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Gille Brigte, Lord of Galloway

Gille Brigte, Lord of Galloway

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Gille Brigte or Gilla Brigte mac Fergusa of Galloway (†1185), also known as Gillebrigte, Gille Brighde, Gilbridge, Gilbride, etc., and most famously known in French sources as Gilbert, was Lord of Galloway
Lords of Galloway
The Lords, or Kings of Galloway ruled over Galloway, in south west Scotland, for a large part of the High Middle Ages.Many regions of Scotland, including Galloway and Moray, periodically had kings or subkings, similar to those in Ireland during the Middle Ages. The Scottish monarch was seen as...

 of Scotland (from 1161 with Uchtred
Uchtred, Lord of Galloway
Uchtred mac Fergusa was Lord of Galloway from 1161 to 1174, ruling jointly with his half-brother Gille Brigte...

; 1174 alone, to 1185). Gilla Brigte was one of two sons of the great Fergus
Fergus of Galloway
Fergus of Galloway was King, or Lord, of Galloway from an unknown date , until his death in 1161. He was the founder of that "sub-kingdom," the resurrector of the Bishopric of Whithorn, the patron of new abbeys , and much else besides...

, the builder of the "Kingdom" of Galloway
Galloway is an area in southwestern Scotland. It usually refers to the former counties of Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire...


Background, marriage and family

In the struggle that arose after the death of Fergus between Gille Brigte and Uchtred
Uchtred, Lord of Galloway
Uchtred mac Fergusa was Lord of Galloway from 1161 to 1174, ruling jointly with his half-brother Gille Brigte...

, Gille Brigte emerged the stronger. Nevertheless, such a situation was not inevitable. Gille Brigte was the older son, but because he was not the product of marriage to Fergus' royal wife, he was regarded as the lesser in feudal law. The partitioning of Galloway left Gille Brigte with the western part, the part less exposed to the armies of the Scottish and English Kings.

We do not know for certain to whom Gille Brigte was married. Richard Oram
Richard Oram
Professor Richard D. Oram F.S.A. is a Scottish historian. He is a Professor of Medieval and Environmental History at the University of Stirling and an Honorary Lecturer in History at the University of Aberdeen. He is also the director of the Centre for Environmental History and Policy at the...

 suggests the strong likelihood that his main wife was a daughter of Donnchad II
Donnchad II, Earl of Fife
Mormaer Donnchad II , anglicized as Duncan II or Dunecan II, succeeded his father Donnchad I as a child. As a child of the previous Mormaer, he was entitled to succeed his father through primogeniture, but not to lead his kin-group, Clann MacDuib. That probably fell to his cousin, Aed mac Gille...

, Mormaer or Earl of Fife
Earl of Fife
The Earl of Fife or Mormaer of Fife referred to the Gaelic comital lordship of Fife which existed in Scotland until the early 15th century....

 and the most important native lord in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. The introduction of the name Donnchad (or Duncan) into the family naming pattern is some evidence of this, as is the later marriage of Gille Brigte's great-granddaughter Marjorie
Marjorie, Countess of Carrick
Marjorie of Carrick was countess of Carrick, Scotland, from 1256 to 1292, and is notable as the mother of Robert the Bruce.-Marriages:...

 to the Fife
Fife is a council area and former county of Scotland. It is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire...

 petty-lord Adam de Kilconquhar.

Gille Brigte had two known children:
  • Donnchad
    Donnchadh, Earl of Carrick
    Donnchadh was a Gall-Gaidhil prince and Scottish magnate in what is now south-western Scotland, whose career stretched from the last quarter of the 12th century until his death in 1250...

  • Máel Coluim

Events of 1174 & Approach to England

From 1161 until 1174, Gille Brigte and Uchtred shared the lordship, with Gille Brigte in the west, and Uchtred in the east. In 1174, King William le Lion of Scotland invaded England in an attempt to regain Northumberland
Northumberland is the northernmost ceremonial county and a unitary district in North East England. For Eurostat purposes Northumberland is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three boroughs or unitary districts that comprise the "Northumberland and Tyne and Wear" NUTS 2 region...

. He brought with him the two meic Fergusa, Gille Brigte and Uchtred. During the invasion, William was caught off-guard, and captured while besieging the castle
Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle is a castle and stately home in the town of the same name in the English county of Northumberland. It is the residence of the Duke of Northumberland, built following the Norman conquest, and renovated and remodelled a number of times. It is a Grade I listed building.-History:Alnwick...

 at Alnwick
Alnwick is a small market town in north Northumberland, England. The town's population was just over 8000 at the time of the 2001 census and Alnwick's district population was 31,029....

. Benedict of Peterborough reported that:

Despite the implications that both brothers were involved, it is clear that only Gilla Brigte was, and that Uchtred opposed him. For Benedict goes on to tell us that, in relation to the same year, Gille Brigte's son Máel Coluim was besieging Uchtred on an island in Galloway. Máel Coluim mac Gille Brigte captured Uchtred. Uchtred was blinded, castrated
Castration is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testicles or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.-Humans:...

 and had his tongue cut out.

What Gille Brigte did at this time might have changed British history for ever. Gille Brigte sent a messenger, and asked King Henry II
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

 for direct lordship (i.e. without the Scottish king as a middle man). Henry sent a delegation to investigate. This delegation consisted of Roger de Hoveden
Roger of Hoveden
Roger of Hoveden, or Howden , was a 12th-century English chronicler.From Hoveden's name and the internal evidence of his work, he is believed to have been a native of Howden in East Yorkshire. Nothing is known of him before the year 1174. He was then in attendance upon Henry II, by whom he was sent...

 and Robert de Vaux. Thanks to the former, we have a record of the embassy. It is reported by Benedict of Peterborough that Gille Brigte offered the King of England a one-off payment of 2000 marks
Mark (weight)
The mark was originally a unit of mass for gold and silver common throughout western Europe, and was equal to 8 troy ounces . Variations throughout the Middle Ages were, however, considerable.Later, the weight called "mark" was generally half-a-pound...

, and a yearly tribute of 500 cows and 500 swine, if the King would "remove them [the Galwegians] from the servitude of the king of Scotland" (Anderson, p. 258).

However, when the delegation discovered the fate of Uchtred, Henry's cousin, they rejected the request. Gille Brigte's fratricide
Fratricide is the act of a person killing his or her brother....

 effectively prevented any deal. Gille Brigte's bad fortune was compounded later in the year, when Henry and William signed the Treaty of Falaise
Treaty of Falaise
The Treaty of Falaise was an agreement made in December 1174 between the captive William I, King of Scots, and the English King Henry II.Having been captured at the Battle of Alnwick during an invasion of Northumbria, William was being held in Falaise in Normandy while Henry sent an army north and...

. Gille Brigte was forced to come to terms with the two kings. In 1176, Gille Brigte travelled into England, was fined 1000 marks by Henry, and handed over his son Donnchad into Henry's custody as a hostage
A hostage is a person or entity which is held by a captor. The original definition meant that this was handed over by one of two belligerent parties to the other or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war...

 to ensure good behaviour.

The Lordship of Gille Brigte

Gille Brigte's reign is characterized by a large degree of hostility towards the Scottish kings. Unlike his brother Uchtred, he was no friend to incoming Normans. He maintained a Gaelic following. Such a policy made him popular in the province, but alienated him from his nominal Franco-Gaelic overlords, King Máel Coluim IV
Malcolm IV of Scotland
Malcolm IV , nicknamed Virgo, "the Maiden" , King of Scots, was the eldest son of Earl Henry and Ada de Warenne...

 and then King William
William I of Scotland
William the Lion , sometimes styled William I, also known by the nickname Garbh, "the Rough", reigned as King of the Scots from 1165 to 1214...

. William cultivated the loyalty of Uchtred's son Lochlann
Lochlann, Lord of Galloway
Lochlann , also known by his French name Roland, was the son and successor of Uchtred, Lord of Galloway as the "Lord" or "sub-king" of eastern Galloway....

(Roland), using him as a card in the game for control over the Galwegian lordship. In the 1180s, tension between Gille Brigte and William was high, with Gilla Brigte being known to have made frequent raids into the Scottish controlled territory of eastern Galloway. When Gille Brigte died in 1185, he was at war with William.

Gille Brigte's timely death, with Donnchad still in Henry II's custody, eased the way for William to install Lochlann as Gille Brigte's successor.