Sir Mordake Fitzduncan is a Scottish knight who recently left King Richard's service to join the Templars in Acre.
Early life in Moray
Muireadach mac Donnchadh was born in 1154, legitimate wedlock, and Moray, to Donnchadh mac Uillem and his wife Freyja of Orkney.
He was the great-grandson of Duncan II, a short-lived King of Scots, and his grandfather Uillem had been declared rightful tanaiste and heir of the Scots crown for a time, so the reigning Kings watched their cousins in Moray with some suspicion.
When Muireadach was a boy of ten, his father was struck by an arrow whiling riding after a hart and killed on the spot. The crown absorbed the family’s Moray lands and arrangements were made for the orphaned boy to be raised far away to the south, as squire to one of his cousins, David, Earl of Huntingdon.
Education in Scotland, England and elsewhere
David was a Scottish prince with English lands, and as his squire the boy got to know both royal courts well. He came to accept being known by the Norman rendering of his name, Mordake Fitzduncan. But he remained a conscious Gael, and was notable for his skill in singing northern songs to the harp.
One of those who listened was an English prince a few years younger than Mordake, Richard, count of Poitou, an accomplished troubadour himself in the Provençal tongue of his mother, and though they scarcely ever met – Richard residing mainly in France - the two were said to be on friendly terms.
During the unsettled later years of Henry II of England’s reign, Mordake was occasionally summoned to prepare to fight on the Scottish side, but never saw action against the English, as Earl David’s elder brother King William the Lion was captured in 1174, and Scotland forced into English vassalage not long afterwards. Instead Mordake gained some military experience in English service on the continent, fighting against the French and Toulousains. Earl David, and therefore also his cousin, remained carefully neutral during the wars between Henry and his sons. Mordake remained unknighted and unmarried during this period.
On Richard's crusade
When Richard ascended the English throne (unexpectedly, after his elder brother Henry’s death) his sole concern was raising money for a crusade. He was content to alleviate the Scottish vassalage, for a large consideration; and the Scots had their own interests and terms, too. Mordake found that his regal cousin had arranged for him to be knighted by Richard’s hand and to serve in the King of England’s vanguard while the Crusade lasted.
Mordake distinguished himself as a jouster – ‘especially for a Scot,’ as the French champion Guillaume des Barres disparagingly commented – and captured two emirs at the Battle of Arsuf.
Though he was never heard to question King Richard’s actions, it is said that Mordake dissented from the decision not to attack Jerusalem, and argued in private to delay the English host’s departure as long as he could. When it was settled, he still did not consider his vow fulfilled, and so entered the cloth as a brother and knight of the Order of the Temple.