Post-classical history


Despite its position on the northwestern periphery of Christendom, the kingdom of Scotland contributed to all major aspects of the crusading movement from the late eleventh to the early sixteenth centuries, although the nature of its contributions was often affected or even determined by its relationship with its more powerful southern neighbor, the kingdom of England.

The presence of Scots on the First (1096-1099) and Second (1147-1149) crusades is mentioned by several contemporary authors, including eyewitness sources, although none of their names are known;Lagmann, king of Man, who went to the Holy Land at the time of the First Crusade, and the Orkneymen who accompanied the crusade of Earl Rognvald Kali in 1151-1153 came from the western and northern isles that were still under Norwegian suzerainty, rather than from the kingdom itself.

King David I (1124-1153) established the orders of the Temple and the Hospital in Scotland but was dissuaded by his subjects from joining the Second Crusade himself; the orders were granted property in every burgh in the kingdom by David’s grandson Malcolm IV (1153-1165). The Templars came to be organized in two commanderies (preceptories), at Balantrodoch (mod. Temple) in Midlothian and Marycul- ter in Kincardineshire, and the Hospitallers in one, Tor- phichen in West Lothian. Both orders in Scotland came under the authority of their respective English provinces, and most of the few knight brethren who resided in the kingdom in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were Englishmen.

Some Scots, notably the nobleman Robert de Quincy, joined the Third Crusade (1189-1192), while King William the Lion (1165-1214) used the opportunity to buy the kingdom free of the English overlordship that had been imposed when he had been captured by Henry II in 1174 (the Treaty of Falaise), by a payment of 10,000 marks to Henry’s son Richard the Lionheart, who was desperate to finance his own expedition to the Holy Land (the Quit-Claim of Canterbury, 1189). A greater number of Scots accompanied the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221), including two poets from Gaelic-speaking areas, Muiredhach Albanach O Dalaigh and Gille-Brigde Albanach, both of whom later composed poems telling of their journey to Damietta and Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) and return via Greece and Italy. In 1247 Patrick, earl of March, took the cross to join the crusade of Louis IX of France to Egypt, while his wife founded a Trinitarian house at Dunbar, thus augmenting the order’s two existing Scottish foundations at Failford and Berwick. Earl Patrick died at Marseilles before embarkation the next year, but more Scots left for the Holy Land in 1250.

King Robert Bruce encouraging his troops before the Battle of Bannockburn (June 23, 1314). (Bettmann/Corbis)

King Robert Bruce encouraging his troops before the Battle of Bannockburn (June 23, 1314). (Bettmann/Corbis)

Correspondence with the papacy during this period shows how the Scottish monarchy and bishops repeatedly tried to prevent crusading taxation levied on the Scottish church from being used for the benefit of English crusaders, as had evidently often happened in the past. When a new crusade was preached in 1267-1268, Alexander III (1249-1286) prohibited the export of tax revenues that Henry III of England intended for the use of his sons Edward and Edmund. However, the years 1270-1272 saw the greatest response yet seen to a crusade by Scots, who sailed with Louis IX of France as well as with the two English princes. They included David of Strathbogie, earl of Atholl; Adam de Kinconquhar, earl of Carrick; and Ingram de Balliol with Louis; and David de Lindsay; Robert Bruce the Elder, lord of Annandale, and his son Robert; and Alexander de Balliol and his uncle Eustace de Balliol with the English princes. Many of those who survived the French defeat at Tunis appear to have joined Edward in Sicily and continued to the Holy Land.

The fall of Acre to the Egyptian sultan Khalil in 1291 found Scotland in the throes of a succession crisis occasioned by the death of Margaret, granddaughter of Alexander III, in 1290, which was exploited by Edward I of England to impose his overlordship over the kingdom and to secure for himself the profits of crusading taxation raised there. In 1296, having defeated the new king, John Balliol (1292-1296), Edward I occupied Scotland in an attempt to annex it permanently to the English realm. In 1306 Robert I Bruce (1306-1329), son and grandson of the two Bruce crusaders of 1270-1272, was installed as king by the Scottish patriotic party and led resistance against English domination until Scottish independence was confirmed by the Treaty of Edinburgh- Northampton in 1328.

During this period the crusading idea figured prominently in the propaganda of both Scottish and English governments, particularly in their attempts to secure papal favor. Edward I pleaded his intentions to lead a new crusade once the political situation allowed and repeatedly complained to the pope of how Robert Bruce’s clerical supporters had preached that it was just as meritorious to resist the English as it was to fight the Saracens in the Holy Land. In their own correspondence with the pope and the king of France, the Scottish leaders asserted the desire of their people and king to join a crusade, but only once the kingdom’s freedom had been restored, an idea also contained in the famous statement of independence sent by the Scottish barons to Pope John XXII in 1320 (the Declaration of Arbroath).

Robert I’s proclaimed desire to fight the enemies of Christendom was never realized, but on his death it found expression in the form of a proxy crusade led by his trusted companion Sir James Douglas, who took the king’s embalmed heart on an expedition directed against Muslim Spain, possibly with the Holy Land as its ultimate goal. After the death of Douglas in battle at Teba in the kingdom of Granada in 1330, Robert’s heart was retrieved and brought back to Scotland for burial at Melrose Abbey. The Templars and Hospitallers of Scotland had largely supported Edward I during the wars of independence, but the Templars were suppressed in 1312 by the English occupation regime in the course of the general dissolution of the order and the bulk of their properties handed over to the Hospitallers. After the victory of Robert I, who confirmed the Hospitallers’ holdings in 1314, most of the order’s officers seem to have been Scots, who often preferred to pay revenues directly to the central treasury of the order at Rhodes (mod. Rodos, Greece) rather than to the priory of England.

The resumption of aggression against Scotland by Edward III of England in 1333, which lasted until 1370, constituted a major bar to Scottish crusading activity, compounded by the English king’s claims to the throne of France, Scotland’s ally, which sparked off the Hundred Years’ War. During a lull in hostilities many Scottish knights took part in the crusade of Peter I of Cyprus against Alexandria (1365) with the active encouragement of David II (1329-1371), who professed a keen interest in crusading and had met Peter at the English court in 1363.

Two of the Scottish crusaders of 1365, the brothers Walter and Norman Leslie, had previously been to Prussia, and it was the Baltic Crusades that constituted the main sphere of Scottish crusading activity from the mid-fourteenth century until the battle of Tannenberg (1410); during this period over seventy Scottish knights are known to have traveled to Prussia to take part in the campaigns of the Teutonic Order against pagan Lithuania, and as their names are known primarily from safe-conducts issued by the English government, the actual number of crusaders may have been higher than that documented in the surviving sources. Yet even in Prussia, crusading activity might be affected by the wider political situation, as in 1391, when fighting broke out between Scottish and English crusaders at Konigsberg (mod. Kaliningrad, Russia), resulting in the death of Sir William Douglas, lord of Nithsdale.

Unlike the Bruce dynasty, the Stewarts, who succeeded in 1371, showed little interest in the crusade until the reign of James IV (1488-1513). By 1507 James was planning a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, an idea that during the next two years developed into a grand project to lead a crusade against the Turks. He had already begun the construction of a navy, which was to attain the size of 38 ships, and he now pursued a diplomatic initiative among the European powers with the aim of building a pan-Christian coalition. The project eventually foundered owing to the hostility to France of the Holy League formed by the papacy, England, Venice, and Spain. When Henry VIII of England invaded France in 1513, James moved against England in support of his ally, only to be defeated and killed at the battle of Flodden.

The following period, characterized by regency governments and factional disputes, saw the Hospitallers as the only remaining Scottish institution with an interest in the crusade, continuing to send recruits and money to their headquarters, initially at Rhodes and later at Malta. Walter Lindsay, preceptor of Torphichen (1532/1533-1546), compiled a rental listing of all the order’s lands and rights in Scotland; however, as the Reformation swept through the kingdom, all of these were surrendered to the Crown in 1564 by his successor James Sandilands, who received them back as a hereditary barony. While a handful of Catholic Scots subsequently emigrated to join the order, the secularization of the Hospitaller lands in Scotland effectively ended the country’s contribution to the crusading movement.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!