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Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles

Medieval Mosaic







This electronic edition
was prepared by
Michael A. Linton, 2007

Comin :

from Comines in Flanders. Rodbert or Robert de Comines was named Earl of Northumberland, or, according to Ordericus, Earl of Durham in January, 1069, and at once set forth, with a following of less than one thousand men, to take possession of his new domain:—a perilous errand, for Durham had not as yet submitted to the Conqueror. He marched as through an enemy's country, slaying some of the tenants or bondmen of St. Cuthbert's church on the way; and though the city, by the good offices of its friendly Bishop, AEthelwine, opened its gates to him without resistance, "he allowed his men to deal with the town as with a place taken by storm. The spirit of the people was now aroused. The news spread during the night, and towards morning the gates of Durham were burst open by the assembled forces of Northumberland. A general massacre followed. In the houses, in the streets, the Normans were everywhere slaughtered. No serious resistance seems to have been offered except in defence of the Bishop's house, where the Earl and his immediate companions withstood their assailants so manfully that they were driven to have recourse to fire. The palace was burned; the Earl and his comrades all died, either by the flames or by the sword. One man alone contrived to escape with his life, and he was wounded."—Freeman.

This ill-fated Earl must have left either sons or kinsmen, for the name long' survived in the North of England. Richard and Walter Comyn are mentioned among the Northumbrian barons in the reign of Henry II.: and "in 4 H. III. William Cumin was one of the Coheirs to Andrew Giffard, for the Barony of Funtell, in Com. Wiltes. And in 17 H. III. Isabel the wife of David Comin became one of the Coheirs to Christian the wife of William de Mandeville Earl of Essex. Which David in 26 H. III. receiv'd Summons from the King to attend him into Gascoine."—Dugdale. Newbold-Comyn in Warwickshire took its name from Elias de Comyn, who obtained it through an heiress; but the line failed with his grandson John. He died s. p. in Ireland 16 Ed. I. One of this family held Snitfield in the same county by grant of Hugh Fitz Richard in the time of Stephen: his last male descendant died 13 Hen. III., leaving an heiress named Margerie, "then within age and in ward to William de Cantelupe," who, according to the custom of the time, married her to his younger son.

The Comyns migrated across the Border—at the same time as did so many of their countrymen—during the reign of David I. William Comyn, a younger son, who had been bred as a clerk by Gaufrid Bishop of Durham, Chancellor to Henry I., was appointed High Chancellor of Scotland in 1133. He usurped the see of Durham in 1140, and held it for four years, when he surrendered it by agreement to the lawful Bishop, Wm. de Sta Barbara. He had two nephews: William (obt. 1144) a young knight hotly engaged in the contest for his uncle, and Richard, who in the settlement of the dispute, Obtained from the re-instated Bishop the castle and honour of Northallerton. He also inherited the family estates in Northumberland, and received from King David the manor of Linton Roderick in Roxburghshire—the first possession that the Comyns, afterwards so all powerful, ever had in Scotland. Though he throughout retained his English lands, he seems at once to have adopted it as his country, for he served in the Scottish army that invaded England in 1140, was taken prisoner with William the Lion at Alnwick; became one of his sureties in the following year, and was justiciary of Scotland from 1178 to 1189. He married a Scottish princess, Hexilda, grand-daughter of King Donalbane, and their son William acquired the Earldom of Buchan in 1210 by his marriage with its heiress, Marjory. She was his second wife. By his first marriage he had two sons: 1. Richard, and 2. Walter, Earl of Menteith in right of his wife. Marjory brought him three more: 3. Alexander, who succeeded his mother as Earl of Buchan: 4. William, 5. Fergus. Richard, the eldest son, was the father of the famous Red John Comyn, who played so conspicuous a part during the minority of Alexander III. Fordun tells us that the family then consisted of thirty-two knights and three powerful Earls, and when, through the influence of Henry III., they found themselves removed from the councils of the infant King, they were strong enough to carry matters with a high hand. "Under cover of night they attacked the court of the King at Kinross: seized the young monarch in his bed: carried him and his Queen before morning to Stirling; made themselves masters of the great seal of the kingdom, and totally dispersed the opposite faction."—Tytler. They created a new office for John Comyn, who was made justiciary of Galloway in 1258, and "governed Scotland by the weight of their talents and the influence of their family." But in this same year 1258, they lost "the leader whose courage and energy were the soul of their councils." The Earl of Menteith died suddenly;—killed, as was said in England, by a fall from his horse, but generally believed in Scotland to have been poisoned by his wife to make way for her paramour, John Russell, to whom she was re-married "with indecent haste.'" He left an only daughter, married to his grand-nephew, William Comyn, long engaged in an unavailing struggle for the Earldom of Menteith, which was eventually granted to Walter Stewart. This William was the eldest of the four sons[98] of Red John, and died without issue. The next brother, Black John, thus became the heir, and inherited the lands of Badenoch from his great-uncle Lord Menteith. He was one of the joint wardens of Scotland for the infant Maid of Norway, and in the competition for the crown that followed her death, preferred his claim as heir to King Donalbane. But finding his pretensions "unattainable," he had the wisdom to withdraw them, and gave his support to Baliol, whose sister Marjory he had married. He had by her a son, named, like his grandfather, Red John Comyn, whose treacherous career was cut short by Brace's dagger in 1305. It was he who, jealous of Sir William Wallace, deserted him at the battle of Falkirk, when "the whole body of Scottish horse shamelessly retired without striking a blow." He was one of the three guardians of Scotland in the name of Baliol in 1299; and being on that occasion for the first time associated with his life-long rival, Robert Bruce, agreed to make terms with him. "Support my title to the crown," said Bruce, "and I will give you my estate: or give me your estate, and I will support yours." The conditions were drawn out in an indented instrument, and signed under an oath of secrecy: but Comyn at once betrayed the secret to King Edward. The sequel is too well known to be told again;—how Bruce, in a sudden fit of passion, stabbed him before the high altar of Dumfries Church: and Kirkpatrick, crying "I'll mak' sicker," returned to despatch him in cold blood.[99] He had married one of the sisters and coheirs of Adomar de Valence; but his only son died childless, in 1325, and two daughters inherited.

The line of the Earls of Buchan had ended somewhat earlier. Alexander, the second Earl, had been Constable of Scotland in right of his richly dowered English wife, Elizabeth de Quinci—one of the coheirs of the Earl of Winchester, and a grand-daughter of Alan of Galloway—and was succeeded in this hereditary office by his son John. This third Earl, one of the nominees of Baliol in 1291, twice swore fealty to Edward I., and—unlike most others who did the same—continued steady in his allegiance from first to last. He fought two battles with Robert Bruce, and was routed on each occasion; the second time, with great slaughter at Inverury, in 1308: and after this latter defeat was compelled to seek refuge in England, and leave his Northern estates to be confiscated and disposed of by the Scottish King. Yet it was his Countess—Isabel by name, that with her own hands placed the crown on the head of this same King at Scone: her brother the Earl of Fife, to whom the privilege by right belonged, being, like her husband, in the English camp. For this dire offence, Edward (into whose hands she unfortunately fell during the same year) caused her to be suspended in a latticed cage, "cross barred and secured with iron," from one of the turrets of the castle of Berwick upon Tweed: and in this barbarous durance she was left to linger for seven years. Edward II. at last released her in 1313. Her husband was by that time dead; and it is doubtful whether his brother Alexander lived to succeed him as fourth Earl: at all events there was no other heir male, for Alexander left only two daughters. The elder, Alice, was the wife of Henry de Beaumont, who assumed the title of Buchan, but apparently did not transmit it to his son: and Margaret, married to Sir James the Ross.

"While there is a tree in the forest," says a Scottish proverb, "there will be guile in the Cumming."


  1. The youngest, Sir Robert, who with his brother Alexander, was taken prisoner at the battle of Dunbar in 1296, and only liberated on condition of serving the English King in France, was ancestor of the Cumyns of Altyr, Logie, Auchar, Relugas and Presley. Alexander Cumyn of Altyr in 1795 took the additional name of Gordon, on succeeding to the estate of Gordonstown.
  2. His body was carried to the Church of the Minorites, and one of the Fathers, while watching beside it at midnight, heard a voice, like that of a wailing child, cry out, "How long, O Lord, shall vengeance be deferred?" The answer came in a tone that made his ears tingle and his flesh quake: "Endure with patience till this day shall come round again in fifty-two years." So far the legend: the rest is history.

    On that same day, fifty-two years afterwards, the son of Kirkpatrick entertained the son of Lindsay—another of the accomplices—at his castle of Carlaverock. They were both zealously engaged in the patriotic cause, and apparently the best of friends; but Lindsay's heart was hot with rage and jealousy, for the woman he had loved and sought in marriage sat at the head of the board as Kirkpatrick's wife. At midnight, when all had gone to rest, he stole into the bed-chamber where his host lay asleep, and stabbed him to the heart so swiftly and surely that the wife by his side never

    "Sair, sair, and meikle did he bleed!
    His lady slept till day:
    She dreamed the Firth flowed o'er her head
    In bride-bed as she lay."

    The murderer then took horse, and sped away in headlong flight; but, whether bewildered by the darkness, or haunted by his fears, he lost his way on the moors, and after riding at his best speed all night, he was captured within three miles of the Castle on the following morning. Lady Kirkpatrick herself went to demand justice of the King; and Lindsay was tried, condemned and executed. "His rank and position, his services to the national cause, the intercession of his powerful relatives, were all insufficient to save him from the consequences of his guilt."—McDowall's Dumfries.