Scotland's Story Chapter XLVIII. Robert II - The Story of the Battle of Otterburn
THE Scottish nobles now resolved again to invade
England. They made all their preparations secretly, keeping them from the
King as they would from an enemy, for they knew that he desired peace. But
the Scottish nobles knew too, that the English King was in trouble, that he
was quarrelling with his own family and with his people, and that it was
therefore a good time to avenge themselves upon England.
So, secretly, and in spite of the King, they gathered
to arms and crossed the Border.
The Scottish army was divided into two bodies, one of
which, led by Earl Douglas, marched into Northumberland. There, after having
done much damage, they met the English under the Earl of Northumberland's
two sons, Henry and Percy. Henry, the elder, was so gallant and eager a
knight that he was called Hotspur. He and his brother were among the bravest
of the English knights, just as Douglas was among the Scottish.
Near Newcastle, Douglas and Hotspur met, and in the
fight which took place, Douglas captured and carried off Hotspur's pennon.
'I will carry this with me to Scotland,' cried
Douglas, waving it aloft. 'I will place it upon the topmost tower of my
castle that it may be seen from far.'
'By heaven, Earl Douglas,' cried Hotspur, full of
anger, 'you shall not even bear it out of Northumberland. You shall never
have that pennon to brag about.'
'You must come then this night and take it,' replied
Douglas scornfully. 'I shall fix it before my tent. Come and take it if you
It was now late in the evening, so each army went back
to camp to rest and have supper. The Scots had plenty of food, and having
had a good meal, they lay down to sleep. But a strict watch was kept, for
they expected Hotspur to make good his proud boast and to come to take his
But the night passed. Hotspur did not come, and next
morning the Scots began to march homeward.
They might have gone safely home, without more
fighting, but Douglas decided to remain for two or three days near the
castle of Otterburn. 'For,' said he, ' I conquered Hotspur's pennon in fair
fight, and I will give him a chance of winning it back again. He will find
it well defended if he comes.'
In those days knights looked upon war almost as a
game, and Douglas was anxious to play fair and to keep the rules.
In the meantime, Hotspur was greatly ashamed that he
had not kept his word and won his pennon again from Douglas. The knights who
were with him tried in vain to comfort him. 'Many such losses happen in
war,' they said.
'If Douglas did take your pennon, he had to fight hard
'We are not strong enough now to attack so great a
host. Let us wait until more men come to help us. It is better to lose a
pennon than two or three hundred knights.'
Very unwillingly Hotspur yielded to this advice. But
when some English knights came galloping into the camp with the news that
the Scots were near Otterburn, and that they were not more than three
thousand strong, Hotspur sprang up. 'To horse, to horse,' he shouted; 'by
the faith that I owe to my God, and to my lord and father, I will yet
recover my pennon this very night'
It was a warm, calm August evening, and the moon shone
brightly as Hotspur and his men galloped impatiently along.
The Scots had had supper, many of them had already
fallen asleep, when the whole camp was aroused with the cry of 'Percy!
Hotspur had come for his pennon.
Quickly the Scottish knights armed themselves, the
soldiers fell into fighting order, and soon the cry of 'Douglas!' answered
that of 'Percy!'
Although it was night, it was not very dark, for the
harvest moon shone brightly and calmly on the raging battle. Lance met
lance, sword rang on sword, great deeds of valour were done, and many a
brave man fell on either side.
'Douglas! Douglas!' shouted the Earl, pressing with
his banner where the fighting was most fierce.
'Percy! Percy!' came the answering cry.
The two banners met. Round them the battle raged most
furiously. Cowardice was unknown. With splendid courage, Scottish and
English knights fought gaily and courteously, as if in play. Never had there
been such a chivalrous, knightly battle fought Yet it was no play, but
At last, pierced by three lances, Douglas, fighting
desperately, was borne to the ground. His standard- bearer was killed, and
his banner, trampled and blood-stained, lay beside him. Only his chaplain
still fought fiercely, guarding his master's body, as the English swept past
little knowing how great a general lay dying upon the field.
'How fares it, cousin?' asked a knight as he knelt
'But so and so,' answered Douglas. 'But thanks be to
God, there are few of my ancestors who have died in their beds. Now, I bid
you avenge my death, for I have but little hope of living. Raise my banner.
Shout "Douglas," and do not tell friend or foe that I am not with you. For,
should my enemies know that I am dead, they would greatly rejoice, and
should my followers know, they would lose heart. There is an old saying in
our house, that one day a dead man shall win a battle. Please God, this
night it will come true.'
So speaking, upon the battle-field the Douglas died.
Then the knight drew his dead body out of the press of
battle, raised the fallen banner and shouted, 'Douglas! Douglas!'
The Earl's men, who had been scattered, hearing again
the sound of their master's battle-cry, gathered once more round his banner,
and so well did they fight, that at last the English were scattered and
Many prisoners were taken, among them, both Hotspur
and his brother. So Hotspur, as well as his pennon, was carried to Scotland.
But Douglas could never place the captured pennon on his castle walls, for
he lay quiet and still in the fair Abbey of Melrose, and over his grave was
hung the torn and bloodstained banner which had won the battle.
After this a nine years' truce was made, and in 1890
A.D. King Robert died. He had grown so ill and feeble, that for some time
the power had really been in the hands of his second son, who was called
Robert, Earl of Fife.
As Regent, Robert Stewart had been a good ruler, and
had fought valiantly against the Kings of England. But as King, he had been
idle and weak. He had allowed the great lords to carry on war with England,
although he himself wished for peace, and knew that peace would have been
best for the country. For when the King of England gave up trying to make
himself over-lord of Scotland, the great reason for fighting had gone. But,
during the wild years of war, the great barons had grown to love war, and
they were glad of the smallest excuse for fighting. Only a stern, strong
King could have repressed them, and forced them to keep peace. Robert II.
was neither strong nor stern, and so the barons carried on war in spite of
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