An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon in origin, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, meant "chieftain" a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it was replaced by duke. In medieval Britain, it became the equivalent of the continental count. However, earlier in Scandinavia, jarl could mean a sovereign prince. For example, the rulers of several of the petty kingdoms of Norway had the title of jarl and in many cases they had no less power than their neighbours who had the title of king. Alternative names for the rank equivalent to "earl/count" in the nobility structure are used in other countries, such as the hakushaku of the post-restoration Japanese Imperial era. In modern Britain, an earl is a member of the peerage, ranking below a marquess and above a viscount. A feminine form of earl never developed; the term earl has been compared to the name of the Heruli, to runic erilaz. Proto-Norse eril, or the Old Norse jarl, came to signify the rank of a leader.
The Norman-derived equivalent count was not introduced following the Norman conquest of England though countess was and is used for the female title. Geoffrey Hughes writes, "It is a speculation that the Norman French title'Count' was abandoned in England in favour of the Germanic'Earl' because of the uncomfortable phonetic proximity to cunt". In the other languages of Britain and Ireland, the term is translated as: Welsh iarll and Scottish Gaelic iarla, Scots yarl or yerl, Cornish yurl. An earl has the title Earl of when the title originates from a placename, or Earl when the title comes from a surname. In either case, he is referred to as Lord, his wife as Lady. A countess who holds an earldom in her own right uses Lady, but her husband does not have a title; the eldest son of an earl, though not himself a peer, is entitled to use a courtesy title the highest of his father's lesser titles, for instance the eldest son of The Earl Of Wessex is styled as James, Viscount Severn. Younger sons are styled The Honourable, daughters, The Lady.
In the peerage of Scotland, when there are no courtesy titles involved, the heir to an earldom, indeed any level of peerage, is styled Master of, successive sons as younger of. In Anglo-Saxon England, earls had authority over their own regions and right of judgment in provincial courts, as delegated by the king, they collected fines and taxes and in return received a "third penny", one-third of the money they collected. In wartime they led the king's armies; some shires were grouped together into larger units known as earldoms, headed by an ealdorman or earl. Under Edward the Confessor earldoms like Wessex, East Anglia and Northumbria—names that represented earlier independent kingdoms—were much larger than any shire. Earls functioned as royal governors. Though the title of Earl was nominally equal to the continental duke, unlike them, earls were not de facto rulers in their own right. After the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror tried to rule England using the traditional system but modified it to his own liking.
Shires became the largest secular subdivision in England and earldoms disappeared. The Normans did create new earls like those of Herefordshire and Cheshire but they were associated with only a single shire at most, their power and regional jurisdiction was limited to that of the Norman counts. There was no longer any administrative layer larger than the shire, shires became "counties". Earls no longer aided in tax collection or made decisions in country courts and their numbers were small. King Stephen increased the number of earls to reward those loyal to him in his war with his cousin Empress Matilda, he gave some earls the right to hold royal castles or control the sheriff and soon other earls assumed these rights themselves. By the end of his reign, some earls held courts of their own and minted their own coins, against the wishes of the king, it fell to Stephen's successor Henry II to again curtail the power of earls. He took back the control of royal castles and demolished castles that earls had built for themselves.
He did not create new earldoms. No earl was allowed to remain independent of royal control; the English kings had found it dangerous to give additional power to an powerful aristocracy, so sheriffs assumed the governing role. The details of this transition remain obscure, since earls in more peripheral areas, such as the Scottish Marches and Welsh Marches and Cornwall, retained some viceregal powers long after other earls had lost them; the loosening of central authority during the Anarchy complicates any smooth description of the changeover. By the 13th century, earls had a social rank just below the king and princes, but were not more powerful or wealthier than other noblemen; the only way to become an earl was to inherit the title or marry into one—and the king reserved a right to prevent the transfer of the title. By the 14th century, creating an earl included a special public ceremony where the king tied a sword belt around the waist of the new earl, emphasizing the fact that the earl's rights came from him.
Earls still held influence and, as "companions of the king", were regarded as supporters of the king's power. They showed that power for the first time in 1327 when they deposed Edward II, they would do th
James II of Scotland
James II was a member of the House of Stewart who reigned as King of Scotland from 1437 until his death. James was born in Holyrood Abbey, he was the son of King James Joan Beaufort. By his first birthday his twin and only brother, the older twin, had died, thus making James the heir apparent and given the title Duke of Rothesay. On 21 February 1437, James I was assassinated and the six-year-old James succeeded him as James II, he was crowned in Holyrood Abbey by Abbot Patrick on 23 March 1437. In 1449, nineteen-year-old James married fifteen-year-old Mary of Guelders, daughter of the Duke of Gelderland, she bore him seven children. Subsequently, the relations between Flanders and Scotland improved. James's nickname, Fiery Face, referred to a conspicuous vermilion birthmark on his face which appears to have been deemed by contemporaries an outward sign of a fiery temper. James was a politic, singularly successful king, he was popular with the commoners, with whom, like most of the Stewarts, he socialised in times of peace and war.
His legislation has a markedly popular character. He does not appear to have inherited his father's taste for literature, "inherited" by at least two of his sisters, he possessed much of his father's restless energy. However, his murder of the Earl of Douglas leaves a stain on his reign. James I was assassinated on 21 February 1437; the Queen, although hurt, managed to get to her six-year-old son, now king. On 25 March 1437, the six-year-old was formally crowned King of Scots at Holyrood Abbey; the Parliament of Scotland revoked alienations of crown property and prohibited them, without the consent of the Estates, that is, until James II's eighteenth birthday. He lived along with his mother and five of his six sisters at Dunbar Castle until 1439. From 1437 to 1439 the King's first cousin Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas, headed the government as lieutenant-general of the realm. After his death, with a general lack of high-status earls in Scotland due to deaths, forfeiture or youth, political power became shared uneasily among William Crichton, 1st Lord Crichton, Lord Chancellor of Scotland, Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar, who had possession of the young king as the warden of the stronghold of Stirling Castle.
Taking advantage of these events, Livingston placed Queen Joan and her new husband, Sir John Stewart, under "house arrest" at Stirling Castle on 3 August 1439. They were released on 4 September only by making a formal agreement to put James in the custody of the Livingstons, by giving up her dowry for his maintenance, confessing that Livingston had acted through zeal for the king's safety. In 1440, in the King's name, an invitation is said to have been sent to the young, 16-year-old 6th Earl of Douglas and his younger brother, twelve-year-old David, to visit the king at Edinburgh Castle in November 1440. According to legend, they came, were entertained at the royal table, where James, still a little boy, was charmed by them. However, they were treacherously hurried to their doom, which took place by beheading in the castle yard of Edinburgh on 24 November, with the 10-year-old king pleading for their lives. Three days Malcolm Fleming of Cumbernauld, their chief adherent, shared the same fate.
It is the king, being a small child, had nothing to do with this. This infamous incident took the name of "the Black Dinner". In 1449 James II reached adulthood; the Douglases with his cooperation, used his coming of age as a way to throw the Livingstons out of the shared government, as the young king took revenge for the arrest of his mother that had taken place in 1439 and the assassination of his young Douglas cousins in which Livingston was complicit. Douglas and Crichton continued to dominate political power, the king continued to struggle to throw off their rule. Between 1451 and 1455 he struggled to free himself from the power of the Douglases. Attempts to curb the Douglases' power took place in 1451, during the absence of William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas from Scotland, culminated with the murder of Douglas at Stirling Castle on 22 February 1452; the main account of Douglas's murder comes from the Auchinleck Chronicle, a near contemporary but fragmentary source. According to its account, the king accused the Earl of forging links with John Macdonald, 11th Earl of Ross, Alexander Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford.
This bond, if it existed, created a dangerous axis of power of independently-minded men, forming a major rival to royal authority. When Douglas refused to break the bond with Ross, James broke into a fit of temper and stabbed Douglas 26 times and threw his body out of a window, his court officials joined in the bloodbath, one striking out the Earl's brain with an axe. This murder did not end the power of the Douglases, but rather created a state of intermittent civil war between 1452 and 1455; the main engagements were on the Isle of Arran. James attempted to seize Douglas lands, but his opponents forced him into humiliating climbdowns, whereby he retur