Comyn, John (d.1274) (DNB00)

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COMYN, JOHN (d. 1274), justiciar of Galloway, was the son of Richard Comyn and nephew of the powerful Walter Comyn, earl of Menteith [q. v.], and the hardly less important Alexander Comyn, earl of Buchan [q. v.] In 1248 he is mentioned as present at the courts of Alexander II at Berwick and Stirling (Acts Parl. Scot. i. 404 a, 409 a). He also attested several Melrose charters during the latter part of the same reign (Liber S. Marie de Melros, i. 191, 212, 214, Bannatyne Club) . In 1250 he granted to the monks of Melrose the right of passage through his lands of Dalswinton and Duncol in Nithsdale (ib. i. 280-1). In this valley and in Tyndale his property chiefly lay; so that he was a powerful man on both sides of the border. In Scotland he fully shared in the prosperity of his house during the early years of the reign of Alexander III. In close association with his two uncles, he took a prominent part in the government of the regency between 1249 and 1255, and fell like them in the latter year, when the personal intervention of Henry III transferred power to a new regency, better affected towards the English sovereign (Fœdera, i. 329; Acts Parl. Scot. i. 419 a; Chron. de Mailros; Wintoun). Next year the jury of Corbridge presented him for levying new tolls on King Henry's men on his Northumberland estates (Cal. Doc. Scot. i. 396). In 1257 he shared with his uncles in the capture of the young king at Kinross, which resulted in their return to power (Fœdera, i. 353; Fordun, i. 298). In 1258 he appears, with the new title of justice of Galloway (Fœdera, i. 370), as joining in the confederation of the Scottish nobles with Llewelyn of Wales against Henry III. But on peace being restored between Henry and the Comyns he became in 1260 one of those to whom Henry swore that he would not unnecessarily detain his daughter, the Queen of Scots, about to visit his court for her confinement (ib. i. 402). In August of the same year he received license from Henry to go through England to Canterbury, and thence beyond sea (Cal. Doc. Scot. vol. i. No. 2196). In January 1262 he again received a safe-conduct from the English king (ib. No. 2284), and during his stay at Henry's court obtained a confirmation of King David's grants to his great-grandfather of his Tyndale estates; a grant of 50l. for expenses during his residence at court; and license to hunt in the royal forests during his return home (ib. Nos. 2287, 2291, 2300). So completely was his former policy reversed that in 1263 he, along with John Baliol and Robert Bruce, led a band of Scottish troops to help Henry against the revolted barons. He was present at the capture of Northampton by Henry (Walt. Hem., i. 309, Eng. Hist. Soc.), and in 1264 was captured at Lewes and confined in gaol in London (Fordun, ed. Skene i. 302; Shirley, Royal Letters, ii. 255). The triumph of Henry in 1265 brought him signal benefits, grants of lands for his laudable services, limited rights of hunting in the king's forests, and of free warren over his Lincolnshire estates, to which was added leave to crenellate his new manor house at Tyrsete in Northumberland (Cal. Doc. Scot. 2431, 2446, 2462). In 1268 some of his retainers were slain by the citizens of York, and his favour with Henry and Alexander procured a successful termination of the feud thence arising. The city agreed to pay him 300l. compensation, and to perpetually maintain two priests to pray for the souls of the slaughtered servants upon the bridge over the Ouse, where the affray had occurred (Leland, Collectanea, i. 27). The end of his life was not eventful. He died in 1274.

Comyn is described by Fordun as 'a man prone to robbery and rashness.' Wyntoun, who calls him 'Red Jhon Cwmyn,' speaks of him as 'a knycht of gret renown.' He was twice married, and left a large family, who after his death could not settle his heritage without disputes (Cal. Doc. Scot. ii. 51). William, his eldest son, who died early, engaged in an ineffectual struggle to obtain the earldom of Menteith. Of the two sons named John, the elder became lord of Badenoch and a claimant to the Scottish throne [see Comyn, John, Lord of Badenoch]. Alexander and Robert, the two youngest, were both taken prisoners at Dunbar, while Robert was slain with the Red Comyn at Dumfries. His four daughters all married into noble houses.

[Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, vols. i. and ii.; Rymer's Fœdera, Record edit., vol. i.; Acts of Parliament of Scotland, vol. i.; Fordun's Chronicon Gentis Scotorum, ed. Skene, i. 298, 302; Wyntoun's Chronykil of Scotland, ed. Laing, bk. viii. line 1161 sq., who gives a full account of his family; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, i. 161–2; Mrs. Cumming Bruce's Bruce and Comyns, pp. 404–6. Dugdale, Baronage of England, i. 685, confuses John Comyn with his son the competitor.]

T. F. T.