‘The origins of the earldom of Lennox’

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On 27 November 2012, the Centre was pleased to welcome an old student of the University, Matthew Hammond, who discussed new work on ‘The origins of the earldom of Lennox’. Below is this listener’s brief summary of the lecture.

In the 12th century, the earldom of Lennox was not part of Scotland was we know it now. In Di Situ Albanie, composed between 1165 and 1184, the bounds of Scotland stretch from Caithness and Ross, included Argyll but not this area of Lennox, just north of Glasgow. At the time, warrantors from Cowal and Kintyre were to correspond with the earl of Menteith, essentially by-passing the earl of Lennox.

Lennox was very much part of the Irish Sea zone, a Hiberno/Norse context. It was an expansive region, Gaelic-speaking and had several links to St. Kentigern and St. Patrick. Another factor that made it a distinct entity in Scotland was the use of a unique unit of land assessment.

It also belonged to the diocese of Glasgow. It may have ‘belonged’ to this diocese but it is unlikely to have been actively controlled by Glasgow. Its inclusion may have been down to the ambitions of Archbishop John of Glasgow and David I. It seems to have been part of the kingdom of Cumbria, revived by David I.

David, earl of Huntingdon (grandson of David I) was given Lennox by his elder brother, King William, in 1174. It is first described as an earldom in a charter from 1178. Geoffrey Barrow claimed that this gift was a temporary tenure, perhaps as a honorific title. Keith Stringer rejected this claim due to the language of the charter ‘in lieu and heritage’, which suggests the prospect of long control, rather than a short wardship. Indeed, David controlled the lordship for 11 years, until it was relinquished in 1185, after he was given Huntingdon. Dr. Hammond asserted that the creation of the earldom of Lennox may have been down to David’s appointment and it was raised up from lordship to earldom on his account. Before 1174, it was a real, definable entity but not yet an earldom.

Stringer has also argued that Lennox was a strategically important area in Scotland and control of it would allow consolidation of royal power. Other historians have argued that it would merely act as a buffer zone, sealing off the threat of Somerled and his descendants.

A poem by Muireadhach Albanach Ó Dálaigh, dedicated to Ailín I, the first earl of Lennox, features interesting insight into Lennox’s connection to Ireland. The earl is said to be descended from ancient Irish royalty, named Conall Corc of Cashel. This link continued later as Ailín II named his son, Corc.

After the lecture, Prof. Broun suggested that earl David’s tenure with Lennox was not as serious an enterprise as contemporaneous examples like Menteith. There is a tendency to imagine the later, large-scale earldom and extrapolate back but this may not be helpful.

Summary by Ross Crawford (PhD Researcher)

Next Monday 3 December, we have the Seventh Annual Angus Matheson lecture and we welcome Prof Joseph Falaky Nagy of UCLA who will be speaking on ‘Some Notable “Troublemakers” in Medieval Celtic Literature’ at 5.30pm in the Lecture Theatre, Sir Alexander Stone Building, 16 University Gardens.

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