Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Women of Medieval Scotland

 From Knight of the Two L's:

The first of today's women is, unfortunately, the more mysterious of the two. Joanna Murray was the only known children of Maurice Murray, earl of Strathearn, and Joanna Menteith (after whom she was presumably named). She was born sometime between 1339, when her parents received papal dispensation to marry, and 1346, when her father died. Her grandfather - John - had been merely lord of Drumsargard in Lanarkshire but had firmly tied the family's fortunes to those of the Bruce dynasty from very early in the reign of King Robert I. Joanna's father had inherited the lordship of Drumsargard by 1334, when he was active as sheriff of Lanark for the Bruce Scots. His vigorous support of the Bruce cause during the absence of King David II in France allowed Maurice to forge links with the guardians Sir Andrew Murray of Bothwell (who was also one of Maurice's kinsmen) and Robert the Steward (David II's nephew and heir presumptive), but following David's return to Scotland in 1341 Maurice almost immediately transferred his allegiance directly to the king. Partly this reflected a pragmatic recognition that King David could dish out greater rewards than even the most wealthy magnates, but it also reflected the king's eagerness to undermine the influence his most powerful subjects had built up during his time in France. Certainly, Maurice benefited from the king's efforts to check the authority of magnates such as the Steward. When the Steward captured Stirling Castle in the summer of 1342, David installed Maurice as keeper of the castle. Given their past association, Maurice was probably viewed as a reasonable 'compromise candidate', allowing the king to deny the Steward control of this important royal castle while still promoting a figure with whom the king's nephew was friendly. Also in 1342, King David granted the barony of Strathaven in Lanarkshire and the baronies of Sprouston and Hawick in Roxburghshire. Possession of Strathaven allowed Maurice to serve as a potential counter-balance to the Steward's territorial interests in the south-west, while Sprouston and Hawick intruded Maurice as a royal agent into a region otherwise dominated by William Douglas, lord of Liddesdale, another figure who had greatly expanded his authority during David's absence in France. (Read more.)

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