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The Scottish Nation
Randolph


RANDOLPH, Earl of Moray, one of the chief companions in arms of Robert the Bruce, and afterwards regent of Scotland, was the son of Thomas Randolph, lord of Strathnith, and lord-high-chamberlain of Scotland. Tytler, apparently not aware that Strathnith or Stranith was the original name of Nithsdale, erroneously styles him lord of Strathdon, a district in Aberdeenshire, with which he had no connection whatever. Randolph’s mother was the Lady Isabella Bruce, eldest daughter of Robert earl of Carrick, and sister of the conqueror at Bannockburn. We first find him in public life present with his father on the 26th December 1292, when Baliol did homage to King Edward I. of England. After the murder of the Red Comyn, in February 1305, Randolph was among the small band of patriotic barons who hastened to join his uncle, Robert the Bruce, in his attempt to obtain the crown. In the defeat at Methven, in June 1306, Sir Thomas Randolph, then, says Barbour, “a young bachelor,” was among the prisoners taken by the English. Through the intercession of Adam de Gordon he obtained a pardon from King Edward, to whom he swore fealty, and at once joined his forces against his uncle. “What was the private history of this alienation,” says Tytler, “it is now impossible to ascertain, but it is evident that he was animated by a very determined spirit of hostility to the royal cause.” He was in the army of the earl of Pembroke when, with John of Lorn, that nobleman attacked the small force of Bruce in his retreat in Carrick, and forced it to disperse and seek safety in flight. The following year he was taken prisoner by the good Sir James Douglas in Tweeddale, and conducted, with Stewart of Bonkyl, also a prisoner, to the king. With Adam de Gordon, and two other barons in the English interest, they had led a strong force into Scotland, and occupied a fortalice situated on the water of Line, which joins the Tweed a little above the town of Peebles, but the place was attacked by Douglas during night, and after a bloody struggle, Randolph and Stewart were made prisoners, while Gordon and the others escaped. When Randolph was brought into the presence of his royal uncle, the following conversation, as we learn from Barbour (pp. 188, 189), took place between them. “Nephew,” said the king, “thou hast for a while forsworn thine allegiance, but we must now be reconciled.” “Thou meanest to rebuke me,” replied Randolph, haughtily, “but the rebuke applies with more force to thyself. Since thou hast chosen to make war upon the king of England, it became thee to support thy title on a plain field, and after the fashion of a brave monarch, instead of having recourse to subtle and cowardly ambuscades.” “Such a contest,” Bruce calmly replied, “must yet arrive, and perchance it is not far distant. In the meantime it is fitting that thy proud words and rude demeanour should be punished as they deserve, till thou hast been taught to bow to my right, and to understand thine own duty.” He then ordered him into close confinement. On due submission, he was soon, however, pardoned, and restored to his uncle’s favour, and ever after continued steady in his attachment to the national cause. By his faithful services and the high capacity for command which he displayed, it was not long before he acquired the complete confidence of the king, who bestowed on him the district of Annandale, with the Isle of Man, and various baronies in different parts of the kingdom. Bruce also conferred upon him the earldom of Moray, and the charter conveying it to him forms the basis of the Essay on Honour and Dignity by Lord Kames. It has no date, as was usual with charters in those days, but is supposed to have been granted in 1312. In failure of heirs male, the earldom was to return to the king and his heirs.

On the 14th March 1313, the earl of Moray took by assault the castle of Edinburgh, which had been in possession of the English since 1296. This celebrated fortress, which before the invention of artillery was deemed impregnable, was then commanded by Sir Piers Leland, a knight of Gascony, in the service of the king of England. The garrison was strong, well disciplined, and resolute, and Randolph endeavoured at first to reduce the place by famine. But, finding it well provisioned, he opened a communication with the governor, and the garrison, suspecting the fidelity of the latter, deposed and imprisoned him, and chose another commander in his place. Randolph then resolved upon attempting to take the castle by surprise. Among his followers was a soldier named William Frank or Francis, who appears to have been at a former period in the English service. This man, whom Barbour designates “wycht and apert, syss, and curyuss,” that is, strong, active, prudent, and skilful, was well acquainted with the castle rock, which he had often scaled in his youth, while engaged in a love-affair in the city. One day, when Randolph was surveying the castle from below, he came to him, and thus addressed him: “Methinks, my lord, you would rejoice if some one were to devise some means of putting this fortress into your possession, or show you how the walls could be scaled.” “Thou sayest truly,” replied the earl, “and could such a man be found, I pledge myself that his services shall be amply rewarded, not only by me, but by my royal uncle.” “The generosity of the king and of thyself, noble Randolph,” said the soldier, “is well known, but the love of country should be above such a consideration. Know that I can enable you to enter the castle with no greater aid than what a twelve feet ladder affords. If you wish to know how this can be done, I shall explain it in a few words. Know, then, that my father in my youth was keeper of yonder fortress, and that I, then a wild gallant, loved a certain maid in the town beneath. That I might repair to her when I pleased, I was wont to lower myself from yonder wall by night with the help of a ladder of ropes which I procured for the purpose, and by a secret path which I discovered, descended, returning by the same way unperceived by the garrison. I did this so often that I could find my way in the darkest night. If, therefore, you should think of trying to obtain access to the castle in this manner, I will be your guide.” The earl, resolved to hazard the attempt, and associating Sir Andrew Gray with himself in the enterprise, he selected thirty men, and during a very dark night they proceeded to scale the rocks. The place chosen for this perilous exploit is supposed to have been somewhere about the north-east side, facing what is now Prince’s-street, and overhanging the ruins of the Wellhouse Tower, above which there is a part of the rock of extremely difficult access, popularly called Wallace’s Cradle.

When the little party were about half-way up the crags, they came to a flat spot covered by a projecting rock, where they stopped to recover their breath, and prepare for the more dangerous part of the adventure. While arranging their scaling ladder, they distinctly heard the rounds, or check-watches, as Barbour calls them, passing along the walls above them. It chanced that one of the English soldiers, in mere wantonness and levity, and without any suspicion that there was any one beneath, took up a stone, and threw it from the battlements down on the cliffs, exclaiming at the same time, “Away! I see you well!” Randolph and his companions had presence of mind to remain where they were, and the sentinels passed on in their usual rounds. The adventurers resumed the ascent, and arrived in safety at the foot of the wall. They fixed their ladder, and Francis their guide ascended first, after him came Sir Andrew Gray, and Randolph himself was the third. They were speedily followed by the rest of the party. The sentinels, hearing the ringing of armour, took the alarm, and raised the cry of “Treason!” The garrison ran to arms, and the new governor of the castle, whose name has not been transmitted, and others, rushed to the spot. A desperate combat ensued, and Earl Randolph was for a time in great personal danger. Barbour tells us that

“The constable and his company
Met him and his right hardily.”

Taken by surprise, and not knowing, in the darkness, the number of their opponents, many of the garrison fled over the walls, while others, with the governor himself, were slain. Not one of Randolph’s party appears to have been killed. On obtaining possession of the castle, Sir Piers Leland was released from his dungeon, and entered into the service of the Scots. His namesake, Leland the Antiquarian, styles him Petrus Lelandius, viscount of Edinburgh, but this appellation of viscount must refer to his former office of governor of the castle for Edward II. He adds that “Bruce after surmised treason upon him, because he thought that he had an English heart, and made him to be hanged and drawn.”

At the decisive battle of Bannockburn, 24th June, 1314, the command of the vaward was given to Randolph. Previous to the battle, with his division, he was removed from the centre, and posted on the elevated ground above St. Ninians, with strict orders to guard the passage to Stirling castle. A select body of horse, mustering 800 strong, under the command of Sir Robert Clifford and three other leaders, having eluded his observation, were rapidly approaching the castle, when the quick eye of Bruce detected them. Riding up to his nephew, he exclaimed, “Ah! Randolph, little did I dream you would have suffered these men to pass! A rose has fallen from your chaplet.” Randolph, with five hundred spearmen, hastened to retrieve his error by endeavouring to intercept the farther progress of Clifford and his party. In the encounter, he was exposed to great peril, and Douglas, having received the reluctant permission of the king to go to his assistance, was hastening to his aid, when he perceived that Randolph, with his spearmen formed in a compact square, had sustained Clifford’s attack, and after a desperate contest, in which the assailants suffered severely, had dispersed and defeated them. He then commanded his men to halt, lest they should deprive Randolph of the honour so nobly won by him. In the battle of the next day, Randolph, as second in command, led the centre of the Scots army against the vast English host opposed to them. IN the act of the settlement of the crown of Scotland in the parliament held by Bruce at Ayr for the purpose, 26th April 1315, it was provided that in the event of the heir being a minor, “Thomas Ranulfi, comes Moraviae,” should be guardian of the sovereign and the kingdom.

When the Irish of Ulster the same year offered Edward Bruce the crown of Ireland, Randolph accompanied him to that country, as principal leader of the 6,000 Scots troops which his brother, King Robert, sent along with him. Embarking at Ayr, they landed at Carrickfergus on the 25th of May, and when attacked soon after by a body of English and Irish, Randolph, who commanded the advance, charged them with such impetuosity that they were speedily put to flight. He continued with Edward Bruce in all the remarkable successes which attended him in the first part of the campaign in Ireland. On the 29th June, Dundalk was stormed and burnt. Atherdee and other places of less note experienced a similar fate. After the battle of Coleraine, in which the English were defeated, Randolph on the 15th September passed over to Scotland for the purpose of obtaining a reinforcement, and in three months he returned with a select body of 500 men at arms. He found Edward Bruce engaged in pressing the siege of Carrickfergus, but on being rejoined by Randolph he abandoned it, and marching southward by Dundalk, they penetrated through Meath into Kildare. At Arscoll, in the province of Leinster, they encountered Butler, the lord justiciary, whose army, although superior in numbers, was enfeebled by discord, and was broken and defeated at the first onset.

The Scots now became a prey to famine, and dreading its effects amongst their followers, Randolph and Edward Bruce broke up their encampment, and retreated through Meath into Ulster. On arriving near Kenlis, they were met by a large and tumultuary force of English and Irish, which attempted to intercept their progress. At the first attack, however, they were put to flight. In April 1316, Randolph again proceeded to Scotland for reinforcements, and in the spring of the following year, King Robert the Bruce, at his solicitation, accompanied him in person to Ireland, to the assistance of his brother. Soon after his arrival, an Anglo-Irish army, 40,000 strong, under the command of Sir Richard Clare and other barons, was defeated by him, while passing through a wood near Carrickfergus, Randolph with himself leading the Scots rearward. King Robert, the same year returned to Scotland, taking Randolph with him. The death of Edward Bruce in the disastrous battle of Dundalk, October 5, 1317, rendered a new settlement of the succession to the crown of Scotland necessary, and at a parliament held at Scone in December 1318, the offices of tutor and curator of the heir, if under age, and guardian of the kingdom, were granted to Sir Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray and lord of Man, and failing him to Lord James of Douglas.

A short time previous to this, the town of Berwick had been taken by the Scots. Barbour gives this account of its capture. A citizen of the town named Spalding, having been harshly treated by the governor, wrote to a nobleman in Bruce’s camp, supposed to have been Patrick earl of March, offering to betray at night the post where he kept guard. The earl communicated Spalding’s offer to King Robert, and was commended by the king for having come direct to himself, instead of going to Randolph or Douglas, as these two chiefs were emulous of each other’s glory. “You did well,” said Bruce, “to make me your confident, for if you had told this either to Randolph or to Douglas, you would have offended the one to whom you did not at first tell it. Both of them, however, shall assist you in executing the enterprise.” Bruce then commanded him to assemble a body of troops at a place called Dunse Park, and gave separate orders to Randolph and Douglas to meet the earl at the same place. At a part of the wall left unguarded, a portion of the Scots entered the town, and concealed themselves till daydawn, when, aided by their comrades without the walls, they were masters of the town before the hour of noon. The castle soon after capitulated.

On the investment of Berwick in September of the following year by Edward II., at the head of the whole English force, Bruce sent Randolph and Douglas, at the head of an army of 15,000 men, across the borders, with the object of compelling Edward to raise the siege. They entered England by the west marches, and penetrating into Yorkshire, ravaged all the districts through which they passed. The whole of the military strength of England was at this time with Edward before Berwick, but the archbishop of York, at the head of an undisciplined force of about 20,000 men, consisting chiefly of church vassals and priests, ventured to oppose them at Mitton, near Boroughbridge, 20th September 1319, and was defeated with great slaughter. From the great number of ecclesiastics slain in this battle, it was derisively termed by the Scots the “Chapter of Mitton.” This success caused Edward to abandon the siege of Berwick, and the Scots, eluding an attempt of his to intercept them on their homeward march, returned to Scotland with great spoil.

Earl Randolph was one of the eight earls who signed the famous letter or memorial, asserting the Independence of Scotland, addressed to the pope in 1320 by the barons, freeholders, and whole community of Scotland. He had in many a hard-fought field evinced his skill and prowess as a military commander. He was now to show that his talents as a statesman were equally great. In 1321, he entered into a correspondence with the earl of Lancaster, who had risen in rebellion against his cousin, the king of England, but was defeated and executed before he could receive any assistance from the Scots. Edward now collected his whole force for a new invasion of Scotland, and, in the meantime, the Scots broke across the border, and laid waste Lancashire, returning with much cattle and long trains of waggons laden with booty.

After the signal defeat of Edward at Biland Abbey in Yorkshire, by the Scots army, under Bruce, in 1322, -- where Randolph, in the true spirit of chivalry, fought under Douglas in endeavouring to force a narrow pass, which led to the English camp, -- negotiations for a truce were entered into, and Randolph, with Lamberton, bishop of St. Andrews, and Sir John Monteith, were nominated on the part of the Scots to meet with commissioners fro England, when a fifteen years’ truce was concluded. A still more important mission was now intrusted to him. To prepare the way for a reconciliation with the pope, and to counteract the misrepresentations of the English envoys at the papal court, Randolph was dispatched to Avignon, where the pope then resided, and with consummate political skill obtained from the pontiff the recognition of the title of king to Bruce. With this concession, he also prevailed upon his holiness to refuse the request of Edward to publish anew the sentence of excommunication against Bruce, and to sanction the election of Scotsmen to the office of bishop, in spite of the charges of the English that they held the censures of the church in contempt, that they were barbarous heretics who put priests to the torture, and that they encouraged the nobility and people in their rebellion. Subsequently, with the bishop of St. Andrews, he was empowered by Bruce to meet the Despencers on the part of King Edward, to negotiate a lasting peace, but the conferences between them led to no result. In 1326, Randolph was sent ambassador to France, and in April that year concluded an alliance, offensive and defensive, with Charles le Bel, the brother of the English queen.

He and Douglas had the command of the Scots army, amounting to nearly 20,000 men, principally mounted troopers, which invaded England by the western marches, on the 15th June 1327. By the deposition of Edward II., in the preceding January, his son, Edward III., then in his fourteenth year, had succeeded to the English throne. He very early displayed his martial character, and anxious to repel the invaders, he led an army of 50,000 men against them. But though seldom out of view of the smoke which marked their desolating march, he never could overtake them, and he was driven to proclaim a reward of lands to the value of £100 sterling annually for life, with knighthood to any person who should conduct him in sight of the Scots. A Yorkshire esquire, named Thomas Rokeby, was the first to bring him certain information as to their whereabouts. Edward was then, with his army, at the Cistercian abbey of Blanch, on the river Derwent, still called Blanchland, and Rokeby reported that the Scots were encamped on the side of a hill about nine miles distant washed by the river Wear. He stated also, that having ventured too near to reconnoiter, he was made “prisoner, and taken before Randolph and Douglas, who, when informed of the nature of his errand, dismissed him without ransom, requesting him to tell King Edward that he could not be more desirous of meeting them than they were of fighting him.” On the 1st of August, the English army, under Rokeby’s guidance, advanced towards the Scots, and Douglas having watched their approach, returned and informed Randolph of the great strength of the vast array coming against them. On this occasion the two rival Scots commanders seem to have changed characters. “It matters not,” sais Randolph, who was usually cool and cautious, “we shall fight them, were they still more numerous than you report them.” “Praise be to God.” Said Douglas, curbing his natural impetuosity, “that we have a leader who would not scruple to fight with twenty against sixty thousand, but by St. Bride, it would be folly to fight at present, when we may, in a little while, engage them with far more advantage.” Edward found that the Scots occupied a position, with the river Wear in front, which was impregnable, and he sent a herald to the Scottish leaders, offering to leave sufficient space for them to draw up their army, if they would descend from the heights and cross the river, or allow him to pass the river, and leave him room to arrange his forces, so that they might fight on equal terms, but Randolph and Douglas were not to be moved by this bravado. “Go back,” they said to the herald, “and tell your master that it is not our custom to follow the counsel of our enemy. The king of England and his barons are not ignorant of the injuries which have been inflicted by us on their kingdom. ON our road hither, we have burnt and despoiled the country, and if they are displeased, let them now chastise us as they best can, for here we mean to remain as long as it suits our convenience.”

On the fourth morning after, to the surprise of Edward, the Scots were not to be seen, and it was discovered that they had removed some miles farther up the river Wear, where they occupied a position, at a place called Stanhope Park, with a wood in their rear, which was still stronger than the one they had held before. The next night, while the English camp was buried in sleep, Douglas broke through their lines, penetrated to the royal pavilion, and, but for the spirited defence of the chaplain and domestics, would have carried off the young king. On regaining his own camp, he was asked by Randolph what success he had had. “We have drawn blood,” he replied, “but little more.” At this state, Randolph again earnestly proposed to risk a battle. Douglas, however, recommended a retreat, which was immediately resolved upon. On the succeeding night, the Scots army silently left their camp, and crossing a morass which lay in their rear, were far on their homeward way before day broke, and disclosed to Edward the mortifying fact that they had escaped out of his hands. The result was a treaty of peace, in which England at last acknowledged the independence of Scotland, and recognized Bruce as its lawful king. This treaty was ratified in a parliament held at Northampton in April 1328.

During the last years of the heroic Bruce, Randolph was frequently his companion in his retirement at Cardross on the Clyde. On the death of his royal uncle, in accordance with the act of settlement, he became regent, and guardian of the young king, David II., during his minority. His first act was to ratify the peace with England, and he next applied himself with great vigour and success to the restoration of the internal tranquility of the kingdom. He was strict in the dispensation of justice and severe and summary in his sentences on criminals. Of this two instances are recorded. While holding a justiceaire at Wigton, his protection was claimed for a man who had escaped from an ambuscade placed for his assassination in a neighbouring wood. The men in ambush being arrested were, by the regent’s orders, executed, their purpose, though not carried into effect, having been murder. In the other case, while sitting in justiciary at Inverness, he noticed a man who, some time before, had murdered a priest, and then hastening to Rome had received absolution from the pope for the crime. Deeming himself safe, he returned to Scotland, but Randolph had very different notions of the claims of justice, and regardless of pope of pardon, as well as the plea of the murderer that the person slain, as a priest, was the subject of Rome, he put him on his trial, and being found guilty, his execution followed.

IN 1332, the English prepared to invade Scotland, when Randolph, though then suffering severely from the stone, assembled an army, and advanced into Berwickshire to oppose them. Finding, however, that they were coming by sea, he proceeded towards the Forth, but died at Musselburgh, on the 20th July of that year. The story that the English king had employed a vagrant monk to poison him, has been shown by Lord Hailes to be a pure invention.


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