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Edward III page 3


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Mortimer was hanged at the Elms, near London, en the 29th of November, and with him Sir Simon Beresford as an accomplice. Three others, who were likewise included in the sentence, one of them being the infamous Maltravers, escaped.

Edward now made proclamation that he had taken the government of the realm into his own hands. He shut up his mother in her own house of Risings, abolished he: extravagant jointure, but allowed her 3,000, and afterwards 4,000, per annum. There she passed twenty-seven years, her son paying her a visit once or twice annually, but taking care that she never again regained any public influence or authority.

Having disposed of his shameless mother, Edward found ample employment in restoring rule and order to his kingdom. As in all times when lawless power prevails at court, robbers, murderers, and criminals had increased to an enormous extent; public justice was grossly perverted, and abuses and wrongs everywhere abounded. He issued writs to the judges, commanding them to administer justice firmly, promptly, and without fear or favour, paying no regard whatever to any injunctions from the ministers of the crown or any other power. He sought out and severely punished the abuses in the administration of the state, and exacted from the peers a solemn pledge that they should break off all connection with malefactors - a circumstance which gives us a curious insight into the times, the great barons keeping the robbers and outlaws in pay against each other, and even against the king. This done, Edward turned his attention to what appeared the grand hereditary object of the English crown of that day, the subjugation of Scotland.

The great Robert Bruce, as we have seen, had left his son David, a mere boy, on the throne. He could not but be anxious for the stability of his position with such a powerful kingdom and martial young king in his immediate neighbourhood, and with the long-pursued claims and attempts of England on Scotland. He had, indeed, taken a strong precaution against the invasion of his son's peace by marrying him to the sister of Edward of England. But the temptation of ambition in princes has almost always proved far stronger than the ties of blood, and so it proved in Edward's case. We might have expected that he would maintain rather than attempt to destroy the happiness and fair establishment of his sister on the throne of Scotland. But the spirit of military domination was as powerful in Edward as in his grandfather. He could not forget that Scotland had nearly been secured by England, and that the English had lost a great prestige at Bannockburn. He burned, therefore, to restore the reputation of the English arms, and complete the design of uniting the whole of the island of Great Britain into one kingdom - the life-long aim and dying command of the great Edward I.

When princes are desirous of pleas of aggression it is never difficult to find such, and in this case they were abundant and plausible. In the treaty of peace and alliance concluded between Bruce and Edward at Northampton, when Joan was affianced to the heir of Scotland, just before Bruce's death, it was stipulated that both the Scottish families who had lost their estates in Scotland by taking part with the English in the late wars, and the English nobles who had claims on estates there by marriage or heirship, should all be restored to them. The Scotch were admitted; but Bruce, perceiving that the estates of the English were much more valuable than the others, had been unwilling to allow so many dangerous subjects of the English king to establish themselves in the heart of his realm, where they might become formidable enemies. He had therefore put off their urgent demands of fulfilment of this stipulation, on the plea that it required time and caution to dispossess the potent Scotch barons now holding them. The claim of Lord Henry Percy was conceded; those of the Lords Wake and Beaumont, the latter of whom claimed the earldom of Buchan in right of his wife, were disregarded. Beaumont, a man of great power, and of a determined character, resolved by some means to conquer his right. He urged it upon Edward to redress the wrongs of his subjects; but Edward, now freed from the ascendancy of Mortimer, though nothing loth, pleaded the impossibility of his armed interference in the face of the late solemn, treaty and alliance, and he had used persuasions in vain. Probably, he gave these malcontents, however, to understand that he would not prevent them trying to help themselves. Not only was Bruce dead, but his two great warriors and statesmen, Moray and Douglas, also. Moray had been left regent and guardian of the young King David, still only about nine years of age; but to his vigorous administration had succeeded that of the Earl of Mar, another nephew of Robert Bruce, and a much inferior man.

At this favourable crisis Beaumont turned his attention upon Edward Baliol, the son of John Baliol, who had been in vain placed on the Scottish throne by Edward L John Baliol had retired to his patrimonial estate in Normandy, where he had died, and where his son Edward had continued to reside in privacy. His pretensions to the Scottish crown had been so decidedly repelled by the Scotch, that he had given up all idea of ever reviving them; and for some private offence he had been thrown into prison. There Beaumont found him; and pitching upon him as the very instrument which he needed to authorise a descent on Scotland immediately, on the ground of his sufferings as a private person, obtained his enlargement, and took him away with him to England, the French king suspecting nothing of the real design. There he represented to Edward the splendid opportunity which thus presented itself of regaining the ascendancy over Scotland by putting forward Baliol as claimant of the crown. Edward could not do this openly for many reasons. In the first place, nothing could be more injurious to his character for justice and natural affection, were he with a preponderating force to attack the throne of a minor, and that minor his brother-in-law. In the next place he was bound by a solemn treaty not to assault or prejudice the kingdom of Scotland for four years, and the penalty for the violation of this engagement was 20,000.

The Regent of Scotland, however, as well as the late king, had always admitted the justice of the claims of the disinherited nobles, yet had always evaded all demands for restoration. Edward's plan, therefore, was to meet artifice with artifice; and accordingly he connived at the assembling of Baliol's forces in the north of England, and at the active preparations of the nobles who intended to join him. Umphraville, Earl of Angus, the Lords Beaumont, Wake, Ferrars, Talbot, Fitzwarin, Stafford, and Mowbray had soon an army of 2,500 men assembled on the banks of the Humber. They apprehended that the borders would be strongly armed, and therefore they took their way by sea in a small fleet, which set sail from Ravenspur, an obscure port, and soon landed at Kinghorn, in Fifeshire. The Scots, who detested the Baliols as pretenders under the patronage and for the ultimate purposes of England, flocked in thousands to the national standard against him. The Earl of Fife, too precipitately attacking Baliol's force, was at once defeated, and the invaders marched northward towards Dupplin. Near this place the Regent Mar lay with an army said to number 40,000 men. The river Earn lay between the hostile hosts, and it was evidently the policy of the Scots to delay a general engagement till the Earl of March, who was rapidly advancing from the south of Scotland, came up, when the handful of English must have been surrounded and overpowered, But Baliol, or his allies the English, barons, perceived this danger clearly enough, and they suddenly crossed the river in the night, before they could be taken in the rear by March. They found the Scots, confident in their numbers, carelessly sleeping without sentries or outposts, and falling upon them in the dark, made a terrible slaughter amongst them. In the morning the Scots, who had fled in confusion, perceived the insignificant force to which they had yielded, and returned with fury to retrieve their character, but they again committed the crime of over-confidence, came on in great disorder, and engaged without regard to the nature of the ground, which was greatly in favour of the enemy, and were once more defeated with huge slaughter. Many thousands of the Scots were driven into the river and were drowned, were actually smothered by tumbling over each other in the chaotic flight, or were cut to pieces. The regent himself, the Earl of Carrick, a natural son of Robert Bruce, the Earls of Atholl and Monteith, and the Lords Hay of Erroll, Keith, and Lindsey were slain. With them fell from 12,000 to 13,000 men, while Baliol lost only about thirty; a sufficient proof of the rawness of the Scotch forces, and the frightful panic amongst them. The battle of Dupplin Moor was one of the most sanguinary and complete defeats which the Scots ever suffered, and appeared to obliterate all the glories and benefits of Bannockburn.

The victorious army marched direct on Perth, which it quickly reduced. Baliol was rapidly pursued by the Earl of March and Sir Archibald Douglas, whose united armies still amounted to near 40,000 men. They blockaded Perth both by land and water, and proposed to reduce it by famine. But Baliol's ships attacked the Scottish ones, gained a complete victory, and thus opened the communication with Perth from the sea. This compelled the Scots to disband for want of provisions to maintain a long siege. The adherents of Baliol's family, and all those who in any such crisis are ready to fall to the winning power, now came flocking in; the nation was actually conquered by this handful of men, and Baliol, on the 24th of September, 1332, was crowned King of Scotland at Scone. David and his young betrothed queen were sent off for security to the castle of Dumbarton; the Bruce party solicited a truce, which was granted; and thus in little more than a month Baliol had won a kingdom.

But the success of Edward Baliol was as unreal as a dream; he was a mere phantom king. The Scottish patriots were in possession of many of the strongest places in the kingdom, while the adherents of Edward Baliol, each hastening to secure the property he was in pursuit of, the forces of the new monarch were rapidly reduced in number, and he saw plainly that he could only maintain the position of the throne of Scotland by the support of the King of England. He hastened, therefore, to do homage to him for the Scottish crown, and proposed to marry Joan, the sister of the king, the affianced bride of the dethroned David, if the Pope's consent to the dissolution of that marriage could be obtained. Edward listened to this, but the prompt removal of the royal pair from Dumbarton Castle to France, and the defeat of Baliol, which as promptly followed, annihilated that unprincipled scheme. No sooner were these scandalous proposals known in Scotland, than a spirit of intense indignation fired the minds of the patriotic nobles. The successors of those great men who had achieved the freedom of Scotland under Robert Bruce, John Randolph, second son of the regent; Sir Archibald Douglas, the younger brother of the good Lord James; Sir William Douglas, a natural son of the Lord James, possessor of the castle of Hermitage, in Liddesdale, and thence called the Knight of Liddesdale, a valiant and wealthy man, but fierce, cruel, and treacherous; and Sir Andrew Murray, of Bothwell, who had married Christiana, the sister of Robert Bruce, and aunt of the young King David, were the chiefs and leaders of the nation. They suddenly assembled a force, and attacked Baliol, who was feasting at Annan, in Dumfriesshire, where he had gone to keep his Christmas. On the night of the 16th of December, a body of horse under Sir Archibald, the young Earl of Moray, and Sir Simon Frazer, made a dash into the town to surprise him; and he only escaped by springing upon a horse without any saddle, and himself nearly without clothes, leaving behind him his brother Henry slain. His reign had only lasted about three months. He escaped to England and to Edward, who received him kindly. The Scotch borderers, elated with this success, rushed in numbers into England, there committing their usual excesses, and thus furnishing Edward with a valid plea for attacking Scotland, and inducing the Parliament to support him in it, which before it had hesitated to do. Edward marched northward with an army not numerous, but well armed and disciplined, and in the month of May, 1333, invested Berwick, defended by Sir William Keith and a strong garrison.

Sir Andrew Murray, the regent, and the Knight of Liddesdale were taken prisoners in some of the skirmishes, and Sir Archibald being immediately named regent in the place of Murray, advanced with a large army to relieve Sir "William Keith, who had engaged to surrender Berwick if not succoured by the 20th at sunrise. On the 19th, Douglas, after a severe march, arrived at an eminence called Halidon Hill, a mile or more north of Berwick. It had been the plan of Douglas to avoid a pitched battle with so powerful an enemy, and to endeavour to wear him out by a system of skirmishes and surprises, but the impatience of his soldiers overruled his caution. His army was drawn up on the slope of the hill, and Edward moved with all his force from Berwick to attack them. The ground, now fine, solid, and cultivated land, is represented then to have been extremely boggy. The Scots, however, dashed through the bogs, and then up the hill at the English, whose archers received them with a steady and murderous discharge of arrows. "The arrows," says Tytler (quoting from an old manuscript), "flew thick as motes in the sunbeams, and the Scots fell to the ground by thousands." Douglas dismounted his heavy-armed cavalry to give firmness and impetus to the charge. The Earl of Boss led on the infantry, and King Edward at his side fought on foot in front of the battle. The Scots, though they fought desperately, yet, as, from the marshy ground, they could not come near the archers, and were out of breath with running up the hill, were thrown into confusion and gave way. The English cavalry under the king, but still more a body of Irish auxiliaries under Lord Darcy, pursued fiercely, giving little quarter. The slaughter was terrible, amounting to 30,000 Scots, and - if the accounts are to be believed - only one knight, an esquire, and thirteen private soldiers of the English fell. Nearly the whole of the Scottish nobles and officers were killed or made prisoners. Amongst the slain were Douglas, the regent himself, the Earls of Boss, Sutherland, and Monteith. Berwick surrendered, and Edward once more overran the country. He again seized and garrisoned the castles, again exacted public homage from Baliol, and compelled him to cede Berwick, Dunbar, Roxburgh, Edinburgh, and all the south-east counties of Scotland - the best and most fertile portion of the kingdom - which were declared to be made part and parcel of England. Such were the consequences of the fatal battle of Halidon Hill.

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