Part 8 out of 11
_Kings of Scotland_.
1249. Alexander III.
_Kings of France_.
1270. Philippe III.
1235. Philippe IV.
_Emperor of Germany_.
1273. Rodolph I.
1271. Gregory X.
1276. Innocent V.
1277. John XXI.
1277. Nicholas III.
1281. Martin IV.
1288. Nicholas IV.
Never was coronation attended by more outward splendor or more heartfelt
joy than was that of Edward I. and Eleanor of Castile, when, fresh from
the glory of their Crusade, they returned to their kingdom.
Edward was the restorer of peace after a lengthened civil strife; his
prowess was a just subject of national pride, and the affection of his
subjects was further excited by the perils he had encountered. Not only
had he narrowly escaped the dagger of the Eastern assassin, but while at
Bordeaux, during his return, while the royal pair were sitting on the
same couch, a flash of lightning had passed between them, leaving
them uninjured, but killing two attendants who stood behind them.
At Chalons-sur-Marne he had likewise been placed in great danger by
treachery. The Count de Chalons had invited him to a tournament, and he
had accepted, contrary to the advice of the Pope, who warned him of evil
designs; but he declared that no king ever refused such a challenge, and
arrived at Chalons with a gallant following. The Pope's suspicions
were verified; the Count, after breaking a lance with the King, made a
sudden, unchivalrous attack on him, throwing his arms round his body,
and striving to hurl him from the saddle; but Edward sat firm as a rock,
and, touching his horse with his spur, caused it to bound forward,
dragging the Count to the ground, where he lay, encumbered with his heavy
armor; and Edward, after harmlessly ringing on the steel with his sword,
forced him to surrender to an archer, as one unworthy to be reckoned a
knight. A fight had, in the meantime, taken place between the attendants
on either side, and so many of the men of the French party were killed,
that the fray was termed the Little Battle of Chalons.
Two years had elapsed since the death of King Henry, when, on the 18th
of August, 1274, the city of London welcomed their gallant, crusading
King. The rejoicings attested both his popularity and the prosperity
which his government had restored, for each house along the streets was
decked with silk and tapestry hangings, the aldermen showered handfuls
of gold and silver from their windows, and the fountains flowed with
white and red wine. The King rode along the streets, in the pride of
manhood, accompanied by his beautiful and beloved Eleanor; by his
brother Edmund and his young wife, Eveline of Lancaster; his sister
Margaret and her husband, Alexander II., the excellent King of Scotland;
the young Princess Eleanor, a girl of eleven, who alone survived of the
children left in England, and her infant brother Alfonso, who had been
born at Maine, and was looked on as heir to the throne. The Princess,
Joan of Acre, was left with her grandmother, the Queen of Castile.
The two kings, the princes, and nobles, on arriving at Westminster
Abbey, released their gallant steeds to run loose among the people, a
free gift to whoever should he able to catch them; for Edward had learnt
from his kindly father that the poor should have a plenteous share in
all his festivities.
There stood the West Minster on the bank of the Thames, rising amid
green fields and trees, at a considerable distance from the walled city,
and only connected with it by here and there a convent or church. Still
incomplete, the two fair towers showed the fresh creaminess of new
stonework, their chiselings and mouldings as yet untouched by time,
unsoiled by smoke, when Edward and his five hundred bold vassals sprang
from their steeds before the gates.
Among the train came a captive. Gaston de Moncda, Count de Bearn, one of
his Gascon vassals, had offended against him, and appealing to the
suzerain, the King of France, had been by him delivered up to Edward's
justice, and was forced to ride in the gorgeous procession with a halter
round his neck.
As soon as Archbishop Kilwardby had anointed and crowned the King and
Queen, and the barons offered their homage, the unfortunate culprit came
forward on his knees to implore pardon, and Edward graced his coronation
by an act of clemency, restoring Gaston fully to his lands and honors,
and winning him thus to be his friend forever.
The royal banquet was held in Westminster Hall, and far beyond it.
Wooden buildings had been erected with openings at the top to let out
the smoke, and here, for a whole fortnight, cooking and feasting went on
without intermission. Every comer, of every degree, was made welcome,
and enjoyed the cheer, the pageantries, and the religious ceremonies of
the coronation. Three hundred and eighty head of cattle, four hundred
and thirty sheep, four hundred and fifty swine, besides eighteen wild
boars, and two hundred and seventy-eight flitches of bacon, with poultry
to the number of 19,660, were only a part of the provisions consumed.
However, the country still felt the effects of the lawless reign of
Henry III., and Edward's first care was to set affairs on a more regular
footing. He sent commissioners to inquire into the title-deeds by which
all landed proprietors held their estates, and, wherever these were
defective, exacted, a fee for freshly granting them. The inquisition
might be expedient, considering the late condition of the nation,
but the King's own impoverished exchequer caused it to be carried on
ungraciously, and great offence was given. When called on to prove
his claims, the Earl Warrenne drew his sword, saying, "This is the
instrument by which I hold my lands, and by the same I mean to defend
them. Our forefathers, who came in with William, the Bastard, acquired
their lands by their good swords. He did not conquer alone; they were
helpers and sharers with him." The stout Earl's title was truly found
Not so was it with the Jews, who inhabited England in great numbers,
and were found through purchase, usury, or mortgage, to have become
possessors of various estates, which conferred on them the power of
appearing on juries, of, in some cases, presenting to church benefices,
and of the wardship of vassals. This was a serious grievance; and the
King interfered by decreeing that, in every instance, the lands should
be restored either to the original heirs on repayment of the original
loan, or disposed of to other Christians on the same terms. The King
was, by long custom of the realm, considered the absolute master of the
life and property of every Jew in his dominions, so that he was thought
to be only taking his own when he exacted sums from them, or forced them
to pay him a yearly rate for permission to live in his country and to act
as money-lenders. Edward thus believed himself to be making a sacrifice
for the general good when he forbade the Jews ever to lend money on usury,
and in compensation granted them permission to trade without paying toll;
and he further took the best means he could discover for procuring the
conversion of this people. The Friars Preachers were commanded to instruct
them, and the royal bailiffs to compel their attendance on this teaching;
every favor was shown to proselytes, and a hospital was built for the
support of the poorer among them, and maintained by the poll-tax obtained
from their race by the King. Should a Jew be converted, the King at once
gave up his claim to his property, only stipulating that half should go
to support this foundation. One young maiden, child of a wealthy Jew of
London, on being converted, became a godchild of Edward's eldest daughter,
Eleanor, whose name she received; and she was shortly after married to the
Count de la Marcho, the King's cousin, and one of the noble line of
Lusignan--a plain proof that in the royal family there was not the loathing
for the Israelite race that existed in Spain.
The Jews were obliged to wear a distinctive mark on their dress--a
yellow fold of cloth cut in the form of the two tables of the Law; and,
thus distinguished, often became a mark for popular odium, which fastened
every accusation upon them, from the secret murder of Christian children
to the defacing of the King's coin. There was, in fact, a great quantity
of light money in circulation, and as halfpence and farthings were
literally what their name declares--silver pennies cut into halves and
quarters--it was easy for a thief to help himself to a portion of the
edge. However, Edward called in these mutilated pieces, and issued a
coinage of halfpence and farthings--that which raised the delusive
hopes of the Welsh. The clipping became more evident than ever, and the
result was an order, that all suspected of the felony should be arrested
on the same day. Jews, as well as Christians were seized; the possession
of the mutilated coin was taken as a proof of guilt; and in 1279, after
a trial that occupied some months, and in which popular prejudice would
doubtless make the case strong against the Jews, two hundred and eighty
persons, male and female, were hanged on the same day; after which a
pardon was proclaimed.
The English nation continued to hold the Jews in detestation, which was
regarded as a religious duty, and, year after year, petitioned the King
to drive them out of his dominions; but his patience was sustained by
continual gifts from the persecuted race until the year 1287, when, for
some unknown offence, he threw into prison the whole of them in his
dominions, up to the number of 15,000; and though their release was
purchased by a gift of L12,000, in 1290, their sentence of banishment
was pronounced. He permitted them to carry away their property with
them, and sent his officers to protect them from injury or insult in
their embarkation; but in some instances the sailors, who hated their
freight, threw them overboard, and seized their treasures. These
murders, when proved, were punished with death; but it was hard to gain
justice for a Jew against a Christian: and the edict of banishment was
regarded by the nation as such a favor, that the King was rewarded by a
grant of a tenth from the clergy and a fifteenth from the laity.
The merchants had earlier given him a large subsidy as a return for the
treaty which he had made in their favor with Flanders, which derived its
wool from England. Edward was very anxious to promote manufactures here,
and had striven to do so by forbidding the importation of foreign cloth;
but this not succeeding, the mutual traffic was placed on a friendly
footing. There was violent jealousy of foreigners among the English,
and it was only in Edward's time that merchants of other countries were
allowed to settle in England, and then only under heavy restrictions.
Edward I. was the sovereign who, more than any other since Alfred,
contributed to bring the internal condition of England into a state of
security for life and limb. Robberies and murders had become frightfully
common; so much so, that the Statute of Winton, in 1285, enacted that no
ditch, bush, or tree, capable of hiding a man, should be left within two
hundred feet of any highway. If anything like this had been previously
in force, it was no wonder that Davydd of Wales objected to having a
road made through his forest.
In all walled towns the gates were to be kept shut from sunset to
sunrise, and any stranger found at large after dark was liable to be
seized by the watch; nor could he find lodging at night unless his host
would be his surety. Thieves seem to have gone about in bands, so that
their capture was a matter of danger and difficulty, and therefore, on
the alarm of a felony, every man was to issue forth with armor according
to his degree, and raise the hue and cry from town to town till the
criminal was seized and delivered to the sheriff. The whole hundred was
answerable for his capture--a remnant of the old Saxon law, and a most
wise regulation, since it rendered justice the business of every man,
and also accustomed the peasantry to the use of arms, the great cause of
the English victories. Judges were first appointed to go on circuit in
the year 1285, when they were sent into every shire two or three times a
year to hold a general jail delivery. But Edward had to form his judges
as well as his constitution, for, in 1289, he discovered that the whole
bench were in the habit of receiving bribes, from the Grand Justiciary
downward: whereupon he threw them all into the Tower, banished the chief
offenders, degraded and fined the rest, and caused future judges to be
sworn to take neither gift nor fee, only to accept as much as a breakfast,
provided there was no excess.
Still, the jurymen, [Footnote: On Thomas a Becket's last journey to
Canterbury, Raoul de Broc's followers had cut off the tails of his
pack-horses. It was a vulgar reproach to the men of Kent that the
outrage had been punished by the growth of the same appendage on the
whole of the inhabitants of the county; and, whereas the English
populace applied the accusation to the Kentishmen, foreigners extended
it to the whole nation when in a humor for insult and abuse, such as
that of this unhappy prince.] who were as much witnesses as what we
now call jurors, were often liable to be beaten and maltreated in revenge,
and officers, called "justices of _trailebaston"_ were sent to search out
the like offences, which they did with success and good-will; and in,
order that speedy justice might be done in cases of minor importance,
local magistrates were appointed, the commencement of our present justices
of the peace. They were at first chosen by the votes of the freeholders,
but in Edward III.'s time began to be nominated by the Crown.
Robert Burnel, the Chancellor, Bishop of Bath and Wells, probably had
a great share in these enactments. He was a better Chancellor than
Bishop, but he left to his see the beautiful episcopal palace still in
existence at Wells. He also built a splendid castle at his native place,
Acton Burnel, where some of the early Parliaments were held.
These Parliaments were only summoned by Edward I. when in great want of
money, for in general he raised the needful sums by gifts and talliages,
and only in cases of unusual pressure did he call on his subjects for
further aid. Four knights were chosen from each shire, and two burgesses
[Footnote: For a lively picture of a trial of the thirteenth century,
see Sir F. Palgrave's "Merchant and Friar."] from every town, of
consequence; and, besides, bishops and the barons, who had their seats
by their rank; but the two houses were not always divided:--except,
indeed, that sometimes the Northern representatives met at York, the
Southern at Northampton, and the county palatine of Durham had a little
parliament to itself. Serving in Parliament was expensive and unpopular,
and the sheriff of the county had not only to preside over the election
of the member, but to send him safe to the place of meeting; and often
the Commons broke up as soon as they had granted the required sum,
leaving the Lords to deliberate on the laws, or to bring grievances
before the King, such things being quite beyond their reach.
It was a time of great prosperity to the whole country, and such
internal tranquillity had scarcely prevailed since the time of Henry
II., when the difference between Saxon and Norman was far less smoothed
down than at present, and the feudal system weighed far more heavily.
Splendid castles were built, the King setting the example, and making
more arrangements for comfort in the interior than had yet been ventured
upon; and sacred architecture came to the highest perfection it has ever
Wherever we find a portion of our cathedrals with deep mouldings in
massive walls, slender columns of darker marble standing detached from
freestone piers, sharply-pointed arches, capitals of rich foliage
folding over the hollow formed by their curve, and windows either narrow
lancet, or with the flowing lines of flamboyant tracery, there we are
certain to hear that this part was added in the thirteenth century.
Edward gave liberally to the Church, especially to the order of
Dominican, or Preaching Friars; but it was found that in some instances
the clergy had worked on men's consciences to obtain from them the
bequest of lands to the injury of their heirs, and a statute was
therefore passed to prevent such legacies from being valid unless they
received the sanction of the Crown. This was called the Statute of
_Mortmain_, or Dead Hands, because the framers of the act considered the
hands of the monastic orders as dead and unprofitable.
Even the world itself could hardly award the meed of unprofitable to the
studies of Roger Bacon, a native of Ilchester, born in 1214, who, after
studying at Oxford and at Paris, became a member of the Franciscan, or
Minorite Friars, and settled again at Oxford, where he pursued his studies
under the patronage of Bishop Robert Grostete. He made himself a perfect
master of Greek in order to understand Aristotle in the original, and
working on by himself he proceeded far beyond any chemist of his time in
discoveries in natural philosophy. Grostete and the more enlightened men
of the university provided him with means to carry on his experiments, and,
in twenty years he had expended no less than L2,000: but not without
mighty results; for he ascertained the true length of the solar year, made
many useful discoveries in chemistry and medicine, and anticipated many of
the modern uses of glass, learning the powers of convex and concave lenses
for the telescope, microscope, burning-glasses, and the camera obscura.
Above all, he was the inventor of gunpowder, the compound which was
destined to change the whole character of warfare and the destiny of
nations. But he was too much in advance of his time to be understood, and
the friars of his order, becoming terrified by his experiments, decided
that he was a magician, and after the death of his friend Grostete, kept
him in close confinement, and only permitted one copy of his
works to pass out of the monastery, and this, which was sent
to the Pope, Clement IV., procured his liberation. A few years
after, the General of the Franciscans, again taking fright,
imprisoned him once more, and this lasted eleven or twelve years; but Pope
Nicholas IV. again released him, and neither age nor imprisonment could
break down his energy; he continued steadily to pursue his discoveries,
and add a further polish to his various works, till his death, in 1292.
Little as he was appreciated, he left a strong impression on the popular
Tradition declares that he constructed a huge head of brass, which
uttered the words, "Time is! Time was! Time will be!" and has connected
this with Brazen-Nose College, which, not having been founded till one
hundred years after, must in that case, as Fuller says, make time to be
He is a hero of the popular chap-books of old times, where he and his
associate, Friar Bungay, are represented as playing tricks on his
servant Miles, and as summoning the spirits of Julius Caesar and Hercules
for the edification of the kings of France and England, from whom,
however, he would accept no reward. Legends vary between his being flown
away with bodily by demons, and his making a grand repentance, when he
confessed that knowledge had been a heavy burden, that kept down good
thoughts, burnt his books, parted with his goods, and caused himself to
be walled up in a cell in the church and fed through a hole, and finally
dug his grave with his own nails! Thus, probably, has ignorant tradition
perverted the sense that coming death would surely bring, that earthly
knowledge is but vanity.
Still worse has fared his friend, Michael Scott of Balwirie, called by
the learned the Mathematician, by the unlearned, the Wizard. After the
usual course of university learning at Oxford and Paris, he went to
Italy, where he gained the patronage of the Emperor Friedrich II. He was
learned in Greek and in Arabic, and an excellent mathematician, but
he bewildered himself with alchemy and astrology; and, though he died
unmolested in his own country, in 1290 his fame remained in no good
odor. Dante describes him among those whose faces were turned backward,
because they had refused to turn the right way:
"Michele Scotto fu, che veramente
De le magiche frode seppe il gioco."
In Scotland marvellous tales were current of him, and his own clansman,
Sir Walter, in his lay, has spread the mysterious tale of the Wizard and
his mighty book far and wide.
It was a period of very considerable learning among the studious among
the clergy in all countries, and every art of peace was making rapid
progress in England, under the fostering care of the King and Queen. No
sovereign was more respected in Europe than Edward; his contemporary,
Dante, cites him as an instance of a gallant son of a feeble parent: and
he was often called on as the arbiter of disputes, as when the kings of
Arragon and France defied each other to a wager of battle, to take place
in his dominions in Southern France, which combat, however, never took
place. He was a most faithful and affectionate husband and indulgent
father, and the household rolls afford evidences of the kindly
intercourse between him and his numerous daughters, judging by the
interchange of gifts between them. Eleanor, the eldest, who as princess
could only give a gold ring, when Duchesse de Bar brought as a
Christmas-gift a leathern dressing-case, containing a comb, a mirror
silver-gilt, and a silver bodkin, so much valued by the King that he
kept them with him as long as he lived.
Joan of Acre, a wilful, lively girl, was wedded when very young to
her father's turbulent friend, Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester;
Margaret was married, at fifteen, to the Duke of Brabant; and Mary was
devoted to the cloister. She became a nun of Fontevraud at the priory
Ambresbury, in accordance with the exhortations of the clergy to
her parents; but there was not much vocation to the cloister in her
disposition, and she was as often present at court pageants as her
secular sisters. The Abbess of Fontevraud would fain have had the
princess among her own nuns, but Mary resisted, and remained in the
branch establishment, probably by exerting her influence over her
father, who seems seldom to have refused anything to his children.
Stern in executing his duty, gentle to the distressed, most devout in
religious exercises, pure in life, true to his word, a wise lawgiver,
and steady in putting down vice, Edward seemed to be well deserving of
the honor of being the nephew of St. Louis, and to be walking in his
footsteps, but with greater force of character and good sense. The Holy
Land was still the object of his thoughts, and he had serious intentions
of attempting to rescue it, with forces now more complete and better
trained than those which he had drawn together in his younger days.
His views of this kind were strengthened by a serious illness, and he
announced his determination to take the Cross.
But in the twentieth year of Edward's reign came his great temptation.
Ambition was the latent fault of his character, and a decision was
brought before him that placed a flattering prize within his grasp. He
yielded, and seized the prey; injustice, violence, anger, and cruelty
followed, promises were violated, his subjects oppressed, his honor
forfeited, and his name stained. From the time that Edward I. gave way
to the lust of conquest, his history is one of painful deterioration.
It was unfortunate for him that, at the very time that the lure was
held out to him, he was deprived of the gentle wife whose influence had
always turned him to the better course. Eleanor of Castile was on her
way to join him on his first expedition to the Scottish border, when she
fell sick at Grantham, in Lincolnshire; and though he travelled day and
night to see her, she died before his arrival, on the 29th of November,
1292. In overwhelming grief Edward accompanied her funeral to
Westminster, a journey of thirteen days. Each evening the bier rested
in the market-place of the town, where the procession halted, till the
clergy came to convey it with solemn chantings to the chief church,
where it was placed before the high altar. At each of these
resting-places Edward raised a richly-carved market cross in memory of
his queen; but, of the whole thirteen, Northampton and Waltham are the
only towns that have retained these beautiful monuments to the gracious
Eleanor, one of the best-beloved names of our English history.
THE HAMMER OF THE SCOTS.
_King of England_.
1272. Edward I.
_King of Scotland_.
1292. John Balliol.
_King of France_.
1285. Philippe IV.
_Emperors of Germany_.
1298. Albert I.
1287. Nicholas IV.
1291. Boniface VIII.
1294. Celestine V.
1303. Benedict XI.
The gallant line of Scottish kings descended from "the gracious Duncan"
suddenly decayed and dwindled away in the latter part of the thirteenth
century. They had generally been on friendly terms with the English, to
whom Malcolm Ceanmore and Edgar both owed their crown; they had usually
married ladies of English birth; and holding the earldom of Huntingdon,
the county of Cumberland, and the three Lothians, under the English
crown, they stood in nearly the same relation to our Anglo-Norman
sovereigns as did these to the kings of France. If France were esteemed
a more polished country, and her language and manners were adopted by
the Plantagenet kings, who were French nobles as well as independent
sovereigns of the ruder Saxons, so, again, England was the model of
courtesy and refinement to the earlier Scottish kings, who, in the right
of inheritance from St. David's queen, Earl Waltheof's heiress, were
barons of the civilized court of England, where they learnt modes of
taming their own savage Highland and island domains.
Thus, with few exceptions, the terms of alliance were well understood,
and many of the Cumbrian barons were liegemen to both the English
and Scottish kings. Scotland was in a flourishing and fast-improving
condition, and there was no mutual enmity or jealousy between the two
Alexander III. was the husband of Margaret, the eldest sister of Edward
I., and frequently was present at the pageants of the English court. He
was a brave and beloved monarch, and his wife was much honored and loved
in Scotland; but, while still a young man, a succession of misfortunes
befell him. His queen died in 1275, and his only son a year or two
after; his only other child, Margaret, who had been married to Eric,
Prince of Norway, likewise died, leaving an infant daughter named
Finding himself left childless, Alexander contracted a second marriage
with Yolande, daughter of the Count de Dreux; and a splendid bridal took
place at Jedburgh, with every kind of amusements, especially mumming
and masquing. In the midst, some reckless reveller glided in arrayed in
ghastly vestments, so as to personate death, and after making fearful
gestures, vanished away, leaving an impression of terror among the
guests that they did not quickly shake off--the jest was too
Less than a year subsequently, Alexander gave a great feast to his
nobles at Edinburgh, on the 15th of March, 1286. It was a most
unsuitable day for banquetting, for it was Lent; and, moreover, popular
imagination, always trying to guess the times and seasons only known to
the Most High, had fixed on tins as destined to be the Last Day.
But the Scottish nobles feasted and revelled, mocking at the delusion
of the populace, till, when at a late hour they broke up, the night was
discovered to be intensely dark and stormy. King Alexander was, however,
bent on joining his queen, who was at Kinghorn--perhaps he had promised
to come to calm her alarms--and all the objections urged by his servants
could not deter him. He bade one of his servants remain at home, since
he seemed to fear the storm. "No, my lord," said the man, "it would ill
become me to refuse to die for your father's son."
At Inverkeithing the storm became more violent, and again the royal
followers remonstrated; but the King laughed at them, and only desired
to have two runners to show him the way, when they might all remain in
He was thought to have been "fey"--namely, in high spirits--recklessly
hastening to a violent death; for as he rode along the crags close above
Kinghorn, his horse suddenly stumbled, and he was thrown over its head
to the bottom of a frightful precipice, where he lay dead. The spot is
still called the King's Crag.
Truly it was the last day of Scotland's peace and prosperity. Thomas of
Ereildoune, called the Rymour, who was believed to possess second sight,
had declared that on the 16th of March the greatest wind should blow
before noon that Scotland had ever known. The morning, however, rose
fair and calm, and he was reproached for his prediction. "Noon is not
yet gone!" he answered; and ere long came a messenger to the gate, with
tidings that the King was killed. "Gone is the wind that shall blow
to the great calamity and trouble of all Scotland," said Thomas the
Rymour--a saying that needed no powers of prophecy, when the only
remaining scion of the royal line was a girl of two years old, the child
of a foreign prince, himself only eighteen years of age.
The oldest poem in the Scottish tongue that has been preserved is a
lament over the last son of St. David.
"When Alysander, our king, was dead,
That Scotland led in love and lee,
Away was sons of ale and bread,
Of wine and wax, of game and glee;
Our gold was changed into lead.
Christ, born in to virginity,
Succour Scotland, and remede
That stead is in perplexity."
The perplexity began at once, for the realm of Scotland had never yet
descended to the "spindle," and the rights of the little "Maid of
Norway" were contested by her cousins, Robert Bruce and John Balliol,
two of the Cumbrian barons, half-Scottish and half-English, who, though
their claims were only through females, thought themselves fitter to
rule than the infant Margaret.
Young Eric of Norway sent to entreat counsel from Edward of England, and
thus first kindled his hopes of uniting the whole island under his sway.
"Now," he said, "the time is come when Scotland and her petty kings
shall be reduced under my power." The Scottish nobles came at the same
time to request his decision, which was readily given in favor of the
little heiress, whom he further proposed to betroth to his only son,
Edward of Caernarvon; and as the children were first cousins once
removed, he sent to Rome for a dispensation, while Margaret sailed from
Norway to be placed in his keeping. Thus would the young Prince have
peaceably succeeded to the whole British dominions; but the will of
Heaven was otherwise, and three hundred years of war were to elapse
before the crowns were placed on the same brow.
The stormy passage from Norway was injurious to the tender frame of the
little Queen: she was landed in the Orkney Isles, in the hope of saving
her life, but in vain; she died, after having scarcely touched her
dominions, happy in being spared so wild a kingdom and so helpless a
husband as were awaiting her.
Twelve claimants for the vacant throne at once arose, all so distant
that it was a nice matter to weigh their several rights, since the very
nearest were descendants of Henry, son of St. David, five generations
The Scots agreed to refer the question to the arbitration of one
hitherto so noted for wisdom and justice as Edward I. They little knew
that their realm was the very temptation that was most liable to draw
him aside from the strict probity he had hitherto observed.
He called on the competitors and the states of Scotland to meet him at
Norham Castle on the 10th of May, 1291, and the conference was opened by
his justiciary, Robert Brabazon, who, in a speech of some length,
called on the assembly to begin by owning the King as Lord Paramount of
It had never been fully understood for how much of their domains the
Scottish kings did homage to the English, and the more prudent princes
had avoided opening the question, so that there might honestly be two
opinions on the subject. Still Edward was acting as the King of France
would have done had he claimed to be Paramount of England, because
Edward paid homage for Gascony, and he ought to have known that he was
taking an ungenerous advantage of the kingless state of his neighbors.
They made answer that they were incapable of making such an
acknowledgment; but Edward answered, "Tell them that by the holy St.
Edward, whose crown I wear, I will either have my rights recognized, or
die in the vindication of them."
He gave them three weeks to consider his challenge, but in the
meantime issued writs for assembling his army; and thus left the more
quietly-disposed to expect an invasion, without any leader to oppose it;
while each of the twelve claimants could not but conceive the hope of
being raised to the throne, if he would consent to make the required
Accordingly, they all yielded; and when the next meeting took place at
Hollywell Haugh, a green plain close to "Norham's castled height,"
the whole body owned Edward as their feudal superior; after which the
kingdom of Scotland was delivered over to him, and the great seal placed
in the joint keeping of the Scottish and English chancellors.
In the following year, on the 17th of November, the final decision was
made. Nine of the claimants had such frivolous claims, that no attention
was paid to them, and the only ones worth consideration were those
derived from David, Earl of Huntingdon, the crusading comrade of Coeur
de Lion, and son of Henry, son of St. David. This Earl had left three
daughters, Margaret, Isabel, and Ada. Margaret had married Allan of
Galloway, and John Balliol was the son of her only daughter Devorgoil.
Isabel married Robert Bruce, and her son, Robert, Earl of Carrick, was
the claimant; and Ada had left a grandson, Florence Hastings, Earl of
A baron leaving daughters alone would divide his heritage equally among
them, and this was what Hastings desired; but Scotland was pronounced
indivisible, and he retired from the field. Bruce contended that, as son
of one sister, he was nearer the throne than the grandson of the other,
although the elder; but this was completely untenable, and Balliol,
having been adjudged the rightful heir, was declared King of Scotland,
was crowned, and paid homage to Edward.
He soon found that the fealty he had sworn was not, as he had hoped,
to be a mere dead letter, as with the former kings. Edward used to
the utmost the suzerain's privilege of hearing appeals from the
vassal-prince--a practice never put in force by his predecessors, and
excessively galling to the new Scottish King, who found himself fettered
in all his measures, and degraded in the eyes of his rude and savage
subjects, who regarded him as having given away the honor of their
crown. Whenever there was an appeal, he was cited to appear in person at
the English court, and was treated, in fact, like a mere feudal noble,
instead of the King of a brave and ancient kingdom. Indeed, the Scots
called him the "toom tabard," or empty herald's coat--a name not
unsuited to such a king of vain show.
By and by a war broke out between England and France, and Edward sent
summonses to the Scottish barons to attend him with their vassals. It
was no concern of theirs, and many flatly refused to come, whereupon
he declared them to have forfeited their fiefs, and thus pushed his
interference beyond their endurance. John Balliol, their unfortunate
King, who was personally attached to Edward, and at the same time
greatly in dread of his fierce vassals, was utterly confused and
distressed; and finding no help in him, his subjects seized him, placed
him in a fortress, under the keeping of a council of twelve, and in his
name declared war against England.
Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick. to whom his father's claims had
descended, remained faithful to King Edward, who, to punish the
rebellion of the Scots, collected an army of 30,000 foot and 4,000
horse, and, with the sacred standards of Durham at their head, marched
them into Scotland. Berwick, then a considerable merchant-town, closed
her gates against him, and further provoked him by the plunder of some
English merchant-ships. He offered terms of surrender, but these were
refused; and he led his men to the assault of the dyke, that was the
only defence of the town. He was the first to leap the dyke on his horse
Bayard, and the place was won after a brave resistance, sufficient to
arouse the passions of the soldiery, who made a most shocking massacre,
without respect to age or sex.
The report of these horrors so shocked John Balliol, that he sent to
renounce his allegiance to Edward, and to defy his power. "Felon and
fool!" cried Edward, "if he will not come to us, we must go to him."
So frightful ravages were carried on by the English on one side and the
Scots on the other, till a battle took place at Dunbar, which so utterly
ruined the Scots, that they were forced to make submission, and Balliol
sued for peace. But Edward would not treat with him as a king, and only
sent Anthony Beck, the Bishop of Durham, to meet him at Brechin. He was
forced to appear, and was declared a rebel, stripped of his crown and
robes, and made to stand with a white rod in his hand, confessing that
he had acted rebelliously, and that Edward had justly invaded his
realm. After this humiliation, he resigned all his rights to Scotland,
declaring himself worn out with the malice and fraud of the nation,
which was probably quite true. He was sent at first to the Tower, but
afterward was released, lived peaceably on his estates in France, and
founded the college at Oxford that bears his name and arms.
The misfortunes endured by this puppet did not deter the Earl of Carrick
from aspiring to his seat; but Edward harshly answered, "Have I nothing
to do but to conquer kingdoms for you?" and sent him away with his
eldest son, a third Robert Bruce, to pacify their own territories of
Carrick and Annandale. Edward did nothing without law enough to make him
believe himself in the right, and poor Balliol's forfeiture gave him,
as he imagined, the power to assume Scotland as a fief of his own. He
caused himself to be acknowledged as King of Scotland, destroyed the old
Scottish charters, and transported to Westminster the Scottish crown and
sceptre, together with the stone from Scone Abbey, on which, from time
immemorial, the Kings of Scotland had been placed when crowned and
anointed. All the castles were delivered up into his hands, and every
noble in his dominions gave him the oath of allegiance, excepting one,
William, Lord Douglas, who steadily refused, and was therefore carried
off a prisoner to England, where he remained to the day of his death.
Edward did not come in as a severe or cruel conqueror; he gave
privileges to the Scottish clergy, and re-instated the families of the
barons killed in the war. Doubtless he hoped to do great good to the wild
population, and bring them into the same order as the English; but the
flaw in his title made this impossible; the Scots regarded his soldiery as
their enemies and oppressors, and though the nobles had given in a
self-interested adhesion to the new government, they abhorred it all the
time, and the mutual hatred between the English garrisons and Scottish
inhabitants led to outrages in which neither party was free from blame.
As Hereward the Saxon had been stirred up against the Norman invaders,
so a champion arose who kept alive the memory of Scottish independence.
William Wallace was the younger son of Sir Malcolm Wallace of Ellerslie,
near Paisley, one of the lesser gentry, not sufficiently high in rank to
be required to take oaths to the English King. William was a youth of
unusual stature, noble countenance, and great personal strength and
skill in the use of arms, and he grew up with a violent hatred to the
English usurpers, which various circumstances combined to foster. While
very young, he had been fishing in the river Irvine, attended by a boy
who carried his basket, when some English soldiers, belonging to the
garrison of Ayr meeting him, insisted on seizing his trout. A fray took
place, and Wallace killed the foremost Englishman with a blow from the
butt of his fishing-rod, took his sword, and put the rest to flight.
This obliged him to fly to the hills. But in those lawless times such
adventures soon blew over, and, a year or two after, he was walking in
the market-place of Lanark, dressed in green, and with, a dagger by his
side, when an Englishman, coming up, insulted him on account of his gay
attire, and his passionate temper, thus inflamed, led to a fray, in
which the Englishman was killed. He then fled to the house where he was
lodging, and while the sheriff and his force were endeavoring to break
in, the lady of the house contrived his escape by a back way to a rocky
glen called the Crags, where he hid himself in a cave. The disappointed
sheriff wreaked his vengeance on the unfortunate lady, slew her, and
burnt the house.
Thenceforth Wallace was an outlaw, and the most implacable foe to the
English. In his wild retreat he quickly gathered round him other men
ill-used, or discontented, or patriotic, or lovers of the wild life
which he led, and at their head he not only cut off the parties sent to
seize him, but watched his opportunity for marauding on the English or
their allies. There is a horrible story that the English governor of
Ayr, treacherously inviting the Scottish gentry to a feast, hung them
all as they entered, and that Wallace revenged the slaughter with
equal cruelty by burning the English alive in their sleep in the very
buildings where the murder took place, the Barns of Ayr, as they were
called. The history is unauthenticated, but it is believed in the
neighborhood of Ayr, and has been handed down by Wallace's Homer,
Blind Harry, whose poem on the exploits of the Knight of Ellerslie was
published sixty years from this time.
The fame of Wallace's prowess swelled his party, and many knights and
nobles began to join him. He raised his banner in the name of King John
of Scotland, and, with the help of another outlaw chief, Sir William
Douglas, pounced on the English justiciary, Ormesby, while holding his
court at Scone, put him to flight, and seized a large booty and many
His forays were the more successful because the King was absent in
England, and the Chancellor, Hugh Cressingham, was not well agreed with
the lay-governor, John de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey. Many of the higher
nobility took his side, among them the younger Robert Bruce; but as the
English force began to be marshalled against him, they took flight for
their estates, and returned to the stronger party. It may have been that
they found that Wallace was not a suitable chief for more than a mere
partisan camp; brave as he was, he could not keep men of higher rank in
obedience. He lived by plunder, and horrible atrocities were constantly
committed by his men, especially against such English clergy as had
received Scottish preferment. Whenever one of these fell into their
hands, his sacred character could not save him; his arms were tied
behind his back, and he was thrown from a high bridge into a river,
while the merciless Scots derided his agony.
Warrene and Cressingham drew together a mighty force, and marched to the
relief of Stirling, which Wallace had threatened. The Scots had come
together to the number of 40,000, but they had only 180 horse; and
Warrenne had 50,000 foot and 1,000 horse. The Scots were, however, in a
far more favorable position, encamped on the higher ground on the bank
of the river Forth; and Warrenne, wishing to avoid a battle, sent two
friars to propose terms. "Return to your friends," said Wallace; "tell
them we came with no peaceful intent, but determined to avenge ourselves
and set our country free. Let them come and attack us; we are ready to
meet them beard to beard."
On hearing this answer, the English shouted to be led against the bold
rebel; but the more prudent leaders thought it folly to attempt to cross
the bridge, exposed as it, was to the enemy, but that a chosen body
should cross a ford, attack them in the flank, and clear the way.
Cressingham thought this policy timid. "Why," said he to Warrenne,
"should we protract the war, and spend the King's money? Let us pass on,
and do our duty!"
Warrenne weakly gave way, and the English troops began to cross the
bridge, the Scots retaining their post on the high ground until Sir
Marmaduke Twenge, an English knight, impetuously spurred up the hill,
when about half the army had crossed, and charged the Scottish ranks. In
the meantime, Wallace had sent a chosen force to march down the side of
the hill and cut off the troops who had crossed from the foot of
the bridge, and he himself, rushing down on the advancing horsemen,
entirely, broke them, and made a fearful slaughter of all on that side
of the river, seizing on the bridge, so that there was no escape. One of
the knights proposed to swim their horses across the river. "What!" said
Sir Marmaduke Twenge, "drown myself, when I can cut my way through the
midst of them by the bridge? Never let such foul slander fall on me!"
He then set spurs to his horse, and, with his nephew and armor-bearer,
forced his way back to his friends, across the bridge, by weight of
man and horse, through the far more slightly-armed Scots. Warrenne
was obliged to march off, with, the loss of half his army, and of
Cressingham, whose corpse was found lying on the plain, and was
barbarously, mangled by the Scots. They cut the skin into pieces, and
used it for saddle-girths; even Wallace himself being said to have had a
sword-belt made of it.
This decisive victory threw the greater part of Scotland into Wallace's
hands; and though most of the great earls still held with the English,
the towns and castles were given up to him, and the mass of the people
was with him. He plundered without mercy the lands of such as would
not join him, and pushed his forays into England, where he frightfully
ravaged Cumberland and Northumberland; and from St. Luke's to St.
Martin's-day all was terror and dismay, not a priest remaining between
Newcastle and Carlisle to say mass. At last the winter drove him back,
and on his return he went to Hexham, a rich convent, which had been
plundered on the advance, but to which three of the monks had just
returned, hoping the danger was over. Seeing the enemy entering, they
fled into a little chapel; but the Scots had seen them, and, rushing on
them, demanded their treasures. "Alas!" said they, "you yourselves best
know where they are!" Wallace, coming in, silenced his men, and bade the
priests say mass; but in one moment, while he turned aside to take off
his helmet, his fierce soldiery snatched away the chalice from the
altar, and tore off the ornaments and sacred vestments. He ordered that
the perpetrators should be put to death, and said to the priests, "My
presence alone can secure you. My men are evil-disposed. I cannot
justify, I dare not punish them."
On returning to Scotland, he assumed the title of Governor, and strove
to bring matters into a more regular state, but without success; the
great nobles either feared to offend the English, or would not submit to
In 1298, Edward, having freed himself from his difficulties in England
and France, hurried to the North to put down in person what in his eyes
was not patriotism, but rebellion. How violently enraged he was, was
shown by his speech to Sir John Marmaduke, who was sent by Anthony Beck,
Bishop of Durham, to ask his pleasure respecting Dirleton Castle and two
other fortresses to which he had laid siege. "Tell Anthony," he said,
"that he is right to be pacific when he is acting the bishop, but that,
in his present business, he must forget his calling. As for yourself,
you are a relentless soldier, and I have too often had to reprove you
for too cruel an exultation over the death of your enemies. But, now,
return whence you came, and be as relentless as you choose; you will
have my thanks, not my censure; and, look you, do not see my face again
till those three castles be razed to the ground."
The castles were taken and overthrown, but the difficulties of the
English continued to be great; the fleet was detained by contrary winds,
and this delay of supplies caused a famine in the camp. Edward was
obliged to command a retreat; but at that juncture, just as the country
was so nearly rescued by the wise dispositions of Wallace, two Scottish
nobles, the Earls of Dunbar and Angus, were led by a mean jealousy to
betray him to the English, disclosing the place where he was encamped in
the forest of Falkirk, and his intention of making a night-attack upon
Edward was greatly rejoiced at the intelligence. "Thanks be to God," he
exclaimed, "who has saved me from every danger! They need not come after
me, since I will go to meet them."
He immediately put on his armor, and rode through the camp, calling on
his soldiers to march immediately, and at three o'clock in the afternoon
all were on their way to Falkirk. They halted for the night on a heath,
where they lay down to sleep in their armor, with their horses picketed
beside them In the course of the night the King's horse trod upon him,
breaking two of his ribs; and a cry arose among those around him that he
was slain, and the enemy were upon them. But Edward, regardless of the
pain, made the alarm serve as a reveille, mounted his horse, rallied his
troops, and, as it was near morning, gave orders to march. The light of
the rising sun showed, on the top of the opposite hill, the lances of
the Scottish advanced guard; but when they reached the summit, they
found it deserted, and in the distance could see the enemy preparing
for battle, the foot drawn up in four compact bodies of pikemen, the
foremost rank kneeling, so that the spears of those behind rested on
their shoulders. "I have brought you to the ring; hop if ye can," was
the brief exhortation of the outlawed patriot to his men; and grim was
the dance prepared for them.
Edward heard mass in a tent set up on the hill, and afterward held a
council on the manner of attack. An immediate advance was determined on,
and they charged the Scots with great fury. The horse, consisting of the
time-serving and cowardly nobility, fled without a blow, leaving Wallace
and his archers unsupported, to be overwhelmed by the numbers of the
English. Wallace, after a long resistance, was compelled to retreat into
the woods, with a loss of 15,000, while on the English side the slain
were very few.
Edward pushed on, carrying all before him, and wasting the country with
fire and sword; but, as has happened in every invasion of Scotland,
famine proved his chief enemy, and he was obliged to return to
England, leaving unsubdued all the lands north of the Forth. But his
determination was sternly fixed, and he made everything else give way to
his Scottish wars.
The last stronghold which held out against him was Stirling Castle,
under Sir William Oliphant, who, with only one hundred and forty men,
for ninety days resisted with the most desperate valor; when the walls
were broken down, taking shelter in caverns hewn out of the rock on
which their fortress was founded. Edward, who led the attack, was often
exposed to great danger; his horse was thrown down by a stone, and his
armor pierced by an arrow; but he would not consent to use greater
precautions, saying that he fought in a just war, and Heaven would
protect him. At last the brave garrison were reduced to surrender, and
came down from their castle in a miserable, dejected state, to implore
his mercy. The tenderness of his nature revived as he saw brave men in
such a condition. He could not restrain his tears, and he received them
to his favor, sending them in safety to England.
Scotland was now completely tranquil, and entirely reduced. Every noble
had sworn allegiance, every castle was garrisoned by English. Balliol
was in Normandy, Bruce in the English army, and at last, in August,
1305, the brave outlaw, Sir William Wallace, was, by his former friend,
Monteith, betrayed into the hands of the English. He was brought to
Westminster, tried as a traitor to King Edward, and sentenced to die. He
had never sworn fealty to Edward, but this could not save him; and on
the 23d of August, 1305, he was dragged on a hurdle to Smithfield,
and suffered the frightful death that the English laws allotted to a
traitor. His head was placed on a pole on London Bridge, and his several
limbs sent to the different towns in Scotland, where they were regarded
far more as relics than as tokens of disgrace.
Had Edward appreciated and pardoned the gallant Scot, it would have
been a noble deed. But his death should not be regarded as an act of
personal, revenge. Wallace had disregarded many a proclamation of
mercy, and had carried on a most savage warfare upon the Scots who had
submitted to the English with every circumstance of cruelty. Edward,
who believed himself the rightful King, was not likely to regard him as
otherwise than a pertinacious bandit, with whom the law might properly
take its course. More mercy might have been hoped from the prince who
fought hand to hand with Adam de Gourdon; but ambition had greatly
warped and changed Edward since those days, and the fifteen years of
effort to retain his usurpation had hardened his whole nature.
Wallace himself, half a robber, half a knight, has won for himself a
place in the affections of his countrymen, and has lived ever since in
story and song. To the last century it was regarded as rude to turn a
loaf in the presence of a Monteith, because that was the signal for the
admission of the soldiers who seized Wallace; and there can be little
doubt that this constant recollection was well deserved, since
assuredly it was the spirit of resistance maintained by Wallace, though
unsuccessful, that lived to flourish again after his death.
He was one of those men whose self-devotion bears visible fruits.
THE EVIL TOLL.
_King of England_.
1272. Edward I.
_King of Scotland_.
1296. Edward I.
_King of France_.
1285. Philippe IV.
_Emperors of Germany_.
1298. Albert I.
1294. Boniface VIII.
1303. Benedict XI.
Unlike the former Plantagenets, Edward I. was a thorough Englishman; his
schemes, both for good and evil, were entirely insular; and as he became
more engrossed in the Scottish war, he almost neglected his relations
with the Continent.
One of the most wily and unscrupulous men who ever wore a crown was
seated on the throne of France--the fair-faced and false-hearted
Philippe IV., the "pest of France," the oppressor of the Church, and the
murderer of the Templars; and eagerly did he watch to take any advantage
of the needs of his mighty vassal in Aquitaine.
Edward had made alliances to strengthen himself. He had married his
daughter Eleanor to the Count of Bar, and Margaret to the heir of
Brabant, and betrothed his son Edward to the only daughter of Guy
Dampierre, Count of Flanders, thus hoping to restrain Philippe without
breaking the peace.
Unluckily, in 1294, a sailors' quarrel took place between the crews of
an English and a Norman ship upon the French coast. They had both landed
to replenish their stock of water, and disputed which had the right
first to fill their casks. In the fray, a Norman was killed, and his
shipmates, escaping, took their revenge by boarding another English
vessel, and hanging a poor, innocent Bayonne merchant from the masthead,
with a dog fastened to his feet. Retaliation followed upon revenge; and
while the two kings professed to be at peace, every ship from their
ports went armed, and fierce struggles took place wherever there was an
encounter. Slaughter and plunder fell upon the defeated, for the sailors
were little better than savage pirates, and were unrestrained by
authority. Edward, who had a right to a share in all captures made by
his subjects, refused to accept of any portion of these, though he did
not put a stop to them. The Irish and Dutch vessels took part with the
English, the Genoese with the French. At last, upward of two hundred
French ships met at St. Mahe in Brittany, and their crews rejoiced over
the captures which they had obtained, and held a great carousal. Eighty
well-manned English vessels had, however, sailed from the Cinque Ports,
and, surrounding St. Mahe, sent a challenge to their enemies. It was
accepted; a ship was moored in the midst, as a point round which the two
fleets might assemble, and a hot contest took place, fiercely fought
upon either side; but English seamanship prevailed over superior
numbers, every French ship was sunk or taken, and, horrible to relate,
not one of their crews was spared.
Such destruction provoked Philippe, and he summoned Edward, as Duke of
Aquitaine, to deliver up to him such Gascons as had taken part in the
battle. This Edward neglected, whereupon Philippe sent to seize the
lands of Perigord, and, on being repulsed by the seneschal, called on
Edward to appear at his court within twenty days, to answer for his
misdeeds, on pain of forfeiting the province of Gascony. Edward sent
first the Bishop of London, and afterward his brother Edmund Crouchback,
to represent him. Edmund's second wife was the mother of Philippe's
queen, and it was therefore expected that he would the more easily come
to terms, especially as he was commissioned to offer the hand of his
royal brother to Blanche, the sister of Philippe, a maiden who inherited
the unusual beauty of her family. Apparently all was easily arranged:
Philippe promised Edmund that if, as a matter of form, Gascony were put
into his hands by way of forfeit, it should be restored at the end of
forty days on the intercession of the two ladies, and Blanche should be
betrothed to the King.
All was thus arranged. But at the end of the forty days it proved that
what Philippe had once grasped he had no notion of releasing; and,
moreover, that Blanche la Belle was promised to Albert of Hapsburg! If
Edward chose to marry any French princess at all, he was welcome to
her little sister Marguerite, a child of eleven, while Edward was
fifty-five. The excuse offered was, that Edward, had not obeyed the
summons in person, and that another outrage had been perpetrated on the
coast. After another summons, he was adjudged to lose not only Gascony,
but all Aquitaine.
On discovering how he had been duped, Edward's first impulse was to send
out his writs to collect his vassals to recover Gascony, chastise the
insolent ill faith of Philippe, and to stir up his foreign connections
to support him. He collected his troops at Portsmouth, hoping to augment
his army by a general release of prisoners, Scottish, Welsh, and
malefactors alike; but while he was detained seven weeks by contrary
winds, all these men, after taking his pay, made their escape, and
either returned to their countries, or marauded in the woods. A great
insurrection broke out in Wales, and he was forced to hasten thither,
and from thence was called away to quell the rising of the Scottish
barons against Balliol.
Meanwhile, it fared ill with his foreign allies. The Duke of Brabant,
father-in-law to his daughter Margaret, was killed in a tournament at
the court of her sister Eleanor; and when Eleanor's husband, Henri of
Bar, took up arms in the English cause, and marched into Champagne, he
was defeated, and made prisoner by the Queen of France. The poor old
Count of Flanders and his Countess were invited to Paris by Philippe,
who insisted that they should bring his godchild and namesake, the
betrothed of young Edward, to visit him. When they arrived, they were
all thrown into the prison of the Louvre, on the plea that Guy had no
right to bestow his daughter in marriage without permission from his
Edward's head was so full of Scotland, that he was shamefully
indifferent to the sufferings of his friends in his behalf. Poor Eleanor
of Bar, after striving hard to gain her husband's freedom, died of
grief, after a few months; and Guy of Flanders contrived to obtain his
own release by promising to renounce the English alliance; but Philippe
would not set free the poor young Philippa, whom he kept in his hands as
One cause of the King's neglect was his great distress for money. He
had learnt to have recourse to his father's disgraceful plea of a sham
Crusade, and thus, for six years, gained a tenth of the Church revenues;
but in 1294, requiring a further supply, he made a demand of half the
year's income of the clergy. The new Archbishop, Robert Winchelsea, was
gone to Rome to receive his pall; the Dean of St. Paul's, who was sent
to remonstrate with the King, died suddenly in his presence; but Edward
was not touched, and sent a knight to address the assembled clergy,
telling them that any reverend father who dared to oppose the royal will
would be considered to have broken the King's peace. In terror they
yielded for that time; but they sent a petition to the Pope, who, in
return, granted a bull forbidding any subsidies to be paid by church
lands to the King without his permission.
Little did Edward reck of this decree. He knew that Boniface VIII. had
his hands full of his quarrels with the Romans and with Philippe le Bel,
and his own ambition was fast searing the conscience once so generous
and tender. Again he convened the clergy to grant his exactions, but
Archbishop Winchelsea replied that they had two lords, spiritual and
temporal; they owed the superior obedience to the spiritual lord, and
would therefore grant nothing till the Pope should have ratified the
demand; for which purpose they would send messengers to Rome.
The lay barons backed Edward in making a declaration of outlawry against
the clergy, and seizing all the ecclesiastical property, both lands and
treasures, except what was within churches or burying-grounds, declaring
that, if not redeemed by submission before Easter, all should be
forfeited forever. The Archbishop of York came to terms; but the
Archbishop of Canterbury held out, and was deprived of everything,
retiring to a country village, where he acted as parish priest, and
lived upon the alms of the parishioners. He held a synod, where
excommunication was denounced on those who seized church property;
but the censures of the Church had lost their terrors, and the clergy
gradually made their peace with the King, Winchelsea himself among the
The laity had looked on quietly at the oppression of the clergy, and
indeed had borne their share of exactions; but these came at last to
a point beyond endurance, and Edward's need, and their obstinate
resistance, led to another step in the formation of our constitution.
In 1297 he made a new alliance with Guy of Flanders, and was fitting
out three armies, against Scotland, Guienne, and Flanders. To raise the
means, he exacted five marks as a duty on each sack of wool exported to
Flanders, and made ruinous requisitions for wheat on the landowners.
Merchants and burghers, barons and clergy, took counsel together, and
finding each other all of one mind, resolved to make a stand against
this tax on wool, which was called the "Evil Toll," and to establish
what Magna Carta had already declared, that the nation would not be
taxed against its own consent.
The King's brother, Edmund of Lancaster, had lately died while
commanding in Guienne, and Edward, meeting his vassals at Salisbury,
gave the command of the army, thus left without a head, to Humphrey
Bohun, Earl of Hereford, and Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk--the one
Constable, the other Marshal of England. To his great wrath, they
answered that their offices only bound them to attend the King's person
in war, and that they would not go. Edward swore a fierce oath that they
should either go, or hang. Bigod coolly repeated the same oath, that he
would neither go nor hang, and back to their own estates they went, and
after them thirty bannerets, and 1,500 knights, who, by main force,
hindered the King's officers from making any further levies on their
barns and storehouses.
Nothing was left Edward, but to speak them fair. He summoned his vassals
to meet him in London, reconciled himself to Archbishop Winchelsea, and
on the 14th of July, 1297, when all were assembled at Westminster, he
stood forth on a platform, attended by his son, the Primate, and the
Earl of Warwick, and harangued the people. He told them that he grieved
at the burthens which he was forced to impose on them, but it was for
their defence; for that the Scots, Welsh, and French thirsted for their
blood, and it was better to lose a part, than the whole. "I am going to
risk my life for your sake," he said. "If I return, receive me; and I
will make you amends. If I fall, here is my son: he will reward you, if
His voice was broken by tears; and his people, remembering what he once
had been rather than what he was now, broke into loud shouts of loyal
affection. He appointed his son as regent, and set out for Flanders, but
not in time to prevent poor Guy from again falling into captivity, and
pursued by requisitions, to which he promised to attend on his return.
All the nobles who held with him accompanied him, and Bohun and Bigod
were left to act in their own way.
They rode to London with a large train, lodged complaints of the illegal
exaction before the Exchequer, and then, going to the Guildhall, worked
up the citizens to be ready to assert their rights, and compel the
King to revoke the evil toll, and to observe the charter. They had
scrupulously kept within the law, and, though accompanied by so many
armed followers, neither murder nor pillage was permitted; and thus they
obtained the sympathies of the whole country.
Young Edward of Caernarvon was but thirteen, and could only submit; and
a Parliament was convoked by his authority, when the present taxes were
repealed, the important clause was added to the Great Charter which
declared that no talliage or aid should thenceforth be levied without
the consent of the bishops, peers, burgesses, and freemen of the realm,
nor should any goods be taken for the King without consent of the
Further, it was enacted that Magna Charta should be rehearsed twice a
year in all the cathedrals, with a sentence of excommunication on all
who should infringe it. The Archbishop enforced this order strictly,
adding another sentence of excommunication to be rehearsed in each
church on every Sunday against any who should beat or imprison
clergymen, desiring it to be done with tolling of bell and putting out
of candle, because these solemnities had the greater effect on the
laity. This statute is a sad proof how much too cheaply sacred things
were held, and how habit was leading even the clergy to debase them by
over-frequent and frivolous use of the most awful emblems.
Young Edward and his council signed the acts, and they were sent to the
King for ratification, with a promise that his barons would thereupon
join him in Flanders, or march to Scotland, at his pleasure. He was
three days in coming to his resolution, but finally agreed, though it
was suspected that he might set aside his signature as invalid, because
made in a foreign country.
Wallace's proceedings in Scotland made Edward anxious to hasten thither
and rid himself of the French war. He therefore accepted the mediation
of Boniface VIII., and consented to sacrifice his unfortunate ally, Guy
of Flanders, whom he left in his captivity, as well as his poor young
daughter. Both died in the prison to which the daughter had been
consigned at twelve years old. The Prince of Wales, for whose sake her
bloom wasted in prison, was contracted to Isabelle, the daughter of her
persecutor, Philippe le Bel; and old King Edward himself received the
hand of the Princess Marguerite, now about seventeen, fair and good.
Aquitaine was restored, though not Gascony; but Edward only wanted to
be free, that he might hasten to Scotland. And, curiously enough, the
outlaw Wallace, whatever he did for his own land, unconsciously fought
the battles of his foes, the English nation; for it was his resistance
that weakened Edward's power, and made necessity extort compliance with
the demands of the Barons.
At York, Bigod and Bohun claimed a formal ratification of the charter
of Westminster. He put them off by pleading the urgency of affairs in
Scotland, and hastened on; but when he returned, in 1299, the staunch
Barons again beset him, and he confirmed the charter, but added the
phrase, "Saving the rights of the Crown," which annulled the whole force
of the decree. The two barons instantly went off in high displeasure,
with a large number of their friends; and Edward, to try the temper of
the people, ordered the charter to be rehearsed at St. Paul's Cross; but
when the rights of the Crown were mentioned, such a storm of hootings
and curses arose, that Edward, taught by the storms of his youth not to
push matters to extremity, summoned a new parliament, and granted the
right of his subjects to tax themselves.
This right has often since been proved to be the main strength of the
Parliament, by preventing the King from acting against their opinion,
and by rendering it the interest of all classes of men to attend to the
proceedings of the sovereign: it has not only kept kings in check,
but it has saved the nobles and commonalty from sinking into that
indifference to public affairs which has been the bane of foreign
nations. For, unfortunately, the mass of men are more easily kept on
the alert when wealth is affected, than by any deeper or higher
When we yearly hear of Parliament granting the supplies ere the close of
the session, they are exercising the right first claimed at Runnymede,
striven for by Simon de Montfort, and won by Humphrey Bohun, who
succeeded through the careful self-command and forbearance which
hindered him from ever putting his party in the wrong by violence or
transgression of the laws. He should be honored as a steadfast bulwark
to the freedom of his country, teaching the might of steady resolution,
even against the boldest and ablest of all our kings. In spite of rough
words, Edward and Bohun respected each other, and the heir of Hereford,
likewise named Humphrey, married Elizabeth, the youngest surviving
daughter left by good Queen Eleanor. Another of Edward's daughters had
been married to an English earl. Joan of Acre, the high-spirited, wilful
girl, who was born in the last Crusade, had been given as a wife to her
father's stout old comrade, Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. He
died when she was only twenty-three, and before the end of a year she
secretly married her squire, Ralph de Monthermer, and her father only
discovered the union when he had promised her to the Count of Savoy.
Monthermer was imprisoned; but Edward, always a fond father, listened to
Joan's pleading, that, as an Earl could ennoble a woman of mean birth,
it was hard that she might not raise a gallant youth to rank. Ralph
was released, and bore for the rest of his life the title of Earl of
Gloucester, which properly belonged only to Joan's young son, Gilbert.
Joan was a pleasure-loving lady, expensive in her habits, and neglectful
of her children; but her father's indulgence for her never failed: he
lent her money, pardoned her faults, and took on himself the education
of her son Gilbert, who was the companion of his own two young sons by
his second marriage, Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock.
Their mother, Margaret of France, was a fair and gentle lady, who lived
on the best terms with her stepdaughters, many of whom were her elders;
and she followed the King on his campaigns, as her predecessor Eleanor
had done. Mary, the princess who had taken the veil, was almost always
with her, and contrived to spend a far larger income than any of her
sisters, though without the same excuse of royal apparel; but she was
luxurious in diet, fond of pomp and display; never moving without
twenty-four horses, and so devoted to amusement that she lost large sums
at dice. She must have been an unedifying abbess at Ambresbury, though
not devoid of kindness of heart.
Archbishop Winchelsea held a synod at Mertoun in 1305, where various
decrees were made respecting the books and furniture which each parish
was bound to provide for the Divine service. The books were to be "a
legend" containing the lessons for reading, with others containing
the Psalms and Services. The vestments were "two copes, a chasuble, a
dalmatic, three surplices, and a frontal for the altar." And, besides
these, a chalice of silver, a pyx of ivory or silver, a censer, two
crosses, a font with lock and key, a vessel for holy water, a great
candlestick, and a lantern and bell, which were carried before the Host
when taken to the dying, a board with a picture to receive the kiss of
peace, and all the images of the Church. The nave, then as now, was the
charge of the parish; the chancel, of the rector.
This synod was Archbishop Winchelsea's last act before the King took
vengeance on him for his past resistance. His friend and supporter,
Boniface VIII., was dead, harassed to death by the persecutions of
Philippe IV.; and Clement V., the new Pope, was a miserable time-server,
raised to the papal chair by the machinations of the French King, and
ready to serve as the tool of any injustice.
Edward disliked the Archbishop for having withstood him in the matter of
the tithe, as well as for having cited him in the name of the Pope to
leave Scotland in peace. The King now induced Clement to summon him to
answer for insubordination. Winchelsea was very unwilling to go to Rome;
but Edward seized his temporalities, banished eighty monks for giving
him support, and finally exiled him. He died in indigence at Rome.
He was a prelate of the same busy class as Langton, not fulfilling the
highest standard of his sacred office, but spirited, uncompromising, and
an ardent though unsuccessful champion of the rights of the nation.
If Langton be honored for his part in Magna Charta, Winchelsea merits a
place by his side, for it was the resistance of his party to the "Evil
Toll" that placed taxation in the power of the English nation, and in
the wondrous ways of Providence caused the Scottish and French wars to
work for the good of our constitution.
ROBERT THE BRUCE
_King of England_.
1272. Edward I.
_King of Scotland_.
1306. Robert I.
_King of France_.
1285 Philippe IV.
_Emperor of Germany_.
1298. Albert I.
1305. Clement V.
The state of Scotland had, ever since the death of the good King
Alexander, been such that even honest men could scarcely retain their
integrity, nor see with whom to hold. The realm had been seized by a
foreign power, with a perplexing show of justice, the rightful King had
been first set up and then put down by external force, and the only
authority predominant in the land was unacknowledged by the heart of
any, though terror had obtained submission from the lips.
The strict justice which was loved and honored in orderly England, was
loathed in barbarous Scotland. It would have been hated from a native
sovereign; how much more so from a conqueror, and, above all, from a
hostile race, exasperated by resistance! Whether Edward I. were an
intentional tyrant or not, his deputies in Scotland were harsh rulers,
and the troops scattered throughout the castles in the kingdom used such
cruel license and exaction as could not but make the yoke intolerable,
and the enmity irreconcilable, especially in a race who never forgot nor
The higher nobility were in a most difficult situation, since to them it
fell to judge between the contending parties, and to act for themselves.
Few preserved either consistency or good faith; they wavered between
fear of Edward and love of independence; and among the lowland baronage
there seems to have been only William Douglas, of Douglasdale, who never
committed himself by taking oaths of fealty to the English king. Some
families, who were vassals at once of the English and Scottish crowns,
were in still greater straits; and among these there was the line of
Bruce. Robert de Brus had come from Normandy with William the Conqueror,
and obtained from him large grants in Yorkshire, as well as the lordship
of Annandale from one of the Scottish kings; and thus a Bruce stood
between both parties, and strove to mediate at the battle of the
Standard. His grandson married Isabel of Huntingdon, the daughter of the
crusader, David of Scotland, and thus acquired still larger estates
and influence in both countries. His son Robert made another English
marriage with Isabel de Clare, daughter of the Earl of Gloucester.
The eldest son, Robert Bruce, had gone as a crusader to Palestine, in
company with his friend Adam de Kilcontack, who was Earl of Carrick in
right of his wife Martha. Kilcontack died at the siege of Acre, and
Bruce, returning, married the young countess, and had a large family.
There were three Robert Bruces living at the time of the judgment at
Norham--the father, Lord of Annandale; the son, Earl of Carrick; and
the grandson, still a child. As he grew up, he was sent to serve in the
English army, and for some time did so without apparent misgivings; and
the connection was drawn closer by his marriage with Joan de Valence,
one of the cousins of Edward I. In order to secure a part of the
property at all events, the father gave up his Scottish fiefs to his
son, and returned to England, there to live in unbroken allegiance to
When Balliol was driven to declare against Edward, he confiscated the
estates of all who adhered to the English, and gave Annandale to John
Comyn of Badenoch, the son of his sister Marjory. The Red Comyn, as
he was called, seized Bruce's Castle of Lochmaben, and sowed seeds of
deadly hatred; but on the downfall of Balliol he shared the captivity of
the unfortunate "toom tabard," and did not return to Scotland for some
years. When Wallace's revolt broke out, young Bruce, who was only
twenty-three, at first followed his instinct of obedience to Edward, and
took an oath to support him against all his enemies, and in pursuance
of it ravaged the lands of the brave Douglas, and carried his wife and
children into captivity. Some sense either of ambition or patriotism,
however, stirred within him, and assembling his men of Annandale, he
told them that he had taken a foolish oath, but that he deeply repented
of it, and would be absolved from it, inviting them to join him in
maintaining the cause of their country. They took alarm, and all
disappeared in the course of the night, and he joined the patriots
alone, but not with all his heart, for he soon made his peace with
Edward, and gave his only child, Marjory, as a hostage. Thenceforward he
vacillated, sometimes inclining to the King, sometimes to the Scottish
party, and apparently endeavoring to discover how far he could be secure
of the Scots giving him their crown, provided he took their part. He
showed a lamentable contempt for his word; for, on his father's death,
he again did homage, and swore fealty to Edward, both for his lands in
England and Scotland, and at the same time he was making secret treaties
with Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrew's, and with Comyn. Balliol having
resigned the crown, and being in prison with all his family, was
considered to be set aside, and Bruce proposed to Comyn, that whichever
of them should claim the kingdom, should purchase the support of the
other by resigning to him his own inheritance. Comyn appeared to agree,
and, to prevent suspicion, Bruce attended the court in London; but while
he was there, Comyn wrote to betray his proposal to Edward, who took
measures for seizing the conspirator; but these becoming known to his
cousin, young Gilbert de Clare, the King's grandson, he contrived to
give Bruce warning by sending him a pair of spurs and some pieces of
Bruce understood the hint, and galloped off with his horse's shoes
turned backward, so as to baffle pursuit. He came safely, on the fifth
day, to his own border castle of Lochmaben, where he found his brother
Edward. Keeping watch, they seized a messenger on his way to the English
court, bearing letters from Comyn, which explained to Bruce what the
peril had been, and who the traitor. Still he was forced to dissemble,
and went as usual to the court of the English justiciary at Dumfries,
which he was bound to attend. Comyn was likewise present, and there were
deadly glances between the two. Bruce called Comyn to hold a private
interview with him in the church of the Minorite friars, and, while
their words waxed fierce, Bruce reproached Comyn with treachery. The
answer was, "You lie!" and Bruce, enraged, struck with his dagger at his
enemy; then, horror-struck at seeing him fall, rushed out of the church,
and called, "To horse!" Two of his attendants, Lindsay and Kirkpatrick,
struck by his pale looks and wild eyes, asked what had befallen him.
"I doubt," he said, "that I have slain the Red Comyn!"
"You doubt!" cried Kirkpatrick; "I'll mak sicker"--or sure: and, so
saying, hurried back into the church, and slew not only the wounded man,
but his uncle, Sir Robert Comyn, who tried to defend him. The "bloody
dirk" and the words "mak sicker" were adopted as crest and motto by the
Kirkpatrick family. Strange instance of barbarism, that the dastardly,
sacrilegious murder of a helpless man on the steps of the altar should
be regarded as an achievement worthy of pride!
Still, the fruits of that deed were the deliverance of Scotland. The man
who had hitherto wavered, cast about by circumstances, and swayed by
family interest, assumed a new character, and became the patient,
undaunted champion of his country.
In utter desperation, Bruce's first measure was to defend himself
against the English justiciaries, and, rallying his friends, he took
possession of the castle of Dumfries, where they were holding their
court in a hall. They barricaded themselves within, but the fierce Scots
set fire to the doors, and they surrendered, whereupon Bruce permitted
them to depart in safety.
Nothing was left for Bruce, blood-stained and branded with treachery and
impiety, but to set up his standard and fight to the last; since he had
offended too deeply ever to find mercy, and the lot of Davydd or of
Wallace were samples of what he had to expect. He was handsome, well
educated, of great personal strength and prowess, and frank, winning
address, and the Scots had suffered so much under their oppressors, that
they were ready to rally round the first leader who offered himself.
Going to his castle of Lochmaben, he mustered his adherents. They
amounted only to three bishops, two earls, and fourteen barons, with
their followers, and his own four brothers, Edward, Nigel, Thomas,
and Alexander. With his little force he get out for Scone, where the
Scottish kings were crowned, and on his way met a young knight, riding
alone, but well mounted and well armed. As he raised his visor to do
his homage to the King Robert of Scotland, and showed his dark hair and
complexion, he was recognized as James, the eldest son of that William,
Baron Douglas, of Douglasdale, who alone had withheld his allegiance
from Edward, and whose lands, after Bruce himself had ravaged them, had
been given to the English Lord Clifford. The youth had been educated in
France, and brought the graces of a gentler school of chivalry when he
cast in his lot with his ill-used country men. Thus began the lifelong
friendship of Bruce and "good Sir James Douglas," who was, "wise, wight,
"Was never over-glad in winning, nor over-sad in tyneing."
From Scone, the crown, royal stone, and robes had been carried off to
England; and the Earl of Fife, who, since the days of Macduff, had had
the right of placing the King upon his throne, was in the hands of the
English: but the Bishop of Glasgow provided rich raiment; a little
circlet of gold was borrowed of an English goldsmith; and Isabel,
Countess of Buchan, the sister of the Earl of Fife, rode to Scone,
bringing her husband's war-horses, and herself enthroned King Robert.
The coronation took place on the Feast of the Annunciation, 1306, and
thus began a dynasty whose fate was remarkably similar to the sacrilege
and murder in which their rise was founded. Never was royal line of whom
it could so truly be said, that the sword never departed from them, and
there was not an old man in their house for ever. High endowments and
honest purposes could not redeem them, and Scotland never rested nor was
purified from deadly hate and the shedding of innocent blood till the
last of them was dying, a childless exile, and her sceptre was in the
hands of that power against which Bruce arose.
The news of Brace's coronation filled Edward I. with rage. Fourteen
years' work, at the cost of honor, mercy, and the love of his people,
all was undone, and the spirit of independence still uncrushed.
Edward regarded Bruce as so sacrilegious a traitor, that a war with him
was almost sacred; he swore to revenge Red Comyn's death, and prepared
for the war in the most solemn manner. His son Edward was in his 22d
year, and had not yet been knighted, and the King convoked all the young
nobles to share in the solemnity.
On Whitsun-eve three hundred tents were erected in the Temple gardens,
and in each was a young esquire of noble blood, clad in white linen and
scarlet cloth, from the King's own wardrobe. Around the circular church
of the Temple they watched their armor, and in the early morning the
Prince received knighthood in private from the hands of his father, who
had become too unwell to encounter the whole fatigue of the day. The
Prince conferred the order on his companions, and a magnificent banquet
took place in Westminster Hall, where the old King himself presided. In
the midst a golden net was brought in containing two swans, the emblems
of constancy and truth; and laying his hand on these, the King vowed
that he would never sleep two nights in the same place till he should
have chastised the Scots, and that he then would embark for Palestine,
and die in the holy war. All the young knights made the same vow; and
Edward made them swear that, if he should die in the course of the
war, they would keep his body above ground till the conquest should be
In the meantime, Clement V. had visited Bruce's crime with
excommunication; and though the primate, Lamberton, would not receive
the letters bearing the sentence, it was less easy to be inattentive
to the enormous force that Edward I. had despatched under his viceroy,
Aymar de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, while he followed with mind only
bent on revenge.
Bruce ravaged Galloway, and marching on Perth, where De Valence was in
garrison, challenged him to come out to battle. Aymar answered that it
was too late in the day, and he must wait till morning; and the Scots
settled themselves in the wood of Methven, where they were cooking their
suppers, when Valence ungenerously took them by surprise, falling on
them with a far superior force. Robert was on the alert, and killed
Aymar's horse; but three times he was himself unhorsed: and once
Philippe Mowbray was crying out that he had the new-made King, when
Christopher Seton came to the rescue, and killed the Englishman. Robert,
with about five hundred men, retreated safely into the rugged country
of Athol; but he lost many of his best friends, who were slain or made
prisoners, the latter being for the most part hung as rebels, except
his sister's son, Thomas Randolph, who made his peace by renouncing his
King Edward had advanced as far as Carlisle. But he was now in his 67th
year, and though his blue eye was not dim, nor his tall form bent, age
was beginning to tell on him, and he was detained by sickness. His
armies advanced, and while their cruelties shocked even his stern heart,
he set them a fatal example by the unsparing manner in which he ordered
the execution of all whom he considered as accomplices in rebellion.
The King and his small band of followers lived a wild, outlaw life, in
the hills, hunting and fishing; and his English wife, Joan de Valence,
with his two sisters, Mary and Christian, and the Countess of Buchan,
came, under the escort of young Nigel Bruce, to join them. A few weeks
ensued in the wilds of Bredalbane which had all the grace of "As You Like
It." The Queen and ladies were lodged in bowers of the branches of trees,
slept on the skins of deer and roe, and the King and his young knights
hunted, fished, or gathered the cranberry or the whortleberry for their
food; while the French courtliness of James Douglas, and the gracious
beauty of young Nigel, threw a romance over the whole of the sufferings
so faithfully and affectionately endured.
But advancing autumn forced them to think of providing shelter, and
as they advanced toward the Tay, they came into the country of John
Macdougal, Lord of Lorn, a son-in-law of the Red Comyn, and therefore at
deadly feud with the Bruces. He collected his Highland vassals, and set
upon the little band in a narrow pass between a lake and a precipice,
where they could not use their horses: and the Highlanders did dreadful
execution with their Lochaber axes; James Douglas was wounded, and so
many of the horses destroyed, that Bruce ordered a retreat, and set
himself to cover it, almost alone. Lorn himself was reminded of the
heroes of Highland romance, as he saw the knightly figure riding calmly
along the shore of the lake, guarding his flying army by the might of
his presence, and the Archdeacon of Aberdeen found a simile for him in
the romances of Alexander; but three men named M'Androsser, a father
and two sons, all of great strength, sprang forward, vowing to slay the
champion, or make him prisoner. One seized his rein, and at the same
moment Bruce's sword sheared off the detaining hand, but not before the
other brother had grasped his leg to hurl him from the saddle. With a
touch of the spur the horse leaped forward, and as the man fell, his
head was cleft by the King's sword. The grapple with the father was more
severe; he grasped the King's mantle, and when Bruce dashed out his
brains with his mace, the death-clutch was so fast, that Bruce was
forced to undo the brooch at his throat to free himself from the dead
man. The brooch was brought as a trophy to Lorn, whose party could not
help breaking out into expressions of admiration, which began to anger
"It seems to give you pleasure," he said, "to see such havoc made among
us." "Not so," answered one; "but be he friend or foe who achieves high
deeds of knighthood, men should do faithful witness to his valor."
When the King had safely conducted his friends from this danger, he
decided that the ladies should be placed in Kildrummie Castle, in Mar,
under the keeping of young Nigel, while his followers dispersed for the
winter, and he would shelter in the Hebrides. It was a sad and long
parting, for Kildrummie Castle was soon taken, and Edward sternly
condemned Nigel to be hung, in spite of his youth and innocence; and
Christopher Seton, the King's dearest friend, was soon after taken, and
shared the same fate. The bishops were carried in chains to England,
and Queen Joan also was sent home as a prisoner with her little daughter
Marjory. Mary Bruce and Isabel of Buchan were still more harshly
treated, being each shut up in an open cage of latticed wood, exposed
to the weather and to the public gaze, the one at Berwick, the other
at Roxburgh Castle. Christian had the better fate of being placed in a
In the meantime, Bruce and his few friends had wandered on to the banks
of Loch Lomond, where they could only find one leaky boat, unable to
hold more than three. Bruce, Douglas, and one other were the first
to cross, and the third then rowed back for another freight, while
throughout this tedious waiting the King made his friends forget their
troubles by reciting poems and tales of chivalry. He spent part of the
winter in Kentire, and the rest at the little island of Rachrin,
so entirely lost to the knowledge of his enemies, that derisive
proclamation was made for Robert Bruce, lost, stolen, or strayed. The
Pope's legate solemnly excommunicated him at Carlisle, with bell, book,
and candle; and Annandale was given to the Earl of Hereford, and Carrick
to Henry Percy, whilst the executions of his relatives and adherents
were both savage and cruel.
It was while depressed by such dreadful tidings that Bruce, as he lay on
his bed at Rachrin, drew counsel and encouragement from the persevering
spider, resolved to stake his fortunes on another cast, and, if
unsuccessful, to die as a warrior in the Holy Land. The spring of 1307
was coming on, and he had found a friend in Christina, the Lady of the
Isles, who furnished him with some vessels, in which Douglas descended
upon the Isle of Arran, and surprised Brodick Castle, which was full of
Bruce was not long in following them, and, landing secretly, blew his
"The King!" cried James Douglas; "I know his manner of blowing!"
"The King!" cried Robert Boyd; "let us make speed to join him!".
Bruce had brought with him thirty-three galleys, and, meditating a
landing in his own county of Carrick, just opposite, he sent a trusty
friend, named Cuthbert, to feel his way; agreeing that, if he found
the people favorably disposed, he should light a fire as a signal on
Turnberry Head. The flame burst out at night, and Bruce and his little
band embarked; but, on landing, he found no welcome on the shore, only
Cuthbert, who knelt in dismay to assure the King that he knew not what
hand had kindled the blaze; it was none of his, for the people were
terror-stricken, Turnberry Castle was full of English, and he feared
that it was the work of treachery. Nor has that strange beacon ever been
accounted for; it is still believed to have been lit by no mortal hand,
and the spot where it shone forth is called the Bogle's Brae. Whether
meteor or watch-fire, it lit the way to Robert Bruce's throne.
He took counsel whether to return, or not; but his fiery brother,
Edward, vowed that, for his part, he would never return to the sea, but
would seek his adventures by land, and Bruce decided on being led by his
strange destiny. Percy's horses and men were quartered in the villages
round, and falling on them by surprise, he made a rich booty, and drove
the remainder to take refuge in the castle.
A lady of Bruce's kindred brought him forty men and a supply of money
and provisions, but, on the other hand, she told him the sad news of the
loss of Kildrummie and the death of Nigel; and nearly at the same time,
his two youngest brothers, who had been to collect forces in Ireland,
were met as they landed by the Macdowalls of Galloway, routed, wounded,
and made prisoners. They were taken to King Edward at Carlisle, and at
once hanged without mercy. Bruce vowed a deadly vengeance, but he was
again put to dreadful straits. He had four hundred men with him at
Ammock, in Ayrshire, when Aymar de Valence and John of Lorn pursued him
with eight hundred Highlanders and men-at-arms, setting on his traces a
bloodhound, once a favorite of his own, and whose instinct they basely
employed against his master.
Bruce, hoping to confuse them, divided his followers into three bands,
appointing them a place of meeting; but the hound was not to be thus
baffled, and followed up his master's footsteps. Again the royal party
broke up, the King keeping with him only his foster-brother; but again
the hound singled out his traces, and followed him closely. Lorn sent
on five of his fleetest Highlanders to outstrip the dog, believing them
able to cope with the two whose footmarks he saw. Bruce soon saw them
dashing alter him, and asked his foster-brother, "What aid wilt them
"The best I can," he said; and the King undertook to deal with three,
leaving the other two to his foster-brother; but he had to turn aside
from his own combat to rescue his companion, and four out of the five
fell by his hand; yet he thanked his foster-brother for his aid in
the encounter. The baying of the hound came near enough to be heard,
revealing why the enemy had so well distinguished his tread: and Bruce,
who had been sitting under a tree, spent with fatigue, sprang up,
exclaiming that he had heard that to wade a bow-shot through a stream
would make any dog lose scent, and he would put it to proof by walking
down the little stream that crossed the wood. This device succeeded, the
running water effaced the scent, the hound was at fault, and Lorn gave
up the attempt.
Still the hunted pair were in evil case; they had lost their way, and
were spent with fatigue, and they could not extricate themselves from
the forest. By and by they met three wild, vagabond-looking men coming
with swords and axes, and one with a sheep thrown over his shoulders.
The King accosted them, and asked whither they were bound. They said
they sought Robert Bruce, since, wherever he was, there would be
"Come with me," he said; "I will take you to him."
At this they changed countenance, so that he suspected them, and
insisted that they should walk on before him in front, without the two
parties mingling together. At nightfall they came to an empty shed,
where they killed the sheep; but Bruce, still on his guard, chose to
have a separate fire, and to eat and sleep apart beside it, himself and
his foster-brother taking turns to watch. The foster-brother, heavy and
exhausted, dropped off to sleep on his watch, and almost at the same
moment the three robbers fell upon them. Bruce, who slept lightly, was
on the alert in a moment, and slew the whole three, but not in time to
save his foster-brother, who died under a blow from the marauders. The
King then went mournfully on his way to the place of rendezvous, and by
and by came to a farm, where he was welcomed by a loyal goodwife,
who declared that she wished well to all travellers for the sake of
one--King Robert. Here he was joined by one hundred and fifty men, with
his brother Edward, and James Douglas; and the first remedy thought of
for all their fatigues was to fall on their pursuers, who were carousing
in the villages. Attacking them suddenly, they inflicted far more injury
than had been suffered through this day of pursuit.
Bruce was gathering men so fast, that he ventured to give battle to
Aymar de Valence at London Hill, and defeated him chiefly by using the
long spears of the Scottish infantry against the horse of the English.
Aymar went to explain the state of affairs to King Edward at Carlisle.
Such tidings lashed the old monarch to more vehement action; he prepared
to set forth at once against the enemy; but it was not to be. Wars were
over with him forever. The sudden death of his daughter, Joan, strongly
affected him, and at only one day's march from Carlisle he became so
ill, that he was forced to rest at Burgh on the Sands, where he speedily
declined. His last injunctions to his son were, to be kind to his little
brothers, and to maintain three hundred knights for three years in the
Holy Land. The report went, that he further desired that his flesh might
be boiled off his bones, and these wrapped in a bull's hide to serve as
a standard to the army; but Edward's hatred never was so mad as this
would have been, and there is no reason to believe in so absurd a story.
There could perhaps be found no more appropriate monument than that in
Westminster Abbey, contrasting, as it does, its stern simplicity with
the gorgeous grace of his father's inlaid shrine, and typifying well the
whole story of the fallen though still devout crusader--the dark-gray
slab of Purbeck marble, with the inscription:
Edwardus Primus. Malleus Scotorum, 1308. Pactum Serva.
Edward the First. The Hammer of the Scots. Keep covenants.
THE VICTIM OF BLACKLOW HILL.
_King of England_.
1307. Edward II.
_King of Scotland_.
1306. Robert I.
_King of France_.
1385. Philippe IV.
_Emperor of Germany_.
1308. Henry VII.
1305. Clement V.
"The foolishness of the people" is a title that might be given to many
a son of a wise father. The very energy and prudence of the parent,
especially when employed on ambitious or worldly objects, seems to
cause distaste, and even opposition, in the youth on whom his father's
pursuits have been prematurely forced. Seeing the evil, and weary of
the good, it often requires a strong sense of duty to prevent him from
flying to the contrary extreme, or from becoming wayward, indifferent,
This has been the history of many an heir-apparent, and of none more
decidedly than of Edward of Carnarvon. The Plantagenet weakness, instead
of the stern strength of the house of Anjou, had descended to him; and
though he had what Fuller calls "a handsome man-case," his fair and
beautiful face was devoid of the resolute and fiery expression of his
father, and showed somewhat of the inanity of regular features, without
a spirit to illuminate them. Gentle, fond of music, dancing, and every
kind of sport, he had little turn for state affairs; and like his
grandfather, Henry III., but with more constancy, he clung to any one
who had been able to gain his affections, and had neither will nor
judgment save that of the friend who had won his heart.
His first friend--and it was a friendship till death--was Piers
Gaveston, the son of a knight of Guienne. Piers was a few years older
than the Prince, and so graceful, handsome, ready of tongue, and
complete in every courtly accomplishment, that Edward I. highly
approved of him as his son's companion in early boyhood; and Piers
shared in the education of the young Prince of Wales and of his favorite
sister, Elizabeth. Edward I. was a fond father, and granted his son's
friend various distinguished marks of favor, among others the wardship
of Roger, the son and heir of the deceased Edmund Mortimer, warden of
the Marches of Wales. Whatever were the intentions of Gaveston, Roger
Mortimer did little credit to his education. The guardian had a license
to use his ward's property like his own till his majority, in order that
he might levy the retainers for the King's service, and he obtained a
handsome gratuity from the relatives of the lady to whom he gave the
youth in marriage, and this, probably, was the extent of the obligations
to which Gaveston considered himself as bound.
Both he and his Prince were strongly sensitive to all that was tasteful
and beautiful; they were profuse in their expenditure in dress, in
ornament, and in all kinds of elegances, and delighted in magnificent
entertainments. They gave one in the Tower of London to the princesses,
on which occasion an immense expenditure was incurred, when the Prince
of Wales was only fifteen; and his presents were always on the grandest
scale to his sisters, who seem to have loved him as sisters love an only
By and by, however, generosity became profusion, and love of pleasure
ran into dissipation. Grave men grew uneasy at the idle levity of the
Prince, and were seriously offended by the gibes and jests in which the
tongue of Gaveston abounded, and at which he was always ready to laugh.
In 1305, the Prince made application to Walter Langley, Bishop of
Litchfield, the King's treasurer, to supply him with money, but was
refused, and spoke improperly in his anger. It is even said that he
joined Gaveston in the wild frolic of breaking into Langley's park, and
stealing his deer. At any rate, at Midhurst, on the 13th of June, the
Bishop seriously reproved him for his idle life and love of low company;
and the Prince replied with such angry words, that the King, in extreme
displeasure, sent him in a sort of captivity to Windsor Castle, with
only two servants.
All his sisters rose up to take their brother's part, and assure him of
their sympathy. The eager, high-spirited Joan, Countess of Gloucester,
sent him her seal, that he might procure whatever he pleased at her
cost; and Elizabeth, who was married to Humphrey de Bohun, the great
Earl of Hereford, wrote a letter of warm indignation, to which he
replied by begging her not to believe anything, save that his father was
acting quite rightly by him; but a few weeks after, he wrote to beg
her to intercede that his "two valets," Gilbert de Clare and Perot de
Gaveston, "might be restored to him, as they would alleviate much of
his anguish." He addressed a letter with the like petition to his
stepmother, Queen Margaret, and continued to evince his submission by
refusing his sister Mary's invitations to visit her at her convent at
Ambresbuiy. At the meeting of parliament, Edward met his father again,
and received his forgiveness. All went well for some time, and he
gracefully played his part in the pageantry of his knighthood and the
vow of the Swans.
Gaveston still continued about his person, and accompanied him to the
north of England. At the parliament of Carlisle, in 1307, the Prince
besought his father to grant his friend the earldom of Cornwall, the
richest appanage in the kingdom, just now vacant by the death of his
cousin, Edmund d'Almaine, son of the King of the Romans. Whether this
presumptuous request opened the King's eyes to the inordinate power that
Gaveston exercised over his son, or whether he was exasperated against
him by the complaints of the nobles, his reply was, to decree that,
after a tournament fixed for the 9th of April, Gaveston must quit the
kingdom forever; and he further required an oath from both the friends,
that they would never meet, again, even after his death. Oaths were
lightly taken in those days, and neither of the gay youths was likely to
resist the will of the stern old monarch; so the pledge was taken, and
the Prince of Wales remained lonely and dispirited, while Piers hovered
on the outskirts of the English dominions, watching for tidings that
could hardly be long in coming.
So much did Edward I. dread his influence, that, on his deathbed, he
obliged his son to renew his abjuration of Gaveston's company, and laid
him under his paternal malediction should he attempt to recall him.
It does not appear that Gaveston waited for a summons. He hurried to
present himself before his royal friend, who had, in pursuance of his
father's orders, advanced as far as Cumnock, in Ayrshire.
Both had bitterly to rue their broken faith, and heavily did the
father's curse weigh upon them; but at first there was nothing but
transport in their meeting. The merry Piers renewed his jests and
gayeties; he set himself to devise frolics and pageantries for his young
master, and speedily persuaded him to cease from the toils of war in
dreary Scotland, and turn his face homeward to the more congenial
delights of his coronation, and his marriage with the fairest maiden
in Europe. To have made peace with Bruce because the war was an unjust
aggression, would have been noble; but it was base neither to fight nor
to treat, and to leave unsupported the brave men who held castles in
his name in the heart of the enemy's country. But Edward was only
twenty-two, Gaveston little older, and sport was their thought, instead
of honor or principle. Piers even mocked at the last commands of the
great Edward, and not only persuaded the new King to let the funeral
take place without waiting for the conquest of Scotland, but to bestow
on him even the bequest set apart for the maintenance of the knights in
Palestine. At Dumfries, on his first arrival, the coveted earldom of
Cornwall was granted to him; and, on his return, he was married to the
King's niece, Margaret de Clare, daughter to Joan of Acre. He held his
head higher than ever, and showed great discourtesy to the nobility. He
had announced a tournament at Wallingford in honor of his wedding, and
hearing that a party of knights were coming to the assistance of the
barons who had accepted his encounter, he sallied out privately with
his followers, and attacked and dispersed the allies, so as to have the
advantage in his own hands in the melee. Such a dishonorable trick was
never forgotten, though probably the root was chiefly vanity, which
seems to have been the origin of all his crimes, and of his ruin.
The chancellor and all the late King's tried ministers were displaced,
and some, among whom was the good Bishop of Litchfield, were imprisoned
for two years. Gaveston, without any regular appointment, took the great
seal into his own keeping, and set it to charters which he filled up
after his fancy. In the meantime, the King set off for France, to
celebrate his marriage with Isabel, the daughter of Philippe le Bel,
the princess for whose sake the Flemish maiden was pining to death in
captivity. The seal of this most wretched of unions was, that Philippe
took this opportunity of persuading the gentle, reluctant Edward II, to
withdraw his protection from the Templars in his dominions, and give
them up to the horrible cruelty and rapacity of their exterminator.
Isabel's dowry was furnished from their spoils. The wedding took place
on St. Paul's Day, 1308, in the presence of four kings and queens, and
the festivities lasted a fortnight; after which the young bride and
bridegroom set off on their return to Dover, where Edward's favorite
sister, Elizabeth, was already come to greet the little Queen, a
beautiful girl of thirteen, proud, high-spirited, and exacting, very
unwilling to be treated as a child. Her two uncles came with her, and
a splendid train of nobles; and two days after their landing, Gaveston
arrived at Dover, when, at first sight of him, Edward rushed into his
arms, calling him brother, and disregarding every one else. Almost at
the same time the King gave his favorite the whole of the rich jewelry
and other gifts which had been bestowed on him by his father-in-law,
Philippe le Bel; and this was regarded as a great affront by the young
Queen and her uncles. Gaveston had a childish complaint of his own
to make--men would not call him by his new title; and presently a
proclamation came out, rendering it a crime to speak of him as Piers,
Piers Gaveston, or as anything but the Earl of Cornwall.
It was the more resented because he was not respectful with other men's
titles, and amused the King with nicknames for the nobles. Thomas, Earl
of Lancaster, the son of Edmund Crouchback, was "the old hog" and
the "stage-player;" pale, dark, Provencal Aymar de Valence, Earl of
Pembroke, he called "Joseph the Jew;" the fierce Guy, Earl of Warwick,
"the black dog of Ardennes." The stout Earl swore that he should find
that the dog could show his teeth; and when Gaveston announced a
tournament for the 18th of February at Feversham, no one chose to attend
it, whereupon he jeered at them as cowards.
The King issued writs summoning his nobles to meet for his coronation on
the 25th of February, but they took the opportunity of insisting that
Gaveston should be dismissed from favor. Edward evasively answered that
he would attend to their wishes at the meeting of parliament, and they
were obliged to be content for the present; but they were exceedingly
angry that, at the coronation, Piers appeared more splendidly and richly
attired than the King himself, and bearing on a cushion the crown of St.
Edward, while the Earl of Lancaster carried curtana, the sword of mercy,
and his brother Henry the rod with the dove. The Bishop of Winchester
performed the ceremony, Archbishop Winchelsea not having returned from
his exile; and the King and Queen made magnificent offerings: the
King's being first, a figure of a king in gold, holding a ring; the
second, of a pilgrim given the ring; intended to commemorate the vision
in which St. Edward received the coronation-ring from St. John the
Gaveston arranged the whole ceremony; but as his own display was his
chief thought, he managed to affront every one, and more especially the
young Queen and her uncles, so that Isabel wrote a letter to her father
full of complaints of her new lord and his favorite, and Philippe
entered into correspondence with the discontented nobility. In the
tournaments in honor of the coronation, Piers came off victorious over
the Earls of Lancaster, Hereford, Pembroke, and Warrenne, and this
mortification greatly added to their dislike. At the meeting of
parliament, the Barons were so determined against the favorite, that
finally Edward was obliged to yield, and to swear to keep him out of the
kingdom; though, to soften the sentence, he gave him the manors of High
Peak and Cockermouth, and made him governor of Ireland, bestowing on
him, as a parting token, all the young Queen's gifts to himself--rings,
chains, and brooches; another great vexation to Isabel. He was obliged,
at the same time, to grant forty other articles, giving greater security
to the people.
Gaveston made a better governor of Ireland than could have been
expected, repressed several incursions of the wild Irish, and repaired
the castles on the borders of the English pale; but his haughty
deportment greatly affronted the Irish barons of English blood, and they
were greatly discontented with his rule.
The King was, in the meantime, doing his utmost to procure the recall
of the beloved Earl. He wrote to the Pope to obtain absolution from his
oath, and to the King of France to entreat him to relax his hostility;
and he strove to gain his nobles over one by one, granting offices to
Lancaster, and making concessions to all the rest. Philippe le Bel made
no answer; Clement V. sent exhortations to him to live in harmony with
his subjects, but at last absolved Gaveston, on condition that he should
demean himself properly, and submit his differences with the Barons to
the judgment of the Church.
Gaveston hurried home on the instant; his master flew to meet him, and
received him at Chester with raptures of affection. Thence Edward sent
explanations to the sheriffs of each county, saying, that Gaveston
having been unjustly and violently banished, it was his duty to recall
him, to have his conduct examined into according to the laws. The
Barons, on the other hand, put forth other declarations, persuading the
people that the King having violated one of the oaths, he evidently
meant to break the other forty, which regarded their personal liberties.
Gaveston did nothing to mitigate the general aversion. He had not learnt
wisdom by his first fall, and though the clergy and commons meeting at
Stamford granted a twenty-fifth of the year's produce to the King, and
consented to his remaining so long as he should demean himself properly,
he soon disgusted them also. He wore the crown-jewels openly, and
affected greater contempt than ever for the Barons, till it became
popularly said that there were two Kings, the real one a mere subject to
the false. The young Queen wrote piteous complaints to her father of her
husband's neglect; and the Countess of Cornwall had still greater wrongs
from Gaveston to complain of to her brother, the Earl of Gloucester.