Saturday, December 4, 2010

William the Lion of Scotland

'William derived his cognomen of the Lion from his being the first who adopted that animal as the armorial bearing of Scotland. From this emblem the chief of the Scottish heralds is called Lion king at arms. Chivalry was fast gaining ground in Scotland at this time, as appears from the importance attached by William and his elder brother Malcolm to the dignity of knighthood, and also from the romantic exclamation of William, when he joined the unequal conflict at Alnwick, " Now shall we see the best knights."

William the Lion was a legislator, and his laws are preserved. He was a strict, almost a severe administrator of justice; but the turn of the age and the temper of his subjects required, that justice, which in a more refined period can and ought to make many distinctions in the classification of crimes, should in barbarous times seize her harvest with less selection. The blot of William's reign was his rashness at Alnwick, and the precipitation with which he bartered the independence of Scotland for his own liberty. But his dexterous negotiation with Richard I. enabled him to recover that false step, and to leave his kingdom in the same condition in which he found it. By his wife, Ermengarde de Beaumont, William had a son, Alexander, who succeeded to him. By illicit intrigues he left a numerous family.'
William I of Scotland died this day, December 4, in the year 1214.  Sir Walter Scott discusses this king in his "History of Scotland" (above).  William is remembered for leading a revolt against the England's Henry II, which culminated in his being captured at the Battle of Alnwick (1174).  With few options, William pledged his allegiance to Henry, by signing the Treaty of Falaise (Normandy) in December of that year.  It took another "lion", Henry's successor Richard the Lionheart to release William of his pledge.  Richard was in need of funds to support his crusade in the Holy Lands.

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