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An Outline of the Relations between England and Scotland (500-1707)
Appendix B - The Feudalization of Scotland


The object of this Appendix is to give a summary of the process by which Anglo-Norman feudalism came to supersede the earlier Scottish civilization. For a more detailed account, the reader is referred to Skene's "Celtic Scotland", Robertson's "Scotland under her Early Kings", and Mr. Lang's "History of Scotland".

The kingdom[94] of which Malcolm Canmore became the ruler in 1058 was not inhabited by clans. It had been, from of old, divided into seven provinces, each of which was inhabited by tribes. The tribe or tuath was governed by its own chief or king (Ri or Toisech); each province or Mor Tuath was governed by Ri Mor Tuath or Mormaer,[95] and these seven Mormaers seem (in theory, at all events) to have elected the national king, and to have acted as his advisers. The tribe was divided into freemen and slaves, and freemen and slaves alike were subdivided into various classes--noble and simple; serfs attached to land, and personal bondmen. The land was held, not by the tribe in general, but by the "ciniod" or near kin of the "flath" or senior of each family within the tribe. On the death of a senior, the new senior was chosen (generally with strict regard to primogeniture) from among the nearest in blood, and all who were within three degrees of kin to him, shared in the joint-proprietary of the proceeds of the land. The senior had special privileges and was the representative and surety of the "ciniod", and the guardian of their common interests. After the third generation, a man ceased to be reckoned among the "ciniod", and probably received a small personal allotment. Most of his descendants would thus be landless, or, if they held land, would do so by what soon amounted to servile tenure. Thus the majority of the tribe had little or nothing to lose by the feudalization that was approaching.

The changes of Malcolm's reign are concerned with the Church, not with land-tenure. But the territorialization of the Church, and the abolition of the ecclesiastical system of the tribe, foreshadowed the innovations that Malcolm's son was to introduce. We have seen that an anti-English reaction followed the deaths of Malcolm and Margaret. This is important because it involved an expulsion of the English from Scotland, which may be compared with the expulsion of the Normans from England after the return of Godwin. Our knowledge of the circumstances is derived from the following statement of Symeon of Durham:--

     "Qua [Margerita] mortua, Dufenaldum regis Malcolmi fratrem Scotti sibi in regem elegerunt, et omnes Anglos qui de curia regis extiterunt, de Scotia expulerunt. Quibus auditis, filius regis Malcolmi Dunechan regem Willelmum, cui tune militavit, ut ei regnum sui patris concederet, petiit, et impetravit, illique fidelitatem juravit. Et sic ad Scotiam cum multitudine Anglorum et Normannorum properavit, et patruum suum Dufenaldum de regno expulit, et in loco ejus regnavit. Deinde nonnulli Scottorum in unum congregati, homines illius pene omnes peremerunt. Ipse vero vix cum paucis evasit. Veruntamen post haec illum regnare permiserunt, ea ratione, ut amplius in Scotiam nec Anglos nec Normannos introduceret, sibique militare permitteret."- "Rolls Series edn", vol. ii, p.  222.

It was not till the reign of Alexander I (1107-1124) that the new influences made any serious modification of ancient custom. The peaceful Edgar had surrounded himself with English favourites, and had granted Saxon charters to Saxon landholders in the Lothians. His brother, Alexander, made the first efforts to abolish the old Celtic tenure. In 1114, he gave a charter to the monastery of Scone, and not only did the charter contemplate the direct holding of land from the king, but the signatories or witnesses described themselves as Earls, not as Mormaers.

The monastery was founded to commemorate the suppression of a revolt of the Celts of Moray, and the earls who witnessed the charter bore Celtic names. This policy of taking advantage of rebellions to introduce English civilization became a characteristic method of the kings of Scotland. Alexander's successor, David I, set himself definitely to carry on the work which his brother had begun. He found his opportunity in the rising of Malcolm MacHeth, Earl of Moray. To this rising we have already referred in the Introduction. It was the greatest effort made against the innovations of the anti-national sons of Malcolm Canmore, and its leader, Malcolm MacHeth, was the representative of a rival line of kings. David had to obtain the assistance, not only of the Anglo-Normans by whom he himself was surrounded, but also of some of the barons of Northumberland and Yorkshire, with whom he had a connection as Earl of Huntingdon, for the descendant of the Celtic kings of Scotland was himself an English baron. We have seen that David captured MacHeth and forfeited the lands of Moray, which he regranted, on feudal terms, to Anglo-Normans or to native Scots who supported the king's new policy. The war with England interrupted David's work, as a long struggle with the Church had prevented his brother, Alexander, from giving full scope to the principles that both had learned in the English Court; but, by the end of David's reign, the lines of future development had been quite clearly laid down. The Celtic Church had almost disappeared. The bishops of St. Andrews, Dunkeld, Moray, Glasgow, Ross, Caithness, Aberdeen, Dunblane, Brechin, and Galloway were great royal officers, who inculcated upon the people the necessity of adopting the new political and ecclesiastical system. The Culdee monasteries were dying out; north of the Forth, Scone had been founded by Alexander I as a pioneer of the new civilization, and, after the defeat of Malcolm MacHeth and the settlement of Moray, David, in 1150, founded the Abbey of Kinloss. The Celtic official terms were replaced by English names; the Mormaer had become the Earl, the Toisech was now the Thane, and Earl and Thane alike were losing their position as the royal representative, as David gradually introduced the Anglo-Norman _vice-comes_ or sheriff, who represented the royal Exchequer and the royal system of justice. David's police regulations tended still further to strengthen the nascent Feudalism; like the kings of England, he would have none of the "lordless man, of whom no law can be got", and commendation was added to the forces which produced the disintegration of the tribal system. Not less important was the introduction of written charters. Alexander had given a written charter to the monastery of Scone; David gave private charters to individual land-owners, and made the possession of a charter the test of a freeholder. Finally, it is from David's reign that Scottish burghs take their origin. He encouraged the rise of towns as part of the feudal system. The burgesses were tenants-in-chief of the king, held of him by charter, and stood in the same relation to him as other tenants-in-chief. So firmly grounded was this idea that, up to 1832, the only Scottish burgesses who attended Parliament were representatives of the ancient Royal Burghs, and their right depended, historically, not on any gift of the franchise, but on their position as tenants-in-chief. That there were strangers among the new burgesses cannot be doubted; Saxons and Normans mingled with Danes and Flemish merchants in the humble streets of the villages that were protected by the royal castle and that grew into Scottish towns; but their numbers were too few to give us any ground for believing that they were, in any sense, foreign colonies, or that they seriously modified the ethnic character of the land. Men from the country would, for reasons of protection, or from the impulse of commerce, find their way into the towns; it is certain that the population of the towns did not migrate into the country. The real importance of the towns lies in the part they played in the spread of the English tongue. To the influence of Court and King, of land tenure, of law and police, of parish priest and monk, and Abbot and Bishop, was added the persuasive force of commercial interest.

The death of David I, in 1153, was immediately followed by Celtic revolts against Anglo-Norman order. The province of Moray made a final effort on behalf of Donald Mac Malcolm MacHeth, the son of the Malcolm MacHeth of the previous reign, and of a sister of Somerled of Argyll, the ancestor of the Lord of the Isles. The new king, Malcolm IV, the grandson of David, easily subdued this rising, and it is in connection with its suppression that Fordun makes the statement, quoted in the Introduction, about the displacement of the population of Moray. There is no earlier authority for it than the fourteenth century, and the inherent probability in its favour is so very slight that but little weight can reasonably be assigned to it. David had already granted Moray to Anglo-Normans who were now in possession of the Lowland portion and who ruled the Celtic population. We should expect to hear something definite of any further change in the Lowlands, and a repopulation of the Highlands of Moray was beyond the limits of possibility. The king, too, had little time to carry out such a measure, for he had immediately to face a new rebellion in Galloway; he reigned for twelve years in all, and was only twenty-four years of age when he died. The only truth in Fordun's statement is probably that Malcolm IV carried on the policy of David I in regard to the land-owners of Moray, and forfeited the possessions of those who had taken part in MacHeth's rising. In Galloway, a similar policy was pursued. Some of the old nobility, offended perhaps by Malcolm's attendance on Henry II at Toulouse, in his capacity as an English baron, joined the defeated Donald MacHeth in an attempt upon Malcolm, at Perth, in 1160. MacHeth took refuge in Galloway, which the king had to invade three times before bringing it into subjection. Before his death, in 1165, Galloway was part of the feudal kingdom of Scotland.

Only once again was the security of the Anglo-Celtic dynasty seriously threatened by the supporters of the older civilization. When William the Lion, brother and successor of Malcolm IV, was the prisoner of Henry II, risings took place both in Galloway and in Moray. A Galloway chieftain, by name Gilbert, maintained an independent rule to his death in 1185, when William came to terms with his nephew and successor, Roland. In the north, Donald Bane Mac William, a great-grandson of Malcolm Canmore, raised the standard of revolt in 1181, and it was not till 1187 that the rebellion was finally suppressed, and Donald Bane killed. There were further risings, in Moray in 1214 (on the accession of Alexander II), and in Galloway in 1235. The chronicler, Walter of Coventry, tells us that these revolts were occasioned by the fact that recent Scottish kings had proved themselves Frenchmen rather than Scots, and had surrounded themselves solely with Frenchmen. This is the real explanation of the support given to the Celtic pretenders. A new civilization is not easily imposed upon a people. Elsewhere in Scotland, the process was more gradual and less violent. In the eastern Lowlands there were no pretenders and no rebellions, and traces of the earlier civilization remained longer than in Galloway and in Moray. "In Fife alone", says Mr. Robertson, "the Earl continued in the thirteenth century to exercise the prerogatives of a royal Maor, and, in the reign of David I, we find in Fife what is practically the clan MacDuff."[96] Neither in the eastern Lowlands, nor in the more disturbed districts of Moray and Galloway, is there any evidence of a radical change in the population. The changes were imposed from above. Mr. Lang has pointed out that we do not hear "of feuds consequent on the eviction of prior holders.... The juries, from Angus to Clyde, are full of Celtic names of the gentry. The Steward (FitzAlan) got Renfrew, but the "probi homines", or gentry, remain Celtic after the reigns of David and William."[97] The contemporary chronicler, Aelred, gives no hint that David replaced his Scottish subjects by an Anglo-Norman population; he admits that he was terrible to the men of Galloway, but insists that he was beloved of the Scots. It must not be forgotten that the new system brought Anglo-Norman justice and order with it, and must soon have commended itself by its practical results. The grants of land did not mean dispossession. The small owners of land and the serfs acquiesced in the new rule and began to take new names, and the Anglo-Norman strangers were in actual possession, not of the land itself, but of the "privilegia" owed by the land. Even with regard to the great lords, the statements have been slightly exaggerated; Alexander II was aided in crushing the rebellion of 1214-15 by Celtic earls, and in 1235 he subdued Galloway by the aid of a Celtic Earl of Ross.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have attempted to explain the Anglicization of Scotland, south and east of "the Highland line", by the combined forces of the Church, the Court, Feudalism, and Commerce, and it is unnecessary to lay further stress upon the importance of these elements in twelfth century life. It may be interesting to compare with this the process by which the Scottish Highlands have been Anglicized within the last century and a half. It must, in the first place, be fully understood that the interval between the twelfth century and the suppression of the last Jacobite rising was not void of development even in the Highlands. "It is in the reign of David the First", says Mr. Skene,[98] "that the sept or clan first appears as a distinct and prominent feature in the social organization of the Gaelic population", and it is not till the reign of Robert III that he finds "the first appearance of a distinct clan". Between the end of the fourteenth century and the middle of the eighteenth, the clan had developed a complete organization, consisting of the chief and his kinsmen, the common people of the same blood, and the dependants of the clan. Each clan contained several septs, founded by such descendants of chiefs as had obtained a definite possession in land. The writer of _Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland in 1726_, mentions that the Highland clans were "subdivided into smaller branches of fifty or sixty men, who deduce their original from their particular chieftains, and rely upon them as their more immediate protectors and defenders".

The Hanoverian government had thus to face, in 1746, a problem in some respects more difficult than that which the descendants of Malcolm Canmore had solved. The clan organization was complete, and clan loyalty had assumed the form of an extravagant devotion; a hostile feeling had arisen between Highlands and Lowlands, and all feeling of common nationality had been lost. There was no such important factor as the Church to help the change; religion was, on the whole, perhaps rather adverse than favourable to the process of Anglicization. On the other hand, the task was, in other aspects, very much easier. The Highlands had been affected by the events of the seventeenth century, and the chiefs were no longer mere freebooters and raiders. The Jacobite rising had weakened the Highlands, and the clans had been divided among themselves. It was not a united opposition that confronted the Government. Above all, the methods of land-tenure had already been rendered subject to very considerable modification. Since the reign of James VI, the law had been successful in attempting to ignore "all Celtic usages inconsistent with its principles", and it "regarded all persons possessing a feudal title as absolute proprietors of the land, and all occupants of the land who could not show a right derived from the proprietor, as simple tenants".[99] Thus the strongest support of the clan system had been removed before the suppression of the clans. The Government of George II placed the Highlands under military occupation, and began to root out every tendency towards the persistence of a clan organization. The clan, as a military unit, ceased to exist when the Highlanders were disarmed, and as a unit for administrative purposes when the heritable jurisdictions were abolished, and it could no longer claim to be a political force of any kind, for every vestige of independence was removed. The only individual characteristic left to the clan or to the Highlander was the tartan and the Celtic garb, and its use was prohibited under very severe penalties. These were measures which were not possible in the days of David as they were in those of George. But a further step was common to both centuries--the forfeiture of lands, and although a later Government restored many of these to descendants of the attainted chiefs, the magic spell had been broken, and the proprietor was no longer the head of the clan. Such measures, and the introduction of sheep-farming, had, within sixty years, changed the whole face of the Highlands.

Another century has been added to Sir Walter's _Sixty Years Since_, and it may be argued that all the resources of modern civilisation have failed to accomplish, in that period, what the descendants of Malcolm Canmore effected in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This is true as far as language is concerned, but only with regard to language. The Highlanders have not forgotten the Gaelic tongue as the Lowlanders had forgotten it by the outbreak of the War of Independence.[100] Various facts account for this. One of the features of recent days is an antiquarian revival, which has tended to preserve for Highland children the great intellectual advantage of a bi-lingual education. The very severance of the bond between chieftain and clan has helped to perpetuate the ancient language, for the people no longer adopt the speech of their chief, as, in earlier days, the Celt of Moray or of Fife adopted the tongue spoken by his Anglo-Norman lord, or learned by the great men of his own race at the court of David or of William the Lion. The Bible has been translated into Gaelic, and Gaelic has become the language of Highland religion. In the Lowlands of the twelfth century, the whole influence of the Church was directed to the extermination of the Culdee religion, associated with the Celtic language and with Celtic civilization. Above all, the difference lies in the rise of burghs in the Lowlands. Speech follows trade. Every small town on the east coast was a school of English language. Should commerce ever reach the Highlands, should the abomination of desolation overtake the waterfalls and the valleys, and other temples of nature share the degradation of the Falls of Foyers, we may then look for the disappearance of the Gaelic tongue.

Be all this as it may, it is undeniable that there has been in the Highlands, since 1745, a change of civilization without a displacement of race. We venture to think that there is some ground for the view that a similar change of civilization occurred in the Lowlands between 1066 and 1286, and, similarly, without a racial dispossession. We do not deny that there was some infusion of Anglo-Saxon blood between the Forth and the Moray Firth in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; but there is no evidence that it was a repopulation.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 94: In this discussion the province of Lothian is not included.]

[Footnote 95: Ri Mortuath is an Irish term. We find, more usually, in Scotland, the Mormaer.]

[Footnote 96: _Op. cit._, vol. i, p. 254.]

[Footnote 97: _History of Scotland_, vol. i, pp. 135-6.]

[Footnote 98: _Celtic Scotland_, vol. iii, pp. 303, 309.]

[Footnote 99: _Celtic Scotland_, vol. iii, p. 368.]

[Footnote 100: It should of course be recollected that the Gaelic tongue must have persisted in the vernacular speech of the Lowlands long after we lose all traces of it as a literary language.]


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