Mary de Couci - an aficionado of Scotland.
How often have we glanced at a structure or monument with a date and how often have we looked at a tree and wondered what events had taken place in its life span.
We stood in the rain and admired a length of trees in the grounds of the splendid Newbattle Abbey in Midlothian and thought of the seemingly endless line of notable people. One in particular was Mary de Couci wife of Alexander II of Scotland who had visited the Abbey in 1241. Mary was the daughter of Baron Enguerand de Couci of Picardy a well respected French Knight.
In that year the Mongol army out witted and killed Henry II of Poland inflicting somewhere in the region of 40,000 casualties. The Teutonic and Templar Knights were involved and despite their bravery were overwhelmed by the swift tactics of the Mongolian horse soldiers.
So devastated were the European powers the Vatican thought the enemy used fire dragons, which was in fact gunpowder. Ogedai Kan died and the mass armies of Mongolia returned to their homeland to elect another leader. The death of the great Kan in that year undoubtedly saved Europe.
In late August Mary de Couci Queen of Scots made arrangements for her body to be interred at New Battle Abbey and provided a small pittance for St Bartholomew’s Day and the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, a day of importance to the Cistercian Monks of the Abbey.
Her husband was King Alexander II known as the ‘Peaceful’ Born: 1198 and Died 1249 and credited for bring together much of a divided land. Alexander II aged 23 married Joan who was King John of England's eleven year old daughter in 1221 in Haddington. Joan was his first legitimate child of King John and Isabella who died in 1238 in Essex.
Alexander married Mary de Couci in May 1239 at Roxburgh.
After a failed attempt to buy back the Western Isles of Scotland he set out to retake them from Norway by force, but died in the process at Kerrera Island in 1249 aged 50 years. He was Buried at Melrose Abbey.
Haco after plundering his way towards Largs with his 140 ships was confronted by a wild gale that wrecked many of his vessels. For four indecisive days the battle raged until Haco could no longer hold out and slunk back to Norway, to died of a broken heart.
In the same year Mary's son Alexander III was crowned and married Margaret Henry III King of England’s daughter. He died without a successor in Scotland in 1286 leaving Margaret of Norway known as the Maid of Norway the opportunity.
Mary de Couci later married John de Brienne son of the Emperor of the East regent of Constantinople and King of Jerusalem. Mary probably moved to France with her husband who became Grand Butler of France.
One visit to Scotland is recorded with her brother Enguerran de Couci in 1272 to ensure a place in the Scottish Court for her nephew.
Mary was buried in Newbattle Abbey under a monument with six lions below a weeping reclining figure, all in magnificent marble.
Sadly the invading English armies continually raided the Abbey so much that by the advent of the Reformation little was left standing.
Mary it is said to have died in France but her dust and heart are in Scotland. All that is left of the old Abbey are the trees that had witnessed those evens.