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The Bruce
Book 4


The Death of Edward I

IN Rathlin we now leave the king, at rest from strife, and for a time speak of his foes. They, by their strength and power, made such persecution, severe, strict, and cruel, of those that loved him, kin or friends, as is piteous to hear. For they spared none of any degree, churchman or layman, whom they believed his friend. Bishop Robert of Glasgow, and Marcus of Man [Man then belonged to Scotland and was included in the Bishopric of the Isles. Its bishopric is still known as that of Sodor (the Southern Isles) and Man.] both they loaded with strong fetters and shut in prison. And valiant Christopher of Seton was betrayed in Loch Doon, by MacNab, a false traitor and disciple of Judas, who was ever, night and day, in his house, and well entertained. It was far worse than treachery to betray a man so noble and of such renown, but the traitor had no ruth of that. For his deed may he be doomed in hell! When Seton was betrayed the English rode straight with him at once to England, to King Edward, and he, without pity or mercy, had him drawn, headed, and hanged. [He was really executed at a spot long known as Kirsty's Mount, near Dumfries. Bruce erected a chapel at the place.] It was a great sorrow indeed that so valiant a person as he should in such fashion be hanged. Thus ended his valour.

Sir Ranald of Crauford also, and Sir Bryce the Blair, were hanged in a barn at Ayr.

The Queen and also Dame Marjory, her daughter, [The Queen was Bruce's second wife Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Ulster. Marjory was the daughter of his former wife, Isabella.] afterwards happily wedded with Walter, Steward of Scotland, would in no wise lie longer in Kildrummy Castle to abide a siege, but rode rapidly, with knights and squires, through Ross to the Girth of Tain. [The sanctuary of St. Duthac.] But they made the journey in vain, for the people of Ross, not desiring to bear the blame and danger of harbouring them, took them out of the Girth, and sent them every one to England, to King Edward. He caused all the men to be drawn and hanged, and put the ladies in prison, some in castles and some in dungeons. It was pitiful to hear of folk so afflicted.

There were at that time in Kildrummy warlike and bold men, Sir Neil the Bruce and the Earl of Atholl. They victualled the castle well with meat, and laid in fuel, and so strengthened the place that it seemed to them no force could take it. And when it was told the King of England how they prepared to hold that castle he was much enraged. He forthwith called to him his eldest son and heir-apparent, a young bachelor strong and fair, called Sir Edward of Carnarvon, the starkest man of his time, then Prince of Wales. He also called two earls, Gloucester and Hereford, and bade them march to Scotland, and set strong siege to the castle of Kildrummy; and he ordered them to destroy altogether, without ransom, all the holders of it, or bring them prisoners to him.

When they had taken all his commands they immediately gathered a host, and hastened to the castle, and besieged it rigorously. They made many bold assaults upon it, yet failed to take it, for those within were right valiant, and defended themselves doughtily, driving off their enemies many times, with wounds and slaughter. Often, too, they sallied forth, and fought at the outworks, and wounded and slew their foes. Indeed, they so bore themselves that the besiegers despaired, and thought of returning to England. For they saw the castle stand so strong, and knew it was provisioned well, and found the garrison so defend themselves, that they had no hope of taking the place. Neither had they done this all that season if false treason had not been there. But a traitor was within, a false rascal and lying fellow, Osborne by name, who did the treachery. I know not for what reason, nor with whom he made the plot, but they that were within the castle have said that he took a hot coulter glowing and burning from a fire, and went into the great hall that was filled full with corn, and threw it high upon a heap.

The deed was not long hidden. Neither fire nor pride, they say, can go long without discovery. The pomp of pride shows ever forth, or the great boast that it blows abroad, and no man can so cover fire but that flame or smoke shall discover it. So it fell here, for clear flame soon showed through the thick wood floor, first like a star, then like a moon, and soon afterwards a broader gleam. Then the fire burst out in blazes, and the smoke rose right wondrous fast. The flame spread over all the castle so that no power of man could master it. Then those within drew to the wall, which at that time was battlemented within as it was without. Without doubt that battlement saved their lives, for it broke flames that would have overtaken them.

When their foes saw the mischance they in a little while got to arms, and made diligent attack on the castle at the places where the fire blasts would let them. But the garrison, as they had need to do, made such great and stout defence, shunning no perils, that they full often drove back their enemies. They toiled to save their lives, but fate, that ever drives the world's business to an end, so harassed them, assailing them on two sides, within with fire that broiled them, without with folk that attacked them, that in spite of them their enemies burned the gate. Yet because of the heat of the fire the assailants durst not enter hastily. Therefore they rallied their men, and, since it was night, went to rest till daylight on the morrow.

The garrison were indeed in evil case. Nevertheless they still valiantly defended themselves, and wrought so manfully that before day, with great labour, they had again walled up the gate. At daylight on the morrow, when the sun was risen and shining bright, the enemy came arrayed in full order of battle, prepared to make assault. But the garrison, being so placed that they had neither victual nor fuel wherewith to hold the castle, made parley first, and then yielded themselves to the king's will, at that time most bitter against the Scots. This was soon afterwards well known, for they were all hanged and drawn.

When this covenant had been made and surely confirmed, the besiegers took the garrison, and shortly wrought so that a quarter of Snowdoun [Snowdoun was an old name for Stirling, but here it means Kildrummy.] was thrown to the ground. Then they made their way towards England.

Now when King Edward heard how Neil the Bruce held Kildrummy so stoutly against his son, he gathered a great armed force, and marched hastily towards Scotland. And as he was riding with a great rout towards Northumberland, he was seized with a sickness which beset him so sore that he could neither walk nor ride. He was forced, despite himself, to tarry at a hamlet near by, a little mean place.

With great trouble they brought him there. He was so bested that he could not draw his breath except with great difficulty, nor speak unless it were very low. Nevertheless he bade them tell him what place it was where he lay.

"Sir," they said, "the men of the country call this place Burgh-in-the-Sand."

"Call they it Burgh? alas!" said he, "my hope is now at an end. For I thought never to suffer the pains of death till I, by much might, had taken the burgh of Jerusalem. There I thought to end my life. In Burgh I knew well I should die, but I was neither wise nor cunning enough to take heed of other 'burghs.' Now may I nowise farther go."

Thus complained he of his folly, as he had reason to do, surely enough, when he had thought to know certainly that which can be known assuredly by none. Men said he kept a spirit that made answer to his questions; but he was foolish, if not worse, to give trust to that creature. For fiends are of such nature that they bear envy to mankind. They know well and certainly that men shall win the seats from which they were thrown down for their pride. Ofttimes therefore will it happen that when fiends are forced, by dint of conjury, to appear and make answer they are so false and cruel that they give answer with double meaning, to deceive those that trust them.

I will give example in the case of a war that fell out between France and the Flemings. The Earl Ferrand's [Ferraxid, Prince of Portugal, who became Earl of Flanders in right of his wife Jane, daughter of Baldwin IX. Along with Otho IV of Germany he was defeated by Philip Augustus of France, at Bouvines, between Lille and Tournay, July 27, 1214.] mother was a necromancer, and she raised Satan, and asked him what should be the issue of the fighting between the French king and her son. And he, as he was ever wont, made deceitful answer in these verses:

"Rex ruet in hello tumulique carebit honore;
Ferrandus, comitissa, tuus, mea cara Minerva,
Parisios veniet, magna comitante caterva."

This, in English, is the speech he made: "The king shall fall in the battle, and shall lack the honour of burial; and thy Ferrand, my dear Minerva, shall, without doubt, march to Paris, followed by a great company of noble and valiant men."

This is the sense of the saying he showed her in Latin. He called her his dear Minerva, for Minerva was ever wont to serve him fully in every way; and since Earl Ferrand's mother made him the same service, he called her his Minerva. In his subtlety also he called her dear, to deceive her, that she should the more quickly take out of his speech the meaning which pleased her most.

His double speech so deceived her that through her many came by their death. For she was blithe of his answer, and quickly told it to her son, and bade him speed to the battle, for he should without doubt gain the victory. And he, hearing her counsel, sped fast to the fighting, where he was discomfited, disgraced, taken captive, and sent to Paris. At the same time, in the fighting the king was both unhorsed and lamed by Ferrand's knights; but his men quickly horsed him again.

And when Ferrand's mother heard how her son fared in the battle, and that he was discomfited, she called up the evil spirit, and asked why he had lied in the answer he made her. But he said that he had wholly spoken truth: "I told thee the king should fall in the battle, and so he did; and should lack burial, as men may see. And I said thy son should go to Paris, and he did so, assuredly, followed by such a company as he never had in his life before. Now seest thou I spake no falsehood?"

The lady was confounded, and durst say no more to him. Thus, through double meaning, and the deceiving of one side, that strife came to the end it did.

Just so it fell in King Edward's case. He expected to be buried in the burgh at Jerusalem, yet he died at Burgh-in-the-Sand in his own country.

And when he was near death the folk that had been at Kildrummy came, with the prisoners they had taken, and were admitted to the king. And to comfort him they told how the castle was yielded to them, and how the defenders were brought to his will, to do with them whatever he thought good; and they asked what they should do with them.

Then looked he awfully at them, and said grinning, "Hang and draw!"

It was a great marvel, among those who saw, that he, who was near death, should answer in such fashion, without remembrance of mercy. How could he trustfully cry on Him who truly judges all things, to have mercy on himself, who thus cruelly, at such a pass, had no mercy? His men did his command, and he died soon afterward, and was buried, and his son became king. [Barbour makes Edward die in the winter of 1300. As a matter of fact his death did not take place till July 7, 1307, after the battle of Loudoun Hill, described in Book VIII.]

To King Robert again we go, who lay in Rathlin with his company till the winter was near gone, and took his provision from that island.

James of Douglas was vexed that they should lie idle so long, and he said to Sir Robert Boyd, "The poor folk of this country are at great charge for us, who lie idle here. And I hear say that in Arran, in a strong castle of stone, are Englishmen who by force hold the lordship of the island. Go we thither, and it may well befall that we shall trouble them in some way."

Sir Robert said, "To that I agree. There were little reason in lying longer here. Therefore will we pass to Arran, for I know that country right well, and the castle also. We shall come there so privily, that they shall have no sight or news of our coming. And we shall lie ambushed near, where we may see their coming out. So it shall nowise fail but we shall do them damage of some sort."

With that they made ready anon, and took their leave of the king, and went forth on their way.

They came soon to Cantyre, then rowed always by the land till near night, when they made their way to Arran. There they arrived safely, and drew their galley under a hillside, and there covered it up. Their tackle, oars, and rudder they hid in the same fashion, and held their way in the dead of night, so that, ere daylight dawned, they were in skilful ambush near the castle. There, though they were wet and weary, and hungry with long fasting, they planned to hold themselves all privy till they could see their proper chance.

Sir John the Hastings was at that time in the castle of Brodick, with knights of high pride, and squires, and good yeomanry, a very great company. And often at his pleasure he went hunting with his followers, and held the land in such subjection that none durst refuse to do his will. He was still in the castle when James of Douglas laid his ambush, as I have said.

By chance it so happened at that time that close to the place of the ambush the under- warden had arrived the evening before with three boats loaded with victual and provision, clothing and arms. Douglas soon saw thirty and more Englishmen go from the boats loaded with sundry stuff. Some carried wine and some arms. A number were loaded with stores of different sort, and various others marched idly by them, like masters.

The men in ambush saw them, and without fear or awe, broke from hiding, and slew all they could overtake. Then rose an outcry loud and terrible, for the men of the boats, in fear of death, roared aloud like beasts. Douglas's followers slew without pause or mercy, so that very nigh forty English lay dead.

When those in the castle heard the outcry and uproar they sallied forth to the fight. But Douglas, seeing them, rallied his men, and went hastily to meet them. And when the garrison saw him come fearlessly at them, they fled without more fighting, their assailants following them to the gate, and slaying them as they passed in. But those in flight barred the gate so quickly that the pursuers could not get at them further. Therefore they left them and turned again to the sea, where the men were slain before. And when the English in the boats saw them coming, and knew in what fashion they had discomfited their fellows, they put hastily to sea, and rowed diligently with all their might. But the wind was against them, and it raised such breakers that they could in no wise get out to sea. Neither durst they come to land, but held themselves plunging there so long that two of the three boats were swamped. When Douglas saw this, he took the arms and clothing, victual, wine, and other stores which he found at the place, and went his way, right joyful and pleased with the plunder.

Thus James of Douglas and his company, by God's grace, were fully furnished with stores of arms, clothing, and provisions. Then they held their way to a narrow place, [At the head of Glen Cloy the earthworks of Douglas's camp are still pointed out.] and stoutly maintained themselves, till on the tenth day the king with all his following arrived in that region.

Bruce reached Arran with thirty-three small galleys, and landed and took up his quarters in a steading. [According to tradition he lodged first in the King's Caves under the headland of Drumadoon, on the west side of the island. Rude carvings on the cavern walls are still shown as the work of his men.] There he enquired particularly if any had tidings of strangers in the island.

"Yes, sir," said a woman, "I can indeed tell you of strangers arrived in this country. A short while since, by their valour, they discomfited our warden and slew many of his men. In a strong place at hand the whole, company has its resort."

"Dame," said the king, "do thou make known to me the place of their retreat, and I shall reward thee indeed; for they are all of my house, and most glad would I be to set eyes on them, as, certainly I know, would they be to set eyes on me."

"Sir," said she, "I will blithely go with you and your company till I show you their quarters."

"That is enough, my fair sister," said the king. "Now let us go forward."

Without more delay then they marched after her, till at last she showed the king the place in a woody glen. "Sir," she said, "here I saw the men ye ask after make their lodging; here I trow, is their retreat."

The king then blew his horn, and made the men beside him keep still and hidden. Then again he blew his horn.

James of Douglas heard him blow, and at once knew the blast, and said, "Assuredly yonder is the king; many a day have I known his blowing."

Therewith the Bruce blew a third time. Then Sir Robert Boyd knew it, and said, "Yonder, for certain, is the king. Go we forth to him with all speed."

They hastened then to the king, and saluted him most courteously. And Bruce welcomed them gladly, and was joyful of their meeting, and kissed them, and enquired how they had fared in their hunting. And they told him everything truly, and praised God that they had met. Then, gay and glad at heart, they went with the king to his quarters.

Next day the Bruce said to his privy company, "Ye know right well how we are banished out of our country by English force, and that the land which is ours by right the English seize by violence; also that they would, if they could, destroy us all without mercy. But God forbid that it should befall us as they menace, for then were there no recovery. Human nature bids us bestir ourselves to procure vengeance, and there are three things that urge us to be valiant, active, and wise. One is the safety of our lives, which should in no wise be spared if our foes had us at their will. The second is that these foes hold our possessions by might against right. The third is the pleasure that awaits us if it happen, as well may, that we gain the victory and have strength to overcome their cruelty. Therefore we should uplift our hearts, and let no mischance downcast us, and press always towards a goal so full of honour and renown. So, lords, if ye agree that it is expedient, I shall send a man to Carrick, [The mother of Bruce was Countess of Carrick in her own right, but the lordship, with the castle of Turnberry had been given by Edward to Henry Percy.] to spy and enquire how the kingdom is inclined, and who is friend or foe. And if he sees we may go ashore, he shall make a fire on a certain day on Turnberry Point, for a signal that we may land safely. And if he sees we may not do this he shall on no account make the fire. Thus we shall have sure knowledge whether to pass over or remain."

To this proposal all were agreed. Then forthwith the king called to him one in his confidence, a native of his own country of Carrick, and charged him in every way as ye have heard me set forth, appointing him a certain day to make the fire if he saw it possible for them to carry on war in that region. And the man, right eager to fulfil his lord's desire, for he was valiant. and true, and could keep secrets well, declared he was ready in everything to fulfil the king's command, and said he should act so wisely that no reproof should touch him afterwards. Then he took leave of the king, and went forth upon his way.

This messenger, Cuthbert by name, soon arrived in Carrick, and passed through all the countryside, but he found few therein who would speak well of his master. Many of them durst not for fear, and others were enemies of the noble king to the very death. These afterwards rued their hostility. The whole land, both high and low, was then in possession of Englishmen who hated above everything the doughty king, Robert the Bruce. All Carrick was then given to Sir Henry Percy, who lay in Turnberry Castle with nigh three hundred men, and so daunted the whole land that all obeyed him.

Cuthbert beheld their cruelty, and perceived the people, rich and poor, so wholly become English, that he durst discover himself to none. He determined to leave the fire unmade, and to hasten to his master, and tell him the whole dire and piteous state of affairs.

In Arran the king, when the day was come that he had set his messenger, looked diligently for the fire. And as soon as the moon was past he bethought him surely that he saw a fire burning brightly by Turnberry. He showed it to his company, and each man felt sure that he saw it. Then the people cried with blithe heart, "Good king, speed you quickly that we arrive early in the night without being discovered!"

"I agree," said he. "Now make you ready. God further us in our journey!"

Then very shortly the men might be seen launching all their galleys to the sea, and bearing to the water's edge oar and rudder and other needed things.

And as the king was passing up and down on the land, waiting till his men were ready, his hostess came to him. And when she had greeted him, she spoke privately to him, and said, "Take good heed to my words, for, ere ye go, I shall show you a great part of your fortune, and above everything I shall especially make known to you the issue of your enterprise; for in this world there is indeed none who knows the future so well as I.

"Ye pass now forth on your voyage to avenge the harm and outrage that Englishmen have done you; and ye know not what fortune ye must encounter in your campaign. But be assured, without falsehood, that after ye have now landed, no force or strength of hand shall cause you to pass out of this country till all is yielded to you. Within a short time ye shall be king, and have the land at your pleasure, and overcome all your enemies. Ye shall endure many sufferings before your enterprise is at an end, but ye shall overcome them each one. And, that ye may surely believe this, I shall send with you my two sons to share your toils; for I know well they shall not fail to be right well rewarded when you are exalted to your high place."

The king, who had listened to all her tale, thanked her greatly, for she encouraged him in some sort. Nevertheless he did not altogether put faith in her words, for he marvelled greatly how she should know so much for certain. And, indeed, it is wonderful how any man may, by means of the stars, know determinately all or part of things to come, unless he be inspired by Him who in His foreknowledge evermore sees all things as if in His presence. David was thus inspired, and Jeremiah, Samuel, Joel, and Isaiah, who, through His holy grace told many things that afterwards befell. But these prophets are so thinly sown that none is now known on earth. Yet many folk are so curious and so desirous after knowledge that, in order to learn the future, by their great learning, or by their devilry, they make search in two ways.

One is astrology, whereby learned clerks know conjunction of planets, and whether their courses lie through mansions blest or sorrowful, and how the disposition of the whole heavens should act on things here below, in different regions or climes, according as the beams strike evenly or awry. But methinks it were a mighty feat for any astrologer to say "this shall befall here and on this day." For though a man during his whole life studied astrology, so that he broke his head on the stars, wise men say he should not in all his lifetime make three certain predictions, but should ever be in doubt till he saw how the matter fell out. There is, therefore, no certain foreknowledge Even if these students of astrology knew all men's nativities, and also the constellations that gave them natures preordained to good or ill, and if they, by craft of learning, or sleight of astrology, could tell the peril that threatens them, I trow they should fail to tell the issue of events. For howsoever a man be inclined to virtue or wickedness, he may full well, either by training or reason, restrain his desire, and turn himself all to the opposite. It has often been seen that men, naturally given to evil, have by their great wisdom driven away their evil, and become of great renown, despite the constellations. Thus we read that if Aristotle had followed his preordained character he should have been covetous and false, but his wisdom made him virtuous. And since men may in this way work against the course of stars which has chief control of their fate, methinks their fate no certain matter.

Another method of divining the future is by necromancy. This in sundry ways teaches men by strong conjurations and exorcisings to cause spirits to appear to them and give answer in various fashion. Thus aforetime the Pythoness did, who, when Saul was cast down by the might of the Philistines, raised very soon by her great sleight, the spirit of Samuel, or the Evil Spirit in his stead, who gave her right ready answer, though she knew nothing herself.

Man is ever in fear of things he has heard told, and especially of the future, till he has certain knowledge of the end. And since he is in such uncertainty, without sure knowledge, methinks that man lies greatly who says he knows things to come. But whether she who told the king how his enterprise should end guessed or knew it for certain, it fell out afterwards wholly as she said; for presently he was king, and of full great renown.


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