: Thames & Hudson. 2012. p. 32. ISBN   978-0-500-28987-7.
  5. "Alexander III King of Scotland". Encyclopedia Brittanica. 28 November 2017.
  6. Scottish annals from English chroniclers A.D.500 to 1286, Alan Orr Anderson, Paul Watkins, 1991.
  7. Heath, Ian (2016). Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300. p. 250. ISBN   9781326256524 . Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  8. "Tranter First Edition Books, Publication Timeline"

Further reading

Alexander II of Scotland
Born: 24 August 1198 Died: 6 July 1249
Regnal titles
Preceded by
William I
King of Scotland
Succeeded by
Alexander III