Dougall de Setoun, from the Touch Armorial.

The Early Seton Family

As their own distinctive crescents show, Seier de Seton (I) and his brother Walter sprang from a second son of the house of Boulogne. Known in their Flemish homeland as Seier and Walter de Lens, they were sons of Count Eustace I ’s second son, Count Lambert de Lens, whose daughter by a second marriage (to the sister of William the Conqueror) was the Countess Judith, mother of Scotland’s Queen Maud.

Count Lambert died when the boys were too young to administer to the important estate of Lens, and thus they followed the Flemish military contingent into England with their half-sister's husband, Duke William of Normandy, in his quest for the English crown and settled there in the north following William's success.  Count Lambert himself was the second son of his father, Eustace I of Boulogne, and brother of Eustace II, and they were lineally descended in both Eustace I’s mother and father from King Charles I, Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor and the first of the Carolingian Empire.

Seier’s eldest son, Walter de Lens, or Walter the Fleming as he is described in Domesday, had his chief English home at Wahull (now called Odell) in Bedfordshire. On the Firth of Forth, as heir there of his father, Seier, he was called Dougall or "the dark stranger", a nickname which was also given to his own son Walter, and duly recorded by the family’s chronicler, Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington, in 1554.

The son of the 1st Seier de Seton, of de Lens, is known as Dougall de Setoun and his Christian name was Walter, however he was usually described by a familiar appellation in the language of the Scots people around him.  He was baron of the town and lands of Setoun and married Janet, daughter of Robert de Quincy (and not of Roger, who lived a century later) and had a son also called Seier (2nd) who is often confused with his grandfather. 

The Anglo-Flemings wore a strong coat of mail, which made them objects of dread and wonder to the Britons, Saxons, Picts and Celts in whose ancient songs they were called Du-gall, the “Black Strangers”, from the appearance they made when encased in armor.  This name also came from the French “du Gall”, and referred to the Galois origins where France was once called Gaul.  Dougall de Setoun, then, literally means “the Black Stranger (and French lord) of the town and lands of Setoun, and he flourished in the reign of Alexander I., A.D. 1107-1124.

His wife’s father, Robert de Quincy had married Maud de St. Liz, daughter of Simon de St. Liz, Earl of Huntington and Northhampton and Maud, or Matilda, the elder of the two daughters of Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland and Judith de Lens, the niece to King William I of England.  To appreciate these ties, note that William married Matilda of Flanders, a cousin of Dougall.  Likewise, Dougall’s grandfather married as his 2nd wife Adele, or Adelaide, of Normandy, William's sister; it made the Setoun’s cousins of the English King and his sons, William II and Henry I. Henry I married the daughter of Malcolm III, King of the Scots; and 2nd, Adela of Bas-Lorraine, a cousin of Count Lambert Lens, Dougall’s grandfather.  Malcom III’s youngest son, later King David I, married Matilda the 2nd daughter of Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland.  Domesday hints towards the identity of Count Lambert’s sons: In that book are just their Christian names; Walter and Seier, and it is obvious from the wording that Seier is absent. Walter, “brother of Seier”, was still holding lands in 1086 but Seier’s possessions had been passed to his elder son Walter (or Dougall), described in the documents as “Walter Flandrensis” – Walter of Flanders, or the Fleming. He and his brother Hugh are given as tenants-in-chief of the vast string of Midlands manors, and the estates in Scotland, Seier had been granted lands by the Scottish king, Malcolm Canmore.

It was during the reign of King David I that the Seton family firmly established themselves in Scotland, and by all counts, the early family was one of the most well connected with the early Royal Houses of Scotland and France, as well as in  England.

Almost two centuries later, the family had firmly established themselves in the nobility of Scotland, and where Sir Christopher Seton had married the sister of King Robert I (the Bruce):

... "the King of England, having assembled an army, sent my lord Edward, his son aforesaid (whom he had knighted in London together with three hundred others), and the Earl of Lincoln, by whose advice the said lord Edward was to act, in pursuit of the said Robert de Brus, who had caused himself to be called King. When they entered Scotland they received many people to peace on condition that they should in all circumstances observe the law ; then marching forward to the furthest bounds of Scotland, where the said Robert might be found, they found him not, but they took all the castles with a strong hand. But they hanged those who had part in the aforesaid conspiracy, design and assistance in making him king, most of whom they caused first to be drawn at the heels of horses and afterwards hanged them ; among whom were the Englishman Christopher de Seton, who had married the sister of the oft-mentioned Robert, and John and Humphrey, brothers of the said Christopher, and several others with them...".  THE CHRONICLE OF LANERCOST, 1272— 1346


The Early Arms of the House of Seton.
Early Arms of the House of Seton © The Seton Family 2005
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   Walter (Dougall 1& 2)
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   The Heiress Margaret
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