Women of Bruce – Part 5 —
Sisters of Robert Bruce: A Tale of
When you really get deep into
genealogy you run into a stumbling block of reused names. I have 37 Robert Bruces in my family tree. Nearly as many Patrick Dunbars and Hugh,
William and James Montgomeries. I understand
that men want sons to carry on their names for immortality. Only, sometimes it isn’t just the men’s
names, which provoke the need to be careful in charting your ancestors—it can
be the women, too! Take the name
Margaret—I have over 1000 of those.
Elizabeth? Oh, yeah! 1333 in my tree (and counting!). And Isabel/Isabella/Isabelle/Isobel?—406 and
many belonging to the Bruce family. Both
of Robert Bruce’s grandmothers were named Isabel—Isabel de Clare and Margaret
Isabel FitzAlan Stewart. His paternal
great-grandmothers were Isabelle of Huntington and Isabel Marshall, countess of
Glouster, Hertford, Cornwall and Poitou.
Robert married his first wife—Isabel of Mar. He was crowned by Isabella Macduff, a cousin. But to really confuse matters he had two
sisters by the same first name!
Yes, this tales of two ladies
named Isabel is a study in frustration and chaos. Once more, we are forced to wade through
incorrect information, details—or lack thereof— about two different women
historians so casually dismissed, or merged into one. They are not
the same female! Genealogists have
confused, mixed up, or blended the two Isabels until they are a blur, and we
are left scratching our heads as to why they simply don’t recognize these
ladies are two entirely different sisters of Robert Bruce.
Isabella Kilconquhar Randolph
Through his parent’s marriage,
Robert Bruce had seven sisters, with only five living to adulthood—Isabel,
Maud, Christian, Mary, and Margaret.
However, often overlooked—he also had an older half-sister from his
mother’s first marriage. While she
wasn’t a Bruce by name, she was still his sister, and she gave birth to one of
the fiercest warrior heroes Scotland has ever known—Thomas Randolph, 1st earl
Both women shared the same
mother—Marjorie, countess of Carrick, in
her own right. (I have written about the dashing Marjorie in my previous
articles). They had different
fathers. Both men went off to join the
9th Crusade, raised by Lord Edward, duke of Gascony. And both became close friends. The first Isabel—Isabel Kilconquhar
Randolph—was the daughter by Adam de Kilconquhar. Occasionally, you see her referred to as
Isabel Martha Kilconquhar, or Isabelle of Carrick, some mistakenly call her
Isabel Bruce, and sadly, maddeningly, some do their best to ignore this
daughter all together. She has a
wonderful heritage, so she should be recognized as existing and not bundled
into a generic “Isabel Bruce” label.
Marjorie Carrick married very
young to Adam, son of Donnchaidh de
Kilconquhar. Evidence shows that Adam
hailed from Fife and from the ancient Clan of MacDuff. His grandfather was Adam, son of Duncan, earl
of Fife. Adam’s mother was an unnamed
woman from Clan Comyn (I think through process of elimination that she was
likely Johanna Comyn, daughter of Richard Comyn and Eve Amabilia Galloway). He had a half-brother, William Comyn, who
took his mother’s surname and was named in a papal appointment as the bishop of
Brechin in January 1296 (2/156/3 Theiner,
no. 350 and. 2/147/23 Theiner, no. 262). Ancient and impeccable lineage, but then
the man who received Marjorie in marriage would have to be worthy of a woman
who came from blood royal. Adam appears
to have enjoyed the favor of the Scottish king, Alexander III, so small wonder he won her
hand. In wedding Marjorie, Adam became
the 3rd earl of Carrick, jure uxoris. Documents of the period show him using the
title of earl of Carrick. Still, the
title was little more than an honor, for while Marjorie was the heiress of
Niall, 2nd earl of Carrick, her father had set the real power within the clan
to follow his nephew, Lachlan. We don’t
know if Adam chafed at being earl in name only for he didn’t stay on the scene
long. Shortly after wedding Marjorie, he
joined the Crusade, leaving his young bride at home at Turnberry Castle, either
pregnant or with her newborn daughter, Isabella. Within a year, Marjorie was a widow, due to
Adam dying of a wound contracted in a battle in the Holy Lands.
(Tree showing the Randolph, Bruce and
Adam charged his close
comrade—the handsome lord of Annandale, Robert Bruce—to carry the tides of his
demise back to his lady wife. It is
legend how he did just that, and as he made to leave, Marjorie had her
men-at-arms capture Annandale and keep him hostage until he agreed to become
her second husband. Obviously, the lady
was tired of men deciding her fate. King
Alexander III was upset they had dared wed without his grace and
permission. In punishment, he seized
Turnberry Castle. Since Alexander did
not fine Annandale or seize his property, it clearly demonstrated the king laid
blame solely at Marjorie’s feet. Most
likely, Marjorie turned on her charm and soothed the king’s ruffled feathers,
because he turned the castle back to the Bruces a short time later, and just
fined Marjorie one hundred pounds for daring the umbrage.
The marriage was a happy one, and
within the year, Marjorie gave birth to another daughter—which she promptly
named Isabel! So, she now had two small
daughters by the same first name. Why
would Marjorie name both daughters Isabel?
Well, to honor her mother is one possibility—Margaret Isabel FitzAlan
Stewart, countess of Carrick, daughter of Walter Stewart, 3rd High Steward of Scotland and Bethóc nic Gille Chris of Angus. Or since she named her first daughter after
her mother, she was naming her second daughter after the mother of her
husband—Isabel de Clare. Whatever the
motivation we now have two daughters with the same name.
Since Adam was gone, barely a
ghost in people’s memory, and the two little girls were not that far apart in
age, I wonder how muddled their lives became as they reached marriageable
you are Isabel Bruce? No, I am the other Isabel—not a Bruce. I am unsure if not being a Bruce hurt Isabel
Kilconquhar’s chances at making the best marriage possible. Still, she didn’t do too badly. She married Sir Thomas Randolph, Chamberlain
of Scotland (whose father was Thomas of Strathnith, and who had also been a
Chamberlain of Scotland). Thomas’ mother
was Juliana Kilconquhar of Moray. Since
her parentage is sketchy at best, it’s not hard to assume this she might be
aunt or cousin of Isabel?
Her marriage to Sir Thomas saw
her wed to a very powerful man. As the
Great Chamberlain, he had jurisdiction for judging of all crimes committed
within the burgh, and of the crimes of forestalling (an antiquated term for a
merchant buying his way into a market.
In effect, Thomas was Justice-General over the burghs, and held Chamberlain-ayrs every year for
that purpose; the form whereof is set down in Iter Camerarii. He was a
supreme judge and his decrees could not be questioned by any inferior
judicator. His sentences were to be put into execution by the Baillies of the
burghs. He also settled the prices of provisions within burghs, and the fees of
the workmen in the Mint. Thomas Randolph
was a man of extraordinary parts, and served both Alexander II and Alexander
III. He also aided Robert Bruce “The
Competitor” in his legal bit to be made king of the Scots. Thomas held great favor with Alexander III,
who made him lord great chamberlain of Scotland in 1269, an office which of he
enjoyed till the 18th Aug. 1277. He also
worked as the king’s personal attorney on many matters. Also, the man loved to sue anyone and
everyone. The Scottish court documents
show Thomas bringing lawsuits against dozens of lords and ladies over matters
of estates, properties and inheritance not fulfilled.
Thomas and Isabel had three
children—Nicholas, Thomas and Mabel Isabella.
(Another Isabel! LOL). Mabel
Isabella went on to wed Sir Gilbert de Hamilton, who was one of the seven Royal
Knights or bodyguards for Robert the Bruce.
It was Hamilton who gave the funeral oration at the burial of King
Robert the Bruce at Dunfermline Abbey.
Tower of London
Nicholas, the eldest Randolph son, was
captured at the Battle of Dunbar 1296 and taken to be held prisoner in the Tower
of London. King Edward wrote to the
sheriff of London concerning the payment of expenses of Scottish prisoners in
the Tower, including “…William, earl of Ross, Andrew de Morpenne, John de
Mowbray, Nicholas Randolph, the king’s enemies….” recorded by John of Droxford, keeper of wardrobe of King Edward I, 6th
November 1297. (Docs., ii, no. 481).
Odd, in September of 1296, his father was sent to France by King John
Balliol. These two references are the last
we hear of either man. It is reasonable to assume within months after
Longhanks’ letter concerning the payment for his keep that Nicholas died. I
haven’t found any written release, and the conditions of the release, so my
guess is he died in prison. Many of the
hundreds of Scottish nobility had been returned to Scotland long before this,
so it is unusual Nicholas, the son of such an important man, was still being
Isabel’s younger son, Thomas, was
originally sworn to Edward Longshanks, and after fighting for the English, he
was captured in 1306 and brought before her brother, Robert. Arrogant, and unbowed, he taunted his uncle
for engaging in guerrilla warfare instead of standing and fighting in pitched
battle. Failing to take umbrage, Robert
persuaded his nephew to change sides again.
Thomas went on to become one of the king's most important and trusted
captains, the 1st earl of Moray, regent for Robert’s son David II, and
eventually becoming Guardian and Chamberlain of Scotland. He was a distinguished diplomat, just as
formidable an opponent at court as he had been a warrior on the battlefield.
To add to the growing list of
Isabels—Isabella’s granddaughter was Agnes Randolph Dunbar, countess of
Dunbar, who held the siege of Dunbar Castle.
I wrote about Agnes’ colorful exploits in A Tale of Two Women and One Castle - The Ladies of Dunbar—Part Two—Agnes Randolph. However, son Thomas
had another daughter, which he naturally named Isabelle. And, oh, his wife’s name?
—Isabel Stewart of Bonkyll.
Isabella Kilconquhar Randolph
lived until her early eighties. She
outlived her husband and both sons, dying less than two years before her
daughter. She was laid to rest beside
her beloved husband in Melrose Abbey, and next to his father Thomas fitzRanulf
of Moray and mother, Juliana Kilconquhar.
Queen Isabel de Brus Magnússon’s Coat of Arms
Isabel de Brus Magnússon—the other Isabel was a full sister to Robert Bruce. She was born less than three years after her
older half-sister with which she shared a name.
She was the first child of Marjorie Carrick and Robert de Brus. And
though her brother may have been destined to become a king, at the age of
twenty-one this Isabel became a queen before him!
Ever mindful of cementing the House
of Bruce into the royalty of Scotland and her allies, Robert Bruce, lord of
Annandale, arranged a marriage for his eldest daughter to the king of
Norway. In 1293, Isabel traveled with
her father to Bergen where she wed to King Eric Magnússon II of Norway in true
The last surviving son of King Magnús
the Lawmender, Erik was given the
title of king at age five by his father.
Magnús had intended for his son to co-rule with him, but before this
could be arranged King Magnús died. Erick was then crowned sole ruler in the
summer of 1280. A year later, at age
thirteen he married twenty-year-old Princess Margaret of Scotland, daughter of
King Alexander III. Tragically, Margaret
died two years later giving birth to a daughter also named Margaret, who would
go down in history as the Maid of Norway. After Alexander’s death—leaving no male to
follow him— this small child, not even eight-years-old, soon grew to be the
center of unparalleled political maneuvering, since she now was the true heir
to the Scottish throne.
In 1286, she became the child Queen
of the Scots, though she had never set foot in Scotland and was never
inaugurated. And just as quickly, she was
betrothed to Edward I’s son. Longshanks
wanted her wed immediately to Edward of Caernarvon, for in his vision his son
would then rule Scotland as king through her.
The Guardians of Scotland resisted this plan, and after much choreography
and negotiating, the nobles set out to collect the wee lass to bring her home—and
under their control before Edward decided to fetch her himself. Edward wasn’t above executing such a power
play, and they knew if that occurred the English monarch would never set her
free. Alas, a storm blew her ship off
course, and they were forced to land at St. Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay on
Orkney. Odd bit of fate. The village
was named after St. Margaret of Scotland, the wife of King Malcolm III. We hope the saint took pity on the small
child who bore her name, for she died shortly after making it to shore.
The incident sparked one of the
biggest legal battles in Scottish History —The
Great Cause. Seventeen claimants
vied to be the next king of Scotland.
Isabel’s grandfather—Robert Bruce, 5th lord of Annandale—was
a leading contender. Even the man who
would soon be her husband within a year, as King Erik of Norway had tossed his
name into the hat, so the speak,
claiming he held the right to rule through his deceased daughter.
Monument to the rules of Norway, including a listing
for King Erik, his wife, Princess Margaret of Scotland, and their daughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway- Bergenhus Fortress, Bergen, Norway.
Isabel had arrived in Norway, a well-propertied
woman and bringing riches to her marriage, bespeaking she was a woman worthy to
be a queen. Her dowry and trousseau were
recorded at the time by Weyland de Striklaw, an English nobleman employed by the
king. Striklaw noted the delivery of the
goods for Isabel’s trousseau: precious
clothes and furs, 2 golden boiler, 24 silver plate, 4 silver salt cellars and
12 two-handled scyphus (soup bowls) for her new household. The marriage seemed to agree with her, and
she developed a deep love for her new country and the church at Bergen. Almost four years later her daughter Ingebjørg
Eriksdottir was born. However, the
marriage ended abruptly when Eric died 15th of July 1299.
Bergenhas Fortress, Bergen, Norway
Widowed at the age twenty-six,
Isabel could have returned home to the Bruces, yet she stayed in Norway, and in
spite of the insecurities that came with widowhood, Isabel was in no hurry to
remarry. There were some motions of a
marriage in 1300. Not for Isabel, but
her infant daughter. Though Ingebjørg was
only three- years-old, Isabel moved ahead with the plan to marry her child to Jón
Magnússon, earl of Orkney and Caithness, the betrothal recorded in the Icelandic Annals. Magnússon, by nature of each earldom, was a
subject of both Scotland and Norway. Most believe this was a desperate attempt on
Isabel’s part to find a protector for her daughter, and one aligned to the
Bruce’s cause and able to affect influence in Norway as well. Nevertheless, the wedding never took place as
Magnússon died soon after the contract was recorded. Perhaps her fears soon
proved unfounded for there were no further attempts to find a protector for
either herself or her child. Instead,
Isabel settled into life as queen dowager.
As a queen consort scant
information remains on Isabel’s life. On
the other hand, as queen dowager her days are better chronicled. Queen Isabel participated in many official
events and ceremonies, and clearly did not lack sway. Her presence was recorded with the new king—King
Haakon (Erik’s brother)—and his wife on many court occasions. It was documented she was with the royal couple
at the inauguration in 1305 of Bishop Arne Sigurdssön, the new bishop of
Bergen. Though her husband has been
slanderously nicknamed “priest hater”, Isabel had a good relationship with the
clerical powers in Bergen. She made
large donations in 1324 to the local church, and in return she received several
houses from the bishop to provide an income for the rest of her life, leaving
her independent in a time women rarely had this sort of freedom.
In 1301 a woman arrived at Bergen
on a ship from Lübeck, Germany. Quite
bizarrely, she claimed to be the dead Margaret all grown up. She accused several people of treason for
trying to hide the real queen of the Scots. Her story detailed that she hadn’t died on
Orkney, but had been sold into slavery by Tore Haakonsson's wife (also named Ingebjørg),
and then sent to Germany where she had married.
The people of Bergen and even some of the clergy vigorously took up her
cause, in spite of the fact that the late King Erik had identified his dead
daughter's body. Even more damning—the
woman appeared to be about forty-years-old, whereas the real Margaret would
have been seventeen had she lived. After
a much followed trial, she was burned at the stake for treason at Nordnes in
Bergen in 1301, and her husband was beheaded.
Whether Isabel attended any of the trial isn’t recorded, thought I’m
sure she was aware of the proceedings.
Isabel’s quiet power likely helped
the rise of Weyland de Striklaw—who we already met when the goods for Isabel’s trousseau were unloaded. After Jón Magnússon’s death left the marriage
for her daughter moot, Isabel’s patronage may have been the reason for his rising prominence—and
possibly to her benefit. Striklaw somehow managed to become guardian for
the earl’s successor, and gained control of the administration of Orkney and
later Caithness. Little direct evidence can
be found for Isabel being responsible with the man’s rise from exiled
Englishman to one who controlled two earldoms.
Still, that command over Orkney and Caithness—earlships she had intended
for her daughter—could be taken as an indication of Isabel’s discreet political
activity after her husband’s death.
There is intimation that she was
a mediator in the negotiations between Norway and Scotland, regarding the dispute
of ownership of Orkney and Shetland when in 1312 the Treaty of Perth was reaffirmed. Another is the occasion of her apply to King Haakon for a pardon of a prisoner 1339.
During her sister Christian’s
imprisonment by Edward I, the two sisters exchanged letters. Isabel even sent clothing and other needs to
help ease the situation. Helping her
family didn’t stop there. She sent a
large number solders and knights from Caithness, Orkney and Norway to fight for
her brother Robert.
Isabel, once again, took a strong
hand in arranging a marriage for her daughter.
At this point the tales of two Isabels turns into a tale of two Ingebjørgs. Isabel’s daughter named Ingebjørg, and her
niece also named Ingebjørg, were married to the younger sons of Erik, Duke of
Södermanland. Isabel’s daughter married Valdemar,
Duke of Finland, Uppland, and Öland.
Isabel was likely proud of the marriage, but that pride was dashed
before too long, leaving her daughter a young window, just as she had
been. The two Swedish princes had long
been mistrusted by their elder brother, King Birger, and eventually, in 1317 he
had them both arrested at a banquet at Nyköping Castle. They were held in a dungeon and no one was
allowed to see them. Sometime after January 1318, tides of their demise spread
throughout the country—rumors fearing they had been starved to death. Their widows, the Duchesses Ingebjørg, were
not meek in their acceptance of the deaths, instead became the leaders of their
husbands’ supporters. Eventually, later that year, they were able to force King Birger into exile, and crowned Magnús,
the son of Ingebjørg Håkonsdatter, as king of Sweden. Then, he succeeded his grandfather, Håkon V,
as king of Norway in 1319. The regency
was held by Magnús’ mother and grandmother, and Ingebjørg Eiriksdatter also
held a seat on the regency council.
In 1357, Ingebjørg died, naming
her mother as one of her heirs, increasing Isabel’s wealth. Isabel still did not return to Scotland. There is not a single instance recorded of
her returning to her family in the country where she was born. Instead, she lived in Bergen the remainder of
her life. On 13 April 1358 and at the
age of 86, she died in Bergen, Hordaland, Norway. Isabel finally returned to the soil of her
birth, being buried in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland.
Above: the first folio from an
Old French version of William of Tyre’s
“Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum”, which belonged to
Isabel Bruce, and the ex libris announcing her ownership is in red ink across
the top of the page.
In summarizing, these two
daughters of Marjorie Carrick may have shared a name, one common to the family,
but they and their lives couldn’t have been more different, each carving out a
special niche in history.
Next month, I will finish up with the remaining Bruce sisters—
Mary, Margaret and Maud.
Then in October I will turn my attention to
the Daughters of Bruce...
first up will be Marjorie Bruce Stewart,
the daughter of a king and the mother of a king
Deborah writes a Scottish Medieval Historical series the Dragons of Challon
and Contemporary Paranormal Romance series the Sister of Colford Hall.