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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter II - Earldom and Earls of Buchan
Section II


THE EARL or BUCHAN INVADES ENGLAND—COMYN, LORD OF BADENOCH, GUARDIAN OF THE KINGDOM—EDWARD I.—SURRENDER, TERMS OF SUBMISSION.

SCOTLAND was fast drifting into a perilous position. In 1294 Edward I. was entering on a war against the King of France; and he summoned Baliol and the Scottish nobles to assist him in the French war. But they disobeyed, and held a meeting of Parliament at Scone. In October, 1295, a defensive and offensive treaty was concluded between France and Scotland. In March, 1296, the Scots mustered an army, and under the command of John, Earl of Buchan, and High Constable of Scotland, they invaded Cumberland and wasted the country. Shortly after, the Earl of Buchan led another raid into Northumberland.

In April, 1296, Edward I. invaded Scotland. He attacked Berwick, and ruthlessly massacred eight thousand of the inhabitants, sparing neither age nor sex. The town was utterly ruined. Edward formed a ditch, and threw up defensive works round Berwick. Thence he proceeded towards Dunbar, the key of the Eastern Marches. The Scots had mustered to defend the Castle of Dunbar; but on the 26th of April they were attacked, defeated, and dispersed, and many of them slain and taken prisoners. The Castle of Dunbar was seized by Edward; and the Earls of Athol, Monteith, and Ross, and a number of other barons submitted to him. All the prisoners of rank were conveyed to England and imprisoned.

Edward I. proceeded rapidly with his work. The castles of Roxburgh, Jedburgh, and others on the line of his march were surrendered to him. He reached Edinburgh on the 6th of June, immediately attacked the castle with all the appliances at his command, and pelted it day and night for a week, after which it capitulated. He continued his triumphal progress to Linlithgow, and onward to Stirling, crossed the Forth unopposed, and, proceeding by Perth, passed the Tay and entered Forfarshire. Baliol had fled before the advance of Edward’s army; and at the Castle of Brechin, on the 10th of July, 1296, he came like a criminal suing for mercy, and submitted to Edward’s pleasure. He was at once degraded and dispossessed of his fief (kingdom) and conveyed to England a prisoner.

At Montrose, John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, submitted to Edward I., and was sent into England a prisoner. In 1297, he was permitted to return to Scotland. For some time he worked against Wallace and supported the English. But after the battle of Falkirk, the Earl again turned against the English, which was no doubt owing to his kinsman being elected one of the Guardians of the Kingdoms. Sir John Comyn, called the Red Comyn, was a son of John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, one of the Guardians of Scotland in 1286, and a Claimant for the Crown as before stated. He married a sister of John Baliol, the now deposed King; thus the Red Comyn was a nephew of Baliol. The Lord of Badenoch, father of the Red Comyn, was one of the ablest and most powerful men in Scotland of his time. He died in 1300 at an advanced age, and was succeeded by his son, John. These family connections throw light on an important series of subsequent events.

Wallace resigned the Guardianship of Scotland shortly after the Battle of Falkirk in 1298; and Sir John Comyn (the Red) afterwards Lord of Badenoch, and John de Soulis were elected Guardians, associated with Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, and William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews. Bishop Lamberton was a warm personal friend of Wallace and Bruce.

In July, 1299, at a meeting of the Guardians and some of the nobles, held at Peebles, a rather serious scuffle occurred, which originated in a proposal touching the property of Sir William Wallace, who was then in France:- "And upon that each of these knights gave the lie to the other, and they drew their daggers; and the Earl of Buchan and Sir John Comyn thought because Sir David de Graham is with Master John Comyn, and Malcolm Wallace with the Earl of Carrick, that some quarrel was begun with intention to deceive them, and Master John Comyn leaped upon the Earl of Carrick and took him by the throat, and the Earl of Buchan upon the Bishop of St. Andrews, and they held them fast, until the Steward and others went between them and stopped the scuffle."

So far as known, it appears that Cornyn, Lord of Badenoch, as chief Guardian of Scotland, acted loyally on behalf of his country. In 1300, Edward I. invaded Scotland, took several castles in Dumfriesshire; and then besieged Caerlaverock Castle, which, after a heroic defence against his whole army, at last surrendered. It was here that Edward I. was obliged to listen to one of the most severe attacks that has ever been made upon him touching his claims of feudal superiority over the Kingdom of Scotland. About the end of August, the Archbishop of Canterbury, acting as the Pope’s legate, placed a Bull from Boniface VIII. in the hands of Edward I., which was read aloud in the presence of his assembled barons and knights. Boniface charged Edward I. with violating all the rights and liberties of Scotland, and stated "that neither he nor any of his predecessors held over Scotland any superiority; since, when, in the wars between your father Henry and Simon de Montfort, he requested the assistance of Alexander III., King of Scotland, he acknowledged by letters patent that he received such assistance, not as due to him, but as a special favour. Moreover, when you yourself invited King Alexander to attend your coronation, you made the requests as a matter of favour and not of right. When the King of Scotland rendered homage to you for his lands in Tynedale and Penrith, he publicly protested it was rendered not for his Kingdom, but for these lands only, since, as King of Scotland, he was independent. Yea, further, when Alexander III. died, leaving an heiress to his Crown, a granddaughter in her minority, the wardship of this infant was not given to you, which it would have been if you had been Lord Superior, but it was given to certain nobles of Scotland elected for the office." Touching the negotiations for the proposed marriage between the Prince of Wales and the Maid of Norway, the Pope reminded Edward I. "that he had acknowledged the independence of Scotland; and it was singular that he submitted to negotiate if he had a right to command. Regarding the changes lately made on the rights and liberties of Scotland, with the consent of a divided nobility, or the person Edward had placed in charge of the kingdom, these ought not to continue, as all had been extorted by force and intimidation. The Pope then exhorted Edward, in the name of God, to at once liberate the bishops and clergy whom he had imprisoned, and to remove all the offices and officials whom he had thrust upon the Scottish nation. On the conclusion of the reading of the Bull, Edward started up, and exclaimed—"I will not be silent or at rest either for Mount Zion or Jerusalem; but, as long as there is breath in my nostrils, I will defend what all the world knows to be my right" The result, however, was that he disbanded his army for a time, though not for long.

In 1303, Edward I. was making the utmost efforts to prevent the King of France from giving any encouragement to the Scots. In the spring, the Earl of Buchan, Sir John Soulis, and the Steward of Scotland were sent to France as Ambassadors; but ere they reached Paris, a truce was arranged between England and France, in which all reference to the Scots was excluded. In the final treaty of peace, ratified at Paris in May, 1303, no reference to the Scots occurred. Yet, through the craft of Edward I., abetted by the King of France, the Scottish envoys were induced to remain at the French Court by base and false professions. On the 25th of May they communicated with Comyn, the Guardian, in the following sentences:—"Be not alarmed that the Scots are not included in the treaty. The King of France will immediately send Ambassadors to divert Edward from war, and to procure a truce for us until the two Kings can have a personal conference in France. At that conference, a peace will be concluded beneficial to our nation; of this the King of France has himself given the most positive assurance. . . . Marvel not that none of us return home at present; we would all have willingly returned, but the King of France will have us to remain till we bring home intelligence of the result of the business; wherefore, for the Lord’s sake, despair not; but if ever you acted with resolution, do so now. . . . The French ambassadors will be empowered to treat of peace, as well as to negotiate a truce." The men thus detained at the French Court were John Soulis, one of the Guardians; the Earl of Buchan, the Steward of Scotland, and Ingram Umfraville; so with these men absent, and the defection of Bruce, Earl of Carrick, there were few persons of ability and rank left in Scotland to offer resistance to the ruthless invader.

Edward I. was now free from embarrassment abroad and at home, and having made ample preparations for the final conquest of Scotland, he commenced his march upon the doomed country in the middle of May, 1303. His army was arranged in two divisions—one under himself and the other under the Prince of Wales. Edward advanced by Morpeth, and reached Roxburgh on the 21st of May, where he was joined by the followers of Bruce, Earl of Carrick. The Prince of Wales entered Scotland by the Western Marches, but his advance was checked at several points by Wallace; he therefore deviated from his intended route and marched through Roxburghshire, advancing northward in the rear of his father. Edward reached Edinburgh on the 4th of June, marched by Linlithgow and thence to Stirling, crossed the Forth, and on the 10th of June entered Perth. Comyn, the Guardian, with the small force under his command, could not venture to face the great hosts of the invader or contest his advance with any hope of success. Edward stayed in Perth till the middle of July, then proceeded to Dundee, and thence to Montrose. At this stage he summoned Sir Thomas Maule to surrender the Castle of Brechin, but Sir Thomas declined. Edward then marched from Montrose to Brechin with his war engines, and besieged the castle. Sir Thomas made a heroic defence; but at last he was fatally wounded and expired, and the garrison surrendered, though not till five waggon loads of lead had been thrown into the castle.

Resuming his progress northward, he marched by the Castle of Kincardine, and arrived at Aberdeen on the 24th of August. He stayed in the city about a week. Thence he marched through Buchan, and reached Banff on the 4th of September; whence, marching northward, he crossed the Spey and advanced through Moray, reaching Kinloss on the 20th of September. Edward advanced into Badenoch and occupied for several days the Castle of Lochindorb—one of the strongholds of the Comyns, Lords of Badenoch. He returned by Kinloss, thence moving southward by Kildrummy Castle, whence to Brechin, and onward to Dunfermline, where he stayed through the winter of 1304.

Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, the Guardian of Scotland, was encamped at Strathord; and in the end of December, 1303, negotiations were commenced with him for his submission to Edward I. The conditions offered by Edward virtually implied the surrender of national liberty; and the negotiations were tedious and protracted. The terms of submission were agreed to on the 9th of February, 1304, in which it was stipulated that their lives should be spared, and that they should retain their lands, but subject to such fines as Edward might think fit to impose upon them. But the following persons were specially excluded from the above terms:—Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow; Sir John Soulis, the Steward of Scotland, Sir Simon Fraser, Sir William Wallace, David de Graham, and Alexander de Lindsay: to all those the chance of preserving their lives was offered on certain terms, mostly stated periods of banishment from Scotland, except Wallace. "As for William Wallace, it is convenanted that he shall render himself up at the will and mercy of the King, if it shall seem good to him." There is evidence that Edward was earnestly requested to offer reasonable terms to Wallace, but he absolutely declined to listen to such a proposal. The narrative of Wallace’s capture and fate is well known. After the surrender of Stirling Castle, Sir William Oliphant, its governor and heroic defender, was sent to the Tower of London and executed; and the garrison, numbering one hundred and forty men, were despatched to various prisons in England.

It then seemed that all was over, and Scotland utterly subdued. But surface appearances are often deceptive. A worthy successor to Wallace immediately took the field, and made heroic and supreme efforts to recover the kingdom.


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