In the following year, on the 17th of November, the final decision was made. Nine of the claimants had such frivolous claims, that no attention was paid to them, and the only ones worth consideration were those derived from David, Earl of Huntingdon, the crusading comrade of Coeur de Lion, and son of Henry, son of St. David. This Earl had left three daughters, Margaret, Isabel, and Ada. Margaret had married Allan of Galloway, and John Balliol was the son of her only daughter Devorgoil. Isabel married Robert Bruce, and her son, Robert, Earl of Carrick, was the claimant; and Ada had left a grandson, Florence Hastings, Earl of Holland.
A baron leaving daughters alone would divide his heritage equally among them, and this was what Hastings desired; but Scotland was pronounced indivisible, and he retired from the field. Bruce contended that, as son of one sister, he was nearer the throne than the grandson of the other, although the elder; but this was completely untenable, and Balliol, having been adjudged the rightful heir, was declared King of Scotland, was crowned, and paid homage to Edward.
He soon found that the fealty he had sworn was not, as he had hoped, to be a mere dead letter, as with the former kings. Edward used to the utmost the suzerain's privilege of hearing appeals from the vassal-prince—a practice never put in force by his predecessors, and excessively galling to the new Scottish King, who found himself fettered in all his measures, and degraded in the eyes of his rude and savage subjects, who regarded him as having given away the honor of their crown. Whenever there was an appeal, he was cited to appear in person at the English court, and was treated, in fact, like a mere feudal noble, instead of the King of a brave and ancient kingdom. Indeed, the Scots called him the "toom tabard," or empty herald's coat—a name not unsuited to such a king of vain show.
By and by a war broke out between England and France, and Edward sent summonses to the Scottish barons to attend him with their vassals. It was no concern of theirs, and many flatly refused to come, whereupon he declared them to have forfeited their fiefs, and thus pushed his interference beyond their endurance. John Balliol, their unfortunate King, who was personally attached to Edward, and at the same time greatly in dread of his fierce vassals, was utterly confused and distressed; and finding no help in him, his subjects seized him, placed him in a fortress, under the keeping of a council of twelve, and in his name declared war against England.
Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick. to whom his father's claims had descended, remained faithful to King Edward, who, to punish the rebellion of the Scots, collected an army of 30,000 foot and 4,000 horse, and, with the sacred standards of Durham at their head, marched them into Scotland. Berwick, then a considerable merchant-town, closed her gates against him, and further provoked him by the plunder of some English merchant-ships. He offered terms of surrender, but these were refused; and he led his men to the assault of the dyke, that was the only defence of the town. He was the first to leap the dyke on his horse Bayard, and the place was won after a brave resistance, sufficient to arouse the passions of the soldiery, who made a most shocking massacre, without respect to age or sex.
The report of these horrors so shocked John Balliol, that he sent to renounce his allegiance to Edward, and to defy his power. "Felon and fool!" cried Edward, "if he will not come to us, we must go to him."
So frightful ravages were carried on by the English on one side and the Scots on the other, till a battle took place at Dunbar, which so utterly ruined the Scots, that they were forced to make submission, and Balliol sued for peace. But Edward would not treat with him as a king, and only sent Anthony Beck, the Bishop of Durham, to meet him at Brechin. He was forced to appear, and was declared a rebel, stripped of his crown and robes, and made to stand with a white rod in his hand, confessing that he had acted rebelliously, and that Edward had justly invaded his realm. After this humiliation, he resigned all his rights to Scotland, declaring himself worn out with the malice and fraud of the nation, which was probably quite true. He was sent at first to the Tower, but afterward was released, lived peaceably on his estates in France, and founded the college at Oxford that bears his name and arms.
The misfortunes endured by this puppet did not deter the Earl of Carrick from aspiring to his seat; but Edward harshly answered, "Have I nothing to do but to conquer kingdoms for you?" and sent him away with his eldest son, a third Robert Bruce, to pacify their own territories of Carrick and Annandale. Edward did nothing without law enough to make him believe himself in the right, and poor Balliol's forfeiture gave him, as he imagined, the power to assume Scotland as a fief of his own. He caused himself to be acknowledged as King of Scotland, destroyed the old Scottish charters, and transported to Westminster the Scottish crown and sceptre, together with the stone from Scone Abbey, on which, from time immemorial, the Kings of Scotland had been placed when crowned and anointed. All the castles were delivered up into his hands, and every noble in his dominions gave him the oath of allegiance, excepting one, William, Lord Douglas, who steadily refused, and was therefore carried off a prisoner to England, where he remained to the day of his death.
Edward did not come in as a severe or cruel conqueror; he gave privileges to the Scottish clergy, and re-instated the families of the barons killed in the war. Doubtless he hoped to do great good to the wild population, and bring them into the same order as the English; but the flaw in his title made this impossible; the Scots regarded his soldiery as their enemies and oppressors, and though the nobles had given in a self-interested adhesion to the new government, they abhorred it all the time, and the mutual hatred between the English garrisons and Scottish inhabitants led to outrages in which neither party was free from blame.
As Hereward the Saxon had been stirred up against the Norman invaders, so a champion arose who kept alive the memory of Scottish independence.
William Wallace was the younger son of Sir Malcolm Wallace of Ellerslie, near Paisley, one of the lesser gentry, not sufficiently high in rank to be required to take oaths to the English King. William was a youth of unusual stature, noble countenance, and great personal strength and skill in the use of arms, and he grew up with a violent hatred to the English usurpers, which various circumstances combined to foster. While very young, he had been fishing in the river Irvine, attended by a boy who carried his basket, when some English soldiers, belonging to the garrison of Ayr meeting him, insisted on seizing his trout. A fray took place, and Wallace killed the foremost Englishman with a blow from the butt of his fishing-rod, took his sword, and put the rest to flight.
This obliged him to fly to the hills. But in those lawless times such adventures soon blew over, and, a year or two after, he was walking in the market-place of Lanark, dressed in green, and with, a dagger by his side, when an Englishman, coming up, insulted him on account of his gay attire, and his passionate temper, thus inflamed, led to a fray, in which the Englishman was killed. He then fled to the house where he was lodging, and while the sheriff and his force were endeavoring to break in, the lady of the house contrived his escape by a back way to a rocky glen called the Crags, where he hid himself in a cave. The disappointed sheriff wreaked his vengeance on the unfortunate lady, slew her, and burnt the house.
Thenceforth Wallace was an outlaw, and the most implacable foe to the English. In his wild retreat he quickly gathered round him other men ill-used, or discontented, or patriotic, or lovers of the wild life which he led, and at their head he not only cut off the parties sent to seize him, but watched his opportunity for marauding on the English or their allies. There is a horrible story that the English governor of Ayr, treacherously inviting the Scottish gentry to a feast, hung them all as they entered, and that Wallace revenged the slaughter with equal cruelty by burning the English alive in their sleep in the very buildings where the murder took place, the Barns of Ayr, as they were called. The history is unauthenticated, but it is believed in the neighborhood of Ayr, and has been handed down by Wallace's Homer, Blind Harry, whose poem on the exploits of the Knight of Ellerslie was published sixty years from this time.
The fame of Wallace's prowess swelled his party, and many knights and nobles began to join him. He raised his banner in the name of King John of Scotland, and, with the help of another outlaw chief, Sir William Douglas, pounced on the English justiciary, Ormesby, while holding his court at Scone, put him to flight, and seized a large booty and many prisoners.
His forays were the more successful because the King was absent in England, and the Chancellor, Hugh Cressingham, was not well agreed with the lay-governor, John de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey. Many of the higher nobility took his side, among them the younger Robert Bruce; but as the English force began to be marshalled against him, they took flight for their estates, and returned to the stronger party. It may have been that they found that Wallace was not a suitable chief for more than a mere partisan camp; brave as he was, he could not keep men of higher rank in obedience. He lived by plunder, and horrible atrocities were constantly committed by his men, especially against such English clergy as had received Scottish preferment. Whenever one of these fell into their hands, his sacred character could not save him; his arms were tied behind his back, and he was thrown from a high bridge into a river, while the merciless Scots derided his agony.
Warrene and Cressingham drew together a mighty force, and marched to the relief of Stirling, which Wallace had threatened. The Scots had come together to the number of 40,000, but they had only 180 horse; and Warrenne had 50,000 foot and 1,000 horse. The Scots were, however, in a far more favorable position, encamped on the higher ground on the bank of the river Forth; and Warrenne, wishing to avoid a battle, sent two friars to propose terms. "Return to your friends," said Wallace; "tell them we came with no peaceful intent, but determined to avenge ourselves and set our country free. Let them come and attack us; we are ready to meet them beard to beard."
On hearing this answer, the English shouted to be led against the bold rebel; but the more prudent leaders thought it folly to attempt to cross the bridge, exposed as it, was to the enemy, but that a chosen body should cross a ford, attack them in the flank, and clear the way. Cressingham thought this policy timid. "Why," said he to Warrenne, "should we protract the war, and spend the King's money? Let us pass on, and do our duty!"
Warrenne weakly gave way, and the English troops began to cross the bridge, the Scots retaining their post on the high ground until Sir Marmaduke Twenge, an English knight, impetuously spurred up the hill, when about half the army had crossed, and charged the Scottish ranks. In the meantime, Wallace had sent a chosen force to march down the side of the hill and cut off the troops who had crossed from the foot of the bridge, and he himself, rushing down on the advancing horsemen, entirely, broke them, and made a fearful slaughter of all on that side of the river, seizing on the bridge, so that there was no escape. One of the knights proposed to swim their horses across the river. "What!" said Sir Marmaduke Twenge, "drown myself, when I can cut my way through the midst of them by the bridge? Never let such foul slander fall on me!" He then set spurs to his horse, and, with his nephew and armor-bearer, forced his way back to his friends, across the bridge, by weight of man and horse, through the far more slightly-armed Scots. Warrenne was obliged to march off, with, the loss of half his army, and of Cressingham, whose corpse was found lying on the plain, and was barbarously, mangled by the Scots. They cut the skin into pieces, and used it for saddle-girths; even Wallace himself being said to have had a sword-belt made of it.
This decisive victory threw the greater part of Scotland into Wallace's hands; and though most of the great earls still held with the English, the towns and castles were given up to him, and the mass of the people was with him. He plundered without mercy the lands of such as would not join him, and pushed his forays into England, where he frightfully ravaged Cumberland and Northumberland; and from St. Luke's to St. Martin's-day all was terror and dismay, not a priest remaining between Newcastle and Carlisle to say mass. At last the winter drove him back, and on his return he went to Hexham, a rich convent, which had been plundered on the advance, but to which three of the monks had just returned, hoping the danger was over. Seeing the enemy entering, they fled into a little chapel; but the Scots had seen them, and, rushing on them, demanded their treasures. "Alas!" said they, "you yourselves best know where they are!" Wallace, coming in, silenced his men, and bade the priests say mass; but in one moment, while he turned aside to take off his helmet, his fierce soldiery snatched away the chalice from the altar, and tore off the ornaments and sacred vestments. He ordered that the perpetrators should be put to death, and said to the priests, "My presence alone can secure you. My men are evil-disposed. I cannot justify, I dare not punish them."
On returning to Scotland, he assumed the title of Governor, and strove to bring matters into a more regular state, but without success; the great nobles either feared to offend the English, or would not submit to his authority.
In 1298, Edward, having freed himself from his difficulties in England and France, hurried to the North to put down in person what in his eyes was not patriotism, but rebellion. How violently enraged he was, was shown by his speech to Sir John Marmaduke, who was sent by Anthony Beck, Bishop of Durham, to ask his pleasure respecting Dirleton Castle and two other fortresses to which he had laid siege. "Tell Anthony," he said, "that he is right to be pacific when he is acting the bishop, but that, in his present business, he must forget his calling. As for yourself, you are a relentless soldier, and I have too often had to reprove you for too cruel an exultation over the death of your enemies. But, now, return whence you came, and be as relentless as you choose; you will have my thanks, not my censure; and, look you, do not see my face again till those three castles be razed to the ground."
The castles were taken and overthrown, but the difficulties of the English continued to be great; the fleet was detained by contrary winds, and this delay of supplies caused a famine in the camp. Edward was obliged to command a retreat; but at that juncture, just as the country was so nearly rescued by the wise dispositions of Wallace, two Scottish nobles, the Earls of Dunbar and Angus, were led by a mean jealousy to betray him to the English, disclosing the place where he was encamped in the forest of Falkirk, and his intention of making a night-attack upon the English.
Edward was greatly rejoiced at the intelligence. "Thanks be to God," he exclaimed, "who has saved me from every danger! They need not come after me, since I will go to meet them."
He immediately put on his armor, and rode through the camp, calling on his soldiers to march immediately, and at three o'clock in the afternoon all were on their way to Falkirk. They halted for the night on a heath, where they lay down to sleep in their armor, with their horses picketed beside them In the course of the night the King's horse trod upon him, breaking two of his ribs; and a cry arose among those around him that he was slain, and the enemy were upon them. But Edward, regardless of the pain, made the alarm serve as a reveille, mounted his horse, rallied his troops, and, as it was near morning, gave orders to march. The light of the rising sun showed, on the top of the opposite hill, the lances of the Scottish advanced guard; but when they reached the summit, they found it deserted, and in the distance could see the enemy preparing for battle, the foot drawn up in four compact bodies of pikemen, the foremost rank kneeling, so that the spears of those behind rested on their shoulders. "I have brought you to the ring; hop if ye can," was the brief exhortation of the outlawed patriot to his men; and grim was the dance prepared for them.
Edward heard mass in a tent set up on the hill, and afterward held a council on the manner of attack. An immediate advance was determined on, and they charged the Scots with great fury. The horse, consisting of the time-serving and cowardly nobility, fled without a blow, leaving Wallace and his archers unsupported, to be overwhelmed by the numbers of the English. Wallace, after a long resistance, was compelled to retreat into the woods, with a loss of 15,000, while on the English side the slain were very few.
Edward pushed on, carrying all before him, and wasting the country with fire and sword; but, as has happened in every invasion of Scotland, famine proved his chief enemy, and he was obliged to return to England, leaving unsubdued all the lands north of the Forth. But his determination was sternly fixed, and he made everything else give way to his Scottish wars.
The last stronghold which held out against him was Stirling Castle, under Sir William Oliphant, who, with only one hundred and forty men, for ninety days resisted with the most desperate valor; when the walls were broken down, taking shelter in caverns hewn out of the rock on which their fortress was founded. Edward, who led the attack, was often exposed to great danger; his horse was thrown down by a stone, and his armor pierced by an arrow; but he would not consent to use greater precautions, saying that he fought in a just war, and Heaven would protect him. At last the brave garrison were reduced to surrender, and came down from their castle in a miserable, dejected state, to implore his mercy. The tenderness of his nature revived as he saw brave men in such a condition. He could not restrain his tears, and he received them to his favor, sending them in safety to England.
Scotland was now completely tranquil, and entirely reduced. Every noble had sworn allegiance, every castle was garrisoned by English. Balliol was in Normandy, Bruce in the English army, and at last, in August, 1305, the brave outlaw, Sir William Wallace, was, by his former friend, Monteith, betrayed into the hands of the English. He was brought to Westminster, tried as a traitor to King Edward, and sentenced to die. He had never sworn fealty to Edward, but this could not save him; and on the 23d of August, 1305, he was dragged on a hurdle to Smithfield, and suffered the frightful death that the English laws allotted to a traitor. His head was placed on a pole on London Bridge, and his several limbs sent to the different towns in Scotland, where they were regarded far more as relics than as tokens of disgrace.
Had Edward appreciated and pardoned the gallant Scot, it would have been a noble deed. But his death should not be regarded as an act of personal, revenge. Wallace had disregarded many a proclamation of mercy, and had carried on a most savage warfare upon the Scots who had submitted to the English with every circumstance of cruelty. Edward, who believed himself the rightful King, was not likely to regard him as otherwise than a pertinacious bandit, with whom the law might properly take its course. More mercy might have been hoped from the prince who fought hand to hand with Adam de Gourdon; but ambition had greatly warped and changed Edward since those days, and the fifteen years of effort to retain his usurpation had hardened his whole nature.
Wallace himself, half a robber, half a knight, has won for himself a place in the affections of his countrymen, and has lived ever since in story and song. To the last century it was regarded as rude to turn a loaf in the presence of a Monteith, because that was the signal for the admission of the soldiers who seized Wallace; and there can be little doubt that this constant recollection was well deserved, since assuredly it was the spirit of resistance maintained by Wallace, though unsuccessful, that lived to flourish again after his death.
He was one of those men whose self-devotion bears visible fruits.
THE EVIL TOLL. (1294-1305.)
King of England. 1272. Edward I.
King of Scotland. 1296. Edward I.
King of France. 1285. Philippe IV.
Emperors of Germany. 1292. Adolf. 1298. Albert I.
Popes. 1294. Boniface VIII. 1303. Benedict XI.
Unlike the former Plantagenets, Edward I. was a thorough Englishman; his schemes, both for good and evil, were entirely insular; and as he became more engrossed in the Scottish war, he almost neglected his relations with the Continent.
One of the most wily and unscrupulous men who ever wore a crown was seated on the throne of France—the fair-faced and false-hearted Philippe IV., the "pest of France," the oppressor of the Church, and the murderer of the Templars; and eagerly did he watch to take any advantage of the needs of his mighty vassal in Aquitaine.
Edward had made alliances to strengthen himself. He had married his daughter Eleanor to the Count of Bar, and Margaret to the heir of Brabant, and betrothed his son Edward to the only daughter of Guy Dampierre, Count of Flanders, thus hoping to restrain Philippe without breaking the peace.
Unluckily, in 1294, a sailors' quarrel took place between the crews of an English and a Norman ship upon the French coast. They had both landed to replenish their stock of water, and disputed which had the right first to fill their casks. In the fray, a Norman was killed, and his shipmates, escaping, took their revenge by boarding another English vessel, and hanging a poor, innocent Bayonne merchant from the masthead, with a dog fastened to his feet. Retaliation followed upon revenge; and while the two kings professed to be at peace, every ship from their ports went armed, and fierce struggles took place wherever there was an encounter. Slaughter and plunder fell upon the defeated, for the sailors were little better than savage pirates, and were unrestrained by authority. Edward, who had a right to a share in all captures made by his subjects, refused to accept of any portion of these, though he did not put a stop to them. The Irish and Dutch vessels took part with the English, the Genoese with the French. At last, upward of two hundred French ships met at St. Mahe in Brittany, and their crews rejoiced over the captures which they had obtained, and held a great carousal. Eighty well-manned English vessels had, however, sailed from the Cinque Ports, and, surrounding St. Mahe, sent a challenge to their enemies. It was accepted; a ship was moored in the midst, as a point round which the two fleets might assemble, and a hot contest took place, fiercely fought upon either side; but English seamanship prevailed over superior numbers, every French ship was sunk or taken, and, horrible to relate, not one of their crews was spared.
Such destruction provoked Philippe, and he summoned Edward, as Duke of Aquitaine, to deliver up to him such Gascons as had taken part in the battle. This Edward neglected, whereupon Philippe sent to seize the lands of Perigord, and, on being repulsed by the seneschal, called on Edward to appear at his court within twenty days, to answer for his misdeeds, on pain of forfeiting the province of Gascony. Edward sent first the Bishop of London, and afterward his brother Edmund Crouchback, to represent him. Edmund's second wife was the mother of Philippe's queen, and it was therefore expected that he would the more easily come to terms, especially as he was commissioned to offer the hand of his royal brother to Blanche, the sister of Philippe, a maiden who inherited the unusual beauty of her family. Apparently all was easily arranged: Philippe promised Edmund that if, as a matter of form, Gascony were put into his hands by way of forfeit, it should be restored at the end of forty days on the intercession of the two ladies, and Blanche should be betrothed to the King.
All was thus arranged. But at the end of the forty days it proved that what Philippe had once grasped he had no notion of releasing; and, moreover, that Blanche la Belle was promised to Albert of Hapsburg! If Edward chose to marry any French princess at all, he was welcome to her little sister Marguerite, a child of eleven, while Edward was fifty-five. The excuse offered was, that Edward, had not obeyed the summons in person, and that another outrage had been perpetrated on the coast. After another summons, he was adjudged to lose not only Gascony, but all Aquitaine.
On discovering how he had been duped, Edward's first impulse was to send out his writs to collect his vassals to recover Gascony, chastise the insolent ill faith of Philippe, and to stir up his foreign connections to support him. He collected his troops at Portsmouth, hoping to augment his army by a general release of prisoners, Scottish, Welsh, and malefactors alike; but while he was detained seven weeks by contrary winds, all these men, after taking his pay, made their escape, and either returned to their countries, or marauded in the woods. A great insurrection broke out in Wales, and he was forced to hasten thither, and from thence was called away to quell the rising of the Scottish barons against Balliol.
Meanwhile, it fared ill with his foreign allies. The Duke of Brabant, father-in-law to his daughter Margaret, was killed in a tournament at the court of her sister Eleanor; and when Eleanor's husband, Henri of Bar, took up arms in the English cause, and marched into Champagne, he was defeated, and made prisoner by the Queen of France. The poor old Count of Flanders and his Countess were invited to Paris by Philippe, who insisted that they should bring his godchild and namesake, the betrothed of young Edward, to visit him. When they arrived, they were all thrown into the prison of the Louvre, on the plea that Guy had no right to bestow his daughter in marriage without permission from his suzerain.
Edward's head was so full of Scotland, that he was shamefully indifferent to the sufferings of his friends in his behalf. Poor Eleanor of Bar, after striving hard to gain her husband's freedom, died of grief, after a few months; and Guy of Flanders contrived to obtain his own release by promising to renounce the English alliance; but Philippe would not set free the poor young Philippa, whom he kept in his hands as a hostage.
One cause of the King's neglect was his great distress for money. He had learnt to have recourse to his father's disgraceful plea of a sham Crusade, and thus, for six years, gained a tenth of the Church revenues; but in 1294, requiring a further supply, he made a demand of half the year's income of the clergy. The new Archbishop, Robert Winchelsea, was gone to Rome to receive his pall; the Dean of St. Paul's, who was sent to remonstrate with the King, died suddenly in his presence; but Edward was not touched, and sent a knight to address the assembled clergy, telling them that any reverend father who dared to oppose the royal will would be considered to have broken the King's peace. In terror they yielded for that time; but they sent a petition to the Pope, who, in return, granted a bull forbidding any subsidies to be paid by church lands to the King without his permission.
Little did Edward reck of this decree. He knew that Boniface VIII. had his hands full of his quarrels with the Romans and with Philippe le Bel, and his own ambition was fast searing the conscience once so generous and tender. Again he convened the clergy to grant his exactions, but Archbishop Winchelsea replied that they had two lords, spiritual and temporal; they owed the superior obedience to the spiritual lord, and would therefore grant nothing till the Pope should have ratified the demand; for which purpose they would send messengers to Rome.
The lay barons backed Edward in making a declaration of outlawry against the clergy, and seizing all the ecclesiastical property, both lands and treasures, except what was within churches or burying-grounds, declaring that, if not redeemed by submission before Easter, all should be forfeited forever. The Archbishop of York came to terms; but the Archbishop of Canterbury held out, and was deprived of everything, retiring to a country village, where he acted as parish priest, and lived upon the alms of the parishioners. He held a synod, where excommunication was denounced on those who seized church property; but the censures of the Church had lost their terrors, and the clergy gradually made their peace with the King, Winchelsea himself among the last.
The laity had looked on quietly at the oppression of the clergy, and indeed had borne their share of exactions; but these came at last to a point beyond endurance, and Edward's need, and their obstinate resistance, led to another step in the formation of our constitution.
In 1297 he made a new alliance with Guy of Flanders, and was fitting out three armies, against Scotland, Guienne, and Flanders. To raise the means, he exacted five marks as a duty on each sack of wool exported to Flanders, and made ruinous requisitions for wheat on the landowners. Merchants and burghers, barons and clergy, took counsel together, and finding each other all of one mind, resolved to make a stand against this tax on wool, which was called the "Evil Toll," and to establish what Magna Carta had already declared, that the nation would not be taxed against its own consent.
The King's brother, Edmund of Lancaster, had lately died while commanding in Guienne, and Edward, meeting his vassals at Salisbury, gave the command of the army, thus left without a head, to Humphrey Bohun, Earl of Hereford, and Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk—the one Constable, the other Marshal of England. To his great wrath, they answered that their offices only bound them to attend the King's person in war, and that they would not go. Edward swore a fierce oath that they should either go, or hang. Bigod coolly repeated the same oath, that he would neither go nor hang, and back to their own estates they went, and after them thirty bannerets, and 1,500 knights, who, by main force, hindered the King's officers from making any further levies on their barns and storehouses.
Nothing was left Edward, but to speak them fair. He summoned his vassals to meet him in London, reconciled himself to Archbishop Winchelsea, and on the 14th of July, 1297, when all were assembled at Westminster, he stood forth on a platform, attended by his son, the Primate, and the Earl of Warwick, and harangued the people. He told them that he grieved at the burthens which he was forced to impose on them, but it was for their defence; for that the Scots, Welsh, and French thirsted for their blood, and it was better to lose a part, than the whole. "I am going to risk my life for your sake," he said. "If I return, receive me; and I will make you amends. If I fall, here is my son: he will reward you, if faithful."
His voice was broken by tears; and his people, remembering what he once had been rather than what he was now, broke into loud shouts of loyal affection. He appointed his son as regent, and set out for Flanders, but not in time to prevent poor Guy from again falling into captivity, and pursued by requisitions, to which he promised to attend on his return. All the nobles who held with him accompanied him, and Bohun and Bigod were left to act in their own way.
They rode to London with a large train, lodged complaints of the illegal exaction before the Exchequer, and then, going to the Guildhall, worked up the citizens to be ready to assert their rights, and compel the King to revoke the evil toll, and to observe the charter. They had scrupulously kept within the law, and, though accompanied by so many armed followers, neither murder nor pillage was permitted; and thus they obtained the sympathies of the whole country.
Young Edward of Caernarvon was but thirteen, and could only submit; and a Parliament was convoked by his authority, when the present taxes were repealed, the important clause was added to the Great Charter which declared that no talliage or aid should thenceforth be levied without the consent of the bishops, peers, burgesses, and freemen of the realm, nor should any goods be taken for the King without consent of the owners.
Further, it was enacted that Magna Charta should be rehearsed twice a year in all the cathedrals, with a sentence of excommunication on all who should infringe it. The Archbishop enforced this order strictly, adding another sentence of excommunication to be rehearsed in each church on every Sunday against any who should beat or imprison clergymen, desiring it to be done with tolling of bell and putting out of candle, because these solemnities had the greater effect on the laity. This statute is a sad proof how much too cheaply sacred things were held, and how habit was leading even the clergy to debase them by over-frequent and frivolous use of the most awful emblems.
Young Edward and his council signed the acts, and they were sent to the King for ratification, with a promise that his barons would thereupon join him in Flanders, or march to Scotland, at his pleasure. He was three days in coming to his resolution, but finally agreed, though it was suspected that he might set aside his signature as invalid, because made in a foreign country.
Wallace's proceedings in Scotland made Edward anxious to hasten thither and rid himself of the French war. He therefore accepted the mediation of Boniface VIII., and consented to sacrifice his unfortunate ally, Guy of Flanders, whom he left in his captivity, as well as his poor young daughter. Both died in the prison to which the daughter had been consigned at twelve years old. The Prince of Wales, for whose sake her bloom wasted in prison, was contracted to Isabelle, the daughter of her persecutor, Philippe le Bel; and old King Edward himself received the hand of the Princess Marguerite, now about seventeen, fair and good. Aquitaine was restored, though not Gascony; but Edward only wanted to be free, that he might hasten to Scotland. And, curiously enough, the outlaw Wallace, whatever he did for his own land, unconsciously fought the battles of his foes, the English nation; for it was his resistance that weakened Edward's power, and made necessity extort compliance with the demands of the Barons.
At York, Bigod and Bohun claimed a formal ratification of the charter of Westminster. He put them off by pleading the urgency of affairs in Scotland, and hastened on; but when he returned, in 1299, the staunch Barons again beset him, and he confirmed the charter, but added the phrase, "Saving the rights of the Crown," which annulled the whole force of the decree. The two barons instantly went off in high displeasure, with a large number of their friends; and Edward, to try the temper of the people, ordered the charter to be rehearsed at St. Paul's Cross; but when the rights of the Crown were mentioned, such a storm of hootings and curses arose, that Edward, taught by the storms of his youth not to push matters to extremity, summoned a new parliament, and granted the right of his subjects to tax themselves.
This right has often since been proved to be the main strength of the Parliament, by preventing the King from acting against their opinion, and by rendering it the interest of all classes of men to attend to the proceedings of the sovereign: it has not only kept kings in check, but it has saved the nobles and commonalty from sinking into that indifference to public affairs which has been the bane of foreign nations. For, unfortunately, the mass of men are more easily kept on the alert when wealth is affected, than by any deeper or higher consideration.
When we yearly hear of Parliament granting the supplies ere the close of the session, they are exercising the right first claimed at Runnymede, striven for by Simon de Montfort, and won by Humphrey Bohun, who succeeded through the careful self-command and forbearance which hindered him from ever putting his party in the wrong by violence or transgression of the laws. He should be honored as a steadfast bulwark to the freedom of his country, teaching the might of steady resolution, even against the boldest and ablest of all our kings. In spite of rough words, Edward and Bohun respected each other, and the heir of Hereford, likewise named Humphrey, married Elizabeth, the youngest surviving daughter left by good Queen Eleanor. Another of Edward's daughters had been married to an English earl. Joan of Acre, the high-spirited, wilful girl, who was born in the last Crusade, had been given as a wife to her father's stout old comrade, Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. He died when she was only twenty-three, and before the end of a year she secretly married her squire, Ralph de Monthermer, and her father only discovered the union when he had promised her to the Count of Savoy. Monthermer was imprisoned; but Edward, always a fond father, listened to Joan's pleading, that, as an Earl could ennoble a woman of mean birth, it was hard that she might not raise a gallant youth to rank. Ralph was released, and bore for the rest of his life the title of Earl of Gloucester, which properly belonged only to Joan's young son, Gilbert. Joan was a pleasure-loving lady, expensive in her habits, and neglectful of her children; but her father's indulgence for her never failed: he lent her money, pardoned her faults, and took on himself the education of her son Gilbert, who was the companion of his own two young sons by his second marriage, Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock.
Their mother, Margaret of France, was a fair and gentle lady, who lived on the best terms with her stepdaughters, many of whom were her elders; and she followed the King on his campaigns, as her predecessor Eleanor had done. Mary, the princess who had taken the veil, was almost always with her, and contrived to spend a far larger income than any of her sisters, though without the same excuse of royal apparel; but she was luxurious in diet, fond of pomp and display; never moving without twenty-four horses, and so devoted to amusement that she lost large sums at dice. She must have been an unedifying abbess at Ambresbury, though not devoid of kindness of heart.
Archbishop Winchelsea held a synod at Mertoun in 1305, where various decrees were made respecting the books and furniture which each parish was bound to provide for the Divine service. The books were to be "a legend" containing the lessons for reading, with others containing the Psalms and Services. The vestments were "two copes, a chasuble, a dalmatic, three surplices, and a frontal for the altar." And, besides these, a chalice of silver, a pyx of ivory or silver, a censer, two crosses, a font with lock and key, a vessel for holy water, a great candlestick, and a lantern and bell, which were carried before the Host when taken to the dying, a board with a picture to receive the kiss of peace, and all the images of the Church. The nave, then as now, was the charge of the parish; the chancel, of the rector.
This synod was Archbishop Winchelsea's last act before the King took vengeance on him for his past resistance. His friend and supporter, Boniface VIII., was dead, harassed to death by the persecutions of Philippe IV.; and Clement V., the new Pope, was a miserable time-server, raised to the papal chair by the machinations of the French King, and ready to serve as the tool of any injustice.
Edward disliked the Archbishop for having withstood him in the matter of the tithe, as well as for having cited him in the name of the Pope to leave Scotland in peace. The King now induced Clement to summon him to answer for insubordination. Winchelsea was very unwilling to go to Rome; but Edward seized his temporalities, banished eighty monks for giving him support, and finally exiled him. He died in indigence at Rome.
He was a prelate of the same busy class as Langton, not fulfilling the highest standard of his sacred office, but spirited, uncompromising, and an ardent though unsuccessful champion of the rights of the nation.
If Langton be honored for his part in Magna Charta, Winchelsea merits a place by his side, for it was the resistance of his party to the "Evil Toll" that placed taxation in the power of the English nation, and in the wondrous ways of Providence caused the Scottish and French wars to work for the good of our constitution.
ROBERT THE BRUCE (1305-1308.)
King of England. 1272. Edward I.
King of Scotland. 1306. Robert I.
King of France. 1285 Philippe IV.
Emperor of Germany. 1298. Albert I.
Pope. 1305. Clement V.
The state of Scotland had, ever since the death of the good King Alexander, been such that even honest men could scarcely retain their integrity, nor see with whom to hold. The realm had been seized by a foreign power, with a perplexing show of justice, the rightful King had been first set up and then put down by external force, and the only authority predominant in the land was unacknowledged by the heart of any, though terror had obtained submission from the lips.
The strict justice which was loved and honored in orderly England, was loathed in barbarous Scotland. It would have been hated from a native sovereign; how much more so from a conqueror, and, above all, from a hostile race, exasperated by resistance! Whether Edward I. were an intentional tyrant or not, his deputies in Scotland were harsh rulers, and the troops scattered throughout the castles in the kingdom used such cruel license and exaction as could not but make the yoke intolerable, and the enmity irreconcilable, especially in a race who never forgot nor forgave.
The higher nobility were in a most difficult situation, since to them it fell to judge between the contending parties, and to act for themselves. Few preserved either consistency or good faith; they wavered between fear of Edward and love of independence; and among the lowland baronage there seems to have been only William Douglas, of Douglasdale, who never committed himself by taking oaths of fealty to the English king. Some families, who were vassals at once of the English and Scottish crowns, were in still greater straits; and among these there was the line of Bruce. Robert de Brus had come from Normandy with William the Conqueror, and obtained from him large grants in Yorkshire, as well as the lordship of Annandale from one of the Scottish kings; and thus a Bruce stood between both parties, and strove to mediate at the battle of the Standard. His grandson married Isabel of Huntingdon, the daughter of the crusader, David of Scotland, and thus acquired still larger estates and influence in both countries. His son Robert made another English marriage with Isabel de Clare, daughter of the Earl of Gloucester. The eldest son, Robert Bruce, had gone as a crusader to Palestine, in company with his friend Adam de Kilcontack, who was Earl of Carrick in right of his wife Martha. Kilcontack died at the siege of Acre, and Bruce, returning, married the young countess, and had a large family.
There were three Robert Bruces living at the time of the judgment at Norham—the father, Lord of Annandale; the son, Earl of Carrick; and the grandson, still a child. As he grew up, he was sent to serve in the English army, and for some time did so without apparent misgivings; and the connection was drawn closer by his marriage with Joan de Valence, one of the cousins of Edward I. In order to secure a part of the property at all events, the father gave up his Scottish fiefs to his son, and returned to England, there to live in unbroken allegiance to Edward.
When Balliol was driven to declare against Edward, he confiscated the estates of all who adhered to the English, and gave Annandale to John Comyn of Badenoch, the son of his sister Marjory. The Red Comyn, as he was called, seized Bruce's Castle of Lochmaben, and sowed seeds of deadly hatred; but on the downfall of Balliol he shared the captivity of the unfortunate "toom tabard," and did not return to Scotland for some years. When Wallace's revolt broke out, young Bruce, who was only twenty-three, at first followed his instinct of obedience to Edward, and took an oath to support him against all his enemies, and in pursuance of it ravaged the lands of the brave Douglas, and carried his wife and children into captivity. Some sense either of ambition or patriotism, however, stirred within him, and assembling his men of Annandale, he told them that he had taken a foolish oath, but that he deeply repented of it, and would be absolved from it, inviting them to join him in maintaining the cause of their country. They took alarm, and all disappeared in the course of the night, and he joined the patriots alone, but not with all his heart, for he soon made his peace with Edward, and gave his only child, Marjory, as a hostage. Thenceforward he vacillated, sometimes inclining to the King, sometimes to the Scottish party, and apparently endeavoring to discover how far he could be secure of the Scots giving him their crown, provided he took their part. He showed a lamentable contempt for his word; for, on his father's death, he again did homage, and swore fealty to Edward, both for his lands in England and Scotland, and at the same time he was making secret treaties with Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrew's, and with Comyn. Balliol having resigned the crown, and being in prison with all his family, was considered to be set aside, and Bruce proposed to Comyn, that whichever of them should claim the kingdom, should purchase the support of the other by resigning to him his own inheritance. Comyn appeared to agree, and, to prevent suspicion, Bruce attended the court in London; but while he was there, Comyn wrote to betray his proposal to Edward, who took measures for seizing the conspirator; but these becoming known to his cousin, young Gilbert de Clare, the King's grandson, he contrived to give Bruce warning by sending him a pair of spurs and some pieces of gold.
Bruce understood the hint, and galloped off with his horse's shoes turned backward, so as to baffle pursuit. He came safely, on the fifth day, to his own border castle of Lochmaben, where he found his brother Edward. Keeping watch, they seized a messenger on his way to the English court, bearing letters from Comyn, which explained to Bruce what the peril had been, and who the traitor. Still he was forced to dissemble, and went as usual to the court of the English justiciary at Dumfries, which he was bound to attend. Comyn was likewise present, and there were deadly glances between the two. Bruce called Comyn to hold a private interview with him in the church of the Minorite friars, and, while their words waxed fierce, Bruce reproached Comyn with treachery. The answer was, "You lie!" and Bruce, enraged, struck with his dagger at his enemy; then, horror-struck at seeing him fall, rushed out of the church, and called, "To horse!" Two of his attendants, Lindsay and Kirkpatrick, struck by his pale looks and wild eyes, asked what had befallen him.
"I doubt," he said, "that I have slain the Red Comyn!"
"You doubt!" cried Kirkpatrick; "I'll mak sicker"—or sure: and, so saying, hurried back into the church, and slew not only the wounded man, but his uncle, Sir Robert Comyn, who tried to defend him. The "bloody dirk" and the words "mak sicker" were adopted as crest and motto by the Kirkpatrick family. Strange instance of barbarism, that the dastardly, sacrilegious murder of a helpless man on the steps of the altar should be regarded as an achievement worthy of pride!
Still, the fruits of that deed were the deliverance of Scotland. The man who had hitherto wavered, cast about by circumstances, and swayed by family interest, assumed a new character, and became the patient, undaunted champion of his country.
In utter desperation, Bruce's first measure was to defend himself against the English justiciaries, and, rallying his friends, he took possession of the castle of Dumfries, where they were holding their court in a hall. They barricaded themselves within, but the fierce Scots set fire to the doors, and they surrendered, whereupon Bruce permitted them to depart in safety.
Nothing was left for Bruce, blood-stained and branded with treachery and impiety, but to set up his standard and fight to the last; since he had offended too deeply ever to find mercy, and the lot of Davydd or of Wallace were samples of what he had to expect. He was handsome, well educated, of great personal strength and prowess, and frank, winning address, and the Scots had suffered so much under their oppressors, that they were ready to rally round the first leader who offered himself.
Going to his castle of Lochmaben, he mustered his adherents. They amounted only to three bishops, two earls, and fourteen barons, with their followers, and his own four brothers, Edward, Nigel, Thomas, and Alexander. With his little force he get out for Scone, where the Scottish kings were crowned, and on his way met a young knight, riding alone, but well mounted and well armed. As he raised his visor to do his homage to the King Robert of Scotland, and showed his dark hair and complexion, he was recognized as James, the eldest son of that William, Baron Douglas, of Douglasdale, who alone had withheld his allegiance from Edward, and whose lands, after Bruce himself had ravaged them, had been given to the English Lord Clifford. The youth had been educated in France, and brought the graces of a gentler school of chivalry when he cast in his lot with his ill-used country men. Thus began the lifelong friendship of Bruce and "good Sir James Douglas," who was, "wise, wight, and worthy,"
"Was never over-glad in winning, nor over-sad in tyneing."
From Scone, the crown, royal stone, and robes had been carried off to England; and the Earl of Fife, who, since the days of Macduff, had had the right of placing the King upon his throne, was in the hands of the English: but the Bishop of Glasgow provided rich raiment; a little circlet of gold was borrowed of an English goldsmith; and Isabel, Countess of Buchan, the sister of the Earl of Fife, rode to Scone, bringing her husband's war-horses, and herself enthroned King Robert. The coronation took place on the Feast of the Annunciation, 1306, and thus began a dynasty whose fate was remarkably similar to the sacrilege and murder in which their rise was founded. Never was royal line of whom it could so truly be said, that the sword never departed from them, and there was not an old man in their house for ever. High endowments and honest purposes could not redeem them, and Scotland never rested nor was purified from deadly hate and the shedding of innocent blood till the last of them was dying, a childless exile, and her sceptre was in the hands of that power against which Bruce arose.
The news of Brace's coronation filled Edward I. with rage. Fourteen years' work, at the cost of honor, mercy, and the love of his people, all was undone, and the spirit of independence still uncrushed.
Edward regarded Bruce as so sacrilegious a traitor, that a war with him was almost sacred; he swore to revenge Red Comyn's death, and prepared for the war in the most solemn manner. His son Edward was in his 22d year, and had not yet been knighted, and the King convoked all the young nobles to share in the solemnity.
On Whitsun-eve three hundred tents were erected in the Temple gardens, and in each was a young esquire of noble blood, clad in white linen and scarlet cloth, from the King's own wardrobe. Around the circular church of the Temple they watched their armor, and in the early morning the Prince received knighthood in private from the hands of his father, who had become too unwell to encounter the whole fatigue of the day. The Prince conferred the order on his companions, and a magnificent banquet took place in Westminster Hall, where the old King himself presided. In the midst a golden net was brought in containing two swans, the emblems of constancy and truth; and laying his hand on these, the King vowed that he would never sleep two nights in the same place till he should have chastised the Scots, and that he then would embark for Palestine, and die in the holy war. All the young knights made the same vow; and Edward made them swear that, if he should die in the course of the war, they would keep his body above ground till the conquest should be completed.
In the meantime, Clement V. had visited Bruce's crime with excommunication; and though the primate, Lamberton, would not receive the letters bearing the sentence, it was less easy to be inattentive to the enormous force that Edward I. had despatched under his viceroy, Aymar de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, while he followed with mind only bent on revenge.
Bruce ravaged Galloway, and marching on Perth, where De Valence was in garrison, challenged him to come out to battle. Aymar answered that it was too late in the day, and he must wait till morning; and the Scots settled themselves in the wood of Methven, where they were cooking their suppers, when Valence ungenerously took them by surprise, falling on them with a far superior force. Robert was on the alert, and killed Aymar's horse; but three times he was himself unhorsed: and once Philippe Mowbray was crying out that he had the new-made King, when Christopher Seton came to the rescue, and killed the Englishman. Robert, with about five hundred men, retreated safely into the rugged country of Athol; but he lost many of his best friends, who were slain or made prisoners, the latter being for the most part hung as rebels, except his sister's son, Thomas Randolph, who made his peace by renouncing his uncle.
King Edward had advanced as far as Carlisle. But he was now in his 67th year, and though his blue eye was not dim, nor his tall form bent, age was beginning to tell on him, and he was detained by sickness. His armies advanced, and while their cruelties shocked even his stern heart, he set them a fatal example by the unsparing manner in which he ordered the execution of all whom he considered as accomplices in rebellion.
The King and his small band of followers lived a wild, outlaw life, in the hills, hunting and fishing; and his English wife, Joan de Valence, with his two sisters, Mary and Christian, and the Countess of Buchan, came, under the escort of young Nigel Bruce, to join them. A few weeks ensued in the wilds of Bredalbane which had all the grace of "As You Like It." The Queen and ladies were lodged in bowers of the branches of trees, slept on the skins of deer and roe, and the King and his young knights hunted, fished, or gathered the cranberry or the whortleberry for their food; while the French courtliness of James Douglas, and the gracious beauty of young Nigel, threw a romance over the whole of the sufferings so faithfully and affectionately endured.
But advancing autumn forced them to think of providing shelter, and as they advanced toward the Tay, they came into the country of John Macdougal, Lord of Lorn, a son-in-law of the Red Comyn, and therefore at deadly feud with the Bruces. He collected his Highland vassals, and set upon the little band in a narrow pass between a lake and a precipice, where they could not use their horses: and the Highlanders did dreadful execution with their Lochaber axes; James Douglas was wounded, and so many of the horses destroyed, that Bruce ordered a retreat, and set himself to cover it, almost alone. Lorn himself was reminded of the heroes of Highland romance, as he saw the knightly figure riding calmly along the shore of the lake, guarding his flying army by the might of his presence, and the Archdeacon of Aberdeen found a simile for him in the romances of Alexander; but three men named M'Androsser, a father and two sons, all of great strength, sprang forward, vowing to slay the champion, or make him prisoner. One seized his rein, and at the same moment Bruce's sword sheared off the detaining hand, but not before the other brother had grasped his leg to hurl him from the saddle. With a touch of the spur the horse leaped forward, and as the man fell, his head was cleft by the King's sword. The grapple with the father was more severe; he grasped the King's mantle, and when Bruce dashed out his brains with his mace, the death-clutch was so fast, that Bruce was forced to undo the brooch at his throat to free himself from the dead man. The brooch was brought as a trophy to Lorn, whose party could not help breaking out into expressions of admiration, which began to anger him.
"It seems to give you pleasure," he said, "to see such havoc made among us." "Not so," answered one; "but be he friend or foe who achieves high deeds of knighthood, men should do faithful witness to his valor."
When the King had safely conducted his friends from this danger, he decided that the ladies should be placed in Kildrummie Castle, in Mar, under the keeping of young Nigel, while his followers dispersed for the winter, and he would shelter in the Hebrides. It was a sad and long parting, for Kildrummie Castle was soon taken, and Edward sternly condemned Nigel to be hung, in spite of his youth and innocence; and Christopher Seton, the King's dearest friend, was soon after taken, and shared the same fate. The bishops were carried in chains to England, and Queen Joan also was sent home as a prisoner with her little daughter Marjory. Mary Bruce and Isabel of Buchan were still more harshly treated, being each shut up in an open cage of latticed wood, exposed to the weather and to the public gaze, the one at Berwick, the other at Roxburgh Castle. Christian had the better fate of being placed in a convent.
In the meantime, Bruce and his few friends had wandered on to the banks of Loch Lomond, where they could only find one leaky boat, unable to hold more than three. Bruce, Douglas, and one other were the first to cross, and the third then rowed back for another freight, while throughout this tedious waiting the King made his friends forget their troubles by reciting poems and tales of chivalry. He spent part of the winter in Kentire, and the rest at the little island of Rachrin, so entirely lost to the knowledge of his enemies, that derisive proclamation was made for Robert Bruce, lost, stolen, or strayed. The Pope's legate solemnly excommunicated him at Carlisle, with bell, book, and candle; and Annandale was given to the Earl of Hereford, and Carrick to Henry Percy, whilst the executions of his relatives and adherents were both savage and cruel.
It was while depressed by such dreadful tidings that Bruce, as he lay on his bed at Rachrin, drew counsel and encouragement from the persevering spider, resolved to stake his fortunes on another cast, and, if unsuccessful, to die as a warrior in the Holy Land. The spring of 1307 was coming on, and he had found a friend in Christina, the Lady of the Isles, who furnished him with some vessels, in which Douglas descended upon the Isle of Arran, and surprised Brodick Castle, which was full of supplies.
Bruce was not long in following them, and, landing secretly, blew his bugle horn.
"The King!" cried James Douglas; "I know his manner of blowing!"
"The King!" cried Robert Boyd; "let us make speed to join him!".
Bruce had brought with him thirty-three galleys, and, meditating a landing in his own county of Carrick, just opposite, he sent a trusty friend, named Cuthbert, to feel his way; agreeing that, if he found the people favorably disposed, he should light a fire as a signal on Turnberry Head. The flame burst out at night, and Bruce and his little band embarked; but, on landing, he found no welcome on the shore, only Cuthbert, who knelt in dismay to assure the King that he knew not what hand had kindled the blaze; it was none of his, for the people were terror-stricken, Turnberry Castle was full of English, and he feared that it was the work of treachery. Nor has that strange beacon ever been accounted for; it is still believed to have been lit by no mortal hand, and the spot where it shone forth is called the Bogle's Brae. Whether meteor or watch-fire, it lit the way to Robert Bruce's throne.
He took counsel whether to return, or not; but his fiery brother, Edward, vowed that, for his part, he would never return to the sea, but would seek his adventures by land, and Bruce decided on being led by his strange destiny. Percy's horses and men were quartered in the villages round, and falling on them by surprise, he made a rich booty, and drove the remainder to take refuge in the castle.
A lady of Bruce's kindred brought him forty men and a supply of money and provisions, but, on the other hand, she told him the sad news of the loss of Kildrummie and the death of Nigel; and nearly at the same time, his two youngest brothers, who had been to collect forces in Ireland, were met as they landed by the Macdowalls of Galloway, routed, wounded, and made prisoners. They were taken to King Edward at Carlisle, and at once hanged without mercy. Bruce vowed a deadly vengeance, but he was again put to dreadful straits. He had four hundred men with him at Ammock, in Ayrshire, when Aymar de Valence and John of Lorn pursued him with eight hundred Highlanders and men-at-arms, setting on his traces a bloodhound, once a favorite of his own, and whose instinct they basely employed against his master.
Bruce, hoping to confuse them, divided his followers into three bands, appointing them a place of meeting; but the hound was not to be thus baffled, and followed up his master's footsteps. Again the royal party broke up, the King keeping with him only his foster-brother; but again the hound singled out his traces, and followed him closely. Lorn sent on five of his fleetest Highlanders to outstrip the dog, believing them able to cope with the two whose footmarks he saw. Bruce soon saw them dashing alter him, and asked his foster-brother, "What aid wilt them make?"
"The best I can," he said; and the King undertook to deal with three, leaving the other two to his foster-brother; but he had to turn aside from his own combat to rescue his companion, and four out of the five fell by his hand; yet he thanked his foster-brother for his aid in the encounter. The baying of the hound came near enough to be heard, revealing why the enemy had so well distinguished his tread: and Bruce, who had been sitting under a tree, spent with fatigue, sprang up, exclaiming that he had heard that to wade a bow-shot through a stream would make any dog lose scent, and he would put it to proof by walking down the little stream that crossed the wood. This device succeeded, the running water effaced the scent, the hound was at fault, and Lorn gave up the attempt.
Still the hunted pair were in evil case; they had lost their way, and were spent with fatigue, and they could not extricate themselves from the forest. By and by they met three wild, vagabond-looking men coming with swords and axes, and one with a sheep thrown over his shoulders. The King accosted them, and asked whither they were bound. They said they sought Robert Bruce, since, wherever he was, there would be fighting.
"Come with me," he said; "I will take you to him."
At this they changed countenance, so that he suspected them, and insisted that they should walk on before him in front, without the two parties mingling together. At nightfall they came to an empty shed, where they killed the sheep; but Bruce, still on his guard, chose to have a separate fire, and to eat and sleep apart beside it, himself and his foster-brother taking turns to watch. The foster-brother, heavy and exhausted, dropped off to sleep on his watch, and almost at the same moment the three robbers fell upon them. Bruce, who slept lightly, was on the alert in a moment, and slew the whole three, but not in time to save his foster-brother, who died under a blow from the marauders. The King then went mournfully on his way to the place of rendezvous, and by and by came to a farm, where he was welcomed by a loyal goodwife, who declared that she wished well to all travellers for the sake of one—King Robert. Here he was joined by one hundred and fifty men, with his brother Edward, and James Douglas; and the first remedy thought of for all their fatigues was to fall on their pursuers, who were carousing in the villages. Attacking them suddenly, they inflicted far more injury than had been suffered through this day of pursuit.
Bruce was gathering men so fast, that he ventured to give battle to Aymar de Valence at London Hill, and defeated him chiefly by using the long spears of the Scottish infantry against the horse of the English. Aymar went to explain the state of affairs to King Edward at Carlisle. Such tidings lashed the old monarch to more vehement action; he prepared to set forth at once against the enemy; but it was not to be. Wars were over with him forever. The sudden death of his daughter, Joan, strongly affected him, and at only one day's march from Carlisle he became so ill, that he was forced to rest at Burgh on the Sands, where he speedily declined. His last injunctions to his son were, to be kind to his little brothers, and to maintain three hundred knights for three years in the Holy Land. The report went, that he further desired that his flesh might be boiled off his bones, and these wrapped in a bull's hide to serve as a standard to the army; but Edward's hatred never was so mad as this would have been, and there is no reason to believe in so absurd a story.
There could perhaps be found no more appropriate monument than that in Westminster Abbey, contrasting, as it does, its stern simplicity with the gorgeous grace of his father's inlaid shrine, and typifying well the whole story of the fallen though still devout crusader—the dark-gray slab of Purbeck marble, with the inscription:
Edwardus Primus. Malleus Scotorum, 1308. Pactum Serva. Edward the First. The Hammer of the Scots. Keep covenants.
THE VICTIM OF BLACKLOW HILL.
King of England. 1307. Edward II.
King of Scotland. 1306. Robert I.
King of France. 1385. Philippe IV.
Emperor of Germany. 1308. Henry VII.
Pope. 1305. Clement V.
"The foolishness of the people" is a title that might be given to many a son of a wise father. The very energy and prudence of the parent, especially when employed on ambitious or worldly objects, seems to cause distaste, and even opposition, in the youth on whom his father's pursuits have been prematurely forced. Seeing the evil, and weary of the good, it often requires a strong sense of duty to prevent him from flying to the contrary extreme, or from becoming wayward, indifferent, and dissipated.
This has been the history of many an heir-apparent, and of none more decidedly than of Edward of Carnarvon. The Plantagenet weakness, instead of the stern strength of the house of Anjou, had descended to him; and though he had what Fuller calls "a handsome man-case," his fair and beautiful face was devoid of the resolute and fiery expression of his father, and showed somewhat of the inanity of regular features, without a spirit to illuminate them. Gentle, fond of music, dancing, and every kind of sport, he had little turn for state affairs; and like his grandfather, Henry III., but with more constancy, he clung to any one who had been able to gain his affections, and had neither will nor judgment save that of the friend who had won his heart.
His first friend—and it was a friendship till death—was Piers Gaveston, the son of a knight of Guienne. Piers was a few years older than the Prince, and so graceful, handsome, ready of tongue, and complete in every courtly accomplishment, that Edward I. highly approved of him as his son's companion in early boyhood; and Piers shared in the education of the young Prince of Wales and of his favorite sister, Elizabeth. Edward I. was a fond father, and granted his son's friend various distinguished marks of favor, among others the wardship of Roger, the son and heir of the deceased Edmund Mortimer, warden of the Marches of Wales. Whatever were the intentions of Gaveston, Roger Mortimer did little credit to his education. The guardian had a license to use his ward's property like his own till his majority, in order that he might levy the retainers for the King's service, and he obtained a handsome gratuity from the relatives of the lady to whom he gave the youth in marriage, and this, probably, was the extent of the obligations to which Gaveston considered himself as bound.
Both he and his Prince were strongly sensitive to all that was tasteful and beautiful; they were profuse in their expenditure in dress, in ornament, and in all kinds of elegances, and delighted in magnificent entertainments. They gave one in the Tower of London to the princesses, on which occasion an immense expenditure was incurred, when the Prince of Wales was only fifteen; and his presents were always on the grandest scale to his sisters, who seem to have loved him as sisters love an only brother.
By and by, however, generosity became profusion, and love of pleasure ran into dissipation. Grave men grew uneasy at the idle levity of the Prince, and were seriously offended by the gibes and jests in which the tongue of Gaveston abounded, and at which he was always ready to laugh. In 1305, the Prince made application to Walter Langley, Bishop of Litchfield, the King's treasurer, to supply him with money, but was refused, and spoke improperly in his anger. It is even said that he joined Gaveston in the wild frolic of breaking into Langley's park, and stealing his deer. At any rate, at Midhurst, on the 13th of June, the Bishop seriously reproved him for his idle life and love of low company; and the Prince replied with such angry words, that the King, in extreme displeasure, sent him in a sort of captivity to Windsor Castle, with only two servants.
All his sisters rose up to take their brother's part, and assure him of their sympathy. The eager, high-spirited Joan, Countess of Gloucester, sent him her seal, that he might procure whatever he pleased at her cost; and Elizabeth, who was married to Humphrey de Bohun, the great Earl of Hereford, wrote a letter of warm indignation, to which he replied by begging her not to believe anything, save that his father was acting quite rightly by him; but a few weeks after, he wrote to beg her to intercede that his "two valets," Gilbert de Clare and Perot de Gaveston, "might be restored to him, as they would alleviate much of his anguish." He addressed a letter with the like petition to his stepmother, Queen Margaret, and continued to evince his submission by refusing his sister Mary's invitations to visit her at her convent at Ambresbuiy. At the meeting of parliament, Edward met his father again, and received his forgiveness. All went well for some time, and he gracefully played his part in the pageantry of his knighthood and the vow of the Swans.
Gaveston still continued about his person, and accompanied him to the north of England. At the parliament of Carlisle, in 1307, the Prince besought his father to grant his friend the earldom of Cornwall, the richest appanage in the kingdom, just now vacant by the death of his cousin, Edmund d'Almaine, son of the King of the Romans. Whether this presumptuous request opened the King's eyes to the inordinate power that Gaveston exercised over his son, or whether he was exasperated against him by the complaints of the nobles, his reply was, to decree that, after a tournament fixed for the 9th of April, Gaveston must quit the kingdom forever; and he further required an oath from both the friends, that they would never meet, again, even after his death. Oaths were lightly taken in those days, and neither of the gay youths was likely to resist the will of the stern old monarch; so the pledge was taken, and the Prince of Wales remained lonely and dispirited, while Piers hovered on the outskirts of the English dominions, watching for tidings that could hardly be long in coming.
So much did Edward I. dread his influence, that, on his deathbed, he obliged his son to renew his abjuration of Gaveston's company, and laid him under his paternal malediction should he attempt to recall him. It does not appear that Gaveston waited for a summons. He hurried to present himself before his royal friend, who had, in pursuance of his father's orders, advanced as far as Cumnock, in Ayrshire.
Both had bitterly to rue their broken faith, and heavily did the father's curse weigh upon them; but at first there was nothing but transport in their meeting. The merry Piers renewed his jests and gayeties; he set himself to devise frolics and pageantries for his young master, and speedily persuaded him to cease from the toils of war in dreary Scotland, and turn his face homeward to the more congenial delights of his coronation, and his marriage with the fairest maiden in Europe. To have made peace with Bruce because the war was an unjust aggression, would have been noble; but it was base neither to fight nor to treat, and to leave unsupported the brave men who held castles in his name in the heart of the enemy's country. But Edward was only twenty-two, Gaveston little older, and sport was their thought, instead of honor or principle. Piers even mocked at the last commands of the great Edward, and not only persuaded the new King to let the funeral take place without waiting for the conquest of Scotland, but to bestow on him even the bequest set apart for the maintenance of the knights in Palestine. At Dumfries, on his first arrival, the coveted earldom of Cornwall was granted to him; and, on his return, he was married to the King's niece, Margaret de Clare, daughter to Joan of Acre. He held his head higher than ever, and showed great discourtesy to the nobility. He had announced a tournament at Wallingford in honor of his wedding, and hearing that a party of knights were coming to the assistance of the barons who had accepted his encounter, he sallied out privately with his followers, and attacked and dispersed the allies, so as to have the advantage in his own hands in the melee. Such a dishonorable trick was never forgotten, though probably the root was chiefly vanity, which seems to have been the origin of all his crimes, and of his ruin.
The chancellor and all the late King's tried ministers were displaced, and some, among whom was the good Bishop of Litchfield, were imprisoned for two years. Gaveston, without any regular appointment, took the great seal into his own keeping, and set it to charters which he filled up after his fancy. In the meantime, the King set off for France, to celebrate his marriage with Isabel, the daughter of Philippe le Bel, the princess for whose sake the Flemish maiden was pining to death in captivity. The seal of this most wretched of unions was, that Philippe took this opportunity of persuading the gentle, reluctant Edward II, to withdraw his protection from the Templars in his dominions, and give them up to the horrible cruelty and rapacity of their exterminator. Isabel's dowry was furnished from their spoils. The wedding took place on St. Paul's Day, 1308, in the presence of four kings and queens, and the festivities lasted a fortnight; after which the young bride and bridegroom set off on their return to Dover, where Edward's favorite sister, Elizabeth, was already come to greet the little Queen, a beautiful girl of thirteen, proud, high-spirited, and exacting, very unwilling to be treated as a child. Her two uncles came with her, and a splendid train of nobles; and two days after their landing, Gaveston arrived at Dover, when, at first sight of him, Edward rushed into his arms, calling him brother, and disregarding every one else. Almost at the same time the King gave his favorite the whole of the rich jewelry and other gifts which had been bestowed on him by his father-in-law, Philippe le Bel; and this was regarded as a great affront by the young Queen and her uncles. Gaveston had a childish complaint of his own to make—men would not call him by his new title; and presently a proclamation came out, rendering it a crime to speak of him as Piers, Piers Gaveston, or as anything but the Earl of Cornwall.
It was the more resented because he was not respectful with other men's titles, and amused the King with nicknames for the nobles. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, the son of Edmund Crouchback, was "the old hog" and the "stage-player;" pale, dark, Provencal Aymar de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, he called "Joseph the Jew;" the fierce Guy, Earl of Warwick, "the black dog of Ardennes." The stout Earl swore that he should find that the dog could show his teeth; and when Gaveston announced a tournament for the 18th of February at Feversham, no one chose to attend it, whereupon he jeered at them as cowards.
The King issued writs summoning his nobles to meet for his coronation on the 25th of February, but they took the opportunity of insisting that Gaveston should be dismissed from favor. Edward evasively answered that he would attend to their wishes at the meeting of parliament, and they were obliged to be content for the present; but they were exceedingly angry that, at the coronation, Piers appeared more splendidly and richly attired than the King himself, and bearing on a cushion the crown of St. Edward, while the Earl of Lancaster carried curtana, the sword of mercy, and his brother Henry the rod with the dove. The Bishop of Winchester performed the ceremony, Archbishop Winchelsea not having returned from his exile; and the King and Queen made magnificent offerings: the King's being first, a figure of a king in gold, holding a ring; the second, of a pilgrim given the ring; intended to commemorate the vision in which St. Edward received the coronation-ring from St. John the Evangelist.
Gaveston arranged the whole ceremony; but as his own display was his chief thought, he managed to affront every one, and more especially the young Queen and her uncles, so that Isabel wrote a letter to her father full of complaints of her new lord and his favorite, and Philippe entered into correspondence with the discontented nobility. In the tournaments in honor of the coronation, Piers came off victorious over the Earls of Lancaster, Hereford, Pembroke, and Warrenne, and this mortification greatly added to their dislike. At the meeting of parliament, the Barons were so determined against the favorite, that finally Edward was obliged to yield, and to swear to keep him out of the kingdom; though, to soften the sentence, he gave him the manors of High Peak and Cockermouth, and made him governor of Ireland, bestowing on him, as a parting token, all the young Queen's gifts to himself—rings, chains, and brooches; another great vexation to Isabel. He was obliged, at the same time, to grant forty other articles, giving greater security to the people.
Gaveston made a better governor of Ireland than could have been expected, repressed several incursions of the wild Irish, and repaired the castles on the borders of the English pale; but his haughty deportment greatly affronted the Irish barons of English blood, and they were greatly discontented with his rule.
The King was, in the meantime, doing his utmost to procure the recall of the beloved Earl. He wrote to the Pope to obtain absolution from his oath, and to the King of France to entreat him to relax his hostility; and he strove to gain his nobles over one by one, granting offices to Lancaster, and making concessions to all the rest. Philippe le Bel made no answer; Clement V. sent exhortations to him to live in harmony with his subjects, but at last absolved Gaveston, on condition that he should demean himself properly, and submit his differences with the Barons to the judgment of the Church.
Gaveston hurried home on the instant; his master flew to meet him, and received him at Chester with raptures of affection. Thence Edward sent explanations to the sheriffs of each county, saying, that Gaveston having been unjustly and violently banished, it was his duty to recall him, to have his conduct examined into according to the laws. The Barons, on the other hand, put forth other declarations, persuading the people that the King having violated one of the oaths, he evidently meant to break the other forty, which regarded their personal liberties.
Gaveston did nothing to mitigate the general aversion. He had not learnt wisdom by his first fall, and though the clergy and commons meeting at Stamford granted a twenty-fifth of the year's produce to the King, and consented to his remaining so long as he should demean himself properly, he soon disgusted them also. He wore the crown-jewels openly, and affected greater contempt than ever for the Barons, till it became popularly said that there were two Kings, the real one a mere subject to the false. The young Queen wrote piteous complaints to her father of her husband's neglect; and the Countess of Cornwall had still greater wrongs from Gaveston to complain of to her brother, the Earl of Gloucester. Dances, sports, and gayeties were the occupation of the court, heedless of the storm that was preparing. The Barons, jealous, alarmed, and irritated, looked on in displeasure, and on the All-Saints' Day of 1310, after high mass at St. Paul's, the bold-spirited Archbishop Winchelsea, in his pontifical robes, standing on the step of the altar, made a discourse to the Earls of Lancaster, Lincoln, Pembroke, Hereford, and eight other persons, after which he bound them by an oath to unite to deliver the kingdom from the exactions of the favorite, and pronounced sentence of excommunication against any who should reveal any part of their confederation before the time.
The Earl of Lincoln, the last of the Lacys, shortly after fell sick, and made what he thought a death-bed exhortation to the Earl of Lancaster, who had married his only daughter, not to abandon England to the King and the Pope, but, like the former barons, to resist all infractions of their privileges.
This Earl of Lancaster was the son of Edmund Crouchback and of Blanche of Artois, mother of the Queen of France. He was a fine-looking man, devout and gracious, and much beloved by the people, who called him the Gentle Count; but Gaveston's nickname for him of the "stage-player" may not have been unmerited, for he seems to have been over-greedy of popular applause and influence, and to have had much personal ambition; and it does not seem certain, though Gaveston might be vain, and his master weak and foolish, that Lancaster and his friends did not exaggerate their faults, and excite the malevolence of a nation never tolerant either of royal favorites or of an expensive court. Pembroke was Aymar de Valence, son of one of the foreign brothers who had been the bane of Henry III.; but now, becoming a thorough Englishman, he bore the like malice to the unfortunate Gascon who held the same post as his own father had done. Hereford, though husband to the King's favorite sister Elizabeth, was true to the stout old Bohun, his father, who had sworn to Edward I. that he would neither go nor hang. Two poor butterflies, such as Edward II. and Gaveston, could have done little injury to the realm, but the fierce warriors were resolved to crush them, impatient of the calls upon their purses made needful by their extravagance.
A tournament had been announced at Kennington, and preparations were made; but Gaveston's jousts were not popular. None of the Barons accepted the invitation, and in the night the lists and scaffolding were secretly carried away. This mortification was ominous, but Edward's funds were so low that he could not avoid summoning a parliament to meet at Westminster; and at their meeting the nobles again resorted to the device of Montfort at the Mad Parliament. They brought their armed followers, and forced the King to consent to the appointment of a committee of ordainers, who made him declare that this measure proceeded of his own free will, and was not to prejudice the rights of the Crown; but that their office would expire of itself on the ensuing Michaelmas-Day. So strangely and inconsistently did they try to bring about their own ends without infringing on the constitution.
Gaveston had either previously hidden himself, or was driven away by the ordainers; but the King, anxious to escape from their surveillance, proclaimed an expedition to Scotland, and summoned his vassals to meet him at York. Hardly any noble came except Gaveston, and they made an ineffectual inroad into Scotland together, after which Gaveston shut himself up in Bamborough Castle, while the King went to London to receive the decision of the ordainers. The foremost was, of course, the banishment of Gaveston; and he went, but only again to appear, before two months were past, in the company of the King, at York.
Lancaster and his friends now look up arms and marched northward. Edward and his court had proceeded to Newcastle, but no army was with them; and on the report of the advance of the enemy the King fled to Tynemouth, and embarked in a little boat with his friend, leaving behind him his wife, discourteously perhaps, but hardly cruelly, for Isabel was the niece of Lancaster, and probably would have been in more danger from a sea-voyage in a rude vessel, than from the rebel lords. She was, however, greatly offended, and was far more inclined to her uncle, who wrote her an affectionate letter, than to her regardless husband.
Edward and Piers landed at Scarborough, where the King was obliged to leave his friend for security, while he went on to raise his standard at York. Few obeyed the summons, and Pembroke hastened to besiege Scarborough. It was impossible to hold out, and Gaveston surrendered, Pembroke and Henry Percy binding themselves for his safety to the King, under forfeiture of life and limb. Gaveston was to be confined in his own castle of Wallingford, and the Earl proceeded to escort him thither. But at Dedington Pembroke left the party to visit his wife, who was in the neighborhood, and, on rising in the morning, Gaveston beheld the guard changed. They bore the badge of Warwick, and the grim black dog of Ardennes rode exulting at their head. The unhappy man was set upon a mule, and carried to Warwick Castle, where Lancaster, Hereford, and Surrey, were met to decide his fate in the noble pile newly raised by Earl Guy, to whom the loftiest tower owes its name.
They set Piers before them, and gave him a mock trial. At first there was a reluctance to shed blood, but a voice exclaimed, "Let the fox go, and you will have to hunt him again." And it was resolved that, in defiance of law and of their own honor, Piers Gaveston should die.
He flung himself on his knees before Lancaster, and implored mercy; but in vain he called him "Gentle Count." "Old hog" rankled in the mind of the Earl, who, with his two confederates, rode-forth to Blacklow Hill, a knoll between Warwick and Coventry, and there, beneath the clump of ragged pine-trees, they sternly and ruthlessly looked on while, on June 19th, 1312, the head of the unfortunate young Gaveston was struck off, a victim to his own vanity and the inordinate affection of his master.
Pembroke, regretting either his carelessness or his treachery, when he saw the dreadful consequences, went to the King, and satisfied him of his innocence. Poor Edward was at first wild with grief and rage, but his efforts to punish the murderers were fruitless; and gradually his wrath cooled enough to listen to the mediation of the Pope and King of France, and he consented to grant the Barons a pardon. They wanted to force him, for their own justification, to declare Gaveston a traitor; but weak as Edward was, his affection could not be overcome. He could forgive the murderers, but he could not denounce the memory of the murdered friend of his youth. And the Barons were forced to content themselves with receiving a free pardon after they had come to profess their penitence on their knees before the King enthroned in Westminster Hall.
Gaveston had been buried by some friars at Oxford; but, twelve years after, Edward showed how enduring his love had been, by transporting the corpse to the church he had newly built at Langley, and placing with his own hands two palls of gold on the tomb.
King of England. 1307. Edward II.
King of Scotland. 1306. Robert I.
King of France. 1285. Philippe IV.
Emperor of Germany. 1308. Henry VII.
Pope. 1305. Clement VI.
While the son of the Hammer of the Scots wasted his manhood in silken ease, the brave though savage patriots of the North were foot by foot winning back their native soil.
Lord Clifford had posted an English garrison in Douglas Castle, and reigned over Douglasdale, which had been granted to him by Edward I. on the forfeiture of Baron William. It sorely grieved the spirit of James Douglas to see his inheritance held by the stranger, and, with Bruce's permission, he sought his own valley in disguise, revealing himself only to an old servant, named Thomas Dickson, who burst into tears at the first sight of his young lord, and gave him shelter in his cottage.
Here Douglas lay concealed, while Dickson conducted to him, one by one, his trusty vassals, and measures were concerted with total disregard to the sacred holiday. Once, all Passion-tide would have been peaceful for the sake of the Truce of God; but the wrongs of the Scots had blotted out all the gentler influences that soften war, and in their eyes justified treachery and sacrilege. On the Palm-Sunday of 1307, when the English troops would come forth in procession to the Church of St. Bride, carrying willow boughs in memory of the palm-branches at Jerusalem, the adherents of Douglas intended to attack and beset them on all sides, and Douglas, by way of encouragement, made a grant to Dickson of the lands of Hisleside. Dickson and the other secret friends of the Scots mingled in the procession, with their arms concealed, and entered the church with the English, and no sooner had they disappeared within the low doorway, than the loud slogan of "Douglas! Douglas!" was heard without. Dickson drew his sword and ran upon the English, but the signal had been given too soon, and he was overthrown and slain before Sir James came up. The English bravely defended the chancel, but Douglas and his armed followers prevailed, killed twenty-six, took twelve prisoners, and set out for the castle, which, in full security, had been left with all the gates open, with no one within but the porter, and the cook dressing the dinner, which was eaten by very different guests from those whom they expected. Douglas had not men enough to hold the castle, and had a great dislike to standing a siege. "I had rather hear the lark sing, than the mouse squeak," was his saying, and he therefore resolved to return to his king on the mountains, and carry off all the treasure and arms that could be transported from Douglasdale. As to the remainder, he showed that French breeding had not rooted the barbarian even out of the "gentil Lord James." He broke up every barrel of wheat, flour, or meal, staved every cask of wine or ale among them on the floor of the hall, flung the corpses of dead men and horses upon them, slew his prisoners on the top of the horrible compound, and finally set fire to the castle, calling it, in derision, the Douglas Larder.