Ragman Rolls, Scotland 1291 - 1296
The Homage Rolls of Edward I are an essential starting point for early Scottish family genealogy. They represent, to us the modern genealogist, a record of most of the nobility of Scotland between the period 1291 and 1296.
What they are: They are a set of rolls (formerly preserved in the Tower of London, now in the Public Record Office), in which are recorded the instruments of homage made to Edward I by the Scottish king and nobles in both 1291 and 1296; although much controversy and myth surrounds the use of the term Ragman it was simply a name used to describe a legal document recording homage, pleas and offences and its use is recorded prior to that of 1291/1296 and after - catalogue would be a modern interpretation. This is fully described in the source document.
It is important to notice that Edward attempted to ensure he captured the allegiance of every individual that owned, or was heir to, the land and titles of Scotland. If you have a family member that is not on the Roll but was alive, and of age, in Scotland at the time but not on a Roll then it is likely they held no land or titles. He, and his scribes, were very thorough.
He did not collect them himself. Generally he appointed a regional head, one of the nobles, that would then swear allegiance to him, often with the clergy, and he, and his scribes, would take the homage pleas of individuals. This is why Rolls are of varying length.
Edward also toured Scotland, starting at Coldstream on the 27 March 1296, and arriving at Roxburgh Castle, on 23 May 1296. He then made a quick detour to Douglas lands in Liddesdale visiting Jedburgh and Castleton before returning to Roxburgh. He then went north to Edinburgh, Linlithgow and Stirling, crossing the Forth on 20 June on his way to Perth. He is said to have rested at Auchterarder (Outrear in the mss). He was in Perth on 21 June. He crossed the Tay at Kincleven castle heading to Cluny Castle where he stayed until 2 July. He was at the Royal castle of Inverqueich, then to Forfar castle, then Fernwell, then Montrose where he stayed between 7 and 11July. After he went to Kincardine castle, then Glenbervie, then Durnes (believed to be Durris), then on to Aberdeen. Kintore, Fyvie Castle, Banff, Cullen, followed until he reached the district of the Enyie, on the eastern bank of the Spey. He crossed the Spey into Moray, on Wednesday the 25th of July, he is stated to have rested at the manor of Rapenache, (Rapenache manoir en le pays de Moreve,) but this manor seems long since disappeared from the record. On the 26th of July he reached Elgin, the northern most part of his journey. He stayed in Elgin till the 29th July then headed south. He stopped at Rothes on the western bank of the Spey (Roseise manoir), and on Monday at Invercharrach (Ynterkerache), a small hamlet in the mountains between Strath-Fiddich and Strath-Doveran, situated on a stream of the same name which falls into the river Doveran, three miles to the north of the parish kirk of Cabrach. On the following day he reached the castle of Kildrummy (Kyndrokyn chastel; the seat of the Earldom of Mar) where he rested on Wednesday, 1 August; and on Thursday, is stated in the Itinerary to have arrived at the Hospital of Kincardine in the Mearns (lospital de Kyncardyn en Mernes), this likely the Hospital at Kincardine 0'NeiI in Aberdeenshire, about eighteen miles from Kildrummy. From there, on the next day, Friday the 3rd, it seems probable that he reached the other Kincardine in the Mearns (the Royal castle), and proceeded, on Saturday the 4th, to Brechin, (la cite de Breghyn) then to Aberbrothock, (labaye de Berbrodoch,) to Dundee, to Baligerny, the castle of Sir Robert Cambron (Sheriff of Atholl), situated in the Carse of Gowry, (Baligarnach le roge Chastel,) and to Perth. He then returned to Berwick through the county of Fife, along the northern banks of the Forth, and then from Stirling. He was in Berwick towards the end of August where the majority of nobles will make their pledge, on 28 August.
Study of the source material will show this itinerary and where various nobles signed and sealed their pledge. Those swearing fealty included the earls and tenants-in-chief, and their heirs, and other major land-holders. The heads of religious houses, a large proportion of the clergy and the burgesses of the major towns were also included as were some English magnates and ecclesiastics who held property in Scotland. Edward was particularly enthusiastic to ensure those of Flemish origin made their allegiance as these were the supporters of the two major factions vying for the Scottish throne and had control of most of the wealth of Scotland. Nearly every major house noted in the Homage Rolls have their roots in the noble houses of Flanders or were supporters of one of them.
In the main the Rolls are intact and still preserved although many of the seals have been destroyed.
- Instrumenta Publica Sive Processus Super Fidelitatibus Et Homagiis Scotorum Domino Regi Angliae Factis, A.D. 1291-1296, is the key source document although it is, in the main, in Latin. Thomson, who collected the material for the Bannantyne Club, provides notes in English.
- Calendar of documents relating to Scotland preserved in Her Majesty's Public Record Office, London, is another original source. Bain's work, in English, providing an illustration of how the homages were collected as Edward toured Scotland and illustrates exactly where the nobles swore allegiance and with whom he was with at the time. Comparison of these two sources allows an understanding of the names used by individuals, or at least those recorded by the clerks.
- In there is an interest in the Seals used by the individuals Bruce McAndrew produced an excellent piece of work entitled "The sigillography of the Ragman Roll". This piece is copyright although can easily be downloaded.
- There are many web resources available; Rampant Scotland being a reasonable one for quick reference.