This History is reproduced as a prologue in
Rebel King - Book One - Hammer of the Scots.
‘Tis said by some that Robert de Brus, king of Scots, achieved kingship by sacrificing his principles, and vacillating back and forth between English sovereignty and Scottish independence for his own personal benefit. But, did he?
Perhaps, it would be judicious at this time to throw at the reader a bit of the extremely convoluted and often conflictive history of the relationship between the Scots and the English. Necessarily, this is but the barest explanation of why the two peoples who have so long shared a small island have often been at odds with each other, even though many of their familial and traditional roots extend deep into the same European soils. Our readers must forgive our brevity, but we would otherwise be writing a tome the magnitude of an encyclopedia, so complex is this exciting, tragic, comedic, romantic, and bloody story.
Kenneth MacAlpin, in 844 A.D., united under his leadership many of the disparate tribes of the land that is now Scotland, and his descendants ruled the kingdom for generations.
Duncan I, distant nephew of MacAlpin, ascended the Scottish throne in 1034 and achieved immortality, of a sort, by being murdered six years later, an event which is now and forever shall be associated with Shakespeare’s play MacBeth. The overly ambitious MacBeth was himself deposed in 1047 by Duncan’s son, Malcolm III, and the MacAlpin line continued upon the throne through the Norman invasion of the England in 1066. That occurrence and the marriage of Malcolm III to Margaret Atheling, an English noblewoman of Saxon heritage (later canonized by the Roman Catholic Church), brought an influx of English and Norman customs and thought to Scotland.
Interestingly, it was in the horde that accompanied William “The Bastard,” Duke of Normandy, in his conquest of England that the first Robert de Brus, a Norman knight from Brus (near present-day Cherbourg, France), arrived in England.
Since earliest times, English kings had tried to exert suzerainty, or feudal superiority, over the Scots. William, now called “The Conqueror,” cast an eye toward Scotland in 1072, and Malcolm III submitted to him rather than fight a war against far superior forces. To cement the deal, Malcolm sent his son Duncan to live at the English Court as a hostage. Though it was a lovely existence, and beneficial in wealth and power for the young Scottish prince (and his successors), it was nevertheless “pampered captivity.”
Malcolm’s youngest son married a very wealthy Englishwoman, Matilda of Huntingdon, who possessed “vast estates in England.” When the Scottish throne subsequently came to him, the result was that Scotland’s King David I owned large, rich tracts in England. As was customary, he paid homage to the King of England for the land, which was perverted by subsequent English kings to denote Scottish acquiescence to their supremacy.
In 1174, Malcolm III and Margaret’s great-grandson William the Lion, after being defeated by the English in Northumbria, recognized England’s Henry II as his liege, or feudal lord in the Treaty of Falaise. Fifteen years later, however, this vassalage was relinquished by Richard Coeur de Lion, who, in order to finance a crusade, sold the vassalage back to the Scots for 10,000 merks, and Scotland was once again independent.
William the Lion’s son Alexander II began his reign in 1214. His rule proved to be one of the longest continuous periods of Scottish prosperity, which was, in fact, carried forward after his death through the abbreviated reign of his son, Alexander III. England, meanwhile, suffered devastating civil war. Much of the nobility rose up against King Henry III, and all concerned suffered widespread carnage and destruction.
Robert de Brus, “The Noble,” was laird of Annandale and a direct descendent of Scotland’s King David I. During the English civil war, he raised an army of Scots and fought on the side of the English monarchy. A great defeat befell the royalists at Lewes in 1264, and Lord Robert’s army was massacred by the rebel cavalry. He was captured, along with Henry III and his twenty-five-year-old son, Lord Edward. The Scottish laird’s son, also named Robert, hastened to England to ransom his father, as was common practice among the warring nobility. The surviving peasantry of a losing army on enemy soil were most often, as in this case, hunted down and killed, if not by the opposing army, then by the local populace.
At age thirty-three, Lord Edward succeeded Henry III on the throne of England, and two years later, another Robert de Brus was born. It is he who is the subject of the following story. Grandson of Robert de Brus “The Noble,” laird of Annandale, and son of Robert de Brus and Marjorie, countess of Carrick, the infant was born close to the line of Scottish succession, and was thus fated to become King Edward’s mortal enemy.
While the baby Robert grew into a handsome, strong boy, Edward, nearly forty years old, strove mightily for order and good government in England. Among his many admirable achievements, Edward, in his middle years an able administrator and a courageous warrior, established regular meetings of Parliament and yielded to that body the right and task of levying taxes within the realm.
When the boy Robert was less than ten years old, Edward brought the principality of Wales under his control by warring on Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, the “last true Prince of Wales” and his brother David, settling the affair with the Statute of Wales in 1284. Edward gave the country and the title “Prince of Wales” to his newborn son, Edward, who would one day succeed him on the throne.
It was Edward’s great desire to encompass all the island under his crown. However, familial concerns prevented his warring on Scotland, for Edward’s sister Margaret was married to Scotland’s King Alexander III, making the entire island a “family” holding.
Alexander III outlived Margaret, and their two sons and one daughter. The latter, having married the king of Norway, was queen of that land at her demise. She left one very young daughter, also named Margaret, who was heir apparent to the Scottish throne. Having no living children, the Scottish king sought to remarry and produce another heir, and so espoused a young French woman, Yolande de Dreux, granddaughter of King Louis VI. Late on the evening of March 18, 1286, having met with his councilors at Edinburgh, and having drunk far too much, Alexander headed home to his bride of just six months. Against all advice, he set out into a wild storm, and was found dead the next day at the bottom of the cliffs along the River Forth near Kinghorn.
The powerful men of the land, the churchmen and the nobility, swore fealty to the only living descendant of Alexander III, Margaret, the “Maid of Norway,” as their lady and future queen. They also pledged that, should they fail to guard Scotland and keep the peace for her, they would be excommunicated from the church by the Scottish bishops.
Scotland’s government was then temporarily placed into the hands of Guardians, who pledged to do nothing that would diminish the country’s independence or harm the royal “dignity.” After establishing an interim government, the Guardians put royal officers of the land on notice that they must, within twenty-four hours of being alerted, have knights and soldiers owing military service to the crown ready to do battle to protect Scottish liberty and royal interests. Late in the year, they also sent a mission to King Edward to ask his advice and, should it be needed, protection for the sanctity of the Scottish nation.
The wheels of government turned slowly. In July of 1290, Scottish emissaries, negotiating with England and Norway, completed the Treaty of Birgham, an agreement which stated that the six-year-old “Maid of Norway,” heiress to the Scottish throne, would, at the proper time, marry the five-year-old and only surviving son of King Edward, also named Edward. Approved not only by the Guardians, but the bulk of Scotland’s empowered society as well, the treaty went into great and specific detail to ensure that Scotland remained a free and independent entity and in no way a vassal to any other. Edward signed the treaty in August of 1290.
Too late. By that time (actually the previous June), Edward had taken over Scotland’s Isle of Man, in the middle of the Irish Sea, which was of strategic importance to him, and put that part of Scotland “under his protection” without a word to the Scottish authorities. This was months before the Guardians received news that the child Margaret, the “Maid of Norway,” had died at Orkney on her way to Scone to be crowned, and had been taken back to Bergen for burial. Her sudden death left no obvious successor to the crown.
In the ensuing confusion, a dozen others desired the vacant throne, but two strong Scottish aristocrats laid claim to it. One was John de Balliol and the other, Robert de Brus, “The Noble.” Both descended from David, earl of Huntingdon, younger brother of Scotland’s King William the Lion. Earl David had no surviving sons, but his three daughters had male descendants.
John de Balliol was the grandson of the eldest daughter, Margaret. Robert de Brus was the son of second daughter, Isabel, and thus one generation closer to Earl David. He also had acquired the prerogative that gave him the support of seven Scottish earls having the authority to elect a king. However, argued de Balliol, his grandmother being the elder sister, primogeniture ruled, as it had in England for two centuries. Ah, but Robert de Brus, in 1238, had been made heir presumptive to the Scottish throne by Alexander II before he had a son to inherit the crown. And thus it went.
Unable to decide whose interests were stronger, the argument threatened to incite civil war among the various factions, and at length, the many rivals agreed to have a “disinterested” party make the decision as to which of them held the strongest claim. Their chosen arbiter of “The Great Cause” was Edward, king of England.
Edward’s queen and greatly beloved wife of 35 years, Eleanor of Castile, died that winter, an unhappy event that did not favor the Scots, as Eleanor had given Edward a softer, more reasoned approach to many things. After her death, his ambitious iron will was unrestrained.
The following spring (1291) Edward invited the Scots to meet and talk with him on the English side of the Tweed, assuring them that crossing the border would not put them in a lesser position for negotiations. They no sooner arrived than he demanded suzerainty over Scotland, and backed it up with an army gathered from England’s northern shires. The Scots requested time to consider his demand, then sent him a formal, polite, but firm, letter of refusal saying that they had not the power to grant such rights. Only the Scottish king had such power, and even if they agreed, it would not be binding. Edward dismissed the reply as not “to the purpose.”
However, Edward eventually did receive from the Scots, including de Balliol and de Brus, the following: his temporary overlordship of the kingdom; the physical control of Scotland, its castles and strongholds (tantamount to suzerainty); and the power to make the final decision regarding the succession to the Scottish throne by his presidency of a special tribunal set up to weigh each candidate’s claim. The Scots competitors for the throne, wanting to be in Edward’s good graces, agreed to the demands (however illegally), and to abide by Edward’s decision, even though he retained rights to be a competitor for the throne himself! Fealty was sworn to Edward by virtually all Scots of any import, the castles were surrendered, the elected Guardians resigned to be re-appointed by Edward, and Scotland became, for all practical purposes, an English protectorate.
For their part, the Scots obtained his promise that the English king would surrender possession of the kingdom to the rightful king of Scotland within two months after her new king was crowned, and that he would make no further claims against the country.
Thus it was that Edward became chief lord of Scotland, and the Scots were to rue the day.
The matter of Scottish royal succession went quickly before a legally established court, in which arguments were heard from all competitors. For a year and a half, much posturing and figurative beating of breasts went on, especially between the two primary claimants, each trying to convince the court that, for various reasons, his was the stronger, more valid claim. Arguments dragged on until November, 1292, at which point things drew rapidly to an end, and the de Bruses were privately informed that de Balliol had been chosen the rightful heir.
On November 7th, the aged Robert, The Competitor, resigned his claim to the crown in favor of his son, then earl of Carrick, and his heirs. Perhaps it was thought that the claim should be passed down to prevent its being lost in the event of the elder Brus’ unexpected death. That was well, except that the Countess Marjorie, mother of the future King Robert, had predeceased the claim’s transfer by some months. Her widowed husband had not the mettle of The Competitor, and on November 9th, he deftly sidestepped the responsibilities thrust upon him by relinquishing the claim and the earldom of Carrick to the title’s rightful heir, his eighteen-year-old first-born son, Robert.
The new earl was a canny youth and fully realized the injustice that had befallen his family and his country at the hands of Edward of England, but there was then nothing to be done. Thus, on November 17th, the court made public its decision. The last day of the month, St. Andrew’s Day, 1292, John de Balliol was crowned at Scone. None of the de Bruses swore fealty to Scotland’s new king, considering him usurper of the throne rightfully theirs. This dichotomy of loyalties would later place them at war with their homeland.
English law of primogeniture had supported de Balliol as heir, but, many felt and many yet feel that Edward preferred de Balliol because he was younger, less knowledgeable, more malleable, and could thus be more easily turned to favor whatever Edward desired for Scotland. In the words of Barrow, “It is true [de Balliol] was not a forceful man and certainly no match for Edward.”
The king who had theretofore always dealt with the Scots legally and usually fairly, may have, indeed probably did, plot to acquire the kingdom as his vassal state, having declared at the time of Queen Eleanor’s funeral his intent to subjugate Scotland as he had Wales. Evidence suggests that he encouraged a small number of civil disputes, properly decided by Scottish courts, to be afterward appealed to his justice.
Edward’s first counter-decision came on December 22nd, after which four Scots magnates and others forwarded a petition pleading that he abide by his agreement to preserve Scottish laws and customs, and that no Scottish lawsuits would “be dealt with outside Scotland.” The last day of the month, Edward abrogated all commitments made to the Scots during the interim between the reigns of Alexander III and John de Balliol. He further asserted his intention to hear any appeals brought to him, even to summoning the King of Scots before his court, if he so chose!
King John, having sworn fealty to Edward before the crowning at Scone, and under great pressure from Edward to do so, also issued pronouncements freeing the English monarch from any and all obligations he might have agreed to during the time of the Guardians, including the Treaty of Birgham. Thus, Edward joined other English rulers who had repudiated promises made to the Scots. Edward, in his own mind, was rightfully empowered to be overlord of Scotland, and he continued hearing complaints against legal decisions by Scottish courts. Edward’s rules for settling such complaints, as he had stated, required the King of Scots to appear in person before the English parliament to explain the reasons for the said decisions, and other, equally repugnant stipulations. Summonses for such appearances by King John were properly ignored, but eventually, John de Balliol relented, and late in 1293, finally went before the English parliament.
King John initially showed “courage and dignity” in responding to a body that treated him shabbily. He stated that he could not answer before an English court on matters affecting his kingdom without consulting with his own advisors, the “responsible men” of Scotland. However, savagely berated by Edward (who was apparently vicious) and threatened with losing his three principal towns and castles for being in contempt of court, de Balliol’s personal courage wilted and he submitted to Edward’s feigned superiority. As Scotland’s king, de Balliol thus submitted his kingdom to Edward’s vassalage.
It was obvious to both the Scots and the English that King Edward had succeeded in placing a “yoke of servitude” upon the “fickle and unstable” Scots, and the English felt it just. Their king had subdued and annexed the Welsh state and defied King Philip of France, and the Scots had undeniably shown great weakness and vacillation in their dealings with Edward, even before King John had been enthroned. However, the independent-natured Scots soon saw the vacillating King John as Edward’s puppet, a situation they found intolerable and dangerous. He was soon labeled “Toom Tabard,” or “empty tunic,” by many of his countrymen.
Perhaps taking advantage of Edward’s preoccupation with things at home, King Philip IV (called “ Philip The Fair”) of France confiscated Edward’s French duchy of Aquitaine, in response to which Edward angrily renounced his homage to the French king. He entered into discussions with the leaders of Germany, northern Spain, and many of the Low Countries, and soon formed an alliance that would effectively surround France. The English king forbade communications with the Continent sans royal permission, and ordered King John to exert similar control in Scotland. This raised the ire of many of the landed and titled Scots, who, like the American colonists of a later time, saw that the English king was treating them more like vassals than free men.
Next, the English military was ordered to report for overseas duty at Portsmouth, from whence they would embark for war in France. Edward sent the Scots an order for King John, along with “ten earls of Scotland, and sixteen barons, headed by James the Stewart and Brus of Annandale, The Competitor, [then] eighty-four years of age” [Barrow] likewise to report at Portsmouth. No longer even giving pretense that Scotland was a sovereign nation, Edward was behaving as reigning monarch. Giving excuse on top of excuse, the Scots (who were in no mood to give overseas military aid to the English king) failed to show.
In August, Edward called for the Welsh to report for service, and made the error of arming them prior to embarkation. Within a month, the whole of Wales was in revolt against him, capturing and destroying his castles and creating a great deal of turmoil. The Welsh halted Edward’s winter offensive by attacking and seizing his baggage train.
While the Welsh were warring on Edward, Robert de Brus, The Competitor, grandfather of the future Scots king, died at Lochmaben on Good Friday, 1295, and his title of lord of Annandale passed to his son, Robert. The new lord was then in Norway, having escorted his daughter Isabella to be wed to Norway’s King Erik. It would be autumn before he returned to take up his responsibilities as lord of Annandale.
Many discontented Scots, taking note of the rebellious Welsh’ successes, determined that neither would they stand idly by and be taken over by the English. In early summer, due to de Balliol’s apparent lack of competence and their distrust of his resolve, the Scots held a parliament at Stirling and, though not deposing him, removed governmental control from King John. On July 5, 1295, they elected a “Council of Twelve” to take command and prepare the country for inevitable war with Edward.
By October, a Scottish mission to France had negotiated a renewal of “The Auld Alliance,” a treaty first signed between France and Scotland in the time of William the Lion. Scotland agreed to invade England if Edward left home for the Continent, and the French agreed to furnish aid or create diversions if the English invaded Scotland. Neither side would make a separate peace, and the whole treaty would be crowned by the marriage of King John’s son Edward de Balliol, who was guaranteed to be heir to the throne, and King Philip’s niece, Jeanne.
In a separate agreement, the two countries joined with Norway, in spite of King Erik’s formerly amiable relations with Edward, and formed an alliance more or less surrounding England.
In order to resist English intentions toward Scotland, word went out for the Scottish military to hold inspections of arms and equipment, a prerequisite to a call to assemble. That order soon followed, and the Scots landholders who were ready to do battle against Edward gathered with their knights at Caddonlee, near Selkirk, as William the Lion had in 1173, and they prepared to do battle to the south. Among nobles holding lands in Scotland and remaining loyal to the English king were the de Bruses. As a result, many of their neighbors considered them unwelcome and, like the Tories during the American Revolution, they, along with English citizens, were banished from their lands, their homes, and even religious orders. Annandale, home of Lord Robert de Brus, was given to the earl of Buchan to be used as headquarters for attacking Cumberland.
Meanwhile, the war in France went poorly for Edward, who was unable to cross the Channel and lead his armies in battle due to the dangers to his crown closer to home. English coffers were being drained and there were disastrous losses in the field. Yet, in spite of their drubbing in France, his armies were gaining in experience, which would prove to be invaluable once the upstart Scots met them on the battlefield.
Thinking they had little to fear from Edward’s defeated armies, the Scots blindly headed toward disasters of their own. Edward is said by Barrow to have stated, “What matter if both Welsh and Scots are our foes? … let them join forces if they please. We shall beat them both in a day.” Edward demanded that the Scots relinquish, until the end of the war with France, the castles of Berwick, Roxburgh, and Jedburgh, all along his border. He further ordered the Scots not to allow any French or Flemish to enter Scotland, to which they replied they would welcome whom they pleased. But Edward had only begun to fight.
Under his edict, Scottish-held lands in England were seized, and six months later, Scots in England were arrested; even the toddler son of Sir William Douglas was taken into custody! Full-fledged war began in late March, 1296, when the Scots burned their way from Annandale to Carlisle. There they were repulsed, ironically, by the lord of Annandale, Robert de Brus, then in command of Castle Carlisle, and his son, the earl of Carrick. The invading Scots’ greatest success at Carlisle was the burning of half the town, after which they withdrew back to Annandale.
Edward was far more successful at attacking Berwick-on-Tweed, Scotland’s largest and wealthiest town, taking it on first attack. Only 30 Flemings fought to the death, perishing when the Red Hall was burned with them inside. But, it was what happened afterward that shows Edward’s extreme brutality. It became one of the darkest events in English history.
After the town lay prostrate before him, Edward ordered that none beneath the rank of knight was to be spared. The murdering of the helpless men, women, and children of the town went on for days, until the local clergy were at long last successful in begging mercy from the English king. It is estimated that between ten thousand and twenty thousand Scots were slain, so many that their bodies became a “dangerous nuisance” and were hastily thrown into the sea or buried in deep pits. Edward then established his “capitol” at Berwick from which defeated Scotland would be governed.
The Scots raided and burned numerous small villages, churches, and monasteries in Northumberland, and some said they set fire to a school building resulting in the deaths of two hundred young scholars. Whether the schoolboys were murdered or not is in doubt, but the burning of the village and the priory of Hexham, as well as other towns, is factual.
Inexperienced in pitched warfare, the Scots’ main armies were met at Dunbar in late April by those of Edward under the command of John de Warrene, earl of Surrey (and father of the wife of John de Balliol - another control Edward had thought he would hold over the Scottish king). Having laid siege to the castle there, the tough English forces turned to meet the oncoming Scots, and in so doing gave the impression to the unseasoned Scots (who actually held the more advantageous position) that the English were withdrawing. The Scots knights rejoiced and, relinquishing the high ground, gave chase… only to find the English waiting for them. In short order, the Scots were overpowered and fled the area looking for safety in Selkirk forest, some forty miles distant. The Scots soldiers of foot suffered heavy casualties, and great numbers of the “important” personages of Scotland were captured. It was a crushing defeat for an army ill prepared to fight a modern war.
Subsequent Scottish resistance was slight, and in some instances non-existent. One-by-one, the castles fell until, by mid-summer, King John and the Comyns, having fled northward, sued for peace. Edward informed the hapless de Balliol of what must be done to achieve cessation of hostilities, and meanwhile, went about the business of securing his captured land. He toured the country, proving his victory to the masses, while looting the wealth of Scotland’s royalty. Among this were counted “regalia and a mass of plate, jewellery [sic] and relics, including the Black Rood of Saint Margaret, the holiest and most venerated relic in Scotland.” He then removed the Stone of Destiny from its place in the abbey at Scone and donated it to Westminster Abbey as a gift to his personal patron, Edward the Confessor.
King John, thoroughly defeated, gave Edward all that he had asked: a servile confession of rebellion, renunciation of the Scots treaty with the French, and, on July 10, 1296, abdication. The blazon of his royal arms was stripped from his tabard, thus completing his humiliation before his own and the English peoples. John de Balliol was sent south to the Tower of London, but was soon granted quarters near his home. The more prominent Scots leaders, including the Comyns, were sent to England, some to the Tower of London, while others were imprisoned in various castles throughout the more distant parts of England and Wales.
Robert de Brus, son of the Competitor, requested the Scottish throne, as Edward had promised in return for the de Bruses' support during the uprising. The disdainful Edward replied, “Have we nothing else to do but win kingdoms for you?”
Back in Berwick by late August, Edward had the parliament draw up an ordinance for the English governance of the captured land, making himself direct lord, but not eliminating Scotland as a separate entity. He required that fealty be sworn, again, and a fairly complete list of those so doing can be found on a formal document called the “Ragman Roll.” (The term “Ragman,” as used here, was possibly derived from the Old Norse “ragmenni,” meaning “coward,” and comes down to us today as “rigmarole,” or, useless, confused statements or nonsense.) Those who had not rebelled also swore allegiance, including the de Bruses.
One family notably absent from the list is that of landholder and vassal of the Stewart, Malcolm Wallace, and his brothers, John and William. Perhaps they were not of enough import to be included on the Ragman Roll, or perhaps, they refused to pledge their fealty. Those who did not take the oath were declared outlaws and stripped of possessions and inheritances, and forbidden to possess weapons of war.
Edward then considered the whole Scottish matter settled, and after setting up English administrators in Scotland, left that unhappy country, making the comment, “He who rids himself of shit does a good job,” and turned his attentions to the war against the French. Many Scots, however, held only animosity toward the English and their overlordship, creating a cauldron in which an undercurrent of rebellion continued to simmer, just beneath the surface. It would not be long before the lid blew off.
With most of the powerful Scots imprisoned or out of the country, Scotland’s leadership fell to the likes of Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow and one of the old Council of Twelve who managed Scottish affairs after the Scots removed power from King John. Another was one of the most powerful landholders in Scotland, James the Stewart, canny and less fiery than Wishart, but nevertheless holding no love for Edward of England. Perhaps, then, it was no coincidence that the next uprising came under the leadership of William Wallace, a long-time friend of Wishart, and under the patronage of the Stewart, on whose land he lived. It has been suggested that Wishart and Stewart may actually have plotted Wallace’s revolt of the following year.
Wallace was known to be a daring warrior and still carried his five-foot long sword. Educated beyond his station by an uncle who was a priest, Wallace came to the fore in the spring of 1297, after some grumbling of discontent arose in the west highlands, and violence erupted in Aberdeenshire and Galloway. In May, the English sheriff of Lanark, William de Heselrig, having failed to trap William Wallace at the home of his wife, Marion Braidfute, had Marion and her family slain and the house burned. Wallace avenged the murders the next night by returning with a small band and killing every Englishman in Lanark. Moving stealthily, he started in the home of the Sheriff, whom he woke and personally dispatched with a dagger to the heart.
Aided by the turbulent Sir William Douglas, Wallace next attacked the English court at Scone, routing the justiciar and acquiring much plunder. This effectively ran most of those English north of the Forth to ground in a handful of castles.
Wallace turned to the English garrison at Ayr. His uncle Sir Reginald Crawford had been sheriff of Ayr, and was tricked to his death by being solicited to confer with an English judge named Arnulf. They were to meet in a large building near town, which became instead a place of massacre. About three hundred Scots, entering in ones and twos to attend the meet, were hanged from the rafters as they entered. Then the building was cleared and used as English barracks.
Wallace again attained vengeance. In the night, he and his men surrounded and set fire to the barracks, slaying any who escaped the flames. He then took Castle Ayr and, from its walls, hanged Arnulf.
About the time Wallace “raised his head,” Andrew Murray (son of Sir Andrew Murray, Lord of Petty, deposed [by the English] Justiciar of Scotia and a wealthy baron), escaped from captivity suffered after the Battle of Dunbar. He gathered fighters from around Inverness and captured Castle Urquhart. Within three months he controlled Inverness, Elgin, Banff, and other northern castles formerly held by the English. King Edward sent the Comyns, John of Badenoch and John, earl of Buchan, to join those yet loyal to him in quelling the disturbances in the northern reaches of the realm. However, John of Buchan crossed to the side of the rebels.
Among others joining this rebellion, interestingly, was young (twenty-two years old) Robert de Brus, earl of Carrick. Kicked out of Scotland for siding with Edward against John de Balliol, his family had regained its holdings after the English conquest for the same reason. As far as Earl Robert’s father was concerned, that support existed yet, in spite of the fact that Edward had broken his promise to award the Scottish crown to him. The bishop of Carlisle, however, suspected the true loyalties of the younger de Brus and coerced him into taking a special oath of allegiance to the English crown. He soon rightly abrogated that oath as being given under constraint. “I must join my own people [the men of Carrick] and the nation in which I was born,” he is quoted as having said to his father’s knights, while trying, mostly in vain, to convince them to join him in the revolt.
With those he did persuade, de Brus managed to relieve Castle Douglas, under English siege and defended by the Lady Douglas and her twelve-year-old son, James. From that day, James Douglas would follow Robert de Brus to the death, and beyond.
Irrespective of his success at Douglas, the untried de Brus was no better at war than were Wishart and the Stewart, who, when met by a larger and better equipped English contingent of well-trained mounted troops at Irvine, immediately asked to negotiate terms for surrender. This is seen as a ruse to give Wallace time to continue his successful activities. The talks dragged on, and in a late July letter to King Edward from Hugh Cressingham, the situation was described in direst terms. Most Scottish counties were no longer under Edward’s control because his “keepers” were either dead, holed up, or in Scottish hands. Cressingham is quoted as saying, “And in some shires the Scots have appointed and established bailiffs and officials.” The Scots, in other words, were taking back their country and establishing home rule.
Submission at Irvine contained a special demand upon Earl Robert de Brus, who did not submit with the others. Robert had married very young, and his wife, Isabella, daughter of Donald, earl of Mar (a friend of Robert’s late grandfather, The Competitor), died in 1296 while giving birth to their daughter, Marjorie. To meet the terms of his capitulation, Robert was ordered to surrender his only child as a hostage. He had not done so as of November of that year, and there is no evidence that he ever submitted or surrendered the infant.
In late August, Wallace and Murray joined forces. Edward’s commanders, Warrene and Cressingham, moved on Stirling with one thousand heavy cavalry and a host of nearly sixty thousand English and Welsh infantry, arriving September 9th. Wallace and Murray formed their army of about ten thousand north of Stirling Bridge, which spanned the Forth about a half-mile beneath Stirling Castle. Between the two was a high road through plowed fields and meadows, totally unsuitable for deploying cavalry. There the river formed a horseshoe bend and flowed on both sides of any advancing army. The narrow bridge would permit only two horsemen riding abreast to cross.
After much unsuccessful parleying between Earl Warrene and several Scots (including James the Stewart), who said they would try to “pacify” their countrymen, the Englishman finally sent two friars to Wallace, seeking capitulation. His reply came back a veritable slap in the haughty English face, “…we are not here to make peace but to do battle to defend ourselves and liberate our kingdom. Let them come on, and we shall prove this in their very beards.”
Cressingham, the penny wise and pound foolish English treasurer, had sent home reinforcements to save money, and now used the same logic in urging that the coming battle go forth immediately. Sir Richard Lundie, who had gone over to the English at Irvine, proposed a delay, that he might cross the river at a tidal ford near Kildean and maneuver his forces around to a position behind his fellow Scots. Apparently distrustful of the turncoat and confident that his superior numbers would carry the day, Warrene ordered his army across the narrow bridge the next morning, September 11th.
Wallace and Murray watched patiently until a sufficient number of English troops, both horse and foot, had crossed the small arch. They then rushed in to cut the invading army in twain. Among those who made it to the north bank of the river was Cressingham, the niggardly treasurer, who charged into the Scots spearmen and was killed. Those yet on the south side had no way to help the advance party, but watched as they were cut to pieces. Warrene, seeing his command losing severely, fled in haste all the way back to Berwick. Out of the forests, James the Stewart and the earl of Lennox led their commands down upon the English supply train and the fleeing enemy troops, killing great numbers and capturing horses and wagons in the marshes south of the river.
Success at Stirling was not lightly won, and among the sacrificed Scots was Andrew Murray, whose lingering death came in November.
With no way to re-supply, the English garrison in Stirling Castle soon surrendered. A wildly popular win for the Scots, the Battle of Stirling Bridge was no crushing defeat of the English, though to be sure, the English nose was well bloodied by the victory of mostly afoot and untrained Scots peasantry over the primarily professional and highborn English cavalry.
The political situation in Scotland reverted to its previous form, with John de Balliol, still held in England, as king, and all else as before his abdication. Murray, while he lived, and Wallace, throughout, never attempted to claim the throne or be anything more powerful than guardians of the kingdom and commanders of its army.
Wallace led raids into Northumberland in October and November, and ferociously retaliated against the English in border areas, making all fear his appearance on the horizon. Some of the undisciplined rabble in his command crossed the line between warfare and atrocity, plundering and pillaging at will with none to stop them. It was not until winter that the Scots returned north without having captured any major castles on either side of the border, save Stirling, but with plunder to divide amongst them.
Warrene and Sir Robert Clifford attempted a half-hearted counter-offensive in December, but the relatively minor damage they did amounted to the burning of ten towns, and the slaughtering of many Annandale peasants. They also freed Roxburgh and Berwick of Scottish sieges before retiring for the winter. Edward, then on the continent, sent word to hold off on any major campaigns until he arrived to lead such. Wallace spent the interim trying to train and prepare his soldiers and increase their number, knowing that Edward would strike with heavy blows come spring.
According to an English source at the time, William Wallace was knighted prior to the end of March, 1298, by “one of the foremost earls of Scotland,” which Barrow goes on to surmise was probably either Buchan, Carrick, or Lennox. He contends that Wallace earned this honor at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Wallace was also elected sole Guardian of Scotland and commander of the armed forces. And while the powerful men of the kingdom may have admired and supported Wallace and wished him success, they were reluctant to take orders from a commoner. They would have to do so if they joined the fray, and so the hereditary leadership of the kingdom failed to lead, leaving such to Wallace.
Edward prepared to invade Scotland with an impressive army of two thousand mounted and twelve thousand foot soldiers, though the vast majority of the latter were from Wales and Ireland, and their commitment to Edward’s war with Scotland was dubious. As for the English populace, they had taken the defeat of England’s finest at the hands of Wallace as an almost personal affront. Their appraisal of the Scottish leader was based on hatred, resentment, fear, and titillation, as baseless rumors spread about his despicable character and horrendously cruel deeds.
In early July of the following year, Edward marched on Scotland, catching neither sight nor sound of Wallace and his army. To his dismay, he found Berwickshire and Lothian burned and deserted, and his supply ships delayed at sea, save a few that brought mostly wine. With no way to feed his soldiers other than foraging in that devastated land, Edward sent Bishop Bek’s force to capture three Scottish-held castles in Lothian, which he was unable to accomplish until after the arrival of some English grain ships.
Edward’s force, however, was yet starving, and in order to quell their hunger and lift their spirits, he ordered they be given some of the wine. A debacle followed in which the intoxicated Welsh instigated brawling and several priests were killed. In response the English knights charged into the Welsh troops, killing eighty and scattering the rest.
Threatening to join the Scots, the Welsh stayed away from camp until word came with Patrick, earl of Dunbar, and Gilbert de Umfraville, earl of Angus and an Englishman, both of whom had always supported England, that the Scots were just thirteen miles away, near Falkirk. The army regrouped to meet them the following day, July 22, 1298.
Lacking cavalry and having only longbows, Wallace was at a severe tactical disadvantage. His spearmen, heavy woods behind them, were set in place on the side of a solid hill and faced southeast across a loch that was more of a marshy bog. They were grouped into four schiltroms of perhaps as many as two thousand men, each holding a long, metal-pointed pole or spear toward the outside of the circular group, making the whole much like a huge and deadly quill-laden beast. Into the turf around the schiltroms had been driven wooden stakes, roped together, and between each were stationed Wallace’s archers under command of John the Stewart. What cavalry he had, contributed by the Comyns and others, Wallace held to the rear.
Eager to be about their business with the Scots, the English commanders refused to delay until their men had eaten, as Edward suggested, and instead, moved forward in the direction of what was ostensibly but a small brook separating them from their enemy. Reaching the loch, the first army circled the swampy obstacle by heading west, the second, east. The Scottish cavalry, for the most part, panicked and deserted the field without making contact with the enemy. A few notable exceptions remained and took part in the battle, including MacDuff of Fife, who was killed leading his men.
The English professionals systematically picked apart the Scots’ preparations. They first attacked the archers in between the schiltroms, killing almost all of them, from their commander Sir John the Stewart on down, leaving the schiltroms separated and vulnerable. They fought valiantly, but the spearmen suffered such a merciless rain of arrows, crossbow bolts, and stones, that the outer rings of the schiltroms began to gap. Soon there were not enough replacements to move out from the center; the English cavalry charged into thinned and faltering ranks and annihilated the Scots, killing hundreds if not thousands more before day’s end.
Wallace and other Scots magnates escaped and fled to “castles and woods.” It is unknown whether or not the young earl of Carrick was among those who participated in the Battle of Falkirk, but when Edward arrived at de Brus’ estate, he found the town empty and the castle destroyed, burned on Earl Robert’s orders.
Falkirk, though not a vanquishing of the Scots, was the undoing of Sir William Wallace. From that point his fortunes steadily declined, as he had only his military prowess to thank for his rise in society, and that reputation rested primarily on his success at Stirling Bridge. Having been greatly encouraged by that success, the influential Scots’ faith in Wallace was now shattered, and they realized their freedom was going to require their own active participation and sacrifice. As for Wallace, he either was removed or resigned as Guardian of Scotland, and the following summer left for the continent, to work in the interests of the realm.
Edward was driven out of Scotland, not by the Scots, but by famine and the discontent of his commanders. Prior to exiting the kingdom, he successfully wrested Lochmaben, home of Robert de Brus, lord of Annandale, from Scots who apparently supported the rebellion more strongly than did the laird. Returning in September to Carlisle, Edward found the Scots had been there before him and taken his supplies, leaving him with insufficient food for his already hungry army. Nonetheless, he swore to return the following year, and commenced bestowing Scottish lands upon his supporters, claiming that the properties’ rightful Scottish owners had forfeited them by their disloyalty to him. It was true that most of the Scots had closed ranks to defend themselves and Scotland against the English interlopers, and most would eventually pay dearly for their patriotism.
Before December of 1298, Robert de Brus of Carrick and John Comyn, the younger, of Badenoch were elected joint Guardians of the kingdom. They continued to act in the name of King John and upheld the acts of Wallace while he was Guardian. Edward was unable to mount an offensive to the north the following year, and the Scots used the providential gift of time to appoint their own administrators and officials wherever they were needed, to collect taxes and to gain additional power in the Scottish church. England still held many castles in southeast Scotland, but for the most part, the Scots controlled the rest of the country.
At the intercession of Pope Boniface VIII, King John was released from captivity in July of 1299, but Edward would only surrender him to papal custody. Thus, de Balliol was removed to the Continent and held in a papal residence.
In August, William Lamberton, having replaced the late William Fraser as Bishop of St. Andrews two years previously, arrived from his mission to France to find de Brus and Comyn setting out on an ambitious raid south of the Forth. He joined them, as had the earls of Buchan, Menteith, and Atholl. Sir Malcolm Wallace, brother of William, was there in the de Brus contingent.
Deciding against attacking heavily defended Roxburgh, their original target, the Scots left Sir Ingram de Umfraville with troops and any locals who might be persuaded to join the effort, and raided as far as the environs of Edinburgh. But, an English spy among them was sending back military and other pertinent information to his master, Robert Hastings, constable at Roxburgh.
In a missive to King Edward, he described a fissure between de Brus and Comyn during a council the Scots held August 12th. He reported that Sir David Graham lay claim to the lands and goods of Sir William Wallace for his having left Scotland without the Guardians’ consent, to which Sir Malcolm objected on grounds that his brother’s work abroad was for the good of the kingdom. The two drew daggers upon each other. Graham being in Comyn’s retinue and Wallace in de Brus’, the argument was quickly reported to John Comyn, who took de Brus by the throat and the earl of Buchan, a Comyn supporter, turned on Bishop Lamberton, who was neutral, accusing them of plotting treason. Future troubles between the two men might have been settled mortally at that point had not the Stewart come between them.
A report that Sir Alexander Comyn (brother of the earl) and Lachlan Macruarie were warring on fellow Scots in their district, burning and despoiling the region, arrived in timely fashion, sobering and unifying the opposing camps. Agreement was made that Bishop Lamberton would become the principal captain and remain in control of all the castles. He was also elected third Guardian of Scotland in an attempt to buffer the de Brus-Comyn factions. Afterward, the council participants took their respective followers and returned, each to his bailiwick.
For the next few months, the joint Guardians tried to make things work among them, holding the government together with dogged determination while starving the English out of Stirling. There was talk of a truce between England and Scotland, to be negotiated by King Philip “The Fair” of France, to which the Guardians seemed amenable. Edward, having his own troubles at home, was virtually rendered incapable of charging north after the Scots as he would have wished. Eventually the English in Stirling surrendered, after which they were permitted to return safely home.
So it was that the Scots set about governing Scotland and recapturing the English holdings along their border. The southwest region would be first, and de Brus was greatly influenced in his decision to resign as a Guardian by this campaign; after all, his father, lord of Annandale and always Edward’s supporter, still resided there. His decision may have been made partially due to threats of attacks by the men of Galloway upon his northern Carrick lands. Whatever the cause, Robert de Brus did resign before May, 1300, leaving Bishop Lamberton and John Comyn as joint Guardians. Sir Ingram de Umfraville, kinsman of Balliol and supporter of Comyn, quickly filled De Brus’ vacated position.
King Edward, having gathered a suitable force for the first time in nearly two years, marched that summer from Carlisle to Annan, and afterward to Lochmaben, still held by the English. From there he moved the ten miles to Scottish-held Caerlaverock Castle and laid siege to it, bringing up battering rams and catapults, effecting the castle’s demise in short order and hanging many of the Scots defenders.
Rolling west into Galloway, Edward held a two-day meeting with the earl of Buchan and John Comyn of Badenoch. The Scots demanded the restoration to his throne of John de Balliol, recognition by Edward of de Balliol’s familial succession thereto, and the return of English estates to the Scots from whom Edward had removed them, else they would defend Scotland against him as long as possible. To all this Edward was adamant in his refusal, and the war continued to rage.
After a small skirmish by his foragers at a glen along the Cree, Edward moved his army there and, with archers and three brigades of horse, faced off against Buchan, Comyn of Badenoch, and Umfraville, each commanding a horse brigade. When the English moved across the tidal basin at ebb tide, the Scots fled in such a panic that some even left their horses and took flight on foot into the wilderness. The English horsemen were not prepared to fight in such terrain, and the bulk of the Scottish army escaped.
Though he captured two prominent Scottish patriots, Sir Robert Keith and Robert Baird of Strathaven, Clydesdale, Edward was disappointed that he had not been able to thrash the Scottish army into submission. On top of that, the Archbishop of Winchelsey was finally in receipt of the previous year’s missive from Pope Boniface VIII, excoriating Edward for his invasion of Scotland, a sovereign, Catholic country, and demanding that the whole matter be submitted for papal adjudication. The Pope and Philip of France also supported the Scots’ demands for a truce, and the declining, elderly monarch finally agreed to one, but lasting only until the following May (1301).
The new combination of joint guardians was no more workable than the previous arrangements for joint sovereignty, and at some point before May of 1301, all three of them resigned to be replaced by one man, Sir John de Soules. Older, and neutral in the de Brus-Comyn affair, de Soules was a great patriot and an active Guardian, mounting renewed efforts to return King John to his throne.
It was during this time, also, that Edward prepared to lobby the papal court in an attempt to prove his suzerainty over the Scots, bringing in proofs of the several times that the Scots earls swore fealty to Edward. He further claimed that he was in “full possession” of Scotland, which was untrue, as the Scots pointed out, because he controlled not one of the twelve bishops’ sees or the twelve dioceses in Scotland, but merely portions of the St. Andrews and Glaswegian dioceses. The Scots mounted a vigorous counter-claim culminating in a request that the Pope forbid Edward from making further war upon Scotland. Edward had no intention of doing so, but the Scots pleadings did manage to get their king released from the custody of Rome, and placed, by the graciousness of King Philip, in his family’s ancestral home, Bailleul-en-Vimeu.
Edward aimed to capture Scotland with a two-pronged attack, the one army to be in command of his son Edward, Prince of Wales, the other and larger under his own command. The prince was to take the southwestern lands, and the greater glory, so his father hoped. But, while the prince held cautiously to the Solway coast, the Scots, commanded by de Soules and de Umfraville, attacked Lochmaben in early September and threatened the king’s forces at Bothwell, all the while maintaining an awareness of the prince’s whereabouts. Though Edward captured Bothwell in late September, and the prince had earlier helped in capturing de Brus’ Turnberry Castle, the English sovereign and his son met to winter at Linlithgow without having damaged the Scots’ fighting ability. In January, 1302, Edward agreed to a nine-month truce.
This date more or less coincides with the desertion of Robert de Brus to the English side. He hitherto had been on the side of the patriots of Scotland, but at some point that winter, he surrendered to the English and, as was his father, became a supporter of King Edward. There are multiple reasons that may have prompted his turning, not the least of which was that de Brus may have found it loathsome, continuing to sacrifice his Carrick followers, family, and heritage for the failed monarchy of de Balliol. Rumor was that de Balliol would return with a French army. Even if such was successful in returning the irresolute king to the Scottish throne, it did not bode well for the de Bruses, the auld enemies of de Balliol.
His father, who would die two years later, was an old man and ill, and may have wished his son to seek peace with Edward, who, he would have been convinced, would be the victor over the rebellious Scots. The elder de Brus would have seen that, if the rebellion failed and his son were running against Edward, he would lose everything, titles, lands, honors, and probably his life. And it stands to reason that the father would also want to live out his own remaining life at peace with his king and his son.
Further, it is conceivable that the fact that Robert married his second wife that same year had much to do with his decision. His bride, Elizabeth de Burgh, was the daughter of the earl of Ulster, Richard de Burgh, one of King Edward’s most trusted and valiant champions. Carrick had long enjoyed a strong relation with Ulster, in addition to which Elizabeth was also a niece by marriage of James the Stewart, another tie de Brus would have wanted to strengthen.
However, though recently pledged to support Edward, it is interesting to note that Robert de Brus sent a letter to the monks at Melrose Abbey in March, 1302, that effectively weakened his usefulness to the English king. Apologizing for having called the monks to service in his army when there had been no national call up, the earl of Carrick pledged that, henceforth, he would “never again” require the monks to serve unless it was to “the common army of the whole realm,” for national defense.
More serious to Scots freedom than the loss of de Brus was the loss later that summer of support from King Philip and subsequently, Pope Boniface. Philip’s feudal host lost severely at Flanders against the nationalists he was warring on there, and he became too involved in his own difficulties to care about the Scots. He also created a schism between himself and the Pope, whose support for the Scots faded without Philip’s influence. It would seem that Philip had such a full plate in regards to his war in Flanders that he was willing to sign a peace treaty with Edward, but excluding the Scots, an act that the Scots knew would spell their doom. A powerful delegation, including even de Soules, went to Paris that fall to try to head off such an event.
In November, 1302, when the temporary truce between the Scots and the English ended, Edward delayed calling up his army until spring. During that winter, however, he sent Sir John Segrave and a mounted force of three brigades of knights on a scouting expedition into the area west of Edinburgh. They were ambushed by Comyn and Simon Fraser, who had ridden all night to meet them. The Scots attacked the lead brigade and captured the severely wounded Segrave. Though the second brigade later rescued their leader, the Scots were exultant at their success, which mounted a short time later as they captured the new tower at Selkirk. Their successes, however, were rendered useless in May, 1303, when King Philip, formerly the great advocate for the Scots, signed a peace accord with England and omitted any consideration for the Scots.
So it was that Edward began his campaign, cleverly sailing siege engines and specially constructed pontoon bridges up the coast from King’s Lynn to the Firth of Forth. Having ability to get over that body downstream and obtain direct access to Fife meant that he would not have to cross that infamous, in his view, narrow bridge at Stirling. The castle there was then in rebel hands under Sir William Oliphant, who declined to surrender. No matter. There would be time for Stirling.
Leaving Newcastle in early May, Edward led his army to Roxburgh, Lauder, Edinburgh, Linlithgow, and across his floating bridge to Perth by mid-June. From there, it was to Cupar, to Arbroath, and to Brechin, where he laid siege in latter July to the castle, being valiantly defended by the garrison under Sir Thomas Maule. Maule was killed August ninth, and the castle fell. Edward moved on to Kinloss Abbey by way of Aberdeen, Banff, Cullen, Rathven, and Elgin. Turning back south, he was in Dunfermline by early November and made his winter quarters at the abbey there.
Early in 1304, Edward sent a raiding party under the command of Segrave, Clifford, and Latimer, who put the forces under Fraser and Wallace to flight west of Peebles. Losing heart, all of the Scots leaders of significance surrendered to the English in February except Wallace and Fraser, and de Soules, who was yet out of the country. Safe passage home from France was given John Comyn, earl of Buchan, James the Stewart, and Ingram de Umfraville, and the bishops Lamberton of St. Andrews and Crambeth of Dunkeld.
Surrender terms were negotiated by John Comyn of Badenoch, who refused to surrender unconditionally, but asked that prisoners of both sides be released sans ransom, and that Edward agree there would be no reprisals against or disinheritance of the Scots. The laws and liberties of Scotland would be as they had been in the day of Alexander III, and any that needed alteration would be with the advice of Edward and the advice and assent of Scotland’s responsible men. Though not all they asked, the final surrender terms (contained in the Ordinance of September, 1305) were not unreasonable or greatly brutal.
Excepting William Wallace and John de Soules, it seemed that all would be forgiven after some of the more famous leaders were exiled from Scotland for various periods of time. And ‘forfeited’ estates could be recovered by the payment of fines levied in amounts deemed appropriate for each individual’s betrayal. Inheritances would continue as they always had, allowing the landed nobility to pass titles and properties to their progeny in normal fashion.
De Soules remained abroad, refusing to surrender; Wallace was still at large in Scotland and, unlike all the earls, lords, and bishops, refused to pay homage to Edward. Edward needed to make an example of someone, and, by refusing to capitulate and accept his country’s occupation and elimination, Wallace was the unfortunate focus of Edward’s lingering hatred. Wallace would be granted no peace unless he put himself “utterly and absolutely in (Edward’s) will.” Further, it was decreed that The Stewart, de Soules, and Ingram de Umfraville could not return home or anyplace else where Edward reigned until Wallace was “given up,” and Comyn, Alexander Lindsay, David Graham, and Fraser were actively to seek Wallace’s capture. The king’s dispensation of English justice toward them would depend on how exhausting were their efforts. He who gave the greatest effort would be held in highest regard.
It was thus inevitable that Wallace should fall into Edward’s hands.
Robert de Brus, lord of Annandale, succumbed to his lingering illness in March, 1304, leaving his lands and title to his eldest son. Thus, at thirty, Robert de Brus, earl of Carrick, was now also lord of Annandale and held vast lands and homes in England as well as Scotland, including a house in London. He was also guardian of his young nephew, Donald, earl of Mar, and for him kept the castle at Kildrummy.
In May, 1304, Edward again turned his attentions to Castle Stirling, laying siege with great determination. Asked by Oliphant if he might ask de Soules whether he had permission to surrender or must hold the castle, Edward refused, saying, “If he thinks it will be better for him to defend the castle than yield it, he will see.” Recently remarried, the old tyrant may have felt he had something to prove to all the younger men in his army, or perhaps just to his youthful bride. At great risk to himself, Edward actively participated in attacking the castle walls, nearly getting himself killed in a foolish display of bravado.
For the better part of three torturous months, under terrible bombardment and in spite of the use of every siege engine Edward could bring to bear upon the courageous defenders, they held. When they could no longer, they offered to surrender unconditionally, but Edward refused to accept. He would first bombard the castle with ‘The Warwolf,’ a new catapult of extraordinary size and power. After a day of horrific punishment, the destroyed castle was allowed to submit, and about fifty men surrendered. Unlike the courteous and respectful surrender and safe withdrawal that had been granted the English garrison at that same castle in 1299, the Scots’ surrender drew Edward’s threats to disembowel and hang them. Having been dissuaded from carrying out his threats by the Scots’ humiliating degradation and the reasonings of his subordinates, Edward instead sent them south to prisons in England.
Robert de Brus, earl of Carrick, and William Lamberton, bishop of St. Andrews, watched on June 11, 1304, the heroic efforts against overwhelming might by their besieged countrymen at Stirling. The two great patriots, who had so long fought for their country’s freedom, made a pact that bound them, each to the other, in “friendship and alliance against all men.” If one should break the secret pact, he would forfeit to the other the sum of ten thousand pounds sterling, a veritable fortune. Though both had already surrendered to the English, the pact indicates deep patriotism and commitment to their future perseverance for the Scots people and their freedom. All around them death, desolation, and despair bespoke volumes about the suffering inflicted by the now lost war. None of that would leave them in their lifetimes.
Now, Scotland lay defenseless. Edward, in his usual methodical and logical way, went about absorbing her into his kingdom. Homage was again paid to Edward by all the “responsible men” of the land (not the realm) of Scotland, and a parliament was held in May, 1305, to elect those who would meet later in the year with the English parliament for the establishing of a constitution for captive Scotland.
John of Brittany, nephew to Edward, was to head up the subordinate government of Scotland and control the castles of Roxburgh and Jedburgh. Justices were appointed in pairs of one Englishman and one Scot. Militarily strategic localities were controlled by English sheriffs and constables, but most others were by Scots. The castles of Stirling and Dumbarton were the only good castles commanded by Scots, with their leaders being William Bisset and Sir John Stewart of Menteith, respectively. A council was formed to advise the king’s nephew/lieutenant, and among those were Robert de Brus, John Comyn, and Bishop William Lamberton. For all the apparent participation by Scots in the government, however, the English held the real power, and Scotland was a vanquished nation.
While all this took place, William Wallace was finally captured near Glasgow on the third day of August, 1305. He was delivered to the English by retainers in the service of Sir John Menteith. Wallace easily had been the most hunted man on the island for years, but especially for the previous eighteen months.
Being first routed circuitously through the countryside of his beloved Scotland, his legs bound beneath his mount, and no doubt wondering why no one loved him enough to put an arrow through his heart, he was taken to London August 22nd for “trial.” He was led through the streets of the city the following day in what can only be termed a “parade” before great masses of derisive and scornful Londoners.
Bringing into fruition a boast Wallace was alleged to have made that he would one day wear a crown at Westminster, a laurel leaf “crown” was placed upon his head for the crowd to jeer. He was then indicted on charges of treason, murder (of the sheriff of Lanark, who had butchered Wallace’s wife and her family), war atrocities, convening Scottish parliaments, and instigating the renewal or maintenance of the Scots’ “Auld Alliance” with France.
Wallace, who once again stated truthfully that he had never been a liege of Edward or of England, denied the charge of treason, but affirmed the others. The verdict on all counts was a foregone conclusion, the penalty to be exacted particularly horrible and devised by King Edward, himself.
William Wallace was tied to a sledge behind a horse and dragged for over four miles so that he might be displayed in captivity to the people of London, finally arriving at the Smithfield elms. He was then hanged, removed while yet alive from the gallows, disemboweled, and decapitated. His heart and other organs were then burned and the headless body quartered. The severed head of Sir William Wallace was displayed upon London Bridge, and the towns of Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick, Stirling, and Perth each received and exhibited one of the corporeal quarters.
Rather than frightening others away from Wallace by taking such savage, bestial revenge on the Scot, Edward created a martyr, a larger than life hero whose unfair and inhuman execution settled poorly in the Scottish psyche and imbued their hearts with the yearning for justice and freedom for which Wallace himself had fought those seven long years. Rather than settling the “Scottish question,” Edward had created enmity that would hound him the rest of his days, and haunt his memory for centuries beyond. In the words of Barrow, his cruelty showed him to be “small and mean,” compared to his victim, the noble Wallace.
The following month, on the fifteenth, the parliament met with the Scots representatives to carve out the new constitution, The Ordinance of September, 1305. In the midst of listing punishments to be meted out to other Scots, Edward ordered Robert de Brus, earl of Carrick, to put his castle, Kildrummy, “in the keeping of such a man as he himself will be willing to answer for.” Barrow asserts that the placement of this item within the document suggests plainly that Edward suspected Robert’s loyalty.
Earl of Carrick, lord of Annandale, and holder of massive estates and residences in both Scotland and England, Robert de Brus had a great amount of wealth and privilege. He also had a large family about which to be concerned. In addition to his wife Elizabeth and daughter Marjorie, there were his brothers Edward, Alexander, Thomas, and Nigel, sisters Christian, Isabel (queen of Norway), and Mary, and his nephews Thomas Randolph and Donald, earl of Mar. If he declared for the throne, he would throw the country into yet another bloody uprising, and if he failed, he would be sacrificing everyone and everything he knew.
And yet, his country was not free…