Chapter VI: Malcolm the Maiden
The prominent facts in the brief reign of David's son Malcolm the Maiden, crowned (1153) at the age of eleven, were, first, a Celtic rising by Donald, a son of Malcolm MacHeth (now a prisoner in Roxburgh Castle), and a nephew of the famous Somerled Macgillebride of Argyll. Somerled won from the Norse the Isle of Man and the Southern Hebrides; from his sons descend the great Macdonald Lords of the Isles, always the leaders of the long Celtic resistance to the central authority in Scotland. Again, Malcolm resigned to Henry II of England the northern counties held by David I; and died after subduing Galloway, and (on the death of Somerled, said to have been assassinated) the tribes of the isles in 1165.
William the Lion
Ambition to recover the northern English counties revealed itself in the overtures of William the Lion, - Malcolm's brother and successor, - for an alliance between Scotland and France. "The auld Alliance" now dawned, with rich promise of good and evil. In hopes of French aid, William invaded Northumberland, later laid siege to Carlisle, and on July 13, 1174, was surprised in a morning mist and captured at Alnwick. Scotland was now kingless; Galloway rebelled, and William, taken a captive to Falaise in Normandy, surrendered absolutely the independence of his country, which, for fifteen years, really was a fief of England. When William was allowed to go home, it was to fight the Celts of Galloway, and subdue the pretensions, in Moray, of the MacWilliams, descendants of William, son of Duncan, son of Malcolm Canmore.
During William's reign (1188) Pope Clement III. decided that the Scottish Church was subject, not to York or Canterbury, but to Rome. Seven years earlier, defending his own candidate for the see of St Andrews against the chosen of the Pope, William had been excommunicated, and his country and he had unconcernedly taken the issue of an Interdict. The Pope was too far away, and William feared him no more than Robert Bruce was to do.
By 1188, William refused to pay to Henry II a "Saladin Tithe" for a crusade, and in 1189 he bought from Richard I, who needed money for a crusade, the abrogation of the Treaty of Falaise. He was still disturbed by Celts in Galloway and the north, he still hankered after Northumberland, but, after preparations for war, he paid a fine and drifted into friendship with King John, who entertained his little daughters royally, and knighted his son Alexander. William died on December 4, 1214. He was buried at the Abbey of Arbroath, founded by him in honour of St Thomas of Canterbury, who had worked a strange posthumous miracle in Scotland. William was succeeded by his son, Alexander II (1214-1249).
Under this Prince, who successfully put down the usual northern risings, the old suit about the claims to Northumberland was finally abandoned for a trifling compensation (1237). Alexander had married Joanna, daughter of King John, and his brother-in-law, Henry III, did not press his demand for homage for Scotland. The usual Celtic pretenders to the throne were for ever crushed. Argyll became a sheriffdom, Galloway was brought into order, and Alexander, who died in the Isle of Kerrera in the bay of Oban (1249), well deserved his title of "a King of Peace." He was buried in Melrose Abbey. In his reign the clergy were allowed to hold Provincial or Synodal Councils without the presence of a papal Legate (1225), and the Dominicans and Franciscans appeared in Scotland.
The term King of Peace was also applied to Alexander III, son of the second wife of Alexander II, Marie de Coucy. Alexander came to the throne (1249) at the age of eight. As a child he was taken and held (like James II, James III, James V, and James VI.) by contending factions of the nobles, Henry of England intervening. In 1251 he wedded another child, Margaret, daughter of Henry III of England, but Henry neither forced a claim to hold Scotland during the boy's minority (his right if Scotland were his fief), nor in other respects pressed his advantage. In February 1261-1262 a girl was born to Alexander at Windsor; she was Margaret, later wife of Eric of Norway. Her daughter, on the death of Alexander III (March 19, 1286), was the sole direct descendant in the male line.
After the birth of this heiress, Alexander won from Norway the isles of the western coast of Scotland in which Norse chieftains had long held sway. They complained to Hakon of Norway concerning raids made on them by the Earl of Ross, a Celtic potentate. Alexander's envoys to Hakon were detained, and in 1263, Hakon, with a great fleet, sailed through the islands. A storm blew most of his Armada to shore near Largs, where his men were defeated by the Scots. Hakon collected his ships, sailed north, and (December 15) died at Kirkwall. Alexander now brought the island princes, including the Lord of Man, into subjection; and by Treaty, in 1266, placed them under the Crown. In 1275 Benemund de Vicci (called Bagimont), at a council in Perth, compelled the clergy to pay a tithe for a crusade, the Pope insisting that the money should be assessed on the true value of benefices - that is, on "Bagimont's Roll," - thenceforth recognised as the basis of clerical taxation. In 1278 Edward I laboured to extract from Alexander an acknowledgment that he was England's vassal. Edward signally failed; but a palpably false account of Alexander's homage was fabricated, and dated September 29, 1278. This was not the only forgery by which England was wont to back her claims.
A series of bereavements (1281-1283) deprived Alexander of all his children save his little grandchild, "the Maid of Norway." She was recognised by a great national assembly at Scone as heiress of the throne; and Alexander had no issue by his second wife, a daughter of the Comte de Dreux. On the night of March 19, 1285, while Alexander was riding from Edinburgh to visit his bride at Kinghorn, his horse slipped over a cliff and the rider was slain.
The Estates of Scotland met at Scone (April 11, 1286) and swore loyalty to their child queen, "the Maid of Norway," granddaughter of Alexander III. Six guardians of the kingdom were appointed on April 11, 1286. They were the Bishops of St Andrews and Glasgow, two Comyns (Buchan and Badenoch), the Earl of Fife, and Lord James, the Steward of Scotland. No Bruce or Baliol was among the Custodians. Instantly a "band," or covenant, was made by the Bruces, Earls of Annandale and Carrick, to support their claims (failing the Maid) to the throne; and there were acts of war on their part against another probable candidate, John Balliol. Edward (like Henry VIII in the case of Mary Stuart) moved for the marriage of the infant queen to his son. A Treaty safeguarding all Scottish liberties as against England was made by clerical influences at Birgham (July 18, 1290), but by October 7 news of the death of the young queen reached Scotland: she had perished during her voyage from Norway. Private war now broke out between the Bruces and Balliols; and the party of Balliol appealed to Edward, through Fraser, Bishop of St Andrews, asking the English king to prevent civil war, and recommending Balliol as a person to be carefully treated. Next the Seven Earls, alleging some dim elective right, recommended Bruce, and appealed to Edward as their legal superior.
Edward came to Norham-on-Tweed in May 1291, proclaimed himself Lord Paramount, and was accepted as such by the twelve candidates for the Crown (June 3). The great nobles thus, to serve their ambitions, betrayed their country: the communitas (whatever that term may here mean) made a futile protest.
As lord among his vassals, Edward heard the pleadings and evidence in autumn 1292; and out of the descendants, in the female line, of David Earl of Huntingdon, youngest son of David I, he finally (November 17, 1292) preferred John Balliol (great-grandson of the earl through his eldest daughter) to Bruce the Old, grandfather of the famous Robert Bruce, and grandson of Earl David's second daughter. The decision, according to our ideas, was just; no modern court could set it aside. But Balliol was an unpopular weakling - "an empty tabard," the people said - and Edward at once subjected him, king as he was, to all the humiliations of a petty vassal. He was summoned into his Lord's Court on the score of the bills of tradesmen. If Edward's deliberate policy was to goad Balliol into resistance and then conquer Scotland absolutely, in the first of these aims he succeeded.
In 1294 Balliol was summoned, with his Peers, to attend Edward in Gascony. Balliol, by advice of a council (1295), sought a French alliance and a French marriage for his son, named Edward; he gave the Annandale lands of his enemy Robert Bruce (father of the king to be) to Comyn, Earl of Buchan. He besieged Carlisle, while Edward took Berwick, massacred the people, and captured Sir William Douglas, father of the good Lord James.
In the war which followed, Edward broke down resistance by a sanguinary victory at Dunbar, captured John Comyn of Badenoch (the Red Comyn), received from Balliol (July 7, 1296) the surrender of his royal claims, and took the oaths of the Steward of Scotland and the Bruces, father and son. He carried to Westminster the Black Rood of St Margaret and the famous stone of Scone, a relic of the early Irish dynasty of the Scots; as far north as Elgin he rode, receiving the oaths of all persons of note and influence - except William Wallace. His name does not appear in the list of submissions called "The Ragman's Roll." Between April and October 1296 the country was subjugated; the castles were garrisoned by Englishmen. But by January 1297, Edward's governor, Warenne, Earl of Surrey, and Ormsby, his Chief Justice, found the country in an uproar, and at midsummer 1297 the levies of the northern counties of England were ordered to put down the disorders.
The Year of Wallace
In May the commune of Scotland (whatever the term may here mean) had chosen Wallace as their leader; probably this younger son of Sir Malcolm Wallace of Elderslie, in Renfrewshire, had already been distinguished for his success in skirmishes against the English, as well as for strength and courage. The popular account of his early adventures given in the poem by Blind Harry (1490?) is of no historical value. His men destroyed the English at Lanark (May 1297); he was abetted by Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, and the Steward; but by July 7, Percy and Clifford, leading the English army, admitted the Steward, Robert Bruce (the future king), and Wishart to the English peace at Irvine in Ayrshire. But the North was up under Sir Andrew Murray, and "that thief Wallace" (to quote an English contemporary) left the siege of Dundee Castle which he was conducting to face Warenne on the north bank of the Forth. On September 11, the English, under Warenne, manoeuvred vaguely at Stirling Bridge, and were caught on the flank by Wallace's army before they could deploy on the northern side of the river. They were cut to pieces, Cressingham was slain, and Warenne galloped to Berwick, while the Scots harried Northumberland with great ferocity, which Wallace seems to have been willing but not often able to control. By the end of March 1298 he appears with Andrew Murray, as Guardian of the Kingdom for the exiled Balliol. This attitude must have aroused the jealousy of the nobles, and especially of Robert Bruce, who aimed at securing the crown, and who, after several changes of side, by June 1298 was busy in Edward's service in Galloway.
Edward then crossed the Border with a great army of perhaps 40,000 men, met the spearmen of Wallace in their serried phalanxes at Falkirk, broke the "schiltrom" or clump of spears by the arrows of his archers; slaughtered the archers of Ettrick Forest; scattered the mounted nobles, and avenged the rout of Stirling (July 22, 1298). The country remained unsubdued, but its leaders were at odds among themselves, and Wallace had retired to France, probably to ask for aid; he may also conceivably have visited Rome. The Bishop of St Andrews, Lamberton, with Bruce and the Red Comyn - deadly rivals - were Guardians of the Kingdom in 1299. But in June 1300, Edward, undeterred by remonstrances from the Pope, entered Scotland; an armistice, however, was accorded to the Holy Father, and the war, in which the Scots scored a victory at Roslin in February 1293, dragged on from summer to summer till July 1304. In these years Bruce alternately served Edward and conspired against him; the intricacies of his perfidy are deplorable.
Bruce served Edward during the siege of Stirling, then the central key of the country. On its surrender Edward admitted all men to his peace, on condition of oaths of fealty, except "Messire Williame le Waleys." Men of the noblest Scottish names stooped to pursue the hero: he was taken near Glasgow, and handed over to Sir John Menteith, a Stewart, and son of the Earl of Menteith. As Sheriff of Dumbartonshire, Menteith had no choice but to send the hero in bonds to England. But, if Menteith desired to escape the disgrace with which tradition brands his name, he ought to have refused the English blood-price for the capture of Wallace. He made no such refusal. As an outlaw, Wallace was hanged at London; his limbs, like those of the great Montrose, were impaled on the gates of various towns.
What we really know about the chief popular hero of his country, from documents and chronicles, is fragmentary; and it is hard to find anything trustworthy in Blind Harry's rhyming "Wallace" (1490), plagiarised as it is from Barbour's earlier poem (1370) on Bruce. But Wallace was truly brave, disinterested, and indomitable. Alone among the leaders he never turned his coat, never swore and broke oaths to Edward. He arises from obscurity, like Jeanne d'Arc; like her, he is greatly victorious; like her, he awakens a whole people; like her, he is deserted, and is unlawfully put to death; while his limbs, like her ashes, are scattered by the English. The ravens had not pyked his bones bare before the Scots were up again for freedom.
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