OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Accession of Edward I page 4

Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5

The only important danger which threatened Alexander arose from the attacks of the Norwegians, whose old quarrel with the Scots, respecting the islands of the Hebrides, was renewed in this reign. In the summer of 1264, when the young king had just attained to the years of manhood, Haco, of Norway, a powerful chief and a renowned warrior, set sail, at the head of a numerous force, for the Scottish shores. The Norwegian fleet arrived in the Frith of Clyde, while Alexander, assembling his troops, advanced to meet the invaders. A storm arose, by which the foreign armament sustained considerable damage; and its violence was scarcely abated when Haco reached the Bay of Largs, near the mouth of the Clyde. Here he was j met and attacked by the Scottish army, which arrived in | successive divisions. A protracted conflict of three days' | duration took place there, and the plain, still covered with j cairns and rude monuments of the slain, bears witness to the bloody and obstinate character of the struggle. Alexander at length gained a complete victory; the remnant of the invaders retreated to their ships, and effected their escape to the islands of Orkney, where the redoubted Haco died, either from wounds received in the battle, or from mortification at its result. The victory of Largs terminated for ever the wars between Scotland and Norway; and, after a lapse of seventeen years, the two nations cemented their quarrels by a marriage between Margaret, the daughter of Alexander, and the youthful Eric, Haco's successor.

During a period of twenty years succeeding the Norwegian expedition, we may believe that the kingdom of Scotland enjoyed a condition of uninterrupted prosperity. The young king governed his people wisely and well, and, undisturbed by enemies from without, he was able to repress the quarrels of those rival factions of the nobility which for many years had maintained towards each other a position of active or passive hostility. But heavy clouds were gathering round the future of this prosperous king, and at the moment of its greatest glory the royal house of Scotland was doomed to perish from the land. Margaret of England, the queen of Alexander, had died in 1275. Besides the daughter, whose marriage had restored peace to the nation, two sons had been born to him, one of whom died in childhood. In the year 1283 the Queen of Norway expired, leaving only an infant daughter, who had also received the loved name of Margaret. A few months later the prince of Scotland followed his sister to the grave, and thus the king, while yet in the prime of manhood, was bereft of wife and children.

Anxious to secure the succession to his grand-daughter, who was called the Maiden of Norway, Alexander summoned a council or parliament at Scone, and those present bound themselves to accept the Norwegian princess as their sovereign, in the event of the king dying without issue. In the hope of obtaining a direct heir, Alexander took for a second wife Jolita, the daughter of the Count of Dreux. The new queen was young and very beautiful, but the marriage was described as attended by evil omens, and the events which followed it might well assist the imagination of the chroniclers as to the portents they describe. Within a year afterwards Alexander was riding at nightfall from Kinghorn to Inverkeithen, on the shore of the Frith of Forth, when the horse starting or stumbling, rolled with him over a precipice. Thus died a prince whom the nation mourned as the last and worthiest of his line.

The first proceeding of the estates of Scotland was to fulfil their vow by appointing a regency to exercise the functions of government during the minority of the infant queen. But it was evident that the succession of the little Maiden of Norway was scarcely likely to be secured by such a measure. A female sovereign was new to the people, and the same prejudice existed against her as that which, iv England, had excluded from the throne the daughter o Henry I. It was therefore scarcely to be expected tha. the turbulent chiefs would preserve their allegiance to a child then in a foreign country, and partly of foreign extraction. It was not long before one strong party formed the design of placing its chief upon the throne, to the exclusion of the Maiden of Norway. Robert de Brus, or Bruce, could show some relationship to the royal family, his mother, Isabella, being one of the daughters of David, Earl of Huntingdon, brother of William the Lion. This chief, who was supported by many of the Scottish nobility, held a meeting of his adherents on the 20th of September, a.d. 1286. The scene of the assembly was Turnberry Castle, in Ayrshire, the seat of Bruce's son, Robert Bruce, who had received the title of Earl of Carrick, in right of his wife. An agreement was entered into, by which all the persons present bound themselves to adhere to one another on all occasions, and against all persons, saving their allegiance to the King of England, and to him who should gain the kingdom of Scotland as the rightful heir of the late king. There appears little doubt that the real object of the meeting was to obtain the crown for Bruce, to which end they would have been willing to secure the assistance of Edward, by acknowledging him as feudal lord of Scotland. The English monarch, however, had other designs, which he proceeded to carry into effect.

Edward was the grand-uncle of the Maiden of Norway, and he, with her father Eric, might therefore be considered her natural guardians. The latter seems to have interested himself little about her fate; and neither paternal affection at schemes of ambition prompted any active exertions in her cause. But with the English king the case was very Efferent. Edward was one of the ablest and wisest monarch of Europe, and, at the same time, the most powerful, ambitious, and unscrupulous. He had already secured to the foot of his throne the free people of Wales: and when the death of Alexander was made known, he perceived that the time was come when he might strike a powerful blow at the independence of Scotland. His first measures for this purpose seem to have been in themselves just and equitable, and to have been willingly accepted by the northern barons. He entered into a treaty with the chief nobles of the regency, and proposed an alliance between his son, the Prince of Wales, and the Maiden of Norway. The agreement was finally concluded at Salisbury, July, a.d. 1290. Articles were drawn up for securing the independence of Scotland, and they were solemnly sworn to by the English king. It is matter for doubt how far such an oath would have been kept had the match taken place, for it is known that Edward had secured to his own party some of the Scottish chiefs, and, under pretence of guarding the peace of the country, had obtained possession of many castles and fortified places. But the scheme of a union between the two kingdoms by marriage was defeated by the early death of the Maid of Norway, who, having set sail for Britain, fell sick during the passage, and, unable to pursue the voyage, landed on one of the Orkney Islands, where she expired in her eighth year.

Edward was thus compelled either to resort to other measures for the purpose of adding Scotland to his dominions, or at once to relinquish his designs upon that country. It is probable that so ambitious a monarch did not long hesitate between the two alternatives, and the result of his deliberations was a communication to his council to the effect that he "had it in his mind to bring under his dominion the king and kingdom of Scotland in the same manner that he had subdued the kingdom of Wales." The pretext on which he founded his pretended right to interfere in the affairs of Scotland, was the claim which he advanced to be lord paramount of that country - a claim supported by his being in possession of the castles already alluded to, by virtue of the treaty of marriage between his son and the Maiden of Norway.

Such a claim as this was, in the highest degree, unjust. According to the feudal laws, to create a fief the superior must be in possession of territories which he bestows upon the vassal, and for which the vassal renders homage and services. But the kings of England had never held possession of Scotland, properly so called. That kingdom was the original seat of the Scots in the province of Argyle, extended by the conquest of the Picts to the northern shores of the Frith of Forth. The provinces thus conquered, and afterwards united together into the kingdom called Albania, and afterwards Scotland, were territories to which the English had never possessed, or claimed, any right, and lay beyond the northern wall, where the southern Britons had never been able to maintain a position. This condition of the territory of North Britain existed as early as the year 538, at which period there is not only no proof of the King of England having interfered with the disposition of the conquered lands, but it is matter for doubt whether there was then a Mug of England to make grants or receive homage (Turner has shown that it is by no means certain whether Edgar ever was king over all England. - History of the Anglo-Saxons, vol. i., p. 441.). It is necessary to make a distinction between the feudal suzerainty of Scotland and the right over certain territories which had formerly been part of the kingdom of England, and which, having been ceded to the Scots, were held by their princes as vassals of England to that extent. But the independence of the Scottish kingdom was no more affected by such homage than that of England was surrendered by the feudal service rendered to the King of France by the Plantagenets for their dominions on the Continent. The lands which the Scottish kings held by this tenure were parts of Cumberland and Northumberland. Frequent efforts had been made by the southern kings to change the homage due for these lands into a general homage for the kingdom of Scotland; but such attempts were always resisted, and, until the reign of William the Lion, no general acknowledgment of subjection was made.

The line of William the Lion having been abruptly cut off, the heir to the crown would be found among the descendants of David, Earl of Huntingdon, his younger brother. The earl had one son and three daughters. The former died without issue; and of the latter, Margaret, the eldest, was married to Alan, of Galloway; the second, Isabella, to Robert Bruce; and the third, Ada, to Henry Hastings. The eldest daughter bore no son to her husband, but her daughter, Dervorgoil, married John Baliol, of Bernard Castle. The issue of this marriage was a son, John Baliol. The Robert Bruce already named, who in right of his wife was Earl of Carrick, was the son of Isabella, and John Hastings was the son of Ada. Between the rival claims of these nobles there could, in our day, be no difficulty in deciding - the laws of primogeniture clearly awarding the title to the descendant of the eldest branch. Such, indeed, was the generally recognised law at the time now referred to; but it was not so clearly settled as to preclude the possibility of dispute. When, therefore, the death of the young queen was known, it was doubtful how many claimants for the throne might present themselves, or how much of disorder and bloodshed might ensue before the title to the throne had been decided. The ambition of Edward, and the position he had assumed towards Scotland, excited the greatest apprehension amongst patriotic men, who saw misfortune and misrule about to succeed to the prosperity which the country had lately enjoyed.

There is some reason to believe that at this juncture the embassy to Edward, requesting his mediation, was sent by the Scottish council. The story of such an embassy, however, rests on no very good authority, and it may be doubted whether the northern barons would take a step which they could not but see would be fraught with danger to the national independence. Whether as the result of the message alluded to, or as the initiative of the new negotiations, Edward requested the barons and the clergy of Scotland to meet him at Norham, a town on the English side of the Tweed. The summons was obeyed, and a conference took place on the 10th of May, a.d. 1291. Here Edward openly repeated the intention which he had already stated to his own barons, that he would dispose of the succession to the Scottish throne as lord paramount of that country, and he required that they should immediately recognise his title and authority. It does not appear that the demand excited much surprise among the assembly, but they were not altogether unanimous in their assent, and a voice was heard to declare that the request of the king could only be replied to when the Scottish throne had been filled. Edward swore by the saints that he would "vindicate his just rights, or perish in the attempt." The proceedings here terminated, and were renewed on the following day, only to be farther adjourned to the 2nd of June. Edward then prepared for a warlike demonstration, by sending to his barons in the northern counties, and requiring them to attend at Norham on the 3rd of June, with horses and men as many as they could command.

The scene of the conference of the 2nd of June was a plain called Holy well Haugh, on the north bank of the Tweed, opposite Norham Castle, and on Scottish ground. Among the assembly were eight persons who preferred a claim to the crown, Robert Bruce being at their head. To him Robert Burnell, the Bishop of Bath and Chancellor of England, put the question whether he acknowledged King Edward as lord paramount of Scotland, and whether he was willing to submit to his authority and receive judgment from It is related, and on unquestionable authority, that Bruce freely and openly declared his assent, and that the remaining seven competitors followed his example. On the following day John Baliol, a powerful chief, appeared, with another claimant of the title, and these two also assented to the demand.

It would appear that these proceedings had been in a great measure arranged beforehand. The two great claimants of the crown, Bruce and Baliol, had divided the greater part of the assembled barons into two factions, each being anxious, before all things, for the success of its chief, and ready to act implicitly under his directions. It was evident that if either of the two competitors submitted to the arbitration of Edward, the other had no resource but to follow his example, since the power of the English king would otherwise certainly turn the scale. The absence of Baliol on the first day of the meeting has not been satisfactorily accounted for, but it is probable that he hung back from being the first to assent to demands \vhich implied the surrender of the national independence. If such was his motive, it proves not that he was more patriotic, but-less brave than his opponent?, since we find him ready, without remonstrance, to follow the example which he was unwilling to offer. Edward appears to have previously determined in favour of Baliol, whether in consequence of the justice of his claim, as the descendant of the eldest sister, or from other reasons, cannot be ascertained. In spite, however, of that determination, he assumed the appearance of long and anxious deliberation before his judgment was finally given.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5

Pictures for Accession of Edward I page 4

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About