65th Conference 2022

The 65th Conference of the Scottish Medievalists was held on Saturday 8 January 2022 via zoom, due to the ongoing Coronavirus disruption.

Welcome Rhiannon Purdie (Chair) It is a sad part of the conference to note three deaths of former members that had occurred in the previous year. First, was Pricilla Bawcutt, who died in February 2021. In September 2021 noted early member of the society Ian Fisher had died. In the last week we had also received the sad news of the death of Ted Cowan.


Panel 1: Rethinking Women in Medieval Scotland

Another Damsel (Not) in Distress? Katherine Beaumont, a Disinherited Noblewoman in Fourteenth-Century Scotland

Dr Morvern French (Historic Environment Scotland) & Dr Iain MacInnes (University of the Highlands and Islands )

In 1335-6 Lochindorb Castle was occupied by Katherine Beaumont, the widow of David Strathbogie. Strathbogie, claimant to the earldom of Atholl and an adherent of Edward Balliol, had been killed in battle in 1335, after which the forces of Andrew Murray besieged Lochindorb. This led Edward III to conduct a rescue mission as part of a campaign known as the Lochindorb chevauchée. Besieged Disinherited women have so far received less scholarly attention than their Bruce counterparts, to which Katherine was different in being English and in having an infant son at the time of the siege. Indeed, it is possible that she conceived and gave birth in Scotland, at one of Strathbogie’s northern castles. Her own family background was also significant, as both she and Strathbogie shared descent from the Comyns and this may have influenced Strathbogie’s ambitions in reclaiming lands and power in Scotland. Katherine’s Comyn descent is also reflected in her seal. She may have taken a prominent and visible role during the siege of Lochindorb, forming strategy and issuing commands, a task potentially made more difficult by the effects of contemporary climate change on livestock and crops. When the siege itself began is unclear, occurring among various negotiations and truce extensions as well as Murray’s mopping-up campaign after his success at Culblean. The effects of the weather may have led in the first phase to a lighter siege, attempting to starve the garrison out, but when the truce expired around May 1336 a second, directly attacking, phase could begin. This lasted until July and Edward III’s arrival. Katherine reportedly sailed to the shore to thank him, describing ‘the deprivation and adversity suffered by her and hers’ due to a lack of supplies. Although Edward’s newsletter, quoted here, provided considerable detail of these events, Katherine’s experience at Lochindorb is curiously absent from most English chronicle accounts, unlike those from Scotland. This may be deliberate on the part of English chroniclers, aware of rumours about Edward’s alleged rape of Katherine, countess of Salisbury, which tale bears striking similarities to that of the rescue of Katherine Beaumont at Lochindorb. Katherine’s history offers the possibility for wider consideration of Disinherited women and their importance in a period of civil war in which noble heiresses played significant roles.

Further reading:

  • Iain A. MacInnes, ‘‘To subject the north of the country to his rule’: Edward III and the ‘Lochindorb chevauchée of 1336’, Northern Scotland 3 (2012)
  • Iain A. MacInnes, Scotland’s Second War of Independence, 1332-1357 (Boydell Press, 2016)
  • Morvern French, ‘Christina Bruce and Her Defence of Kildrummy Castle’, Royal Studies Journal 7:1 (2020)

New Perspectives on Scottish Queenship

Dr Amy Hayes (Staff Tutor and Lecturer in History at the Open University) and Dr Helen Newsome (Historical and Forensic Linguist at Aston University).

This joint paper gave an overview of the development of queenship studies in Scotland, highlighting new research and emphasising the need for fresh perspectives and interdisciplinary work to be brought to Scottish queenship studies. Helen and Amy used case studies of two queens to highlight this burgeoning work. The first was Mary of Guelders, thought by antiquarians to be incapable of power and now accepted as an influential political and cultural leader in the years after her husband’s death. The second was Margaret Tudor, who was previously dismissed as ‘frivolous’ and ‘vain’, but has recently been shown to have played a central role in Anglo-Scots diplomacy and communication.

Further Reading:

  • Hayes, A. (2016) The Late Medieval Scottish Queen, c.1371-c.1513, PhD Thesis, University of Aberdeen.
  • Hayes, A. (2019) The Stewart Queens (1333 – 1541), History Scotland.
  • Hayes, A. (forthcoming, working title) The Late Medieval Scottish Queen, c.1371-c.1513, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Newsome, H. (2018) ‘sche that schuld be medyatryce (mediatrice) in thyr (these) matars’: Performances of mediation in the letters of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots (1489-1541), PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield.
  • Newsome, H. (2021) ‘The function, format, and performance of Margaret Tudor’s January 1522 diplomatic memorial’, Renaissance Studies 35(3), 403-424.
  • Newsome, H. (forthcoming) A Scholarly Edition of the Holograph Letters of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots (1489-1541), The Royal Historical Society’s Camden Fifth Series, Cambridge University Press.

4th A. A. M. Duncan Memorial Lecture

The medieval diocese of Sodor: evidence from Furness Abbey

Professor Fiona Edmonds (Lancaster University Professor in Regional History and Director of the Regional Heritage Centre)

In 1134 Óláfr I, king of the Isles, granted to Furness Abbey the right to elect a bishop for the diocese of Sodor. Historians have long known the texts pertaining to Furness Abbey’s right to elect, but the format of the key document has never been fully explored. It is a thirteenth-century dossier of material that the monks of Furness apparently compiled as evidence of their unusual privilege. In this paper FE considered the possible contexts for the production of this document, pointing especially to the Treaty of Perth (1266) and Furness Abbey’s negotiations with King Alexander III. In doing so, FE sought to draw out themes that resonated with Professor Duncan’s work: the links between Scotland and northern England, and the relationship between the Isles and the kingdom of the Scots.