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Reign of Edward I. Part 1 page 3

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Edward continued his victorious course through Scotland, encountering no opposition. From Perth he proceeded by way of Aberdeen to Elgin. On his return to Berwick he visited the ancient abbey of Scone, and removed from it the "famous and fatal stone" upon which for ages past the Scottish kings had been crowned. This stone, with the regalia of Scotland, was placed by Edward in "Westminster Abbey, as v, memorial of the conquest of Scotland. Within a year that conquest had been entirely wrested from him; but the stone still remains at Westminster, little worn by the lapse of six centuries.

After the battle of Dunbar, Bruce, the Earl of Carrick, reminded Edward of his promise to place him on the Scottish throne. The king - who fulfilled his promises only when it suited him - replied angrily, "Have I nothing to do but to conquer kingdoms for thee?" Instead of placing Bruce on the throne, Edward directed him, with his son, the younger Bruce, to receive to the king's peace the inhabitants of his own estate of Carrick and Annandale. Such was the degrading office in which the young Robert Bruce, the future restorer of his country's freedom, was at this time employed.

Edward now occupied himself in a settlement of the affairs of the kingdom.; and the measures which he took for that purpose were in themselves politic and just. The forfeited estates of the clergy were restored, many of the civil functionaries of Baliol retained in office, and the governors of districts in most cases permitted to exercise authority as before. Some Englishmen were, however, placed in command of castles and districts to the south, and the supreme authority was vested in three persons - John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, governor; Hugh de Cressingham, treasurer; and William Ormesby, justiciary.

The independence of Scotland now appeared completely destroyed, the great nobles reduced to a state of submission, if not of servility, and the power of the King of England firmly seated throughout the country. But a change was at hand, and the slumbering fires of patriotism were soon to be kindled into a blaze from east to west. The man who was destined to rouse his countrymen from their apathy, and work out the freedom of his native land, was at this time engaged in roaming the hills of Renfrewshire at the head of a petty band of marauders. He was that Sir William Wallace, famed through succeeding ages in song and story, but of whom history can offer few details worthy of reliance. The family of Wallace was ancient, and might be termed gentle, but was neither rich nor noble. He was the son of Sir Malcolm Wallace, of Ellerslie, in Renfrewshire, In those stormy times bodily strength and valour in the field were the first qualities necessary to success. The strength of Wallace is described as having been prodigious. His size was gigantic, and as he grew towards manhood there were few men who could meet him in single combat. He was a man of violent passions, and a strong hatred of the English, which was evinced by him early in life, was festered by those with whom he came in contact.

When Edward returned to England he received few of the congratulations which usually meet the returning conqueror, and, on the contrary, he perceived lowering-faces and a general expression of discontent among the nobles and the people. The immense expenses incurred by the repeated wars of the king had impoverished the country; arid when Edward demanded fresh supplies for the campaign in France, the barons demurred, and many of them quitted the Parliament with their retainers.

This state of things encouraged the Scots to take up arms once more. The great chiefs, indeed, hung "back from the movement, and maintained their condition of supineness and inactivity, but the inferior nobility and pa people no longer suffered themselves to be restrained. Incited by their hatred of the English, the peasants farmed themselves into armed bands, which infested the highways, and attacked any of their enemies whom they could surprise in detached parties. Edward devoted large sums of money to repressing these disorders, but without success; and now there appeared on the scene the extraordinary individual whose energies, first excited by personal injuries, were afterwards devoted to his country, with efforts not less than heroic.

We first read of Wallace as engaged in a quarrel in the town of Lanark with some English officers who had insulted him. Bloodshed ensued, and he would probably have lost his life in the streets but for the interference of his mistress, to whose house he fled, and with whose assistance he escaped. It is stated that Hislop, the English sheriff, attacked the house, and, in a spirit of brutal and unmanly vengeance, seized the unhappy lady, and put her to death. Wallace, having heard the news, threw himself upon the sheriff, and slew him. For this deed he was proclaimed a traitor, and banished from his home to seek a retreat among the mountain fastnesses. Here he was soon joined by a few desperate men, who naturally acknowledged the strongest as their chief, and who, under his guidance, made successful attacks upon straggling parties of English. His name soon became famous, and:. umbers of men of different classes flocked to his standard. The halo of romance with which this hero was speedily invested by the people, the continued and galling acts of tyranny on the part of the English, and the desire of revenge, all tended to recruit the ranks of the mountain chieftain. Among the first men of note who joined him was Sir William Douglas, the former commander of the garrison of Berwick, who, at the sacking of that town, had been permitted to march out with military honours. He now brought a force consisting of the whole of his vassals to the army of Wallace. At this time Ormesby, the justiciary, was holding court at Scone. Thither Wallace led his troops, and surprised the justiciary, who escaped with difficulty, leaving a rich booty behind him.

The Scots now openly ravaged the country, plundering and slaying all the English that fell into their power. Wallace was cruel and merciless in war, and through the records of that time we look in vain for any of those acts of humanity which were inculcated by the laws of chivalry, and occasionally practised by men who sought the reputation of accomplished knights. The same ruthless barbarity characterised the mode of warfare on either side, and Scots or English, in passing through the country, marked their course by a trail of blood.

The conduct of the younger Bruce, who afterwards, as Robert, I., displayed such distinguished abilities, was at this time uncertain, and the reverse of energetic. Edward, however, dreaded the rebellion of a chief who possessed such great estates and influence, and, having summoned him to Carlisle, compelled him to make oath, on the sword of Thomas a Becket, that he would continue faithful. As a proof of his fidelity, he was required to ravage the lands of Sir William Douglas, whose wife and children he seized and carried into Annandale. Having thus quelled suspicion, the young chief, who was then twenty-two years old, called together his father's vassals, spoke of his recent oath as having been extorted by force, and therefore of no weight, and urged them to follow him against the oppressors of their country. They refused to do so in the absence of his father, and Bruce then collected his own retainers, and proceeded to join Wallace

The news of the rising of the Scots was brought to Edward as he was about to embark for Flanders. He immediately issued orders for the collecting of an army, which was placed under the command of Sir Henry Percy and Sir Robert Clifford. These distinguished commanders advanced, at the head of 40,000 men, to meet the forces of the patriots, which were already in a condition of disorganisation. The Scots were without any acknowledged leader, and although Wallace, as the prime mover of the revolt, as well as by his superior qualities, was the most worthy to assume that position, the higher nobility who were with him refused to act under the orders of a man whom they regarded as their inferior. Under such circumstances as these, combined movements were impossible, and all the advantages of discipline, which, equally with prudence, may be said to be the better part of valour, were on the side of the enemy. The English leaders proposed to negotiate, and, after a short deliberation, the chief associates of Wallace laid down their arms, and once more gave their submission to Edward. Among those who did so were Bruce, Sir William Douglas, the Steward of Scotland, the Bishop of Glasgow, Sir Alexander Lindesay, and Sir Richard Lundin. The document signed by them, is dated at Irvine, on the 9th of July. One man alone, of all the higher Scottish nobility, remained to uphold the honour of his order, and preserved his duty to his country. This was Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell. Undaunted by the disaffection of his powerful companions, Wallace still held together a strong band of men, who, poorer and more patriotic, disapproved the pusillanimity of their chiefs; and with these he retreated for a time into the mountains.

Several months elapsed, during which Edward appears to have made no attempt to molest the Scottish insurgents. Meanwhile, the fame of Wallace was extended throughout the country, and vast numbers of the people flocked to his standard. Knighton, an old English historian, asserts that the whole of the lower orders already regarded Wallace as the future deliverer of their country, and that they gathered new hope and courage amidst the surrounding dangers from the undaunted brow he bore. It is stated, also, that many of the nobility repented of oaths weakly or unwillingly taken, and their hearts were with the cause of the man whom they had refused to obey. Wallace renewed offensive operations with greatly increased forces, and drove the English from the castles of Brechin, Forfar, Montrose, and other fortresses to the north of the Forth. He was engaged in a siege of the castle of Dundee when he received news of the advance of the English. Raising the siege, he marched his forces, consisting of 40,000 men, in haste to Stirling, where he arrived before the English army. Wallace took up a favourable position on the banks of the Forth, a portion of his troops being concealed by the hills. The Earl of Surrey, in command of 50,000 foot and 1,000 horse, soon afterwards appeared on the other side of the river. On observing the strong position of Wallace, the earl thought it prudent to negotiate with him, and to this end sent messengers to him proposing to treat. The reply of Wallace was bold and decided. "Return," he said, "to those who sent you, and say that we are not here to waste words, but to maintain our rights and give freedom to Scotland: let them advance, and we will meet them beard to beard."

The English were exasperated by this menace, and importuned their leader to accept the challenge offered to him. Cressingham, the treasurer, a weak and hot-tempered man, joined his expostulations with the others, protesting against a delay which would increase the expenditure of the public money. The earl, though an able general, who must have perceived the danger of an attack against the position before him, was prevailed upon by such representations as these to yield his own better judgment, and lead his impatient troops to the destruction which awaited them.

Early on the morning of the 11th September the English began their passage across the narrow wooden bridge which was the only means of communication with the opposite bank of the river. It is evident that a large force would occupy many hours in crossing the river by this means, and during that time they must lie in a great measure at the mercy of a determined enemy. Wallace did not neglect the opportunity thus afforded him. He suffered the English to transport about one-half of their forces, and then took possession of one end of the bridge, thus effectually cutting off their further advance. He then surrounded the body of the enemy who were thus separated, threw them into confusion, and gained a bloody victory. Many thousands of the English fell by the sword or perished in the water, and among the dead was the treasurer, Cressingham. This man during his administration had made himself peculiarly obnoxious to the Scottish people, and they now revenged themselves after a barbarous fashion, by stripping the skin from the dead body of their enemy, and cutting it into small pieces to be worn as the North American Indian of our day carries the scalp of his fallen foe.

The Earl of Surrey had not crossed the river, and as soon as he perceived that the destruction of his troops was inevitable, he caused as many of them as could be collected to occupy the castle of Stirling, and then took horse and rode at full speed to Berwick. Among the Scats the loss was comparatively small, and the only man of note who fell was the patriotic Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell. The result of this victory was no less than the restoration of the country to freedom. Wallace pushed his success without delay, and wherever he went his progress was almost without opposition. The castles of Edinburgh, Berwick, Dundee, and Roxburgh at once surrendered, and within a short time the rest of the Scottish strongholds submitted to the victor; so that there was not a fortress in the country remaining in the possession of the English king.

A few months later a famine arose in Scotland, and, driven in some measure by the want of supplies, Wallace invaded England. He remained for awhile in Cumberland, and on his return an assembly of the nobility was; held at the Forest Kirk, in Selkirkshire. It is generally; understood to have been at this time that Wallace was invested with the title of guardian or governor of the kingdom of Scotland and commander of its army.

It is worthy of remark that the name of Baliol was retained in this instrument, and the appointment of Wallace was declared to be made with the authority of King John, whose legitimate right to the crown appears to have been universally recognised.

At- this time Edward was still in Flanders, engaged in a war with Philip of France, which had followed the seizure of Guienne. A treaty of peace having been at length agreed to, Philip endeavoured to influence Edward in favour of the Scots, and to include them also in the amnesty. But the English king would listen to no such proposals. His conquest had been suddenly wrested from him, and he was intent on vengeance. He issued letters to the barons of the kingdom, commanding that the whole military force of the realm should be assembled at York on the 14th of January, a.d. 1298.

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