WHEN William of the Red Face came to the throne of
England, there was war again between England and Scotland. It is not quite
easy always to know why they fought, for in those fierce days a very small
cause was enough to make a war. Sometimes Malcolm fought to help Prince
Edgar, sometimes he fought about the border lands. At last it was agreed
that the Scottish King should hold the northern part of England, which was
called Northumbria, in fief from the English King, and do homage to him for
it just as the English King did homage to the King of France for the lands
he held there.
To hold a land in fief meant,
that in return for the land, the man to whom it was given promised to help
his 'Over-lord' by sending soldiers to fight for him in time of war. This
way of paying for land by fighting was called the feudal system, and it
first came into Scotland in the time of Malcolm Canmore.
After this agreement there was peace, but it did not
last long. William of the Red Face sent for Malcolm to come into England.
Malcolm went, but when lie arrived the English King treated him, not as one
king might treat another, but as a king might treat a subject. William tried
to pretend that Malcolm was his subject and ought to do homage to him for
the whole of Scotland instead of only for Northumbria. This made Malcolm
very angry. Leaving William in great wrath, he went straight back to
Scotland and gathered his army together. Then he marched again into England,
fighting and plundering as he went.
the Red hastily gathered an army, and sent it against Malcolm, and at a
castle called Ainwick the Scots were defeated, and their brave King Malcolm
The Scots were besieging the castle.
The English had almost given up hope and were thinking of yielding, when an
English knight, trusting to win great renown, set forth upon a bold
He prayed the Governor to give him
the keys of the castle. 'Without armour or weapon of any kind except a spear
in his hand, he mounted upon a swift horse. Placing the keys upon the point
of the spear, he rode out of the gates, and made straight for the Scottish
As he came near to the camp he was
stopped by the guards. 'Whence come you?' they asked, surprised to see an
English warrior alone, and almost unarmed. 'Is it in war or in peace that
In peace,' replied the knight, 'we can hold out no longer. I
bring you here the keys of the castle which I would give to your King, in
token of submission.'
The guards were very
glad at the news, and they led the knight through the camp to the tent of
the King. With clamour and rejoicing many soldiers followed, gazing in
wonder at the unarmed knight with the keys of the castle upon his spear.
Hearing the noise, and wondering what it might mean,
King Malcolm came out of his tent. As soon as the English knight saw the
King, he lowered his spear, as if he would present the keys to him. But
instead of doing so, he suddenly made a swift thrust forward and pierced the
King in the left eye. Then, before those around could realise what had
happened, he set spurs to his horse, and fled away to the woods near.
Without a groan the King sank to the ground, and when
his friends raised him, it was found that he was quite dead. Then the
English, taking advantage of the sorrow and confusion into which the Scots
were thrown by the death of their King, fell upon them and defeated them
with great slaughter. In the battle, Malcolm's eldest son Prince Edward was
wounded, so that he died, and filled with grief, the Scots turned back to
their own borders.
The English knight who
killed King Malcolm was, because of this deed, called Pierce-eye ever after.
He was thus, it is said, the founder of the great family of Pierce-eye or
Percy, who became Earls of Northumberland.
While these things were happening in England, far away in Scotland the good
Queen Margaret lay very ill. She lay praying for her husband and her sons,
when, opening her eyes, she saw her younger son, Prince Edgar, standing
beside her bed.
His face was so pale and sad,
that the sight of it made her afraid. 'How fares it with your father and
brother?' she asked anxiously.
stood silent with drooping head and eyes full of tears.
'I pray you,' cried the Queen, 'tell me. By the holy Rood and by the
obedience you owe to me, tell me the truth.'
Prince spoke. 'My father and my brother are both slain,' he said.
'The will of God be done,' cried the Queen; and turning her face to the
wall, she died.
Malcolm Canmore was killed in 1093 A.D. He
had reigned for thirty-six years, which was a very long time in those wild
days. He was fierce and fond of war, but he was brave and generous, and a
true knight. He loved his country, and he loved his wife dearly. For her
sake he was very kind to the English Prince Edgar, often fighting for him,
when otherwise he might have been at peace with the English.
It was probably for Queen Margaret's sake, too, that Malcolm built several
monasteries and churches, and restored others, which the Danes had
destroyed. One of the churches which he built was at Dunfermline, and there
he was buried beside his Queen. He was the first King of Scotland who was
buried in Dunfermline, instead of in lona, but after him many Scottish kings
were buried there.
'A king the best who possessed Alban,
lie was a king of kings fortunate.
He was the vigilant crusher of
There was never born nor will be in the east
A king whose
rule will be greater over Alban,
There shall not be born for ever
who had more fortune and greatness.'