Some corrections and additions to the Complete Peerage: Volume 5: Fife (PROPOSED CORRECTIONS)


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Volume 5, page 373 (as modified by volume 14):
He [Malcolm [Macduff?], Earl of Fife (d. 1266)] m. Helen, da. of Llewellyn, Prince of Wales ... His widow m. Donald, EARL OF MAR [S.], who d. probably soon after 25 July 1297. She was living in Feb. 1294/5.

Douglas Richardson, in December 2002 and August 2003, reported work by Andrew MacEwen, who concluded on chronological grounds that Malcolm married twice, firstly by July 1237 an unidentified daughter of Llewellyn, who was the mother of his sons Colban and Macduff , and secondly Helen, who survived him and remarried to Donald.

[Item last updated 24 August 2003.]

Volume 5, pages 374, 375:
ISABEL, or ELIZABETH, suo jure COUNTESS OF FIFE [S.], only da. and h. [of Duncan, Earl of Fife (d. 1353)] She m., 1stly, William RAMSAY, of Colluthie, who, in her right, was EARL OF FIFE [S.], and as such was witness to a charter 12 Apr. 1357. He was alive Mar. 1359/60, though he probably d. soon afterwards.(f) She m., 2ndly, Walter STEWART, 2nd s. of Robert, afterwards [1371] Robert II. He was living as "Dominus de Fyff", 14 Aug. 1362, but d. s.p., very soon afterwards. She m., 3rdly (settl. before marriage, 10 Jan. 1362/3), Sir Thomas BYSET, of Upsetlington, who in her right was EARL OF FIFE [S.], having had a charter, Apr. 1363, of that earldom to himself and his issue by the said Countess. He d. s.p., before 17 Apr. 1365. She m., 4thly, and lastly, John DE DUNBAR, in her right EARL OF FIFE [S.], having had a charter to him and his said wife of that Earldom. He d. s.p., before 1371. Finally she, on 30 Mar. 1371, resigned the Earldom of Fife to Robert (STEWART), EARL OF MENTEITH [S.], next br. to her 2nd husband, retaining for her life the free tenement thereof save as to the third part then held in dower by Mary, Countess of Fife, her mother. She was living 12 Aug. 1389, but d. s.p., apparently not long afterwards.
Page 374, note f:
David de Berclay obtained a Papal dispensation, 27 June 1358, to marry with Elizabeth, da. of "William, Earl of Fife," i.e. a da. (who must then have been very young) of this William. It is quite clear that the lady in question was not the suo jure Countess, whose father's name was Duncan, and whose husband, William, was then alive. The marriage probably never took place, or at all events was a barren one.

This account contains a number of errors, the most serious being the alleged marriage between Isabel and William de Ramsay. Presumably this was invented to account for William's possession of the earldom, but there is no evidence for it. On the contrary, Isabel was the wife of Sir William de Felton of Edlingham when William de Ramsay was made earl of Fife.

Similarly, it has been assumed that Isabel died without issue because of her resignation of the earldom to Robert, earl of Menteith. But it seems clear that Sir John de Felton of Edlingham (d. 1396) was her son by her first marriage, and survived her.

A third difficulty is that several of the dates given above are one year too early because of a systematic error in the regnal years given in the acts of David II of Scotland [see B. Webster, ed., Acts of David II, p. 9 (1982)].

Some further details are given below.

William de Ramsay

According to Sir Thomas Gray's Scalacronica, William de Ramsay was made earl of Fife by King David II of Scotland (who claimed that Duncan had earlier forfeited the earldom), and this took place soon after the king's deliverance from captivity [Sir H. Maxwell's translation, pp. 125, 126 (1907)]. David's deliverance took place in Autumn 1357, and William appears as earl in a document dated 20 March 1358 [Acts of David II, no 178]. He must have been made earl within the previous two weeks, assuming he is the same William de Ramsay who appears as a knight on 6 March [J.M. Thompson, ed., Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, Appendix I, no 127 (1912)]. (The charter mentioned in the account above should be dated 12 April 1358, not 1357 [Reg. Mag. Sig., no 662].) The last reference I have found to him as earl of Fife is dated 8 April 1359 [Acts of David II, no 213].

The Scalacronica says that William was made earl of Fife through his wife's influence. An unnamed countess of Fife and the son of the earl of Fife are mentioned near the end of the accounts of the custumars of Edinburgh for 20 October 1357 to 3 April 1359 [Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol. 1, p. 609]. Given that William was not married to Isabel, there is no reason to assume that his children would be very young in the 1350s. Judging from the statement made about his daughter Elizabeth in the account above, it seems also to be assumed that he died without issue, but it is not clear whether this is true.


The Scalacronica says that Isabel married her guardian Sir William de Felton [p. 126]. This marriage must have taken place between 7 October 1332, when earl Duncan's wife and daughter were captured at Perth by the supporters of David de Bruce [A.B. Scott and D.E.R. Watt, eds, Scotichronicon, vol. 7, p. 83 (1996)], and around 1340, when her son John de Felton was born (he is said to be aged 26 or 28 in 1367, and is described in the inquisition taken after his own death as the son of William de Felton and his wife Isabel [Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, vol. 12, no 200 ; vol. 17, no 636]).

This account is confirmed by a petition to the Pope in 1351 on behalf of Duncan, the son of Sir William de Felton, in which William is said to be related to the king on his wife's side (as Isabel was through her mother) [Calendar of Papal Petitions, vol. 1, p. 210; Calendar of Papal Letters, vol. 3, p. 428]. Sir William de Felton died 21 September 1358 (see Felton, vol. 5, p. 294), more than six months after William de Ramsay had been created earl of Fife.

Isabel was described as still "in her pure widowhood" on 21 July 1360 [Acts of David II, no 239]. Her second husband Walter Stewart was referred to as lord of Fife in accounts covering the period 5 June 1361 to 14 August 1362, [Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol. 2, p. 115], but was not necessarily living at the latter date.

Her third husband Thomas Byset was dead by 17 April 1366, not 1365 as stated above [Acts of David II, no 352].

Isabel was dead by 31 March 1396, when her son Sir John de Felton died [Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, vol. 17, no 636].

[Douglas Richardson pointed out the Scalacronica account of William de Ramsay's creation as earl of Fife and Isabel's marriage to Sir William de Felton, with other supporting evidence for the marriage, in March 2002. The problem was also discussed by Rosie Bevan.]