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Freskin the Fleming






Freskin was a minor nobleman active in the reign of King David I of Scotland. His name appears only in a charter by King William to Freskin's son, William, granting Strathbrock in West Lothian and Duffus, Kintrae, and other lands in Moray, "which his father held in the time of King David". The name Freskin is Flemish, and in the words of Geoffrey Barrow "it is virtually certain that Freskin belonged to a large group of Flemish settlers who came to Scotland in the middle decades of the 12th century and were chiefly to be found in West Lothian and the valley of the Clyde". Freskin's land acquisition does not appear to be unique, and may have been part of a royal policy in the aftermath of the defeat of the Mormaer of Moray, Óengus. For instance, on December 25, 1160, a charter was issued by King Máel Coluim IV to Berowald the Fleming, who seems to have controlled Bo'ness in West Lothian, granting him the lands of Innes and "Nether Urquhart" [=Etherurecard] in the "province of Elgin"; notably, one of the three witnesses to the charter which granted "Berowald Flandrensis" these lands, was "Wilhelmus filius Frisgin", William, Freskin's son. Freskin appears to be the progenitor of the "de Moravia" or "Clan Murray" family who were lords of Duffus in the later 12th century and early 13th century and who rose to become the earls of Sutherland (southern Caithness), although it was not until the 13th century that we can be certain they took the surname "de Moravia".

It is also quite possible that the Clan Douglas arose from the same stock. The first recorded Lord of Douglas, William de Douglas, is attested to in various charters of William the Lion. Five of his six sons became clerics, the eldest of which Bricius de Douglas became Bishop of Moray in 1203. Alexander, Henry and Hugh de Douglas all became Canons of Spynie. It appears that the youngest, Freskin de Douglas, remained in Lanarkshire as parson of the parish of Douglas, before being appointed Dean of Moray. The similarity between the heraldry of the Morays and Douglases with the use of "Argent, on a chief azure, three stars of the field" for Douglas, and "Azure, three stars argent, two and one" for Moray, makes this compelling. Belief in the common descent of the Morays and Douglases was certainly extant in the early 15th century:
"Of Murrawe and the Douglas,
How that thare begynnyng was,
Syn syndry spekis syndryly
I can put that in na story.
But in thare armeyis bath thai bere
The sternys[stars] set in lyke manere;
Til mony men it is yhit sene
Apperand lyk that had bene
Of kyn be descens lyneale
Or be branchys collaterele Andrew of Wyntoun


Several Scottish families are probably of Fleming stock. The following are just three of them:

Although William de Douglas was the first known owner of Douglasdale, holding that land between 1174 and 1213, there is no reason to doubt that his father was “Theobaldo Flamatico” or Theobald the Fleming. The family’s arms indicate the kinship with Murray and a descent like that of Brodie and Innes, from a third son of the house of Boulogne. In Flanders there was a family of the Theobalds who were hereditary castellans of Ypres between about 1060 and 1127, after which their history becomes obscure. Theobald’s lands in Scotland were granted to him soon after 1150 by the Abbot of Kelso. William de Douglas, the heir, having married the sister of Friskin de Kerdale or Freskin of Moray, had by her six sons; the five younger of them all went to Moray to support their uncle there and his own heir, Archenbald, stayed in Lanarkshire to inherit the Douglas estates. He married a daughter of Sir John Crawford.

Flemish settlersFLEMING
0f Biggar in Lanarkshire, Baldwin the Fleming was given the onerous sheriffdom of Lanarkshire by David I. He married the unnamed widow of Reginald, fourth son of Alan, Earl of Richmond, and her son John 0f Crawford was to become one of his knights. A sure guide to Baldwin’s ancestry must lie in his armorial bearings which has a double tressure. The tressure is unknown as a heraldic device in any country except Scotland and Flanders, the latter’s use being the earlier. Even there, only one family is shown in surviving records as having borne it, the mighty lords of Gavere, in the province of Gent. A Lord of Gavere married Eve, Lady of Chièvres, about 1130, and their son, Razo IV sported the double tressure on his shield. Eve’s family had been represented in the Conqueror’s army by William de Chièvres who became a powerful baron of Devon. At what date Baldwin left Devon for Scotland is not known. His descendants became the Earls of Wigton and Lords Fleming of Cumbernauld.

All chroniclers agree that Freskin was a Fleming who was in Scotland in the reign of David I, and was initially allotted estates at Strathbrock in West Lothian. He took part in quelling the insurrection of 1130 in Moray, and was thereafter given the task of defending that county and awarded the extensive lands necessary to do so, his headquarters being at Duffus where he built a mighty fortress. Freskin’s arms, which have passed to his ultimate descendants, the Murray dukes of both Atholl and Sutherland, were the colours and devices of a third son of Boulogne - the family of David’s queen. (The ancient earldom of Atholl bore the colours of Flanders). As a personal name, Freskin does not appear in Flemish dictionaries. It is presumed to be a nickname, perhaps meaning “the one with the frizzy hair or curly-headed”.


Contributed comment from Derek Cunningham:
As a heads up…the Malcolm who changed his name to Freskin was the earlier b. Circa 960-era Malcolm. Freskin II (late 10th century, he was the nephew of Freskin I, through his brother Kenneth) was the Clan Cunningham Freskin. Freskin III the son of Ollec, and the brother of William and Archenbaudus was the Clan Douglas Freskin. They were alive in the time of King William II, the son of King William the Conqueror; so this is the period when there is most likely to be an overlap with the "father? Of William de Percys, or with William de Percy - which I think is the line that descends from Freskin II. A study from Strathclyde University proved the Douglas and the Sutherland lines have a common ancestor - specifically Clan Douglas and Clan Sutherland share the same SNP = DF27 R-FGC23066 haplogroup. The Murrays are a separate family line (no overlap with the Douglas line). All this was published in Scotland & Shakespeare’s Third Prophecy (the Clan Cunningham edition).


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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024