THE eldest son of King Robert ii. was called John. But
that name was thought to be unlucky. The people remembered John Baliol and
his unhappy reign, they had also heard that King .John of England, and King
John of France, had been unfortunate, so they changed John Stewart's name to
Robert, and he was crowned as Robert in. But changing his name made no
difference either to his fortunes or to his nature.
Robert iii. was not a strong man, and he was lame,
having been kicked by a horse when he was a boy. He was kind and gentle, and
quite unfit to rule the fierce lords and barons. So, even after he came to
the throne, he allowed his brother, who was also called Robert, to continue
to rule as he had done at the end of their father's life.
King Robert had a son called David, to whom he gave
the title of Duke of Rothesay. To Robert his brother, he gave the title of
Duke of Albany. These were the first dukes ever made in Scotland.
Rothesay was young, gay, and handsome. He was wild,
and wicked too, and often caused much sorrow to his father, who loved him
Albany was silent, dark, and cunning. He hated
Rothesay, because he knew that one day he would be King, and he himself
wanted to be King.
When Robert iii. came to the throne, there was peace
with England. But not having England to fight against, the great lords
fought all the more fiercely among themselves. They fought, too, with the
Highland chieftains, who lived in the wild and mountainous parts of
Scotland. These Highlanders were so fierce, that the English called them the
Wild Scots. They were formed into various clans and families, and fought
often among themselves, as well as with the Lowland lords.
Had the King been a strong man, he might have tamed
the wild nobles. But he left everything to his brother Robert, the Duke of
Albany. And Albany tried to make friends with the nobles by leaving their
wicked deeds unpunished, for he hoped that some day they would help to put
him upon the throne. So the whole land was full of fighting, quarrelling,
and oppression. Those who were strong, took from those who were weak. There
was neither justice nor mercy to be found anywhere, and Albany, although he
was a strong and clever man, allowed these things to be.
Among the wildest of the Highland clans were two
called Clan Kay and Clan Chattan. There was a deadly hatred between them.
They were always fighting, and they filled the whole country round with war
and bloodshed. At last they decided to settle their quarrels by a great
tournament, thirty of the best men from one clan fighting against thirty of
The place chosen for this battle was a beautiful plain
close to the walls of Perth. Wooden galleries were built all round for the
people who came to watch, and the King and all his court consented to be
present. This was no ordinary tournament, such as knights often took part
in, for the knights fought in full armour and often with blunted weapons.
These Highlanders, when they entered the lists, wore no armour, and carried
not only bows and arrows, but swords, battle-axes, and short, keen daggers.
They were all fierce, strong men, and they meant to fight to the death.
But at the last moment, when the trumpets sounded for
this fearful tournament to begin, one of the Clan Chattan men lost heart.
Throwing down his weapons he fled from the lists. Full of fear he leaped the
barriers, plunged into the river, and, swimming across it, disappeared into
the wood beyond.
The King, who did not love bloodshed, was not ill
pleased at the thought that the fight could not take place. For the numbers
were now uneven, and no man of the Clan Kay would retire lest he should be
thought cowardly. But from the bystanders, a little crooked-legged man, who
was a blacksmith in Perth, stepped forward.
'I will take the coward's place,' he cried, 'if you
pay me half a French crown.' The offer was at once accepted, for there was
no time to send to the Clan Chattan country for another man, and rather than
not fight at all, they were glad to have the little crooked- legged
So the trumpets sounded and the bagpipes screamed. and
with mighty yells the two clans closed upon each other. A terrible fight it
was. The great battle-axes swung and fell, sword and dagger flashed, and the
fair meadow was red with blood.
In the middle of the fight the crooked-legged black-
smith, having killed a man, stood still. 'How now,' said the Clan Chattan
chief, 'are you afraid?'
'Not I,' replied the smith, 'but I have done enough
'On and fight,' cried the chief, 'I will not grudge
wages to him who does not grudge his work.'
So the smith fell to again, and fought as fiercely as
any. Both sides fought, filled with bitter hatred of each other, till at
last only one man of Clan Kay was left alive. Of Clan Chattan there were
ten, and the little crooked-legged blacksmith, all sorely wounded.
Then the King flung down his baton, and cried out that
Clan Chattan had won the day.
This was a very terrible way of settling a quarrel,
but probably some of the great Lowland nobles encouraged the clans to fight,
in the hope that if some of the fiercest of the Highlanders were killed, the
others would be more easily kept in order. And indeed, for a long time after
this slaughter, the Highlands remained more peaceful.