Bisset Resources Pages
Copyright and Acknowledgements
Permission for this quotation of pages 18-21 is being investigated, but has not yet been obtained.Thanks to Frank Bissett of Massachusetts for typing and formatting this work, and to Ron Bissett for scanning the original publication. An illustrated Word 97 version of this page is available, and a smaller non-illustrated Word 95/6.0 version is also available. The original pages and illustrations can be viewed on Ron Bissett's Beauly Priory page.
PRIORY OF BEAULY
NOTICES OF THE PRIORIES OF
PLUSCARDINE AND ARDCHATTEN
THE FAMILY OF THE FOUNDER
EDMOND CHISHOLM RATTAN
PRINTED FOR THE GRAMPIAN CLUB
John Byset first appears as the Lord of the Aird in the deeds of arrangement between him and Bricius, Bishop of Moray, who died in 1221, and which are confirmed by King Alexander II, in 1221. Byset must have been the first of the family who acquired the lands of the Airs, for the kings confirmation expressly mentions that the lands had been granted John Byset personally. When in 1226, giving the church of Kiltarlity to the leper house of Rathven, he does so, among other objects, for the soul of William, King of Scotland; so that the grant referred to by King Alexander II, had probably been made to Byset by King William the Lion.
The Scalacronica states that William the Lion, in 1174 , on his return from captivity at Falaise and in England brought back young Englishmen of family to seek their fortunes at the Scottish court. Among these are named the Bysets (Bisey). At this time Henry Byset may have come into Scotland.
From 1179 to 1187 William the Lion was engaged in putting down the rebellion of Donald Bame,* who, after the Boy of Egremonts defeat, claimed to be the Celtic heir of Malcolm Canmore. William completed with the people of Moray and Ross what his brother Malcolm had begun with the people of Moray, expelling great numbers of the Celtic inhabitants, putting the land under the feudal system, and granting it out in baronics, to be held of the crown. Among these, in the province of Moray, the barony of the Aird was probably granted to John Byset, to secure his victory over Donald Bane; and about 1187 William the Lion founded two castles in Ross, one of which was called Ethirdover. This, by the combined light thrown on it by the lease of
*Scalacronica, Maitland Clan, Edinb. 1836, p. 41.
It is said that Edmond, a son of Malcolm Canmone and St. Margaret, joined in the conspiracy against the successor of King Edgar, and when the King succeeded, Edmond seems to have adopted the course which saved his own life and preserved the barone of his family. He assumed the cowl at Mer???, the Clariac priory, in Somersetshire?. I note the fact as an illustration of the ??? connection then between England and Scotland, which is likewise shown in the History of the founder of Beauly.
OF THE PRIORY OF BEAULY
Kilcoy,* afterwards referred to, and the grant of Andrew de Boseho (Beauly Diplomata, No. VII.), is settled to be the castle of Edirdor, or Redcastle, on the Beauly Firth. In the latter part of his reign, the king probably appointed John Byset hereditary constable of this castle, and attached to it the lands of Edirdor, and at the same time gave him the barony of the Aird and the lands of Kilravoch, for we find all these - the castle and lands of Edirdor, the barony of the Aird, and the lands of Kilravoch - were the hereditary possessions of the granddaughters of John Byset.
The name of John Byset first occurs in contemporary documents in 1204 in the Register of the Abbey of Newbattle, and as a witness to a charter of Henry de Graham. As we find that the papal Bull for translating the parish church of Kirkhill was obtained in 1210, just about the time that the insurrection of the son of Donald Bane broke out in Ross-shire, and as John Bysets confirmation of this translation seems to imply his having promoted it, we may not err in assuming that this grant was made by King William on the quelling of the rebellion in 1211.
John Bysets mother was live in 1221, as in the deeds of arrangement hr grants a glebe to the parish church of Kirkhill for the soul of his father, who was therefore dead, but not for the soul of his mother, who was lord of Aboyne, in Aberdeenshire.
The Bysets in England were a family of baronial rank: they had the types and insignia of nobility; they held high office about the person of the Plantagenets; they witnessed the confirmation of the Magna Charta, endowed abbeys and priories, and left that indubitable mark of their importance by the additional name which some English parishes have derived from them.
*Preface to Orig. Per. Scot. P. xxi; Book of Kilpatrick, P. 109
Reg. Newbattle, p. 7.
Preston-Byset tells the country folks of Buckinghamshire now, as Combe-Byset informs the men of Wilts, of the days long ago, when a Byset was the lord of Preston and of Combe.* In particular, Manassar Byset, Server of the Household to King Henry II, founded a house of lepers at Maiden Bradley, in Wiltshire, and the successive members of his family confirmed and added to the endowment. The pious maid of honour, Margaret Byset, who, passing the night in watching and prayer, saved the life of Henry III in 1238 at Woodstock from the hands of an assassin, had some time before added to the possessions of Maiden Bradley.
The English Bysets were a united family, each member assisting the other; and we find Manassar Byset giving the manor of East Bridgeford, Nottinghamshire, to his brother William, and this William Byset obtaining the consent of his son William, his brother Manassar, and his nephew Ermulph, to his grant to the priory of Thurgarton for the souls of his father and mother and wife, and of his brothers Henry and Ausold?, and his nephew Henry. It seems probable that Henry Byset of 1198, the courtier to King William the Lion, was a member of the family of East Bridgeford.
We may not proceed further without referring to the MSS. Which are mentioned by writers on Beauly Priory, while it is impossible to avoid saying that these MSS. Are entitled to no real credit. One is a history of the family of Fraser of Lovat, intended for publication, 1749; and the other "a short chronology and genealogy of the Bissets and Frasers of Lovat," which, although said to be written by Mr. James Fraser, minister of Wardlaw, purports only to be a transcript of the Wardlaw MS. By Robert Fraser, 1725. These two MSS. Appear to have been written in the interest of Simon, Lord Lovat, who wished the history of his family coloured to suit his claims against
*There is no more certain mark of the early importance of a family than the afix of its name to that of an English parish. It is more to be relied on than the family having the same name as the parish; in the origins of surnames many families other than the owners of a village took their names from it; but no village ever took its second name from any family but that of its lords.
MSS., Advocates Library, Genealogical Collection, 38, 4, 8, 409-417.
OF THE BEAULY PRIORY
Amelia Fraser, who, in 1702, pretending to be heiress of the line Byset, obtained a decree of the Court of Session, for the peerage of Fraser of Lovat.
The Wardlaw MS., to which we before referred, was written by James Fraser, minister of Wardlaw from 1661 to 1709. It is probable that he had access to the Lovat Writs of 1652, and so far as he professes to copy actual charters, he may be trusted. We have not seen the MS., but have obtained extracts from it among General Huttons MSS., in the British Museum, and also extracts made by the late Lewis M. Mackenzie, Esq. of Findon, whose loss northern archeologists have to regret. When the Wardlaw MS. Passes from transcribing charters or recording the events which passed before the eyes of the writer, it is hardly to be relied on more than the MSS. Of 1725 and 1749; but as the compiler died before Simon, Lord Lovats contention arose, his story is not twisted to suit the claims of rival parties.
As a specimen of the inventive powers or credulity of the writer of the Wardlaw MS., he states that John Byset, the founder of Beauly Priory, was the son of Byset, a courtier of William the lion, which Byset married Agnes, daughter of the King. This marriage is a stupid invention of the seventeenth century. The daughters of William the lion, legitimate and illegitimate,* are perfectly well known, and duly inquired into on the claims to the crown of Scotland in 1296.
John Byset of Lovat, the founder, makes the arrangement we have alluded to with Bricius, Bishop of Moray, respecting the glebe of the parish of Kirkhill, which cannot be later than 1221. The arrangement is confirmed by King Alexander II,
*William the Lion had three legitimate daughters: (i.)Margaret, who married Hubert de Bergh?, chief minister to Henry III, and let? An only daughter, Magota?; (2.) Isabella, married Roger Higod?, Earl of Norfolk, ;(3.) Marjory, married Gilbert the Marshal, Earl of Pembroke; she survived her husband, and died at London, 1244, He had four illegitimate daughters: (1.) Isabella, married in 1183 to Robert de Bruce, and in 1191, to Robert de Ross; (2.) Ada, married in 1184 to Patrick, Earl on Dunbar; (3.) Margaret, married in 1192 to Eustace de Vesci; (4.) Arfrida, married to William de Say.
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