Francis Robertson and the Death of Kings

The very first post on this site pondered the origins of the Bound Man – a lowered box tomb bearing these little figures beneath a coat of arms, but too worn to make any sense of it.

bound-manAdvice given at that time was to look north, as the bound man icon was a thing of Scotland, but without the identity of those remembered, the trail soon went cold.

Following the re-emergence of the site plans for the rest garden however, things started to fall into place. A short distance away from the bound man tomb, and laid flat on the ground is an inscripted piece to the memory of Laurentia Ross and Francis Robertson covered in the piece Laurentia Dorothea and the peniless portrait painter, which looks at the friendship between Laurentia and the artist Sir Thomas Lawrence. From the rediscovered plans it becomes clear that the Roberston Ross panel and the Bound Man tomb are part and parcel, and had become separated for no clear reason during the last clearances in the 1940’s.

From Macbeth to King James I

William Forbes Skene, who in 1881 held the position of Royal Histographer of Scotland declared the Robertsons of Clan Donnachaidh to be the “oldest family in Scotland”.

Clan Donnachaidh  gave the last Celtic kings of Scotland in the line of King Duncan (killed by MacBeth) and, from the last of the Celtic earls came Duncan of Atholl, considered the first chief of the clan.

During the Wars of Independence, King Robert Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven outside Perth in 1306 and fled into Atholl where he was given protection by Duncan. They fought together at the battle of Dalry and Duncan and his clan were beside their monarch at Bannockburn. Duncan named his eldest son and heir Robert after his king.

in 1437. King James I was assassinated by a group of conspirators led by the Kings uncle, Walter Steward Earl of Atholl. Following the assassination he was captured by Robert Riabhach clan chief of the Donnachaidh, was tried for murder and was executed after three days of gruesome torture, remarkable and hideous even for that era:

Walter was tortured over a period of three days. On the first, he was put in a cart with a crane, hoisted up, dropped, and jerked violently to a stop to stretch his joints. He was then placed in a pillory and “crowned with a diadem of burning iron”  bearing the inscription “King of all Traitors”. On the second day, he was bound to a hurdle and dragged along the high street of Edinburgh. On the third, he was disembowelled while alive, his entrails burnt before his face, and his heart was torn out and burnt. Finally, his corpse was beheaded and quartered, and the quarters displayed around the realm.

As reward for their part in his capture, Clan Donnachaidh were permitted an additional device to their coat of arms – the man in chains, as evidence of their part in the capture, alongside their motto “Virtutis Gloria Merces” (Glory is the reward of valour). Following the clan passing from Robert Riabhach to his son, the name Robertson, in honour of his father, became the preferred surname of the clan.

We still know little of Francis Robertson and  how he came to Brighton but we do understand more of the bound man – one of our more striking funerary motifs, and we have extended the reach of our archive of stones and bones to include a little piece of Scotland.


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