Knights and their service

It was King William’s grandfather, David I, who initiated the practice of settling the land of Scotland with knights in the Norman fashion. Most of the landed knights were either Norman or Anglo-Norman and they were given the right to rule and develop a piece of land in exchange for certain services. The vast majority of settled knights in Scotland are located in the south in lands that once belonged to one of several native British or Anglian kingdoms.

Knights were landholders, mainly Anglo-Norman but some more strictly Norman and a few were native Gaelic, who were given land in (mostly) southern Scotland in exchange for the Knight’s Service, Homage, and Fealty. They were required to build a castle (motte) and form part of a cavalry. They also provided troops on a 40 day basis in the form of himself and his esquires, with horses, arms, and armour for all. William could muster about 300 such knights and several thousand foot troops. Sometimes a knight was permitted to pay silver in lieu of providing the military service. Native lords who were granted knighthood on the west coast provided Galley Service instead of Knight’s service.

Typical Rights in exchange for one knight of service were:

  • Right to have the only Mill
  • Right to control the pannage in the woods of the estate
  • Exclusive deer hunting rights
  • Sole entitlement to keep hawks and take the eggs of birds of prey

The Davoch (Gaelic) or Ounceland (Anglo) was the main unit of land, though the exact size seems to have varied.
The Davoch was divided into 4 Ceathrabh (Quarterlands) or 20 Pheighinn (Pennylands).
Rarely, the Pheighin might be further divided into two Leathpheighinn (Halfpennylands) or four Fairdeann (Farthinglands).



  • Robert Avenel, Lord of Eskdale and Abercorn, Justiciar of Lothian. His three sons are Gervase, Vincent, and Robert, and his daughter is Isabelle.
  • Richard Comyn, a knight in the service of William with lands in Lothian, Northallerton, and Richmond. He is married to Hextilda of Tynedale. His sons are William (another knight), and Odo (a priest), and Simon. His daughters are Idonea, Ada, and Christien.
  • Robert de Brus, le Meschin (the Cadet), second Lord of Annandale since 1142. He is married to Euphemia de Crosebi, daughter of Sir Adam de Crosebi of Aumale. They have five children: Robert, William, Bernard, Agatha, and Euphemia. The de Brus family holds Annandale in exchange for 10 knights service.
  • Phillip de Colville has lands near Roxburgh and has been part of the court since Mael Coluim IV was king.
  • Roger de Minto, sheriff of Dunfres since 1165
  • Simon de Morville, son of Hugh de Morville and brother of the current lord of Cunningham and Constable of Scotland, Richard de Morville. He holds lands at Kirkoswald, Burgh-by-Sands in Cumbria (through his wife, Ada de Engaine), and on the west coast of Cunningham where he has built Crags Castle. His son, also named Hugh, has been given lands in Galloway.
  • Symon de Ramesie in Midlothian
  • Philip de Valonges of Panmure in Angus and Benvie in the Carse of Gowrie. He was previously the Lord Chamberlain, a role now held by Walter de Barclay.
  • Simon Fraser of Keith in East Lothian.
  • Domnall mac Dunegal, Lord of Upper Niddsdale which lies to the north of Desnes Ioan. He is one of the few Gaelic knights of the group.
  • Radulf mac Dunegal, Lord of Lower Niddsdale which lies to east of Galloway is Domnall’s brother. His wife is Bethoc. Radulf has recently died without issue and his lands have reverted to William of Scotland. Radulf’s lands west of the river Nidd are now held by Uchtred of Galloway in feu, but William still holds the lands east of the Nidd, including the castle and toun of Dunfres, as part of his demesnes.
  • Hugh Sansmanche (‘Sleeveless Hugh’) holds the lands of Morton in Niddsdale by right of Radulf after he married one of his daughters.
  • Thom Rymour de Ercildoune with lands in Arcioldun (Dun Airchil) in Lothian.
  • Baldwin de Biggar is one of several Flemish knights holding lands near Biggar and Craufurd.
  • See also The Officers of Scotland

The element ‘fitz’ in a Norman name is related to the french ‘Fils’ or latin ‘Filius’ and means ‘son of’. The element ‘de’ indicates a place of origin. Other names make reference to the person’s appearance (e.g. le Bel – ‘the handsome’), circumstances (such as birth date, e.g. Holiday) or career (‘Baxter’ – a baker, or ‘Cuparius’, a cooper).

Kings and Lords
The Royal Court
The Gaelic clanns
Burghs, Touns, and Vills
Organization of the Church
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Knights and their service

The Chronicle of Ken Muir Thalaba