Scottish Chronicles

Sadly there are few chronicles covering the Middle Ages in Scotland and what there is tends to be poor for a variety of reasons.  Add to this the fact that the Scottish exchequer records that were taken south by Edward I (1272-1307) have been lost or destroyed and this leaves Scottish history rather relying on English chronicles to fill in on the gaps left by their Scottish counterparts.

Barbour, John - The Bruce
Barbour was probably born in 1320 as he was said to be 55 in 1375.  He received monies from King Robert II (1371-90) for composing The Brus in 1377.  He died 13 March 1395. 
The narrative poem focuses on King Robert Bruce (d.1329) and James Douglas (d.1330) in the first half and features the actions of the Stewarts in second half.
The earliest surviving copy dates only from 1487 and its value when uncorroborated should be taken as minimal.
Printed as ‘The Bruce', Barbour, John [1375], ed Skeat, WW, [1870].

Bower, Walter - Scotichronicon
Walter Bower was the abbot of Inchcolm abbey and was born in 1385 and died 24 December 1449.  His seems to have begun compiling his chronicle in 1440, writing a continuation of Fordun from 1363 to the death of James I in 1437.  The work was complete by 1447.  Bower also made additions to Fordun's work, compiling his own information from 1371.  During the last 2 years of his life he wrote the Book of Cupar, an abridgement of Scotichronicon.
The whole was published by Walter Goodall (1706-66) in 1759.
Bower has been described as a less competent chronicler than Fordun, ‘garrulous, irrelevant and inaccurate', while making ‘every important occurrence an excuse for a long-winded moral discourse'.

Chronicon Regum Manniae et Insularum
An antonymous thirteenth century compilation which is confused in its chronology, no doubt as it was made up from several sources, and has a local political agenda.

Chronicon Sanctae Crucis - See Holyrood Chronicle

Fordun, John - Chronica Gentis Scotorum
John Fordun was writing in the latter part of the fourteenth century when he produced Chronica Gentis Scotorum.  This work was copied by Boece and George Buchanan.  Recent scholarship suggests that Fordun only wrote the first 5 books which take the story up to the death of David I in 1153, probably in the last quarter of the fourteenth century.  There then follows 2 sets of annals, Gesta Annalia (Yearly Deeds) I and Gesta Annalia II. 
Gesta Annalia I ends in February 1285 when King Alexander III despatches an embassy to France to find him a new wife.  Quite likely it was composed by mid April 1285.  This seems to have been plagiarised wholesale from a lost source.
Gesta Annalia II begins with Alexander's marriage in October 1285 and runs down until 1363. This work is not homogeneous and may have been built up from several sources.
It was published by Skene, William F, in both the original Latin and English in 1871/72 as The Historians of Scotland.

Goodall, Walter - 1706-66
Published [Fordun &] Bower in 1759.

Holyrood Chronicle, 1AD to 1163
A highly abbreviated account of Scotland's history which was compiled within 20 years either side of 1200.  It is in 2 definite parts.  The first runs from Ceasar's invasion of Britain in 55BC to the death of Bede in 735AD.  The second part runs from 1065 to 1163 where it ends abruptly and imperfectly.  This was printed in Wharton, H, Anglia Sacra as Chronicon Sanctae Crucis.

Melrose Chronicle, 735Ad to 1270
This is the main contemporary chronicle of the middle ages produced in Scotland that has survived.  It runs from 735 to 1270 where it ends in mid sentence, obviously incomplete.  From 735 until the year Melrose was founded in 1140 the chronicle consists mainly of a compilation of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Simeon Durham and Roger Hoveden and seems unlikely to have been compiled much before 1200.  After 1140 it contains much more original work which has been written up by several scribes who were possibly working contemporaneously with the events they described.  Sadly the chronicle exists in only one manuscript and that ends abruptly and imperfectly.  Melrose was used extensively by first Fordun and then Bower.

This chronicle was compiled to 1436 in 12 books, probably during 1461 from older materials.

Skene, William F,  The Historians of Scotland in Latin and English
In 1871/72 he published Fordun, Pluscarden and Wynoun with a good preface.

Wyntoun, Andrew (d.1421+)
Andrew Wyntoun (prior of Loch Leven from 1390 to 1421)  lived from c.1350 to 1421+ and composed the rhyming Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland which ended with the death of Duke Robert Stewart of Albany in 1420.


Copyright©2022 Paul Martin Remfry

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