William the Lion

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William I
William I, King of Scots (seal 01).png
Seal of William the Lion
King of Scots
Reign9 December 1165 – 4 December 1214
Coronation 24 December 1165
Predecessor Malcolm IV
Successor Alexander II
Bornc.1142 [1]
Died(1214-12-04)4 December 1214 (aged 72)
Issue Margaret, Countess of Kent
Isabella, Countess of Norfolk
Alexander II of Scotland
House House of Dunkeld
Father Henry of Scotland
Mother Ada de Warenne

William the Lion (Mediaeval Gaelic: Uilliam mac Eanric (i.e. William, son of Henry); Modern Gaelic: Uilleam mac Eanraig), sometimes styled William I, also known by the nickname Garbh, "the Rough", [2] (c. 1142 – 4 December 1214) reigned as King of Scots from 1165 to 1214. He had the second-longest reign in Scottish history before the Act of Union with England in 1707. James VI (reigned 1567–1625) would have the longest.

Acts of Union 1707 Acts of Parliament creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain

The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. They put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706, following negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. By the two Acts, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland—which at the time were separate states with separate legislatures, but with the same monarch—were, in the words of the Treaty, "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain".

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.



William was born circa 1142, during the reign of his grandfather King David I of Scotland. His parents were the King's son Prince Henry and his wife Ada de Warenne. William was around 10 years old when his father died in 1152, making his elder brother Malcolm the heir apparent to their grandfather. From his father William inherited the Earldom of Northumbria. David I died the next year, and William became heir presumptive to the new king, Malcolm IV. In 1157, William lost the Earldom of Northumbria to Henry II of England.

David I of Scotland 12th-century King of Scots, Prince of the Cumbrians

David I or Dauíd mac Maíl Choluim was a 12th-century ruler who was Prince of the Cumbrians from 1113 to 1124 and later King of the Scots from 1124 to 1153. The youngest son of Malcolm III and Margaret of Wessex, David spent most of his childhood in Scotland, but was exiled to England temporarily in 1093. Perhaps after 1100, he became a dependent at the court of King Henry I. There he was influenced by the Anglo-French culture of the court.

Henry of Scotland Father of Malcolm IV and William I of Scotland

Henry of Scotland was heir apparent to the Kingdom of Alba. He was also the 3rd Earl of Northumberland and the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. He was the son of King David I of Scotland and Queen Maud, 2nd Countess of Huntingdon.

Ada de Warenne was a Scottish princess, the Anglo-Norman wife of Henry of Scotland, Earl of Northumbria and Earl of Huntingdon. She was the daughter of William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey by Elizabeth of Vermandois, and a great-granddaughter of Henry I of France. She became mother to two Kings of Scots, Malcolm the Maiden and William the Lion.

Malcolm IV did not live for long, and upon his death on 9 December 1165, at age 24, William ascended the throne. The new monarch was crowned on 24 December 1165. In contrast to his deeply religious, frail brother, William was powerfully built, redheaded, and headstrong. He was an effective monarch whose reign was marred by his ill-fated attempts to regain control of his paternal inheritance of Northumbria from the Anglo-Normans.

Traditionally, William is credited with founding Arbroath Abbey, the site of the later Declaration of Arbroath.

Arbroath Abbey abbey in Arbroath, Scotland

Arbroath Abbey, in the Scottish town of Arbroath, was founded in 1178 by King William the Lion for a group of Tironensian Benedictine monks from Kelso Abbey. It was consecrated in 1197 with a dedication to the deceased Saint Thomas Becket, whom the king had met at the English court. It was William's only personal foundation — he was buried before the high altar of the church in 1214.

Declaration of Arbroath declaration of Scottish independence

The Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish independence, made in 1320. It is in the form of a letter in Latin submitted to Pope John XXII, dated 6 April 1320, intended to confirm Scotland's status as an independent, sovereign state and defending Scotland's right to use military action when unjustly attacked.

He was not known as "the Lion" during his own lifetime, and the title did not relate to his tenacious character or his military prowess. It was attached to him because of his flag or standard, a red lion rampant with a forked tail ( queue fourchée ) on a yellow background. This (with the substitution of a 'double tressure fleury counter-fleury' border instead of an orle) went on to become the Royal Banner of Scotland, still used today but quartered with those of England and of Ireland. It became attached to him because the chronicler John of Fordun called him the "Lion of Justice".

Lion (heraldry) element in heraldry

The lion is a common charge in heraldry. It traditionally symbolises courage, nobility, royalty, strength, stateliness and valour, because historically it has been regarded as the "king of beasts". Lion refers also to a Judeo-Christian symbolism. The Lion of Judah stands in the coat of arms of Jerusalem. Similar looking lion can be found e.g. in the coat of arms of the Swedish royal House of Bjelbo, from there in turn derived into the coat of arms of Finland, formerly belonging to Sweden, and many others examples for similar historical reasons.

Royal Banner of Scotland Scottish Royal Banner of Arms

The Royal Banner of the Royal Arms of Scotland, also known as the Royal Banner of Scotland, or more commonly the Lion Rampant of Scotland, and historically as the Royal Standard of Scotland, or Banner of the King of Scots, is the Royal Banner of Scotland, and historically, the Royal Standard of the Kingdom of Scotland. Used historically by the Scottish monarchs, the banner differs from Scotland's national flag, the Saltire, in that its correct use is restricted by an Act of the Parliament of Scotland to only a few Great Officers of State who officially represent the Monarchy in Scotland. It is also used in an official capacity at royal residences in Scotland when the Head of State is not present.

Quartering (heraldry) method of joining several different coats of arms together

Quartering in is a method of joining several different coats of arms together in one shield by dividing the shield into equal parts and placing different coats of arms in each division.

William was a key player in the Revolt of 1173–74 against Henry II. In 1174, at the Battle of Alnwick, during a raid in support of the revolt, William recklessly charged the English troops himself, shouting, "Now we shall see which of us are good knights!" He was unhorsed and captured by Henry's troops led by Ranulf de Glanvill and taken in chains to Newcastle, then Northampton, and then transferred to Falaise in Normandy. Henry then sent an army to Scotland and occupied it. As ransom and to regain his kingdom, William had to acknowledge Henry as his feudal superior and agree to pay for the cost of the English army's occupation of Scotland by taxing the Scots. The cost was equal to 40,000 Scottish Merks. [3] The church of Scotland was also subjected to that of England. This he did by signing the Treaty of Falaise. He was then allowed to return to Scotland. In 1175 he swore fealty to Henry II at York Castle.

The Revolt of 1173–74 was a rebellion against King Henry II of England by three of his sons, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their rebel supporters. The revolt ended in failure after eighteen months; Henry's rebellious family members had to resign themselves to his continuing rule and were reconciled to him.

The Battle of Alnwick (1174) is one of two battles fought near the town of Alnwick, in Northumberland, England. In the battle, which occurred on 13 July 1174, William I of Scotland, also known as William the Lion, was captured by a small English force led by Ranulf de Glanvill.

Ranulf de Glanvill was Chief Justiciar of England during the reign of King Henry II (1154–89) and was the probable author of Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Anglie, the earliest treatise on the laws of England.

The humiliation of the Treaty of Falaise triggered a revolt in Galloway which lasted until 1186, and prompted construction of a castle at Dumfries. In 1179, meanwhile, William and his brother David personally led a force northwards into Easter Ross, establishing two further castles, north of the Beauly and Cromarty Firths; [4] one on the Black Isle at Ederdour; and the other at Dunkeath, near the mouth of the Cromarty Firth opposite Cromarty. [5] The aim was to discourage the Norse Earls of Orkney from expanding beyond Caithness.

A further rising in 1181 involved Donald Meic Uilleim, descendant of King Duncan II. Donald briefly took over Ross; not until his death (1187) was William able to reclaim Donald's stronghold of Inverness. Further royal expeditions were required in 1197 and 1202 to fully neutralise the Orcadian threat.

The Treaty of Falaise remained in force for the next fifteen years. Then the English king Richard the Lionheart, needing money to take part in the Third Crusade, agreed to terminate it in return for 10,000 silver marks, on 5 December 1189.

William attempted to purchase Northumbria from Richard in 1194, as he had a strong claim over it. However, his offer of 15,000 marks was rejected due to wanting the castles within the lands, which Richard was not willing to give. [6]

Despite the Scots regaining their independence, Anglo-Scottish relations remained tense during the first decade of the 13th century. In August 1209 King John decided to flex the English muscles by marching a large army to Norham (near Berwick), in order to exploit the flagging leadership of the ageing Scottish monarch. As well as promising a large sum of money, the ailing William agreed to his elder daughters marrying English nobles and, when the treaty was renewed in 1212, John apparently gained the hand of William's only surviving legitimate son, and heir, Alexander, for his eldest daughter, Joan.

Despite continued dependence on English goodwill, William's reign showed much achievement. He threw himself into government with energy and diligently followed the lines laid down by his grandfather, David I. Anglo-French settlements and feudalization were extended, new burghs founded, criminal law clarified, the responsibilities of justices and sheriffs widened, and trade grew. Arbroath Abbey was founded (1178), and the bishopric of Argyll established (c.1192) in the same year as papal confirmation of the Scottish church by Pope Celestine III.

According to legend, "William is recorded in 1206 as curing a case of scrofula by his touching and blessing a child with the ailment whilst at York". [7] William died in Stirling in 1214 and lies buried in Arbroath Abbey. His son, Alexander II, succeeded him as king, reigning from 1214 to 1249.

Marriage and issue

Due to the terms of the Treaty of Falaise, Henry II had the right to choose William's bride. As a result, William married Ermengarde de Beaumont, a great-granddaughter of King Henry I of England, at Woodstock Palace in 1186. Edinburgh Castle was her dowry. The marriage was not very successful, and it was many years before she bore him an heir. William and Ermengarde's children were:

  1. Margaret (1193–1259), married Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent.
  2. Isabel (1195–1253), married Roger Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk.
  3. Alexander II of Scotland (1198–1249).
  4. Marjorie (1200 – 17 November 1244), [8] married Gilbert Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke.

Out of wedlock, William I had numerous children, their descendants being among those who would lay claim to the Scottish crown.

By an unnamed daughter of Adam de Hythus:

  1. Margaret, married Eustace de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick. [9]

By Isabel d'Avenel:

  1. Robert de London [10]
  2. Henry de Galightly, father of Patrick Galithly one of the competitors to the crown in 1291 [11]
  3. Ada Fitzwilliam (c.1164–1200), married Patrick I, Earl of Dunbar (c.1152–1232) [11]
  4. Aufrica, married William de Say, and whose grandson Roger de Mandeville was one of the competitors to the crown in 1291 [11]
  5. Isabella Mac William married Robert III de Brus then Robert de Ros (died 1227), Magna Carta Suretor [12]



  1. A dictionary of British history: "William I (c.1142-1214), king of Scots (1165-1214), later known as ‘the Lion’. Younger brother and successor to Malcolm IV, he was granted the earldom of Northumberland by his grandfather David I in 1152"
  2. Uilleam Garbh; e.g. Annals of Ulster, s.a. 1214.6; Annals of Loch Cé, s.a. 1213.10.
  3. Cardonnel, Adam de. Numismata scotiæ, or A series of the Scottish coinage, from the reign of William The lion to the union. By Adam De Cardonnel, member of the antiquarian society of Edinburgh. Edinburgh, M,DCC,LXXXVI. [1786].
  4. Matheson, Alister Farquhar (28 Aug 2014). Scotland's Northwest Frontier: A Forgotten British Borderland. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 19. ISBN   978-1-78306-442-7.
  5. Crowl, Philip Axtell (1986). The intelligent traveller's guide to historic Scotland. Congdon & Weed. p. 83.
  6. Gillingham, John (2000). Richard. p. 272. ISBN   0-300-09404-3.
  7. Rommel, Albert (2015). The Esoteric Codex: Sorcery (1st ed.). lulu.com. p. 216. ISBN   978-1-312-92968-5 . Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  8. Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom, A.A.M. Duncan, p527
  9. Saul, Nigel. "Eustace de Vesci". Magna Carta Trust. Retrieved 8 Aug 2016.
  10. Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom, A.A.M. Duncan, p175
  11. 1 2 3 Balfour Paul, Vol. I, p.5
  12. Saul, Nigel. "Robert de Ros". Magna Carta Trust. Retrieved 8 August 2016.


William the Lion
Born: c. 1142 Died: 4 December 1214
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Malcolm IV
King of Scots
Succeeded by
Alexander II
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Henry of Scotland
Earl of Northumbria
Preceded by
Malcolm IV of Scotland
Earl of Huntingdon
Succeeded by
Simon III of St Liz

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