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THE EARLS PALATINE OF STRATHERNE

[From Nisbet's Heraldry; Burke's Peerage and Celtic Scotland]

THE EARLDOM OF STRATHERNE was certainly one of the most ancient dignities of the Scottish realm, for we find the Earls made mention of as far back as 1115. In earlier times it formed a division of the Kingdom of Alban, and was known under the name of Fortrenn, but after the battle of Nectansmere (685) Alban became termed the Kingdom of the Picts. Fortrenn, or ancient Stratherne, originally comprehended the district of Menteith, which was erected into a separate Earldom in the reign of Malcolm IV, and it also contained the thanages of Struan and Duning held under the Earls, and that of Forteviot and the abthanerie of Madderty in the Crown. In Irish annals Stratherne is invariably referred to as Fortrenn. Collateral to the Earls was a line of Seneschals termed de Stratherne, one at least of whom bore a name in hereditary use with the line of these Earls, viz. Malise, and this has been a source of much confusion to historians generally. The old Earls carried for arms or two chevrons gules. The first on record is

I. MALISE, who appears as one of the seven Earls of Scotland witnessing the foundation charter of the Priory of Scone by Alexander III in 1115. He is there designed Mallus Earl of Stratherne. He signalised himself eminently at the battle of the Standard, 22nd August 1138. Before the battle numerous dissensions arose regarding the right to occupy the van, which King David was allotting to the Norman men-at-arms, in derogation of the claims of the men of Galloway to that honourable position. Thereon Malise, Earl of Stratherne, exclaimed indignantly to the King, "Whence arises this mighty confidence in these Normans ? I wear no armour, yet they who do will not advance beyond me this day". Malise is a witness to two charters by King David - one in the early part of his reign to the Monastery of Dunfermline, and one later in which David grants to Dunfermline the whole "shire" of Kirkcaldy. His son and successor was

II FERETH, 2nd Earl of Stratherne. Soon after the accession of Malcolm IV Fereth appears as witness to a charter of confirmation by that monarch to the Monastery of Dunfermline, being the first charter noted in Malcolm’s reign. Malcolm, Earl of Atholl, and the Earl of Angus were also present on that occasion. This Earl headed the revolt of six of the seven Earls of Scotland against Malcolm IV in 1160. Various motives have been attributed for this disaffection of the nobles. One authority ascribes the conspiracy to the too great familiarity of Malcolm with Henry, the English King, and his dislike of Louis, the French King. Another imputes the intention to depose Malcolm, and establish on the throne William the Atheling, "the Boy of Egremont", grandson of Duncan. Fordun, quoting the Chronicle of Melrose, says: - "Six Earls, Ferchard, Earl of Stratherne, to wit, and five other Earls, being stirred up against the King - not to compass any selfish end or through treason; but rather to guard the common weal - sought to take him, and laid siege to the keep of that town (Perth). God so ordering it, however, their undertaking was brought to nought for the nonce, and after not many days had rolled by he was, by the advice of the clergy, brought back to a good understanding with his nobles. In the same year Fereth witnesses a grant by Malcolm to the Monastery of Scone. Dying in 1171, he left two sons:

  1. GILBERT, next Earl;
  2. MALISE, designed brother of Gilbert in the foundation charter of Inchaffray, and to whom King William the Lion gave Kincardine, to be holden of Earl Robert.
The History of the Saint Clairs assigns to Fereth a daughter, Rosabelle (or Katharine), who became lady to Sir William St.Clair.

III GILBERT, 3rd Earl, succeeded in 1171 on the demise of Fereth, his father.

Three years later (1174) he is one of the hostages for the ransom of William the Lion, and presently (1178-80) he appears receiving a charter from that monarch, which is followed by another at an interval of a few years, anterior, however, to 1189. In 1198 he founded the Monastery of Inchaffray, Insula Missarum (the Isle of Masses), in Stratherne, and endowed it largely for canons regular. In July 1210, he divided his Earldom into three equal portions: one he gave to the Bishopric of Dunblane, another to the Monastery of St.John the Evangelist and monks of Inchaffray, and the third portion be reserved to himself and his heirs. He is one of the seven Earls of Scotland at the coronation of Alexander II in 1214. Contemporary with this Earl was Gilleness, Senescal de Stratherne, who left two sons, Malise, Seneschal de Stratherne, and Anechol, thane of Duning, Earl Gilbert died in 1223. By Matilda, daughter of William d'Aubigny, Earl of Albemarle, he had issue:

  1. GILCHRIST died during lifetime of father
  2. WILLIAM died during lifetime of father
  3. FARQUHARD, died during lifetime of father
  4. ROBERT, 4th Earl
  5. FERGUS, living circa 1200
  1. CHRISTIAN, married Sir Walter Oliphant
  2. MARY, married William Hamilton
IV ROBERT, 4th Earl, witnessed a charter of Alexander II of the Earldom of Fife in the eleventh year of that sovereign's reign, 1224-5. On the 3rd April 1231, Alexander II, by charter under the Great Seal, ratifies and confirms a former deed and grant by Earl Robert to Congal, son of Duncan, son of Malcolm, of the lands of Tullibardine. Muriel, daughter and heiress of Congal, married Malise, Senschal of Stratherne. When the differences between Alexander II and Henry II were accommodated by the Cardinal Legate at York in 1237, Robert was one of the witnesses to the treaty, and was bound by oath to maintain the agreement. He died before 1244, having, besides Malise, his son and heir, Annabella, married to Sir David Graham of Dundaff (ancestor of the Dukes of Montrose), who got with her the barony of Kincardine; and Amatilda, married to Malcolm, Earl of Fife. (Elsewhere it is stated the widow of Malcolm, Earl of Fife, married the heir of the Earl of Mar). In another work he is reported to have had a daughter, Lucia, married to Sir William St.Clair. Isabel, Countess of Stratherne, mentioned as second wife of Sir Walter Comyn, Earl of Menteith, was probably relict of this Earl.

V MALISE II, 5th Earl, succeeded his father in fortune and dignity. When Alexander II and Henry III, anno 1244, entered into a similar treaty to that between Alexander and Henry II, this Malise was one of the guarantees. In 1249 he assisted at the coronation of Alexander III He married, about 1243, Marjory (aged 24 in 1249, and dead in 1254), the second of the three daughters and co-heiresses of Robert de Muschamp, Baron of Wooler, and had issue two daughters and co-heiresses:

  1. MURIELLA, born in 1244, married the Earl of Mar, and died 1291-2 without issue
  2. MARJORY or MARY, born in 1248, married Nicholas de Graham (died ante 1306), and was mother of John de Graham, aged 28 in 1306
It is also stated that Issenda, sister of Sir Gilbert Gask, was Countess of Stratherne. She would be contemporaneous with this Earl. According to Douglas, he married the lady Egidia Comyn (she married, secondly, Philip Meldrum), daughter of Alexander, second Earl of Buchan, but Nisbet's Heraldry has it that he married Mary, daughter of Sir John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, by whom he had Malise, his heir. Balfour, in his Annals, has under 1272: "This same year, also, died that gallant and generous nobleman, Malise, Earl of Stratherne, in France; whose corpse was enbalmed and brought home to Scotland and solemly interred at Dunblane". [From Nisbet's Heraldry]

VI MALISE III, 6th Earl, succeeded on his father's demise. He may have firstly married the Lady Matilda of Orkney, daughter of Gilbride II of Orkney, she being contemporary with him. He certainly married Maria, daughter of Alexander, Lord of Argyll, and Dowager-Queen of Man, whose husband, Reginald. King of Man, had died in 1269. Malise was one of the guarantees of the marriage treaty of the Princess Margaret of Scotland with Eric, King of Norway, in 1281. He sat in the Parliament of Scone, 1283-4, when the Scottish nobles became bound to acknowledge Margaret of Norway as their sovereign in the event of the demise of Alexander III At Duffaly, on All Saints' Eve, 1284, Henry, son of the quondam [the deceased] Malise, Seneschal of Stratherne, confirms the charter of his mother, Muriel, daughter of Congal, to William de Moravia (son of Malcolm de Moravia) and his wife Adela (daughter to Muriel and sister to Henry) of the lands of Tullibardine. This Muriel, lady to Malise, Seneschal of Stratherne, has been erroneously mentioned as Countess of Stratherne, and Sir George Mackenzie, in his Science of Heraldry, gives us as an uncouth specimen, and in illustration of the antiquity of using supporters, the shield of arms of Muriel [Countess of Stratherne] supported on the left side by a falcon standing upon the neck of a duck, lying under the base point of a formal shield, and all placed within a lozenge, which he dates from the year 1284, and which is the oldest and ancientest that ever I met with. In 1286 he grants a charter of the lands of Cairntulloch to Malcolm, Lord of Logie, son of the quondam [the deceased] Malise, Lord Seneschal of Stratherne. This deed is witnessed by Alexander, Earl of Buchan, Justiciary of Scotland, and Sir Malcolm Moray, who married the daughter and heiress of Sir Gilbert Gask, and whose son William married Adda, daughter of Malise, Seneschal of Stratherne, by Muriel, daughter of Congal Fitz-Duncan. Malise, Earl of Stratherne, appears together with Maria, Regina de Man and Comitissa de Stratherne, in July 1292, swearing fealty to Edward I of England. In 1292 Maria, Comitissa de Stratherne, who was wife of Hugh de Abernethy, was summoned to Parliament to show cause why she should not restore to Alexander, son of the said Hugh, certain properties. From this it would seem that Alexander de Abernethy was nearing, or had attained, his majority, hence the claim. That this Maria was not the Queen-Dowager of Man is made manifest by them both appearing in a list of widows in 1296. It is most consistent with chronology to suppose the re-marriage of Maria Comyn, relict of Malise II, who died in 1271-2, with Hugh Abernethy soon after the Earl's death, and thus Alexander, the issue of the second marriage, would be attaining his majority and claiming the paternal estates. In 1293 Malise had a daughter, Matilda, contracted to Robert de Thony, being not yet in her twentieth year. [from Orkneyinga Saga]

Malise was one of the Scottish nobles summoned to attend Edward I into Gascony, 1st September 1294. In 1296 he was in the Scottish army that invaded England, for which, it appears, his estates were sequestered, He, however, again rendered fealty to Edward on the 13th July 1296, when the English monarch issued an order to repone Maria (as wife of Malise, Earl of S.) in her possessions. As Maria, Countess of Stratherne, who was wife of Hugh de Abernethy, also appears in a list of widows that year (1296), Skene presumes that Malise was then dead, thus accounting for her widowhood, and, going back to her previous appearance as Countess of S. in February 1292, considers it established that Malise III had died before that date, and that his son and successor, Malise IV, held the dignity for the brief interval between February 1292, and 1296, and was the husband of Maria, Countess de Stratherne, who was the wife of Hugh de Abernethy, and that by 1296 Malise IV had died. This is all highly speculative and improbable, and it is more likely that Malise III did not die till after 1310, as Malise IV - presumably of almost even age with his sister Matilda - would have been born about 1272, and could scarcely have had a son old enough to appear in the siege of Perth in 1310. Malise IV joined John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, in an expedition to England in 1297, where they besieged Carlyle, but had to raise the siege and return to Scotland. Presently they re-assembled, and took Dunbar, but the English made a vigorous effort and succeeded in recovering it. Nisbet's Heraldry, with uncertain authority, places the death of "the loyal Earl Malise, last of his race", in 1300. The Earl was with the English garrison in Perth, besieged by Bruce in 1310, under whose banners his son Malise fought and made him prisoner. It is likely both sire and son fought for Bruce at Bannockburn. Gordon, in his "History of Bruce", when describing that battle, makes King Edward rush into the throng with the "characteristic bravery of his race", killing the Earl of Stratherne and his son, and other knights whose names are unrecorded. [Celtic Scotland]

"Their angry King
Most bravely from his troops doth forth advance,
And there were killed by his princely hand
Seven valiant Knights whose names hath Time forgot.
Stratherne's old Earl there died beneath his Brand
Whose Son with Sorrow pricked, with Fury hot
Did fiercely him assail, but all in vain;
Death made him soon forget his Father's pain."

The Earl died between 1310 and 1320, leaving, beside his son and successor, Malise IV, a daughter Mary, married to Sir John Murray of Abercairney, who had issue Sir Maurice Moray, who married his cousin, Johanna de Stratherne, Countess-Dowager of Atholl in 1339; created Earl of Stratherne in 1345; and fell at Durham in 1346; and another daughter, Matilda, in 1293, contracted to Robert de Thony, who died without issue 1311.

VII MALISE IV, 7th Earl, was born about 1272, and we have already seen him figure at the siege of Perth in 1310. He was married during the lifetime of his father [Burke's Peerage], as appears by a charter of King Robert (1306-29) of the lands of Kingkell, Brechin, to Maria de Stratherne, wife of Malise de Stratherne, being then in apparency only, as the title is not accorded him, yet this same Maria figures as Countess of Stratherne when involved in the Brechin-Soulis conspiracy of 1320, so his father, Malise III must have died before that year. Soon after 1319 he confirms the grant of his father, Malise III, to Sir John Murray and Mary, daughter of Malise III In 1320 he signs the celebrated letter to the Pope. In 1331 he possesses the fourth part of Caithness, and falls at Halidon Hill on 11th July 1333. The Orcadian Diploma records that Malise II of Orkney, and V of Stratherne, married, first, Johanna, daughter of the Earl of Menteith, but it seems certain that Malise IV also married, secondly, a daughter of Sir John Menteith, by whom he had a daughter, Johanna, married, first, to John Campbell, Earl of Atholl, died 1333; secondly, John de Warrenne, Earl of Warren, Surrey, and Stratherne; and, thirdly (during life of her second husband), to her cousin, Sir Maurice de Moray (died 1346), whom she survived. Malise seems also to have married the heiress of Orkney (probably a daughter of John II by his countess, a daughter of Graham of Lovat), for he acquired the possessions and dignities of the Earldoms of Orkney and Caithness, and these, as well as those of Stratherne, he transmitted to his son and successor

VIII MALISE V, 8th Earl. From Dean Gules translation of the Orcadian Diploma we ascertain that King Magnus of Norway had directed the Lawman and Commons of Orkney to deliver to Earl Malise all charters, evidents, and letters of privilege pertaining to him concerning the Earldom of Orkney. Very little is known of this Earl. In 1334 he had endeavoured to recover Stratherne, which Earldom King Edward III of England had bestowed on Earl John de Warrenne, brother-in-law of Malise. He is supposed to have visited Norway about the same year, and in 1344 failing heirs-male, makes a special destination of the Earldom of Caithness to his daughter Isabella, who presently married Sir William St.Clair of Roslin, and, surviving all other issue of her father, died post 1404, transmitting her claim to that Earldom to her son Earl Henry II of Orkney, who allowed it to remain dormant, but the claim was successfully revived in the person of his son, Earl William, who thus became first of his line Earl of Caithness, anno 1455. The Diploma states that Earl Malise married, first, Joanna, daughter of the Earl of Menteith (perhaps his cousin), by whom he had -

  1. MATILDA, married Weyland de Ard, and had an only child, ALEXANDER DE ARD, EARL OF CAITHNESS (1375) without issue

And secondly, Marjory, daughter of Hugh, Earl of Ross, by whom he had -

  1. ISABELLA, married to Sir William St.Clair of Roslin, and had, with other issue HENRY ST.CLAIR, EARL OF ORKNEY, 1379.
  2. ANNOT (or MERETTA), married Erengisle Suneson, Earl of Orkney by right of his wife, 1353-57, without issue
  3. Daughter, married Gothorm Spar, and had SIR MALISE SPAR, CLAIMANT OF ORKNEY, slain without issue
  4. EUPHEMIA, died without issue

The Earldom of Stratherne was apparently a male fief. Earl Malise is presumed to have died before 1345, in which year [his brother-in-law and cousin], Sir Maurice Moray, was created Earl of Stratherne, who falling at Durham the following year, the Earldom was given to Robert Stuart, first of his line King of Scotland, who, later on when he ascended the throne, assigned it to his brother David.

[The Steward was also brother-in-law to Earl Malise V]

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