The English Peace
THUS was the land at
peace for a time. But envy, that never ceases from setting men upon evil
deeds to win power to themselves, caused lords of full great renown to
make a fell conspiracy against the doughty King Robert. They thought to
make an end of him, and after his death to enjoy the kingdom and reign
in his stead. The greatest infamy in that attempt pertained to Sir
William, Lord Soulis, for he was chief of it both by assent and
ruthlessness. He had caused several to join him, Gilbert Malherbe and
John of Logie, knights, and Richard Brown, a squire. Stout Sir David the
Brechin also was charged with the crime, as I shall describe later. [The
house of Soulis claimed the throne in right of the daughter of King
Alexander II. Had her legitimacy been proved their claim would have
excluded both Bruce and Baliol. Both Soulis and Brechin had long been
traitors in English pay.—Tytler, i. 142.]
But ere these men could
compass their end they were every one discovered. This was done, I have
heard, through a lady. [According to the 'Annales Scotiae' the lady was
the Countess of Strathern. She was herself engaged in the plot, and for
her share in it was condemned to perpetual imprisonment. Seventy years
ago, when the monument to Sir David Baird was being erected on Tom-a-chaistle,
near Crieff, the workmen broke into a vault under the ancient
stronghold, and certain bones, gold ornaments, and household articles
which they found were believed to be the relics of the imprisoned
countess.] She told the king their whole intent and plot, how he was to
be slain, and Soulis reign in his stead, and she gave him a sure token
that the attempt was a settled matter.
When the king knew this
was so, he made his plans so subtly that he caused the traitors every
one to be captured. At the place where the Lord Soulis was seized he had
in his company at the time three hundred and sixty squires, besides
certain worthy knights. He was taken at Berwick. Then all his following was
to be seen. going heavy and sad; for the king let them all go their way,
and kept those he had proof against.
Soon afterwards the Lord
Soulis made open confession of the whole plot. A parliament therefore
was called, and this company was brought before it. There in open
parliament the Lord Soulis confessed the crime, and soon afterwards for
punishment was sent to Dunbarton, where he died in the stone castle. Sir
Gilbert Malherbe, and Sir John of Logie, [John de Logie's son was first
husband of Margaret, daughter of Sir Malcolm Drummond, who as 'Margaret
Logy' became second queen of David II.—Story of the Stewarts, p. 115.]
and Richard Brown, these three were openly condemned by the assize;
therefore they were each one drawn, hanged, and beheaded according to
Good Sir David the
Brechin also they afterwards caused to be right straitly charged, and he
confessed that discovery of the plot had been made to him, but he gave
no consent to it. And because he hid their plot, and did not discover it
to the king, from whom he held his whole estate, and to whom he had done
fealty, he was sentenced to be hanged and drawn.
And as they carried him
to be hanged the people thronged wondrous fast to behold him and his
evil case, which was right sad to see. Sir Ingram de Umphraville was
there as a Scotsman with the king. When he saw that great mischance he
said, "Sirs, to what intent press ye to see the evil fate of a knight
who was so valiant and so doughty? I have seen more folk crowd to see
him for his right sovereign nobleness than now crowd to see him here."
And when these words were spoken he kept silence with sorry countenance
till men had done their will upon Sir David; then with the king's leave
he brought him honourably to burial.
And afterwards he said to
the king, "One thing I pray you grant me; that is, that ye give me leave
to do my pleasure with all my land that lies in Scotland."
The king answered him, "I
will indeed grant thee this; but tell me what vexes thee."
"Grant me leave," he
answered, "and I shall tell you openly. I have no heart to remain longer
with you in this country; therefore, except it inconvenience you, I pray
you from my heart to let me take leave. For where a knight so right
worthy and chivalrous and doughty, so renowned for valour, and so full
of all that may become a man, as brave Sir David the Brechin, has been
put to so cruel a death, of a truth my heart will on no account suffer
me to dwell."
"Since thou wilt have it
so," said the king, "whenever it is thy pleasure thou mayest go, and to
that intent thou shalt have full leave to do thy liking with thy land."
Sir Ingram thanked him
greatly, and right speedily disposed of his land as he thought best;
then, before all that were there, he took his leave for evermore of the
right gracious king, and went to England to King Edward. The English
king gave him right fair welcome, and asked him the tidings of the
North, and he told him everything truly; how those knights were
destroyed, and all that I have recounted, and the courtesy of the king,
who had graciously given him leave to do his pleasure with his land.
At that time messengers
were sent from the King of Scotland to treat of peace, if they could get
it. To this intent they had ofttimes before been sent, but had not been
able to attain their end. For the good King Robert desired, since God
had sent him such fair fortune as to win all his kingdom by force of
arms, to make peace in his land, and establish the country, so that, if
men kept their loyalty, his heir after him should live in quietness.
It was at this time that
Umphraville, as I have told, came to the King of England. At the English
court he found the Scottish messengers seeking to treat of peace and
rest. The king knew Sir Ingram was wise, and asked his counsel in the
matter, what he would advise him to do; "For," said he, "it seemed hard
to him to make peace with King Robert the Bruce, his enemy, before he
was avenged upon him."
Sir Ingram made answer to
him and said, "He dealt so courteously with me, that in no wise should I
give counsel to his hurt."
"It behoves thee of
necessity," said the king, "to declare thy counsel in this matter."
"Sir," said he, "since
your will is that I speak, know ye assuredly that, for all your great
might of arms, ye have no strength to deal with him. His men have all
become so doughty with long experience of war, and they have been so
trained in these matters, that each active yeoman is worth a knight. But
if ye seek to bring your war to your intent and good pleasure, ye shall
make with him a long truce. Then shall most of his following, who are
but a peaceful yeomanry, be constrained all in common to make their
living by their labour. Some of them must needs take to plough and
harrow and other various crafts to earn their bread. Thus their weapons
shall wax old, and shall be rotten, sold, or destroyed, and during the
long truce many who now are cunning in war shall die, and in their stead
shall rise others who know little of such matters. And when they are
thus grown unused to war ye may move against them, and shall right
easily, I believe, bring your purpose to fair conclusion."
To this every one
assented, and soon afterwards a truce was agreed upon between the two
kings, to last for thirteen years, [From March 30, 1323, to June 12,
1336.] and proclamation of it was made on the marches.
The Scots kept the truce
loyally; but the English, with great iniquity, destroyed at sea merchant
ships sailing from Scotland to Flanders, slaying the men every one and
taking the goods to their own uses. King Robert sent often to ask
redress but no redress was made, and he was left all the time asking. On
his part he caused the truce to be upheld steadfastly on the marches,
and caused his men to keep it loyally.
At this time, while the
truce lasted on the Borders, the valiant Walter Stewart was seized at
Bathgate with a great sickness. His illness waxed ever more and more,
till men saw by his look that he must needs pay the debt that no man can
escape. Shriven and fully repentant, and with all things done that a
Christian needs to do, like a good Christian he gave up the ghost.
[April 9, 1326. "Walter the Stewart was thrice married: 1st to Alice,
daughter of Sir John Erskine of Erskine, of which marriage there was one
daughter, Jean, married to Hugh, Earl of Ross; 2nd to the Princess
Marjory Bruce, who survived her marriage less than a year, leaving an
only son, afterwards King Robert II.; and 3rd to Isabel, sister of Sir
John Graham of Abercorn, by whom he had two sons, Sir John Stewart and
Sir Andrew Stewart, and a daughter, Lady Egidia Stewart. This branch of
the Stewarts is designated 'of Railston.' "—The Story of the Stewarts,
p. 84.] Then were weeping and crying to be heard among the common folk,
and many a knight and lady were to be seen openly making right evil
cheer. Thus all men mourned him together, for of his age he was a
valiant knight. After they had for a long time made their moan they bore
the body to Paisley, and there with great solemnity and lamentation he
was interred. [Paisley Abbey was founded by the Steward of Scotland in
1163. There Walter Stewart's wife, the Princess Marjory, was already
buried, and there afterwards the body of their son, King Robert II., was
to be interred.] May God, of his might, bring his soul to that place
where joy is everlasting! Amen!
After his death, when two
years and a half had gone by of the truce that was to have lasted
thirteen years, King Robert saw that no redress was to be got for the
ships that were seized and the men in them who were slain, and that the
English continued their evil-doing whenever they met a Scottish ship at
sea. He sent and fully freed himself, and openly gave up the truce, and
to avenge these trespasses caused the stout Thomas, Earl of Moray, and
Donald, Earl of Mar, with James of Douglas, and James Stewart, who was
leader in the field of all the people of his house after the death of
his valiant brother, to make ready in their best fashion to enter
England with a great host, to burn and slay.
They set forth soon into
England, a host ten thousand strong, and, as they went, burnt and slew
and diligently destroyed their foes. [This raid was made in June 1327.]
After this fashion they marched till they were come to Weardale. At that
time Edward of Carnarvon, the English King, was dead, and laid in stone,
[Edward II. was deposed on Jan. 2 of that year, but his murder did not
take place till Sept. 21.] and the young Edward his son, surnamed of
Windsor, was crowned king in England. He had been formerly in France
with his mother, Dame Isabel, and was wedded, I have heard say, to a
fair young lady, daughter of the Earl of Hainault. [Edward's marriage
did not take place till January of the following year.] He brought with
him out of that country knights of great valour. Sir John of Hainault
was their leader, a man right sage and doughty in war.
At the time when the
Scots were at Weardale, the new-made king lay at York, and heard of the
destruction they made in his country. He gathered to him a great host,
well-nigh fifty thousand strong. Then he marched northward with that
following in battle order. At that time he was eighteen years of age.
[He was born at Windsor, Nov. 13, 1312, and was not yet 15 years old.
The Scottish raid took place in August, 1327.]
The Scots had harried all
Cockdale from end to end, and had ridden again to Weardale. Their scouts
having had sight of the coming of the English, told it to their lords.
Then the Lord Douglas rode straight forth to see their advance, and he
beheld them in seven battles, riding in brave array.
When he had seen that
host, and returned to his men, the Earl asked if he had beheld the
"Aye, sir," he said,
"without a doubt."
"What number are they?"
"Sir, many men."
The Earl then swore his
oath, and said, "We shall fight with them though they were as many
"Sir, God be praised,"
said Douglas, "that we have a captain who dare venture so great a thing.
But, by Saint Bride, battle shall not be thus ventured if my counsel be
taken; and on no account shall we fight except it be at our advantage,
for methinks it were no disgrace for a small host fighting against a
greater to take advantage when it can."
As they were speaking
thus they saw one broad battlehost with many banners displayed riding
straight towards them over a high ridge, and another coming close
behind. In this same fashion the enemy came till seven broad battlehosts had
passed across that high ridge. The Scots were then lying on the north
side of the Wear, nearer Scotland. The valley was long, and on, either
side was a rising ground, somewhat steep towards the water.
The Scots stood ready in
brave array, each man in his best guise, on the strong ground they had
taken up, well-nigh a quarter of a mile from the Wear. There they stood
waiting battle, and the English on the further side came riding down
till they were near the river. There they made pause, and sent out a
thousand archers, with hoods off and bows in hand. [Hume of Godscroft
(History of the Houses of Douglas and Angus) describes the soldiers of
this English army as "clothed in coats and hoods, embroidered with
flowers and branches," regarding which vanities the Scots made a
derisive rhyme. ] They made them drink well of wine, and bade them go in
loose order and skirmish with the Scottish host, and see if they could
strike them down. down. For could they cause the Scots to break array
they believed they should have them at their will. They sent men-at-arms
down with the archers to defend them at the water side.
The Lord Douglas saw that
movement, and he caused a great company, well horsed and armed, to lie
in wait behind the Scottish battle for the enemy's coming. When he made
a sign to this company they were to come spurring fast, and with their
spears slay all they could overtake. Donald of Mar was the chief of this
company, and with him was Archibald of Douglas.
The Lord Douglas rode
towards the English archers wearing a gown over his armour, and kept
riding to and fro as he came back, to entice them near his battle. And
they, having drunk of the wine, kept ever coming upwards in a straight
line, till they drew so near the Scottish host that many arrows fell
among them. Robert of Ogle, a brave squire, at that came spurring on a
courser, and called to the archers, "Ye know not who it is that thus
entices you! it is the Lord Douglas, and he will play some of his tricks
And when they heard the
name of Douglas the boldest was dismayed, and all of them turned back.
At this, Douglas quickly
made sign to the host he had in hiding, and that company pricked so
stoutly on the English archers that they slew full three hundred of
them, and pursued the rest back to the water side.
Sir William of Erskine,
who was newly that day made a knight, and was well horsed and in brave
array, gave chase with others so far in advance that his horse carried
him into the throng of the English, and he was by force taken captive.
Very soon, however, he was exchanged for other prisoners taken by the
Scots. [The barony of Erskine lies on the left bank of the Clyde below
Renfrew. It gave name to the noble family of Mar.]
After these English
archers were slain, the Scottish pursuers rode back to their host, and
the Lord Douglas did the same. And when he was returned, they could see
among their enemies tents being set up. By this they perceived that the
English meant to encamp, and do no more that night, therefore the Scots
also encamped, and quickly set up their pavilions; they also made tents
and huts, and set all in order.
Two new things the Scots
that day beheld, which never before that time had been known in
Scotland. One of these was crests for helmets, which seemed to them a
very beautiful and marvellous sight. The other was cannon, which they
had never heard before. They marvelled at these two things. That night
the Scots kept stout watch, most of them lying in arms till the morning.
The English took thought
by what means they could cause the Scots to leave their vantage ground;
for it seemed to them foolish and absurd to march up and attack them at
their fastness in open battle. Therefore they sent a thousand stout
horsemen, armed from head to foot, to lie in ambush in a valley behind
the Scottish host, and they made ready their battles as if they meant to
advance to the fighting. For they deemed Scotsmen so headstrong that
they could not hold themselves from coming to the attack. They believed
that because of their courage they would leave their strong vantage
ground, and meet them in the plain field; then the English ambush in
their rear should spur headlong upon them, and thus they thought they
should make the Scots repent them of their game.
They sent forth the
thousand men, and these privily hid themselves. And on the morrow
early they caused the trumpets to sound in their host, and set their
battle in broad array, and ordered themselves all for the fight, and
made straight towards the river.
The Scots, seeing them do
this, made ready in their best fashion, and, arrayed in plain battle,
with banners displayed to the wind, left their strong ground, and all
openly and boldly came down, in the bravest manner, to meet them, as
their foes had expected.
But the Lord Douglas
always set out watches here and there, and he got knowledge of the
ambush, and forthwith at great speed he came in front of the battles,
and stoutly bade each man turn about where he stood, so that no opening
be made in the ranks, and march back to the strong ground. They did as
he bade, and went back to their place of strength, and then turned in
full force, and stood ready to give battle if the enemy should attack
When the English saw them
thus again go up towards their strong ground, they cried aloud, "The
Scots are fled!" But Sir John of Hainault said, "I' faith, yonder
fleeing is right well feigned. I see their armed men and their banners
behind, so that they need but turn as they stand, and they will be
arrayed for the fight if any force come upon them. They have seen our
ambush, and are gone again to their place of strength. Yonder folk are
wisely commanded, and he that leads them were worthy by his prudence,
valour, and wisdom to govern the Empire of Rome."
Thus that day spoke this
worthy knight; and the ambush, when they saw they were discovered, fared
again towards their host. When the English battles saw that they had
failed of their purpose, they returned and quartered in their camp. On
the other side the Scots did the same; they fought no more that day.
When the day was past,
and as soon as night was fallen, they made fires in great number. Now
the good Lord of Douglas had spied a place two miles away where the
Scottish host might quarter more securely, and defend itself better than
anywhere else in that region. It was a park [Stanhope Park, in Weardale.]
wholly surrounded with a wall, and well-nigh full of trees, but set in a
great plain. Thither the Lord Douglas determined to bring the host by
night. Therefore without more delay they fed their fires and made them
greater, and all together marched forth, and came without hurt to the
park, and took quarters close to the river, as near it as they were
And at daybreak on the
morrow the English host missed the Scots, and wondered, and sent scouts
spurring in haste to see where they were gone. And by their fires they
saw that they had quartered their whole host in the park at Weardale. At
that the English forthwith made ready and rode right opposite to them,
and on the other side of the water of Wear set up their pavilions as
near as they were pitched before.
Thus on both sides they
lay for eight days, the English not daring to attack the Scots in open
battle because of the strength of the ground they had taken up. Each day
there was warlike jousting and skirmishing. Men were taken on either
side, and those that were taken on one day were exchanged on another;
but no other deeds greatly worth remembering were done till the ninth
Then it befell that the
Lord Douglas espied a way by which he might ride round the English host,
and come upon their further side. And at night he prepared and took with
him a good following of five hundred right hardy horsemen. All secretly,
without noise, he rode so far as nearly to go round their host, and on
the further side he rode cautiously towards them. Half the men with him
he bade carry their swords bare in hand, and ordered them to cut in two
the ropes of the tents, so that these might fall on the men inside; then
the others, as they went forward, should thrust down sturdily with their
spears. And when they heard his horn they were to hasten down to the
When these orders were
given they rode fast towards the enemy, who had no watches on that side.
And as they drew near, an Englishman who lay basking by a fire, said to
his comrade, "I know not what may chance to us here, but a right great
shuddering has seized me. I dread sore the Black Douglas." And he that
heard him said, "I' faith, thou shalt have cause if I can give it thee!"
With that he and all his company dashed boldly upon them, and bore down
the proud pavilions, and with sharp-cutting spears relentlessly stabbed
Right soon arose uproar
and outcry. The Scots stabbed, thrust, and slew, and threw down many
tents. A dire slaughter they made there, for the men were lying unarmed,
and had no power to make defence, and they slew them without pity. They
made them know how great a folly it was to lie near their foes without
The Scots kept slaying
their enemies in this fashion till the alarm rose throughout all the
great host, and lord and yeomen were astir. And when the Douglas knew
they were all everywhere arming themselves, he blew his horn to rally
his men, and bade them make their way towards the river. This they did,
and he waited hindmost to see that none of his men should be left.
And as he thus tarried,
going to and fro, one with a club came and dealt him such a great blow
that, had it not been for his mighty strength and his right sovereign
manhood, he had been slain on the spot. But he, at no time dismayed,
though he was right oft hard assailed, by his great strength and manhood
brought his assailant to death.
His men, who were riding
in loose order down to the water, missed their lord when they came
there. Then were they in sore fear for him. Each asked tidings at the
other, but they could hear nothing of him. Then they took counsel
together, meaning to go back to seek him. But as they stood thus
dismayed, they heard a blast of his horn, and knowing it quickly, they
were wondrous blithe, and at his coming asked him of his tarrying; and
he told how a churl had met him stoutly on the way, and dealt him with
his club a right fierce blow, "and had not fortune helped the more, I
had been in great peril there."
Speaking thus they held
on their way till they came to the Scottish host, which, armed and on
foot, was waiting to help them at need. And so soon as the Lord Douglas
met the Earl of Moray, the Earl asked tidings at him how he had fared in
"Sir," said he, "we have
The Earl, who was of
great courage, said, "And had we all gone thither we had discomfited
"It might have fallen out
well," said Douglas, "but of a truth we were enough to put in venture
yonder; for had they put discomfiture upon us it would have dismayed all
"Since so it is," said
the Earl, "that we cannot attack the might of our fierce enemies with
stratagem, we shall do it in open battle."
"By Saint Bride," said
Lord Douglas, "it were great folly for us at this time to fight with
yonder host, for every day it grows in strength, and it has withal
plenty of provender. We are here, too, in their country, where no
succours can come to us. It is hard here for us to protect ourselves,
nor can we forage to get meat, and must eat such as we have with us. Let
us therefore do with our foes that are lying before us here, as I heard
tell in time past a fox did with a fisherman."
"What did the fox?" said
"A fisherman, once upon a
time," answered Douglas, "lay beside a river to draw the nets that he
had set there. He had made himself little hut, and within it he bad a
bed, and also a little fire. There was a door too, and that was all. One
night he rose to see his nets, and tarried long beside them. And when he
had done his work, he went again towards his hut. And by the light of
the little fire that was burning clear in the hut, he saw, inside, a fox
devouring a salmon. He went quickly to the door, and nimbly drew a
sword, and said, 'Traitor, thou must here die!'
"The fox, being in right
great fear, looked about to see some hole; but no way of escape could he
see, except where the man stood sturdily. Beside him, lying upon the
bed, he saw a cloth mantle, and with his teeth he drew it across the
fire; and when the man saw his mantle lie there burning, he ran hastily
to save it. The fox then sprang out at full speed, and fled to his place
of safety. The fisher thought himself sore beguiled, seeing he had lost
his salmon, and had his mantle burned as well, and the fox got unscathed
"This example I may apply
to yonder host and ourselves here. We are the fox, and they the
fisherman that stops the way out. They suppose we cannot get away except
only where they lie. Yet perhaps, it shall not be altogether as they think;
for I have caused a way to be espied for us. Although it be somewhat
wet, we shall not lose a page of our host. The enemy, because of this
small surprise, suppose we shall so greatly pride ourselves that we
shall undertake to give them open battle; but this once their belief
shall fail them. Here all day to-morrow we shall make as merry as we
can, and prepare us against the night. Then we shall make our fires up
brightly, and blow our horns, and make ado as though all the world were
our own, till the night be well fallen. Then with all our armour we
shall march in haste homeward. We shall carry ourselves in all readiness
till we be out of the danger that lies about us here. Then shall we be
all at our pleasure, and the enemy shall hinder themselves, sore
deceived, till they know well that we are away."
To this they altogether
agreed, and they made good cheer all that night, till daylight on the
On the morrow all privily
they packed up armour, and made ready, so that before evening they were
all prepared. Their enemies, who lay over against them, caused their men
who had been slain to be borne in carts to a holy place. All that day
with carts they were carrying slain men. It could be well seen these
were many, since they took so long in the bearing away.
Both of the hosts were
all that day at peace, and when night drew near, the Scots, who were
lying in the Park, made feast and revelry, and blew horns, and made
fires, and caused them to burn both bright and broad, so that their
blaze that night was greater than at any time before. And when the night
was well fallen, with all their armour every whit, they rode right
They soon entered upon a
moss a full mile in breadth. Across that moss they went on foot, leading
their horses in their hand. It was a right troublesome road,
nevertheless all who were there came the whole way across safe and
sound. They lost but little of their gear, except it might be some
sumpter-horse that was left lying in the bog.
When all, as I have
related, were come over that broad moss, they were filled with a great
gladness, and rode forth on their homeward way.
And on the morrow when it
was day the English saw the quarters where the Scots were wont to lie
all empty. At this they marvelled greatly, and sent forth sundry of
their men to spy where they were gone. And at last they found their
trace leading to the great moss. This was so hideous to wade that none
of them dared adventure it. Then the scouts returned to their host, and
told how the Scots had passed where never man passed before.
When the English heard
this they took hasty counsel, and determined to follow no more. There
and then they dispersed their host, and each man rode to his own
Meanwhile King Robert,
having learned that his men lay in the Park, and were in such peril,
speedily gathered a host of twenty thousand right hardy men. This he
sent forth with two Earls, of March and Angus, to succour the host in
Weardale. If they could so far succeed as to join forces with it, their
plan was to attack the enemy. Thus it fell out that on the same day when
the moss was crossed, as I have told, the scouts riding in front of
either host got sight of each other. And they, being valiant and active,
set spears for encounter of battle. They shouted aloud their
battle-cries, and by these perceived that they were friends and of one
Then were they glad and
blithe, and speedily told their lords. And the hosts met together, and
there was right homely welcoming made among the great lords there. They
were right joyful at the meeting.
The Earl Patrick and his
host had with them victual in great abundance, and therewith they
succoured their friends well. To tell the truth, while these were lying
in Weardale they had lack of food, but now they were relieved with great
plenty. They went towards Scotland with games and merriment, and reached
home safely, and scattered presently, every man his own way.
The lords went to the
king, and he made them right fair welcome; for of their coming he was
most glad, and because they had escaped without loss out of such
difficulty they all made merry and were blithe.