The Lion (1143
"The Lion" was a grandson of King David
I and came to the throne after the death of his
elder brother, Malcolm IV in 1165. The nickname
"The Lion" was accorded to him after his
death and may have been due either to his valour
and strength in battle (though he was not always
successful) or, more likely, to the heraldic symbol
which he adopted - the red lion rampant on a yellow
background - which has remained a royal symbol to
this day. The
went on to become the Royal standard of Scotland;
the British Monarch when in Scotland still uses
it today. It also forms part of the Royal Standard
of the United Kingdom.
William was crowned at Scone on December 24, 1165
at the age of 22 and was to reign for nearly 50
years - a prodigious length of time by any standards,
but unheard of in those violent days.
William was red-haired and energetic. Early in his
reign he attempted to recover land in Northumberland
which had been given to King David in 1149 by King
Stephen of England but which had been ceded by his
brother Malcolm. The stories of his butchery of
the local population were chronicled in detail by
later (English) historians. However, he was ultimately
unsuccessful as he was surprised by an attack by
the English army while besieging Alnwick castle.
In the mist, he mistook a party of English knights
for his own. He is said to have fought fearlessly
but his horse was speared and he was captured. He
spent five months as a prisoner of Henry II while
the English army plundered the south of Scotland
as far as Edinburgh.
William was only released under the Treaty of Falaise.
Under this, William was forced to swear allegiance
to King Henry II of England and English garrisons
remained in the castles which had been captured.
This lasted until after Henry's death in 1189. At
that stage he was able to negotiate out of the oath
by providing money to King Richard (the Lionheart)
who needed finance to go on a crusade to the Holy
In 1178 William founded the Abbey of Arbroath which
was dedicated to Thomas à Becket who had
been murdered by Henry II in 1170. The Abbey was
later to be place where the famous "Declaration
of Arbroath" was signed in 1320 by the Scottish
nobles in the time of Robert the Bruce.
William failed to assert his authority over the
rebellious south-west of Scotland. This was not
helped by the fact that he had to first ask permission
of his "liege-lord" Henry to be allowed
to deal with the matter. William captured one of
the ring-leaders but had to send him to Henry to
be dealt with. Henry demand an oath of loyalty -
and promptly returned the outlaw to Galloway where
he immediately attacked William's garrison.
William is known to have been planning another invasion
of England to retake Northumberland early in the
13th century after King John came to the throne
of England and there were a number of skirmishes
along the border. But he eventually negotiated a
treaty instead - he is said to have had a "divine
warning" of the consequences of invasion.
In 1186 William married Ermengarde de Beaumont who
at last bore him a son in 1198 (later King Alexander
II) when William was aged 53. He also had three
daughters (all of whom married English nobles as
part of the peacemaking process with King John of
Arbroath Abbey became the burial place of William
the Lion when he died in 1214. His tombstone can
be seen there today in the grounds of the Abbey.