You are on page 1of 13



Robert de Comines probably came from Comines in Flanders and entered the service of William the
Conqueror. He was sent north as earl of Northumbria in 1068 after the deposition of Gospatric. He got as
far as Durham with his 700 men where Bishop Ethelwin warned him about an army mobilised against him.
He ignored the advice and on 28 Jan. 1069 the rebel army attacked Durham and killed many of his men and
set fire to the bishop's house where he was staying and Robert was killed in the fire. After this attack
Ethelwin turned against the Normans and gathered an army and marched on York.


 ?2I. _______-


Anglo-Saxon England- Frank M. Stenton, Oxford University Press, 1971

2I. _________ (ROBERT 1)-



 II. Osbert- d. 1144
 III. Walter- mentioned in a charter from Hexham Abbey in 1162.


William came from Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire and was among the Norman landowners who emigrated to
Scotland by invitation of King David I. He also held land in England as Earl of Huntingdon. This Comyn
family were direct descendants of Robert Comine, Earl of Northumbria. William was Chancellor of


 4I. RICHARD- m. HEXILDA TYNEDALE (m.2. Mael Coluim, Earl of Atholl), d.c.1190

m. HEXILDA, TYNEDALE, (m.2. Mael Coluim, Earl of Atholl), d. of Uchtred, Lord of Tynedale and
Bethoc ingen Domnaill Bain, and grand daughter of Donald Bane


Site of Northallerton Castle

Richard witnessed many charters from Malcolm IV and William the Lion. In 1144 Richard received
Northallerton Castle from his father William. He was made Justiciary of Scotland by King William.
Richard was captured with King William in 1174 and was a hostage for him in the Treaty of Falaise. With
Hextilda's consent he gave land to the monks at Hexham, Kelso and Holyrood. "Hextildis comitissa de
Eththetela" donated property to Rievall Abbey for the soul of "domini mei Richardi Cumin".(1)


 I. John- d. before 1152, bur. Kelso Abbey

 5II. WILLIAM- m.1. ?, 2. MARGARET, Countess of Buchan, d. 1233
 III. Odinel- Odo was a priest and a witness to Richard's charters to religious houses in 1162 and 1166.
 IV. Simon- mentioned in the 1166 charter to the Augustinians at Holyrood.
 V. Idonea- m. Adam FitzGilbert
 VI. Ada-
 VII. Christien- Richard's daughters were witnesses to a donation made by Mael Coluim, Earl of Atholl
and their mother Hexitilda to the church of St. Cuthbert in Durham.


(1) Monasticon- Dugdale- Rievall Abbey, Yorkshire- Vol. XI, p. 284

Robert the Bruce's Rivals: They Comyns, 1213-1314- Alan Young, East Linton, 1997- pp.15-9
"The Scottish Nation"- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880


m.1.c.1193 SARAH FITZHUGH (d.c.1204), d. of Robert FitzHugh

2. MARGARET, Countess of BUCHAN, d. of Fergus, Earl of Buchan
d. 1233, bur. Deer Abbey

In 1200 William, as King William the Lion's envoy, was sent to congratulate King John on his succeeding
to the throne of England. He was Sheriff of Forfar from 1195 until 1211 and was Justiciary of Scotland
from 1205 until 1233 as well as Warden of Moray in 1211-2. He defeated the tribe under Buthred of the
family of Heth who had come from Ireland. He made his fortune in the service of William the Lion fighting
the insurgency of Gofraid mac Domnaill of the Meic Uilleim in the north whom King William beheaded at
Kincardine in 1213. Upon finally destroying the Meic Uilleim in 1229 he was given the Lordship of
Badenoch. He was a witness to 88 charters by the king. By his marriage with Margaret he became Earl of
Buchan upon Fergus' death c.1214. William helped oversee the construction of St. Mungo's Cathedral in
Glasgow and after his death Margaret continued his work there.

The Liber Pluscardensis records the death in 1233 of "Willelmus Cumyn comes de Buchane" who founded
ecclesiam de Deer.(1)


Deer Abbey

Issue- first six children by Sarah, last seven by Margaret

 6I. RICHARD- b.c.1194, d.c.1245

 II. Jardine- Lord of Inverallochy
 III. Walter- m. Isabella, Countess of Menteith (m.2. John Russell, Kt.)
 IV. Johanna- b.c.1198, m.c.1220 Uilleam I, Earl of Ross (d.c.1274), d.c.1274
 V. John- m.c.1242 Matilda, Countess of Angus (d. 1261), d. 1242
 VI. David- m. Isabel de Valoigne (d. 1253), d. 1247
 VII. Idonea- m.1237 Gilbert de Haya of Erroll (d. 1262)
 IX. William- b.c.1217
 X. Margaret- m. Sir John Keith, Marischal of Scotland (d. 1270)
 XI. Fergus-
 8XII. ELIZABETH- m. WILLIAM MAR (d. 1281), d. 1267
 XIII. Agnes- m.c.1262 Sir Philip de Meldrum, Justiciar of Scotland


(1) Liber Pluscardensis- Vol. I, Liber VII, CX, p. 73

Robert the Bruce's Rivals: They Comyns, 1213-1314- Alan Young, East Linton, 1997
The Scottish Nation- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880


Richard received all the estates of his brother Walter after his death without any sons.


 9I. JOHN- m.1. Eva, 2. Alice ?de Ross or de Lindsay, d.c.1274


"The Scottish Nation"- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880


m.1. Eva
2. Alice ?de Ross or de Lindsay

The Comyn family were in effective power in Scotland from 1249 to 1255, when Alexander III of Scotland
was a minor; John was one of those with court influence. The Comyns were ousted, by Alan Durward, but
returned to power in 1257-8.

John the "Red Comyn" was Justiciary of Galloway and joined the other barons in demanding security from
Henry III before they would allow the Queen of Scotland to go to London. He fought for Henry III of
England at the Battle of Lewes (1265), with John Baliol the elder and Robert Bruce the elder; he was
captured.(1) In 1267 he was given license to crenellate Tarset Castle in Tynedale (by present-day
Lanehead, near Hexham), by Henry III.(2) Tarset had previously been held by Walter Comyn.

Site of Tarset Castle

He started castle construction at Blair Castle with a tower built in 1269 which is now incorporated into the
current structure and known as the Cummings Tower. The place was soon taken back by David, Earl of


Blair Castle


The Cummings Tower


 I. William- m. Heiress of Mentieth, d.s.p.

 10II. JOHN- m. MARJORY BALIOL, living in 1299
 III. _______ - m. Alexander of Argyll
 IV. _______- m. Sir William Galbraith, Lord of Kyncaith
 V. ________- m. Galfrid de Mowbray


(1) English Heritage Battlefield Report: Lewes 1264 at: http://www.english-
(2) Cal. Doc. Scot.- Vol. I, No. 2463; Cal. Pat. Rolls- 178
"The Scottish Nation"- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880


m. MARJORY BALIOL, d. of John Balliol of Barnard Castle

d. 1302 Lochindorb castle

Sir John the "Black Comyn" became Lord of Badenoch and was one of the nobles who settled the
Norwegian marriage of Princess Margaret in 1281.

In 1286 at Alexander III's death he was chosen by Parliament one of the six Regents of Scotland during the
minority of the Maiden of Norway.

After the death of the Queen the "Black Comyn" became a candidate for the crown as descended from King
Duncan by the daughter of his son Donald Bane. He did not push his claim for fear of jeopardising that of
his brother-in-law John de Balliol. He was a committed ally of Balliol and assisted him in his struggle
against Edward I and ws the driving force behind Balliol's claim to the throne and the revolt against
Edward's demands. At the meeting of the competitors for the crown at Holywell-haugh 2 June 1291 John
acknowledged Edward the feudal superior of Scotland and swore allegiance to the English King. After the
election of Baliol to the vacant throne the "Black Comyn" seems to have retired from public life.

Lochindorb Castle


 11I. JOHN- m. JOAN PLANTAGENET, d. 4 Feb. 1305/6

 II. Euphemia- m. Sir Andrew Moray of Petty
 III. ______- m. Sir William Galbraith


Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland- G.W.S. Barrow, 2005- p. 188
"The Scottish Nation"- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880


m. JOAN PLANTAGENET, d. of William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke

d. 10 Feb. 1305/6

Dunbar Castle

John the "Red Comyn" possessed the same right to the throne as Baliol and he supported King Edward as
long as he supported Baliol's interest. Upon the English King's insulting treatment of John Baliol the Scots
revolted and John joined the army which destroyed much of Cumberland. He was among the force admitted
to Dunbar castle by the Countess of March, Marjory Comyn which held off the English under Warene, Earl
of Surrey. After the Battle of Dunbar 28 Apr. 1296 the castle surrendered and the "Red Comyn" was taken
prisoner to the Tower of London, but soon released on condition that he took up service with King Edward
in Flanders. After the English defeat by Wallace at Stirling bridge on 11 Sept. 1297 John was among the
Scots who deserted the English and ended up in Paris where they appealed for aid from Philip IV, however,
the only help they received was a ship back to Scotland. John then joined the patriots and commanded the
cavalry at the battle of Falkirk 22 July 1298 when all his men ran from the field. The main Scottish sources,
the chronicles of John Fordun and John Barbour, were composed decades after the event, long after the
Comyns had been expelled from Scotland. The important thing to remember about Fordun and Barbour is
that they were not composing detached historical narratives, but manifestos, so to speak, with a specific
agenda in mind, namely to magnify Robert Bruce and diminish John Comyn. In Fordun John and his kin
move on and off stage like operatic villains. Hating Wallace, they seem only to have appeared on the
battlefield with premeditated treachery in mind—"For, on account of the ill-will, begotten of the sprig of
envy, which the Comyns had conceived towards the aforesaid William, they, with their accomplices,
forsook the field, and escaped unhurt." This is set alongside a commendation of Robert Bruce, the future
king, who, in Fordun's account, fought on the side of the English and "was the means of bringing about the
victory." Set against the partisan Scottish accounts we have the contemporary English record of the
Lanercost Chronicle, partisan in a different way, which simply blames the inadequacy of the Scottish
cavalry in general. Soon after the defeat John Comyn was to emerge as Guardian in place of Wallace,
unlikely if treachery had been so manifest. John afterwards threatened to impeach Wallace for treason and
he therefore voluntarily resigned as Governor of Scotland with John de Soulis and Sir John being chosen

With no independent power base Wallace, whose prestige had always been based on the success of his
army, had little choice but to resign as Guardian after Falkirk, though Fordun has him stepping down
because of the "wickedness of the Comyns." In his place came one of the more unusual, and difficult,
balancing acts in Scottish history: John Comyn and Robert Bruce the younger, who had now joined the
patriot party. The Scots were still fighting on behalf of the absent King John, so Bruce must have paid lip
service to the cause, though his royal ambitions were openly known. The records give little or nothing in
the way of insight into the feelings and motives of these men, but it seems reasonably clear that hatred and
suspicion of the one for the other were uppermost. At a meeting of a council of the magnates at Peebles in
August 1299 an argument broke out, during which Comyn is said by an English spy to have seized Bruce
by the throat. Seemingly to act as a mediator William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, was appointed as
a third Guardian, not the best of arrangements as Lamberton was politically closer to Bruce. Bruce resigned
before May 1300, when the restoration of King John was looking increasingly likely, leaving only Comyn
and Lamberton, but even this was too much. When parliament assembled at Rutherglen it learned that "the
bishop of St Andrews and sire John Comyn were at discord and the Stewart of Scotland and the earl of
Atholl took the part of the bishop, and sir John Comyn said that he did not wish to be a guardian of the
realm along with the bishop. But at length they were in accord and they elected Sir Ingram d'Umphraville
to be one of the guardians of the realm in place of the earl of Carrick." This was obviously an arrangement
that suited Comyn, because Umphraville was a close political associate and a kinsman of King John. With
the Guardianship taking Scotland one way Robert Bruce went the other, making his peace with Edward by
February 1302 in a document in which he expressed the fear that "the realm of Scotland might be removed
from the hands of the king, which God forbid, and delivered to John Balliol, or to his son." The new
triumvirate lasted to May 1301, when John de Soules emerged as sole Guardian, seemingly appointed by
Balliol himself pending his return. The following year, with Soules leaving for France on a diplomatic
mission, Comyn became sole Guardian, occupying the position for the next two years. Comyn became
Lord of Badenoch following his father's death that same year.

In 1300 when Edward invaded Scotland the Earl of Buchan and Sir John had an audience with the King and
demanded that Baliol be permitted to reign over them and that their estates which had been unjustly given

to English nobles be restored. Edward refused to grant these proposals and the Scots left vowing to defend
themselves to the last.

There was a certain inevitability to the Comyn domination of Scottish government in the years before 1304:
not only were they the most powerful of the noble families, but their heartlands to the north of the Forth
had been untouched ever since the campaign of 1296. English invasions in 1298, 1300 and 1301 had been
confined to the south of the country, leaving the north as the chief recruiting ground, and supply base, of
the Scottish army. In 1302 John joined forces with Sir Simon Fraser of Tweeddale and they defeated the
superior English force at Roslin 25 Feb. 1302/3. For once Fordun recognised the achievement:

There never was so desperate a struggle, or one in which the stoutness of knightly prowess shone forth so
brightly. The commander and leader in this struggle was John Comyn, the son... John Comyn, then
guardian of Scotland, and Simon Fraser with their followers, day and night, did their best to harass and to
annoy, by their general prowess, the aforesaid kings officers and bailiffs... the aforesaid John Comyn and
Simon, with their abettors, hearing of their arrival at Rosslyn and wishing to steal a march rather than
have one stolen upon them, came briskly through from Biggar to Rosslyn, in one night, with some chosen
men, who chose rather death before unworthy subjection to the English nation; and all of a sudden they
fearlessly fell upon the enemy.

John continued to lead the patriots through the war and thus redeemed himself for his army's flight from the
battle of Falkirk. Scotland was again over run by Edward's army and John along with Wallace and Fraser
were forced into the forests where they carried on a guerilla was against the English:

"The Lord of Badenauh, Freselle, and Walais,

Lived at thieves' law, ever robbing alle wayes."

Politically, however, the outlook was bleak. Philip entered into a final peace with Edward, from which
Scotland was excluded. John Balliol, whose star had risen briefly above the horizon, now sank into the
twilight of history. In a mood of desperation the Scottish diplomats in Paris, who included Comyn's cousin
Buchan, wrote words of encouragement; "For God's sake do not would gladden your hearts if
you would know how much your honour has increased in every part of the world as a result of your recent
battle with the English." However, for the first time since 1296 Edward was preparing an offensive that
would take him deep into the north of Scotland. Edward took the Comyn's castle of Lochindorb and Sir
John's army was defeated in an attempt to stop the English at the Forth. On 9 Feb. 1304 the Earls of
Pembroke and Ulster and Sir Henry Percy met Sir John at Strathurd (Struthers) in Fife. However, this was
no abject surrender, unlike that of King John in 1296. Comyn laid down clear terms, insisting that there
should be no reprisals or disinheritance, which Edward accepted, with notable exceptions. Edward
maintained his particular hatred for one former Guardian. Comyn was thus obliged to adhere to a condition
in which he and other named individuals were to "capture Sir William Wallace and hand him over to the
king, who will watch to see how each of them conducts himself so that he can do most favour to whoever
shall capture Wallace..." There is no evidence to suggest Comyn made any effort to fulfill this condition,
though this does not imply that he would have failed to hand over Wallace if he had the opportunity.

At a conference between the rivals to the throne at Stirling the Bruce made the following proposal to John:
"Support my title to the throne and I will give you all my lands or bestow on me your lands and I shall
support your claim." John agreed to support Robert in his claim in exchange for his lands and Bruce went
to London, but John anxious to regain Edward's favor betrayed the plot to the English King an sent him the
signed agreement. King Edward then told some of his nobles of the plan to destroy the Bruce and that night
the Earl of Gloucester sent Robert a purse of money and a pair of gilded spurs, a sign to flee to Scotland.
On his way back home he met Sir John's messenger who had all the papers confirming his suspicions of his
rival's treachery including a paper suggesting that Edward put the Bruce to death. King Robert went to
Dumfries and requested a private interview with Sir John 10 Feb. 1305 in the church of the Minorite Friars.
Bruce then drew his dagger and stabbed him in the heart and quickly left the church, pale and agitated
telling his followers: "I doubt I have slain the red Comyn."

"You doubt!" said Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick: "Is that a matter to be left to doubt? I'se mak siccar (I will make
sure)." He rushed into the church with Sir James Lindesay and Sir Christopher Seton and finished off the
"Red Comyn" and his uncle Sir Robert Comyn who tried to defend him.

Although the above story is interesting it is probably not true and John's murder was probably the
unexpected outcome of a quarrel between the two rivals as no agreement existed and King Edward
certainly did not know of it as he states in a document shortly after Comyn's death that he had complete
confidence in the Bruce. It is probable that John instilled some suspicions into Edward's mind out of
jealousy for Robert and after hearing of it Bruce demanded an explaination and killed him in the heat of the
arguement. The appearance of a premeditated assassination was aggravated by the actions of Robert's
followers. The later Scottish sources all try to justify the crime by amplifying earlier accusations of
malevolence and treachery against Comyn. For the English sources the villain is Robert Bruce, who lured
Comyn into a church—taken as a guarantee of safety—with the intention of committing premeditated
murder. We will never know the complete truth, because none of those present ever provided an account of
what happened. One thing all the sources agree on, both English and Scottish, is that Bruce could never
move his cause forward for as long as John Comyn was alive.

We know that by early 1306, either from the records or subsequent events, that Bruce had secured the
support of leading Scottish churchmen, like Lamberton and Robert Wishart the bishop of Glasgow, for
some kind of political coup, most likely involving the revival of the Scottish monarchy. Balliol was
obviously never going to return—not that Bruce would have worked for such an outcome—so the only two
realistic candidates for the office were either himself or John Comyn. Some sources suggest that Bruce
offered a pact, whereby one would take the crown in return for the lands of the other; but it does not seem
credible that he would have hazarded his long-cherished claim so lightly. The essential truth is probably
contained in a list of charges later drawn up for Edward against William Lamberton. When Lamberton was
made chief Guardian, Bruce rose against King Edward as a traitor, and murdered Sir John Comyn, lord of
Badenoch, in the church of the Friors Minor of the town of Dumfries, by the high alter, because Sir John
would not assent to the treason which Robert planned against the king of England, namely, to resume war
against him and make himself king of Scotland.

The murder of John Comyn took Edward by complete surprise. Thirteen days after the event, a garbled
version of the facts reached his court at Winchester, where the murder was reported as "the work of some
people who are doing their utmost to trouble the peace and quiet of the realm of Scotland." Upon hearing of
John's murder Edward appointed the Earl of Pembroke Governor of Scotland and sent him with his army to
avenge his death. Once the picture became clear he reacted in fury, authorising Aymer de Valence,
Comyn's brother-in-law, to take extraordinary action against Bruce, who had since been crowned king less
than seven weeks after the killing in Dumfries. He also emphasised his blood relationship with the Comyns
by ordering his cousin, Joan, to send John's young son and namesake to England, where he was placed in
the care of Sir John Weston, guardian of the royal children. John Comyn the younger grew to manhood in
England, not returning to Scotland until 1314, when he was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn. The death
of his father plunged Scotland into a brief but bloody civil war, largely concluded by 1308, but with
political reverberations that were to last for decades.

The power of the Comyns was effectually broken after the battle of Inverury 22 May 1308 when Robert the
Bruce defeated the third Earl of Buchan. The name sunk into an obscurity from which it did not emerge for
centuries. Carrick in his "Life of Wallace" states that "while the Scots in the low country cried out against
the 'fause Cumyn's kyn' their vassals in Badenoch and Lochaber re-echoed the charge." There was a Gaelic
proverb that said that "while there are trees in a wood, there will be deceit in a Cumyn."

 I. John- d.s.p. 1325
 III. ______-


The Bruce- John Barbour, trans. A.A.H. Duncan, 1964

Scotichronicon- Walter Bower, D.E.R. Watt, Ed., 1987-1996
Chronicles- John Fordun, W.F. Skene, Ed., 1871-2
Lanercost Chronicle- Sir Thomas Gray, trans. H. Maxwell, 1913
Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland- Andrew Wyntoun, D. Lang, Ed., 1872-9
The Scottish Nation- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880


m. ELIZABETH De QUINCY, d. of Roger de Quincy and Helen de Galloway

d. before 6 Apr. 1290

In 1244 Alexander was one of the guarantees of the treaty with England and in 1251 he was appointed
Justiciary of Scotland, but was removed from office four years later because of his anti-English beliefs and
was restored to that office in 1257 and served in that capacity until 1289.

By his marriage to Elizabeth he obtained her father's estates in Galloway and other counties and upon the
resignation of the office of Constable by her older sister Margaret, Countess of Derby in 1270 Alexander
became Constable of Scotland. On 5 Feb. 1283/4 he was one of the Magnates Scotiae who agreed to
Margaret of Norway as heir to the crown. In 1286 upon Alexander III's death he was chosen one of six
guardians of Scotland.


 I. John- third Earl of Buchan, m. Isabel, daughter of Duncan, Earl of Fife, d. before 28 Apr. 1313
 II. Alexander- fourth Earl of Buchan, m. Joan Latimer
 III. William- Provost of St. Mary's Church, St. Andrews
 V. Emma- m. Maol Iosa III, Earl of Strathearn (d. 1313, bur. Inchaffray Abbey)
 VI. Elizabeth- m. Gilbert De Umfreville, Earl of Angus, d. before 17 Feb. 1328/9
 VII. Elena- m. William de Brechin
 VIII. Annora- m. Nicholas de Soules
 IX. Roger-


Robert the Bruce's Rivals: They Comyns, 1213-1314- Alan Young, East Linton, 1997
The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant,
Extinct or Dormant- G.E. Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, Alan Sutton Pub., 2000- Vol. II, pp. 374-5
The Complete Peerage or a History of the House of Lords and All its Members From the Earliest Times-
Peter W. Hammond, Ed., Sutton Pub., Stroud, Gloucestershire, 1998- Vol. XIV, p. 46
"The Scottish Nation"- William Anderson, A. Fullarton & Co., Edinburgh, 1880