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Reign of Edward I. Part 2

Reign of Edward I. continued - Claims of the Pope on Scotland-Second Revolt and Subjugation of that Kingdom - Execution of Wallace - Third Revolt of Scotland under Robert Bruce- - Death of Edward I. - Estimate of his Character and Services to the Nation.
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Having concluded peace with France, Edward immediately turned his attention to Scotland. Notwithstanding the decisive victory of Falkirk, and the apparent surrender of the cause by Wallace, the subjugation of that country was far from being effected. There still existed in every quarter a determined spirit of hostility to the English, kept alive by the memory of the recent defeats, and not less so of the preceding triumphs. In 1300 the king made an incursion into Annandaie, which he laid waste, and received the speedy submission of Galloway. The Scots, who were making zealous efforts to secure assistance from foreign courts, thought it prudent to make a truce, which was ratified in November at Dumfries, and was to continue in force till the summer of the following year. Their applications, however, to the continental courts received but little encouragement, Philip of France, as was to be expected after so recent a pacification with the English monarch, rejected their suit. The only person who seems to have responded to their appeal was the Pope Boniface VIII. He wrote a letter to Edward, entreating him to put an end to his ravages and oppressions in Scotland, and adducing a great number of historical proofs of the ancient and unquestionable independence of that kingdom - proofs with which, no doubt, the Scottish envoys had taken care to supply him. With a singular inconsistency, however, the Pope concluded his letter by asserting that Scotland was, in reality, a fief of the Holy See. This claim, never before heard of, and in utter contradiction to the whole tenor of the Papal brief, called forth the most earnest reply from Edward, who set about and constructed a catalogue of sovereign claims on Scotland, from the fabled age of Brutus the Trojan, who, he asserted, founded the British monarchy in the days of Eli and Samuel, down to those of King Arthur, the hero of romance rather than of history; concluding with the full and absolute homage done by William of Scotland to Henry II. of England; taking care to omit all mention of the formal abolition of that deed by Richard Coeur-de-Lion, who had frankly pronounced it an extorted one, and therefore invalid. This royal epistle was seconded by a very spirited remonstrance from 104 barons, assembled by the king's command at Lincoln, who proudly maintained the temporal independence of both the kingdoms of Scotland and England of the see of Borne; declaring that they had sworn to defend the king's prerogatives, and that at no time would they permit them to be questioned.

These, or other arguments which do not appear on the face of history, produced e, very sudden revulsion in the Papal mind. Boniface soon after wrote to the Scots, exhorting them to cease their opposition to "his dearly beloved one in Christ," King Edward, and to seek forgiveness from God for their resistance to his claims. Edward, thus sanctioned, again advanced into Scotland in the summer of 1301, where he found the country laid waste before him by the politic Scots, and was obliged to take up his quarters, on the approach of winter, in Linlithgow, where he built a castle and kept his Christmas. Another truce was entered into the following spring, and the king then left John de Segrave as his lieutenant in Scotland, at the head of an army of 20,000 men. Early in the year 1303, the Scots haying appointed John Comyn regent of the kingdom, he, with Sir Simon Frazer, not contented with maintaining the independence of the northern parts, descended into the southern counties, which Edward imagined were wholly in his power. His general, John de Segrave, marched out to repulse them; and on the morning of the 24th of February, near Roslin, he came up with them. He had divided his army into three sections: the first division, being suddenly attacked by Comyn and Sir Simon Eraser, were speedily routed, and in their night coining in contact with the second division, threw that also into confusion, which, however, still made a stout resistance, but was eventually also routed, fell back on the third division, and communicated its disorder to them; so that the whole force was completely put to flight, and pursued with heavy loss. The English commander himself was taken prisoner, being dangerously wounded in the very first encounter. Sixteen knights and thirty esquires were found amongst the captives, including the brother and son of the general. It is reported that the Scots were compelled to slaughter a great number of their prisoners, in order to engage with safety the successive bands that they came up with. They boasted of thus achieving three victories in one day. The éclat of this brilliant action turned the popular tide at once in their favour. The people everywhere came forward to assist them. The regent very soon made himself master of all the fortresses in the south, and once more the country was lost to the English,

This sudden and complete prostration of all his ambitious hopes, and reversement of his victories, effectually aroused the martial king. He assembled a great army, supported by a formidable fleet; and by rapid marches, at the head of his hosts, he appeared before Roxburgh on the 21st of May, and reached Edinburgh on the 4th of June. His progress was marked by the most terrible devastation. He came upon the devoted country like a lion exasperated by wounds of the hunters. No foe could be found able to resist him, and he ravaged the open country, and laid in ruins the towns and villages, his fleet supplying his destroying forces with abundant provisions.

Having made a short pause in Edinburgh, to leave all secure there, he again advanced, with desolating speed and vengeance, through Linlithgow and Clackmannan to Perth, and thence to Aberdeen, and so on to Moray. He posted himself in the great and strong fortress of Lochendorb, situated on an island in the midst of a Moray shire loch; and there he remained till the autumn, employed in subduing and receiving the homage of the great Highland chiefs. "Tradition," says Tytler, "still connects the ruins of Lochendorb, after the lapse of more than 500 years, with the name of the great English king." On his return southward he met with a stout resistance from the strong castle of Brechin, defended by Sir Thomas Maule, which was only compelled to open its gates to the conqueror after the death of its valiant commander. The victorious king took up his quarters for the winter at Dunfermline. He was careful this time not to withdraw to England, even during the inactivity of the season, nor to trust the great charge of a kingdom's safety to any deputy. His soldiers are said to have amused themselves during this time in destroying the magnificent abbey of the Benedictines; "a building," says Matthew of Westminster, "so spacious, that three kings, with all their retinues, might have been conveniently lodged there." The remains of this noble abbey, including the parish church, still attest its original splendour; and the Scots regarded it with high veneration as the resting-place of 110 less than eight of their ancient kings, and five of their queers.

The last remains of the army of Scotland assembled to defend the castle of Stirling, that being the only stronghold which now remained in Scottish hands; but they were speedily dispersed by the English cavalry. Soon after this, Comyn, the regent and chief commander of the forces, came in and made his submission to the royal commissioners at Strathorde, in Fife-shire; and his example was followed by all the nobility. These, with a few exceptions, as Wisheart, Bishop of Glasgow, Sir John Foulis, the Steward, and a few others, were allowed to retain their lives and lands, subject only to such penalties and terms of banishment as the king might choose to impose. During Lent a Parliament was held at St. Andrews, when Sir William Wallace, Sir Simon Frazer, and the governor of Stirling, were summoned to surrender themselves on penalty of outlawry, if failing to appear. All these persons, not even excepting Frazer, accepted the term offered to them. The brave Sir William only refused to put himself into the power of the English king, except on a written assurance of life and estate, signed and scale by the monarch himself; and his caution was at once justified by the event, for the king, on hearing this. cursed Wallace and all who supported him, and set a reward of 300 marks upon his head. The brave patriot had for a time escaped from the snare, and once more retreated to his hiding-places in the forest of Dunfermline.

Edward now turned his whole attention to the reduction of the castle of Stirling. This royal fortress, placed like an eagle's eyrie on its precipitous rock, v/as defended by one of the most stout-hearted men of Scotland, Sir William Oliphant, with the insignificant garrison of 140 men; yet, for about three months, that is, from the 22nd of April to the 20th of July, did they withstand the whole force of the English king. Edward directed all the operations against it in person, and brought a number of engines which threw immense stones and darts upon it. He sent to England to collect all kinds of missiles, which were discharged against the place; but it was not yielded till the garrison was reduced to the extremity of famine, and the building to a mass of ruins. They were then compelled to surrender at discretion, for the ruthless conquer -would grant no other terms; and the brave defenders were obliged to solicit pardon and their lives on their knees - all circumstances of great humiliation. Their lives were given them, but they were sent to the Tower of London and other dungeons. On marching out, it was found that thirteen ladies, wives and sisters of the gallant officers, had shared the perils and hardships of the siege.

Stirling reduced, there wanted only one other surrender to complete the triumph of Edward - -that of Wallace, the man who has made his name and the noblest patriotism synonymous to all time. Edward made every exertion, and: offered high rewards for his apprehension. One Haliburton, a soldier of the late garrison of Stirling, so far showed his unworthiness to share in the glory of the late siege as to lend himself to this base purpose. Sir William was surprised and conveyed to the castle of Dumbarton. There Sir John Monteith was the commander; and Hume, following the traditions of the time, has accused Sir John of having been the betrayer of Wallace, whom he represents as his friend, and to whom he had made known his retreat this foul accusation, however, has been clearly refuted by succeeding historians; and, indeed, it does not appear how the governor of the castle, in the service of the English king, could be in a position to act the traitor towards him. The calumny may have arisen from the invidious duty which Sir John, as a Scotchman, was under the necessity of performing - that of retaining the prisoner in his charge, and conveying him to London.

Sir William Wallace, whose bravery and magnanimity deserved a very different treatment at the hands of a brave and martial king, was carried to London in chains as a traitor, though he had never acknowledged Edward its his sovereign, and owed him no fealty. In Stow, the London annalist, we can. still perceive the sensation which the arrival of this famous warrior as a captive created in the metropolis. Crowds were assembled to gaze on him. He was conducted on horseback to Westminster by Sir John Segrave, late governor of Scotland, I v the mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen of London, accompanied by other gentlemen; and in Westminster Hall he was insulted by being crowned with laurel when placed at the bar, because he had been reported to have said that he ought to be crowned there. He was condemned as a traitor, and executed, with every circumstance of ignominy, at the Elms in West Smithfield, on the 23rd of August, 1305. To this place he was drawn at the tails of horses; and, after being hanged on the gallows, while be yet breathed, his bowels were taken out and burnt:-afore his face. His head was then struck off, his body divided into quarters, one of which was sent to be exposed at Newcastle, another at Berwick, a third at Perth, and the fourth at Aberdeen; his head being stuck on a pole on London Bridge. So much did they in that day fail to perceive the everlasting infamy attendant on the unworthy treatment of the nobles of our race - the intrepid defenders of the liberties of their country. The barbarous policy of the English king produced the very results that he sought to prevent. The whole Scottish nation resented with inexpressible indignation this disgraceful outrage perpetrated on their national hero. Everywhere the people burned with fury against England, and were ready to rise at the call of some surviving patriot.

Such a man was not long in presenting himself. Robert Bruce had not forgotten the words of fire which Wallace had addressed to him across the Carron as he was in slow and reluctant retreat from the battle of Falkirk. He remembered how he had called upon him to come forth from crouching to the tyrant; to come forth from servile submission to a glorious independence; to remember the royalty of his birth, the dignity of hig family, the genius and the energies which God and nature had conferred upon him, and the profound responsibility which these had laid him under to his country. He recalled the majestic figure of that illustrious man as he bade him behold the glorious prize which Heaven itself had set before him, the most glorious which could possibly be awarded to man - that of ending the sufferings of his country; that of converting its groans, its tears of blood and shame, into cries of exultation, and of placing his native land on the firm basis of national independence.

The last spur was now given to the spirit of Bruce. The words of Wallace to him were now become so many sacred commands. Wallace had declared that while he himself lived, it should only be to defend the liberties of his people; and he prayed that his life might terminate when he was reduced to wear the chains of the tyrant. He had been compelled to wear them by treason, and he had perished in his greatness. No indignities, no attempted humiliations, could pluck from him the sublime immortality of the martyr - the beautiful halo of a nation's homage. The die was cast for Robert Bruce. The spirit of Wallace had fallen upon him; henceforth he must spurn the blandishments of the English king, and tread the same path to death or victory.

And, indeed, Bruce had much to risk as well as to aspire to. His father had remained to the last attached to the English interests. On his death, in 1304, Edward had fully invested him with all his hereditary rights, titles, and estates, both in England and Scotland. He had all that the most ambitious nobleman could desire, short of the crown itself. For that crown, the host of conflicting and, for the most part, unworthy competitors had afforded him at least plausible ground for standing aloof and leaning towards the English power which held them in check. He had accordingly been honoured when other of the greatest men of the realm had been fined, mulcted, and punished. He had been entrusted with considerable commands; amongst others, with the important fortress of Kildrummie, in Aberdeenshire. But now things were come to such a pitch between the English king and his country, that there could be no longer any wavering in the bosom of a true man. Edward appeared resolved to reduce Scotland to the condition of a conquered province. If he set up a nominal king in place of the imbecile Baliol, it would be Comyn, whom he regarded as a traitor. It was time to reveal himself as his country's champion.

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