Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow

Christina of the Isles charter

This charter is an early example of evidence of a woman owning land in her own right in Scotland. Not much is known about Christina, but she was a member of the mac Ruaidhrí family, who were allies of the Bruce family, and helped to secure the Bruce lineage’s claim to the Scottish throne. This charter seems to be an attempt to legitimise Christina and her line as rightful heirs to her father’s title and lands.

Christina was Ailean mac Ruaidhrí’s only legitimate child, but he also had two illegitimate sons, and at that time in Scotland legitimacy was not always the most important factor in identifying an heir. After her father’s death, the lands passed to Christina’s half-brother Ruaidhrí, but he was killed soon after while his son Ranald was still a child, and Christina took this opportunity to attempt to take control of the lands. Artúr Caimbéal, the man to whom she granted the lands, was a friend of Robert I, and the list of witnesses on the charter suggests that it had the approval of the king. It has been suggested that Christina and Artúr planned to marry, although no such marriage occurred. In return for the land, Artúr was obliged to provide a boat with men who would be part of the king’s army. The charter appears to solidify the king’s control over this strategically important part of the country at the same time as it reasserts Christina’s right to the land.

This was not the only instance where Christina provided support for Robert I. After his defeat at the battle of Tyndrum, Robert went into hiding for a year, and when he returned to Carrick, he was given aid by Christina. Christina was possibly his cousin by blood, and was further related to him by her marriage to Duncan of Mar, who was a relation of Robert I’s wife Isabella.

This item came into the collection of the RFPG as part of the Hill Collection. The charter was owned by Duncan MacFarlan D.D., a former Principal of the University of Glasgow and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, before passing into the ownership of William Hutcheson Hill, who left it to the library, along with many other charters, letters and manuscripts of historical significance.