Part 6 out of 6
Any one who had noticed the prisoner's demeanor for the last few
days would have been struck with the change which had come over
it. Hitherto he had stood often for hours leaning motionless, with
his arms crossed, in the corner of his cage, with head bent down and
listless air, his thoughts only being busy; now he paced restlessly
up and down his narrow limits, two steps each way and then a turn,
like a caged beast; his hands were clenched, his breast heaved,
his breath came fast, his head was thrown back, often he brushed
his hand across his eyes, and rapid words came from his lips.
The sun sank. An hour later a jailer brought his jug of water and
piece of bread, and then, without a word, retired, leaving, as usual,
the door into the cell open, but carefully locking and barring the
inner door. Archie had a longer walk now, from the front of the
cage to the back of the cell, and for three hours he paced up and
down. Sometimes he paused and listened attentively. The sounds in
the town gradually died away and all became still, save that he
could hear the calls of the warder on the battlement above him.
The night was a very dark one and he could scarcely make out the
gleam of water in the moat below.
Suddenly something struck him a sharp blow on the face and fell at
his feet. He stooped and picked it up, it was an arrow with a wad
of wool fastened round its point to prevent it from making a noise
should it strike the wall or cage; to the other end was attached a
piece of string. Archie drew it in until he felt that it was held
firmly, then after a moment the hold relaxed somewhat, and the
string again yielded as he drew it. It was now, he felt, taut from
the other side of the moat. Presently a stout rope, amply sufficient
to bear his weight, came into his hands. At the point of junction
was attached some object done up in flannel. This he opened, and
found that it was a fine saw and a small bottle containing oil. He
fastened the rope securely to one of the bars and at once commenced
to saw asunder one of the others. In five minutes two cuts had
been noiselessly made, and a portion of the bar five feet long came
away. He now tried the rope and found that it was tightly stretched,
and evidently fixed to some object on the other side of the moat.
He grasped it firmly with his arms and legs and slid rapidly down
In another minute he was grasped by some strong arms which checked
his rapid progress and enabled him to gain his feet without the
slightest noise. As he did so a woman threw her arms round him,
and he exchanged a passionate but silent embrace with Marjory. Then
she took his hand and with noiseless steps they proceeded down the
road. He had before starting removed his shoes and put them in his
pockets. Marjory and her companion had also removed their shoes,
and even the keenest ears upon the battlements would have heard
no sound as they proceeded along the road. Fifty yards farther and
they were among the houses. Here they stopped a minute and put on
their shoes, and then continued their way. Not a word was spoken
until they had traversed several streets and stopped at the door
of a house in a quiet lane; it yielded to Marjory's touch, she and
Archie entered, and their follower closed and fastened it after
The moment this was done Marjory threw her arms round Archie's neck
with a burst of tears of joy and relief. While Archie was soothing
her the third person stirred up the embers on the hearth and threw
on a handful of dry wood.
"And who is your companion?" Archie asked, after the first transports
of joy and thankfulness were past.
"What! don't you recognize Cluny?" Marjory asked, laughing through
"Cluny! of course," Archie exclaimed, grasping his follower's hand
in his. "I only caught a glimpse of your face and knew that it was
familiar to me, but in vain tried to recall its owner. Why, Cluny,
it is a long time since you went dressed as a girl into Ayr! And
so it is my good friend who had shared my wife's dangers."
"He has done more than that, Archie," Marjory said, "for it was
to him that I owe my first idea of coming here. The moment after
the castle was taken and it was found that you had been carried
off in a boat by the English, Cluny started to tell me the news.
Your mother and I were beside ourselves with grief, and Cluny, to
comfort us, said, `Do not despair yet, my lady; my lord shall not
be killed by the English if I can prevent it. The master and I
have been in a good many dangers, and have always come out of them
safe; it shall not be my fault if he does not slip through their
hands yet.' `Why, what can you do, Cluny?' I said. `I don't know
what I can do yet,' he replied; `that must depend upon circumstances.
My lord is sure to be taken to Carlisle, and I shall go south to
see if I cannot get him out of prison. I have often gone among the
English garrisons disguised as a woman, and no one in Carlisle is
likely to ask me my business there.' It was plain to me at once that
if Cluny could go to your aid, so could I, and I at once told him
that I should accompany him. Cluny raised all sorts of objections,
but to these I would not listen, but brought him to my will by saying,
that if he thought my being with him would add to his difficulties
I would go alone, but that go I certainly would. So without more
ado we got these dresses and made south. We had a few narrow
escapes of falling into the hands of parties of English, but at last
we crossed the frontier and made to Carlisle. Three days later we
heard of your arrival, and the next morning all men were talking
about your defiance of the king, and that you had been sent to Berwick
for execution at the end of the week. So we journeyed hither and
got here the day after you arrived. The first step was to find
a Scotchwoman whom we might trust. This, by great luck, we did,
and Mary Martin, who lives in this house, is a true Scotchwoman,
and will help us to the extent of her power; she is poor, for her
husband, who is an Englishman, had for some time been ill, and died
but yesterday. He was, by what she says, a hard man and cruel, and
his death is no grief to her, and Mary will, if she can, return
with her daughter to Roxburgh, where her relations live, and where
she married her husband, who was a soldier in the English garrison
"But, Marjory," Archie said, "have you thought how we are to escape
hence; though I am free from the castle I am still within the walls
of Berwick, and when, tomorrow, they find that I have escaped, they
will search every nook and corner of the town. I had best without
delay try and make my way over the walls."
"That was the plan Cluny and I first thought of," Marjory replied;
"but owing to the raids of the Douglas on the border, so strict
a watch is kept on the walls that it would be difficult indeed to
pass. Cluny has tried a dozen times each night, but the watch is
so vigilant that he has each time failed to make his way past them,
but has been challenged and has had several arrows discharged at
him. The guard at the gates is extremely strict, and all carts that
pass in and out are searched. Could you have tried to pass before
your escape was known you might no doubt have done so in disguise,
but the alarm will be given before the gates are open in the morning,
and your chance of passing through undetected then would be small
indeed. The death of the man Martin suggested a plan to me. I
have proposed it to his wife, and she has fallen in with it. I
have promised her a pension for her life should we succeed, but I
believe she would have done it even without reward, for she is a
true Scotchwoman. When she heard who it was that I was trying to
rescue, she said at once she would risk anything to save the life
of one of Scotland's best and bravest champions; while, on the other
hand, she cares not enough for her husband to offer any objection
to my plans for the disposal of his body."
"But what are your plans, Marjory?"
"All the neighbours know that Martin is dead; they believe that Cluny
is Mary's sister and I her niece, and she has told them that she
shall return with us to Roxburgh. Martin was a native of a village
four miles hence, and she is going to bury him with his fathers
there. Now I have proposed to her that Martin shall be buried
beneath the wood store here, and that you shall take his place in
"It is a capital idea, Marjory," Archie said, "and will assuredly
succeed if any plan can do so. The only fear is that the search
will be so hot in the morning that the soldiers may even insist
upon looking into the coffin."
"We have thought of that," Marjory said, "and dare not risk it.
We must expect every house to be searched in the morning, and have
removed some tiles in the attic. At daybreak you must creep out
on the roof, replace the tiles, and remain hidden there until the
search is over. Martin will be laid in the coffin. Thus, even
should they lift the lid, no harm will come of it. Directly they
have gone, Cluny will bring you down, and you and he dig the grave
in the floor of the woodshed and place Martin there, then you
will take his place in the coffin, which will be placed in a cart
already hired, and Cluny, I, Mrs. Martin, and her daughter will
then set out with it.
Soon after daybreak the quick strokes of the alarm bell at the
castle told the inhabitants of Berwick that a prisoner had escaped.
Archie at once betook himself to his place of concealment on the
roof. He replaced the tiles, and Cluny carefully obliterated all
signs of the place of exit from within. A great hubbub had by
this time arisen in the street. Trumpets were blowing, and parties
of soldiers moving about in all directions. The gates remained
unopened, orders being given that none should pass through without
a special order from the governor.
The sentries on the wall were doubled, and then a house to house
search was commenced, every possible place of concealment being
rummaged from basement to attic. Presently the searchers entered the
lane in which Mrs. Martin lived. The latch was ere long lifted,
and a sergeant and six soldiers burst into the room. The sight
which they beheld quieted their first noisy exclamations. Four
women in deep mourning were kneeling by a rough coffin placed on
trestles. One of them gave a faint scream as they entered, and Mary
Martin, rising to her feet, said:
"What means this rough intrusion?"
"It means," the sergeant said, "that a prisoner has escaped from
the castle, one Archibald Forbes, a pestilent Scotch traitor. He
has been aided by friends from without, and as the sentries were
watchful all night, he must be hidden somewhere in the town, and
every house is to be searched."
"You can search if you will," the woman said, resuming the position
on her knees. "As you see, this is a house of mourning, seeing
that my husband is dead, and is today to be buried in his native
village, three miles away."
"He won't be buried today," the sergeant said; "for the gates are
not to be opened save by a special order from the governor. Now,
lads," he went on, turning to the men, "search the place from top
to bottom, examine all the cupboards and sound the floors, turn over
all the wood in the shed, and leave not a single place unsearched
where a mouse could be hid."
The soldiers scattered through the house, and were soon heard
knocking the scanty furniture about and sounding the floors and
walls. At last they returned saying that nothing was to be found.
"And now," the sergeant said, "I must have a look in that coffin.
Who knows but what the traitor Scot may be hid in there!"
Mrs. Martin leaped to her feet.
"You shall not touch the coffin," she said; "I will not have the
remains of my husband disturbed." The sergeant pushed her roughly
aside, and with the end of his pike prised up the lid of the coffin,
while Mrs. Martin and the other three mourners screamed lustily
and wrung their hands in the greatest grief at this desecration of
Just as the sergeant opened the coffin and satisfied himself that
a dead man really lay within, an officer, attracted by the screams,
entered the room.
"What is this, sergeant?" he asked angrily. "The orders were to
search the house, but none were given you to trouble the inmates."
Mrs. Martin began volubly to complain of the conduct of the soldiers
in wrenching open the coffin.
"It was a necessary duty, my good woman," the officer said, "seeing
that a living man might have been carried away instead of a dead
one; however, I see all is right."
"Oh, kind sir!" Mrs. Martin said, sobbing, "is it true what this
man tells me, that there is no passage through the gates today? I
have hired a cart to take away my husband's body; the grave is dug,
and the priest will be waiting. Kind sir, I pray of you to get me
a pass to sally out with it, together with my daughter, sister,
"Very well," the officer said kindly, "I will do as you wish. I
shall be seeing the governor presently to make my report to him;
and as I have myself seen the dead body can vouch that no ruse
is intended. But assuredly no pass will be given for any man to
accompany you; and the Scot, who is a head and shoulders taller
than any of you, would scarcely slip out in a woman's garment. When
will the cart be here?"
"At noon," the woman replied.
"Very well; an hour before that time a soldier will bring out the
pass. Now, sergeant, have you searched the rest of the house?"
"Yes, sir; thoroughly, and nothing suspicious has been found."
"Draw off your men, then, and proceed, with your search elsewhere."
No sooner had the officer and men departed than Cluny ran upstairs,
and removing two of the tiles, whispered to Archie that all was
clear. The hole was soon enlarged, and Archie re-entering, the pair
descended to the woodshed which adjoined the kitchen, and there,
with a spade and mattock which Cluny had purchased on the preceding
day, they set to work to dig a grave. In two hours it was completed.
The body of John Martin was lowered into it, the earth replaced
and trodden down hard, and the wood again piled on to it.
At eleven o'clock a soldier entered with the governor's pass
ordering the soldier at the gate to allow a cart with the body of
John Martin, accompanied by four women, to pass out from the town.
At the appointed time the cart arrived. Archie now took his place
in the coffin. His face was whitened, and a winding sheet wrapped
round him, lest by an evil chance any should insist on again
looking into the coffin. Then some neighbours came in and assisted
in placing the coffin in the cart. The driver took his place beside
it, and the four women, with their hoods drawn over their heads,
fell in behind it weeping bitterly.
When they arrived at the gate the officer in charge carefully read
the order, and then gave the order for the gate to be opened. "But
stop," he said, "this pass says nothing about a driver, and though
this man in no way resembles the description of the doughty Scot,
yet as he is not named in the pass I cannot let him pass." There
was a moment's pause of consternation, and then Cluny said:
"Sister Mary, I will lead the horse. When all is in readiness, and
the priest waits, we cannot turn back on such a slight cause." As
the driver of the cart knew Mary Martin, he offered no objection,
and descended from his seat. Cluny took the reins, and, walking by
the side of the horse's head, led him through the gates as these
were opened, the others following behind. As soon as they were
through, the gate closed behind them, and they were safely out of
the town of Berwick.
So long as they were within sight of the walls they proceeded at
a slow pace without change of position, and although Cluny then
quickened the steps of his horse, no other change was made until two
miles further they reached a wood. Then Cluny leapt into the cart
and wrenched off the lid of the coffin. It had been but lightly
nailed down, and being but roughly made there were plenty of crevices
through which the air could pass.
"Quick, Sir Archie!" he said, "let us get this thing out of the
cart before any person happen to come along."
The coffin was lifted from the cart, and carried some short
distance into the wood. A few vigorous kicks separated the planks
which composed it. These were taken and thrust separately among
bushes at some little distance from each other. Cluny then unrolled
the bundle which he had brought from the cart, and handed to Archie
a suit of clothes fitted for a farmer. These Archie quickly put
on, then he returned to the cart, which he mounted, and took the
reins. The others got up behind him and seated themselves on the
straw in the bottom of the cart. Then Archie gave the horse a smart
cut with his whip, and the cart proceeded at a steady trot along
the road to the west.
Chapter XXIV The Progress of the War
A mile or two after leaving Berwick the cart had left the main road
running by the coast through Dunbar to Edinburgh, and had struck
west by a country track. But few houses were met with, as the
whole of the country within many miles of the sea had been harried
and devastated by the various English armies which had advanced
from Berwick. After proceeding for some miles they came to a point
where the track they had been following terminated at a little hamlet
among the hills. Here they left the cart, making an arrangement with
one of the villagers to drive it back on the morrow into Berwick.
They were now beyond all risk of pursuit, and need fear nothing
further until they reached the great north roads running from
Carlisle to Edinburgh and Stirling. Cluny therefore resumed male
attire. They had no difficulty in purchasing a couple of swords
from the peasants of the village, and armed with these they started
with Marjory and the two women over the hills. It was early autumn
now; the weather was magnificent, and they made the distance in
quiet stages, and crossing the Pentlands came down upon Aberfilly
without meeting with a single danger or obstacle.
It needs not to describe the joy of Archie's mother at his return.
The news spread like lightning among the tenantry, and in an hour
after the wayfarers reached the castle men and women could be seen
flocking over the hills at the top of their speed to express their
delight and enthusiasm at their lord's return. By nightfall every
tenant on the estate, save those prevented by age or illness, had
assembled at the castle, and the rejoicings which had taken place
at the marriage of their lord were but tame and quiet beside the
boisterous enthusiasm which was now exhibited.
Although Marjory had at first been welcomed for the sake of her
husband, the fact that she was a Kerr had excited a deep though
hidden hostility to her in the minds both of those who had been
her father's vassals at Aberfilly, and the old retainers of the
Forbeses at Glen Cairn. The devotion and courage which she had shown
in the defence of the castle and in the enterprise for the rescue
of their lord swept away every vestige of this feeling, and henceforth
Marjory ranked in their affections with Archie himself, and there
was not a man upon the estate but felt that he could die for her
if needs be.
After a week's stay at home Archie rode away and joined the king,
taking, however, but four or five retainers with him. Bruce received
him with extreme warmth. He had heard of his capture, and the news
that he was condemned to die at Berwick had also reached him, and
he had no doubt but Archie had shared the fate which had befallen
his own brothers and so many of his bravest friends. His pleasure,
therefore, equalled his surprise when his brave follower rode into
his camp. Many of Archie's friends assembled as soon as it was
known that he had arrived; and after the first greetings the king
asked him for a recital of the means by which he had escaped from
the fate decreed him by Edward. Archie related the whole story,
and at its conclusion the king called to his attendants to bring
goblets and wine.
"Sirs," he said, "let us drink to the health of Mistress Marjory
Forbes, one of the bravest and truest of Scotch women. Would to
Heaven that all the men of our country were animated by as noble and
courageous feelings! Our friend, Sir Archibald Forbes, has indeed
won a jewel, and I take no small credit to myself that I was the
first who advised him to make Mistress Kerr his wife."
The toast was given with enthusiasm; but Archie afterwards protested
against the king assuming any credit to himself in the matter, since,
although it was true that he had advised him to marry Mistress Mary
Kerr, he had wished him to abandon, for her sake, Mistress Marjory,
the niece of Alexander MacDougall, who had set him free from her
uncle's hold of Dunstaffnage.
"Now, Archie," the king said, when they were again alone together,
"I suppose, seeing that you have come hither without your following,
that you wish for a time to remain quiet at home, and seeing that
you have suffered severe imprisonment and a grievous risk of death
in my cause, methinks you have well earned the right to rest quiet
for a while with your brave lady. At present I can dispense with
the services of your retainers. Most of the low country is now in
my hands, and the English garrisons dare not venture out of their
strong places. The army that the King of England collected to crush
us has been, I hear, much disorganized by his death, and the barons
will doubtless wring concessions and privileges from his son before
they spread their banners to the wind again. From all reports the
new king has but little of his father's ability and energy, and
months may elapse before any serious effort is made against us.
I am despatching my brother Edward to join Douglas in subduing
Galloway, and during his absence I shall be content to remain here
in the field with a small following, for the English governors
of the towns will, methinks, stand only on the defensive, until a
strong army marches north from England. When Galloway is subdued
the lowlands will be all in my hands save for the English garrisons,
and I shall on Edward's return set myself to punish the Comyns and
the other traitor nobles of the north, who are well nigh all hand
and glove with the English. So long as Scotland has such powerful
enemies in her midst she cannot hope to cope with the forces which
England can send against her. Alone and united the task is one
which will tax her strength to the utmost, seeing that England is
in wealth and population so far her superior, and Edward disposes
of the force of Ireland, of Wales, and of Gascony; therefore my
first task must be to root out these traitor nobles from among us.
When I move north I shall need your company and your strength; but
until Edward has cleared the English out of Galloway, captured the
strongholds, and reduced it to obedience, you can stop in Aberfilly,
and there at times, when I have no enterprise on hand and can take
a few days, I will come and rest if you will give me hospitality."
So until the following spring Archie Forbes remained quietly and
most happily at home. Several times the king came and stayed a few
days at Aberfilly, where he was safe against surprise and treachery.
Not long after Archie's return home, Father Anselm arrived, to
Archie's satisfaction and the great joy of Marjory, and took up
his abode there.
In the spring Archie, with his retainers,joined the king, who was
gathering his army for his march into the north. During the winter
Galloway had been subdued, and Douglas being left in the south as
commander there, Edward Bruce joined his brother, around whom also
gathered the Earl of Lennox, Sir Gilbert de la Haye, and others.
The position in Scotland was now singular: the whole of the
country south of the Forth was favourable to Bruce, but the English
held Roxburgh, Jedburgh, Dumfries, Castle Douglas, Ayr, Bothwell,
Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Stirling, and Dumbarton. North of the Forth
nearly the whole of the country was hostile to the king, and the
fortresses of Perth, Dundee, Forfar, Brechin, Aberdeen, Inverness,
and many smaller holds, were occupied by English garrisons.
The centre of hostility to Bruce, north of the Forth, lay in the two
great earls, the Comyns of Badenoch and Buchan, and their allies.
Between them and Bruce a hatred existed beyond that caused by
their taking opposite sides. Comyn of Badenoch was the son of the
man Bruce had slain at Dumfries, while Buchan hated him even more,
since his wife, the countess, had espoused the cause of Bruce and
had crowned him at Scone, and was now shamefully imprisoned in the
cage at Berwick. It must be supposed that Buchan's anger against
his countess was as deep and implacable as that of Edward himself,
for, as the English king's most powerful ally in Scotland, he could
surely have obtained the pardon and release of his wife had he
desired it. On the other hand, Bruce had a private grudge against
Comyn, for upon him had been conferred Bruce's lordship of Annandale,
and he had entered into possession and even occupied the family
castle of Lochmaben.
The king and his army marched north, and were joined by Alexander
and Simon Frazer, with their followers. They marched to Inverness,
which, with various other castles in the north, they captured. All of
these castles were, when taken, destroyed, as Bruce had determined
to leave no strongholds in the land for the occupation of his
enemies. He himself could not spare men to hold them, and their
capture was useless if upon his retirement they could again be
occupied by the enemy. Returning southward they were encountered
by an army under Buchan, composed of his own retainers and a party
of English. This force was completely defeated.
To the consternation of his followers Bruce was now attacked by a
wasting illness, which so enfeebled him that he was unable to sit
on his horse; it was the result of the many privations and hardships
which he had undergone since the fight at Methven. His brother,
Lennox, the Frazers, and Archie Forbes held a council and agreed
that rest for some time was absolutely necessary for the king, and
that sea air might be beneficial to him. They therefore resolved
to move eastward to the Castle of Slaines, on the sea coast
near Peterhead. That such a step was attended by great peril they
well knew, for the Comyns would gather the whole strength of the
Highlands, with accessions from the English garrisons, and besiege
them there. The king's health, however, was a paramount consideration;
were he to die, the blow might be fatal to Scotland, accordingly
the little force marched eastward. They reached Slaines without
interruption, and as they expected the castle was soon surrounded and
besieged by the forces of Buchan, who had been joined by Sir John
Mowbray and Sir David de Brechin, nephew of the King of England. For
some time the siege went on, but the assailants gained but little
advantage, and indeed trusted rather to famine than force to reduce
Weeks passed on, and although his followers thought that he was
somewhat better, the king's health improved but slowly. Provisions
now began to run very short. When they had come nearly to an end
the Scots determined to sally out and cut their way through the
vastly superior strength of the enemy. The king was placed in a
litter, his mounted knights and followers surrounded him, and round
these the footmen formed a close clump of pikes; the hundred men
from Aberfilly formed the front rank, as these could be best relied
upon to withstand the charge of the English horse. The gates were
thrown open, and in close ranks the garrison sallied out, forming,
as soon as they passed through, in the order arranged. So close
and serried was the hedge of spears, so quiet and determined the
attitude of the men, that, numerous as they were, the men of Buchan
and the English lords shrank from an encounter with such adversaries,
and with the banner of the king and his knights flying in their
centre the little band marched on through the lines of the besiegers
without the latter striking a blow to hinder their way.
Without interruption the royalists proceeded to Strathbogie. The
satisfaction of the king at the daring exploit by which he had been
rescued from such imminent peril did more for him than medicine or
change of air, and to the joy of his followers he began to recover
his strength. He was then moved down to the river Don. Here Buchan
and his English allies made a sudden attack upon his quarters,
killing some of the outposts. This attack roused the spirit and
energy of the king, and he immediately called for his war horse
and armour and ordered his men to prepare for action. His followers
remonstrated with him, but he declared that this attack by his
enemies had cured him more speedily than medicine could have done,
and heading his troops he issued forth and came upon the enemy
near Old Meldrum, where, after a desperate fight, Buchan and his
confederates were defeated with great slaughter on Christmas day,
1307. Buchan and Mowbray fled into England. Brechin took refuge
in his own castle of Brechin, where he was afterwards besieged and
forced to surrender.
Bruce now marched into the territory of Comyn, where he took a terrible
vengeance for the long adhesion of his hated enemy to England. The
whole country was wasted with fire and sword, the people well nigh
exterminated, and the very forests destroyed. So terrible was the
devastation that for generations afterwards men spoke of the harrying
of Buchan as a terrible and exceptional act of vengeance.
The castle of Aberdeen was next invested. The English made great
efforts for its succour, but the citizens joined Bruce, and a
united attack being made upon the castle it was taken by assault
and razed to the ground. The king and his forces then moved into
Angus. Here the English strongholds were all taken, the castle
of Forfar being assaulted and carried by a leader who was called
Phillip, a forester of Platane. With the exception of Perth, the
most important fortress north of the Forth, and a few minor holds,
the whole of the north of Scotland, was now in the king's hands.
In the meantime Sir James Douglas, in the south, had again taken
his paternal castle and had razed it to the ground. The forests of
Selkirk and Jedburgh, with the numerous fortresses of the district,
were brought under the king's authority, and the English were several
times defeated. In the course of these adventures Sir James came
across Alexander Stewart, Thomas Randolph, the king's nephew,
who, after being taken prisoner at Methven, had joined the English
party, and Adam O'Gordon. They advanced with a much superior force
to capture him, but were signally defeated. O'Gordon escaped into
England, but Stewart and Randolph were taken.
This was a fortunate capture, for Randolph afterwards became one of
the king's most valiant knights and the wisest of his counsellors.
After this action Douglas marched north and joined the king. The
latter sternly reproached Randolph for having forsworn his allegiance
and joined the English. Randolph answered hotly and was committed
by his uncle to solitary confinement, where he presently came to
a determination to renew his allegiance to Bruce, and henceforward
fought faithfully and gallantly under him.
Galloway had risen again, and Edward Bruce, with Sir Archie Forbes,
was detached to reduce it. It was a hard task, for the local
chiefs were supported by Sir Ingram de Umfraville and Sir John de
St. John; these knights, with 1200 followers, met the Scots on the
banks of the Cree, which separates the countries of Kirkcudbright
and Wigton, and although greatly superior in numbers, were completely
defeated by the Scottish pikemen, and compelled to take refuge in
the castle of Butele. Edward Bruce and Archie continued the task
of subjugating the country; but St. John having retired to England,
returned with fifteen hundred men-at-arms, and with this strong force
set out in pursuit of the small body of Scots, of whom he thought
to make an easy capture. Then occurred one of the most singular and
brilliant feats of arms that took place in a war in which deeds of
daring abounded. Edward Bruce having heard from the country people
of the approach of his adversaries, placed his infantry in a strong
position, and then, with Archie Forbes and the fifty men-at-arms
who constituted his cavalry, went out to reconnoitre the approach
of the English. The morning was thick and misty. Ignorant of each
other's position, the two forces were in close vicinity, when the
fog suddenly lifted, and Edward Bruce and Archie beheld close to
them the overwhelming force of St. John, within bowshot distance.
It was too late to fly. Edward Bruce exclaimed to Archie:
"There is nothing for it but to charge them."
"Let us charge them," Archie replied.
The two leaders, setting spurs to their horses, and closely followed
by their fifty retainers, dashed like a thunderbolt upon the mass
of the English men-at-arms, before these, taken equally by surprise,
had time to form, and burst clean through them, overthrowing and
slaying many, and causing the greatest confusion and surprise.
Riding but a short distance on, the Scots turned, and again burst
through the English lines. Numbers of the English were slain,
and many others turned rein. A third time the Scots charged, with
equally fatal effect. The English were completely routed. Many
were killed and many taken prisoners, and the rest rode for England
at their best speed. History scarcely recalls another instance of
50 men routing in fair fight 1500. This extraordinary success was
followed by a victory over Sir Roland of Galloway and Donald of
the Isles on the banks of the Dee, the Lord of the Isles being made
prisoner; and eventually the whole country was reduced to obedience,
with the exception of one or two garrisons, no less than thirteen
castles being captured, in addition to the victories gained in the
Galloway being restored to order, Archie Forbes returned home, and
remained for two or three months with his wife and mother. He was
then summoned by the king to join him again, as he was about to
march to reduce the region over which his deadly foes Alexander
and John of Lorne held sway. The country into which the royal army
now penetrated was extremely mountainous and difficult, but they
made their way as far as the head of Loch Awe, where Alexander and
John of Lorne, with 2000 men, were gathered to dispute the passage.
The position was an extremely strong one, and the Lornes were
confident that it could not be forced. Immediately to the north
of the head of the lake rises the steep and lofty mountain Ben
Gruachan. From the head of the lake flows the river Awe connecting
it with Loch Etive, and the level space between the foot of the
mountain and the river is only wide enough for two to ride abreast.
This passage was known as the Pass of Brander, and the Lornes might
well believe that their position was unassailable.
Before advancing into the pass Bruce detached Douglas, with Sir
Alexander Frazer, Sir William Wiseman, and Sir Andrew Grey, with
a body of lightly armed infantry and archers. These, unnoticed by
the enemy, climbed the side of the mountain, and going far up it,
passed along until they got behind and above the enemy. The king
ordered his main body to lay aside all defensive armour so that
they could more easily climb the hill and come to a hand to hand
conflict with the enemy. Then he moved along towards the narrow
pass. As they approached it the men of Lorne hurled down a torrent
of rocks from the hillside above.
With a few heavy armed men Bruce pushed forward by the water side,
while Archie Forbes led the main body up the hillside. The climb was
stiff and difficult, and many were swept down by the rocks hurled
by the enemy; but at last they came to close quarters with the foe,
and a desperate struggle ensued.
In the meantime Douglas and his party had attacked the defenders
from the other side, at first showering arrows among them, and
then falling upon them with sword and battleaxe. Thus attacked in
front and rear, the men of Lorne lost heart and gave way. On both
sides the royalists pressed them hotly, and at last they broke
from the hillside and fled down to the river, intending to cross
by a wooden bridge and destroy it behind them, but before many had
passed Douglas with his followers arrived upon the spot and seized
the bridge, cutting off their retreat. Great numbers of the men of
Lorne were slain, and the survivors made their escape up the mountain
side again. The Lornes themselves were on board some galleys on
Loch Awe, their intention having been to land in Bruce's rear when
he was fairly entangled in the narrow pass. On witnessing the utter
discomfiture of their followers they rowed rapidly away, and landed
far down the lake. Alexander fled to England, where he ended his
Bruce now advanced through the country of Lorne, which, having
never suffered from the English raids that had over and over again
devastated the rest of Scotland, was rich and flourishing, and large
quantities of booty were obtained. Dunstaffnage was besieged and
captured, and having received hostages from all the minor chiefs
for their good behaviour the king and his army returned to Glasgow.
In the following spring a truce was negotiated by the intervention
of the King of France between the belligerents; but its duration was
but short, for so long as English nobles held estates and occupied
castles in Scotland breaches of the peace would be constantly
occurring. Bruce besieged the castle of Rutherglen, near Glasgow;
but Edward despatched the Earl of Gloucester to raise the siege,
and as Bruce's army was still small he was forced to retire at his
In February, 1309, the clergy of Scotland assembled in a provincial
council at Dundee, and issued a declaration in favour of Bruce
as lawful king of Scotland. In this document they set forth that
although Baliol was made king of Scotland by the King of England,
Bruce, the grandfather of the king, was always recognized by the
people as being nearest in right; and they said: "If any one, on
the contrary, claim right to the aforesaid kingdom in virtue of
letters in time passed sealed, and containing the consent of the
people and the commons, know ye that all this took place in fact
by force and violence, which could not at the time be resisted,
and through multiplied fears, bodily tortures, and various terrors."
This document was sealed by all the bishops, as representing the
clergy. A similar document was drawn up and signed by the estates
of Scotland. Therefore, henceforth Bruce could claim to be the king
not only as crowned and by right, but by the approval and consent
of the clergy and people of Scotland. A few months afterwards James,
the Steward of Scotland, whose course had ever been vacillating, died,
and his son Walter, a loyal Scotsman, succeeded him. He afterwards
married the king's daughter Marjory, and became the founder of the
royal line of Stuart.
Chapter XXV The Capture of a Stronghold
While Bruce had by his energy and courage been wresting Scotland,
step by step, from the English, no serious effort had been made by
the latter to check his progress. Small bodies of troops had from
time to time been sent from the north; but the king had made no
great efforts, like those of his father, to reduce the country to
obedience by the exercise of the whole strength of England. Edward
II differed widely from his father in disposition. At times he was
roused to fits of spasmodic energy, but for the most part he was
sunk in sloth and supineness. He angered and irritated his barons
by his fondness for unworthy favourites, and was engaged in constant
broils with them.
So called governors of Scotland were frequently appointed and as
often superseded, but no effectual aid was given them to enable
them to check the ever spreading insurrection. But Perth was now
threatened by Bruce; and the danger of this, the strongest and most
important northern fortress, roused Edward from his lethargy. A
fleet was fitted out for the Tay. Troops, under the Earl of Ulster,
were engaged to be transported by an English fleet of forty ships,
supplied by the seaports, and intended to cooperate with John of
Lorne in the west. Edward himself, with a powerful army, accompanied
by the Lords Gloucester, Warrenne, Percy, Clifford, and others,
advanced into Scotland as far as Renfrew. Bruce could oppose no
effectual resistance in the field to so large a force, but he used
the tactics which Wallace had adopted with such success. The country
through which the English were advancing was wasted. Flocks and
herds were driven off, and all stores of grain burned and destroyed.
His adherents, each with their own retainers, hung upon the skirts
of the English army, cutting off small parties, driving back bodies
going out in search of provisions or forage, making sudden night
attacks, and keeping the English in a state of constant watchfulness
and alarm, but always retiring on the approach of any strong force,
and avoiding every effort of the English to bring on an engagement.
The invaders were soon pressed by want of provisions, and horses
died from lack of forage. The great army was therefore obliged to
fall back to Berwick without having struck a single effective blow.
After this Edward remained inactive at Berwick for eight months,
save that he once again crossed the Border and advanced as far as
Roxburgh, but only to retreat without having accomplished anything.
The Earls of Gloucester and Warrenne reduced the forest of Selkirk
and the district, and restored the English power there; while the
king's favourite, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, went by sea to
Perth and tried to reduce the surrounding country, but the Scotch,
as usual, retired before him, and he, too, after a time, returned
to Berwick. The efforts of the defenders to starve out the invading
armies of England were greatly aided by the fact that at this time
a great famine raged both in England and Scotland, and the people
of both countries were reduced to a condition of want and suffering.
Not only did the harvest fail, but disease swept away vast numbers
of cattle and sheep, and in many places the people were forced to
subsist upon the flesh of horses, dogs, and other animals.
During the years which had elapsed since the battle of Methven,
Bruce had never been enabled to collect a force in any way worthy
of the name of an army. His enterprises had been a succession of
daring feats performed by small bodies of men. Even now, when the
nobles dared no longer openly oppose him, they remained sullenly
aloof, and the captures of the English strongholds were performed
either by the king or his brother Edward, with their retainers from
Annandale and Carrick; by Douglas with the men of Douglasdale; or
by some simple knights like Archie Forbes, the Frazers, Boyle, and
a few others, each leading their own retainers in the field. The
great mass of the people still held aloof, and neither town nor
country sent their contingents to his aid. This was not to be wondered
at, so fearfully had all suffered from the wholesale vengeance of
Edward after the battle of Falkirk.
Great successes had certainly attended Bruce, but these had been
rendered possible only by the absence of any great effort on the
part of England, and all believed that sooner or later Edward would
arouse himself, and with the whole strength of England, Ireland,
and Wales again crush out the movement, and carry fire and sword
through Scotland. Still the national spirit was rising.
Archie Forbes divided his time pretty equally between the field and
home, never taking with him, when he joined the king, more than a
third of the entire strength of his retainers; thus all had time
to attend to their farms and the wants of their families, and
cheerfully yielded obedience to the call to arms when the time
One day while the king was stopping for a few days' rest at Aberfilly,
a horseman rode in.
"I have great news, sire," he said. "Linlithgow has been captured
from the English."
"That were good news indeed," the king said; "but it can scarce be
possible, seeing that we have no men-at-arms in the neighbourhood."
"It has been done by no men-at-arms, my liege," the messenger said;
"but as Forfar was taken by Phillip the Forester and his mates,
so has Linlithgow been captured by a farmer and his comrades, one
It was indeed true. The castle of Linlithgow, forming as it did
a link between the two strongholds of Edinburgh and Stirling, was
a place of great importance and was strongly garrisoned by the
English. Naturally the whole country round suffered severely from
the oppressions of the garrison, who supplied themselves by force
with such provisions and stores as were needful for them. Payment
was of course made to some extent, as the country otherwise would
speedily have been deserted and the land left untilled; but there
was almost necessarily much oppression and high handedness. Bunnock,
hearing of the numerous castles which had been captured by the
king and his friends with mere handfuls of followers, determined at
last upon an attempt to expel the garrison of Linlithgow. He went
about among his friends and neighbours, and found many ready to
join his enterprise. These one night placed themselves in ambush
among some bushes hard by the castle gate. Bunnock himself concealed
eight chosen men with arms in a wagon of hay. The horses were
driven by a stout peasant with a short hatchet under his belt,
while Bunnock walked carelessly beside the wagon. As he was in the
habit of supplying the garrison with corn and forage, the gate was
readily opened on his approach. As soon as the wagon was exactly
between the gate posts Bunnock gave the signal and struck down the
warder at the gate; the driver with his hatchet cut the traces, the
men leapt up from their concealment in the hay, and the main body
lying in ambush close by rushed up, and, taken wholly by surprise,
unarmed and unprepared, the garrison was speedily overpowered and
the castle taken.
It was in the spring of 1311 that this important capture took place.
Bruce, as usual, had the castle levelled to the ground. Bunnock was
rewarded by a grant of land which still bears his name, softened
into Binney. Again the English made preparations for a renewed
invasion, but the barons were too much occupied by their private
broils and their quarrels with the king to assemble at his order,
and nothing came of it. Bruce's position at home was so established
that he resolved upon a counter invasion, and accordingly, having
assembled a larger force than had hitherto gathered under his
banner, crossed the Border near the Solway, burnt and plundered the
district round Gilsland, ravaged Tynedale, and after eight days'
havock returned with much booty to Scotland. In the following
month he again entered England, carried fire and sword through the
country as far as Corbridge, swept Tynedale, ravaged Durham, and
after levying contributions for fifteen days returned with much
booty to Scotland.
Although the English made much outcry at this invasion, the English
author of the Chronicle of Lanercost, whose monastery was occupied
by the king during the raid, distinctly states that he slew none
save in actual conflict; and again, that though "all the goods of
the country were carried away, they did not burn houses or slay
men." Thus, though Bruce's wife and daughter were still prisoners
in England, though his brothers had been executed in cold blood,
he conducted his warfare in England in a manner which contrasts
strongly indeed with the conduct of the English in Scotland.
After this Bruce marched north again and laid siege to Perth. For
six weeks he invested the town, but without making any impression.
Then he retired his forces as if abandoning the attempt. At night,
however, he returned, ladders were placed in the ditches against
the walls, and with his knights he led his followers on to the
assault. The garrison were carousing in honour of their successful
defence and the defeat of the enemy, and taken wholly by surprise
were unable to oppose a vigorous resistance, and all were killed
or captured. Some accounts say that the English soldiers were made
prisoners, and the renegade Scots fighting with them were put to
the sword; while others affirm that all who were taken prisoners
Another incursion into England followed the fall of Perth. Hexham,
Corbridge, and Durham were destroyed. Douglas penetrated as far as
Hartlepool and an immense spoil was carried off, until the people
of the bishopric purchased a truce for the sum of 2000 pounds, and
those of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland bought off
the invaders at a like price.
Carlisle was assaulted by Douglas, but unsuccessfully. He also
attempted to surprise Berwick by a night attack, and had placed his
scaling ladders against the wall, when the garrison was alarmed by
the barking of a dog, and the assailants were repulsed. The Scots
recrossed the frontier laden with an enormous booty.
The king himself now entered Galloway and reduced the four remaining
strongholds held by the English there -- the castles of Butele,
Dalswinton, Lochmaben, and Tibbers. He then proceeded to Dumfries,
which he forced to surrender, and entered it as the victorious King
of Scotland, just seven years after the time when he had commenced
the war by expelling the English justiciary.
Archie Forbes did not accompany the king in this campaign. He
had indeed been summoned, but just before the army started on its
raid into England Bruce was lamenting, in Archie's hearing, that
the continued possession of the strong castle of Dunottar on the
east coast still afforded the English an opportunity for creating
diversions in the north, by landing troops there.
"If you will permit me, sire," Archie said, "I will undertake its
capture with my retainers. It is doubtless too strong to be captured
by open assault with such a strength, but as Douglas has thrice
taken Castle Douglas by stratagem, `tis hard if I cannot find some
way for capturing Dunottar."
"Be it so, Sir Archie," the king said. "If you succeed you will have
done good service indeed; and as I know that though ever ready to
buckle on your armour when I need you, you would yet rather live
quiet at Aberfilly with your fair wife, I promise you that if you
capture Dunottar, for a year and a day you and your retainers shall
have rest, except if the English cross the Border in such force
that the arm of every Scotchman able to wield a sword is needed in
Having chosen a hundred of his most active and experienced men
Archie set out for the north. Crossing the Forth above Stirling,
he marched through Perth and across the Carse of Gowrie through
Forfar on to Montrose. Here he left his band, and taking with him
only William Orr, both being attired in peasants' dress, followed
the coast till he reached Dunottar.
The castle, which was of great strength, stood in a little bay
with a fishing village nestled beside it. "'Tis a strong place,
William, and, if well provisioned, might hold out against an army
for months, and as supplies could be thrown in by sea it could only
be captured by battering down its solid walls by machines."
"'Tis indeed a strong place, Sir Archie," William Orr replied, "and
it were assuredly better to slip in by the gates than to climb over
the walls; but after the captures of so many of their strongholds
by sudden surprise, we may be sure that a careful watch will be
"Doubtless they are shrewdly on guard against surprise," Archie
said; "but as they know that the king and his host are just now
crossing the Border into Cumberland, they may well think that for
a time they are safe from disturbance. `Tis in that that our best
Entering the village they purchased some fish from the fishermen,
and asking a few careless questions about the garrison, found
that it was composed of 150 men, and that extreme precautions were
taken against surprise. The gates were never opened save to allow
parties to pass in and out, when they were instantly closed and the
drawbridge raised. Only ten of the garrison at a time were ever
allowed to leave the castle, and these must go out and come in
together, so that the gates should not be opened more than twice a
day. "They generally come out," the man said, "at eleven o'clock
and go in at four; at eleven o'clock all with corn, wood, and
other stores for the castle must present themselves, so that the
drawbridge need only be lowered at those times. The governor,
Sir John Morris, swears that he will not be caught asleep as were
those of Linlithgow and Castle Douglas. I fear," he concluded,
"that we of Dunottar will be the last in Scotland to be free from
the English yoke."
"That is as it may be. Other castles have been captured, and maybe
the lion of Scotland may float on those walls ere long."
The man looked keenly at him.
"Methinks there is meaning in your words," he said, "and your
language does not accord with your attire. I ask no questions; but
be sure that should an attempt be made, there are a score of strong
fellows among us who will be ready to strike a blow for freedom."
"Is that so?" Archie replied; "then, man, taking you to be a true
Scot, I will tell you that the attempt will be made, and that
soon, and that, if you will, you can aid the enterprise. I am Sir
Archibald Forbes, of whom, perhaps, you have heard."
"Assuredly," the man said in a tone of deep respect, "every Scotsman
knows the name as that of one of the king's truest and bravest
"My purpose is this," Archie said. "On a dark night some ninety-five
of my men will march hither; I need a faithful friend to meet them
outside the village to lead them in, and to hide them away in the
cottages, having already arranged beforehand with their owners to
receive them. I, myself, with four of my men will come hither in a
fishing boat well laden with fish; we will choose a time when the
wind is blowing, and will seem to have been driven here by stress
of weather and disabled. Then I shall try to sell our cargo for the
use of the garrison. As we carry it in we shall attack the guard,
and at the signal those hidden will rush out and cross the drawbridge."
"The plan is a good one," the fisherman said; "its difficulty mainly
lies in the fact that the drawbridge will be raised the moment you
have crossed it, and long before your followers could arrive it
would be high in the air, and you would be cut off from all aid. It
never remains down for an instant after men have passed over it."
"That adds to the difficulty," Archie said thoughtfully; "but
I must think of some plan to overcome it. Do you quietly go about
among those you can surely trust and arrange for them to be ready
to open their doors and take my men in without the slightest noise
which might attract the sentries on the walls. So long as the wind
is quiet and the sea smooth we shall not come, but the first day
that the wind blows hard you may expect us. Then do you go out on
the south road and wait for my party half a mile from the village.
If they come not by midnight, return home and watch the following
"I understand," the fisherman said, "and will do as you bid me; and
when the time comes you can rely upon twenty stout fellows here in
addition to your own force."
"`Tis nigh eleven," Archie said, looking at the sun, "and we will
be off at once, as the soldiers will soon be coming out, and it
were best the governor did not hear that two strangers were in the
village. Vigilant as he is, a small thing might excite his suspicion
and add to his watchfulness."
Archie and William Orr returned to Montrose, and there the former
made an arrangement with the master of a large fishing boat to keep
his vessel ready to put to sea at any moment.
Three weeks passed without any change in the weather; then the wind
began to rise and the aspect of the sky betokened a storm. William
Orr at once set out with ninety-five men for Dunottar. Archie went
down to the port and purchased a large quantity of fish which had
been brought in that morning in various boats, and had it placed
on board the craft that he had hired. Then he with four of his
followers, the strongest and most determined of his retainers,
dressed as fishermen, went on board and the boat at once put to sea,
having, besides Archie and his men, the master and his two hands.
The main body had started on foot at ten in the morning, but it was
late in the afternoon before the boat put out, as Archie wished to
arrive in broad daylight next morning.
The wind was on the shore, and the boat was sorely tossed and
buffeted. Ere next morning, showing but a rag of sail, she ran into
Dunottar harbour. They had had great difficulty in keeping off the
coast all night, and the play had nigh turned into a tragedy, so
narrow had been their escape of being cast ashore. The bulwarks
were washed away, and the boat was in a sore plight as it drew
alongside the little quay. Assuredly no suspicion would occur to
any who saw her enter that aught save stress of weather had driven
It was twelve o'clock in the day when they reached the port. Most
of the inhabitants had come down to the water side to see the
storm beaten craft enter, and among them were some soldiers of the
garrison. Archie bade four of his men remain below, so that the
unusual number of hands should attract no attention. One of the first
to come on board was the fisherman with whom Archie had spoken.
"Your men are all here," he said in a low tone to Archie, "and are
stowed away in the cottages. Everything went well, and there was
not the slightest noise."
Archie now went on shore and entered into conversation with one of
"Think you," he said, "that the governor would buy my cargo of
fish. I have a great store on board, for I had good luck before
the storm suddenly broke upon me just as I was leaving the fishing
grounds for Montrose. The gale may last for some days, and my boat
will need repairs before I put to sea, therefore my fish will be
spoiled before I can get them to market, and I will make a good
bargain with the governor if he will take them from me."
"I should think that he will do so gladly," the soldier said, "for
he can salt them down, and they make a pleasant change. How much
have you got?"
"About ten baskets full," Archie replied, "of some hundred pounds
"I will go with you to the castle," the soldier said. "The governor
will lower the drawbridge for no man, but you can speak with the
warder across the moat and he will bear your message to the governor,
and should he agree, you must present yourself with your men with
the fish at four o'clock, at which time the drawbridge will be
lowered for us to return to the castle."
Archie accompanied the soldier to the end of the drawbridge, and
parleyed with the warder. The latter acquainted the governor that
the master of the fishing boat which had been driven in by stress
of weather would fain dispose of his cargo of fish on cheap terms,
and returned for answer that the governor would give sixpence for
each basket of a hundred pounds. Archie grumbled that he should
receive thrice that sum at Montrose; still that as he must sell
them or let them spoil, he accepted the offer, and would be there
with the fish at four o'clock.
He then returned to the boat, his ally, the fisherman, taking word
round to the cottages that at four o'clock all must be in readiness
to sally out on the signal, and that William Orr was to dress half
a dozen of his men in fishermen's clothes and saunter up carelessly
close to the castle, so as to be able to rush forward on the instant.
At the appointed hour Archie, accompanied by his four followers,
each of whom carried on his shoulder a great basket filled with
fish, stepped on to the quay and made their way to the castle. By
the side of the moat facing the drawbridge the ten English soldiers
who had been out on leave for the day were already assembled.
"Are you all there?" the warder asked.
"Yes," Archie said, "but I shall have to make another two trips
down to the boat, seeing that I have ten baskets full and but four
men to carry them."
"Then you must bring another load," the warder said, "when the
drawbridge is lowered tomorrow. You will have to stop in the castle
tonight, and issue out at eleven tomorrow, for the governor will
not have the drawbridge lowered more than twice a day."
"I would fain return to my boat," Archie said, "as I want to be at
work on the repairs; but if that be the rule I must needs submit
The drawbridge was now lowered. The soldiers at once stepped on to
it. The four pretended fishermen had set down their baskets, and
now raised them on their shoulders again. One of them apparently
found it a difficult task, for it was not until Archie and his
comrades were half across the drawbridge that he raised it from
the ground. As he did so he stumbled and fell, the basket and its
contents rolling on to the ground.
"You must wait until the morning," the warder called; "you are too
late to enter now."
The man lay for a moment where he had fallen, which was half on the
drawbridge, half on the ground beyond it. "Now, then," the warder
called sharply, "make haste; I am going to raise the drawbridge."
The man rose to his feet with a shout just as the drawbridge began
to rise. He had not been idle as he lay. As he fell he had drawn
from underneath his fisherman's frock a stout chain with a hook
at one end and a large ring at the other. This he had passed round
one of the chains by which the drawbridge was raised, then under
the beam on which it rested when down, and had fastened the hook
in the ring.
Surprised at the shout, the warder worked the windlass with extra
speed, but he had scarcely given a turn when he found a sudden
resistance. The chain which the fisherman had fixed round the end
prevented the bridge from rising. As the man had shouted, Archie
and his three comrades were entering the gate. Simultaneously they
emptied their baskets before them. Concealed among the fish were
four logs of wood; two were three feet long, the full depth of the
baskets, two were short wedge shaped pieces. Before the soldiers
in front had time even to turn round, the two long pieces were
placed upright in the grooves down which the portcullis would fall,
while the two wedge shaped pieces were thrust into the jamb of the
gate so as to prevent it from closing. Then the four men drew long
swords hidden beneath their garments and fell upon the soldiers.
Chapter XXVI Edinburgh
So vigilant was the watch in the castle of Dunottar that the instant
the cry of alarm rose almost simultaneously from the warder above
and the soldiers at the gate, the portcullis came thundering down.
It was caught, however, by the two upright blocks of wood, and
remained suspended three feet above the sill. The armed guards
at the gate instantly fell upon Archie and his companions, while
others endeavoured in vain to close the gates. Scarcely had the
swords clashed when the man who had chained down the drawbridge
joined Archie, and the five with their heavy broadswords kept at
bay the soldiers who pressed upon them; but for only a minute or
two did they have to bear the brunt of the attack unsupported, for
William Orr and the five men who had been loitering near the moat
dashed across the bridge, and passing under the portcullis joined
the little band.
The alarm had now spread through the castle, and the governor
himself, followed by many of his men, came rushing down to the
spot, shouting furious orders to the warder to raise the drawbridge,
being in ignorance that it was firmly fixed at the outer end.
Archie and his followers were now hotly pressed, but soon a thunder
of steps was heard on the drawbridge, and the whole of the band,
together with some twenty or thirty of the fishermen, passed under
the portcullis and joined them. Archie now took the offensive, and
bearing down all opposition burst with his men into the courtyard.
The combat was desperate but short. The governor with some of his
soldiers fought stoutly, but the suddenness of the surprise and
the fury and vigour with which they were attacked shook the courage
of many of the soldiers. Some, instead of joining in the fray, at
once threw away their arms and tried to conceal themselves, others
fought feebly and half heartedly, and the cries of "A Forbes! A
Forbes! Scotland! Scotland!" rose louder and louder as the
assailants gradually beat down all resistance. In ten minutes from
the falling of the portcullis all resistance was virtually over.
The governor himself fell by the hand of Archie Forbes, and at
his death those who had hitherto resisted threw down their arms
and called for quarter. This was given, and the following day the
prisoners were marched under a strong guard down to Montrose, there
to be confined until orders for their disposal were received from
the king. For the next fortnight Archie and his retainers, aided by
the whole of the villagers, laboured to dismantle the castle. The
battlements were thrown down into the moat, several wide breaches
were made in the walls, and large quantities of straw and wood piled
up in the keep and turrets. These were then fired, and the Castle
of Dunottar was soon reduced to an empty and gaping shell. Then
Archie marched south, and remained quietly at home until the term
of rest granted him by the king had expired.
Two girls and a son had by this time been born to him, and the
months passed quietly and happily away until Bruce summoned him to
join, with his retainers, the force with which Randolph had sat down
before Edinburgh Castle. Randolph was delighted at this accession
of strength. Between him and Douglas a generous rivalry in gallant
actions continually went on, and Douglas had scored the last
triumph. The castle of Roxburgh had long been a source of trouble
to the Scots. Standing on a rocky eminence on the margin of the
Teviot, just at its junction with the Tweed and within eight miles
of the Border, it had constituted an open door into Scotland, and
either through it or through Berwick the tides of invasion had ever
flowed. The castle was very strongly fortified, so much so that
the garrison, deeming themselves perfectly safe from assault, had
grown careless. The commandant was a Burgundian knight, Gillemin
de Fienne. Douglas chose Shrove Tuesday for his attack. Being a
feast day of the church before the long lenten fast the garrison
would be sure to indulge in conviviality and the watch would be
less strict than usual. Douglas and his followers, supplied with
scaling ladders, crept on all fours towards the walls. The night
was still and they could hear the sentries' conversation. They had
noticed the objects advancing, but in the darkness mistook them for
the cattle of a neighbouring farmer. Silently the ladders were
fixed and mounted, and with the dreaded war cry, "A Douglas! A
Douglas!" the assailants burst into the castle, slaying the sentries
and pouring down upon the startled revellers. Fienne and his men
fought gallantly for a time, but at length all surrendered, with
the exception of the governor himself and a few of his immediate
followers, who retired into a tower, where they defended themselves
until the following day; then Fienne being seriously wounded, the
little party also surrendered. As Douglas had no personal quarrel
with the garrison of Roxburgh such as he bore with those who occupied
his ancestral castle, he abstained from any unnecessary cruelties,
and allowed the garrison to withdraw to England, where Fienne soon
afterwards died of his wounds.
The castle was as usual levelled to the ground, and as the stronghold
of Carlaverock soon afterwards surrendered, the districts of Tweeddale
and Galloway were now completely cleared of the English, with the
exception of the Castle of Jedburgh, which they still held.
Randolph had been created Earl of Moray, and after establishing
himself in his new earldom he had returned with his feudal followers
and laid siege to Edinburgh, whose castle was considered all but
impregnable. It had been in the possession of the English ever since
it was captured by Edward I in 1296, and was strongly garrisoned
and well provisioned.
Even when joined by Archie Forbes and his retainers Randolph felt
that the castle could not be captured by force. The various attempts
which he made were signally foiled, and it was by stratagem only
that he could hope to carry it. The news of the capture of Roxburgh
by Douglas increased his anxiety to succeed. Accompanied by Archie
he rode round the foot of the steep rock on which the castle stands,
eagerly scanning its irregularities to see if by any possibility
it could be scaled.
"I would give a brave reward," he said to Archie, "to any who could
show us a way of climbing those rocks, which, methinks, even a goat
could scarcely manage to ascend."
"I can tell you of a way," a Scotch soldier who was standing a few
paces off when he made the remark, said, saluting the earl. "It
needs a sure foot and a stout heart, but I can lead a score of
men with such qualifications to the foot of yonder walls;" and he
pointed to the castle rising abruptly from the edge of the rocks.
"If you can make good your word, my brave fellow," Randolph said,
"you may ask your own reward, and I pledge you my word, that if it
be aught in reason it shall be granted. But who are you, and how
did it come that you know of a way where none is supposed to exist?"
"My name is William Francus," the soldier said. "I was at one time,
before the king took up arms, a soldier in the castle there. I had
a sweetheart in the town, and as my turn to go out from the castle
came but slowly I used at night to steal away to visit her. I found
after a great search that on the face of yonder wall where it looks
the steepest, and where in consequence but slight watch is kept,
a man with steady foot and head could make shift to climb up and
down, and thus, if you please, will I guide a party to the top of
"It looks impossible," Randolph said, gazing at the precipice;
"but as you tell me that you have done it others can do the same.
I will myself follow your guidance."
"And I," Archie said.
"What, Sir Archie, think you is the smallest number of men with
whom, having once gained footing on the wall, we may fight our way
to the gates and let in our friends."
"I should think," Archie replied, "that with thirty men we might
manage to do so. The confusion in the garrison will be extreme
at so unexpected a surprise, and if we divide in two parties and
press forward by different ways they will think rather of holding
together and defending themselves than of checking our course, and
one or other of the parties should surely be able to make its way
to the gates."
"Thirty let it be then," Randolph said. "Do you choose fifteen
active and vigilant men from among your retainers; I will pick as
many from mine, and as there is no use in delaying let us carry
out the enterprise this very night; of course the rest of our men
must gather near the gates in readiness to rush in when we throw
As soon as it was dark the little party of adventurers set out
on their way. Francus acted as guide, and under his leading they
climbed with vast difficulty and no little danger up the face of
the precipice until they reached a comparatively easy spot, where
they sat down to recover their breath before they prepared for the
They could hear the sentries above speaking to each other, and
they held their breath when one of them, exclaiming suddenly, "I
can see you!" threw down a stone from the battlement, which leapt,
crashing down the face of the rock close beside them. Great was
their relief when a loud laugh from above told them that the sentry
had been in jest, and had but tried to startle his comrade; then
the two sentries, conversing as they went, moved away to another
part of the walls.
The ascent was now continued, and proved even more difficult than
that which they had passed. They were forced continually to halt,
while those in front helped those following them, or were themselves
hoisted up by the men behind. At last, panting and breathless, they
stood on the summit of the rock, on a narrow ledge, with the castle
wall rising in front of them. They had, with enormous difficulty,
brought up a light ladder with them. This was placed against the
wall. Francus was the first to mount, and was followed by Sir Andrew
Grey, whom Randolph had invited to be of the party, by Archie Forbes,
and by the earl. Just as the latter stepped on to the battlements
the sentries caught sight of them and shouted:
"Treason! treason! to arms!" An instant stir was heard in the
castle. Rapidly the thirty men followed each other up the ladder,
and so soon as the last had gained the battlements they divided in
three bodies, each headed by one of the leaders. One party descended
straight into the castle and there attacked the soldiers who were
hurrying to arms, while the others ran along the wall in opposite
directions, cutting down the sentries and brushing aside all
opposition until together they met at the gate. This was thrown
open, and the Scots outside running up at the top of their speed
poured into the castle. At first Randolph's party, which had
descended into the courtyard, had been hotly pressed, and had with
difficulty defended themselves; but the attention of the startled
garrison was distracted by the shouts upon the walls, which told
that other parties of their assailants had gained footing there.
All sorts of contradictory orders were issued. One commanded them
to cut down the little party opposed to them, another ordered them
to hurry to the walls, a third to seize the gate and see that it
was not opened. The confusion reached its height as the Scots poured
in through the open gate. The garrison, surprised and confounded
as they were at this, to them, almost magical seizure of the castle
by their foes, fought bravely until the governor and many of the
officers were killed. Some of the men threw down their arms, and
others, taking advantage of their knowledge of the castle, made
their way to the gate and escaped into the open country.
The news of the capture was immediately sent to the king, by whose
orders the castle and walls were razed to the ground, and thus
another of the strongholds, by whose possession the English were
enabled to domineer over the whole of the surrounding country, was
While Douglas and Randolph were thus distinguishing themselves
Edward Bruce captured the castle of Rutherglen, and afterwards the
town of Dundee; and now, save Stirling Castle, scarcely a hold in
all Scotland remained in English hands. Thus was Scotland almost
cleared of the invader, not by the efforts of the people at large,
but by a series of the most daring and hazardous adventures by the
king himself and three or four of his knights, aided only by their
personal retainers. For nine years they had continued their career
unchecked, capturing castle by castle and town by town, defeating
such small bodies of troops as took the field against them, England,
under a supine and inactive king, giving itself up to private
broils and quarrels, while Scotland was being torn piecemeal from
After Edward Bruce had captured Dundee he laid siege to Stirling.
As this castle had for many months resisted Edward I backed by the
whole power of England, Bruce could make little impression upon
it with the limited appliances at his disposal. From February till
the 24th of June the investment continued, when the governor, Sir
Philip Mowbray, becoming apprehensive that his provisions would
not much longer hold out, induced Edward Bruce to agree to raise
the siege on condition that if by the 24th of June next, 1314, the
castle was not effectually relieved by an English force, it should
then be surrendered.
No satisfactory explanation has ever been given of the reasons which
induced Edward Bruce to agree to so one sided a bargain. He had
already invested the place for four months, there was no possibility of
an army being collected in England for its relief for many months
to come, and long ere this could arrive the garrison would have
been starved into surrender. By giving England a year to relieve
the place he virtually challenged that country to put forth all
its strength and held out an inducement to it to make that effort,
which internal dissension had hitherto prevented. The only feasible
explanation is that Edward Bruce was weary of being kept inactive
so long a time before the walls of the fortress which he was unable
to capture, and that he made the arrangement from sheer impatience
and thoughtlessness and without consideration of the storm which he
was bringing upon Scotland. Had it been otherwise he would surely
have consulted the king before entering upon an agreement of such
Bruce, when he heard of this rash treaty, was highly displeased,
but he nevertheless accepted the terms, and both parties began at
once their preparations for the crowning struggle of the war. The
English saw that now or never must they crush out the movement
which, step by step, had wrested from them all the conquests which
had been won with such vast effort under Edward I; while Bruce saw
that a defeat would entail the loss of all that he had struggled
for and won during so many years.
King Edward issued summonses to the whole of the barons of England
and Wales to meet him at Berwick by the 11th of June with all their
feudal following, while the sheriffs of the various counties and
towns were called upon to supply 27,000 foot soldiers. The English
of the settlements in Ireland were also summoned, besides O'Connor,
Prince of Connaught, and twenty-five other native Irish chiefs,
with their following, all of whom were to be under the command of
Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster.
The Prince Bishop of Constance was requested to furnish a body
of mounted crossbowmen. A royal fleet of twenty-three vessels was
appointed to assemble for the purpose of operating on the east
coast, while the seaports were commanded to fit out another fleet
of thirty vessels. A third fleet was ordered to assemble in the
west, which John of Lorne was appointed to command under the title
of High Admiral of the Western Fleet of England. From Aquitaine
and the French possessions the vassals were called upon to attend
with their men-at-arms, and many knights from France, Gascony, and
Germany took part in the enterprise.
Thus, at the appointed time over 100,000 men assembled at Berwick,
of whom 40,000 were men-at-arms, and the rest archers and pikemen.
For the great armament the most ample arrangements were made in the
way of warlike stores, provisions, tents, and means of transport,
together with the necessary workmen, artificers, and attendants.
This army surpassed both in numbers and equipments any that Edward
I had ever led into Scotland, and is considered to have been the most
numerous and best equipped that ever before or since has gathered
on English ground. Of the whole of the great nobles of England only
four were absent -- the Earls of Warrenne, Lancaster, Arundel, and
Warwick -- who, however, sent their feudal arrays under the charge
Among the leaders of this great army were the Earls of Gloucester,
Pembroke, Hereford, and Angus, Lord Clifford, Sir John Comyn, Sir
Henry Beaumont, Sir John Seagrave, Sir Edmund Morley, Sir Ingram
de Umfraville, Sir Marmaduke de Twenge, and Sir Giles de Argentine,
one of the most famous of the Continental knights.
While this vast army had been preparing, Bruce had made every
effort to meet the storm, and all who were loyal and who were able
to carry weapons were summoned to meet at Torwood, near Stirling,
previous to the 24th of June. Here Edward Bruce, Sir James Douglas,
Randolph, Earl of Moray, Walter the Steward, Angus of Isla, Sir
Archibald Forbes, and a few other knights and barons assembled with
30,000 fighting men, besides camp followers and servants. It was
a small force indeed to meet the great army which was advancing
against it, and in cavalry in particular it was extremely weak.
The English army crossed the Border, and marched by Linlithgow and
Falkirk toward the Torwood.
Each army had stirring memories to inspire it, for the English in
their march crossed over the field of Falkirk, where sixteen years
before they had crushed the stubborn squares of Wallace; while from
the spot which Bruce selected as his battleground could be seen
the Abbey Craig, overlooking the scene of the Scottish victory of
Stirling Bridge. On the approach of the English the Scotch fell
back from the Torwood to some high ground near Stirling now called
the New Park. The lower ground, now rich agricultural land called
the Carse, was then wholly swamp. Had it not been so, the position
now taken up by Bruce would have laid the road to Stirling open to
The Scotch army was divided into four divisions. The centre was
commanded by Randolph. Edward Bruce commanded the second, which
formed the right wing. Walter the Steward commanded the left wing,
under the guidance of Douglas, while the king himself took command
of the fourth division, which formed the reserve, and was stationed
in rear of the centre in readiness to move to the assistance of
either of the other divisions which might be hard pressed. The camp
followers, with the baggage and provisions, were stationed behind
the Gillies Hill.
The road by which the English would advance was the old Roman
causeway running nearly north and south. The Bannock Burn was fordable
from a spot near the Park Mill down to the village of Bannockburn.
Above, the banks were too high and steep to be passed; while below,
where ran the Bannock through the carse, the swamps prevented
passage. The army was therefore drawn up, with its left resting
on the sharp angle of the burn above the Park Mill, and extended
where the villages of Easterton, Borestine, and Braehead now stand
to the spot where the road crosses the river at the village of
Bannockburn. In its front, between it and the river, were two bogs,
known as Halberts Bog and Milton Bog, while, where unprotected by
these bogs, the whole ground was studded with deep pits; in these
stakes were inserted, and they were then covered with branches and
grass. Randolph's centre was at Borestine, Bruce's reserve a little
behind, and the rock in which his flagstaff was placed during the
battle is still to be seen. To Randolph, in addition to his command
of the centre division, was committed the trust of preventing any
body of English from passing along at the edge of the carse, and
so making round to the relief of Stirling.
On the morning of Sunday, the 23d of June, immediately after
sunrise, the Scotch attended mass, and confessed as men who had
devoted themselves to death. The king, having surveyed the field,
caused a proclamation to be made that whosoever felt himself unequal
to take part in the battle was at liberty to withdraw. Then, knowing
from his scouts that the enemy had passed the night at Falkirk, six
or seven miles off, he sent out Sir James Douglas and Sir Robert
Keith with a party of horsemen to reconnoitre the advance.
The knights had not gone far when they saw the great army advancing,
with the sun shining bright on innumerable standards and pennons,
and glistening from lance head, spear, and armour. So grand and
terrible was the appearance of the army that upon receiving the
report of Douglas and Keith the king thought it prudent to conceal
its full extent, and caused it to be bruited abroad that the enemy,
although numerous, was approaching in a disorderly manner.
The experienced generals of King Edward now determined upon making
an attempt to relieve Stirling Castle without fighting a pitched
battle upon ground chosen by the enemy. Had this attempt been
successful, the great army, instead of being obliged to cross
a rapid stream and attack an enemy posted behind morasses, would
have been free to operate as it chose, to have advanced against
the strongholds which had been captured by the Scots, and to force
Bruce to give battle upon ground of their choosing. Lord Clifford
was therefore despatched with 800 picked men-at-arms to cross the
Bannock beyond the left wing of the Scottish army, to make their
way across the carse, and so to reach Stirling. The ground was,
indeed, impassable for a large army; but the troops took with
them faggots and beams, by which they could make a passage across
the deeper parts of the swamp and bridge the little streams which
meandered through it.
As there was no prospect of an immediate engagement, Randolph,
Douglas, and the king had left their respective divisions, and had
taken up their positions at the village of St. Ninians, on high
ground behind the army, whence they could have a clear view of the
approaching English army. Archie Forbes had accompanied Randolph,
to whose division he, with his retainers, was attached. Randolph
had with him 500 pikemen, whom he had withdrawn from his division
in order to carry out his appointed task of seeing that the English
did not pass along the low ground at the edge of the carse behind
St. Ninians to the relief of Stirling; but so absorbed were knights
and men-at-arms in watching the magnificent array advancing against
the Scottish position that they forgot to keep a watch over the
low ground. Suddenly one of the men, who had straggled away into
the village, ran up with the startling news that a large party of
English horse had crossed the corner of the carse, and had already
reached the low ground beyond the church.
"A rose has fallen from your chaplet, Randolph," the king said
Without a moment's loss of time Randolph and Archie Forbes set off
with the spearmen at a run, and succeeded in heading the horsemen
at the hamlet of Newhouse. The mail clad horsemen, confident in
their numbers, their armour, and horses, laid their lances in rest,
struck spurs into their steeds, and, led by Sir William Daynecourt,
charged down upon the Scotch spearmen. Two hundred of these consisted
of Archie Forbes' retainers, all veterans in war, and who had more
than once, shoulder to shoulder, repelled the onslaught of the
mailed chivalry of England. Animated by the voices of their lord
and Randolph, these, with Moray's own pikemen, threw themselves
into a solid square, and, surrounded by a hedge of spears, steadily
received the furious onslaught of the cavalry. Daynecourt and many
of his men were at the first onslaught unhorsed and slain, and those
who followed were repulsed. Again and again they charged down upon
the pikemen, but the dense array of spears was more than a match
for the lances of the cavalry, and as the horses were wounded and
fell, or their riders were unhorsed, men rushed out from the square,
and with axe and dagger completed the work. Still the English
pressed them hard, and Douglas, from the distance, seeing how hotly
the pikemen were pressed by the cavalry, begged the king to allow
him to go to Randolph's assistance. Bruce, however, would suffer no
change in his position, and said that Randolph must stand or fall
by himself. Douglas, however, urged that he should be allowed to
go forward with the small body of retainers which he had with him.
The king consented, and Douglas set off with his men.
When the English saw him approach they recoiled somewhat from the
square, and Douglas, being now better able to see what was going
on, commanded his followers to halt, saying that Randolph would
speedily prove victorious without their help, and were they now
to take part in the struggle they would only lessen the credit of
those who had already all but won the victory. Seeing the enemy in
some confusion from the appearance of the reinforcement, Randolph
and Archie now gave the word for their men to charge, and these,
rushing on with spear and axe, completed the discomfiture of the
enemy, killed many, and forced the rest to take flight. Numbers,
however, were taken. Randolph is said to have had but two men killed
in the struggle.
Chapter XXVII Bannockburn
After the complete defeat of the party under Lord Clifford, and the
failure of their attempt to relieve Stirling, Randolph and Douglas
returned together to the king. The news of their success spread
rapidly, and when Randolph rode down from St. Ninians to his
division, loud cheers broke from the whole Scottish army, who were
vastly encouraged at so fair a commencement of their struggle with
The English army was still advancing slowly, and Bruce and his
leaders rode down to the front of the Scottish line, seeing that
all was in order and encouraging the men with cheering words. When
the English army approached the stream King Edward ordered a halt
to be sounded for the purpose of holding a council, whether it was
best to encamp for the night or at once to advance against the
enemy. The Earls of Gloucester and Hereford, who commanded the
first division, were so far ahead that they did not hear the sound
of the trumpet, and continuing their onward march crossed the Bannock
Burn and moved on toward the Scotch array. In front of the ranks
of the defenders the king was riding upon a small palfrey, not
having as yet put on his armour for the battle. On his helmet he
wore a purple cap surmounted by a crown. Seeing him thus within
easy reach, Sir Henry de Bohun, cousin of the Earl of Hereford,
laid his lance in rest and spurred down upon the king. Bruce could
have retired within the lines of his soldiers; but confident in his
own prowess, and judging how great an effect a success under such
circumstances would have upon the spirits of his troops, he spurred
forward to meet his assailant armed only with his axe. As the
English knight came thundering down, the king touched his palfrey
with his spur, and the horse, carrying but a light weight, swerved
quickly aside; De Bohun's lance missed his stroke, and before he had
time to draw rein or sword, the king, standing up in his stirrups,
dealt him so tremendous a blow with his axe as he passed, that it
cleft through helmet and brain, and the knight fell dead to the
With a shout of triumph the Scotch rushed forward and drove
the English advance guard back across the stream; then the Scotch
leaders led their men back again to the position which they had
quitted, and reformed their array. Douglas, Edward Bruce, Randolph,
and Archie Forbes now gathered round the king and remonstrated with
him on the rashness of an act which might have proved fatal to the
whole army. The king smiled at such remonstrances from four men
who had, above all others, distinguished themselves for their rash
and daring exploits, and shrugging his shoulders observed only that
it was a pity he had broken the shaft of his favourite axe. The
English array now withdrew to a short distance, and it became evident
that the great battle would be delayed till the morrow. The Scotch
army therefore broke its ranks and prepared to pass the night
on the spot where it stood. The king assembled all his principal
leaders round him, and after thanking God for so fair a beginning
of the fight as had that day been made, he pointed out to them how
great an effect the two preliminary skirmishes would have upon the
spirits of both armies, and expressed his confidence in the final
result. He urged upon them the necessity for keeping their followers
well in hand, and meeting the charges of the enemy's horse steadily
with their spears; and especially warned them, after repulsing
a charge, against allowing their men to break their array, either
to plunder or take prisoners, so long as the battle lasted, as the
whole riches of the English camp would fall into their hands if
successful. He pledged himself that the heirs of all who fell should
have the succession of their estates free from the usual feudal
burdens on such occasions.
The night passed quietly, and in the morning both armies formed
their array for battle. Bruce, as was customary, conferred the
honour of knighthood upon several of his leaders. Then all proceeded
to their allotted places and awaited the onset. Beyond the stream
and extending far away towards the rising ground were the English
squadrons in their glittering arms, the first division in line,
the others in heavy masses behind them. Now that the Scotch were
fairly drawn up in order of battle, the English could see how
small was their number in comparison with their own, and the king
in surprise exclaimed to Sir Ingram de Umfraville:
"What! will yonder Scots fight us?"
"That verily will they," the knight replied, for he had many a
time been engaged in stout conflict with them, and knew how hard
it was even for mail clad knights to break through the close lines
of Scottish spears. So high a respect had he for their valour, that
he urged the king to pretend to retire suddenly beyond the camp,
when the Scots, in spite of their leaders, would be sure to leave
their ranks and flock into the camp to plunder, when they might be
easily dispersed and cut to pieces. The king, however, refused to
adopt the suggestion, saying, that no one must be able to accuse
him of avoiding a battle or of withdrawing his army before such
a rabble. As the armies stood confronting each other in battle
array a priest passed along the Scottish front, crucifix in hand,
exhorting all to fight to the death for the liberty of their country.
As he passed along the line each company knelt in an attitude of
prayer. King Edward, seeing this, exclaimed to Sir Ingram:
"See yonder folk kneel to ask for mercy!"
"Ay, sire," the knight said, looking earnestly at the Scots, "they
kneel and ask for mercy, but not of you; it is for their sins they
ask mercy of God. I know these men, and have met and fought them,
and I tell you that assuredly they will win or die, and not even
when death looks them in the face will they turn to fly."
"Then if it must be so," said the king, "let us charge."
The trumpet sounded along the line. First the immense body of
English archers crossed the burn and opened the battle by pouring
clouds of arrows into the Scottish ranks. The Scotch archers, who
were in advance of their spearmen, were speedily driven back to
shelter beyond their line, for not only were the English vastly more
numerous, but they shot much further and more accurately. And now
the knights and men-at-arms, on their steel clad horses, crossed
the burn. They were aware of the existence of Milton Bog, which
covered the Scottish centre, and they directed their charge upon
the division of Edward Bruce on the Scottish right. The crash as
the mailed horses burst down upon the wood of Scottish spears was
tremendous. Bruce's men held firm, and the English in vain strove
to break through their serried line of spears. It was a repetition
of the fight of the previous day, but on a greater scale. With
lance and battleaxe the chivalry of England strove to break the
ranks of the Scotch, while with serried lines of spears, four deep,
the Scotch held their own. Every horse which, wounded or riderless,
turned and dashed through the ranks of the English, added to the
confusion. This was much further increased by the deep holes into
which the horses were continually falling, and breaking up all order
in their ranks. Those behind pressed forward to reach the front,
and their very numbers added to their difficulty.
The English were divided into ten divisions or "battles," and
these one by one crossed the stream with banners flying, and still
avoiding the centre, followed the line taken by the first, and
pressed forward to take part in the fray.
Randolph now moved with the centre to the support of the hardly
pressed right, and his division, as well as that of Edward Bruce,
seemed to be lost among the multitude of their opponents. Stewart
and Douglas moved their division to the right and threw themselves
into the fray, and the three Scottish divisions were now fighting
side by side, but with a much smaller front than that which they
had originally occupied. For a time the battle raged furiously
without superiority on either side. The Scotch possessed the great
advantage that, standing close together in ranks four deep, every
man was engaged, while of the mounted knights and men-at-arms who
pressed upon them, only the front line was doing efficient service.
Not only, therefore, was the vast numerical superiority of the
English useless to them, but actually a far larger number of the
Scottish than of themselves were using their weapons in the front
rank, while the great proportion of the English remained helplessly
behind their fighting line, unable to take any part whatever in
the fight. But now the English archers came into play again, and
firing high into the air rained their arrows almost perpendicularly
down upon the Scottish ranks. Had this continued it would have
been as fatal to the Scots at Bannockburn as it was at Falkirk; but
happily the Scottish horse told off for this special service were
here commanded by no traitors, and at the critical moment the king
launched Sir Robert Keith, the mareschal of Scotland, against the
archers with 500 horsemen. These burst suddenly down upon the flank
of the archers and literally swept them before them. Great numbers
were killed, others fell back upon the lines of horsemen who were
ranged behind, impatient to take their share in the battle; these
tried to drive them back again, but the archers were disheartened,
and retreating across the stream took no further part in the battle.
The charge of the Scottish horses should have been foreseen and
provided against by placing strong bodies of men-at-arms on the
flanks of the archers, as these lightly armed troops were wholly
unable to withstand a charge by cavalry.
The Scottish archers, now that their formidable opponents had
left the field, opened a heavy fire over the heads of the pikemen
upon the horsemen surrounding the squares, and when they had shot
away their arrows sallied out and mingled in the confused mass of
the enemy, doing tremendous execution with their axes and knives.
Hitherto the king had kept his reserve in hand; but now that the
English archers were defeated and their horsemen in inextricable
confusion, he moved his division down and joined in the melee, his
men shouting his well known battle cry.
Every Scotch soldier on the field was now engaged. No longer did the
battle cries of the various parties rise in the air. Men had no
breath to waste in shouting, but each fought silently and desperately
with spear or axe, and the sound of clanging blows of weapons, of
mighty crash of sword or battleaxe on steel armour, with the cries
and groans of wounded men were alone heard. Over and over again the
English knights drew back a little so as to gain speed and impetus,
and flung themselves on the Scottish spears, but ever without effect,
while little by little the close ranks of the Scotch pressed forward
until, as the space between their front and the brook narrowed, the
whole of the English divisions became pent up together, more and
more incapable of using their strength to advantage. The slaughter
in their front divisions had already been terrible. Again and
again fresh troops had taken the places of those who had formed the
front ranks, but many of their best and bravest had fallen. The
confusion was too great for their leaders to be able to direct them
with advantage, and seeing the failure of every effort to break
the Scottish ranks, borne back by the slow advance of the hedge of
spears, harassed by the archers who dived below the horses, stabbing
them in their bellies, or rising suddenly between them to smite
down the riders with their keen, heavy, short handled axes, the
English began to lose heart, and as they wavered the Scotch pressed
forward more eagerly, shouting, "On them! on them! They give way!
they give way!"
At this critical moment the servants, teamsters, and camp followers
who had been left behind Gillies Hill, showed themselves. Some of
their number from the eminence had watched the desperate struggle,
and on hearing how their soldiers were pressed by the surrounding
host of English men-at-arms they could no longer remain inactive.
All men carried arms in those days. They hastily chose one of their
own number as leader, and fastening some sheets to tent poles as
banners, they advanced over the hill in battle array, and moved
down to join their comrades. The sight of what theydeemed a fresh
division advancing to the assistance of the Scotch brought to
a climax the hesitation which had begun to shake the English, and
ensured their discomfiture. Those in rear turned bridle hastily,
and crossing the Bannock Burn, galloped away. The movement so begun
spread rapidly, and although those in front still continued their
desperate efforts to break the line of Scottish spears, the day was
now hopelessly lost. Seeing that this was so, the Earl of Pembroke
seized the king's rein and constrained him to leave the field with
a bodyguard of 500 horse. Sir Giles de Argentine, who had hitherto
remained by the king's side, and who was esteemed the third best
knight in Europe -- the Emperor Henry of Luxemberg and Robert
Bruce being reckoned the two best -- bade farewell to the king as
he rode off.
"Farewell, sire," he said, "since you must go, but I at least must
return; I have never yet fled from an enemy, and will remain and
die rather than fly and live in disgrace."
So saying, the knight spurred down to the conflict, and charged
against the array of Edward Bruce, and there fell fighting valiantly.
The flight of the king and his attendants was the signal for a
general rout. Great numbers were slain, many men were drowned in
the Forth, and the channel of the Bannock was so choked with the
bodies of dead men and horses that one could pass over dry shod. The
scattered parties of English were still so numerous that Bruce held
his men well in hand until these had yielded themselves prisoners.
Douglas was charged to pursue the king, but he could only muster
sixty horsemen. A short distance from the field he met a Scottish
baron, Sir Laurence Abernethy, with twenty-four men-at-arms,
on his way to join the English, for even as yet but few of the
Scottish nobles were on the side of the king. Upon hearing what had
happened, Sir Laurence, with the easy facility which distinguished
the Scottish nobles of the period, at once changed sides, swore
fealty to Bruce, and joined Douglas in the pursuit of his late
friends. They overtook the king's party at Linlithgow, but Pembroke
kept his men well together, and while still retiring, showed so
bold an appearance that Douglas did not venture to charge. Finally
the English reached the Castle of Dunbar, where the king and his
immediate attendants were received by his ally, Earl Patrick of
Dunbar. So cowed were the fugitives that they left their horses
outside the castle gate, and these were captured by their pursuers.
The main body of the king's bodyguard continued their way in good
order, and reached Berwick in safety. Edward gained England in
a fishing boat from Dunbar. Eighteen years had elapsed since his
father had entered Scotland with an army deemed sufficient for its
entire subjugation; had sacked and destroyed the rich and prosperous
town of Berwick, routed the army of Baliol, marched through Scotland,
and, as he believed, permanently settled his conquest. Now the
son had lost all that his father had won.
Among the fugitive remains of the English army were a considerable
body of Welsh, who, being lightly armed, fled at full speed toward
the Border, but being easily distinguished by their white dresses
and the absence of defensive armour, almost all were slain by
the peasantry. The Earl of Hereford, the Earl of Angus, Sir John
Seagrave, Sir Anthony Lucy, Sir Ingram de Umfraville, with a great
number of knights, 600 men-at-arms, and 1000 infantry, keeping
together, marched south toward Carlisle.
As they passed Bothwell Castle, which was held by the governor for
England, the earls and knights entered the castle, their followers
remaining without; but the governor, on hearing the result of the
battle, closed the gates and took all who had entered prisoners,
and, changing sides, handed them over to Bruce. Their followers
continued their march south, but were for the most part slain or
taken prisoners before they reached the Border.
When all resistance had ceased on the field the victors collected
the spoil. This consisted of the vast camp, the treasures intended
for the payment of the army, the herds of cattle, and stores of
provisions, wine, and forage; the rich wearing apparel and arms
of the knights and nobles killed or made prisoners, many valuable
horses, and the prisoners who would have to be ransomed, among whom
were twenty-two barons and sixty knights.
The spoil was estimated at 200,000 pounds, equal to 3,000,000
pounds of money in these days. The king refused to take any share
in this plunder, dividing it wholly among his troops. 30,000 English
lay dead on the field, including 200 knights and 700 esquires, and
among the most distinguished of the dead were the Earl of Gloucester,
Sir Giles de Argentine, Lord Robert Clifford, Sir Edmund Manley,
seneschal of England, Sir William de Mareschal, Sir Payne Tybtot,
and Sir John Comyn. Sir Marmaduke de Twenge was among the prisoners.
Bruce's conduct to his prisoners was even more honourable to himself
than was the great victory that he had won. In spite of his three
brothers, his brother in law Seaton, his friends Athole and Frazer,
having been executed by the English, and the knowledge that their
mangled remains were still exposed over London Bridge and the
gates of Carlisle and Newcastle -- in spite of the barbarous and
lengthened captivity of his wife, his sister and daughter, and his
friend the Countess of Buchan -- in spite of the conviction that
had he himself been made prisoner he would at once have been sent
to the scaffold -- Bruce behaved with a magnanimity and generosity
of the highest kind. Every honour was paid to the English dead, and
the bodies of the chief among these were sent to their relatives in
England, and the prisoners were all either ransomed or exchanged.
Sir Marmaduke de Twenge was dismissed free of ransom and loaded
with gifts, and even the Scotch nobles, such as Sir Philip Mowbray,
who were taken fighting in the ranks of their country's enemy, were
forgiven. This noble example exercised but little influence upon
the English. When Edward Bruce was killed four years afterwards
at Dundalk in Ireland, his body was quartered and distributed, and
his head presented to the English king, who bestowed upon Birmingham
-- who commanded the English and sent the gift to him -- the dignity
of Earl of Louth.
Among the prisoners was Edward's poet laureate, Baston, a Carmelite
friar, who had accompanied the army for the purpose of writing
a poem on the English victory. His ransom was fixed at a poem on
the Scotch victory at Bannockburn, which the friar was forced to
With Bannockburn ended all hope on the part of the English of
subjugating Scotland; but the war continued fitfully for fourteen
years, the Scotch frequently invading England and levying heavy
contributions from the northern counties and towns, and the English
occasionally retaliating by the same process; but at length peace
was signed at Northampton.
In 1315 a parliament assembled at Ayr for the purpose of regulating
the succession to the throne. It was then agreed that in case of the
king's death without male issue his brother Edward should succeed
to it, and that if Edward left no heirs, the children of Marjory,
the king's daughter, should succeed. Shortly afterwards Marjory was
married to Walter the Steward. Edward Bruce was killed unmarried.
A son was afterwards born to the king, who reigned as David II,
but having died without issue, the son of Marjory and the Steward
became king. The hereditary title of Steward was used as the surname
for the family, and thus from them descended the royal line of
Stewart or Stuart, through which Queen Victoria at present reigns
over Great Britain, Ireland, and their vast dependencies.
After Bannockburn Archie Forbes went no more to the wars. He was
raised to the dignity of Baron Forbes by the king, and was ever
rewarded by him as one of his most trusty councillors, and his
descendants played a prominent part in the changing and eventful
history of Scotland; but the proudest tradition of the family was
that their ancestor had fought as a patriot by the side of Bruce
and Wallace when scarce a noble of Scotland but was leagued with
the English oppressors of their country.