Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 1996-06 > 0835756399

From: Jared Olar <>
Subject: Origin of Boyd of Kilmarnock and Lyle of Duchal (7)
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 1996 21:33:19 -0500
In-Reply-To: <>


To recapitulate the pertinent details of the case, on 31 May
1445, Sir James Stewart of Ardgowan and his riding companion were waylaid
at Drumglas and murdered by "the Boyds of Duchal and their men," that is,
by "Robert Boyd, Laird of Duchal," by "Alexander the Lyle," with certain
children of Robert and Alexander also taking part.

According to _The Scots Peerage_, this Robert Boyd was the same
as Robert Boyd of Kilmarnock, afterwards 1st. Lord Boyd, whose father
Thomas Boyd had been Bailie of Duchal. Henceforth this identification
shall be referred to as the Boyd Hypothesis.

But J. S. Bolton identifies Robert Boyd of Duchal as Robert Lyle,
afterwards 1st. Lord Lyle, and says that Alexander the Lyle was Lord Lyle's
brother. She offers the following scenario: Boyd and his followers
opposed the King's party, of whom were Sir James Stewart and his men,
making them political enemies. In a scheme to rid himself of a rival as
well as increase his holding, Boyd murdered Sir James in 1445, seized his
widow (who died about a week later in premature labor), and then held in
ward Sir James' only child and heir, the infant John Stewart. This would've
enabled Boyd to administer the lands of the late Sir James, since the heir
was too young to inherit. Boyd was soon after received into the King's favor
and created Lord Lyle (about 1446). Sometime before his death in 1470, Lord
Lyle married the child John Stewart to his own daughter Elizabeth Lyle, in an
attempt permanently to unite the holdings of the Lyles with those of the
Stewarts. Henceforth this identification shall be referred to as the
Lyle Hypothesis.
We have already learned that Bolton is in error concerning certain
facts--the 1st. Lord Lyle was not created circa 1445, but rather circa
1453. Similarly, we only know that Lord Lyle died not long after 1468/9,
not that he certainly died in 1470. When we read Bolton's account of
Robert, 1st. Lord Lyle, we may rightly wonder if she did not merge the
career of Robert, 1st. Lord Boyd, with that of the 1st. Lord Lyle.
Though it is now known that he died many years later, it was commonly
stated in older sources that Lord Boyd was executed in 1470--compare this
to Bolton's dogmatic statement concerning the year of Lord Lyle's death.
Also, her talk of Lyle being in and out of the King's favor is
reminiscent of Lord Boyd's own career.

-- Robert Boyd of Kilmarnock, son of Thomas Boyd, Bailie of Duchal, is the
most obvious choice as an identification of Robert Boyd of Duchal. This
consideration carries much weight indeed.


-- When "The Auchinleck Chronicles" refer to "this LAIRD of Duchal," the
obvious choice as an identification would be Robert Lyle of Duchal. (But
this is not much of an objection, as Bailiary included the conception of
lairdship. Thus even if Robert Boyd was not Bailie like his father, he
could have been a laird of Duchal.)
-- If Bolton is correct in referring to Alexander the Lyle as Robert's
"brother," then we are faced with a problem--Robert Boyd of Kilmarnock
had a brother named Sir Alexander Boyd, but there is no evidence that
Robert had a brother-IN-LAW named Alexander Lyle. (But this objection is
provisional only--we do not know that Bolton is correct on this point.)
-- What became of the infant John and the Stewart lands?


-- Sir James' murderer had the same first name as the 1st. Lord Lyle, and
a Lyle participated in James' murder.
-- If Robert and Alexander were brothers, this explains why Alexander joined
Robert in murdering Sir James.
-- If James' infant son John was held in ward by Robert, this explains what
became of John and the Stewart lands for the next two decades.


-- The surname. The Lyles and the Boyds were separate families, though both
held lands in Duchal. The 1st. Lord Lyle does not seem ever to have been
referred to by the surname of "Boyd." Why would the Lyles of Duchal also
be referred to as the Boyds of Duchal? Would this not be confusing, what
with the Boyds of Kilmarnock in the area, also lairds of Duchal? This
consideration is also very weighty and significant.
-- If Lord Lyle was the murderer of Sir James, whose son John was held in
ward by Lord Lyle, this would explain John's marriage to Elizabeth Lyle.
John would have been a child, too young to know better. But how do we
explain the marriage of James Stewart of Blackhall, son of John and
Elizabeth, to Margaret Lyle, daughter of Robert, 2nd. Lord Lyle? (This
is attested both by Bolton, pp.10-11, and by _The Scots Peerage_, Volume
V, pp.554-5.) Why would the Stewarts continue to marry into the Lyle
family knowing that the Lyles had murdered Sir James?
Before any conclusions are drawn, let us assume that the Lyle
hypothesis is correct. How then might the Lyles of Duchal have acquired the
secondary surname of Boyd?
Recall the suggested Gaelic etymology of the surname Boyd, in
which the surname would be a Gaelic genetive of a placename. We find
that BOID in Gaelic means "of Bute," which is an island just over the
Firth of Clyde from Renfrewshire. . . .
In her book, _The Rise of the Stewarts_, on page 30, Agnes Mure
MacKenzie mentions the following events, which occurred in the middle of
the fourteenth century:

"Randolph apparently went to France for help, while his
co-Regent [Robert Stewart] took refuge with Malcom Fleming
in Dumbarton, in striking distance of the Stewart country,
which was now held by Athol as [Edward] Baliol's lieutenant.
Thence he crossed to BUTE, which was also in Athol's hands,
and the men of the island rose for their young lord. A body
of them, marching unarmed to join him, encountered Athol's
deputy, ALAN LISLE, and defended themselves by so hot a fire
of stones that his force was routed. Bute was recovered, . . ."

Bellenden's edition of Hector Boece's _Chronicle of Scotland_
refers to this Alan Lisle as "Schir Allane Lyle Sereif of Bute," that is,
"Sir Alan Lyle, Sheriff of Bute." It is very puzzling that this Alan
Lisle or Lyle does not appear in the list of early Lyles in _The Scots
Peerage_, but in any case we have here a Lyle in a position of authority over
the Isle of Bute. Of course, whether Alan Lyle was of the same family as
the Lyles of Duchal cannot be determined. But we read on pages 553-4 of _The
Scots Peerage_, Volume V, that Robert, 2nd. Lord Lyle, became Justiciar of
BUTE and Arran on 24 July 1488.

If we accept that Robert Boyd of Duchal was actually Robert Lyle,
and desire an explanation for the "dual surnames" of this Robert, we might
take the above facts and postulate that the Lyles acquired their surname of
Lyle (DE INSULA--"of the Isle") by an association with the ISLE of Bute, and
that the Lyles were also called Boyds (BOID--"of Bute") from the same
connection to BUTE.

Indeed, we might then go one step further, and postulate that the
Lyles of Duchal and the Boyds of Kilmarnock are originally of the same
stock! And this would enable us to "reason" that the Lyles and Boyds
were always being confused in the early records, giving us further
license to posit a confusion of Lord Lyle with Lord Boyd, that Tytler
should have written "Lyle," not "Boyd"!
But let's be serious now! We would indeed be grasping at straws
merely to rely upon one 14th. century Sheriff of Bute, one 15th. century
Justiciar of Bute and Arran, and a hypothetical Gaelic etymology for support!
The fact is, there is no example of a Lyle bearing simultaneously an alternate
surname. Alan "Lyle," Sheriff of Bute, was never called Alan "Boid" or Boyd.
Nor was the 2nd. Lord Lyle named Robert "Boyd"--rather, his name clearly was
Robert "Lyle." In any case, we have no other trace of a Lyle connection
to Bute beyond these two stray instances of Alan Lyle and the 2nd. Lord
Lyle--not much to go on at all.

The above was merely an exercise meant to demonstrate how
terribly unlikely the Lyle Hypothesis truly is. If the most serious
objection, the problem of the surname, can only be overcome by recourse
to such unsupportable arguments and inacceptable reasoning, this should
serve as warning enough that the Lyle Hypothesis ought not be accepted.

In our consideration of the murder of Sir James, we really should leave
aside all speculations about political affiliation and the like, as these
sorts of things are impossible to determine with any certainity. We
must deal only with known facts, as much as possible.
This means we cannot do much with Bolton's statement that Robert Boyd
and Alexander the Lyle were brothers. This detail may derive from Bolton's
source, "The Auchinleck Chronicles," but seems rather to be Bolton's own
conclusion. If Robert and Alexander were really "brothers," this need
not mean that Robert Boyd was actually Robert Lyle.

This is what we know:

-- Sir James was murdered by Robert Boyd, laird of Duchal and Alexander the
-- Both the Boyds and the Lyles held lands in and around Duchal.
-- Sir James' son John was only an infant at the time of his father's
murder, and was not old enough to be infeft in his father's lands
for many more years.
-- John ended up marrying a daughter of Robert Lyle, laird of Duchal.

Did Robert Lyle of Duchal hold young John Stewart in ward? Perhaps.
Was Robert Lyle the same as Robert Boyd? Impossible.

The infant John Stewart may have been left in the care of Alexander the
Lyle and his family after Robert Boyd of Kilmarnock rose to become sole
Governor of the Realm. Since Alexander was a Lyle, apparently connected
to Duchal, the 1st. Lord Lyle was probably a close kinsman. In fact, he
may have been Alexander Lyle of Cragbate, brother-in-law of the 1st. Lord
Lyle, but the likelihood of this scenario is not adversely affected by a
failure to identify Alexander the Lyle's relationship to Lord Lyle. Nor
need we ascertain Alexander's relationship to Lord Boyd. The very
participation of Alexander in the murder of Sir James is more than enough
to explain how the infant John Stewart ended up married (apparently when
still a minor) to a daughter of Lord Lyle. It seems that some sort of
agreement was reached between the Boyds and the Lyles, to murder Sir
James, seize the son, and thus control the Stewart lands. The Lyles got
wardship of the son.
This scenario needs no wild and unlikely speculations about double
surnames and hazy connections to the Isle of Bute. It is much more simple
than J. S. Bolton's Lyle Hypothesis. Further, we have an explanation for the
marital alliances of the Lyles and Stewarts--Lord Lyle was not, as far as we
can tell, directly involved in the conspiracy against Sir James, and so the
Stewarts of Blackhall need have felt no strong aversion to taking wives from
the family of the Lords Lyle.

The mystery is solved, the murderer identified!

Jared Olar

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