THE generality of his prisoners,
Bruce directed should be kept safe in the citadel; but to Mowbray he gave
his liberty; and ordered every means to facilitate the commodious journey
of that brave knight; whom he bad requested to convey the insane Lady
Strathearn to the protection of her husband.
Mowbray accepted his
freedom with gratitude; and gladly set forth with his unhappy charge, to
meet his sovereign. Expectation of Edwards approach, had been the
reason of his withdrawing his herald from the camp of Bruce; and though
the King did not arrive time enough to save Stirling, Mowbray yet hoped he
might still be continuing his promised march. This anticipation, the
Southrons loyalty would not allow him to impart to Bruce; and he bade
that generous prince adieu, with the full belief of soon returning to find
him the vanquished of Edward.
At the decline of day,
Bruce returned to his camp, to pass the night in the field with his
soldiers; intending next morning to give his last orders to the
detachments, which he meant to send out under the command of Lennox and
Douglas, to disperse themselves over the border counties; and there keep
station, till that peace should be signed by England, which he was
determined, by unabated hostilities, to compel.
Having taken these measures for the
security of his kingdom, and the establishment of his own happiness, he
had just returned to his tent on the banks of Bannockburn, when Grimsby, his
now faithful attendant, conducted an armed knight into his presence. The
light of the lamp which stood on the table, streaming full on the face of
the stranger, discovered to the King, his English friend the intrepid
Montgomery. With an exclamation of glad surprise,
Bruce would have clasped him in his arms; but Montgomery, dropping on his
knee, exclaimed, "Receive a subject, as well as a friend, victorious
and virtuous Prince!I have forsworn
the vassalage of the Plantagenets; and thus, without title or land, with
only a faithful heart, Gilbert Hambledon comes to vow himself yours, and
Scotlands, for ever."
Bruce raised him from the
ground; and welcoming him with the warm embrace of friendship, inquired
the cause of so extraordinary an abjuration of his legal sovereign.
"No light matter," observed the King, "could have so
wrought upon my noble Montgomery!"
"Montgomery no more!"
replied the Earl, with indignant eagerness: "when I threw the
insignia of my earldom at the feet of the unjust Edward, I told him, that
I would lay the saw to the root of the nobility I had derived from his
house, and cut it through: that I would sooner leave my posterity, without
titles, and without wealth, than deprive them of real honour. [This
event is perpetuated, in the crest of the noble family of Hamilton in
Scotland.(1809.)] I have done as I said!
And yet I come not without a treasure; for the sacred corse of William
Wallace is now in my barque, floating on the waves of the Forth!"
The subjugation of England, would
hardly have been so welcome to Bruce, as this intelligence. He received it
with an eloquent, though unutterable look of gratitude. Hambledon
continued: "On the tyrant summoning the peers of England to follow
him to the destruction of Scotland, Gloucester got excused under a plea of
illness: and I, could not but show a disinclination to obey. This
occasioned some remarks from Edward, respecting my known attachment to the
Scottish cause; and they were so couched, as to draw from me this honest
answer:My heart would not, for the wealth of the world, permit me to
join in the projected invasion; since I had seen the spot in my own
country, where a most inordinate ambition had cut down the flower of all
knighthood, because he was a Scot who would not sell his birthright!The
King left me in wrath, and threatened to make me recant my words:I as
proudly declared, I would maintain them. Next morning, being in waiting on
the Prince, I entered his chamber, and found John le de Spencer (the
coward who so basely insulted Wallace on the day of his condemnation); he
was sitting with his highness. On my offering the services due from my
office, this worthless minion turned on me, and accused me of having
declined joining the army, for the sole purpose of executing some plot in
London, devised between me and my Scottish partisans, for the subversion
of the English monarchy. I denied the charge. He enforced it with oaths,
and I spurned his allegations. The Prince, who believed him, furiously
gave me the lie, and commanded me, as a traitor, to leave his presence. I
refused to stir an inch, till I had made the base heart of Le de Spencer
retract his falsehood. The coward took courage on his masters support,
and, drawing his sword upon me, in language that would blister my tongue
to repeat, threatened to compel my departure. He struck me on the face
with his weapon. The arms of his Prince could not then save him; I thrust
him through the body, and he fell. Edward ran on me with his dagger, but I
wrested it from him. Then it was, that in reply to his menaces, I revoked
my fealty, to a sovereign I abhorred, a Prince I despised. Leaving his
presence, before the fluctuations of so versatile a mind could fix upon
seizing me, I hastened to Highgate, to convey away the body of our friend
from its brief sanctuary. The same night I embarked it, and myself, on
board a ship of my own; and am now at your feet, brave and just King! no
longer Montgomery, but a true Scot in heart and loyalty,"
"And, as a kinsman, generous Hambledon!"
returned Bruce, "I receive, and will portion thee. My paternal lands
of Cadzow, on the Clyde, shall be thine for ever. And may thy posterity be
as worthy of the inheritance, as their ancestor is of all my love and
confidence!" [These circumstances, relating
to the first establishment of the noble family of Hamilton (by the old
historians called Hampton, or Hameldon,) in Scotland, are particularly
recorded. The lands of Cadzow are now called Hamilton, from their owners,
earls and dukes of that name. The crest of the family arms is a tree with
a saw in it; and the motto, through.(1809.)]
Hambledon, having received
his new sovereigns directions concerning the disembarkation of those
sacred remains, which the young King declared he should welcome as the
pledge of Heaven to bless his victories with peace; returned to the haven,
where Wallace rested in that sleep which even the voice of friendship
could not disturb.
At the hour of the midnight
watch, the trumpets of approaching heralds resounded without the camp.
Bruce hastened to the council-tent, to receive the now anticipated
tidings. The communications of Hambledon had given him reason to expect
another struggle for his kingdom; and the message of the trumpets declared
it might be a mortal one.
At the head of a hundred
thousand men, Edward had forced a rapid passage through the lowlands; and
was now within a few hours march of Stirling; fully determined to bury
Scotland under her own slain, or, by one decisive blow, restore her to his
When this was uttered by the English
herald, Bruce turned to Ruthven with an heroic smile: "Let him come,
my brave barons! and he shall find that Bannockburn shall page with Cambus-Kenneth!"
The strength of the
Scottish army did not amount to more than thirty thousand men, against
this host of Southrons. But the relics of Wallace were there! His spirit
glowed in the heart of Bruce. The young monarch lost not the advantage of
choosing his ground first; and therefore as his power was deficient in
cavalry, he so took his field, as to compel the enemy to make it a battle
of infantry alone.
To protect his exposed
flank from the innumerable squadrons of Edward, he dug deep and wide pits
near to Bannockburn; and having overlaid their mouths with turf and
brushwood, proceeded to marshal his little phalanx on the shore of that
brook, till his front stretched to St. Ninians monastery.
The centre was led by Lord
Ruthven, and Walter Stewart; the right, owned the valiant leading of
Douglas and Ramsay, supported by the brave young Gordon with all his clan;
and the left was put in charge of Lennox; with Sir Thomas Randolph, a
crusade chieftain, who, like Lindsay and others, had lately returned from
distant lands, and now zealously embraced the cause of his country.
Bruce stationed himself at
the head of the reserve: with him, were the veterans Loch-awe and
Kirkpatrick; and Lord Bothwell, with the true De Longueville, and the men
of Lanark; all determined to make this division the stay of their little
army; or the last sacrifice for Scottish liberty, and its martyred
champions corse. There, stood the sable hearse of Wallace; and the
royal standard, struck deep into the native rock of the ground, waved its
blood-red volumes over his sacred head.
"By that Heaven-sent
palladium of our freedom;" cried Bruce, pointing to the bier,
"we must this day stand or fall. He who deserts it, murders William
At this appeal, the chiefs
of each battalion assembled round the hallowed spot; and laying their
hands on the pall, swore to fill up one grave with their dauntless
Wallace, rather than yield the ground which he had rendered doubly
precious, by having made it the scene and the guerdon of his invincible
deeds! When Kirkpatrick approached the side of his dead chief, he burst
into tears; and his sobs alone proclaimed his participation in the
solemnity. The vow spread to the surrounding legions; and was echoed, with
mingled cries and acclamations, from the furthest ranks.
"My leader, in death as in
life!" exclaimed Bruce, clasping his friends sable shroud to his
heart; "thy pale corse shall again redeem the country which cast
thee, living, amongst devouring lions! Its presence shall fight and
conquer for thy friend and King!"
Before the chiefs turned to
resume their martial stations, the abbot of Inchaffray, drew near with the
mysterious iron box, which Douglas had caused to be brought from St.
Fillans priory. On presenting it to the young monarch, he repeated the
prohibition which had been given with it; and added, "Since, then,
these canonized relics (for none can doubt they are so,) have found
protection under the no less holy arm of St. Fillan; he now delivers them
to your youthful majesty, to penetrate their secrete, and to nerve your
mind with redoubled trust in the saintly host."
"The saints are to be
honoured, reverend father; and on that principle I shall not invade their
mysteries, till the God in whom alone I trust, marks me with more than the
name of king; till, by a decisive victory, he establishes me the approved
champion of my country; the worthy successor of him, before whose mortal
body, and immortal spirit, I now emulate his deeds, But as a memorial,
that the host of heaven do indeed lean from their bright abodes, to wish
well to this day, let these holy relics repose with those of the brave,
till the issue of the battle."
Bruce, having placed his array, disposed
the supernumeraries of his army, the families of his soldiers, and other
apparently useless followers of the camp, in the rear of an adjoining
By daybreak, the whole of the
Southron army came in view. The van, consisting of archers and men at
arms, displayed the banner of Earl de Warenne; the main body was led on by
Edward himself, supported by a train of his most redoubted generals. As
they approached, the Bishop of Dunkeld stood on the face of the opposite
hill, between the abbots of Cambus-Kenneth and Inchaffray, celebrating
mass in the sight of the opposing armies. He passed along in front of the
Scottish lines barefoot, with the crucifix in his hand; and in few but
forceful words, exhorted them by every sacred hope, to fight with an
unreceding step for their rights, their King, and the corse of William
Wallace! At this adjuration, which seemed the call of Heaven itself, the
Scots fell on their knees, to confirm their resolution with a vow. The
sudden humiliation of their posture, excited an instant triumph in the
haughty mind of Edward, and spurring forward, he shouted aloud, "They
yield! They cry for mercy!""They cry for mercy!"
returned Percy, trying to withhold his Majesty, "but not from us. On
that ground, on which they kneel, they will be victorious, or find their
[This true description of the
leading facts of that great Scottish battle has often sounded its chord in
many a Scottish heart: said, in honour of the accuracy of her painting,
the author has received many warmhearted testimonies; even so far, as in
provincial theatres, concert rooms, and on military parades, being saluted
by the Scottish bands, with the aid patriotic air of.
"Seots, wha hae wi Wallace
Scots, wha Bruce hath often led! "
the true pibroch of Scotland! Indeed
the stone in which the standard of Bruce, in the battle of Bannockburn,
was fixed, is still visible; and every narrator of the legends connected
with that memorable field, tells of the superstitious sanctity attributed
to the iron box brought from St. Filans.-(1820.)]
The King contemned this
opinion of the Earl; and inwardly believing that, now Wallace was dead, he
need fear no other opponent, (for he knew not that even his cold remains
were risen in array against him,) he ordered his men to charge. The
horsemen, to the number of thirty thousand, obeyed; and rushing forward,
with the hope of overwhelming the Scots ere they could rise from their
knees, met a different destiny. They found destruction, amid the trenches,
and on the spikes in the way; and with broken ranks, and fearful
confusion, fell, or fled under the missive weapons, which poured on them
from a neighbouring hill. De Valence was overthrown, and severely wounded;
and being carried off the field, filled the rear ranks with dismay; while
the Kings division was struck with consternation at so disastrous a
commencement of an action, in which they had promised themselves an easy
victory. Bruce seized the moment of confusion; and seeing his little army
distressed by the arrows of the English, he sent Bothwell round with a
resolute body of men, to drive those destroying archers, from the height
which they occupied. This was effected; and Bruce coming up with his
reserve, the battle in the centre, became close, obstinate, and decisive.
Many fell before the determined arm of the youthful King; but it was the
fortune of Bothwell to encounter the false Monteith, in the train of
Edward. The Scottish Earl was then at the head of his intrepid Lanark men:
"Fiend of the most damned treason:" cried he, "vengeance is
come!" and with an iron grasp, throwing the traitor into the midst of
the faithful clan; they dragged him to the hearse of their chief; and
there, on the skirts of its pall, the wretched villain breathed out his
treacherous breath, under the strokes of a hundred swords.
"So," cried the veteran Ireland, "perish the murderers of
William Wallace!""So," shouted the rest, "perish
the enemies of the bravest, the most loyal of Scots! .the benefactor of
At this crisis, the women
and followers of the Scottish camp, hearing such triumphant exclamations
from their friends, impatiently quitted their station behind the bill, and
ran to the summit, waving their scarfs and plaids in exultation of the
supposed victory. The English, mistaking these people for a new army, had
not power to recover from the increasing confusion which had seized them
on King Edward himself receiving a wound; and, panic-struck with the sight
of their generals falling around them, they flung down their arms and
fled. The King narrowly escaped; but being mounted on a stout and fleet
horse, he put him to the speed, and reached Dunbar: whence the young Earl
of March, being as much attached to the cause of England, as his father
had been, instantly gave him a passage to England.
The Southron camp, with all
its riches, fell into the hands of Bruce. But while his chieftains pursued
their gallant chase, he turned his steps from warlike triumph, to pay his
hearts honours to the remains of the hero whose blood had so often
bathed Scotlands fields of victory. His vigils were again beneath that
sacred pall:for so long had been the conflict, that night closed in,
before the last squadrons left the banks of Bannockburn.
At the dewy hour of morn,
Bruce reappeared on the field. His helmet was royally plumed; and the
golden lion of Scotland gleamed from under his sable surcoat. Bothwell
rode at his side. The troops he had retained from the pursuit, were drawn
out in array. In a brief address, he unfolded to them the solemn duty to
which he had called them; to see the bosom of their native land receive
the remains of Sir William Wallace. "He gave to you your homes, and
your liberty! grant, then, a grave, the peace of the tomb, to him, whom
some amongst you repaid with treachery and death !"
At these words a cry, as if
they beheld their betrayed chief slain before them, issued from every
The news had spread to the
town; and, with tears and lamentations, a vast crowd collected round the
royal troop. Bruce ordered his bards to raise the sad coronach; and the
march commenced towards the open tent that canopied the sacred remains.
The whole train followed in speechless woe, as if each individual had lost
his dearest relative. Having passed the wood, they came in view of the
black hearse, which contained all that now remained of him who had so
lately crossed these precincts in all the panoply of triumphant war: in
all the graciousness of peace, and love to man! The soldiers, the people,
rushed forward; and precipitating themselves before the bier, implored a
pardon for their ungrateful country. They adjured him, by every tender
name of father, benefactor, and friend! and in such a sacred presence,
forgetting that their King was by, gave way to a grief, which most
eloquently told the young monarch, that he who would be respected after
William Wallace, must not only possess his power and valour, but imitate
Scrymgeour, who had well
remembered his promise to Wallace on the battlements of Dumbarton, with a
holy reference to that vow, now laid the standard of Scotland upon the
pall. Hambledon placed on it, the sword and helmet of the sacrificed hero.
Bruce observed all in silence. The sacred burden was raised. Uncovering
his royal head, with his kingly purple sweeping in the dust he walked
before the bier; shedding tears, more precious in the eyes of his
subjects, than the oil which was soon to pour upon his brow. As he thus
moved on, he heard acclamations, mingle with the voice of sorrow.
"This is our King, worthy to have been the friend of Wallace! worthy
to succeed him in the kingdom of our hearts!"
At the gates of Cambus-Kenneth,
the venerable abbot appeared at the head of his religious brethren; but,
without uttering the grief that shook his aged frame, he raised the golden
crucifix over the head of the bier; and after leaning his face for a few
minutes on it, preceded the procession into the church. None but the
soldiers entered. The people remained without; and as the doors closed,
they fell on the pavement, weeping as if the living Wallace had again been
torn from them.
On the steps of the altar,
the bier rested. The Bishop of Dunkeld, in his pontifical robes, received
the sacred deposit, with a cloud of incense; and the pealing organ,
answered by the voices of the choristers, breathed the solemn requiem of
the dead. The wreathing frankincense parted its vapour, and a win but
beautiful form, clasping an urn to her breast, appeared, stretched on a
litter, and was borne towards the spot. It was Helen, brought from the
adjoining nunnery; where, since her return to these once dear shores, now
made a desert to her, she had languished in the gradual decay of the
fragile bonds which alone fettered her mourning spirit, eager for release.
All night had Isabella
watched by her couch, expecting that each succeeding breath would be the
last her beloved sister would draw in this calamitous world; but, its her
tears fell in silence from her cheek, upon the cold forehead of Helen, the
gentle saint understood their expression, and looking up; "My
Isabella," said she, "fear not.My Wallace is returned. God
will grant me life to clasp his blessed remains!"
Full of this hope, she was
borne, almost a passing spirit, into the chancel of Cambus-Kenneth.Her
veil was open, and discovered her face, like tone just awakened from the
dead: it was ashy pale; but it bore a celestial brightness; which, like
the silver lustre of the moon, declared its approach to the fountain of
its glory. Her eye fell on the bier: and, with a momentary strength she
sprang from the couch, on which she had leaned in dying feebleness, and
threw herself upon the coffin.
There was an awful pause,
while Helen seemed to weep. But so, was not her sorrow to be shed. It was
locked within the flood-gates of her heart.
In that suspension of the
soul, when Bothwell knelt on one side, of the bier, and Ruthven bent his
knee on the other, Bruce stretched out his hand to the weeping Isabella: "Come
hither; my youthful bride, and let thy first duty be paid to the shrine of
thy benefactor, and mine!So may we live, sweet excellence; and so may
we die, if the like may be our meed of heavenly glory!" Isabella
threw herself into his arms, and wept aloud. Helen, slowly raising her
head at these words, regarded her sister with a look of awful tenderness;
then turning her eyes back upon the coffin, gazed on it as if they would
have pierced its confines; and clasping the urn earnestly to her heart,
she exclaimed, "Tis come! the promiseThy bridal bed shall be
William Wallaces grave."
Bruce and Isabella, not
aware that she repeated words which Wallace had said to her, turned to her
with portentous emotion. She understood the terrified glance of her
sister, and with a smile, which spoke her kindred to the soul she was
panting to rejoin, she, answered, "I speak of my own espousals. But
ere that moment is, and I feel it near let my Wallaces hallowed
presence, bless your nuptials!-Thou wilt breathe thy benediction
through my lips!" added she, laying her hand on the coffin, and
looking down on it, as if she were conversing with its inhabitant.
"O! no, no!"
returned Isabella, throwing herself on her knees before the almost
unembodied aspect of her sister: "Let me ever be the sharer of your
cell, or take me with you to the kingdom of heaven!" "it is thy
sisters spirit that speaks:" cried Dunkeld, observing the awe,
which not only shook the tender frame of Isabella, but had communicated
itself to Bruce; who stood in heart-struck veneration before the yet
unascended angel; "holy inspiration," continued the bishop;
"beams from her eyes; and as ye hope for further blessings, obey its
Isabella bowed her head in
acquiescence. As Bruce approached to take his part in the sacred rite, he
raised the hand, which lay on the pall to his lips. The ceremony began;
was finished!As the bridal notes resounded from the organ, and the
royal pair rose from their knees, Helen held her trembling hands over
them.She gasped for breath; and would have sunk without a word, had not
Bothwell supported her shadowy form upon his breast she looked round on
him, with a grateful though languid smile, and with a strong effort
spoke:"Be you blest in all things, as Wallace would have blessed
you!From his side, I pour out my soul upon you, my sistermy
being!and, with its inward-breathed prayers, to the Giver of all Good,
for your eternal happiness, I turn, in holy faithto my long-looked-for
Bruce and Isabella wept in
each others arm. Helen slid gently from the bosom of Bothwell,
prostrate on the coffin; and uttering, in a low tone, "I waited only
for this!We have metI unite thy noble heart to thee againI claim
my brotherat our Fathers handsin mercy!in loveby his
all-blessed Son!"Her voice gradually faded away, as she murmured
these broken sentences, which none but the close and attentive ear of
Bothwell heard. But he caught not the triumphant exclamation of her soul;
which spoke, though her lips ceased to move, and cried to the attending
angels"Death, where is thy sting? Grave, where is thy
In this awful moment, the
abbot of lnchaffray, believing the dying saint was prostrate in prayer,
laid his hand on the iron box, which stood at the foot of Wallaces
bier"Before the sacred remains, of the once champion of Scotland,
and in the presence of his royal successor" exclaimed the abbot,
"let this mysterious coffer of St. Fillans, be opened; to reward
the deliverer of Scotland, according to its intent!" "If it were
to contain the relics of St. Fillan himself:" returned the King,
"they could not meet a holier bosom than this!" and resting the
box on the coffin, he unclasped the lock; and the Regalia of Scotland was
discovered! At this sight, Bruce exclaimed, in an agony of grateful
emotion, "Thus did this truest of human beings, protect my rights,
even while the people I had deserted, and whom he had saved, knelt to him
to wear them all!"
"And thus Wallace
crowns thee!" said Dunkeld, taking the diadem from its coffer, and
setting it on Bruces head.
"My husband, and my
king!" gently exclaimed Isabella, sinking on her knee before him, and
clasping his hand to her lips.
"Hearest thou that? my
beloved Helen!" cried Bothwell, touching the clasped hands, which
rested on the coffin. He turned pale, and looked on Bruce. Bruce, in the
glad moment of his joy at this happy consummation of so many years of
blood, observed not his glance; but, in exulting accents, exclaimed,
"Look up," my sister; and let thy soul, discoursing with our
Wallace, tell him that Scotland is free, and Bruce a king indeed!"
She spoke not, she moved
not. Bothwell raised her clay-cold face. "That soul has fled, my
Lord!" said he; "but from yon eternal sphere, they, now,
together, look upon your joys. Here let their bodies rest; for they loved
in their lives, and in their deaths they shall not be divided"
Before the renewing of the
moon, whose waning light witnessed their solemn obsequies,the aim of
Wallaces life, the object of Helens prayers, was accomplished.
Peace reigned in Scotland. The discomfited King Edward, died of chagrin
at Carlisle; and his humbled son and successor, sent to offer such
honourable terms of pacification, that Bruce gave them acceptance; and a
lasting tranquillity spread prosperity and happiness throughout the land.