Ragman Rolls and Purves

After the death of Queen Margaret in 1291, there were a number of claimants to the Scottish throne. At that time, due to several marriage alliances, Scotland and England had diplomatic relationship. When it became obvious that Scotland couldn’t make the decision without all out clan wars, King Edward of England offered to hear their cases and decide who had the most valid claim. When the Noblemen who were involved met with Edward at Norham on Tweed, Edward insisted in having them sign oath of allegiance to him, partly because he was afraid of making an unpopular choice and causing a riot among the Scots. The document signed by most of the noblemen is called the first and smallest of the Ragman Rolls. Balliol resisted the demands of Edward so the King sent an army and fought the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar. He proceeded across Scotland and stole some most important Scot artefacts such as the Stone of Destiny, where Scot Kings had been inaugurated from the earliest times, the Scottish Crown and the archives of Scottish Records.

During the Easter period of 1296 while Edward was staying at Wark on Tweed several Earls, including both Bruce’s, had declared fealty to him and they also promised:

I will be faithful and loyal, and will maintain faith and loyalty to King Edward, King of England, and to his heirs, in matters of life and limb and of earthly honour against all mortal men; and never will I bear arms for anyone against him or his heirs … so may God help me and the Saints.

By August Edward had received the fealty of many Scottish landowners and they were formally recorded on the ‘Ragman Roll’. Edward now referred to Balliol as the ‘former King of Scotland’ and this encouraged Bruce the elder to remind Edward of his promise to make him king. If he expected a favourable response he was to be disappointed as Edward replied ‘Have we nothing else to do than win Kingdoms for you?’. Bruce the elder then left Scotland for his lands in England and did not return.

Signing up to the Ragman Roll, As the noblemen did this, they affixed their wax seals to the parchment and they often attached their own ribbon to the wax. It was signed by most of the leading Scots of the day including Robert Bruce, the sixth Lord of Annandale, his son, the 2nd Earl of Carrick and William Wallace’s uncle Sir Reginald de Crawford. It has almost 2,000 signatures making it one of the most valuable documents for future researchers.

Of these records two copies were preserved in the chapterhouse at Westminster (now in the Record Office, London. Another copy, originally preserved in the Tower of London, is now also in the Record Office. The latter record contains the various acts of homage and fealty extorted by Edward from Baliol and others in the course of his progress through Scotland in the summer of 1296. Both records were printed by the Bannatyne Club in 1834.

The derivation of the word “ragman” has never been satisfactorily explained, but various guesses as to its meaning and a list of examples of its use for legal instruments both in England and Scotland will be found in the preface to the Bannatyne Club’s volume, and in Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary, s.v. “Ragman.” It is suggested that the term “Ragman Rolls” derived from the ribbons attached to the seals on the parchments but the name may also have been derived from an earlier record compiled for the purposes of Papal taxation by a man called Ragimunde, whose name was corrupted to Ragman. The name “ragman roll” survives in the colloquial “rigmarole,” a rambling, incoherent statement.

The Purves’ appear twice …

  • William Porneys (tenauntz le Roi du Counte de Pebble’s).
  • William Poureys (del counte de Berewyk)

The full list of signatures to the Ragman Rolls can be seen here.

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