Walter Scott.

The tales of a grandfather : being the history of Scotland from the earliest period to the close of the rebellion, 1745-46 (Volume 1) online

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of him in Scotland.

A dispute arose in the Scottish council of war. The Gallo-
way men, who had gained a considerable battle in their advance
into England, were intoxicated with their own success, and
demanded peremptorily that they should lead the van in the
battle of the next day. King David would fain have eluded
the request. He had more confidence in the disciplined valour
of the men-at-arms in his service, than in those brave, but
tumultuous barbarians. A chief, called Malise, Earl of Strath-
earn, saw and was angry at David's hesitation. "Why so
much confidence in a plate of steel, or in rings of iron ?" said
he. " I who wear no armour, will go as far to-morrow with a
bare breast, as any one who wears a cuirass."

"Rude earl," said Allan de Percy, a Norman knight, "you
brag of what you dare not do."

The King interposed, and with difficulty appeased the dis-
pute. He granted with reluctance the request of the men of


In the morning, David prepared for the eventful contest.
He drew his army up in three lines. The first, according to
his promise, consisted of the Galloway men, who were com-
manded by William MacDonochy, and Ulrick, and Dovenald.
The second line consisted of the men-at-arms, the Borderers of
Teviotdale, with the archers of Cumberland and Strathclyde.
They were headed by Henry, Prince of Scotland, a brave and
amiable youth. The King himself, surrounded by a guard
consisting of English and Norman men-at-arms, commanded
the third body of troops, who were the men of Lothian, with
the Northern Scots, properly so called.

The English were formed into one compact and firm battal-
ion, in the midst of which the consecrated Standard was dis-
played. The bishop of Orkney, as deputed by the aged Thur-
stan, mounted the carriage of St. Peter's Standard, and pro-
claiming the war was a holy one, assured each English soldier
that those who fell should immediately pass into Paradise.
The English barons grasped each other's hands, and swore to
be victorious, or die in the field. l

The armies being now near each other, the men of Galloway
charged, with cries which resembled the roar of a tempest.
They fought for two hours with the greatest fury, and made
such slaughter amongst the English spearmen that they began
to give way. But the archers supported them, and showered
their arrows so thick upon the Galloway men, that, having no
defensive armour to resist the shot, they became dismayed,
and began to retreat. Prince Henry of Scotland advanced to
their support with the men-at-arms. He rushed at full gallop
on that part of the English line which was opposed to him,
and broke through it, says a historian, as if it had been a
spider's web. He then attacked the rear of the English ; the
men of Galloway rallied, and were about to renew the contest,
when an English soldier showed the head of a slain man on a
spear, and called out it was the King of Scots. The falsehood

1 "The aged and venerable Walter L'Espec (also) ascended the carriage
in which the holy standard was fixed, and harangued the surrounding
multitude. He reminded them of the glory of their ancestors, and de-
scribed the barbarities of the Scottish invaders. ' Your cause is just ; it
is for your all that you combat ; I swear, said he, grasping the hand of
the Earl of Albemarle, ' I swear,' that on this day I will overcome the
Scots, or perish. ' ' So swear we all, ' cried the barons assembled around
him." HAILKS.

1138-1153 DAVID i. 29

was believed by the Scottish army, who fell into confusion
and fled. The King in vain threw his helmet from his head,
and rode barefaced among the soldiers, to show that he still
lived. The alarm and panic were general, and the Scots lost
a battle which, if they had won, must have given them a great
part of England, and eventually, it may be, the whole of that
kingdom, distracted as it was with civil war. Such was the
famous battle of the Standard. 1 It forced David to make peace
with England, but it was upon the most favourable terms ;
since, excepting the fortresses of Newcastle and Bamborough,
the whole of Northumberland and Durham was surrendered by
Stephen to the Scottish monarch.

David died in the rear 1153. His brave and amiable sou,
Henry, had died two or three years before his father. David
was a most excellent sovereign. He would leave his sport of
hunting, or anything in which he was engaged at the time, if
the meanest of his subjects came to complain of any wrong
which he had received ; nor would he resume his amusement
till he had seen the poor man redressed. He is also much
praised by historians, who, in those times, were chiefly clergy-
men, for his great bounty to the church. He founded bishop-
rics, and built and endowed many monasteries, which he vested
with large grants of lands out of the patrimony of the kings.
Amongst these were the Abbeys of Holyrood, near Edinburgh ;
of Melrose, in Roxburghshire ; of Dryburgh, in Berwickshire ;
of Newbattle, in Lothian ; of Cambuskenneth, in Stirlingshire ;
also those of Kelso and Jedburgh, and many ecclesiastical
houses of less note.

It was, perhaps, as much from his munificence to the church,
as from his private virtues and public deeds, that this monarch
was received into the catalogue of holy persons, and called
Saint David. 2 One of his successors, James I., who esteemed

1 " The Galwegians cast away their arms ; the troops of Lothian, the
Islanders, and all who composed the third body, fled without show of re-
sistance. The King leapt from his horse, and brought up the reserve to
support the infantry of the second body ; but the Scots, abandoned by so
many of their companions, were now dispirited and feeble. The nobles
who attended on the person of the King, saw that the day was irrecover-
ably lost ; they urged and even compelled him to retreat. The fugitives,
perceiving the royal ensign displayed, rallied around it, opposed a formid-
able body to the conquerors, and checked their pursuit. This memorable
battle was fought on the 22d August 1138." HAILES.

3 " Aldred," says Lord Hailes, "has recorded many curious, although


his liberality to the church rather excessive, said, " St. David
had proved a sore saint for the crown." But we ought to re-
collect that the church lands were frequently spared, out of
veneration to religion, when, in those restless times, all the
rest of the country was burned and plundered. David, there-
fore, by putting these large estates under the protection of the
church, may be considered as having done his best to secure
them against devastation ; and we may observe that most of
his monasteries were founded in provinces peculiarly exposed
to the dangers of war. The monks, it must be also remem-
bered, were the only persons possessed of the most ordinary
branches of knowledge. They were able to read and write ;
they understood French and Latin ; they were excellent archi
tects, as their magnificent buildings still testify ; they possessed
the art of gardening, and of forming plantations ; and it appears
that the children of the gentry were often educated in these
monasteries. It was, therefore, no wonder that David should
have desired to encourage communities so nearly connected
with arts and learning, although he certainly carried to excess
the patronage which he was disposed to afford them.

It was during the reigns of Malcolm Canmore and his suc-
cessors, that a dispute arose, grounded upon the feudal law,

iniuute particulars, of the manners and private life of David. At the
condemnation of the worst of criminals his strong emotions of sympathy
were visible to the spectators ; yet, resisting the seduction of his tender
nature, he constantly maintained the just severity of a magistrate. His
apartments were always open to suitors ; for he had nothing secret but
his counsels. On certain days he sat at the gate of his palace, to hear
and to decide the causes of the poor. This he did, probably, with the
view of restraining the enormities of inferior judges, so prevalent in loose
times. To suppose that he regarded the poor in judgment, would be to
impute ostentatious injustice to a wise and good man. While deciding
against the poor, he attempted to make them understand and acknowledge
the equity of his decisions : an attempt equally benevolent and vain ! At
sunset he dismissed all his attendants, and retired to meditate on his
duty to God and the people. At daybreak he resumed his labours. He
used hunting as an exercise ; yet so as never to encroach on the hours of
business. ' I have seen him," says Aldred, ' quit his horse and dismiss his
hunting equipage, when any, even of the meanest of his subjects, implored
an audience.' He sometimes employed his leisure hours in the culture
of his garden, and in the philosophic amusement of budding and ingraft-
ing trees." Buchanan, whose principles are esteemed unfavourable to
monarchy, says, " A more perfect exemplar of a good king is to be
found in the reign of David I. than in all the theories of the learned and


which occasioned a most dreadful quarrel between England and
Scotland ; and though Master Littlejohn be no great lawyer,
it is necessary he should try all he can to understand it, for it
is a very material point in history.

While the English were fighting among themselves, and
afterwards with the Normans, the Scottish Kings, as I have
repeatedly told you, had been enlarging their dominions at the
expense of their neighbours, and had possessed themselves, in
a great measure, of the northern provinces of England, called
Lothian, Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland.
After much fighting and disputing, it was agreed that the
King of Scotland should keep these English provinces, or such
parts of them as he possessed, not as an independent sovereign,
however, but as a vassal of the King of England ; and that he
should do homage for the same to the English King, and at-
tend him to the field of battle when summoned. But this
homage, and this military service, were not paid on account of
the kingdom of Scotland, which had never since the beginning
of the world been under the dominion of an English King, but
was, and had always remained independent, a free state, having
sovereigns and monarchs of its own. It may seem strange to
Master Littlejohn, how a King of Scotland should be vassal
for that part of his dominions which lay hi England, and an
independent prince when he was considered as King of Scot-
land ; but this might easily happen, according to the regula-
tions of the Feudal System. William the Conqueror himself
stood in the same situation ; for he held his great dukedom of
Normandy, and his other possessions in France, as a vassal of
the King of France, by whom it had been granted as a fief to
his ancestor Hollo ; but he was, at the same time, the inde-
pendent Sovereign of England, of which he had gained posses-
sion by his victory at Hastings.

The English Kings, however, occasionally took opportunities
to insinuate that the homage paid by the Scottish Kings was
not only for the provinces which they at this time possessed in
England, but also for the kingdom of Scotland. The Scottish
Kings, on the contrary, although they rendered the homage
and services demanded, as holding large possessions within the
boundaries of England, uniformly and positively refused to
permit it to be said or supposed, that they were subject to any
claim of homage on account of the kingdom of Scotland. Thia


was one cause of the frequent wars which took place betwixt
the countries, in which the Scots maintained their national
independence, and though frequently defeated, were often vic-
torious, and threatened, upon more than one occasion, to make
extensive acquisitions of territory at the expense of their neigh-

At the death of David the First of Scotland, that monarch
was in full possession of Lothian, which began to be considered
as a part of Scotland, and which still continues to be so ; as
also of Northumberland and of Cumberland, with great part of
Westmoreland, of which his sovereignty was less secure.

David was succeeded by his grandson, named MALCOLM
[1153, in his twelfth year], the eldest son of the brave and
generous Prince Henry. Malcolm did homage to the King of
England for the possessions which he had in England. He
was so kind and gentle in his disposition that he was usually
called Malcolm the Maiden. Malcolm attached himself parti-
cularly to Henry II., King of England, who was indeed a very
wise and able prince. The Scottish King at one time went
the length of resigning to Henry the possessions he held in the
north of England ; nay, he followed that prince into France,
and acted as a volunteer in his army. This partiality to the
English King disgusted the Scottish nation, who were afraid
of the influence which Henry possessed over the mind of their
youthful sovereign. They sent a message to France to upbraid
Malcolm with his folly and to declare they would not have
Henry of England to rule over them. Malcolm returned to
Scotland with all speed, and reconciled himself to his subjects.
He died at Jedburgh in the year 1165.

Malcolm the Maiden was succeeded by his brother WIL-
LIAM [crowned 24th December 1165,] a son of Prince Henry,
and grandson of the good King David. In his time, warriors
and men of consequence began to assume what are called armo-
rial bearings, which you may very often see cut upon seals,
engraved on silver plate, and painted upon gentlemen's carriages.
Now, Master Littlejohn, it is as well to know the meaning of
this ancient custom.

In the time of which I am speaking, the warriors went into
battle clad in complete armour, which covered them from top
to toe. On their head they wore iron caps, called helmets,
with visors, which came down and protected the face, so that

ll53-"74 WILLIAM THE LION 33

nothing could be seen of the countenance except the eyes
peeping through bars of iron. You have seen such helmets in
grandpapa's entrance-hall. But as it was necessary that a
king, lord, or knight, should be known to his followers in
battle, they adopted two ways of distinguishing themselves.
The one was by a crest, that is, a figure of some kind or other,
as a lion, a wolf, a hand holding a sword, or some such decora-
tion, which they wore on the top of the helmet, as we talk of
a cock's comb being the crest of that bird. But besides this
mark of distinction, these warriors were accustomed to paint
emblematical figures, sometimes of a very whimsical kind,
upon their shields. These emblems became general; and at
length no one was permitted to bear any such armorial device,
excepting he either had right to carry it by inheritance, or
that such right had been conferred upon him by some sovereign
prince. To assume the crest or armorial emblems of another
man was a high offence, and often mortally resented ; and to
adopt armorial bearings for yourself, was punished as a misde-
meanour by a peculiar court, composed of men called Heralds,
who gave their name to the science called Heraldry. As men
disused the wearing of armour, the original purpose of heraldry
fell into neglect, but still persons of ancient descent remained
tenacious of the armorial distinctions of their ancestors ; and,
as I told you before, they are now painted on carriages, or
placed above the principal door of country-houses, or frequently
engraved on seals. But there is much less attention paid to
heraldry now than there was formerly, although the College of
Heralds still exists.

Now, William King of Scotland having chosen for his ar-
morial bearing a Red Lion, rampant (that is, standing on its
hind legs, as if it were going to climb), he acquired the name
of William the Lion. And this Rampant Lion still constitutes
the arms of Scotland, and the President of the Heralds' Court
in that country, who is always a person of high rank, is called
Lord Lion King-at-Arms.

William, though a brave man, and though he had a lion for
his emblem, was unfortunate in war. In the year 1174 he
invaded England, for the purpose of demanding and compelling
restoration of the portion of Northumberland which had been
possessed by his ancestors. He himself, with a small body of
men, lay in careless security near Alnwick, while his numerous,
I 3


but barbarous and undisciplined army, were spread throughout
the country, burning and destroying wherever they came.
Some gallant Yorkshire barons marched to the aid of their
neighbours of Northumberland. They assembled four hundred
men-at-arms, and made a forced march of twenty-four miles
from Newcastle towards Alnwick, without being discovered.
On the morning a thick mist fell they became uncertain of
their road and some proposed to turn back " If you should
all turn back," said one of their leaders, named Bernard de
Baliol, " I would go forward alone." The others adopted the
same resolution, and, concealed by the mist, they rode forward
towards Alnwick. In their way the} 7 suddenly encountered
the Scottish King, at the head of a small party of only sixty
men. William so little expected a sudden attack of this
nature that at first he thought the body of cavalry which he
saw advancing was a pail of his own army. When he was unde-
ceived, he had too much of the lion about him to fear. " Now
shall we see," he said, "which of us are good knights ;" and
instantly charged the Yorkshire barons, with the handful of
men who attended him. But sixty men at arms could make
no impression on four hundred, and as the rest of William's
army were too distant to give him assistance, he was, after de-
feuding himself with the utmost gallantry, unhorsed and made
prisoner. The English immediately retreated with their royal
captive, after this bold and successful adventure. They carried
William to Newcastle, and from that town to Northampton,
where he was conducted to the presence of Henry II., King of
England, with his legs tied under his horse's belly, as if he had
been a common malefactor or felon. 1

This was a great abuse of the advantage which fortune had
given to Henry, and was in fact more disgraceful to himself
than to his prisoner. But the English King's subsequent
conduct was equally harsh and ungenerous. He would not
release his unfortunate captive until he had agreed to do
homage to the King of England, not only for his English pos-
sessions, but also for Scotland, and all his other dominions.
The Scottish parliament were brought to acquiesce in this
treaty ; and thus, in order to recover the liberty of their King,

1 " William was at first confined to the castle of Richmond, but Henry,
sensible of the value of this unexpected acquisition, secured him beyond
seas at Falaise in Normandy." HAILES.


they sacrificed the independence of their country, which remained
for a time subject to the English claim of paramount sove-
reignty. This dishonourable treaty was made on the 8th of
December 1174.

Thus the great national question of supremacy was for a
time abandoned by the Scots ; but this state of things did not
last long. In 1189 Henry II. died, and was succeeded by his
son, Richard the First, one of the most remarkable men in
English history. He was so brave that he was generally
known by the name of Coeur de Lion, that is, the Lion-hearted ;
and he was as generous as he was brave. Nothing was so
much at his heart as what was then called the Holy War,
that is, a war undertaken to drive the Saracens out of Pales-
tine. For this he resolved to go to Palestine with a large
army : but it was first necessary that he should place his
affairs at home in such condition as might ensure the quiet of
his dominions during his absence upon the expedition. This
point could not be accomplished without his making a solid
peace with Scotland ; and in order to obtain it, King Richard
resolved to renounce the claim for homage, which had been
extorted from William the Lion. By a charter, dated 5th
December of the same year (1189), he restored to the Kig
of Scots the castles of Berwick and Roxburgh, and granted an
acquittance to him of all obligations which Henry II. had ex-
torted from him in consequence of his captivity, reserving only
Richard's title to such homage as was anciently rendered by
Malcolm Canmore. For this renunciation William paid ten
thousand merks ; a sum which probably assisted in furnishing
the expenses of Richard's expedition to Palestine.

Thus was Scotland again restored to the dignity of an inde-
pendent nation, and her monarchs were declared liable only to
the homage due for the lands which the King of Scotland held
beyond the boundaries of his own kingdom, and within those
of England. The period of Scottish subjection lasted only
fifteen years.

This generous behaviour of Richard of England was attended
with such good effects that it almost put an end to all wars
and quarrels betwixt England and Scotland for more than a
hundred years, during which time, with one or two brief in-
terruptions, the nations lived in great harmony together. This
was much to the happiness of both, and might in time have led


to their becoming one people, for which Nature, which placed
them both in the same island, seemed to have designed them.
Intercourse for the purpose of traffic became more frequent.
Some of the Scottish and English families formed marriages
and friendships together, and several powerful lords and barons
had lauds both in England and Scotland. All seemed to promise
peace and tranquillity betwixt the two kingdoms, until a course
of melancholy accidents having nearly extinguished the Scottish
royal family, tempted the English monarch again to set up his
unjust pretensions to be sovereign of Scotland, and gave occasion
to a series of wars, fiercer and more bloody than any which had
ever before taken place betwixt the countries.


Accession of Alexander II. Burning of the Bishop of Caithness
Accession of Alexander III. Battle of Largs

France: Philip II., Louis VIII., Louis IX.

1214 1266

WILLIAM THE LION died at Stilling in December 1214, and
was succeeded by his son, Alexander II., a youth in years, but
remarkable for prudence and for firmness. In his days there
was some war with England, as he espoused the cause of the
disaffected barons, against King John. But no disastrous con-
sequences having arisen, the peace betwixt the two kingdoms
was so effectually restored that Henry III. of England, having
occasion to visit his French dominions, committed the care of
the northern frontiers of his kingdom to Alexander of Scotland,
the prince who was most likely to have seized the opportunity
of disturbing them. Alexander II. repaid with fidelity the
great and honourable trust which his brother sovereign had re-
posed in him.

Relieved from the cares of an English war, Alexander en-
deavoured to civilise the savage manners of his own people.
These were disorderly to a great degree.


For example, one Adam, Bishop of Caithness, proved ex-
tremely rigorous in enforcing the demand of tithes, the tenth
part, that is, of the produce of the ground, which the church
claimed for support of the clergy. The people of Caithness
assembled to consider what should be done in this dilemma,
when one of them exclaimed, " Short rede, good rede, slay we
the bishop!" which means, "Few words are best, let us kill
the bishop." They ran instantly to the bishop's house, as-
saulted it with fury, set it on fire, and burned the prelate alive
in his own palace (A.D. 1222).

While this tragedy was going on, some of the bishop's
servants applied for protection for their master to the Earl of
Orkney and Caithness. This nobleman, who probably favoured
the conspiracy, answered hypocritically, that the bishop had
only to come to him, and he would assure him of protection ;
as if it had been possible for the unhappy bishop to escape from
his blazing palace, and through his raging enemies, and to make
his way to the earl's residence.

The tidings of this cruel action were brought to Alexander
II. when he was upon a journey towards England. He im-
mediately turned back, marched into Caithness with an army,
and put to death four hundred of those who had been concerned
in the murder of the bishop. The hard-hearted earl was soon
afterwards slain, and his castle burned, in revenge of that odious

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe tales of a grandfather : being the history of Scotland from the earliest period to the close of the rebellion, 1745-46 (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 59)