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Chronicles of Gretna Green
Chapter VII


Battles between the English and the Scotch in the reign of Edward the First.

One king unmakes another: then
Upstarts a third full quickly:
The first prepares for warfare, when,
He dies—being very sickly.

John Baliol, the king, procured from his holiness, Pope Celestine, a dispensation for himself and his nation, excusing them from the obligation of all their oaths of feudality; and then, when thus freed, he and his adherents formally renounced all allegiance to Edward of England.

The Rubicon (the Sark, of course) was now passed, and nothing but the clangour of war was heard on every side.

The English monarch led a host northward, well-ordered and well-disciplined, and equal in numbers to that of the Scots that had been so memorably driven from Carlisle, and eastward into the shire of Northumberland: he invaded Scotland on the Cheviot side, and, immediately assaulting Berwick both by sea and land, took that town by storm, and barbarously put eight thousand persons to the sword. Edward then sent Earl Warrenne forward with twelve thousand men to attempt Dunbar ; and this nobleman, meeting with the Scots in the plain, encountered them so fiercely and so effectually, that he drove them before him, and brought back a complete victory. The perdition of the vanquished amounted to twenty thousand. The falls of Roxborough, Edinburgh, Stirling, and divers other especial strengths, incontinently ensued ; so that, in a short space after the Southrons had passed the frontier, the whole of the Lowlands, stretching out betwixt the Cheviots and the Grampians, had been reduced to submission. In order to effect the subjugation of the Highlands, a strong reinforcement of Irish and Welsh, who, from the natures of their own native countries, were best fitted to ensue an enemy into his wilds, fastnesses, and savage mountains, was despatched to hunt the kilted Caledonians to defeat and death. This, for many reasons, they were able to do :—Baliol himself had a meek and irresolute spirit, that suited rather to bear a sceptre and diadem, than a jeddart-staff and helmet; so that, when he began to lose heart and waver, his adherents very soon began to waver also, and fall off from him : his people were disunited and at variance amongst themselves, broken by faction, and estranged by a contrariety of interests ; —and, as the house that is divided against itself cannot stand, neither can a kingdom so lacerated stand either.

Baliol, in fine, renounced his crown to Edward; and, with much abject submission, protested his contrition for having so rebelliously forgot his faith to his liege lord.

The conqueror pressed his victories forward as far north as Elgin, meeting with none except those who came to cast themselves at his feet to do homage: even the turbulent Highlanders promised obedience in the most slavish manner, and Scotland was now entirely subdued and reduced to an apparent tranquillity.

It was in returning from this conquest, that Edward took the Coronation Stone with him into England. The stone itself, fixed in the bottom of the chair, of an iron-like or steely colour veined with red, is a parallelopipcd in figure, measuring in inches about 11 x 13 x 22. It is reported to have formed the pillow of Jacob, when he fell asleep on the plain of Luz, and dreamt his angelic vision : it was afterwards taken to Brigantia in the kingrick of Gallicia in Spain, and used as a seat of justice by Gathelus or Gatliol, king of the incipient Scots, coeval with Moses: Simon Brach, monarch of the same dynasty, 700 years before the Christian era, bore it with him into Ireland: Fergus, about 330 years before Christ, removed it to the castle of Dunstaffnage in Lorn : Kennet II. took it to Scone in 850 after Christ: and lastly there it remained until Edward carried it to Westminster in 1396.

It bears the following inscription :—

"Ni fallat fatum, Scoti, quocunque locatum Invenient lapidcm, regnare teneantur ibidem."

Thus rendered into mother English:—

"Should fate not fail, where'er this stone is found, The Scots shall monarchs of that realm be erown'd."

And hence it is that the Scotch to this day believe themselves to form the principal portion of Great Britain, and to enjoy the sovereignty over that part ycleped England, because James the Sixth—First, on the defunction of Elizabeth, came and took possession of England, a kingless realm, and England did not go and take possession of Scotland. Thus, according to Lion King at Arms, the marshalling of the royal achievement can scarcely be fair heraldry, so long as the noble ,and rampant beast, girded about by the double tressurc, is excluded from the first quarter of the shield.

John Baliol was a close prisoner for more than two years in the Tower of London ; but, being afterwards liberated, he retired to France, where

lie remained in seclusion during the remnant of his days.

Patriotic risings of the people, however, soon manifested themselves throughout the newly compelled province; and the most distinguished champion of that period started up in the person of Sir William Wallace, with whom, in a short space of time, and after some successes gained, was confederated Sir William Douglas.

Meanwhile, Edward was making great preparations against a descent on France, a measure that was not over-agreeable to some of his nobles; since the cause, by them, was not looked upon as altogether just, especially as they were heavily taxed to pander to the arbitrary ambition of their restless prince. He had assembled an army which he purposed to send over into Gascony under the command of Humphrey Bohun, Earl of Hereford ; but the haughty peer decidedly objected to the measure, and positively refused to go. A violent altercation ensued hereon; and the king, now in a towering rage, fiercely cried out to Hereford, —" Sir Earl, by God you shall either go or hang!"

"By God, Sir King," replied the nobleman, " I will neither go nor hang!" Upon this he departed, together with about thirty considerable barons who were of his way of thinking. The invasion was given up, and Scottish affairs demanded attention.

Wallace had now been running a brilliant career of victory over the English viceroys and vicegerents; and to check this before Scotland should regain her liberty, as she was apparently doing by rapid strides, the Earl Warrenne was commissioned thitherward with forty thousand men. He entered the struggling country by the West Marches, directly through the field of our most particular labours in this authentic work.

Having crossed the marshy flats of Carlisle, the Moss of Solway, and forded the Sark at the head of the Firth, and trod upon ground now occupied by the modern Gretna Green, yet without giving a thought upon love or matrimony, but only upon blood and murder, he pressed onwards to Irvine. The Scots prudently retreated before him, as their promises of advantage were but slender in their present position; and retired as far as Stirling, where a battle was fought, and where Wallace gained the day. Cressingham, one of Warrenne's generals, much hated by the adverse party, was slain in this action ; and his enemies showed their vengeance on his dead body bv actually making girths and covering saddles with his skin, which they fiercely stripped off.

A series of other martial achievements, happily struck in the oppressed province, recalled Edward from Flanders, whither he had gone to prosecute a war. He collected, a mighty host one hundred thousand strong, culled out of all his dependencies of England, Wales, and Ireland; and, placing himself at the head of this multitude, advanced towards the Cheviots. He soon came up with those he sought; — encountered them, routed them, and is reported to have slaughtered no less than sixty thousand.

Wallace retreated in good order along the banks of the Carron; and it was on this stream, on this occasion, that he met the young Bruce, who called to him and entreated him to submit to the conqueror,—a measure to which the former would by no means incline, but, on the contrary, made so eloquent and so affecting a reply to the latter, that Bruce was immediately converted to the cause of his country, and, repenting him of his submission to Edward, secretly resolved thenceforward to strike for freedom.

The English monarch returned into his own country by crossing the Sark and the Debateable Land, amusing himself, howbeit, on the way through Annandale, by assaulting and reducing Bruce's castle of Lochmaben.

Bruce being in the power of his enemy, and, worse still, in his custody, Edward, in order that he might murder his way to the sovereignty of Scotland, expressed it as his intention, one night when lie had been drinking somewhat freely with his courtiers, that he would put this competitor for the crown to death next day; and to this step he had been partly instigated by the jealous advices of John Cummin, another heir to the Scottish monarchy.

The Earl of Gloucester being present, and hearing what passed, forthwith sent a messenger to his friend in durance, with twelve pence and a pair of spurs. Bruce took the hint, and prepared for flight.

We are pleasantly informed that he had the shoes of his horse put on hind-side before; so that the impressions of them on the snow, which then lay on the ground, could be no indication to any who might seek him as to his progress Scotland-ward.

He forded the river Eden, not distant far from the city, on whose wall the sun shines bright; crossed the matrimonial district at the head of the Solway, which we desire to celebrate in these pages ; and stopped not until he arrived at Lochmaben, so lately in the hands of his foe.

A space after this he fell at jars and ungentle speech with the aforesaid Cummin in the Convent of the Minorites at Dumfries, and, in the ungo-vernableness of his passion, pierced him deep with a steel blade; yet Lord Hailes held that the deed was not the fruit of malice prepense. The persecuted kingdom flew to arms,—the friends of Bruce rallied around him,—he hastened to Scone to be crowned, and the diadem was actually placed upon his head by a woman, the Countess of Buchan, sister to Macduff, Earl of Fife. Edward had now to commence his work all over again, for his power north of the border had been well-nigh annihilated by these deeds.

The young and mettlesome king performed many a bright chevisance of valour and hardiment; sometimes stricken down by defeat from his enemies, and, at others, dealing unto them even go much as they gave him. The monarch of England, though well advanced in years, was still untired and untiring; and, once more denouncing the Scots as incorrigible, made preparation for immense war upon them again, vowing that he never would rest until he had punished them for their disobedience. He had been sadly afflicted with bodily ailments of late, yet was he resolved to chastise them in person, for his spirit was as active as ever. In traversing his own kingdom, and even until he had got so far as Carlisle, he had been compelled to journey in a palfrey litter; but here, feeling himself in some little sort convalescent, and able to proceed in a more martial estate, he solemnly offered up the said litter in the cathedral church of the city as a gift to heaven.

When this pious ceremony had been achieved, he feebly threw himself upon his horse, and, leading his puissant army out through the Scotland gate, directed his course onward towards the head of the Solway waters, even over the same ground as we have already conducted the reader times not a few. Surely ye now know this ground passing well—its features—its nature : yet notwithstanding that here and there, in the present day, on the great Moss the eye of the peregrinator meets but a cheerless view of black peat and barrenness, relieved partially with squalid huts and thriftless enclosures; in the troublous reign of Edward I., the face of this region was far more sad, sandy, and sedgy. The billows of the western brine flowed yestily over the flats, whensoever the occiduous tempests puffed rudely in the face of green nature : the rush, the sword-leaved flag, and the rank coltsfoot, overgrew their commission in the rancid marshes stretchina along; the banks of the Esk ; and the noxious toad lifted his head above the pestiferous pools, and croaked hoarsely to the lizard looking out of his hole.

Edward crawled no more than six miles in four days, whereas the lovers of this present era hie over the Moss nine miles and a half in the space of one hour: but then Edward was not going to be married to the lady of his heart's election; —no, forsooth, he was only going to conquer a kingdom.

When he had attained so far as to Burgh-on-the Sands, his strength failed him, and he began to see that all is vanity and more than vexation— that our mightiest transactions are but child's play —that we were only born as it were the day before yesterday, and surely cannot have completed our threescore and ten — and that the end of life is sure to come before we have half finished the projects we had in hand, and just as we were on the point of setting about the arrangement of something new, mightier and better than all the rest, so that it is an infinite pity that we should die, and not accomplish it.

It was all nothing: his ailments now came upon him so grievously as to be past durance ; wherefore, to eschew them, he died.


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