THE fame of these victories, the seizure
of Stirling, the conquest of above sixty thousand men, and the Lord Warden
with his late deputy taken prisoners; all spread through the country, on
the wings of the wind.
Messengers were despatched by Wallace, not
only to the nobles who had already declared for the cause, by sending him
their armed followers; but to the clans, who yet stood irresolute. To the
chiefs who had taken the side of Edward, he sent no exhortation. And when
Lord Ruthven advised him to do so, "No, my Lord:" said he;
"we must not spread a snare under our feet. If these men could be
affected by the interest of their country, and as they had the power to
befriend her, they would not have colleagued with her enemies. They
remember her happiness, under the rule of our Alexanders; they see her
sufferings, beneath the sway of an usurper; and if they can know these
things, and require arguments to bring them to their duty; should they
then come to it, it would not be to fulfil but to betray.
Ours, my dear Lord Ruthven, is a commission from Heaven. The truth of our
cause, is God’s own signet; and is so clear, that it need only to be
seen, to be acknowledged. All honest minds will come to us of themselves;
and those who are not so, had better be avoided, than shown the way by
which treachery may affect, what open violence cannot accomplish."
This reasoning, drawn from
the experience of nature, neither encumbered by the subtilties of policy,
nor the sophistry of the schools, was evident to every honest
understanding, and decided the question.
Lady Mar, unknown to any
one, again applied to her fatal pen; but with other views than for the
ruin of the cause, or the destruction of Wallace. It was to strengthen his
hands, with the power of all her kinsmen; and finally, by the crown which
they should place on his head, exalt her to the dignity of a queen. She
wrote first to John Cummin, Earl of Buchan; enforcing a thousand reasons
why he should now leave a sinking cause, and join the rising fortunes of
"You see;" said
she, "that the, happy star of Edward is setting. The King of France,
not only maintains possession of that monarch’s territory of Guienne,
but he holds him in check on the shores of Flanders. Baffled abroad, an
insurrection awaits him at home; the priesthood whom he has robbed, cover
his name with anathemas: the nobles, whom he has insulted, trample on his
prerogative; and the people, whose privileges he has invaded, call aloud
for redress. The proud barons of England, are ready to revolt; and the
Lords Hereford, and Norfolk, (those two earls whom, after madly
threatening to hang, [Edward intended to send
out forces to Guienne, under the command of Humphrey Earl of Hereford the
constable, and Roger Earl of Norfolk the marshal, of England, when these
two powerful nobles refused to execute his commands. A violent altercation
ensued; and the King, in the height of his passion, exclaimed to the
constable, "Sir Earl, by G—, you
shall either go or hang." "By G—, Sir King," replied
Hereford; "I will neither go nor hang." And he immediately
departed with the marshal and their respective trains.]
he sought to bribe to their allegiance, by
leaving them in the (till powers of constable and mareschal of England;)
they are now conducting themselves with such domineering consequence, that
even the Prince of Wales submits to their directions; and the throne of
the absent tyrant is shaken to its centre.
"Sir William Wallace has
rescued Scotland from his yoke. The country now calls for her ancient
lords—those who made her kings, and supported them. Come then, my
cousin! espouse the cause of right; the cause that is in power; the cause
that may aggrandise the house of Cummin, with still higher dignities, than
any with which it has hitherto been blazoned."
With these arguments, and with others more adapted
to his Belial mind, she tried to bring him to her purpose; to awaken what
ambition he possessed; and to entice his baser passions, by offering
security in a rescued country, to the indulgence of senses to which he had
already sacrificed the best properties of man. She despatched her letter
by a messenger, whom she bribed to secrecy; and added in her postscript,
that "the answer she should hope to receive, would be an offer of his
services to Sir William Wallace."
While the Countess of Mar was devising her
plans (for the gaining of Lord Buchan was only a preliminary measure), the
despatches of Wallace had taken effect. Their simple details, and the
voice of fame, had roused a general spirit throughout the land; and in the
course of a very short time after the different messengers had left
Stirling, the plain around the city was covered with a mixed multitude.
All Scotland seemed pressing to throw itself at the feet of its preserver.
A large body of men brought from Mar by Murray, according to his uncle’s
orders, were amongst the
first encamped on the Carse; and that part of Wallace’s own particular
band, which he had left at Dumbarton, to recover of their wounds, now,
under the command of Stephen lreland rejoined their lord at Stirling.
Neil Campbell, the brave
Lord of Loch-awe, [This true Scot was the noble
ancestor of the present ducal family of Argyle.]
and Lord Bothwell, the father of Lord Andrew Murray, with a strong
reinforcement, arrived from Argyleshire. The chiefs of Ross, Dundas,
Gordon, Lockhart, Logan, Elphinstone, Scott, Erskine, Lindsay, Cameron,
and of almost every noble family in Scotland, sent their sons at the head
of detachments front their clans, to swell the victorious ranks of Sir
When this patriotic host
assembled on the Carse of Stirling, every inmate of the city, who had not
duty to confine him within the walls, turned out to view the glorious
sight. Mounted on a rising ground, they saw each little army; and the
emblazoned banners of all the chivalry of Scotland, floating afar over the
this moment, the lines which guarded the outworks of Stirling opened from
right to left, and discovered Wallace, advancing on a white charger. When
the conqueror of Edward’s hosts appeared—the deliverer of Scotland,—
a mighty shout, from the thousands around, rent the skies, and shook the
earth on which they stood.
Wallace raised his helmet from his
brow, as by an instinctive motion every hand bent the sword, or banner it
"He comes in the
strength of David!" cried the venerable Bishop of Dunkeld, who
appeared at the head of his church’s tenantry: "Scots, behold the
The exclamation; which
burst like inspiration from the lips of the Bishop, struck to every heart.
"Long live our William the Lion! our
Scotish King !" was echoed with transport by every follower on
the ground; and while the reverberating heavens seemed to ratify the voice
of the people, the lords themselves (believing that he who won, had the
best right to enjoy,) joined in the glorious cry. Galloping up from the
front of their ranks, they threw themselves from their steeds; and before
Wallace could recover from the surprise into which this unexpected
salutation had thrown him, Lord Bothwell and Lord Loch-awe, followed by
the rest, had bent their knees, and acknowledged him to "be their
sovereign. The Bishop of Dunkeld, at the same moment drawing from his
breast a silver dove of sacred oil, poured it upon the unbonneted head of
Wallace; "Thus, O King!" cried he, "do I consecrate on
earth, what has already received the unction of Heaven!"
Wallace, at this action, was
awe-struck, and raising his eyes to that Heaven, his soul in silence
breathed its unutterable devotion. Then looking on the Bishop: "Holy
father;" said he, "this unction may have prepared my brows for a
crown; but, it is not of this world, and Divine Mercy must bestow it,
Rise, lords !" and as he spoke, he flung himself off his horse, and
taking Lord Bothwell by the hand, as the eldest of the band, "Kneel
not to me," cried he; "I am to you, what Gideon ["The men
of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and
thy son’s son also: for thou has delivered us from the hand of Midian.
And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son
rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you."— Judges, chap.
viii.] was to the Israelites,— your fellow-soldier. I cannot assume the
sceptre you would bestow; for He who rules us all, has yet preserved to
you a lawful monarch. Bruce lives. And were he extinct, the blood-royal
flows in too many noble veins in Scotland, for me to usurp its
"The rights of the crown, lie
with the only man in Scotland who knows how to defend them! else reason is
blind, or the nation abandons its own prerogative. What we have this
moment vowed, is not to be forsworn. Baliol has abdicated our throne; the
Bruce desert it; all our nobles slept till you awoke: and shall we bow to
men who may follow, but will not lead? No, bravest Wallace; from the
moment you drew the first sword for Scotland, you made yourself her lawful
Wallace turned to the
veteran Lord of Loch-awe, who uttered this with a blunt determination that
meant to say, the election which had passed, should not be recalled.
"I made myself her champion: tonight for her freedom, not my own
aggrandizement. Were I to accept the honour with which this too grateful
nation would repay my service, I should not bring it that peace for which
I contend. Struggling for liberty, the tolls of my brave countrymen would
be redoubled; for they would have to maintain the rights of an unallied
king, against an host of enemies. The circumstance, of a man from the
private stations of life being elevated to such dignity, would be felt as
an insult by every royal house; and foes and friends would arm against us.
On these grounds of policy alone, even were my heart not loyal to the vows
of my ancestors, I should repel the mischief you would bring upon
yourselves by making me your king. As it is; my conscience, as well as my
judgment, compels me to reject it. As your general, I may serve you
gloriously; as your monarch, in spite of myself, I should incur your
"From whom, noblest of
Scots?" asked the Lord of Bothwell.
yourselves, my friends," answered Wallace, with a gentle smile.
"Could I take advantage of the generous enthusiasm of a grateful
nation; could I forget the duty I owe to the blood of our
Alexanders, and leap into the throne; there are many who would soon revolt
against their own election. You cannot be ignorant, that thee are natures
who would endure no rule, did it not come by the right of inheritance: a
right by which they hold their own pre-eminence: and therefore will not
dispute, lest they teach their inferiors the same refractory lesson. But
to bend with voluntary subjection, to long obey a power raised by
themselves, would be a sacrifice abhorrent to their pride. . After having
displayed their efficiency, in making a king, they would prove their
independence, by striving to pull him down, the moment he made them feel
"Such would be the fate of this
election. Jealousies, and rebellions, would mark my reign; till even my
closest adherents, seeing the miseries of civil war, would fall from my
side, and leave the country again open to the inroads of her enemies.
"These, my friends and
countrymen, would be my reasons for rejecting the crown, did my ambition
point that way. But as I have no joy in titles, no pleasure in any power
that does not spring hourly from the heart; let my reign be in your
bosoms; and with the appellation of your fellow soldier, your friend! I
will fight for you, I will conquer far you—I will live or die!"
"This man;" whispered Lord
Buchan, who having arrived in the rear of the troops on the appearance of
Wallace, advanced within hearing of what he said; "this man shows
more cunning in repulsing a crown, than most are capable of exerting to
"Ay, but let us
see;" returned the Earl of March, who accompanied him," whether
it be not Caesar’s coyness; lie thrice refused the purple, and yet he
died Emperor of the Romans !"
"He that offers me a
crown," returned Buchan, "shall never catch me playing the
coquet with its charms. I warrant you, I would embrace the lovely
mischief, in the first presentation;" A shout rent the air.
"What is that?" cried he, interrupting himself.
"He has followed your
advice;" answered March, with a satirical smile; "it is the
preliminary trumpet to, Long live King William the Great!"
Lord Buchan spurred forward
to Scrymgeour, whom he knew, and inquired "where the new king was to
be crowned? We have not yet to thank him for the possession of
"True," cried Sir
Alexander, comprehending the sarcasm; "but did Sir William Wallace
accept the prayers of Scotland, neither Scone, nor any other spot in the
kingdom, should refuse the place of his coronation."
"Not accept them
!" replied Buchan;" then why that shout? Do the changelings
rejoice in being refused?"
"When we cannot gain
the altitude of our desires," returned the knight, "it is yet
subject for thankfulness, when we reach a step towards it. Sir William
Wallace has consented to be considered as the Protector of the kingdom; to
hold it for the rightful sovereign, under the name of Regent."
March, "he has only taken a mistress, instead of a wife: and trust
me, when once he has got her into his arms, it will not be all the
greybeards in Scotland, that can wrest her thence again. I marvel to see
how men can be cajoled, and call the vizard virtue."
Scrymgeour had not waited
for this reply of the insolent Earl; and Buchan answered him; "I care
not," said he; "whoever keeps my castle over my head, and my
cellars full, is welcome to reign over John of Buchan. So onward, my
gallant Cospatrick, to make our bow to royalty in masquerade.
When these scorners
approached, they found Wallace standing uncovered in the midst of his
happy nobles. There was not a man present, to whom he had not given proofs
of his divine commission: each individual was snatched from a state of
oppression, and disgrace, and placed in security and honour. With
overflowing gratitude, they all thronged around him; and the young, the
isolated Wallace, found a nation waiting on his nod; the hearts of half a
million of people offered to his hand, to turn and wind them as he
pleased. No crown sat on his brows: but the bright halo of true glory
beamed from his godlike countenance. It even checked the arrogant smiles
with which the haughty March, and the voluptuous Buchan, came forward to
mock him with their homage.
As the near relations of Lady Mar, he
received them with courtesy; but one glance of his eye, penetrated to the
hollowness of both; and then remounting his steed, the stirrups of which
were held by Edwin and Ker, he touched the head of the former with his
hand: "Follow me, my friend; I now go to pay my duty to your
mother.—For you, my lords," said he, turning to the nobles around,
"I shall hope to meet you at noon in the citadel; whew we must
consult together on further prompt movements. No thing with us can be
considered as won, till all is gained."
The chieftains, with bows, acquiesced in
his mandate, and fell back towards their troops. But the foremost ranks of
those brave fellows, having heard much of what had past, were so :inflamed
with admiration of their Regent, that they rushed forward; and collecting
in crowds around his horse, and in his path, some pressed to kiss his
hand, and others his garments, while the rest ran in his way, shouting and
calling down blessings upon him, till he stopped at the gate of Snawdoun.
[This scene between Wallace and his chiefs, has
lately been pointed out to the author as the part most likely to have
incurred the censure and interdiction of the Emperor Napoleon.—(1840.)]