Will the Real John Comyn Please Stand Up?

One of the difficulties of researching medieval times is that of repetitive names, and people with a multitude of names. In medieval Scotland, there are an abundance of Williams, Alexanders, and Roberts. Even adding last names doesn’t always help.

Take the name John Comyn. In the time of Robert Bruce, alone, there are several of them important enough to have come down in history. The best known is the John Comyn, Guardian of Scotland, slain by Bruce before the altar of Greyfriars Kirk. That John Comyn is also known as John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, and the Red Comyn.

His father, John II Comyn, also Lord of Badenoch, also a Guardian of Scotland at one stage, was the Black Comyn, and, like his son, fought for the crown of Scotland with a Robert Bruce–although with Robert Bruce’s grandfather,also Robert Bruce, known as “The Competitor,” in the late 1200’s, whereas John III, the Red Comyn, fought with the younger Robert Bruce, of Braveheart and Bannockburn fame.

Current with this John Comyn was his cousin, John Comyn, differentiated by the title Earl of Buchan. In an interesting, perhaps sad, twist, this John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, though a great supporter of John Baliol and enemy of Robert Bruce, was also the husband of the remarkable Isobel MacDuff, Countess of Buchan, who left her husband to ride north and claim the MacDuff family’s traditional role of crowning the Kings of Scotland, by placing the crown on Robert Bruce’s head, shortly after he murdered her husband’s cousin, John Comyn, at Greyfriars Kirk.

Confused yet?

Actually, writing it all out has made it all much clearer. Now for my second act… on to the Alexander Comyns and Alexander MacDougalls!

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