William, 3rd Earl of Sutherland

William, 3rd Earl of Sutherland (son of William, 2nd Earl of Sutherland)

William (Sutherland), Earl of Sutherland [S.], elder s. and h., was still a minor when he suc. his father and his wardship was granted by Sir Aymer de Valence, as Guardian of Scotland for King Edward, to Sir John Ross, s. of William, 3rd Earl of Ross. In Apr. or May 1308 the Earl of Ross petitioned King Edward II that, as he and Sir John, in view of the advance of "Sire Roberd de Bruse" (who had been crowned King of Scots at Scone, 27 Mar. 1306), could not afford to defend Sutherland,[1] permission be granted for the Earl of Ross and his son to receive the fealty of the young Earl of SUtherland and uplift certain duties from his earldom to defray the cost of its defence.[2] Edward II on 20 May wrote thanking the Earl of Ross and his s. Hugh for their fidelity to his father, and desiring the continuance of their service and assistance,[3] but was unable to send help to the Earl of Ross or do anything to protect the son of his father's loyal vassal. Accordingly on 31 Oct. 1308 the Earl of Ross formally submitted to King Robert I at Auldearn in Moray and his submission would appear to have covered that of his son's ward. King Robert gave the Earl of Ross the lands of Frenerosherie (Ferncrosky) in the parish of Creich, which had formed part of the Earldom of Sutherland.[4] It was as an adherent of King Robert I that young Earl William III attended the Parl. at St. Andrews on 16 Mar. 1308/9.[5] He was also at the Parl. at Arbroath on 6 Apr. 1320, when he was one of the signatories of the letter to Pope John XXII.[6] He may have been the unnamed Earl of Sutherland who was app. Guardian of the vacant See of Caithness in 1327.[7] He is not recorded to have married. He d. before Dec. 1330.

[1] Sir John did not get the rich tocher of his wife - half the lands of the Earl of Buchan - until 1309.
[2] Cal. Docs. [S.], vol. iv, pp. 339-400, reprinted in Sutherland Book, vol. iii, p. 10.
[3] Foedera, vol. ii, p. 45; see ante, vol xi, sub Ross [1274].
[4] Scots Peerage, vol. viii, p. 324, suggests that these were "probably given to Ross as an equivalent for the wardship"; but that wardship must have been nearly at an end, as the young Earl appears to have attained his majority before 16 Mar. 1308/9.
[5] Acts of Parl. [S.], vol. i, p. 459. Sir Robert Gordon asserts (Gen. Hist., pp. 39, 42) that the Earl was present both at Bannockburn, 24 June 1314, and at the engagement on 14 Oct. 1322 at Byland Abbey, where King Robert's Highlanders turned the English flank by climbing up the crags, but these assertions are not supported by any contemporary record.
[6] Acts of Parl. [S.], vol. i, p. 474.
[7] Exch. Rolls [S.], vol. i, p. 114.

White, G. H. (1953) The Complete Peerage, vol. XII. London: The St. Catherine Press.

William, third Earl of Sutherland,[1] who succeeded in 1306 or 1307, was a minor at his father's death, and his ward was granted to John, younger son of the Earl of Ross. The Earl of Ross wrote begging King Edward II. of England to empower him and his son to receive the fealty of the young heir, and to uplift certain duties from his earldom to defray the cost of its defence.[2] This was apparently written in April or May of 1308, and King Robert Bruce was then threatening the borders of Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness with a devastation similar to that inflicted on Buchan, and as the English King could send no aid, the Earl of Ross submitted to Bruce at Auldearn on 31 October 1308.[3] The King, among other lands, bestowed on his new vassal the lands of Ferncrosky, which had belonged to the Earl of Sutherland, but which were probably given to Ross as an equivalent for the wardship. The young Earl himself was present at a Parliament held at St. Andrews on 16 March 1308-9, having probably attained his majority in the interval.[4] Little more is recorded about him, though Sir Robert Gordon says he fought at Bannockburn, but he was one of those nobles who addressed the letter to Pope John XXII. on 6 April 1320.[5] Sir Robert Gordon asserts that this Earl was with King Robert at the battle of Biland on 14 October 1322, but no other chronicler supports the statement.[6] The date of the Earl's death is not certain. He is said to have died in 1325, but it may be he who was guardian of the bishopric of Caithness in 1327.[7] He was, however, dead before December 1330, when his brother was Earl.

He was succeeded by his brother, Kenneth.

[1] Sir Robert Gordon in his history omits this Earl altogether, adding his life to that of his father.
[2] Sutherland Book, iii. 10.
[3] Acta Parl. Scot., i. 477.
[4] Ibid., 459.
[5] Ibid., 474.
[6] Genealogy.
[7] Exch. Rolls, i. 114.

Sources: Balfour Paul, J. (1911) The Scots Peerage, vol. 8. Edinburgh: David Douglas.

William, the third Earl of Sutherland, succeeded to the earldom in 1307, and was then under age. As stated in the previous memoir, his ward was granted to John, the younger son of William, Earl of Ross. That earl wrote to King Edward the Second, reminding him of the grant, and desiring that as the son of the deceased Earl of Sutherland was not of sufficient experience to govern the earldom, the king would empower the writer and his son to receive the fealty of the young heir, and to uplift the relief duty of the earldom for their great expenses in its defence against the king's enemies.
     Though the young Earl of Sutherland was under age, he was not far from his majority.[1] The anxiety of the Earl of Ross about securing the fidelity of the heir of Sutherland, and as to the defence of his territory, is explained by another part of the letter. He informs King Edward that Robert Bruce had advanced northward with a great force which he and the supporters of Edward in that district were unable to withstand; that for a fortnight Bruce with three thousand men had remained on the borders of Ross, Sutherland and Caithness at their expense, and that these earldoms were threatened with utter destruction. They had made a truce with the enemy to last till the coming Whitsunday, when he hopes that succour may arrive from King Edward, on whom all their hopes of freedom rest. The earl adds that they would not have made the truce, but the Guardian of Moray was at a distance, and his men refuse aid without having the king's orders. He has, therefore, no hope of assistance but from the king.[2]
     The reference to the advance of Bruce and to the coming Whitsunday fix the date of the letter as written in April or the beginning of May, 1308. There is considerable uncertainty among historians as to the movements of Bruce at that time, but the foreboding in the letter of utter devastation of the country unless a truce had been made, seems to imply that King Robert had carried out his terrible harrying of Buchan. According to Barbour, he
"gert his men brin all Bouchane
Fra end till end, and sparit nane,
And heryit tham on sic maner
That eftir that wele fifty yher
Men menit the hereschip of Bouchane."[3]

With such an example before his eyes, no wonder that the Earl of Ross dreaded the approach of the conqueror. It does not appear that King Edward sent the desired assistance,[4] and Barbour adds--
"The king than till his pes has tane
The north cuntre that humilly
Obesit till his senyhory."[5]

     Barbour does not tell us of King Robert's advance to the borders of Sutherland, and we know nothing of the campaign there, but the Earl of Ross formally submitted to Bruce at Auldearn in Moray, on 31st October of the same year.[6] The original deed narrating the homage is still preserved, and from it we learn that the king received the earl very graciously and confirmed to him all his possessions. He also bestowed upon his new vassal the lands of Dingwall, and those of "Ferncroskry" in the earldom of Sutherland. The last-named lands appear to have been in the parish of Creich, and may have been granted in lieu of the wardship of the young Earl of Sutherland.
     There is no reference to the young earl in the deed above recited, nor does he appear as a witness to it. But a few months later he was present at a parliament hed at St. Andrews, on 16th March 1308-9, from which it may be presumed that he had attained his majority in the interval. The chief recorded result, and perhaps the principal occasion of that parliament, wa a letter addressed by the nobles and barons of Scotland to Philip, King of France, who by an ambassador had asked assistance in his crusade against the Saracens. This was the first diplomatic recognition which King Robert Bruce had received, and it is evidence how far his power was consolidated in Scotland. The letter sent by the Scots in reply to the King of France, thanked him for recalling the former alliances between the nations, and for his expressions of kindness towards King Robert. They, however, while expressing sympathy with the crusade, declined to join it until Scotland was delivered from oppression and the storms of war.[7]
     The next recorded event in the life of William, third Earl of Sutherland, is his presence at the parliament at Arbroath as one of those who joined in the famous letter to the Pope in the year 1320, asserting the independence of Scotland. Sir Robert Gordon's statement that the Earl of Sutherland fought at Bannockburn probably refers to this earl, though of this there is no record. The earl, however, may have attended the king on this and other important occasions, including, perhaps, the assembly at Ayr in 1315 which settled the succession to the crown. Butu he is specially named as one of the eight earls who, with the other nobles, sent the letter to the Pope referred to.[8] Sir Robert also implies that he was a member of the so-called Black Parliament in August of the same year, when Sir William Soulis and others were found guilty of treason. Giving Fordun as his authority, he adds that William, Earl of Sutherland, with other nobles who were not guilty of that treason, "perceaveing the king to beir them some grudge for that which was done at the Black Parliament, did write unto Pope John shewing how King Robert had delt hardlie with them," and that as the result of the Pope's good offices they, and especially Earl William, were received again into favour. This statement, however, is not warranted by anything in Fordun's history, and seems to be founded on a misreading.
     According to Sir Robert Gordon, Earl William was with King Robert Bruce at Biland in 1322. He is also said to have died in 1325, but it is permissible to believe he may have lived a few years longer, and was, perhaps, the Earl of Sutherland who is referred to in the Exchequer Rolls as guardian of the bishopric of Caithness in the year 1327. Unfortunately, the earl's christian name is not given.[9]
     In any case William, third Earl Sutherland, was dead before December 1330. He was succeeded by his brother Kenneth, as fourth Earl of Sutherland, of whom a Memoir follows.

[1] he must have been about nineteen, as he seems to have attained majority before March 1309.
[2] Vol. iii. of this work, p. 10.
[3] Barbour's "The Brus," Spalding Club, pp. 202, 203.
[4] On 20th May 1308 King Edward addressed to the Earl of Ross, and his son Hugh, letters thanking them for their fidelity to his late father, and desiring the continuance of their service and assistance [Foedera, vol. ii. p. 45]. He could not therefore at that date have known the straits they were in.
[5] Barbour ut supra.
[6] Original in General Register House, printed in Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol. i. p. 477. The earl's two sons Hugh and John append their seals.
[7] Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol. i. p. 459. The original of this writ is still preserved in the General Register House. It is mutilated, and what appears to be the Earl of Sutherland's name is partly obliterated, but Sir Robert Gordon, who had evidently seen the writ, tells us the earl was present, and describes the armorial bearings, "thrie starres muletts," on his seal, which is now wanting.

Source: Fraser, W. (1894) The Sutherland Book. Edinburgh: Privately Printed.

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