Murder Will Out: Kingship, Kinship and Killing in Medieval Scotland

Alexander Grant

in Kings, Lords and Men in Scotland and Britain, 1300–1625

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2014 | ISBN: 9780748691500
Published online September 2015 | e-ISBN: 9781474400848 | DOI:
Murder Will Out: Kingship, Kinship and Killing in Medieval Scotland

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This chapter places Scottish bloodfeud in the context of recent studies of elite violence in late medieval Germany, France and England. It then provides a detailed analysis of royal pardoning in medieval Scotland. Finally, it examines the question of murder – the ‘bootless’ (unforgivable) crime. In early medieval Europe, ‘murder’ meant secret killing. Eventually this changed to the modern meaning of deliberate, ‘forethought’ killing – but such a change did not happen in Scotland before the sixteenth century. ‘Forethought’ killing was often pardoned, but ‘murder’ was not. Secret murder was more heinous than open killing, because, if the perpetrator was unknown, the victim’s kin was unable to claim compensation or seek vengeance. The crown was the only power that could deal with it. This was surely a vital factor behind the growth of royal power in the earlier Middle Ages – not only in Scotland, but throughout Western Europe.

Keywords: crime; murder; vengeance; compensation; justice

Chapter.  16824 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies

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