The Earls of Strathearn from the twelfth to the mid fourteenth century, with an edition of their written acts
This thesis is a detailed study of the political and social history of the native earls of Strathearn from the late 1120s to the middle of the fourteenth century. It examines the impact and penetration of Norman ideas of feudalism in a region which was strongly Celtic in character, and in which native customs and practices were preserved for a remarkably long period. In the decades which followed the accession of King David I, the lands of Strathearn retained a large degree of independence from royal control. Few 'new' men were introduced to the region by the king. The earls do not appear to have held their earldom as a regular knight's fee, and comital authority over these lands was not challenged. A study of the lives and careers of the eight men who are known to have held the title of earl between c.1128 and c.1350 reveals two distinct periods in Strathearn history. The first includes the rules of the four earliest known earls, Malise I, Ferteth, Gilbert and Robert, from c.1128 to 1244. The key words for understanding this period are 'traditionalism' and 'conservatism'. These men involved themselves only remotely with the king's court and the governance of Scotland; they were more concerned with the administration of their own estates. By contrast, the last four native earls, Malice II, Malise III, Malise IV and Malise V, who ruled between 1244 and c.1350, were more active on the Scottish political scene; their names are found with some regularity in the public records of the period. An examination of the household and retinue of each of the earls reinforces the theory that there are two distinct periods in Strathearn history. The entourages of the early earls shows a curious but harmonious blend of Celtic and Anglo-Norman officials, and the ties between lord and servant were intimate. The households of the later thirteenth- and early fourteenth century earls were organized more efficiently, end positions of responsibility were staffed by trained ministers, often of Anglo-Norman descent. The tenurial structure in the earldom altered considerably between one period and the next. In the time of the early earls few foreigners were introduced to Strathearn, but in the second period landowners were mainly men whose origins were Anglo-Norman. They appear to have prospered at the expense of native inhabitants. An edition of the written acts of the earls constitutes an integral part of this thesis. A detailed study of these deeds reveals that the early earls depended largely upon the canons of Inchaffray abbey for a constant supply of trained clerks, while the later earls probably employed trained scribes who travelled around the lands of the earldom, as well as further abroad, with their lords. Diplomatic practice before 1244 was modelled largely on the documents which emanated from the royal chancery during the reign of King William I, and the charters of the early earls clearly reflect the inexperience of the clerks who penned them. It is not until the time of earl Malise II (1244-71) that scribal habits in Strathearn were brought more into line with those found in other contemporary baronial writing offices. In the conclusion, an attempt is made to place this study of early medieval Strathearn into a wider context. A comparison of the findings of this thesis with work completed to date on the AngloNormal baronage of the same period reveals some interesting differences. In the native earldom, cultural changes occurred only gradually; new practices and customs existed for many years side by side with older traditional ideas. Moreover, the international interests of these Anglo-Norman barons did not constitute such an essential aspect of the careets of the earls of Strathearn. When further study of the native Scottish earldoms has been completed, it will be possible to draw a more comprehensive picture of the impact of Norman feudalism on the landowning classes of twelfth- and thirteenth-century Scotland.