King William I "The
Lion" was a grandson of King David I
and came to the throne after the death of his elder brother, Malcolm IV in
1165. The nickname "The Lion" was accorded to him after his death and
may have been due either to his valour and strength in battle (though he was
not always successful) or, more likely, to the heraldic symbol which he adopted
- the red lion rampant on a yellow background - which has remained a royal
symbol to this day.
William was crowned at Scone> on December 24, 1165 at the age of 22
and was to reign for nearly 50 years - a prodigious length of time by any
standards, but unheard of in those violent days.
William was red-haired and energetic. Early in his reign he attempted to
recover land in Northumberland which had been given to King David in 1149 by
King Stephen of England
but which had been ceded by his brother Malcolm. The stories of his butchery of
the local population were chronicled in detail by later (English) historians.
However, he was ultimately unsuccessful as he was surprised by an attack by the
English army while besieging Alnwick castle. In the
mist, he mistook a party of English knights for his own. He is said to have
fought fearlessly but his horse was speared and he was captured. He spent five
months as a prisoner of Henry II while the English army plundered the south of Scotland
as far as Edinburgh.
William was only released
under the Treaty of Falaise. Under this, William was
forced to swear allegiance to King Henry II of England
and English garrisons remained in the castles which had been captured. This
lasted until after Henry's death in 1189. At that stage he was able to
negotiate out of the oath by providing money to King Richard (the Lionheart) who needed finance to go on a crusade to the Holy
In 1178 William founded the Abbey of Arbroath which was dedicated to Thomas à Becket who had been murdered by Henry II in 1170. The
Abbey was later to be place where the famous "Declaration
of Arbroath" was signed in 1320 by the Scottish nobles in the time of
Robert the Bruce.
William failed to assert his authority over the rebellious south-west of Scotland.
This was not helped by the fact that he had to first ask permission of his
"liege-lord" Henry to be allowed to deal with the matter. William
captured one of the ring-leaders but had to send him to Henry to be dealt with.
Henry demand an oath of loyalty - and promptly
returned the outlaw to Galloway where he immediately
attacked William's garrison.
William is known to have been planning another invasion of England
to retake Northumberland early in the 13th century after King John came to the
throne of England
and there were a number of skirmishes along the border. But
he eventually negotiated a treaty instead - he is said to have had a
"divine warning" of the consequences of invasion.
In 1186 William married Ermengarde de Beaumont who
at last bore him a son in 1198 (later King Alexander II) when William was aged
53. He also had three daughters (all of whom married English nobles as part of
the peacemaking process with King John of England).