After years of war and dispute between Scotland and Norway over possession of Scotland’s islands, a peace was achieved and cemented in 1281 when King Eric of Norway married the Scottish princess, Margaret. As part of this peace, the Northern Isles were to remain with Norway, the Western Isles were transferred to Scotland and King Eric was to receive a substantial dowry as part of the enticing offer to marry the Scottish princess. However, by 1292 he had still not received the full dowry he had been promised, and so he petitioned the parliament at Berwick-on-Tweed for the unpaid portion of Princess Margaret's dowry. In June that year it was decided that the sasine of lands of Belhelvie (along with those in Rothiemay, Bathgate and Ratho in Edinburgh) would provide the difference still owed him for the duration of the Norwegian king's life. Although Eric never set foot on his northeastern territory, he was to be paid revenues off the land by reliable intermediaries. In April 1292, Sir Patrick de Berkelay was noted as a farmer of the thanage of Bethelvy who paid John De Gildforde, Castellan of Aberdeen, £12 and 12 shillings. It is not clear if this money was towards the rent of the land or destined for King Eric, but the records show that Belhelvie was considered to be a wealthy enough area at this time to provide partial income for a queen’s dowry.
As King Eric set about collecting his revenue from the parish, political events were unfolding which would see upheaval and warfare spread across Scotland for years to come. Belhelvie did not escape these catastrophies. In 1286, King Alexander III of Scotland (1249-1286) had fallen to his death from his horse while riding to see his queen in Fife. As his three children had all died, his granddaughter, Margaret the ‘Maid of Norway’, daughter of King Eric and Queen Margaret, became titular Queen of Scotland. Unfortunately, she died in Orkney soon after leaving Norway in 1290, leaving a disputed succession. John Balliol was ‘selected’ by Edward I of England as the legitimate King of Scotland (1292-1296). As Balliol had been forced into war with the English king by 1296, the Wars of Independence against Edward I 'Hammer of the Scots' erupted shortly thereafter, leaving Scotland controlled by a series of military ‘Guardians’, including William Wallace. The conflict eventually saw Robert the Bruce established as King of Scots. He reigned as Robert I from 1306 to 1329, and he is perhaps most famous for his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314.
However, during the period of English occupation after 1296, Edward I had taken an interest in the administrative affairs of Scotland. Throughout the troubled era, the possession of land by both church and individuals came into dispute. This also affected Belhelvie, in particular the north piece of land known as St Ternan's land. A charter of Edward I of England included a mention of a claim made to land near the chapel. In 1305 the Bishop of Aberdeen appealed to King Edward over the loss of land which, he claimed, had been in the church's possession since the reign of Alexander III. The Bishop argued that the land had been wrongfully attached to the thanage of 'Balhelvi'. Although an enquiry was ordered into the affair, it appears that the church never regained the land, if indeed it had owned it in the first place.
By the following year, appeals to Edward I were beginning to lose their significance. Robert the Bruce had himself crowned king in 1306 and began his long war to drive the English out of Scotland. One of Bruce’s main problems was that the Northeast provided a major support base for the deposed king, John Balliol, also known as ‘Toom Tabbard’. The Comyns, Earls of Buchan, were Balliolites and therefore the most overt enemies to the Bruce, who intentionally divided their lands and redistributed them to his own followers, or at least those he wished to entice to his side. Thus several new earls and knights came to own lands in and around Aberdeenshire. From very early in his reign, Bruce’s royal land grants included property in the thanage of Belhelvie which appear to have encompassed three main blocks of land – Belhelvie, Ardo and Menie.
A charter from Robert the Bruce named Sir Walter Berkelay (Barclay), probably a son of Sir Patrick de Berkelay, as the Thane of Belhelvie in 1307. Barclay had survived an accusation of treason against Bruce but seems to have remained loyal to him after the grant of the Belhelvie lands. Indeed, Sir Walter could still be found acting as a Sheriff of Aberdeen between 1320-24, and also holding the rights to the customs of Ale and Fish to the burgh of Aberdeen. Parts of Belhelvie remained within the family thereafter. In 1323, Hugo de Berkelay not only held upper and lower Westerton, Keir and Eggie but also the office of sergeant, and the church lands of ‘Balhelvy’ as a free barony. This grant extended to Helen, Hugo's wife, and to their children. By 1340, ownership of much of the thanage of Belhelvie had passed to Sir William de Fodringay through a charter by King David II (1329-1371), the son of Robert I, although Barclays are still recorded as being lairds of Belhelvie in 1400. David II also granted Laurence Gillebrand a £20 pension from the lands of Belhelvie.
While granting out Belhelvie as a thanage to the Barclays, Robert the Bruce and his family ensured that they maintained an element of control over the sub tenancy of the land in return for loyalty during the Wars of Independence. Around 1326, William de Strathbrock was granted the lands of Foveran and Ardo (Ardoch/Ardach), while Mary and Philip Meldrum held the lands of Logie Ardo. It appears that this Ardo formed part of the Panmure estate later and thus should be included in Belhelvie parish. Sir James Sandilands was given a 'special protection and warrandice' for Belhelvie and Buchan, or the baronies of Glamis as they were also known in 1339. In 1366, David II granted Logie Ardo, amongst other lands, to John de Inverpefrie and his wife. Later, Alexander Keith was granted Balmedie and other lands in 1390 by King Robert III (1390-1406), the great-grandson of Robert I. Robert III also confirmed the grant of some of Lord Glamis' lands in Belhelvie to one Walter Tullach. In 1475, however, the lands of Balmedie were granted to James Innes.
Menie was for a long time an independent feudal lordship originally granted, amongst other lands including Blairton, by Robert the Bruce to John De Boneville in 1317. Portions of the land then passed from de Boneville’s son, also John, to other noblemen. Aberdeen Burgess, William Chalmers, for instance gained the rights to Menie in 1379 as part of a transaction confirmed by King Robert II (1371-1390), the nephew of David II. In this same year Robert II also granted his third son, Sir Alexander Stewart, Lord of Badenoch and Earl of Buchan, rights to the lands of Belhelvie. He held them in feu from one John de Abernethy. Sir Alexander is better known to history as the infamous 'Wolf of Badenoch' who burned the Elgin Cathedral. However, Badenoch’s ambitions lay far beyond Belhelvie. It would be surprising if, given the nature and reputation of the man, the tenantry and revenues of Belhelvie were not employed in some capacity in Badenoch’s destructive campaigns against the burgh of Forres and Elgin in 1390.
By the first half of the 15th century, a degree of stability had returned to Belhelvie and its associated lands. In 1430 and 1498 first David Boswell and then Alexander Boswell were granted the sum of £20 annually from the lands of the thanage of Belhelvie. Alexander, also known as of Balmowto, in turn guaranteed the annual payment of £20 from the lands and barony of Belhelvie toward the maintenance of 2 stipends in the arts and theology at the new college of Aberdeen University in 1505. These subsidies from the parish were still being paid during the seventeenth century as the agreement assuring this annual provision from the barony of Belhelvie to the university was twice renewed. John Fraser of Forglen received a charter, in 1388, for the lands of Belhelvie-Boneville from the Laird of Belhelvie, who was one of the Barclays. In addition to Belhelvie, Fraser of Forglen also took over Blairton. Menie had passed to the Vaus family by 1406 and Richard Vaus was listed as 'of Many' in a charter of that year. He was probably the grandson of John Vaus, a provost of Aberdeen on several occasions between 1420 and 1445. He was obviously liked as, in 1447, the councillors of Aberdeen rewarded his previous good work by allowing him to give half his portion of fishing to 'any friende he chooses except Lordis'. Richard also granted lands in Aberdeen to the Franciscans to build Greyfriars monastery in 1477. Menie remained in the Vaus family, through Gilbert, his son Gilbert, and his grandson John until 1556. Then a mystery develops as to why John's sons never inherited Menie. It appears that John was attainted of treason, having been involved in manslaughter and possibly even a direct assault on King James V (1513-1542) himself. John Vaus had respite for six months in June 1537 for complicity in the slaughter of James Lyon, mutilation of Alexander Rutherford, who was a baillie of Aberdeen, and the deforcing of the magistrates of Aberdeen. A few months later, in December, Vaus had a remission for all the offences except for that of treason. As a traitor Vaus could not keep his property and the land therefore passed onto his daughter, Margaret, who had married John Carnegie of Kinnaird. In 1556 Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1567), confirmed the charter granting the barony of Menie along with Easter and Wester Ruthvens to the couple. Earlier in the century, William Lyon had obtained a grant of the lands of Pettens, amongst other lands in Scotland, from James V in 1538. In 1540 this king listed the barony of Belhelvie among his territories.
Elsewhere in the parish, Andrew Wood had been given the 'tronship' of Overblairton in 1484 by King James III (1460-1488), and held rights to annual payments from the lands of Waterton, Easter Ellon and Creheid from 1490. This was promised in perpetuity to his male heirs in 1495 and just three years later he was granted Castlehill in Aberdeen and Stocket Wood. In 1539 John Wood, Alexander’s heir, guaranteed a payment of £4 Scots, the feu-duty, from his lands of Overblairton to the University. The following century, in 1549, Queen Mary granted John Stewart, treasurer of Aberdeen, some land in Potterton. Rights to Belhelvie lands also passed to people outwith the parish. Gilbert Reid of Colliston had the rights to the fishing and milling profits of Belhelvie by 1576. In addition to this Robert Skene, originally of Aberdeen and a burgess there, moved to Belhelvie in 1572, having acquired the farms of Whitecairns, Overhill, Old Overton, Upper Potterton, Mill of Potterton, Millden, and Blackdog among others. And so it was that the Scottish royal family maintained a degree of control over certain lands within the parish.
From the end of the fifteenth century however, the majority of the lands in the parish were ultimately in the possession of the Lord Glamis, who among his other titles remained the baron of Belhelvie. In 1505, John Lyon, the brother of Lord Glamis, was officially served heir to the barony. Queen Mary granted the lands and barony of Belhelvie in 1543 to John Lord Glamis and his wife. This was reconfirmed in 1567 when Lord Glamis’ lands were incorporated into the single barony of Glamis. Not until 1653, when the Earl of Panmure became the proprietor, did Belhelvie become a single barony again.