is said by some that Robert de Bruce, King of Scots, achieved his kingship by
sacrificing his principles, and vacillating back and forth between English
sovereignty and Scottish independence for his own personal benefit. But, did he?
Perhaps it would be
judicious at this time to present a bit of the extremely convoluted and often
conflictive history of the relationship between the Scots and the English.
Necessarily, this is but the barest explanation of why the two peoples who have
so long shared a small island have often been at odds with each other, even
though many of their familial and traditional roots extend deep into the same
European soils. Our readers must forgive our brevity, for we would otherwise be
writing a tome the magnitude of an encyclopedia, so complex is this exciting,
tragic, comedic, romantic, and bloody story.
Kenneth MacAlpin, in
844 A.D., united under his leadership many of the disparate tribes of the land
that is now Scotland, and his descendants ruled the kingdom for generations.
Duncan I, distant
nephew of MacAlpin, ascended the Scottish throne in 1034 and achieved
immortality, of a sort, by being murdered six years later, an event which is now
and forever shall be dramatized in Shakespeare’s play MacBeth. The overly
ambitious MacBeth was himself deposed in 1047 by Duncan’s son, Malcolm III, and
the MacAlpin line continued upon the throne through the Norman invasion of the
England in 1066. That occurrence and the marriage of Malcolm III to Margaret
Atheling, an English noblewoman of Saxon heritage (later canonized by the Roman
Catholic Church), brought an influx of English and Norman customs and thought to
was in the horde that accompanied William “The Bastard,” Duke of Normandy, in
his conquest of England that the first Robert de Bruce, a Norman knight from Brix
(near present-day Cherbourg, France), arrived in England.
times, English kings had tried to exert suzerainty, or feudal superiority, over
the Scots. William, ever after 1066 called “The Conqueror,” cast an eye toward
Scotland six years later, and Malcolm III submitted rather than war against far
superior forces. To cement the deal, Malcolm sent his son Duncan to live at the
English Court as a hostage. Though it was a lovely existence, and beneficial in
wealth and power for the young Scottish prince (and his successors), it was
nevertheless “pampered captivity.”
son David married a very wealthy Englishwoman, Matilda of Huntingdon, who
possessed a great deal of land. When the Scottish throne subsequently came to
him, King David I then owned large, rich tracts in England. As was customary, he
paid homage to the England’s King for the land, which duty was perverted by
subsequent English kings to denote Scottish acquiescence to their supremacy.
In 1174, Malcolm III
and Margaret’s great-grandson, King William the Lion, after being defeated by
the English in Northumbria, recognized England’s Henry II as his liege, or
feudal lord, in the Treaty of Falaise. Fifteen years later, however, this
vassalage was relinquished by Richard Coeur de Lion, who,
in order to finance a crusade, sold the vassalage back to the Scots for 10,000
merks and Scotland was once again independent.
Lion’s son Alexander II began his reign in 1214. His rule proved to be one of
the longest continuous periods of Scottish prosperity, and in fact, carried
forward after his death through the abbreviated reign of his son, Alexander III.
England, meanwhile, suffered devastating civil war. Much of the nobility rose up
against King Henry III, and all concerned suffered widespread carnage and
Bruce, “The Noble,” was laird of Annandale and a grandson of Scotland’s King
David I. During the English civil war, he raised an army of Scots and fought on
the side of the English monarchy. A great defeat befell the royalists at Lewes
in 1264, and Lord Robert’s army was massacred by the rebel cavalry. He was
captured, along with Henry III and his twenty-five-year-old son, Lord Edward.
The Scottish laird’s son, also named Robert, hastened to England to ransom his
father, as was common practice among the warring nobility. The surviving
peasantry of a losing army on enemy soil were most often, as in this case,
hunted down and killed, if not by the opposing army, then by the local populace.
At age thirty-three,
Lord Edward succeeded Henry III on the throne of England, and two years later,
another Robert de Bruce was born. It is he who is the subject of the following
story. Grandson of the laird of Annandale Robert de Bruce, “The Noble,” and son
of Robert de Bruce and Marjorie, countess of Carrick, the infant was born close
to the line of Scottish succession, and was thus fated to become King Edward’s
baby Robert grew into a handsome, strong boy, Edward, nearly forty years old,
strove mightily for order and good government in England. Among his many
admirable achievements, Edward, in his middle years an able administrator and a
courageous warrior, established regular meetings of Parliament and yielded to
that body the right and task of levying taxes within the realm.
boy Robert was less than ten years old, Edward brought the principality of Wales
under his control by warring on Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, the “last true Prince of
Wales,” and his brother David, settling the affair with the Statute of Wales in
1284. Edward gave the country and the title “Prince of Wales” to his newborn
son, Edward, who would one day succeed him on the throne.
Edward’s great desire to encompass the entire island under his crown. However,
familial concerns prevented his warring on Scotland, for Edward’s sister
Margaret was married to Scotland’s King Alexander III, making the entire island
a “family” holding.
III outlived Margaret, and their two sons and one daughter. The latter, having
married the king of Norway, was queen of that land at her demise. She left one
very young daughter, also named Margaret, who was heir apparent to the Scottish
throne. Having no living children the Scottish king sought to remarry and
produce another, preferably male, heir, and so espoused a young French woman,
Yolande de Dreux, granddaughter of King Louis VI. Late on the evening of March
18, 1286, having met with his councilors at Edinburgh, and having drunk far too
much, Alexander headed home to his bride of just six months. Against advice, he
set out into a wild storm, and was found dead next day at the bottom of cliffs
along the River Forth near Kinghorn.
powerful men of the land, the churchmen and the nobility, swore fealty to the
only living descendant of Alexander III, Margaret, the “Maid of Norway,” as
their lady and future queen. They also pledged that, should they fail to guard
Scotland and keep the peace for her, they would be excommunicated from the
church by the Scottish bishops.
government was then temporarily placed into the hands of Guardians who pledged
to do nothing that would diminish the country’s independence, or harm the royal
“dignity.” After establishing an interim government, the Guardians put royal
officers of the land on notice that they must, within twenty-four hours of being
alerted, have knights and soldiers owing military service to the crown ready to
do battle to protect Scottish liberty and royal interests. Late in the year,
they also sent a mission to King Edward to ask his advice and, should it be
needed, protection for the sanctity of the Scottish nation.
of government turned slowly. In July 1290, Scottish emissaries, negotiating with
England and Norway, completed the Treaty of Birgham, an agreement stating that
the “Maid of Norway,” heiress to the Scottish throne, would, at the proper time,
marry the five-year-old and only surviving son of King Edward, also named
Edward. Approved not only by the Guardians, but the bulk of Scotland’s empowered
society as well, the treaty went into great and specific detail to ensure that
Scotland remained a free and independent entity and in no way a vassal to any
other. Edward signed the treaty in August 1290.
By that time (actually the previous June), Edward had taken over Scotland’s Isle
of Man, in the middle of the Irish Sea, which was of strategic importance to
him, and put that part of Scotland “under his protection” without a word to the
Scottish authorities. This was months before the Guardians received news that
the child Margaret, the “Maid of Norway,” had died at Orkney on her way to Scone
to be crowned, and had been taken back to Bergen for burial. Her sudden death
left no obvious successor to the crown.
ensuing confusion, a dozen others desired the vacant throne, but two strong
Scottish aristocrats laid claim to it. One was John de Balliol and the other,
Robert de Bruce, “The Noble.” Both descended from David, earl of Huntingdon,
younger brother of Scotland’s King William the Lion. Earl David had no surviving
sons, but his three daughters had male descendants.
Balliol was the grandson of the eldest daughter, Margaret. Robert de Bruce was
the son of second daughter, Isabel, and thus one generation closer to Earl
David. He also had acquired the prerogative that gave him the support of seven
Scottish earls having the authority to elect a king. However, argued de Balliol,
his grandmother being the elder sister, primogeniture ruled, as it had in
England (but not Scotland) for the two centuries since the Norman conquest. Ah,
but Robert de Bruce, in 1238, had been made heir presumptive to the Scottish
throne by King Alexander II before he had a son to inherit the crown. And thus
decide whose interests were stronger, the argument threatened to incite civil
war among the various factions, and at length, the many rivals agreed to have a
“disinterested” party make the decision as to which of them held the strongest
claim. Their chosen arbiter of “The Great Cause” was Edward, king of England.
queen and greatly beloved wife of 35 years, Eleanor of Castile, died that
winter, an unhappy event that did not favor the Scots, as Eleanor had given
Edward a softer, more reasoned approach to many things. After her death, his
ambitious iron will was unrestrained.
following spring (1291) Edward invited the Scots to meet and talk with him on
the English side of the Tweed, assuring them that crossing the border would not
put them in a lesser position for negotiations. They no sooner arrived than he
demanded suzerainty over Scotland, and backed it up with an army gathered from
England’s northern shires. The Scots requested time to consider his demand, and
then sent him a formal, polite, but firm, letter of refusal saying that they had
not the power to grant such rights. Only the Scottish king had such power, and
even if they agreed, it would not be binding. Edward dismissed the reply as not
“to the purpose.”
Edward eventually did receive from the Scots, including de Balliol and de Bruce,
his temporary overlordship of the kingdom; the physical control of Scotland, its
castles and strongholds (tantamount to suzerainty); and the power to make the
final decision regarding the succession to the Scottish throne by his presidency
of a special tribunal set up to weigh each candidate’s claim. The Scots
competitors for the throne, wanting to be in Edward’s good graces, agreed to the
demands (however illegally), and to abide by Edward’s decision, even though he
retained rights to be a competitor for the throne himself! Fealty was sworn to
Edward by virtually all Scots of any import, the castles were surrendered, the
elected Guardians resigned to be re-appointed by Edward, and Scotland became,
for all practical purposes, an English protectorate.
part, the Scots obtained his promise that the English king would surrender
possession of the kingdom to the rightful king of Scotland within two months
after the new king was crowned, and that he would make no further claims against
Thus it was
that Edward became chief lord of Scotland, and the Scots were to rue the day.
of Scottish royal succession went quickly before a legally established court, in
which arguments were heard from all competitors. For a year and a half, much
posturing and figurative beating of breasts went on, especially between the two
primary claimants, each trying to convince the court that, for various reasons,
his was the stronger, more valid claim. Arguments dragged on until November
1292, at which point things drew rapidly to an end, and the de Brucees were
privately informed that de Balliol had been chosen the rightful heir.
7th, the aged Robert, The Competitor, resigned his claim to the crown in favor
of his son, then earl of Carrick, and his heirs. Perhaps it was thought that the
claim should be passed down to prevent its being lost in the event of the elder
Bruce’ unexpected death. That was well, except that the Countess Marjorie, mother
of the future King Robert, had predeceased the claim’s transfer by some months.
Her widowed husband had not the mettle of The Competitor, and on November 9th,
he deftly sidestepped the responsibilities thrust upon him by relinquishing the
claim and the earldom of Carrick to the title’s rightful heir, his
eighteen-year-old first-born son, Robert.
earl was a canny youth and fully realized the injustice that had befallen his
family and his country at the hands of Edward of England, but there was then
nothing to be done. Thus, on November 17th, the court made public its decision.
The last day of the month, St. Andrew’s Day, 1292, John de Balliol was crowned
at Scone. None of the de Brucees swore fealty to Scotland’s new king, considering
him usurper of the throne rightfully theirs. This dichotomy of loyalties would
later place them at war with their homeland.
of primogeniture had supported de Balliol as heir, but, many felt and many yet
feel that Edward preferred de Balliol because he was younger, less
knowledgeable, more malleable, and could thus be more easily turned to favor
whatever Edward desired for Scotland. In the words of Barrow, “It is true [de
Balliol] was not a forceful man and certainly no match for Edward.”
The king who
had theretofore always dealt with the Scots legally and usually fairly, may
have, indeed probably did, plot to acquire the kingdom as his vassal state,
having declared at the time of Queen Eleanor’s funeral his intent to subjugate
Scotland as he had Wales. Evidence suggests that he encouraged a small number of
civil disputes, properly decided by Scottish courts, to be afterward appealed to
first counter-decision came on December 22nd, after which four Scots
magnates and others forwarded a petition pleading that he abide by his agreement
to preserve Scottish laws and customs, and that no Scottish lawsuits would “be
dealt with outside Scotland.” The last day of the month, Edward abrogated all
commitments made to the Scots during the interim between the reigns of Alexander
III and John de Balliol. He further asserted his intention to hear any appeals
brought to him, even unto summoning the King of Scots before his court, if he so
having sworn fealty to Edward before the crowning at Scone, and under great
pressure from Edward to do so, also issued pronouncements freeing the English
monarch from any and all obligations he might have agreed to during the time of
the Guardians, including the Treaty of Birgham. Thus, Edward joined other
English rulers who had repudiated promises made to the Scots. Edward, in his own
mind, was rightfully empowered to be overlord of Scotland, and he continued
hearing complaints against legal decisions by Scottish courts. Edward’s rules
for settling such complaints, as he had stated, required the King of Scots to
appear in person before the English parliament to explain the reasons for the
said decisions, and other, equally repugnant stipulations. Summonses for such
appearances by King John were properly ignored, but eventually, John de Balliol
relented, and late in 1293, finally went before the English parliament.
King John initially
showed “courage and dignity” in responding to a body that treated him shabbily.
He stated that he could not answer before an English court on matters affecting
his kingdom without consulting with his own advisors, the “responsible men” of
Scotland. However, savagely berated by Edward (who was apparently vicious) and
threatened with losing his three principal towns and castles for being in
contempt of court, de Balliol’s personal courage wilted and he submitted to
Edward’s feigned superiority. As Scotland’s king, de Balliol thus submitted his
kingdom to Edward’s vassalage.
obvious to both the Scots and the English that King Edward had succeeded in
placing a “yoke of servitude” upon the “fickle and unstable” Scots, and the
English felt it just. Their king had subdued and annexed the Welsh state and
defied King Philip of France, and the Scots had undeniably shown great weakness
and vacillation in their dealings with Edward, even before King John had been
enthroned. However, the independent-natured Scots soon saw the irresolute King
John as Edward’s puppet, a situation they found intolerable and dangerous. He
was soon labeled “Toom Tabard,” or “empty tunic,” by many of his countrymen.
taking advantage of Edward’s preoccupation with things at home, King Philip IV
(called “ Philip The Fair”) of France confiscated Edward’s French duchy of
Aquitaine, in response to which Edward angrily renounced his homage to the
French king. He entered into discussions with the leaders of Germany, northern
Spain, and many of the Low Countries, and soon formed an alliance that would
effectively surround France. The English king forbade communications with the
Continent sans royal permission, and ordered King John to exert similar control
in Scotland. This raised the ire of many of the landed and titled Scots, who,
like the American colonists of a later time, saw that the English king was
treating them more like vassals than free men.
English military was ordered to report for overseas duty at Portsmouth, from
whence they would embark for war in France. Edward sent the Scots an order for
King John, along with “ten earls of Scotland, and sixteen barons, headed by
James the Stewart and Bruce of Annandale, The Competitor, [then] eighty-four
years of age” [Barrow] likewise to report at Portsmouth. No longer even giving
pretense that Scotland was a sovereign nation, Edward was behaving as reigning
monarch. Giving excuse on top of excuse, the Scots (who were in no mood to give
overseas military aid to the English king) failed to show.
Edward called for the Welsh to report for service, and made the error of arming
them prior to embarkation. Within a month, the whole of Wales was in revolt
against him, capturing and destroying his castles and creating a great deal of
turmoil. The Welsh halted Edward’s winter offensive by attacking and seizing his
Welsh were warring on Edward, Robert de Bruce, The Competitor, laird of Annandale
and grandfather of the future Scots king, died at Lochmaben on Good Friday 1295.
His son and heir was then in Norway, having escorted his daughter Isabella to be
wed to Norway’s King Erik. It would be autumn before he returned to take up his
discontented Scots, taking note of the rebellious Welsh’ successes, determined
that neither would they stand idly by and be taken over by the English. In early
summer, due to de Balliol’s apparent lack of competence and their distrust of
his resolve, the Scots held a parliament at Stirling and, though not deposing
him, removed governmental control from King John. On July 5, 1295, they elected
a “Council of Twelve” to take command and prepare the country for inevitable war
a Scottish mission to France had negotiated a renewal of “The Auld Alliance,”
between France and Scotland. Scotland agreed to invade England if Edward left
home for the Continent, and the French pledged to furnish aid or create
diversions if the English invaded Scotland. Neither side would make a separate
peace, and the whole treaty would be crowned by the marriage of King John’s son
Edward de Balliol, who was guaranteed to be heir to the throne, and King
Philip’s niece, Jeanne.
separate agreement, the two countries joined with Norway, in spite of King
Erik’s formerly amiable relations with Edward, and formed an alliance more or
less surrounding England.
In order to
resist English intentions toward Scotland, word went out for the Scottish
military to hold inspections of arms and equipment, a prerequisite to a call to
assemble. That order soon followed, and the Scots landholders who were ready to
do battle against Edward gathered with their knights at Caddonlee, near Selkirk,
and prepared to do battle to the south as had William the Lion in 1173. Among
nobles holding lands in Scotland and remaining loyal to the English king were
the de Brucees. As a result, many of their neighbors considered them unwelcome
and, like the Tories of the American Revolution, they, along with English
citizens, were banished from their lands, their homes, and even religious orders
in Scotland. Annandale, home of Lord Robert de Bruce, was given to the earl of
Buchan to be used as headquarters for attacking Cumberland.
the war in France went poorly for Edward, who was unable to cross the Channel
and lead his armies in battle due to the dangers to his crown closer to home.
English coffers were being drained and there were disastrous losses in the
field. Yet, in spite of their drubbing in France, his armies were gaining
experience that would prove invaluable once the upstart Scots met them on the
they had little to fear from Edward’s defeated armies, the Scots blindly headed
toward disasters of their own. Edward is said by Barrow to have stated, “What
matter if both Welsh and Scots are our foes? … let them join forces if they
please. We shall beat them both in a day.” Edward demanded that the Scots
relinquish, until the end of the war with France, the castles of Berwick,
Roxburgh, and Jedburgh, all along his border. He further ordered the Scots not
to allow any French or Flemish to enter Scotland, to which they replied they
would welcome whom they pleased. But Edward had only begun to fight.
edict, Scottish-held lands in England were seized, and six months later, Scots
in England were arrested; even the toddler son of Sir William Douglas was taken
into custody! Full-fledged war began in late March 1296, when the Scots burned
their way from Annandale to Carlisle. There they were repulsed, ironically, by
the lord of Annandale, Robert de Bruce, then in command of Castle Carlisle, and
his son the earl of Carrick. The invading Scots’ greatest success at Carlisle
was the burning of half the town, after which they withdrew back to Annandale.
far more successful at attacking Berwick-on-Tweed, Scotland’s largest and
wealthiest town, taking it on first attack. Only 30 Flemings fought to the
death, perishing when the Red Hall was burned with them inside. But, it was what
happened afterward that shows Edward’s extreme brutality. It became one of the
darkest events in English history.
town lay prostrate before him, Edward ordered that none beneath the rank of
knight be spared. The murdering of the helpless men, women, and children of the
town went on for days, until the local clergy were at long last successful in
begging mercy from the English king. It is estimated that between ten thousand
and twenty thousand Scots were slain, so many that their bodies became a
“dangerous nuisance” and were hastily thrown into the sea or buried in deep
pits. Edward then established his “capitol” at Berwick from which defeated
Scotland would be governed.
raided and burned numerous small villages, churches, and monasteries in
Northumberland, and some said they set fire to a school building resulting in
the deaths of two hundred young scholars. Whether the schoolboys were murdered
or not is in doubt, but the burning of the village and the priory of Hexham, as
well as other towns, is factual.
Inexperienced in pitched warfare, the Scots’ main armies were met at Dunbar in
late April by those of Edward under the command of John de Warrene, earl of
Surrey (and father of the wife of John de Balliol - another control Edward had
thought he held over the Scottish king). Having laid siege to Dunbar Castle, the
tough English forces turned to meet the oncoming Scots (who actually held the
more advantageous position). Seeing the movement, the unseasoned Scots got the
notion that the English were withdrawing and, relinquishing the high ground,
gave chase… only to find their well-formed foe awaiting them. In short order,
the Scots were overpowered and fled the area looking for safety in Selkirk
forest, some forty miles distant. The Scots soldiers of foot suffered heavy
casualties, and great numbers of the “important” personages of Scotland were
captured. It was a crushing defeat for an army ill prepared to fight a modern
Scottish resistance was slight, and in some instances non-existent. One-by-one,
the castles fell until, by mid-summer, King John and the Comyns had fled
northward and sued for peace. Edward informed the hapless de Balliol of what
must be done to achieve cessation of hostilities, and meanwhile, went about the
business of securing his captured land. He toured the country, proving his
victory to the masses, while looting the wealth of Scotland’s royalty. Among his
trophies were “regalia and a mass of plate, jewellery [sic] and relics,
including the Black Rood of Saint Margaret, the holiest and most venerated relic
in Scotland.” He then had the Stone of Destiny removed from its place in the
abbey at Scone and sent to Westminster Abbey as a gift to his personal patron,
Edward the Confessor.
thoroughly defeated, gave Edward all that he had asked: a servile confession of
rebellion, renunciation of the Scots’ treaty with the French, and, on July 10,
1296, abdication. The blazon of his royal arms was stripped from his tabard,
thus completing his humiliation before his own and the English peoples. The
ex-king was sent south to the Tower of London, but was soon granted quarters
near his home. The more prominent Scots leaders, including the Comyns, were sent
to England, some to the Tower, while others were imprisoned in various castles
throughout the more distant parts of England and Wales.
Bruce, son of the Competitor, having been promised the Scottish throne in return
for the de Brucees’ support during the uprising, instead received only Edward’s
disdainful query, “Have we nothing else to do but win kingdoms for you?”
Berwick by late August, Edward had his parliament draw up an ordinance for the
English governance of the captured land, making himself direct lord, but not
eliminating Scotland as a separate entity. He required that fealty be sworn,
again, and a fairly complete list of those so doing can be found on a formal
document called the “Ragman Roll.” (The term “Ragman,” as used here, was
possibly derived from the Old Norse “ragmenni,” meaning “coward,” and comes down
to us today as “rigmarole,” or, useless, confused statements or nonsense.) Those
who had not rebelled also swore allegiance, including the de Brucees.
absent from the list is the family of landholder and vassal of the Stewart,
Malcolm Wallace, and his brothers, John and William. Perhaps they were not of
enough import to be included on the Ragman Roll, or perhaps, they refused to
pledge their fealty. Those who did not take the oath were declared outlaws and
stripped of possessions and inheritances, and forbidden to possess weapons of
considered the whole Scottish matter settled, and after setting up English
administrators, left that unhappy country, making the comment, “He who rids
himself of shit does a good job,” and returned his attentions to his war against
the French. Many Scots, however, held nothing but animosity toward the English
and their overlordship, creating a cauldron in which an undercurrent of
rebellion continued to simmer just beneath the surface. It would not be long
before the lid blew off.
powerful Scots imprisoned or out of the country, Scotland’s leadership fell to
the likes of Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow and one of the old Council of
Twelve. Another was one of the most powerful landholders in Scotland, James the
Stewart, canny and less fiery than Wishart, but nevertheless holding no love for
Edward of England. Perhaps, then, it was no coincidence that the next uprising
came under the leadership of William Wallace, a long-time friend of Wishart, and
under the patronage of the Stewart, on whose land he lived. It has been
suggested that Wishart and Stewart may actually have plotted Wallace’s revolt of
the following year.
known to be a daring warrior and still carried his five-foot long sword.
Educated beyond his station by an uncle who was a priest, Wallace came to the
fore in the spring of 1297, after some grumbling of discontent arose in the west
highlands and violence erupted in Aberdeenshire and Galloway. In May, the
English sheriff of Lanark, William de Heselrig, having failed to trap William
Wallace at the home of his wife, Marion Braidfute, had Marion and her family
slain and the house burned. Wallace avenged the murders the next night by
returning with a small band and killing every Englishman in Lanark. Moving
stealthily, he started in the home of the Sheriff, whom he woke and personally
dispatched with a dagger to the heart.
the turbulent Sir William Douglas, Wallace next attacked the English court at
Scone, routing the justiciar and acquiring much plunder. This effectively ran
most English north of the Forth to ground.
turned to the English garrison at Ayr. His uncle Sir Reginald Crawford had been
sheriff of Ayr, and was tricked to his death by being solicited to confer with
an English judge named Arnulf. They were to meet in a large building near town,
which became instead a place of massacre. About three hundred Scots, entering in
ones and twos to attend the meet, were hanged from the rafters as they entered.
Then the building was cleared and used as English barracks.
again attained vengeance. In the night, he and his men surrounded and set fire
to the barracks, slaying any who escaped the flames. He then took Castle Ayr
and, from its walls, hanged Arnulf.
time Wallace “raised his head,” Andrew Murray (son of Sir Andrew Murray, Lord of
Petty, deposed [by the English] Justiciar of Scotia and a wealthy baron),
escaped from a captivity suffered after the Battle of Dunbar. He gathered
fighters from around Inverness and captured Castle Urquhart. Within three months
he controlled Inverness, Elgin, Banff, and other northern castles formerly held
by the English. King Edward sent the Comyns, John of Badenoch and John, earl of
Buchan, to join those yet loyal to him in quelling the disturbances in the
realm’s northern reaches. However, the earl of Buchan crossed to the side of the
others joining this rebellion, interestingly, was young (aged twenty-two) Robert
de Bruce, earl of Carrick. Kicked out of Scotland for siding with Edward against
John de Balliol, his family had regained its holdings after the English conquest
for the same reason. As far as Earl Robert’s father was concerned that support
existed yet, in spite of Edward’s broken promise of the Scottish throne.
of Carlisle, however, suspected the true loyalties of the younger de Bruce and
coerced him into taking a special oath of allegiance to the English crown, which
he soon rightly abrogated as being given under constraint. “I must join my own
people [the men of Carrick] and the nation in which I was born,” he is quoted as
having said to his father’s knights while trying, mostly in vain, to convince
them to join him in the revolt.
he did persuade, de Bruce managed to relieve Castle Douglas, under English siege
and defended by the Lady Douglas and her twelve-year-old son, James. From that
day, James Douglas would follow Robert de Bruce to the death, and beyond.
Irrespective of his success at Douglas, the untried de Bruce was no better at war
than were Bishop Wishart and the Stewart, who met a larger and better equipped
English contingent of well-trained mounted troops at Irvine and immediately
asked to negotiate terms for surrender. Many interpreted that as a ruse to give
Wallace time to continue his successful activities. The talks dragged on, and in
a late July letter to King Edward from Hugh Cressingham, the situation was
described in direst terms. Most Scottish counties were no longer under Edward’s
control because his “keepers” were either dead, holed up, or in Scottish hands.
Cressingham is quoted as saying, “And in some shires the Scots have appointed
and established bailiffs and officials.” The Scots, in other words, were taking
back their country and establishing home rule.
at Irvine contained a special demand upon Earl Robert de Bruce, who did not
submit with the others. Robert had married very young, and his wife, Isabella,
daughter of Donald, earl of Mar (a friend of Robert’s late grandfather, The
Competitor), died in 1296 while giving birth to their daughter, Marjorie. To
meet the terms of his capitulation, Robert was ordered to surrender his only
child as a hostage. He had not done so as of November of that year, and there is
no evidence that he ever submitted or surrendered the infant.
August, Wallace and Murray joined forces. Edward’s commanders, Warrene and
Cressingham, moved on Stirling with one thousand heavy cavalry and a host of
nearly sixty thousand English and Welsh infantry, arriving September 9th.
Wallace and Murray formed their army of about ten thousand north of Stirling
Bridge, which spanned the Forth about a half-mile beneath Stirling Castle.
Between the two was a high road through plowed fields and meadows, totally
unsuitable for deploying cavalry. There the river formed a horseshoe bend and
flowed on both sides of any advancing army, which could only cross the narrow
bridge two riders abreast.
unsuccessful parleying between Earl Warrene and several Scots (including James
the Stewart), who said they would try to “pacify” their countrymen, the
Englishman finally sent two friars to Wallace, seeking capitulation. His reply
came back a veritable slap in the haughty English face, “…we are not here to
make peace but to do battle to defend ourselves and liberate our kingdom. Let
them come on, and we shall prove this in their very beards.”
Cressingham, the penny wise and pound foolish English treasurer, had sent home
reinforcements to save money, and now used the same logic in urging that the
coming battle go forth immediately. Sir Richard Lundie, who had gone over to the
English at Irvine, proposed a delay, that he might cross the river at a tidal
ford near Kildean and maneuver his forces to a position behind his fellow Scots.
Apparently distrustful of the turncoat and confident that his superior numbers
would carry the day, Warrene ordered his army across the narrow bridge the next
morning, September 11th.
Murray watched patiently until a sufficient number of English troops, both horse
and foot, had crossed the arch. They then rushed in to cut the invading army in
twain. Among those who made it to the north bank of the river was Cressingham,
the niggardly treasurer, who charged into the Scots spearmen and was killed.
Those yet on the south side had no way to help the advance party, but watched as
they were cut to pieces. Warrene, seeing his command losing severely, fled in
haste all the way back to Berwick. Out of the forests, James the Stewart and the
earl of Lennox led their commands down upon the English supply train and the
fleeing enemy troops, killing great numbers and capturing horses and wagons in
the marshes south of the river.
Stirling was not lightly won, and among the sacrificed Scots was Andrew Murray,
whose lingering death came in November.
With no way
to re-supply, the English garrison in Stirling Castle soon surrendered. A wildly
popular win for the Scots, the Battle of Stirling Bridge was no crushing defeat
of the English, though to be sure, the English nose was well bloodied by the
victory of mostly afoot and untrained Scots peasantry over the primarily
professional and highborn English cavalry.
political situation in Scotland reverted to its previous form, with John de
Balliol, still held in England, as king, and all else as it was before his
abdication. Murray, while he lived, and Wallace, throughout, never attempted to
claim the throne or be anything more powerful than guardians of the kingdom and
commanders of its army.
raids into Northumberland in October and November, and ferociously retaliated
against the English in border areas, making all fear his appearance on the
horizon. Some of the undisciplined rabble in his command crossed the line
between warfare and atrocity, plundering and pillaging at will with none to stop
them. It was not until winter that the Scots returned north without having
captured any major castles on either side of the border, save Stirling, but with
plunder to divide amongst themselves.
Sir Robert Clifford attempted a half-hearted counter-offensive in December, but
the relatively minor damage they did amounted to the burning of ten towns, and
the slaughtering of many Annandale peasants. They also freed Roxburgh and
Berwick of Scottish sieges before retiring for the winter. Edward, then on the
continent, sent word to hold off on any major campaigns until he arrived to lead
such. Wallace spent the interim trying to train and prepare his soldiers and
increase their number, knowing that Edward would strike with heavy blows come
to an English source at the time, William Wallace was knighted prior to the end
of March 1298, by “one of the foremost earls of Scotland,” which Barrow goes on
to surmise was probably either Buchan, Carrick, or Lennox. He contends that
Wallace earned this honor at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Wallace was also
elected sole Guardian of Scotland and commander of the armed forces. However,
while the powerful men of the kingdom may have admired and supported Wallace and
wished him success, they were reluctant to take orders from a commoner. They
would have to do so if they joined the fray, and so the hereditary leadership of
the kingdom failed to lead, or even to follow, and left to Wallace their
prepared to invade Scotland with an impressive army of two thousand mounted and
twelve thousand foot soldiers, though the vast majority of the latter were from
Wales and Ireland, and their commitment to Edward’s war with Scotland was
dubious. As for the English populace, they had taken the defeat of England’s
finest at the hands of Wallace as an almost personal affront. Their appraisal of
the Scottish leader was based on hatred, resentment, fear, and titillation, as
baseless rumors spread about his despicable character and horrendously cruel
July of the following year, Edward marched on Scotland, catching neither sight
nor sound of Wallace and his army. To his dismay, he found Berwickshire and
Lothian burned and deserted, and his supply ships delayed at sea, save a few
that brought mostly wine. With no way to feed his soldiers other than foraging
in that devastated land, Edward sent Bishop Bek’s force to capture three
Scottish-held castles in Lothian, which he was unable to accomplish until after
the arrival of some English grain ships.
force, however, was yet starving, and in order to quell their hunger and lift
their spirits, he ordered they be given some of the wine. A debacle followed in
which the intoxicated Welsh instigated brawling and several priests were killed.
In response the English knights charged into the Welsh troops, killing eighty
and scattering the rest.
to join the Scots, the Welsh stayed away from camp until word came with Patrick,
earl of Dunbar, and Gilbert de Umfraville, earl of Angus and an Englishman, both
of whom had always supported England, that the Scots were just thirteen miles
away, near Falkirk. The army regrouped to meet them the following day, July 22,
cavalry and having only longbows, Wallace was at a severe tactical disadvantage.
His spearmen were set in place on the side of a solid hill with heavy woods
behind them, and faced southeast across a loch that was more of a marshy bog.
They were grouped into four schiltroms of perhaps as many as two thousand men,
each holding a long, metal-pointed pole or spear toward the outside of the
circular group, making the whole much like a huge and deadly quill-laden beast.
Into the turf around the schiltroms had been driven wooden stakes, roped
together, and between each were stationed Wallace’s archers under command of
John the Stewart. What cavalry he had, contributed by the Comyns and others,
Wallace held to the rear.
Eager to be
about their business with the Scots, the English commanders refused to delay
until their men had eaten, as Edward suggested, and instead, moved forward in
the direction of what was ostensibly but a small brook separating them from
their enemy. Reaching the loch, the first army circled the swampy obstacle by
heading west, the second, east. The Scottish cavalry, for the most part,
panicked and deserted the field without making contact with the enemy. A few
notable exceptions remained and took part in the battle, including MacDuff of
Fife, who was killed leading his men.
professionals systematically picked apart the Scots’ preparations. They first
attacked the archers in between the schiltroms, killing almost all of them, from
their commander Sir John the Stewart on down, leaving the schiltroms separated
and vulnerable. They fought valiantly, but the spearmen suffered such a
merciless rain of arrows, crossbow bolts, and stones, that the outer rings of
the schiltroms began to gap. Soon there were not enough replacements to move out
from the center; the English cavalry charged into thinned and faltering ranks
and annihilated the Scots, killing hundreds if not thousands more before day’s
other Scots magnates escaped and fled to “castles and woods.” It is unknown
whether or not the young earl of Carrick was among those who participated in the
Battle of Falkirk, but when Edward later arrived at de Bruce’ estate, he found
the town empty and the castle destroyed, burned on Earl Robert’s orders.
though not a vanquishing of the Scots, was the undoing of Sir William Wallace.
From that point his fortunes steadily declined, as he had only his military
prowess to thank for his rise in society, and that reputation rested primarily
on his success at Stirling Bridge. Having been greatly encouraged by that
success, the influential Scots’ faith in Wallace was now shattered, and they
realized their freedom was going to require their own active participation and
sacrifice. As for Wallace, he either was removed or resigned as Guardian of
Scotland, and the following summer left for the continent to work in the
interests of the realm.
driven out of Scotland, not by the Scots, but by famine and the discontent of
his commanders. Prior to exiting the kingdom, he successfully wrested Lochmaben,
home of Robert de Bruce, lord of Annandale, from Scots who apparently supported
the rebellion more strongly than did the laird. Returning in September to
Carlisle, Edward found the Scots had been there before him and taken his
supplies, leaving him with insufficient food for his already hungry army.
Nonetheless, he swore to return the following year, and commenced bestowing
Scottish lands upon his supporters, claiming that the properties’ rightful
Scottish owners had forfeited them by their disloyalty to him. It was true that
most of the Scots had closed ranks to defend themselves and Scotland against the
English interlopers, and most would eventually pay dearly for their patriotism.
December 1298, Robert de Bruce of Carrick and John Comyn, the younger, of
Badenoch were elected joint Guardians of the kingdom. They continued to act in
the name of King John and upheld the acts of Wallace while he was Guardian.
Edward was unable to mount an offensive to the north the following year, and the
Scots used the providential gift of time to appoint their own administrators and
officials wherever they were needed, to collect taxes and to gain additional
power in the Scottish church. England still held many castles in southeast
Scotland, but for the most part, the Scots controlled the rest of the country.
intercession of Pope Boniface VIII, King John was released from captivity in
July 1299, but Edward would only surrender him to papal custody. Thus, de
Balliol was removed to the Continent and held in a papal residence.
William Lamberton, having replaced the late William Fraser as Bishop of St.
Andrews two years previously, arrived from his mission to France to find de
and Comyn setting out on an ambitious raid south of the Forth. He joined them,
as had the earls of Buchan, Menteith, and Atholl. Sir Malcolm Wallace, brother
of William, was there in the de Bruce contingent.
against attacking heavily defended Roxburgh, their original target, the Scots
left Sir Ingram de Umfraville with troops and any locals who might be persuaded
to join the effort, and raided as far as the environs of Edinburgh. But, an
English spy among them was sending back military and other pertinent information
to his master, Robert Hastings, constable at Roxburgh.
missive to King Edward, Hastings described a fissure between de Bruce and Comyn
during a council the Scots held August 12th. He reported that Sir David Graham
lay claim to the lands and goods of Sir William Wallace for his having left
Scotland without the Guardians’ consent, to which Sir Malcolm objected on
grounds that his brother’s work abroad was for the good of the kingdom. The two
drew daggers upon each other. Graham being in Comyn’s retinue and Wallace in de
Bruce’, the argument was quickly reported to John Comyn, who took de Bruce by the
throat and the earl of Buchan, a Comyn supporter, turned on neutral Bishop
Lamberton, accusing them both of plotting treason. Future troubles between the
two men might have been settled mortally at that point had not the Stewart come
that Sir Alexander Comyn (brother of the earl) and Lachlan Macruarie were
warring on fellow Scots in their district, burning and despoiling the region,
arrived in timely fashion, sobering and unifying the opposing camps. Agreement
was made that Bishop Lamberton would become the principal captain and remain in
control of all the castles. He was also elected third Guardian of Scotland in an
attempt to buffer the de Bruce-Comyn factions. Afterward, the council
participants took their respective followers and returned, each to his
next few months the joint Guardians tried to make things work among them,
holding the government together with dogged determination while starving the
English out of Stirling. There was talk of a truce between England and Scotland
to be negotiated by King Philip “The Fair” of France, to which the Guardians
seemed amenable. Edward, having his own troubles at home, was virtually rendered
incapable of charging north after the Scots as he would have wished. Eventually
the English in Stirling surrendered, after which they were permitted to return
So it was
that the Scots set about governing Scotland and recapturing the English holdings
along their border. The southwest region would be first, and de Bruce was greatly
influenced in his decision to resign as a Guardian by this campaign; after all,
his father, lord of Annandale and always Edward’s supporter, still resided
there. His decision may have been made partially due to threats of attacks by
the men of Galloway upon his northern Carrick lands. Whatever the cause, Robert
de Bruce did resign before May 1300, leaving Bishop Lamberton and John Comyn as
joint Guardians. Sir Ingram de Umfraville, kinsman of Balliol and supporter of
Comyn, quickly filled De Bruce’ vacated position.
Edward, having gathered a suitable force for the first time in nearly two years,
marched that summer from Carlisle to Annan, and afterward to Lochmaben, still
held by the English. From there he moved the ten miles to Scottish-held
Caerlaverock Castle and laid siege to it, bringing up battering rams and
catapults, effecting the castle’s demise in short order and hanging many of the
west into Galloway, Edward held a two-day meeting with the earl of Buchan and
Comyn of Badenoch. The Scots demanded the restoration to his throne of John de
Balliol, recognition by Edward of de Balliol’s familial succession thereto, and
the return of English estates to the Scots from whom Edward had seized them,
else they would defend Scotland against him as long as possible. To all this
Edward was adamant in his refusal, and the war continued to rage.
small skirmish by his foragers at a glen along the Cree, Edward moved his army
there and, with archers and three brigades of horse, faced off against Buchan,
Comyn of Badenoch, and Umfraville, each commanding a horse brigade. When the
English moved across the tidal basin at ebb tide, the Scots fled in such a panic
that some even left their horses and took flight on foot into the wilderness.
The English horsemen were not prepared to fight in such terrain, and the bulk of
the Scottish army escaped.
captured two prominent Scottish patriots, Sir Robert Keith and Robert Baird of
Strathaven, Clydesdale, Edward was disappointed that he had not been able to
thrash the Scottish army into submission. On top of that, the Archbishop of
Winchelsey was finally in receipt of the previous year’s missive from Pope
Boniface VIII, excoriating Edward for his invasion of Scotland, a sovereign,
Catholic country, and demanding that the whole matter be submitted for papal
adjudication. The Pope and Philip of France also supported the Scots’ demands
for a truce, and the declining, elderly monarch finally agreed to one, but
lasting only until the following May (1301).
combination of joint guardians was no more workable than the previous one, and
at some point before May 1301, all three of them resigned to be replaced by one
man, Sir John de Soules. Older, and neutral in the de Bruce-Comyn affair, de
Soules was a great patriot and an active Guardian, mounting renewed efforts to
return King John to his throne.
during this time, also, that Edward prepared to lobby the papal court in an
attempt to prove his suzerainty over the Scots, bringing in proofs of the
several times that the Scots earls swore fealty to Edward. He further claimed
that he was in “full possession” of Scotland, which was untrue, as the Scots
pointed out, because he controlled not one of the twelve bishops’ sees or the
twelve dioceses in Scotland, but merely portions of the St. Andrews and
Glaswegian dioceses. The Scots mounted a vigorous counter-claim culminating in a
request that the Pope forbid Edward from making further war upon Scotland.
Edward had no intention of abandoning his war, but the Scots’ pleadings did
manage to get their king released from the custody of Rome and, thanks to King
Philip, residing in his family’s ancestral home, Bailleul-en-Vimeu.
aimed to capture Scotland with a two-pronged attack, the one army to be in
command of his son Edward, Prince of Wales, the other and larger under his own
command. The prince was to take the southwestern lands, and the greater glory,
so his father hoped. But, while the prince held cautiously to the Solway coast,
the Scots, commanded by de Soules and de Umfraville, attacked Lochmaben in early
September and threatened the king’s forces at Bothwell, all the while
maintaining an awareness of the prince’s whereabouts. Though Edward captured
Bothwell in late September, and the prince had earlier helped in capturing de
Bruce’ Turnberry Castle, the English sovereign and his son met to winter at
Linlithgow without having damaged the Scots’ fighting ability. In January 1302,
Edward agreed to a nine-month truce.
more or less coincides with the desertion of Robert de Bruce to the English side.
Hitherto he had been on the side of the patriots of Scotland, but at some point
that winter, he surrendered to the English and, as was his father, became a
supporter of King Edward. There are multiple reasons that may have prompted his
turning, not the least of which was that de Bruce may have found it loathsome,
continuing to sacrifice his Carrick followers, family, and heritage for the
failed monarchy of de Balliol.
that de Balliol would return with a French army. Even if such an event was
successful in returning the irresolute king to the Scottish throne, it did not
bode well for the de Brucees, the auld enemies of de Balliol.
Robert’s father was an old man and ill, and may have wished his son to seek
peace with Edward, who, he would have been convinced, would be the victor over
the rebellious Scots. The elder de Bruce would have seen that, if the rebellion
failed and his son were running against Edward, he would lose everything,
titles, lands, honors, and probably his life. And it stands to reason that the
father would also want to live out his own remaining time at peace with his king
and his son.
is conceivable that the fact that Robert married his second wife that same year
had much to do with his decision. His bride, Elizabeth de Burgh, was the
daughter of the earl of Ulster, Richard de Burgh, one of King Edward’s most
trusted and valiant champions. In addition, Elizabeth was a niece by marriage of
James the Stewart, another tie de Bruce would have wanted to strengthen.
though recently pledged to support Edward, it is interesting to note that Robert
de Bruce sent a letter to the monks at Melrose Abbey in March 1302 that
effectively weakened his usefulness to the English king. Apologizing for having
called the monks to service in his army when there had been no national call up,
the earl of Carrick pledged that, henceforth, he would “never again” require the
monks to serve unless it was to “the common army of the whole realm,” for
serious to Scots freedom than the loss of de Bruce was the loss of support from
King Philip and subsequently, Pope Boniface. Philip’s feudal host lost severely
at Flanders against the nationalists he was warring on there, and he became too
involved in his own difficulties to care about the Scots. He had also created a
schism between himself and the Pope, whose support for the Scots faded without
Philip’s influence. It seemed that Philip had such a full plate in Flanders that
he was willing to sign with Edward a peace treaty excluding the Scots, an act
that the Scots knew would spell their doom. A powerful delegation, including
even de Soules, went to Paris that autumn to try to head off such an event.
1302, when the temporary truce between the Scots and the English ended, Edward
delayed calling up his army until spring. Over that winter, however, he sent Sir
John Segrave and a mounted force of three brigades of knights on a scouting
expedition into the area west of Edinburgh. They were ambushed by Comyn and
Simon Fraser, who had ridden all night to meet them.
attacked the lead brigade and captured the severely wounded Segrave. Though the
second brigade later rescued their leader, the Scots were exultant at their
success, which mounted a short time later as they captured the new tower at
Selkirk. Their successes, however, were rendered useless in May 1303, when King
Philip, formerly a great advocate for the Scots, signed a peace accord with
England and omitted any consideration for the Scots.
So it was
that Edward began his campaign, cleverly sailing siege engines and specially
constructed pontoon bridges up the coast from King’s Lynn to the Firth of Forth.
Having ability to get over that body downstream and obtain direct access to Fife
meant that he would not have to cross that infamous, in his view, narrow bridge
at Stirling. The castle there was then in rebel hands under Sir William
Oliphant, who declined to surrender. No matter. There would be time for
Newcastle in early May, Edward led his army to Roxburgh, Lauder, Edinburgh,
Linlithgow, and across his floating bridge to Perth by mid-June. From there, it
was to Cupar, to Arbroath, and to Brechin, where in latter July he laid siege to
the castle being valiantly defended by the garrison commanded by Sir Thomas
Maule. Maule was killed August ninth, and the castle fell. Edward moved on to
Kinloss Abbey by way of Aberdeen, Banff, Cullen, Rathven, and Elgin. Turning
back south, he was in Dunfermline by early November and made his winter quarters
at the abbey there.
1304, Edward sent a raiding party under the command of Segrave, Clifford, and
William Latimer, who put to flight the forces under Fraser and Wallace west of
Peebles. Losing heart, all of the Scots leaders of significance surrendered to
the English in February except Wallace and Fraser, and de Soules who was yet out
of the country. Safe passage home from France was given John Comyn, earl of
Buchan, James the Stewart, and Ingram de Umfraville, and the bishops Lamberton
of St. Andrews and Crambeth of Dunkeld.
terms were negotiated by John Comyn of Badenoch, who refused to surrender
unconditionally, but asked that prisoners of both sides be released sans ransom,
and that Edward agree there would be no reprisals against or disinheritance of
the Scots. The laws and liberties of Scotland would be as they had been in the
day of Alexander III, and any that needed alteration would be with the advice of
Edward and the advice and assent of Scotland’s responsible men. Though not all
that was asked, final surrender terms were not unreasonable or greatly brutal.
(They may be seen in the Ordinance of September 1305.)
William Wallace and John de Soules, it seemed that all would be forgiven… after
some of the more famous leaders were exiled from Scotland for various periods of
time. And ‘forfeited’ estates could be recovered by payment of fines levied in
amounts deemed appropriate for each individual’s betrayal. Inheritances would
continue as they always had, allowing the landed nobility to pass titles and
properties to their progeny in normal fashion.
remained abroad, refusing to surrender; Wallace was still at large in Scotland
and, unlike all the earls, lords, and bishops, refused to pay homage to Edward.
Edward needed to make an example of someone, and, by refusing to capitulate and
accept his country’s occupation and elimination, Wallace was the unfortunate
focus of Edward’s lingering hatred. The Scot would be granted no peace unless he
put himself “utterly and absolutely in (Edward’s) will.” Further, it was decreed
that The Stewart, de Soules, and Ingram de Umfraville could not return home or
anyplace else where Edward reigned until Wallace was “given up,” and Comyn,
Alexander Lindsay, David Graham, and Fraser were actively to seek Wallace’s
capture. The king’s dispensation of English justice toward them would depend on
how exhausting were their efforts. He who gave the greatest effort would be held
in highest regard.
It was thus
inevitable that Wallace should fall into Edward’s hands.
Bruce, lord of Annandale, succumbed to his lingering illness in March 1304,
leaving his lands and title to his eldest son. Thus, at thirty, Robert de Bruce,
earl of Carrick, was now also lord of Annandale and held vast lands and homes in
England as well as Scotland, including a house in London. He was also guardian
of his young nephew, Donald, earl of Mar, and for him kept the castle at
having contained most Scottish opposition, Edward again turned his attentions to
Castle Stirling, laying siege with great determination. Asked by Oliphant if he
might ask de Soules whether he had permission to surrender or must hold the
castle, Edward refused, saying, “If he thinks it will be better for him to
defend the castle than yield it, he will see.” Recently remarried, the old
tyrant may have felt he had something to prove to all the younger men in his
army, or perhaps just to his youthful bride. At great risk to himself, Edward
actively participated in attacking the castle walls, nearly getting himself
killed in a foolish display of bravado.
better part of three torturous months, under terrible bombardment and in spite
of the use of every siege engine Edward could bring to bear upon the courageous
defenders, they held. When they could no longer, they offered to surrender
unconditionally, but Edward refused to accept. He would first bombard the castle
with ‘The Warwolf,’ his new catapult of extraordinary size and power. After a
day of horrific punishment, the destroyed castle was allowed to submit, and
about fifty men surrendered. Unlike the courteous and respectful surrender and
safe withdrawal that had been granted the English garrison at that same castle
in 1299, the Scots’ surrender drew Edward’s threats to disembowel and hang them.
Having been dissuaded from carrying out his threats by the Scots’ humiliating
degradation and the reasonings of his subordinates, Edward instead sent them
south to prisons in England.
Bruce, earl of Carrick, and William Lamberton, bishop of St. Andrews, witnessed
on June 11 1304, the heroic efforts against overwhelming might by their besieged
countrymen at Stirling. The two great patriots, who had so long fought for their
country’s freedom, made a pact that bound them, each to the other, in
“friendship and alliance against all men.” If one should break the secret pact,
he would forfeit to the other the sum of ten thousand pounds sterling, a
veritable fortune. Though both had already surrendered to the English, the pact
indicates deep patriotism and commitment to their future perseverance for the
Scots people and their freedom. All around them death, desolation, and despair
bespoke volumes about the suffering inflicted by the now lost war. None of that
memory would leave them in their lifetimes.
Scotland lay defenseless. Edward, in his usual methodical and logical way, went
about absorbing her into his kingdom. Homage was again paid to Edward by all the
“responsible men” of the land (not the realm) of Scotland, and a
parliament was held in May 1305 to elect those who would meet later in the year
with the English parliament for the establishing of a constitution for captive
Brittany, nephew to Edward, was to head up the subordinate government of
Scotland and control the castles of Roxburgh and Jedburgh. Justices were
appointed in pairs of one Englishman and one Scot. Militarily strategic
localities were controlled by English sheriffs and constables, but most others
were by Scots. The castles of Stirling and Dumbarton were the only good castles
commanded by Scots, with their leaders being William Bisset and Sir John Stewart
of Menteith, respectively. A council was formed to advise the king’s
nephew/lieutenant, and among those were Robert de Bruce, John Comyn, and Bishop
William Lamberton. For all the apparent participation by Scots in the
government, however, the English held the real power, and Scotland was a
this took place, William Wallace was finally captured near Glasgow on the third
day of August 1305. He was delivered to the English by retainers in the service
of Sir John Menteith. Wallace easily had been the most hunted man on the island
for years, but especially for the previous eighteen months.
routed circuitously through the countryside of his beloved Scotland, his legs
bound beneath his mount, and no doubt wondering why no one loved him enough to
put an arrow through his heart, he was taken to London August 22nd
for “trial.” He was led through the streets of the city the following day in
what can only be termed a “parade” before great masses of derisive and scornful
into fruition a boast Wallace was alleged to have made that he would one day
wear a crown at Westminster, a laurel leaf “crown” was placed upon his head for
the crowd to jeer. He was then indicted on charges of treason, murder (of the
sheriff of Lanark, who had butchered Wallace’s wife and her family), war
atrocities, convening Scottish parliaments, and instigating the renewal or
maintenance of the Scots’ “Auld Alliance” with France.
who once again stated truthfully that he had never been a liege of Edward nor of
England, denied the charge of treason, but affirmed the others. The verdict on
all counts was a foregone conclusion, the penalty to be exacted particularly
horrible and devised by King Edward, himself.
Wallace was tied to a sledge behind a horse and dragged for over four miles so
that he might be displayed in captivity to the people of London, finally
arriving at the Smithfield elms. He was then hanged, removed while yet alive
from the gallows, disemboweled, and decapitated. His heart and other organs were
burned and the headless body quartered. The severed head of Sir William Wallace
was displayed upon London Bridge, and the towns of Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick,
Stirling, and Perth each received and exhibited one of the corporeal quarters.
frightening others away from Wallace by taking such savage, bestial revenge on
the Scot, Edward created a martyr, a larger than life hero whose unfair and
inhuman execution settled poorly in the Scottish psyche and imbued their hearts
with the yearning for justice and freedom for which Wallace himself had fought
those seven long years. Rather than settling the “Scottish question,” Edward had
wrought enmity that would hound him the rest of his days, and haunt his memory
for centuries beyond. In the words of Barrow, his cruelty showed him to be
“small and mean,” compared to his victim, the noble Wallace.
following month, on the fifteenth, the parliament met with the Scots
representatives to carve out the new constitution, The Ordinance of September
1305. In the midst of listing punishments to be meted out to other Scots, Edward
ordered Robert de Bruce, earl of Carrick, to put his castle, Kildrummy, “in the
keeping of such a man as he himself will be willing to answer for.” Barrow
asserts that the placement of this item within the document suggests plainly
that Edward suspected Robert’s loyalty.
Carrick, lord of Annandale, and holder of massive estates and residences in both
Scotland and England, Robert de Bruce had a great amount of wealth and privilege.
He also had a large family about which to be concerned. In addition to his wife
Elizabeth and daughter Marjorie, there were his brothers, Edward, Alexander,
Thomas, and Nigel, sisters Christian, Isabel (queen of Norway), and Mary, and
his nephews Thomas Randolph and Donald, earl of Mar. If he declared for the
throne, he would throw the country into yet another bloody uprising, and if he
failed, he would be sacrificing everyone and everything he knew.
And yet, his country was