THE CONTENT OF THE DECLARATION
The document is divided into twelve clauses, a number with an inherent Christian meaning and the last two embody the normal courtesies, leaving ten active clauses. The first opens with the formal courtesy necessary to such an address, and then continues to list the signatories.
It is a pity that commentaries on the Declaration do not list the names of others that are missing In State papers what and who is left out, sometimes, can be of as much interest than the actual content.
The trouble with genealogy is that it has several dimensions of time, space (location), family, marriage, community, and migration. A great deal of reliable information is needed to begin to understand who connects to who and how, and the perceptions and beliefs of the Medieval mind are a world away from ours. A great deal of the family information alone is lost to us from the early 1300’s even amongst the great men of their time.
The Declaration is a major document, and it is a pity there is limited direct information available on which to base a full-scale analysis of the signatories. In the formula, Who, What, When, Where, Why, we are left with a number of questions about the background and connections of the Who.
Any analysis has to be tentative and proceed on the basis of what is known, rather than being conjectured from the deeper past. Looking at the known families of the men listed it is hard to come to a conclusion other than the main thrust of their ancestry was the Northmen of old, not so much the domineering Norman French, but their close and distant kin from the several parts of Scandinavia, and notably the Viking Earls.
So behind a good many of the Scots nobles lie the figures of Hrolf The Ganger, the Norse and Swedish Kings, and the names of the Icelandic Saga’s, men who had carved out territories for themselves, their kin, and their friends. Who they had sired their children from, and what sexual associations they had made amongst the women of other tribal groups, and to what effect can only be guessed at, let alone what the full extent and implications of the traffic in human flesh that were part of their life’s game and sources of wealth.
There is a mix of connections from the old Lords of the Isles, the early Kings of Scotland, the Normans and the Kin of The Conqueror, the Norse, Northumbrians, and the consequences of marriages to the chiefs, princes, thanes, earls, and rest of the many and various groups that had exercised governance over one part or another of the lands that came to be Scotland from the mid sixth century forward.
If the scientists are correct and there were major population reductions in the earlier part of the sixth century due to geo-physical events and then epidemics and longer periods of crop failure at times, then what remnants may have remained of the previous populations in what would have been a cold wet tundra and how far any of these were able to remain as a major tribal chiefdom is an open question.
By the 1320’s their memory would have been a collection of traces in the DNA, with nothing written and much lost in translation, whatever the minstrels might have sung in the spin of their propaganda. The Scottish nobles were not a distinct ethnic group, still less the genetic inheritors of a single ancient tribe. They were armed, organised, war lords with their personal war bands who had asserted personal control over whatever land could be taken and whoever could be coerced into their service or serfdom.
They may have assumed the role of tribal leaders, but they may have had little familial connection with those over whom they came to rule. The consent of the ruled amounted to an agreement within the war band that the lord was the man to deliver on his promises and only if he delivered.
As far the rest of the population, one can only speculate what groups from all the demographic events were able to hang on in the scattered valleys and communities of a much disputed stretch of land and waters. Then there were the effects of centuries of slaving transactions by tribal chiefs and others operating in and around the Atlantic Archipelago. In Iceland much of the male DNA is Viking but a lot of the female Irish.
One name does catch the eye, that of Roger Mowbray. Like the family history of most of the nobles this is a complicated tale, and one of the usual bath of blood. There were two Houses of Mowbray. The first ended with Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, in 1125 who died without issue, and his wife, Matilda, heiress of Richer de L’Aigle (de Aquila) remarried to Nigel D’Albini, founder of the Second House of Mowbray.
His son, Roger had two sons, Nigel, his heir, and Robert. Nigel was on the point of taking seisin to become Earl of Northumberland when he died, and the title, in abeyance, remained in the hands of the King of England.
Nigel had four sons, the first of which, William, inherited as Baron, Lord Mowbray. The third son, Philip de Mowbray went north to Scotland and took the lands of Barnbougle in Lothian. Between the Second House and the First House there was a discrepancy of 280 Manors, so Philip may have taken some of the Scottish manors from the First House as well as the lands of his wife, Galiena, the daughter of Waldeve, Earl of Dunbar.
Philip’s grandson Galfrid, the 3rd of Barnbougle, married a sister of Black John Comyn, and the daughter of the Red John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Lochaber, murdered at Grey Friars, the Franciscan House at Dumfries in 1306, the event that led to King Robert de Brus being excommunicated, wrongly or rightly.
The Comyns’ had a claim to the Throne of Scotland, and were candidates when King Edward I chose John Baliol. When King Robert de Brus acted against the family many of the Comyn lands were given to the Douglas’s.
Galfrid Mowbray had five sons, the two eldest dying young. The third was the Roger Mowbray of the Declaration of 1320. Later in the year he was arraigned for conspiracy, and executed, his land going mostly to the Douglas’s. The fourth son, Sir Philip Mowbray fell at Dundalk earlier during the Irish venture serving Edward Bruce. The remaining son was Galfried, who had issue.
Meanwhile in England the Mowbrays continued as one of the major magnate families. They were involved in the Magna Carta revolt against King John; they rebelled against King Henry III, and the in period after Bannockburn they were prime opponents of and movers against the Despencer favourites of King Edward II.
One of these opponents was Roger Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore and after 1328 Earl of March, and the partner of Queen Isabel. It was in 1318 that Roger commanded the forces in Ireland in the campaign in Ireland in which Edward de Brus was killed. His head was brought to England, and to quote Leland “unexpectedly laid, with other heads, on a table before King Edward II while seated at a banquet, with ambassadors from Scotland."
The Scotch ambassadors, rising from the table, hurried horror-stricken from the apartment. The King of England received the head with great delight, and was “right blithe of the present, glad to be delivered of a felon foe.” This occasion might be the point at which negotiations between England and Scotland broke down, and that King Robert I felt that it was time to review his options.
In 1318 at this point Roger Mortimer was a member of the Middle party still seeking an agreement with King Edward, as opposed to the more extreme Ordainers, led by the Lancaster’s and the Mowbray’s who were anxious to bring the King and the Despecencers under close control. In that year the Treaty of Leake was agreed between the various parties, but it proved only an interim measure.
Partly, this was because Roger Mortimer had returned to Ireland in 1319 and from that point relationships between the Crown and Court and the Lancaster’s and the Mowbray’s deteriorated steadily due to the King’s mishandling of the territorial ambitions of the rising Despencers. By the middle of 1320 it was clear that armed conflict was impending and this broke out at the beginning of 1321. The rebel Lords lost, but one effect was to bring Roger over to the opposition to the King and his favourites.
It was in March 1322 that John, the Baron de Mowbray was drawn by horses and left to hang in chains at York by Hugh Despencer under the warrant of King Edward II. His son, John, was betrothed to and married Joan, the youngest daughter of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster. Henry’s elder brother, Thomas the 2nd Earl, was beheaded outside Pontefract Castle in the same week in 1322.
They were grandsons of King Henry III by Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster. By their mother, Blanche of Artois, of the French Royal House; widow of Henry, King of Navarre before marriage to Edmund; they were the great grandsons of King Louis VIII of France, the Prince Louis who in 1215 had been offered the throne of England by some of its leading barons and the opportunity to supplant King John.
There are a number of possibilities. John de Mowbray, based in the Royal Honour of Pontefract, then a large part of mid Yorkshire was kin to most of the major families in England. Given the extent, nature, and influence of their family connections, were some of the Northern Earls of England and their affiliates were willing to make an alliance with King Robert de Brus, however temporary, as a security in the pursuit of their own disputes with King Edward II and his Despencer favourites?
The Earldom of Northumberland was a major prize, despite the wreckage of the territories it encompassed, irrespective whether it came from the hands of the King of England or the King of Scots. The boundaries between Scotland and England were still then open to dispute, would any of the Mowbray family receive it as his fief and as his price?