Chapter VIII: Bruce and the War of Independence
The position towards France of Edward I made it really more desirable for him that Scotland should be independent and friendly, than half subdued and hostile to his rule. While she was hostile, England, in attacking France, always left an enemy in her rear. But Edward supposed that by clemency to all the Scottish leaders except Wallace, by giving them great appointments and trusting them fully, and by calling them to his Parliament in London, he could combine England and Scotland in affectionate union. He repaired the ruins of war in Scotland; he began to study her laws and customs; he hastily ran up for her a new constitution, and appointed his nephew, John of Brittany, as governor. But he had overlooked two facts: the Scottish clergy, from the highest to the lowest, were irreconcilably opposed to union with England; and the greatest and most warlike of the Scottish nobles, if not patriotic, were fickle and insatiably ambitious. It is hard to reckon how often Robert Bruce had turned his coat, and how often the Bishop of St Andrews had taken the oath to Edward. Both men were in Edward's favour in June 1304, but in that month they made against him a treasonable secret covenant. Through 1305 Bruce prospered in Edward's service, on February 10, 1306, Edward was conferring on him a new favour, little guessing that Bruce, after some negotiation with his old rival, the Red Comyn, had slain him (an uncle of his was also butchered) before the high altar of the Church of the Franciscans in Dumfries. Apparently Bruce had tried to enlist Comyn in his conspiracy, and had found him recalcitrant, or feared that he would be treacherous (February 10, 1306).
The sacrilegious homicide made it impossible for Bruce again to waver. He could not hope for pardon; he must be victorious or share the fate of Wallace. He summoned his adherents, including young James Douglas, received the support of the Bishops of St Andrews and Glasgow, hurried to Scone, and there was hastily crowned with a slight coronet, in the presence of but two earls and three bishops.
Edward made vast warlike preparations and forswore leniency, while Bruce, under papal excommunication, which he slighted, collected a few nobles, such as Lennox, Atholl, Errol, and a brother of the chief of the Frazers. Other chiefs, kinsmen of the slain Comyn, among them Macdowal of Argyll, banded to avenge the victim; Bruce's little force was defeated at Methven Wood, near Perth, by Aymer de Valence, and prisoners of all ranks were hanged as traitors, while two bishops were placed in irons. Bruce took to the heather, pursued by the Macdowals no less than by the English; his queen was captured, his brother Nigel was executed; he cut his way to the wild west coast, aided only by Sir Nial Campbell of Loch Awe, who thus founded the fortune of his house, and by the Macdonalds, under Angus Og of Islay. He wintered in the isle of Rathlin (some think he even went to Norway), and in spring, after surprising the English garrison in his own castle of Turnberry, he roamed, now lonely, now with a mobile little force, in Galloway, always evading and sometimes defeating his English pursuers. At Loch Trool and at London Hill (Drumclog) he dealt them heavy blows, while on June 7, 1307, his great enemy Edward died at Borough-on-Sands, leaving the crown and the war to the weakling Edward II.
Fortune had turned. We cannot follow Bruce through his campaign in the north, where he ruined the country of the Comyns (1308), and through the victories in Galloway of his hard-fighting brother Edward. With enemies on every side, Bruce took them in detail; early in March 1309 he routed the Macdowals at the west end of the Pass of Brander. Edward II. was involved in disputes with his own barons, and Bruce was recognised by his country's Church in 1310 and aided by his great lieutenants, Sir James Douglas and Thomas Randolph, Earl of Murray. By August 1311 Bruce was carrying the war into England, sacking Durham and Chester, failing at Carlisle, but in January 1313, capturing Perth. In summer, Edward Bruce, in the spirit of chivalry, gave to Stirling Castle (Randolph had taken Edinburgh Castle) a set day, Midsummer Day 1314, to be relieved or to surrender; and Bruce kept tryst with Edward II. and his English and Irish levies, and all his adventurous chivalry from France, Hainault, Bretagne, Gascony, and Aquitaine. All the world knows the story of the first battle, the Scottish Quatre Bras; the success of Randolph on the right; the slaying of Bohun when Bruce broke his battle-axe. Next day Bruce's position was strong; beneath the towers of Stirling the Bannockburn protected his front; morasses only to be crossed by narrow paths impeded the English advance. Edward Bruce commanded the right wing; Randolph the centre; Douglas and the Steward the left; Bruce the reserve, the Islesmen. His strength lay in his spearmen's "dark impenetrable wood"; his archers were ill-trained; of horse he had but a handful under Keith, the Marischal. But the heavy English cavalry could not break the squares of spears; Keith cut up the archers of England; the main body could not deploy, and the slow, relentless advance of the whole Scottish line covered the plain with the dying and the flying. A panic arose, caused by the sight of an approaching cloud of camp-followers on the Gillie's hill; Edward fled, and hundreds of noble prisoners, with all the waggons and supplies of England, fell into the hands of the Scots. In eight strenuous years the generalship of Bruce and his war-leaders, the resolution of the people, hardened by the cruelties of Edward, the sermons of the clergy, and the utter incompetence of Edward II, had redeemed a desperate chance. From a fief of England, Scotland had become an indomitable nation.
Later Days of Bruce
Bruce continued to prosper, despite an ill-advised attempt to win Ireland, in which Edward Bruce fell (1318.) This left the succession, if Bruce had no male issue, to the children of his daughter, Marjory, and her husband, the Steward. In 1318 Scotland recovered Berwick, in 1319 routed the English at Mytton-on-Swale. In a Parliament at Aberbrothock (April 6, 1320) the Scots announced to the Pope, who had been interfering, that, while a hundred of them survive, they will never yield to England. In October 1322 Bruce utterly routed the English at Byland Abbey, in the heart of Yorkshire, and chased Edward II into York. In March 1324 a son was born to Bruce named David; on May 4, 1328, by the Treaty of Northampton, the independence of Scotland was recognised. In July the infant David married Joanna, daughter of Edward II.
On June 7, 1329, Bruce died and was buried at Dunfermline; his heart, by his order, was carried by Douglas towards the Holy Land, and when Douglas fell in a battle with the Moors in Spain, the heart was brought back by Sir Simon Lockhart of the Lee. The later career of Bruce, after he had been excommunicated, is that of the foremost knight and most sagacious man of action who ever wore the crown of Scotland. The staunchness with which the clergy and estates disregarded papal fulminations (indeed under William the Lion they had treated an interdict as waste-paper) indicated a kind of protestant tendency to independence of the Holy See.
Bruce's inclusion of representatives of the Burghs in the first regular Scottish Parliament (at Cambuskenneth in 1326) was a great step forward in the constitutional existence of the country. The king, in Scotland, was expected to "live of his own," but in 1326 the expenses of the war with England compelled Bruce to seek permission for taxation.
The heroic generation of Scotland was passing off the stage. The King was a child. The forfeiture by Bruce of the lands of hostile or treacherous lords, and his bestowal of the estates on his partisans, had made the disinherited nobles the enemies of Scotland, and had fed too full the House of Douglas. As the star of Scotland was thus clouded - she had no strong man for a King during the next ninety years - the sun of England rose red and glorious under a warrior like Edward III. The Scottish nobles in many cases ceased to be true to their proud boast that they would never submit to England. A very brief summary of the wretched reign of David II must here suffice.
First, the son of John Balliol, Edward, went to the English Court, and thither thronged the disinherited and forfeited lords, arranging a raid to recover their lands. Edward III, of course, connived at their preparations.
After Randolph's death (July 20, 1332), when Mar - a sister's son of Bruce - was Regent, the disinherited lords, under Balliol, invaded Scotland, and Mar, with young Randolph, Menteith, and a bastard of Bruce, "Robert of Carrick," leading a very great host, fell under the shafts of the English archers of Umfraville, Wake, the English Earl of Atholl, Talbot, Ferrers, and Zouche, at Dupplin, on the Earn (August 12, 1332). Rolled up by arrows loosed on the flanks of their charging columns, they fell, and their dead bodies lay in heaps as tall as a lance.
On September 24, Edward Balliol was crowned King at Scone. Later, Andrew Murray, perhaps a son of the Murray who had been Wallace's companion-in-arms, was taken, and Balliol acknowledged Edward III as his liege-lord at Roxburgh. In December the second son of Randolph, with Archibald, the new Regent, brother of the great Black Douglas, drove Balliol, flying in his shirt, from Annan across the Border. He returned, and was opposed by this Archibald Douglas, called Tineman, the Unlucky, and on July 19, 1333, Tineman suffered, at Halidon Hill, near Berwick, a defeat as terrible as Flodden; Berwick, too, was lost, practically for ever, Tineman fell, and Sir William Douglas, the Knight of Liddesdale, was a prisoner. These Scots defeats were always due to rash frontal attacks on strong positions, the assailants passing between lines of English bowmen who loosed into their flanks. The boy king, David, was carried to France (1334) for safety, while Balliol delivered to Edward Berwick and the chief southern counties, including that of Edinburgh, with their castles.
There followed internal wars between Balliol's partisans, while the patriots were led by young Randolph, by the young Steward, by Sir Andrew Murray, and the wavering and cruel Douglas, called the Knight of Liddesdale, now returned from captivity. In the desperate state of things, with Balliol and Edward ravaging Scotland at will, none showed more resolution than Bruce's sister, who held Kildrummie Castle; and Randolph's daughter, "Black Agnes," who commanded that of Dunbar. By vast gifts Balliol won over John, Lord of the Isles. The Celts turned to the English party; Edward III harried the province of Moray, but, in 1337, he began to undo his successes by formally claiming the crown of France: France and Scotland together could always throw off the English yoke.
Thus diverted from Scotland, Edward lost strength there while he warred with Scotland's ally: in 1341 the Douglas, Knight of Liddesdale, recovered Edinburgh Castle by a romantic surprise. But David returned home in 1341, a boy of eighteen, full of the foibles of chivalry, rash, sensual, extravagant, who at once gave deadly offence to the Knight of Liddesdale by preferring to him, as sheriff of Teviotdale, the brave Sir Alexander Ramsay, who had driven the English from the siege of Dunbar Castle. Douglas threw Ramsay into Hermitage Castle in Liddesdale and starved him to death.
In 1343 the Knight began to intrigue traitorously with Edward III; after a truce, David led his whole force into England, where his rash chivalry caused his utter defeat at Neville's Cross, near Durham (October 17, 1346). He was taken, as was the Bishop of St Andrews; his ransom became the central question between England and Scotland. In 1353 Douglas, Knight of Liddesdale, was slain at Williamshope on Yarrow by his godson, William, Lord Douglas: the fact is commemorated in a fragment of perhaps our oldest narrative Border ballad. French men-at-arms now helped the Scots to recover Berwick, merely to lose it again in 1356; in 1357 David was set free: his ransom, 100,000 merks, was to be paid by instalment. The country was heavily taxed, but the full sum was never paid. Meanwhile the Steward had been Regent; between him, the heir of the Crown failing issue to David, and the King, jealousies arose. David was suspected of betraying the kingdom to England; in October 1363 he and the Earl of Douglas visited London and made a treaty adopting a son of Edward as king on David's demise, and on his ransom being remitted, but in March 1364 his Estates rejected the proposal, to which Douglas had assented. Till 1369 all was poverty and internal disunion; the feud, to be so often renewed, of the Douglas and the Steward raged. David was made contemptible by a second marriage with Margaret Logie, but the war with France drove Edward III to accept a fourteen years' truce with Scotland. On February 22, 1371, David died in Edinburgh Castle, being succeeded, without opposition, by the Steward, Robert II, son of Walter, and of Marjorie, daughter of Robert Bruce. This Robert II, somewhat outworn by many years of honourable war in his country's cause, and the father of a family, by Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan, which could hardly be rendered legitimate by any number of Papal dispensations, was the first of the Royal Stewart line. In him a cadet branch of the English FitzAlans, themselves of a very ancient Breton stock, blossomed into Royalty.
Parliament and the Crown
With the coming of a dynasty which endured for three centuries, we must sketch the relations, in Scotland, of Crown and Parliament till the days of the Covenant and the Revolution of 1688. Scotland had but little of the constitutional evolution so conspicuous in the history of England. The reason is that while the English kings, with their fiefs and wars in France, had constantly to be asking their parliaments for money, and while Parliament first exacted the redress of grievances, in Scotland the king was expected "to live of his own" on the revenue of crown-lands, rents, feudal aids, fines exacted in Courts of Law, and duties on merchandise. No "tenths" or "fifteenths" were exacted from clergy and people. There could be no "constitutional resistance" when the Crown made no unconstitutional demands.
In Scotland the germ of Parliament is the King's court of vassals of the Crown. To the assemblies, held now in one place, now in another, would usually come the vassals of the district, with such officers of state as the Chancellor, the Chamberlain, the Steward, the Constable or Commander-in-Chief, the Justiciar, and the Marischal, and such Bishops, Abbots, Priors, Earls, Barons, and tenants-in-chief as chose to attend. At these meetings public business was done, charters were granted, and statutes were passed; assent was made to such feudal aids as money for the king's ransom in the case of William the Lion. In 1295 the seals of six Royal burghs are appended to the record of a negotiation; in 1326 burgesses, as we saw, were consulted by Bruce on questions of finance.
The misfortunes and extravagance of David II had to be paid for, and Parliament interfered with the Royal prerogative in coinage and currency, directed the administration of justice, dictated terms of peace with England, called to account even hereditary officers of the Crown (such as the Steward, Constable, and Marischal), controlled the King's expenditure (or tried to do so), and denounced the execution of Royal warrants against the Statutes and common form of law. They summarily rejected David's attempt to alter the succession of the Crown.
At the same time, as attendance of multitudes during protracted Parliaments was irksome and expensive, arose the habit of intrusting business to a mere "Committee of Articles," later "The Lords of the Articles," selected in varying ways from the Three Estates - Spiritual, Noble, and Commons. These Committees saved the members of Parliament from the trouble and expense of attendance, but obviously tended to become an abuse, being selected and packed to carry out the designs of the Crown or of the party of nobles in power. All members, of whatever Estate, sat together in the same chamber. There were no elected Knights of the Shires, no representative system.
The reign of David II saw two Scottish authors or three, whose works are extant. Barbour wrote the chivalrous rhymed epic-chronicle "The Brus"; Wyntoun, an unpoetic rhymed "cronykil"; and "Hucheoun of the Awle Ryal" produced works of more genius, if all that he is credited with be his own.
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