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Edward III page 4

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Edward left an army of Irish and English to support his wretched vassal in his fragment of a kingdom; but no sooner did he turn homewards than the indignant Scots drove Baliol from even that, and compelled him to seek refuge amongst the English garrisons of the south of Scotland. In the following years, 1335 and 1336, Edward was again obliged to make fresh expeditions into Scotland to support Baliol. "Whenever the English king appeared the Scots retired to their mountain fastnesses, while Edward and his army overran the country with little opposition, burnt the houses, and laid waste the lands of those whom he styled rebels; but, whenever he returned to England, they came forth again, only the more embittered against the contemptible minion of the English king, the more determined against the tyranny of England. The regent, Sir Andrew Murray, pursued with untiring activity Baliol and his adherents. When Edward marched homeward to spend in London the Christmas of 1336, he left Scotland to all appearance perfectly prostrate, and flattered himself that it was completely subdued. Never was it further from such a condition. One spirit only animated the Scottish nation - that of eternal resistance to the monarch who had inflicted on it such calamities, and set a slave on its throne. The Scots sought and were furnished assistance from France; and now came the diversion from that quarter which proved the salvation of Scotland; now began to work the seeds sown, the elements infused into the English monarchy by Edward I.'s unprincipled abandonment of his engagement with Count Guy of Flanders for the marriage of his daughter Philippa with Edward of Caernarvon, and his alliance, for political purposes, with France. Edward now claimed the throne of France in right of his mother, and prepared to enforce that claim by his arms. Hence came those long and bloody wars with France which produced an hereditary enmity between the two nations, and by this means, the attention and resources of England divided in the vain attempt to subjugate both France and Scotland, insured the ultimate loss of both those countries. The ambition of Edward overshot itself. Had he confined his efforts to either of those great objects, he might have succeeded. By far the most important was the annexation of Scotland. It was a truly statesmanlike aim to make one consolidated kingdom of the island; but Edward, with all his talents, had no conception of the manner in which this was to be effected. If Scotland were to be won by arms, the whole of those arms should have been concentrated on that object alone. But it never could be effected by that means; it required a higher development of political wisdom and respect for international rights than were then arrived at. Before we enter, however, on the narrative of the great French contest, we must mention a few facts which show the state to which Scotland was reduced at this time, and the invincible courage of the people, which called out singular displays of it, even by the women.

After the fatal battle of Halidon Hill, throughout all Scotland only four castles and one small tower held out for David Bruce. The castles of Lochleven, Kildrummie, and Dunbar, three out of the four, were distinguished by sieges which deserve notice. Lochleven Castle stood on an island, in the loch or lake of that name, at Kinross, in Fifeshire. It was held by Alan Vipont, and was besieged by Sir John Stirling with an English army. As the island is low, Stirling thought he could draw out the garrison by blocking up the outlet to the loch. This was effected by throwing stones and earth into the small river Leven till a huge mound was raised. But Vipont, aware of what was doing, sent in the night a boat with four men, who cut through the mound, so that the confined waters broke forth with fury, and swept away the tents, baggage, and troops of the besiegers. The remains of this mound are pointed out to this day.

The castle of Kildrummie, which played so conspicuous a part in the war of Edward L, was now defended by Christiana Bruce, who, as we have said, was married to Sir Andrew Murray, now regent. It was one of the chief places of refuge for the patriots, and therefore was besieged by David Hastings, Earl of Atholl, one of the disinherited lords. Sir Andrew Murray, determined to march to the relief of his wife. He called to his assistance the knight of Liddesdale, who had been in captivity with him in England, Sir Alexander Ramsay, of Dalwolsy, and the Earl of March. They could only raise 1,000 men, and Atholl had 3,000. But while on march they were joined by one John Craig, a royalist of Scotland, who had been released by Atholl from, confinement on promise of a large ransom. This ransom was due on the morrow, and Craig was unable or unwilling to pay it. He was glad to get rid of Atholl, and therefore undertook to lead them through the forest of Braemar, so as to take Atholl by surprise. On the way the people of the neighbourhood also joined them. Atholl was greatly startled by suddenly perceiving the enemy upon him, but he disdained to fly. There was a small brook between him and the Scots, and the knight of Liddesdale keeping his men from crossing it, Atholl rushed over to attack them, when Liddesdale cried out, "Now is our time!" charged down the hill, bore Atholl and his forces back into the brook, and slew the earl and dispersed his force, thus entirely relieving the castle. This was called the Battle of Kiblene, and greatly noticed by the Scots as fought on St. Andrew's Day, 1335.

Another of the most remarkable defences of these castles was that of Dunbar by the Countess of March. She was the daughter of the renowned Thomas Randolph, first Earl of Moray, of that family whose exploits we have recounted, and from her complexion was called Black Agnes. The castle of Dunbar was extremely strong, being built on a chain of rocks running into the sea, and the only connection with the main land was well fortified. Montague, Earl of Salisbury, besieged her, and brought forward engines to throw stones, such as were used to batter down walls before the invention of cannon. One of these, with a strong roof to defend the assailants, standing up like a hog's back, was called the sow. When Black Agnes saw this engine advancing, she called out to the Earl of Salisbury, in derision,

"Beware Montagow,
For farrow shall thy sow."

She had ordered a huge stone to be set on the wall over the castle gate, and as soon as the sow came under this was let fall, by which means the roof of the machine was crushed in, and as the English soldiers ran out, they were shot down by a flight of arrows; whereupon the Black Agnes shouted out to Salisbury, "Behold the litter of English pigs!"

As the earl brought up fresh engines, and sent ponderous stones against her battlements, Black Agnes stood there, and wiped disdainfully the fragments of the broken battlements away with her handkerchief, as a matter of no moment. The earl riding near to reconnoitre, an arrow meant for him shot down a man at his side. "That," said the earl, "is one of my lady's love tokens. Black Agnes's love shafts pierce to the heart."

The countess next tried to inveigle the earl into her power. She sent a fellow into the English camp who pretended to betray the castle. The earl was caught by the trick, and came at midnight to the gates, which were to be opened to him by the traitor. Opened they were; but one John Copland, the earl's esquire, riding in before him, the guards were too quick; they dropped the portcullis, thinking the earl had entered, and so shut him out and betrayed their stratagem.

Black Agnes was at length relieved by Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalwolsy, who brought up forces both by sea and land; and the Scots, delighted with the spirit of the undaunted defendress of the castle, celebrated her far and wide in their minstrel songs. One of these sufficiently portrays the character of this Scottish amazon: -

"That brawling, boisterous, Scottish wench
Kept such a stir in towers and trench,
That, came I early or came I late,
I found Black Agnes in the gate."

The brave Sir Andrew Murray, the regent, died in 1338, while this contest was raging on all sides. He had discharged his office with the greatest spirit, patriotism, and wisdom, and his death was a severe loss to the country.

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