Scotland's Story Chapter XLVII. Robert II - How the French and the
Scots made War on England
DAVID II. died in 1.370 A.D., and as he had no
children he was succeeded by Robert the High Steward. Robert was the son of
Lady Marjorie, the daughter of Robert the Bruce. Thus Robert was, through
his mother, the grandson of Robert the Bruce, and he was the first of a long
line of Kings called the Stewarts. You remember that Walter, the first High
Steward, was descended from Fleance, the son of Banquo, who fled to Wales
when Macbeth tried to kill him. Now, as the Weird Sisters had foretold, his
children sat upon the throne for many years.
Robert ii. had already proved himself to be a good
soldier and a wise Regent. But now he was fifty-five years old. He was worn
with wars and weary with ruling. He was no longer able to fight as he had
done, no longer strong enough to curb the power of the great barons, who
through the long years of war, had grown ever prouder and fiercer.
Nor was Robert allowed to take the throne without
opposition. Douglas, the head of one of the proudest and greatest of the
noble families claimed it too. But Robert did not wish to quarrel with this
great lord, so he proposed that his daughter should marry the eldest son of
the Douglas. This satisfied the Douglas, and Robert was then crowned at
Scone with great pomp and ceremony.
Although there was peace between England and Scotland,
Edward would not call Robert King, but spoke of him as 'our enemy of
Scotland'; and Robert returned the insult by calling Edward 'that reiver
Edward, calling himself King of England.' In spite of the peace, there was
very often war on the Borders between the great Scottish lords and the
northern English chiefs. The Scots and the French were fast friends, and
leagued themselves together against the common enemy. And presently some
French knights came to Scotland and offered to fight against England.
The countries were at peace, but in spite of that the
Scottish lords told the French knights that they should see some fighting,
and without telling King Robert anything about it, they marched across the
Border and laid waste Northumberland, returning with much spoil.
Soon after, the French knights went home and told
their King of all that they had seen and done in Scotland. Then the French
King determined, that when the truce between the two countries was over, he
would send a great army to Scotland to fight against the English. For the
French were always anxious that there should be war between Scotland and
England, as then the English King had fewer soldiers to send to fight
against the French.
So the following summer an army of Frenchmen sailed
from France and landed in Scotland. The Scottish nobles, especially Earl
Douglas and Earl Moray, received them very kindly. But when it became known
in Scotland that so large a body of Frenchmen had arrived, the people were
'What has brought them?' they asked.
'Who sent for them?'
'Can we not carry on our own wars with England without
aid from France?'
'We do not understand their language, and they cannot
'Let them be told to go back again. We can fight our
own quarrels, and do not require their help.'
The Scottish people spoke like this because they were
afraid that the French, instead of helping them, might in the end try to
conquer them, as the English had done.
But if the Scots were not glad to see the French, the
French were just as sorry that they had come. They were accustomed to
handsome houses, splendid castles, soft beds, and every luxury. Scotland had
been made so poor by constant wars with England, their houses had so often
been burned and destroyed, that they had none of these things to offer their
guests. So the French nobles began to laugh, and to say to their leader, Sir
John de Vienne, 'What could have brought us here? We have never known before
what poverty and hard living were. Now we will find out the truth of what
our fathers and mothers used to tell us when they said, "If you live long
enough you shall have in your time hard beds and poor lodgings." Let us be
quick and get on to England, for there is nothing to be gained here.' But
Sir John replied, 'My fair sirs, it becomes us to wait patiently since we
have got into such difficulties. Take in good humour whatever you can get.
You cannot always live in Paris or in some great city. In this world, those
who wish to live with honour must endure good and evil.'
King Robert had been in the Highlands when the
Frenchmen arrived. Now he came to Edinburgh, and the Frenchmen were again
disappointed when they saw him. Instead of the gallant leader they had
expected, here was an old and worn man with red bleared eyes.
But Robert did not go with the army to England; he
sent his Sons in his place.
The French and the Scots had marched some way into
England, taking castles and doing much damage by the way, before they met
the English army. At last they heard that the enemy were near.
At this the French were greatly delighted, and hoped
for a battle at once. But the Scots had learned to be very careful how they
attacked the English in open country, so instead of advancing they went
back. This made the French leader very angry. 'Why will you not fight?'
he said. 'You told us before we came that if you had a thousand good men of
France you would be strong enough to conquer the English. I will warrant you
have now a thousand if not more, and five hundred crossbows to boot. And I
must tell you, the knights who are with me are valiant men who will not
And Douglas answered, 'By my faith, my lord, we are
sure that you and your men are brave. But all England is on the march to
Scotland. We will take you to a place where you may see all their host. If
after that you still advise a battle, we will not refuse it.'
'By heaven, then,' said Sir John, 'I will have a battle.'
Douglas and the Scottish leaders then took Sir John to
a high hill, from which he could see the whole of the English host.
Thousands of foot soldiers, thousands of archers,
horsemen, knights, and nobles, were there. In silence the Frenchman looked
upon the mighty company as it lay before him.
Then turning to Douglas, 'You were right,' he said 'in
not wishing to fight. But what is to be done? The English are in such
numbers that they will overrun and destroy your whole country.'
'Let them,' said the Scots. They will find only a
deserted land. Meanwhile we will march into England. it is a rich country,
and we will gather great spoil.'
And so it happened. The Scots allowed the English army
to pass them, and to march into Scotland. There they did all the damage that
they could, which was not much, for as Douglas had said, they found only a
deserted land, all the people having fled away to safe places in the hills
and forests, taking their cattle and goods with them. It was in this way
that the Scots had learned to fight the English. And as soon as they had
gone, the Scots came out of their hiding-places, rebuilt their wooden houses
which the English had burned, and were not much worse off than they had been
In the meantime the Scots army overran all the north
of England, ravaging and plundering to their hearts' content, and finding
none to oppose them, for all the English soldiers had marched into Scotland,
leaving no one to protect their homes.
'[hen when the two armies had each wasted the other's
country as much as possible, they turned home again, the Scots laden with
spoil, the English poorer than when they came.
Soon after this the French knights went back to
France, many of them little pleased with their visit to Scotland.
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