I have always loved Scotland. It is a beautiful country. However, until recently I did not know how connected I was to the land of the Scots. Recently, thanks to a lot of work and looking at records, my mother and I discovered that we are descended from the Kings of Scotland via two (yes two! ) of King William “The Lion” Scotland’s illegitimate daughters. It seems at some point the descendants of them both married one another, who then went on to be my direct ancestors.
The eldest illegitimate daughter was called Ada (born about 1160). We don’t know who her mother was sadly, though we do know that she married, Patrick 4th Earl of Dunbar. The Dunbar clan were a powerful lot; they were originally Saxons and had been Earls of Northumberland until William the Conquer kicked them out at about the time of his conquest of England in 1066. Ada’s son another Patrick, the 5th Earl of Dunbar (my direct ancestor) went on the Fifth Crusade dying at the siege of Damietta in Egypt. The siege lasted months, with many being killed by infection as well as by the swords of the Egyptians. The town was eventually returned to Egyptian hands in 1222 only a few years after it had been captured by the Crusaders when the Egyptians diverted a section of the Nile to flood the Crusaders’ camp and drown them.
- Above, is a rather romantic version of the siege, painted several hundred years after the event. Patrick had a daughter called Isabel (my direct ancestor.) who married William, 2nd Lord of Helmsley De Ros. Ros was related to Isabel, his mother being the sister of her great grandmother (Yes, William was older than her, before you ask ). William’s mother was the other illegitimate daughter of William The Lion. His father was Sir Robert De Ros. Sir Robert was a grand master of the Knights Templer, one of the most powerful pro military semi religious forces the world has ever seen. Sir Robert was at some point given the nickname Furfan, which either refers to his post within the Knights Templer or could refer to the fact he was one of the 25 barons who enforced Magna Carta through out England. If this is true then Furfan means, “Kingmaker”. Though the Ros family lived in North and East Yorkshire, they did not forget their Scottish roots. William’s grandson, another Robert in 1258 saved his first cousin, Alexander The Third from death by his rebellious subjects. Robert’s son, another William went as far in 1286 as making it public that he wanted to be one of the competitors for the Crown of Scotland! Also competing were:
- John Balliol, William’s cousin
- Patrick Dunbar, another cousin and also Seventh Earl of Dunbar
- King Edward I William’s overlord and cousin
- Another competitor was Robert Bruce, ally of William Wallace .
- In the end, John Balliol won the claim (William’s first cousin 3 times removed) though he did not last long as king due to his weak leadership and loyalties to King Edward. Eventually, John rebelled against Edward not realising he was a puppet King. Edward sent an army to Scotland to take over. John was forced to abdicate and Edward took control of Scotland.
- William Wallace at this point began his rebellion, known later as The Wars of Scottish Independence. Meanwhile, the Ros family had been continuing their work of being Barons etc.. William had a daughter called Isabel, who married Baron Marmaduke Twenge (my ancestor) . Twenge was a great warrior and distantly related to Robert The Bruce via his mother. Marmaduke fought at Stirling Bridge indeed some of his actions that day made him famous. Here is a description of the Battle from an unknown book:
- Cressingham refused to listen to this sound advice, and Surrey weakly yielded to him. The order was given, and the army began to defile across the bridge, Sir Marmaduke Twenge and Cressingham leading the van. No disposition was made to guard the foot of the bridge. Slowly the troops of the English crossed and marched out into the plain towards the hill. When nearly one half of the army had crossed, Sir Marmaduke gave orders for a charge, and made his heavy-armed cavalry spur their horses up the hill. Meantime Wallace had sent a part of his army round by the English right to seize the foot of the bridge, and the moment he saw the communication between the van and the rear of the English army cut off and retreat impossible, he hurled his force down from the heights upon Twenge and Cressingham before they had time to form. In a moment all was disorder and confusion. The English were seized with panic. Many of them were slain, multitudes of their horsemen threw themselves into the river and were drowned, vainly trying to rejoin Surrey, who stood upon the opposite bank, a helpless spectator of the ruin of the flower of his army. While this was going on, the English troops were still pouring on across the bridge, but only to be cut to pieces. The rout was complete. Cressingham was slain. Twenge saved himself by an act which has covered him with fame. A comrade bade him swim the river as a last hope, for Scots and English were mixed and crowded in an inextricable mellay. “ What,” he exclaimed, “ drown myself, when I can cut my way to the bridge! Never let such foul slander fall upon us.” So saying, he clave his way through the spears, crossed the bridge, and rejoined his friends with his nephew and standard-bearer. The Steward and Lennox, who had held aloof, now let loose their men against the fugitive English, and the slaughter was immense. Surrey left Twenge to protect the town and castle of Stirling, promising to relieve him in ten days, and then turning his back upon the disgraceful field, never drew rein till he was safe in Berwick. He then proceeded to join the Prince of Wales in the south, and left the country which had been entrusted to him, exposed to ravage and destruction. According to the story, the Scots flayed the body of the detested Cressingham and divided morsels of his skin among them as relics. Sir Marmaduke Twenge, in obedience to Surrey’s orders, threw himself with a number of knights into Stirling castle, the governor and a great part of the garrison of which had been slain at the bridge, and for a time endeavoured to hold it for Edward, but was at last compelled to surrender from want of food.
- After Wallace took Stirling Castle, Twenge was sent back to Edward to tell him what had happened. Twenge would not return to battle in Scotland until 1314, where he was one of King Edward II‘s commands at the battle. The battle in question was The Battle of Bannockburn. There is no report of what Twenge did during the battle, but what happened afterwards was remembered. Twenge waited until the end of the battle. When he saw Robert The Bruce, he came out of his hiding place and surrendered himself to the King. Bruce apparently clasped him in his arms and took him back to the his castle and gave him a feast. The next day, Bruce sent Marmaduke back home with an assortment of gifts.
- The point of this post is that it shows that when our ancestors are involved in historic moments like these, it gives a whole new dimension to history; it becomes personal. The thought of going into battle and maybe not coming out alive is hard to imagine but when we discover we are reading about our ancestors, it suddenly becomes more imaginable.. Subsequently, the women sometimes had to organize massive estates while the husbands were away at war whilst living with the fear of not knowing if they would return. I hadn’t thought of this before I discovered my own ancestors were involved. The personal involvement has made me think about it all more deeply. This leads me to ask if being related to historical figures changes our historical perspective of them? For me personally, it does. However, I feel that it depends upon the individual historian and the individual set of historical circumstances whether one’s opinion of historical events change if ancestors are involved.
- Not only were my ancestors there at the moment when Scotland finally got it’s freedom back but they were involved (all right, yes on the English side) in getting that freedom. For me, that is incredible and makes the coming of age of this small north westerly country even more spectacular and interesting.
- Archaeologists ‘find site where John Balliol abdicated Scots throne’ (scotsman.com)
- 700-Year-Old William Wallace Letter Finally Reaches Scotland (history.com)
- Archaeologists dig to find site of Battle of Bannockburn (telegraph.co.uk)
- Archaeologists launched a bid to uncover the site one of the most famous battles in Scottish history: Battle of Bannockburn (sott.net)
- Countdown begins to 700th anniversary of Bannockburn (scotsman.com)
- Scottish News: Police HQ may lie on Roman road (acadvertiser.co.uk)
- Thieves pinch Robert the Bruce sculptures from Doune Castle (dailyrecord.co.uk)