Skip to main content
Select Source:

William I

William I (c.1142–1214), king of Scots (1165–1214), later known as ‘the Lion’. Younger brother and successor to Malcolm IV, he was granted the earldom of Northumberland by his grandfather David I in 1152, and never accepted the loss of the border counties to Henry II in 1157. When Henry faced a major rebellion in 1173–4, William invaded Northumberland and Cumberland in a disastrous bid to reassert Scottish control. Captured at Alnwick, he had to recognize Henry as the superior lord of Scotland by the treaty of Falaise. Scottish independence was restored by the quitclaim of Canterbury, and in 1192 the papacy confirmed that the Scottish church was free of all external authority save the pope's. But Anglo-Scottish relations remained tense and, while Scotland retained its formal independence, King John imposed stringent terms by the treaty of Norham. Although William's conflicts with the English crown distracted his attention from the Highlands and Isles, his long reign nevertheless saw important advances on the lines laid down by David I, and ‘against his few startling failures we must set a larger though less dramatic record of unflagging achievement’. New burghs were founded outside the traditional royal heartlands; Anglo-Norman families gained new estates, especially north of the river Tay; and the bishopric of Argyll was established in about 1192. Though native lords were by no means excluded from William's favour, the intensification of royal control triggered a series of rebellions along the periphery, in Galloway, Moray, Ross, and Caithness. The crushing of these risings was striking testimony to William's resources and ability; but a contrast must still be drawn between the effectiveness of royal power in the Lowlands and its much more restricted nature in the far north and west. In addition, the Isles remained, however loosely, under the overlordship of Norway. William died at Stirling and was buried in Arbroath abbey, which he had founded in honour of St Thomas Becket. Not until the 14th cent. was he referred to as ‘the Lion’, an epithet evoking his reputation as an enforcer of justice.

Keith J. Stringer

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"William I." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"William I." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/william-i-0

"William I." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/william-i-0

William I

William I ( the Lion) (1143–1214) King of Scotland (1165–1214). He succeeded his brother Malcolm IV and forged what was later called the ‘Auld Alliance’ with France. Captured by the English during an attempt to regain Northumbria, he was forced to swear fealty to Henry II (1174). He bought back his kingdom's independence from Richard I in return for a cash payment towards the Third Crusade in 1189. William the Lion established the independence of the Church (under the Pope) and strengthened royal authority in the north.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"William I." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"William I." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/william-i-2

"William I." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/william-i-2