THE RISE OF THE FLEMISH FAMILIES IN SCOTLAND

Annette Hardie – Stoffelen

For the Anglo-Flemish, the half century between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the witnessing of that Glasgow Inquisitio which brought them into Scottish affairs in 1116 must have seemed like the summit of the world. After the awe-inspiring repulse of the Vikings by their fathers in Flanders, they had gone on in their own time to reach and sustain a pinnacle of achievement never known before in the history of a nation. Nationhood itself wasa very young concept. Family bonds, loyalty to a liege lord, be he count, duke or king, the honour of a sacred cause, adherence to the chivalry code – these things were what bound men together, with national borders apt to be secondary to kinship, perhaps because they were so unfixed. Those Flemings who had followed Count Eustace II of Boulogne to England in 1066 and received their territories there from William of Normandy, were now being offered large tracts of Scotland because their Lady had become that country’s Queen.

In England, Henry II’s reign was marked by acts of oppression against those Flemings who had supported Stephen of Blois. Flemish noblemen were compelled to flee back across the Channel for their own safety and many of their humbler followers were forcibly removed to farming colonies such as those in Pembrokeshire, far from both the seats of English power and the cross-Channel ports from which help might have come. The East Midlands Boulonnais instituted a second wave of immigration into Scotland, where they joined their relatives already there, and were joyfully received by their royal kinsmen, successively kings of Scotland, Malcolm the Maiden and William the Lion. The latter’s choice of heraldic device, of necessity an innovatory one since he was not heir to any Boulonnais territory, underscores the sudden fashion for lions. But the tinctures were those of Boulogne. That curious device the tressure, found only in the armorials of Flanders and Scotland must have been adopted from the former country to mark the Charlemagnic descent from Queen Maud through her grandfather, Count Lambert of Lens.

In Scotland the seed of the Eustaces had ruled untroubled since the marriage of Maud de Lens to David I. Supported by descendants of her own house of Boulogne and their kinsmen, men such as Walter the Fleming (now Seton), Gilbert of Ghent/ Alost (now Lindsay), Robert de CominesISt Pol (now Comyn and Buchan), Arnulf de Hesdin (now Stewart and Graham), the counts of Louvain (now Bruce), the hereditary advocates of Bethune (now Beaton), the hereditary castellans of Lille (now Lyle), and all their cadets and followers, her own descendants continued on the throne until the tragic untimely death of her great-great-grandson, Alexander II, in 1286, followed by the equally disastrous death at sea of his own heiress and granddaughter, the little Maid of Norway, in 1290.

It has not been sufficiently understood that the wars of the Scottish succession were intimately concerned with an insistence by the Boulonnais there that their own blood should continue on the throne. For Flemings had married Flemings and by now south and east Scotland was largely populated by men and women whose ancestors had come from Gent, Guines, Ardres, Comines, St Omer, St Pol, Hesdin, Lille, Tournai, Douai, Bethune, Boulogne. The 1290 break in the Scottish-Boulonnais succession provided the English monarchy with a heaven-sent opportunity to annul the Charlemagnic descent. Stepping in as friend and mediator, Edward I flung his armed weight behind John Baliol – a man who, although undoubtedly a Fleming, was not descended in the male line from the old comital house of the Eustaces. Nor has it been properly appreciated that the Ragman Rolls of the 1290s, by which an allegiance to Edward I had to be sworn by men described by later historians as “Scottish nobles”, were simply lists of important people of Flemish ancestry wherever they might be found; in fact many of the names are recognisable as belonging to Boulonnais living in the East Midlands, among them the Seatons of Rutland and descendants of the Lincolnshire Gilbert of Ghent.

The patriotic William Wallace was a Scottish Celt, unacceptable as king to the Boulonnais nobility, though his bravery commended itself to some of them. Robert Bruce, cousin of the Eustaces, directly descended by several lines from both Charlemagne and David’s Queen Maud, was eligible in every way. Robert de Bruce’s ancestor came into England carrying the azure lion of Louvain, and must have been of that house, whose Maud de Louvain was the wife of Count Eustace I of Boulogne. Members of Robert’s family may well have been granted estates in Normandy at, for instance, Brix as tradition states, by a Conqueror anxious to procure both their allegiance and their Flemish ability to provide trade. Robert de Bruce very properly gave up the Louvain lion to Jocelyn de Louvain, a senior son of the family, when that prince married the heiress to the Percys; and the saltire, in the colours of Boulogne, became the mark of Bruce. And Edward I’s rage and dismay at Bruce’s coronation at Scone on March 27, 1306, may be gauged by that curious ceremony some two months later in Westminster Hall, on Whit Sunday, May 22, when he “caused two live swans with gold chains about their necks to be brought into the Hall, and laying his hands upon them, swore with all his attendant nobles before God, Our Lady and the Swans’ that he would be avenged on the Scots”. It was a highly expressive action. Edward’s public vow-taking was half a defiance, half a capitulation. The swan was then, as it is still, the central heraldic mark of the arms of Boulogne. For the swan legend (in spite of Lohengrin) seems to have originated at the castle of Bouillon, which was the inheritance of Eustace II’s second son, Godfrey of Bouillon. Scottish writers have followed a Celtic tradition which preferred to allot the thistle to a legend of Kenneth MacAlpine rather than give it its true (and much more thought-provoking) significance as the personal emblem of Godfrey of Bouillon, who led so many founders of Scottish families on the First Crusade.

Investigation into the rise of the European nobility – where they came from, who they were – has only recently become a subject of interest to continental historians. These 20th-century researchers have put forward various theories; some of them are in conflict with each other, chiefly because of regional differences. But the belief that the noble families of the northern part of the Continent were sprung from marriages of Charlemagne s children with the commanders of his civil or military’ administration,
retaining at least some of that power, is substantiated by virtually all the genealogical documents that have survived those distant times.

The regions where the ruling families were of Carolingian descent embrace the “comtés” north of the Ile de France, east of Normandy, west of Germany, including ofcourse the whole of Flanders – a description here used broadly to include territories like Brabant and Hainaut which, though theoretically independent, were in practice part of the political ambience of the Flemish counts, and for long periods under their direct control.

Flemish families separated by the events of 1066 and subsequent years, making lives wholly apart for themselves in a Scotland divided from Flanders by an absolute gap in both time and distance, still possess armorial devices identical with those borne by men in Flanders often of the same name. The Scottish families of Flemish origin listed below are by no means the whole ofthe Flemish contingent that went north at David I’s request.

BAIRD
The Baird (originally’ Baard) family are first quoted as of Loftus, Yorkshire. About 1200 Richard Bard in Scotland confirmed gifts made by his father, also Richard, to Lesmahagow Priory, Lanarkshire, an action for which he had to have the consent of his lord, Robert of Biggar, grandson of the Sheriff of Lanarkshire, Baldwin the Fleming. There can be little doubt that the Baards, or Bairds, shared Baldwin’s nationality. Their arms show, in the colours of Boulogne, one of the emblems of Guines.

BALLIOL
A number of llth- and l2th-century charters survive, signed by members of the Bailleul family, which give conclusive proof that their home at the relevant dates was Bailleul near Hazebrouck in the present-day’ Nord department of France, but then, of course, in Flanders. It appears certain that Guy de Bailleul was present at the Battle of Hastings. The date when the English Balliols first acquired lands in Scotland is obscure. But that they had an interest in the Christian advancement of Scotland is shown by the gift Bernard de Balliol made to the abbey of Kelso in the year 1153, of a fishery in the river Tweed at Wudehorn. Although they chose wives from leading Flemish families, their changes of heraldic symbols (often acquired through such marriages) tend to suggest that the Balliols themselves were not of the aid Charlemagnic nobility – an important factor when judging the lack of support John Balliol received from fellow Flemings when he was trying to acquire for himself and his heirs the crown of Scotland.

BRUCE
That Brix, in the hinterland behind Cherbourg (the place in Normandy from which the Bruce family supposedly took its llth-century’ surname) should have been called after a follower of the first Duke Robert is not impossible. The old stronghold is said to have been given to Robert de Brus’s kinsman, Adam – father, brother or son – who built his castle there, perhaps after the family had come to Normandy in the retinue of Matilda of Flanders, the Conqueror’s bride. The first arms borne in England by the Bruce family – the azure lion of Louvain – shout as loudly as anything could of their connection not only with Flanders but with Queen Maud’s grandfather, Count Lambert of Lens, who was the heir of his mother, Maud de Louvain. Maud de Louvain, who married Count Eustace I of Boulogne was the granddaughter of Count Lambert I of Louvain. Her cousin Henry’s grandson, Joscelyn, through whom the “comté” of Louvain descended after the failure of the senior line, followed Robert de Brus in bringing the blue lion to England. Robert (later “de Bruis”) must have been a younger grandson of Count Lambert I and therefore a first cousin of Maud de Louvain. When Joscelyn de Louvain came to England in the mid 12th century’ to marry the heiress of the Percys, it was natural for Robert de Brus to yield up the azure lion to him as the senior representative here of the family, and Robert adopted the device thereafter associated with Bruce – the saltire.

The saltire was a known device of Flanders and in the 12th century, it was borne by a noble family of Flanders called Praet. In the early years of the 11th century they were castellans of Bruges, known to be “noble and rich” though their ancestry is unrecorded. Robert de Brus himself may once have been known as Robert de Bruges, since a man of that name and title holds the castellany from 1046 and probably earlier, until he disappears from Flemish records in 1053. That was the year in which Matilda of Flanders married William, Duke of Normandy. It is certain that many nobles of her country attended Matilda into the Duchy, and there is no reason why Robert de Bruges of the princely houses of Louvain and Boulogne should not have been among them. Did one of his sons, Adam, build a castle at Brix, near Cherbourg, and another, Robert, came to England after Domesday to claim the lands awarded here to his father for loyalty to the Conqueror’s wife?

We may note that the arms of the city of Bruges, adopted by its burghers in the 13th century and said to have been taken from the bearings of its castellans, show a lion rampant azure. It is possible to trace the castellans of Bruges back in time from the family of Nesle, who took over the office in 1134. Ralph de Nesle’s predecessor was Gervaise de Praet (of the saltire), who was given the office after the murder of Count Charles the Good by the Erembalds in 1127. The Erembalds were an ignoble family who brought great scandal to Flanders, culminating in the murder of its Count. They had held the Bruges castellany from 1067, having acquired it through another murder, this time of the incumbent, Castellan Baldran. Baldran’s immediate predecessor was that Robert de Bruges who left the office in 1053, the year of the marriage between Matilda of Flanders and Normandy’s Duke William. A Hainaut family, de Carnière, bore for arms a saltire and from at least the 12th century held estates near the home of Count Lambert de Lens. No connection with Praet has sofar been uncovered but de Carnière had connections with another noble family, Heverlee of Louvain, who used the same arms; and one of the lordships in their fiefdom was called Brus.

CAMERON
One would not wish to disturb the legends of this brave and chivalrous family. But it might be sensible to paint out that Cameroen (Flemish for Cambron), which is one of the earliest forms of the name, is a small place in Hainaut, less than five miles from Lens where Count Lambert, grandfather of Queen Maud of Scotland, had his home. The arms of Cameron – the famous three bars of Lochiel’s shield – were the same as those of the great frontier family of Oudenaarde, peers of Flanders, advocates (or defenders) ofthe abbey at Ename, East Flanders, and soldiers who worked closely with the counts of Alost to keep their country’s eastern border. Oudenaarde is about 25 miles northwest of Cambron, in a tightly knit region where all the leading families were related to each other. Gillespick, the first Cameron and usually allotted an initial date of 1057 and a Celtic parentage, is the Gaelic translation, meaning “servant of the Church”, of the Flemish name Erkenbald – a transformation which is said to have arisen out of a mistaken belief that the bald” syllable in Erkenbald referred to a monk’s tonsure, whereas “bald” in Flemish means bold.

CAMPBELL
It was the 8th Duke of Argyll who used to cry: “I am pure Celt”; however, there is no doubt at all that the arms of Campbell are anciently the arms of the Baldwins, Counts of Flanders. And it has to be stressed that with the extremely strong Flemish presence at the medieval Scottish court, there could be no possibility of any arms of Flanders, but above all, the comital bearings, being borne by a man not of that blood.

The device is a strange one, rare in heraldry. It seems to have arisen out of the chequers of Vermandois. The connection with Vermandois is important because Harelbeke, the first seat of the counts ofFlanders, was old Vermandois territory. When Count Baldwin I moved his seat of government to Gent about 1160, he discarded the Vermandois colours for his own famous black lion on a shield of gold.

The first Campbell of whom we have note bore the thoroughly Flemish name of Erkenbald, written in Scotland as Archibald and translated into Gaelic as Gillespic, or “servant of the Church”. Gillespic Campbell married Eva, daughter and heiress of Paul O’Dwin, the native lord of Lochow. At that time the western part of the country was not in the hands of the king. Norwegians of Orcadian descent held parts of it, and the rest was controlled by Somerled, lord of Argyll. It was not until the end of the 13th century, when the Norwegian threat had been pushed back, that the Campbell name began to appear in official documents of the region. Up till then, Gillespic Campbell and his heirs might have kept a discreet profile in the west until the quarrel with the men of Lorn in the 1290s, which the Campbells won at the cost of the death in 1294 of their chief and hero, Colin Campbell or Cailean Mor. His son, Sir Neil Campbell of Lochow, married the sister of Robert Bruce.

COMYN
Robert de Comines was made Earl of Northumberland by William the Conqueror in 1069. In 1133, William Comyn, his grandson or great-nephew (the exact relationship is not known) was appointed High Chancellor of Scotland by David I. One of his nephews, Richard, received from David’s son, Prince Henry, the lands of Linton Roderick, in Roxburghshire, which were the first Scottish possessions of this great family. These men of Combines, who became Coming, Cumin, Cumming, were Fleming’s. The

town of Comines is nowadays a substantial place on the border between France and Belgium. In the l1th century it was a small manorial estate in Hainaut belonging to the Count of St Pal whose surname was Campdavene. The St Pal arms have become the famous mark of Comyn- William Comyn’s brother Richard married Hextilda, the granddaughter of Donald Bane, slain in 1097. We know from the Regesta Rerum Scottorum and other sources that a 13th-century Count of St Pal

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