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“A somewhat too cruel vengeance was taken for the blood of the slain”: Royal Punishment of Rebels, Traitors, and Political Enemies in Medieval Scotland, c.1100–c.1250
By Iain A. MacInnes
Treason: Medieval and Early Modern Adultery, Betrayal, and Shame, edited by Larissa Tracy (Brill, 2019)
Abstract: The kings of twelfth- and thirteenth- century Scotland faced prolonged opposition from families and individuals who fought either to assert their independence from centralising authority, or for the throne itself. The insurrections that arose as a result were all successfully defeated by an increasingly confident Scottish monarchy.
Current historiography describes such royal victories as bloodthirsty affairs, with Scotland’s kings exacting excessively violent revenge on the bodies of their enemies. Historians of medieval England have drawn parallels between such acts and the political violence of contemporary Wales and Ireland, with England alone providing an example of a more civilised royal response to rebellion.
This chapter reconsiders the actions of Scotland’s kings and reassesses the violent paradigm that has been accepted to date, examining cases of non-violent response as balance. It suggests that, instead of being violent avengers, Scottish kings behaved in a more acceptable and accepted contemporary manner than previously understood.
Top Image: Detail from the charter of Malcolm IV, King of Scotland to Kelso Abbey.