February 2012 – Women in the Ragman Roll, pt. 1

Women in the Ragman Roll: part one

Matthew Hammond

By the numbers

The Ragman Roll records the acts of swearing fealty by 76 or 77 women.[1] Despite the fact that this is out of a total of between 1638 and 1666 individuals, comprising about 4.6 percent, this document nevertheless is the earliest to put so many women’s names down, interspersed inter alia, in one document. None of these women swore fealty to King Edward during his military ‘victory lap’ around Scotland; all of them came to Edward’s parliament at Berwick-upon-Tweed on 28 August 1296 and swore fealty there. Three of the women’s fealties are recorded in what I have termed the ‘status’ section of the Berwick parliament – those organised according to rank such as bishop, head of religious house, knight or burgess. These three were the prioresses of Haddington, Manuel, and Abbey St Bathans (Eve, prioress of Haddington, appears in duplicate later). Thus, most of the women’s fealties appear within the largest body of names, those taking place at Berwick and organised according to county. Of the remaining women, 21 are described as ‘of the county of Berwick’ (a further two are otherwise described as being from Berwick), 15 from the county of Edinburgh, 7 from the county of Lanark, 6 from the county of Perth, four each from the counties of Fife and Roxburgh, three each from the counties of Forfar and Dumfries, two each from the counties of Selkirk and Aberdeen, and one each from Peebles[2], Inverness, and Stirling counties. Three women appear ‘in duplicate’; that is to say, their names appear twice. These are Alice of Ormiston, of the county of Edinburgh (which included what is now East Lothian), Eva, prioress of Haddington, of the same county, and Mary of Glengavel, of the county of Lanark (see Appendix, below).


Women Religious

With the fealties of eight prioresses recorded, the Ragman Roll provides a useful snapshot for the history of female religious houses in Scotland. The prioresses of Eccles BWK, Haddington ELO, Holystone (Alwinton parish, Northumberland), Lincluden DMF, Manuel STL, St Bothans BWK, St Leonards next to Perth, and South Berwick (Berwick-upon-Tweed) were present in Berwick on the 28th of August. The Berwick fealties represent the first time a prioress of Eccles (Ada Fraser), St Bothans (Ada, surname unknown), Lincluden (Eleanor) and Perth St Leonards is known to the historical record. For Lincluden Priory in Dumfries-shire, it is our only record of a prioress by name.[3] While the prioress of St Leonards of Perth appears without a name in the Ragman Rolls, her seal survives, naming her as Sister Thephanie de Ederelmarn.[4] The seal was attached to one of the surviving contemporary instruments of fealty from the Berwick parliament.[5] Similarly, the seal of Eve, prioress of Haddington, gives us her surname: Cockburn.[6]

Despite the solid turnout of prioresses, a number of houses are unrepresented. Rather than the prioress, the male warden of North Berwick Priory, who also held a benefice of the church of Lethnot in Angus, swore fealty in Berwick (although it is always possible that the position of prioress was vacant at the time). There are other absences. Prioresses for the houses of Elcho PER and Iona ARG were not in attendance at Berwick. The absence of the prioress of Elcho is impossible to explain, but it is worth noting that the abbots of the male houses of Iona and Saddell in Argyll did not attend either. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no prioress of Coldstream in the Ragman Roll, despite its proximity to Berwick. The priory of Coldstream, situated on the Tweed near Carham and Wark, was raided by English troops on 27 March 1296. The soldiers appear to have been on the hunt for food, carrying off grain, beans, and livestock, in addition to ravaging the orchard.[7] The account of the damages mentions only the male master of the house, Brother Walter, and six male brethren, but no prioress or sisters.[8] Thus it is possible that there was no prioress of Coldstream in office at the time of the Berwick parliament, although there is record of an unnamed prioress in March and June 1297.[9] There is no named prioress of Coldstream on record until the fifteenth century.[10] In any event, the prioresses of St Leonards of Berwick (or South Berwick) and Eccles obtained royal letters of protection on 12 April 1296, as did the abbot of Melrose and (Rot. Scot., i, 23)

The appearance of eight prioresses in the Ragman Roll fealties is a big improvement on the acts of fealty made to Edward I in 1291, where only three prioresses – Agnes of Bernham, prioress of South Berwick, Alice, prioress of Haddington, and Christina, prioress of Manuel, swore fealty.[11] Not all of the eight prioresses appearing in Ragman in 1296, however, appear in the same place or context. Only three of the prioresses are listed among the 34 heads of religious houses – at the end of the list – organised together in what I have termed the ‘status section’ of the Berwick fealties:

Eue Prioresse de Haddingtoñ é le Couent de mesme le lu

Alice Prioresse de Manuel é le Couent de mesme le lu

Ada Prioresse de Seint Boythan é le Couent de mesme le lu[12]


The next to appear is ‘… Prioresse de Seinte Leonard juxte la vile de Seinte Johan de Perth’, as number 18 in a group of 32 people from Perth.[13] The convent here is not explicitly mentioned. Next in the roll is ‘Agneys Prioresse de South berewyk é le Couent de mesme le lu’.[14] This act of fealty stands on its own in the roll – an interesting parallel among male houses is the Priory of Restenneth. The next appearance of a prioress in the roll is ‘Eue la Prioresse de Hadingtoñ tenant le Roi du Counte de Edeneburg’. She is one of 91 individuals described as tenants of the king of various counties mentioned in that particular deed of fealty.[15] The following prioress is ‘Mariorie Prioresse de Halistan’, in a group of 29 people from various counties. Despite the fact that Holystone is located in Northumberland, Prioress Marjory is described as being of the county of Berwick.[16] Next in the roll is ‘Ade de Fraser Prioresse de Eccles’, one of 117 individuals from the county of Berwick swearing fealty in a single deed.[17] The following prioress to appear is ‘Alienore Prioresse de Lencludan del Counte de Dumfres’, in an instrument of fealty which includes a seemingly random assortment of 28 people from the counties of Edinburgh, Fife, Ayr, Lanark, Dumfries, Angus, Roxburgh, Berwick, Roxburgh and Auchterarder.[18]

It is clear from the above that the fealties of prioresses fall into two groups. Four of the prioresses – those of Haddington, Manuel, St Bothans and South Berwick – either appear with their convents or swear fealty for their convents. Three of these were recorded in the ‘status section’ with the other (male) heads of religious houses, and the South Berwick one is recorded separately in its own instrument. In other words, their acts of submission refer to the corporate body of the monastery and its landholdings. The nature of the fealty is less clear for the other instances. The other women, including the duplicate appearance of Prioress Eve of Haddington, appear in large groups of people, with no mention made of their convents. Eve shows up here as a ‘tenant of the king of the county of Edinburgh’, and the appearance of the prioress of Holystone suggests that her monastery held land in the county of Berwick or she herself had some kind of rights to such lands.

A document dated 3 Sept. 1296 at Berwick records the petitions and complaints of a number of women: first in line were the prioress of Haddington and the prioress of St Leonards of Perth. The former wanted her houses in Berwick back; the latter, 60 shillings in rents in which she had been infeft and seised by King Alexander in Perth.[19] That both of these women swore fealty in situations without their convent mentioned may give us a hint as to what exactly was happening on the ground that day. The ‘status section’, similar to the 1291 fealties arranged according to categories in the ‘Glasgow MS’, suggests a more formal aspect to the ceremonies on 28 August 1296. It is likely that the submissions of the bishops, heads of religious houses, lay magnates, and representatives of the burghs would have been acted out in a highly public forum; this probably accounts for the more organised nature of this material. Thus, even if the convents of the houses were not present in person, the abbots, priors and prioresses could have formally sworn on behalf of the whole corporate body. The much larger and less organised sections organised by county, however, represent the hurried attempts of the clerks to process all of the people present by day’s end. Thus the clumping together of groups (sometimes very large groups) of people: they were likely all swearing the oath of fealty together in unison. Many of these people may have even been queuing up for other reasons, such as making known their desire to have their properties restored, when their fealties were processed by the English clerks. This would have indeed been the main purpose of showing up at Berwick for many people, and it may not have mattered too much if the prioress of St Leonard of Perth had missed the more formal public ceremonial part, as long as she was able to apply to get her house’s 60 shillings back. These group fealties, of course, explain why the convents of some prioresses are not mentioned. This was no longer time for such fussy ceremonial. This also explains, of course, why the prioress of Haddington appears twice – once formally on behalf of her convent, and again as a tenant of the king of the county of Edinburgh, to apply for the restoration of her houses in Berwick.

Part Two of ‘Women in the Ragman Roll’ will examine the contexts for laywomen swearing fealty at Berwick.


Appendix: Women in the Ragman Roll

1. [Thephanie] , prioress of Saint Leonard next Perth, cty. Perth                  p. 128

2. Ada Fraser, prioress of Eccles, cty. Berwick                                               p. 150

3. Ada, prioress of Abbey St Bathans, and the convent (status section)        p. 117-18

4. Agnes ‘del Crage’, cty. Edinburgh                                                              p. 156

5. Agnes la Gynnere, cty. Berwick                                                                  p. 164

6. Agnes of ‘Twysel’, cty. Berwick                                                                  p. 164

7. Agnes of Bunkle, cty. Berwick                                                                    p. 173

8. Agnes of Molesworth, cty. Berwick                                                            p. 139

9. Agnes prioress of South Berwick and her convent                                     p. 130

10. Agnes widow of Henry Lovel, cty. Roxburgh                                            p. 172

11. Alice of Dunbar, cty. Berwick                                                                   p. 146

12. Alice of Langmuir (or Longmuir), cty. Edinburgh                                     p. 125

13. Alice of Ormiston, cty. Edinburgh                                                                        p. 125

= Alice, widow of Alan of Ormiston, tenant of king, cty. Edinburgh  p. 137

14. Alice widow of Philip of Halliburton, tenant of king, cty. Berwick           p. 137

15. Alice, prioress of Manuel (and convent of) (status section)                    p. 117-18

16. Alina de Vieuxpont, cty. Edinburgh                                                          p. 167

17. Anabel widow of Patrick of Graham, cty. Perth                                       p. 146

18. Anabel ‘de Cambos’, cty. Peebles                                                             p. 152

19. Beatrice of Carlisle, cty. Dumfries                                                                       p. 140

20. Christiane ‘atte bothe’ of Berwick                                                            p. 154

21. Christiane of Greenhead, cty. Selkirk                                                       p. 154

22. Christiane Selvieland of Cadzow, cty. Lanark                                           p. 167

23. Christina of Mar wife of Duncan of Mar, cty Inverness                           p. 129

24. Constance of ‘Kiphop’, cty. Edinburgh                                                      p. 140

25. Dervorgilla widow of Robert Carnot (Chartres), cty. Lanark                   p. 125

26. Edith of Coldingham, cty. Berwick                                                           p. 139

27. Ela of Ardross, cty. Fife                                                                             p. 145

28. Ela of Fife, cty. Fife                                                                                   p. 145

29. Eleanor, prioress of Lincluden (no convent mentioned), cty. Dumfries  p. 167

30. Elizabeth of Rosneath, cty. Aberdeen                                                       p. 142

31. Emma of Alemoor, cty. Selkirk                                                                 p. 138

32. Emma Spendlove, cty. Lanark                                                                  p. 156

33. Euphemia widow of William of Horndean, cty. Wigtown                        p. 146

34. Eve of Angus, cty. Forfar                                                                           p. 126

35. Eve, prioress of Haddington  (and convent of)                                         p. 117-18

= Eve prioress of Haddington, tenant of king, cty. Edinburgh            p. 137

36. Eve, widow of Malcolm of Frendraught, cty. Aberdeen                          p. 132

37. Goda of Winton, cty. Edinburgh                                                               p. 157

38. Gunnyd (Gunnilda?) Brown, tenant of king, cty. Edinburgh                     p. 136

39. Helen of Duddingston, cty. Edinburgh                                                      p. 155

40. Helen Papedy, cty. Berwick                                                                      p. 156

41. Isabella ‘Knout’, cty. Roxburgh                                                                 p. 131

42. Isabella of Calderwood, Lanark                                                                p. 166

43. Isabella of Covington, cty. Lanark                                                                        p. 125

44. Isabella Scot, cty. Fife                                                                               p. 145

45. Isabella, widow of David the tailor, cty. Forfar                                        p. 156

46. Isabella, widow of Thomas the steward, cty. Edinburgh                          p. 157

47. Joan de la Haye (Hay), cty. Forfar                                                                        p. 146

48. Joan of Nisbet, cty. Berwick                                                                      p. 151

49. Joan widow of Randolph Wishart, cty. Berwick                                       p. 159

50. Mabilla of Congalton, cty. Edinburgh                                                       p. 150

51. Margaret daughter of Nicholas of Rutherford, cty. Berwick                   p. 152

52. Margaret le Engleys (Inglis), cty. Perth                                                    p. 128

53. Margaret of Covington, cty. Lanark                                                         p. 125

54. Margaret of Penicuik, cty. Edinburgh                                                      p. 155

55. Margaret of Ramsey, cty. Berwick                                                           p. 157

56. Margaret widow of Peter of Lundin, cty. Fife                                          p. 159

57. Margaret widow of William of Abernethy, cty. Berwick                         p. 146

58. Mariota of Gullane, cty. Edinburgh                                                          p. 125

59. Mariota of Sutton, cty. Dumfries                                                              p. 124

60. Marjory Comyn, lady of Gordon, cty. Berwick                                         p. 131

61. Marjory of Dunsyre, cty. Berwick                                                             p. 151

62. Marjory of Fairhaugh, cty. Linlithgow                                                      p. 146

63. Marjory of Graham, cty. Perth                                                                 p. 144

64. Marjory of Harcarse, cty. Berwick                                                                       p. 151

65. Marjory of Riccarton, cty. Edinburgh                                                       p. 161

66. Marjory of Sydeserff, cty. Edinburgh                                                       p. 161

67. Marjory, prioress of Holystone (Alwinton parish, Northumberland) (no convent),

cty. Berwick, p. 146

68. Marjory, widow of Thomas ‘Banysleve’, tenant of king, cty. Berwick, p. 137

69. Mary of Glengavel, cty. Lanark                                                    p. 143 and p. 149

70. Mary of Synton, cty. Roxburgh                                                                 p. 127

71. Mary queen of Man [daughter of Ewen Macdougall], cty. Perth                        p. 164

72. Mary widow of Hugh of Airth, cty. Stirling                                               p. 170

73. Muriel of Inchbrakie, cty. Perth                                                               p. 146

74. Peronel de Vieuxpont, cty. Berwick                                                          p. 154

75. Roese of Chilham, cty. Roxburgh                                                             p. 170

76. Sarah daughter of Thomas Fraser, cty. Berwick                                      p. 152

and possibly…

77. Cristin or Christine Lockhart, cty. Peebles                                               p. 152

[1] My thanks to Bruce McAndrew for his comments. The sexual identity of one person, Cristin/ Christy or Christine Lockhart, is unclear. The name is spelled ‘Cristin’ in Thomson’s edition and ‘Cristine’ in Bain’s edition. ‘Cristin’ or ‘Christy’ was a common men’s name in medieval Scotland, and Christy de Carvin, a juror in Linlithgow in Nov. 1296 (CDS, ii, no. 857) and thus likely a man, also has his name spelled ‘Cristine’ in the Bain edition. So all signs seem to be pointing to Cristin Lockhart as a man. The fact that most women we would call ‘Christina’ spelled their names ‘Christiana’ in medieval documents, including the Ragman Roll, would also seem to bear this out. However, Christina of Mar, wife of Duncan of Mar (no. 23 below) has her name spelled ‘Christyn’ in Thomson’s edition and ‘Cristine’ in Bain’s edition, and she is clearly a woman. This leaves open the possibility that ‘Cristin/ Cristine’ Lockhart is actually a woman. Perhaps further evidence will emerge. Contributions from readers on this point are most welcome!

[2] Or two from Peebles-shire, if Christin Lockhart is a woman.

[3] Heads of Religious Houses in Scotland from Twelfth to Sixteenth Centuries, ed. D. E. R. Watt and N. F. Shead (Edinburgh, 2001), infra. On Scottish nuns in the Middle Ages, see Kimm Curran, ’Looking for Nuns : A Prosopographical study of Scottish Nuns in the later Middle Ages’, Records of the Scottish Church History Society, 35 (2005), 28-67.

[4] Calendar of Documents related to Scotland, ii, ed. J. Bain (Edinburgh, 1884), App. 1, no. 2, pt. 80; Heads of Religious Houses, 177.  Bruce McAndrew, ‘The sigillography of the Ragman Roll’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 129 (1999), 663-752, Appendix, no. 1280

[5] CDS, ii, no. 811

[6] CDS, ii, App. 1, no. 3, pt. 7; Heads of Religious Houses, 90; McAndrew, ‘Sigillography’, App., no. 1307

[7] Joseph Stevenson, Documents illustrative of the history of Scotland, ii (Edinburgh, 1870), 32-5, no. 353. Calendared in CDS, ii, no. 723. Also printed in Chartulary of the Cistercian Priory of Coldstream, ed. Charles Roger (London, Grampian Club, 1879), Supplement, no. 1 [Cold. Cart.]

[8] Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 2nd edn, 145-6

[9] Rotuli Scotiae, i (London, 1814), 39b, 42b; Cold. Cart., Supplements 2 and 3.

[10] Heads of Religious Houses, 42

[11] Agnes of Bernham swore fealty in the castle chapel at Berwick on 24 June 1291; Christina, prioress of Manuel, swore fealty at Linlithgow on 28 July 1291, and Alice, prioress of Haddington, swore fealty in the Edinburgh castle chapel on 29 July 1291, Edward I and the Throne of Scotland, ed. E. L. G. Stones and Grant G. Simpson (Glasgow, 1978), ii, 116-17, 126, 367, App. F. Lady Mary, queen of Man, appears erroneously under ‘abbesses and prioresses’ section of the Glasgow MS. The first prioress of South Berwick on record (ca 1221), had the remarkable name ‘Froelina’.

[12] Thomas Thomson, Instrumenta Publica (Edinburgh, Bannatyne Club, 1834), 118

[13] Thomson, IP, 128

[14] Thomson, IP, 130

[15] Thomson, IP, 137

[16] Thomson, IP, 146

[17] Thomson, IP, 150

[18] Thomson, IP, 167

[19] Stevenson, Documents, ii, 92, no. 385

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2 Responses to February 2012 – Women in the Ragman Roll, pt. 1

  1. Bruce McAndrew says:

    A few more laywomen not apparently on your list:
    Christine Lockarde
    Eleyne Papede
    Jone de la Haye
    Peronelle de Veupont
    Roese de Chilham

    Kind regards
    Bruce McAndrew

  2. arturo says:

    Hi there, how can I quote this article?

    Best regards,


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