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Significant Scots
Alexander, Kings I, II & III


ALEXANDER I, surnamed Aver, or the Fierce, king of Scots from 1106 to1124, was the fifth son of Malcolm III. by his wife Margaret of England. Lord Hailes conjectures that his name was bestowed in honour of Pope Alexander II.; a circumstance worthy of attention, as it was the means of introducing the most common and familiar Christian name in Scotland. The date of Alexander’s birth is not known; but as his four elder brothers were all under age in 1093, at the death of their father, he must have been in the bloom of life at his accession to the throne. He succeeded his brother Edgar, January 8, 1106-7, and immediately after married Sybilla, the natural daughter of Henry I. of England, who had married his sister Mathilda or Maud. Such an alliance was not then considered dishonourable. Alexander was active in enforcing obedience to this dominion, and in suppressing the bands of rebels or robbers with which the northern parts of the kingdom were infested; but the chief events of his reign relate to the efforts made by the English church to assert a supremacy over that of Scotland. These efforts were resisted by the king of Scots with steady perseverance, and ultimate success, notwithstanding that the pope countenanced the claims of the English prelates. It is to be presumed that this spirit would have incited the Scottish monarch to maintain the independency of his kingdom, had it ever been called in question during his reign. Alexander died April 27, 1124, after a reign of seventeen years and three months. As he left no issue, he was succeeded by his next and last surviving brother David, so memorable for his bounty to the church. Alexander was also a pious monarch. Aldred, in his genealogy of the English kings, says of him, that "he was humble and courteous to the clergy, but, to the rest of his subjects, terrible beyond measure; high-spirited, always endeavouring to compass things beyond his power; not ignorant of letters; zealous in establishing churches, collecting relics and providing vestments and books for the clergy; liberal even to profusion, and taking delight in the offices of charity to the poor." His donations to the church were very considerable. He made a large grant of lands to the church of St Andrews, increased the revenue of the monastery of Dunfermline, which his parents had founded, established a colony of canons regular at home, and built a monastery on Inch-colm in the Firth of Forth, in gratitude for having been preserved from a tempest on that island.

ALEXANDER II., the only legitimate son of king William, surnamed the Lion, was born in 1198. He succeeded his father, December 4, 1214, in his seventeenth year, and was crowned next day at Scone. Alexander II. is characterised by Fordun as a pious, just, and brave king - as the shield of the church, the safe-guard of the people, and the friend of the miserable. He espoused the cause of the English barons against king John, which led to mutua1 depredations between the two sovereigns; but on the accession of Henry III. to the crown of England, peace was restored; and in 1221, the friendly intercourse of the two nations was established by the marriage of the king of Scotland to Joan, eldest sister of the king of England. This princess died in 1238, without issue; and in the following year Alexander married Mary de Couci, the scion of a French house, which, in its motto, disclaimed royalty, and rested for distinction on its own merits:

Je suis ni rol, ni prince aussi-
Je suis le seigneur de Couci.

During the life of Joan, the British monarchs came to no open rupture, their friendly intimacy being only occasionally interrupted by Henry discovering a disposition to revive the claim of homage from the king of Scotland, which had been given up by Richard I., and by Alexander insisting on his claim to the three northern counties of England; but shortly after the death of Joan, national jealousies broke out, and in 1244, both princes raised armies and prepared for war. By the mediation, however, of several English barons, hostilities were prevented, and a peace concluded. Much of Alexander's reign was occupied in suppressing insurrections of the Celtic inhabitants of Scotland. He died A.D. 1249, in one of the islands of the Hebrides, while engaged in subjecting Angus, the Lord of Argyle, who refused his homage to the Scottish sovereign. He left by his second wife one son, who is the subject of the following article.

ALEXANDER III., born at Roxburgh, September 4, 1241, succeeded his father in the eighth year of his age. He was knighted and crowned only five days after his father's death - a precipitation adopted to prevent the interference of the king of England. When only a year old, Alexander had been betrothed to Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry III., a princess of his own age; and in 1251, their nuptials were celebrated at York with great pomp. On the ground of this union, Henry interested himself in the affairs of Scotland, and the young prince was a frequent visitor at the court of his father-in-law. The English monarch, taking advantage of Alexander's youth and other circumstances, endeavoured to prevail upon him to do homage for his crown and kingdom of Scotland; but the young king, with a fortitude and prudence beyond his years, and which gave promise of his future decision, resisted the requisition, saying that he could not treat of affairs of state without the advice of his parliament. During Alexander's minority, the country was divided into factions, and various struggles for ascendancy took place; but the administration was latterly committed to fifteen of the leading chiefs or barons. Alexander had reached the twenty-second year of his age, when his kingdom was invaded by one of the most formidable armaments that had ever sailed from Norway. Haco, king of that country, with a fleet of one hundred and sixty ships, freighted with many thousand northern warriors, who carried terror to almost all the shores of Europe, sailed towards Scotland in the summer of 1263, and after making himself master of the islands of Arran and Bute, arrived in the bay of Largs, near the mouth of the Clyde, and endeavoured to effect a landing. Here a Scottish army, under Alexander, assembled to resist the invasion; and here, on the 2d of October, after a fierce and bloody contest, the Norwegians were repulsed with great loss. A storm arising, completed the dissipation or destruction of their fleet. Haco escaped with difficulty through the strait between Sky and the mainland, since called Kyle Hacken, and reaching the Orkneys, died there, as is said, of a broken heart. By this defeat, all the islands of the western sea, including that of Man, but excepting those of Orkney and Shetland, submitted to Alexander.

From this period to the death of Alexander, Scotland enjoyed tranquillity, only disturbed by the pretensions of the pope and the encroachments of the clergy, both of which Alexander was successful in resisting. Religious crusades were at this time the rage over Europe, and Scotland did not escape the infection, as many of her bravest barons perished in Palestine. In 1274, Alexander attended the coronation of his brother-in-law, Edward I., at Westminster, and after the custom of the times did homage for the lands which he held of him in England. Six months after this, Margaret queen of Scotland died, leaving one daughter and two sons - Margaret, Alexander, and David. David died unmarried in 1281. Margaret was married in 1282, to Eric king of Norway, and died in the following year, after giving birth to an infant daughter, who received her own name. Alexander was married in 1283 to the daughter of Guy earl of Flanders, and died in the following year without issue. Thus, in the course of a few years, was the unhappy king of Scotland deprived of his wife and all his children - the only remaining descendant of his body being the Maiden of Norway, as she is called in Scottish history, an infant grandchild residing in a foreign land. In 1285, Alexander, to provide against the evils of a disputed succession, at the request of his nobility, married Joletta, daughter of the Count de Dreux; but shortly after his marriage, in riding along a precipitous road between Bruntisland and Kinghorn, his horse fell over a rock, and the unfortunate monarch was killed. This event took place on the 16th of March, 1286, in the 45th year of his age and 37th of his reign.

With Alexander III. terminated a race of kings, who, from the accession of Malcolm Cean-Mohr, had distinguished themselves by their activity in the administration of justice, and their courage in maintaining the rights and independence of their country against a powerful and too often an insidious foe. Few annals of a rude people, indeed, can present a more remarkable series of patriotic monarchs than those with whom Scotland was blessed from the middle of the eleventh to the close of the thirteenth century, whether we consider their wisdom and impartiality as legislators, their prudence as politicians, or their bravery as warriors, for Malcolm the Maiden and the terms upon which William the Lion effected his release from captivity must only be considered as exceptions to the general excellence of their conduct. But with the death of Alexander III., the peace and prosperity of the country was broken up; and much as he was lamented by the people, and gloomy as were their forebodings on his decease, no anticipation could exceed the real calamities in which the country was involved by his unhappy and untimely end.


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