William I (the Lion) reigned as King of Scots from 1165 to 1214. He was called the “the Lion” during his own lifetime, not because of his tenacious character or his military prowess but because of the flag or standard which has been associated with him ie a red lion rampant with a forked tail (queue fourchée) on a yellow background.
However, there is no clear evidence of its use prior to 1222 and the reign of his son Alexander II, when the flag, with the addition of a ‘double tressure fleury counter-fleury’ border, went on to become the Royal standard of Scotland, still used today.
Interestingly, King William I is often misnamed by the uneducated or ill-informed as an ancestor of Carruthers, sadly very strong DNA evidence does NOT support this claim.
The Lion Rampant
William’s standard was adopted as the Royal Standard of Scotland. The ‘Royal’ term applies because this flag historically, and legally, belongs to the monarchy (or royalty) – more specifically to a King or Queen of Scotland. Although there hasn’t been a ‘Scottish’ King or Queen since the Union of the Crowns in the 17th century, the flag belongs to the British Monarchy namely King Charles III. It along with the saltire, are the flags associated with Scotland. Heraldically the term of Lion Rampant is referring to the position of the beast where it is depicted in profile standing erect with forepaws raised, unsheathed and ready to strike.
According to an Act of Parliament from 1672, it is an offense for any citizen or corporate body to fly or wave this flag, which is why you won’t see it very often.
Unofficially though, it’s often regarded as the second national flag of Scotland and is often waved at sporting events, or seen in gift shops, even though technically it is illegal to use them!
So who was King William the Lion?
According to Britannica: William I, byname William The Lion, (born 1143—died Dec. 4, 1214, Stirling, Stirlingshire, Scotland), was king of Scotland from 1165 to 1214; although he submitted to English overlordship for 15 years (1174–89) of his reign, he ultimately obtained independence for his kingdom.
William was the second son of the Scottish Henry, Earl of Northumberland, whose title he inherited in 1152. He was forced, however, to relinquish this earldom to King Henry II of England (reigned 1154–89) in 1157. Succeeding to the throne of his elder brother, King Malcolm IV, in 1165, William joined a revolt of Henry’s sons (1173) in an attempt to regain Northumberland. He was captured near Alnwick, Northumberland, in 1174 and released after agreeing to recognize the overlordship of the king of England and the supremacy of the English church over the Scottish church.
Upon Henry’s death in 1189, William obtained release from his feudal subjection by paying a large sum of money to England’s new king, Richard I (reigned 1189–99). In addition, although William had quarrelled bitterly with the papacy over a church appointment, Pope Celestine III ruled in 1192 that the Scottish church owed obedience only to Rome, not to England. During the reign of King John in England, relations between England and Scotland deteriorated over the issue of Northumberland until finally, in 1209, John forced William to renounce his claims.
In his effort to consolidate his authority throughout Scotland, William developed a small but efficient central administrative bureaucracy. He chartered many of the major burghs of modern Scotland and in 1178 founded Arbroath Abbey, which had become probably the wealthiest monastery in Scotland by the time of his death. William was succeeded by his son Alexander II.
It was Alexander who first used the Great Seal with the symbol of the Lion Rampant on it as part of the saddle and shield, he went on to add the red double border to the flag during his reign.
Interestingly it was also during the reign of Alexander II (1214-1249) that the first recorded use of the name Carruthers was used, when William of Carruthers from Annandale, the first named of the Carruthers chiefly line, made a donation to Newbattle Abbey in Midlothian, south west of Edinburgh.