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The Bruce
Book 20

The Death of The Bruce

SOON after the Earl Thomas had thus returned from Weardale the king gathered all his strength, leaving out none able to fight. He assembled a great host, and divided it into three parts. One part went without hindrance to Norham, and set a strait siege there, and kept the garrison close within their wall. The second division went to Alnwick, and set a siege there. And while these two divisions lay besieging the castles they made bold assaults, and many a fair and gallant feat of arms was right doughtily achieved.

The king left his people lying at these castles, and held his way with a third host from park to park, to amuse himself at the hunting, as if the whole land were his own. To those who were with him there he gave in fee and heritage the lands of Northumberland lying next the Scottish Border, and they paid the fee for their seals.

In this wise he rode destroying, till the King of England, by advice of the Mortimer and his mother, who, because of his youth, were at that time his governors, sent messengers to treat of peace, and they so sped that it was agreed to make a perpetual peace on these terms. A marriage was to be made between King Robert's son, David, at that time scarcely five years old, and Dame Joan of the Tower, who was afterwards of right great worth. She was sister to the young King of England, and at that time seven years old. By that treaty were given up many muniments and letters which the English then had, that bore against Scotland, as well as all the claim to Scotland they could in any way have. And King Robert, for the many injuries that he had done the English by the strong hand in his wars, was to pay twenty thousand pounds of good silver money. [The full terms of the truce are to be found in Rymer's 'Foedera', iv. 337, and the treaty itself is printed in Ker's 'History of Bruce', ii. 526, from the original duplicate in the Register House, Edinburgh. These documents recognized in the amplest manner the entire independence of Scotland.]

When these things had been agreed upon, and security given, with seals and oaths of friendship, and of peace that never by any hap was to come to an end, they appointed the marriage to be at Berwick, and set the day when it should take place; then each man went to his country.

Thus was peace made where there was war before, and presently the sieges of Norham and Alnwick were raised. King Robert gave orders that the money be paid, and he made great arrangements for the feast against the day when his son David should be married. The Earl Thomas and the good Lord of Douglas he afterwards appointed to be stewards of that feast in his stead, for so sore a sickness seized him that he could by no means be there.

His disease began with a benumbing; for his sore trouble came upon him by reason of his lying out in the cold in his time of misfortune.

During all that time he lay at Cardross, and when the day was come nigh that was appointed for the wedding, the Earl and the Lord Douglas came with much pomp to Berwick, and brought the young David thither with them. On the other side the queen and Mortimer came with great ceremony and royal state, and they brought thither with rich display the young and beautiful princess. They made the marriage at Berwick with great feasting and solemnity. There was great mirth and gladness, for they made right great festivity, and the English and the Scots came together in joy and comfort, and no fierce word passed between them.

They kept the feast a very long time, and when they made ready to depart the queen left her daughter there with great riches and royal state. I trow that for many a year no lady was so richly brought home. The Earl and the Lord Douglas received her with honour, as, of a surety, was her due, for she was afterwards the best lady and the fairest to be seen.

After this great and solemn occasion, when both sides had taken their leave, the queen passed home to England, and the Mortimer with her. The Earl and those that were left, when they had conveyed her a space, rode again to Berwick, and afterwards, with all their company, went forthwith to the king, carrying with them the young David and Dame Joan, the young princess.

The king gave them fair welcome, and afterwards, without long delay, he caused a parliament to be called, and went thither with many knights. It was his plan in his own lifetime to crown his young son and his wife, and he did this at that parliament.

There, with great pomp and solemnity, King David was crowned, and all the lords who were there, and those of the commonalty as well, yielded him manrent and fealty. And before they were crowned, King Robert caused an ordinance to be passed that, should it happen that his son David died without heir-male of his body, Robert Stewart, whom his daughter Marjory had borne, should be king and enjoy the kingdom. in order that this succession should be loyally kept, all the lords made oath, and confirmed it with their seals. [The Act which settled the crown upon the Stewarts was passed at a parliament held at Cambuskenneth in December, 1318.]

And if it should happen that, while the princes were young, King Robert should pass to God, Thomas, the good Earl of Moray, and the Lord of Douglas were to be their governors till they had wisdom to manage affairs and take upon them to rule. To this the two made oath, and all the lords who were there sware their oaths to these two wardens, to obey them loyally if they chanced to have the wardenship.

When all this matter had been thus dealt with, and securely confirmed, the king went to Cardross, [In what was then part of the parish of Cardross, a little to the west of Dunbarton, on a farm still known as the Castle Hill, tradition points out the site of the stronghold to which Bruce retired in his last days, and in which the last pathetic scene of his life took place.] and was there seized so cruelly with his sickness, and was so sore oppressed, that he knew the time had come for him to make the common end of all this life, and to prepare for death when God should send it. Therefore presently he sent letters to the lords of his country, and they came as he bade them. Then before these lords and prelates he made his testament, and to many religious bodies he gave money in great quantity for the saving of his soul. He provided right well for his soul, and when this was all done, he said, "Sirs, so far is the day gone with me that there is only one thing left, that is, without fear to meet death, as every man must needs do. I thank God that He has given me space to repent in this life, for through me and my wars there has been great spilling of blood, and many an innocent man has been slain. Therefore I take this sickness and this pain as a reward for my trespass.

"My heart was firmly fixed, for the saving of my sins, to make a crusade against God's enemies when I should come to prosperity. And since He now takes me to Him, so that the body cannot fulfil the device of the heart, I would that the heart, wherein that resolve was conceived, were sent thither. Therefore I pray you, every one, that among you ye choose me one who is honest, wise, and doughty, and a noble knight of his hand, to carry my heart against the enemies of God, when my soul and body shall be parted. I would that it were brought there worthily, since God will not that I have strength to go thither."

Then were their hearts all so sorrowful that none could keep from weeping. He bade them leave their sorrowing, "For this," said he, "could bring no relief, and must greatly afflict themselves." He prayed them to see forthwith to the matter with which they were charged.

At that they went forth heavily, and among them deemed it good that the worthy Lord Douglas, in whom was both wisdom and valour, should take this journey in hand. To this they all agreed; then they went to the king, and told him that they deemed of a truth the doughty Lord Douglas best fitted for that journey.
And when the king heard they had thus ordained to carry his heart the man whom he most desired should have it, he said, "As God Himself shall save me, I am right well pleased that ye have chosen him, for, ever since I thought to do this thing, his nobleness and valour set me yearning that he should carry it; and since ye are all agreed, it is the more to my liking. Let us see now what he says to it."

And when the good Lord of Douglas knew that the king had spoken thus, he came and knelt to him, and in this wise gave him thanks. "I thank you greatly, my master," said he, "for the many free and great benefits ye have ofttimes done me since first I came to your service; but above all I give you thanks that ye give me so noble and worthy a charge as to take in my keeping your heart, that was illustrious with all nobleness and valour. For you, sir, will I gladly make this journey, if God give me time and space."

The king thanked him tenderly, and there was none in that company but wept for pity; their cheer was grievous to see.

When the Lord Douglas had thus undertaken the high enterprise of bearing the good king's heart to the war against God's enemies, he was praised for his undertaking. And the king's infirmity waxed greater and greater, till at last the sad hour of death drew very near. And when he had caused to be done to him all that behoves a good Christian, with true repentance he gave up the ghost, and God took him to heaven, to be among His chosen people in joy, pleasure, and angel song.

And when his people knew that King Robert was dead, the sound of sorrow went from place to place. Men were to be seen tearing their hair, and seemly knights right sorely weeping, and wringing their hands, and rending their clothes like men who were mad, grieving for his valiant nobleness, his wisdom, strength, and honesty, and, above all, the great companionship that of his courtesy he often made them.

"Alas," they said, "all our defence, with him that was our comfort, our wisdom, and our leadership, is here brought to an end. His valour and his great strength made all doughty who were with him, and they could never be dismayed while they saw him before them. Alas! what shall we do or say? Ever while he lived we were feared by all our foes, and the renown of our valour ran through many a far country. All this was due to him alone!"

With such words they made their moan, and of a surety it was no marvel; for in no country could a better ruler be found. I wot that none living could describe the lamentation that these people made for their lord.

And when they had long sorrowed in this fashion, and he had been disembowelled, and richly embalmed, and the valiant Lord Douglas, as was before agreed, had with great honour received his heart, they bore him with much pomp and solemnity to Dunfermline, and solemnly buried him in a splendid tomb in the choir. Bishops and prelates absolved him there, and the service was performed as they could best devise. Then, on the next day, they went their way sad and sorrowful. [In the early years of the nineteenth century, when the Abbey Church of Dunfermline was being restored, the workmen came upon the remains of a splendid tomb in the spot which tradition assigned to the grave of Bruce. Within, amid fragments of cloth of gold, lay the skeleton of a tall man, and the fact that the breastbone had been sawn through confirmed the poet's account of the removal of the king's heart. Sir Walter Scott, who was present at the re-interment, describes the incident in his 'Tales of a Grandfather'. See also the Report by Sir Henry Jardine in the 'Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland'.]

When the good king was buried, Sir Thomas the Earl of Moray took the government of the whole country, and all obeyed his commands. And the good Lord of Douglas had a case made of fine silver exquisitely enamelled. In it he placed the king's heart, and bore it ever about his neck, and diligently made ready for his voyage. He made his testament, and ordained how his land should be governed by friends till his return. This and all things else that in any way pertained to him he arranged with such good and wise foresight before his going forth, that nothing could have been amended.

And when he had taken his leave, he took ship at Berwick, and with a noble company of knights and squires, put to sea, and sailed a long way to the south. He sailed between Cornwall and Brittany, and left the mainland of Spain to the north, and held his way, till he came to the great city of Seville. Though his men and he were greatly troubled with tempests at sea, they landed whole and sound.

They arrived at Grand Seville, and a little afterwards brought their horses every one ashore, and took quarters in the town. Douglas carried himself right richly, for he had a noble company, and gold enough to spend.

The King of Spain immediately sent for him, and received him right well, and proffered in great abundance gold and treasure, horses and armour. He would, however, take none of these, "for," he said, "he took that journey upon pilgrimage against God's enemies, that his toil might afterwards be for the saving of his soul. But since he knew the king was at war with the Saracens, he would remain there and help him loyally with all his strength."

The king thanked him courteously, and committed to him good men who knew well the wars of that country, and the manner of them. Then Douglas went to his inn, and when the king had left him, he made a right great sojourn there. Knights of distant countries came in great crowds to see him, and right hugely honoured him. And above all men, the English knights who were there most sovereignly honoured and bore him company.

Among them was a stranger knight who was held to be so wondrous doughty that he was esteemed one of the best in all Christendom. So much had his face been wounded that it was nearly all covered with scars. Before he saw the Lord Douglas he had supposed his face must be scarred, but in it he had never a hurt. When the knight saw it without scars, he said he marvelled greatly that a knight so worthy, and renowned for such great valour, should be unscarred in the face. To this Douglas answered quietly, and said, "God be praised, I had ever hands to shield my head."

Whoever gives heed to this answer may see in it an under-meaning, that if he that put the question had had hands to guard, mayhap his face which, in default of fence, was so broken in many places, should have been left whole and sound. The good knights standing by praised the answer greatly, for it was made with quiet speech, and bore right pregnant meaning.

In this manner they lay quiet till the rumour ran through the country that the haughty king of Belmarine, with many a proud Saracen, had entered Spain to waste the whole country. The King of Spain on the other side quickly gathered his host, and divided it into three battles. And to the Lord Douglas he gave the vanguard to lead and direct. He had all the foreign knights with him. The second battle the king committed to the Grand Master of Santiago, and the rearguard he took himself. Thus disposed, they fared forth to meet the enemy, who came against them right sturdily in battle order, ready to attack.

The valiant Douglas exhorted his host to fight well, and have no fear of death, since the bliss of heaven should be their reward if they died in God's service. Then, with these brave and veteran warriors, he stoutly joined the battle. Fierce was the fighting to be seen there, for all on the Christian side were bold and doughty men.

But ere they joined battle, I shall tell you what Douglas did. The Bruce's heart, which was hanging on his breast, he threw into the field a stone-cast or more, and said, "Now pass thou forth in front as thou wast wont to do in battle, and I shall follow, or else die." This he did without ceasing; he fought till he came to it, and took it up with great honour. Ever thus he fought in the field. [On account of the rhymes used, the contents of this paragraph, which are found only in Hart's edition of the poems, are considered, both by Professor Skeat and Mr. J. T. T. Brown, to have been added by a later hand than Barbour's.]

So hard they fought, with all their might, that many of the Saracens were slain. Nevertheless, with their fell falchions they struck down many a Christian there. At last the Lord Douglas and the great host with him pressed the Saracens so hard that they altogether turned their backs. The Christian knights pursued with all their strength, and slew many in the chase. So far did the Lord Douglas with a few followers carry the pursuit that he was past all the knights joining in it. He had not with him above ten of all his company. When he saw that all the pursuit had stopped, he turned towards his host. And as he turned he saw that all the Saracens turned again, and rallied in great strength. Then he saw, close beside him, Sir William de St. Clair surrounded with a great host. At that he was distressed, and said, "Yonder worthy knight will soon be slain unless he have help from us. God bids us speed to help him, since we are so near at hand, and God knows well our resolve is to live and die in his service. His will in all things shall we do, and shall spare no peril till yonder knight be brought out of his danger, or we be all slain with him."

With that they struck spurs into their steeds, and forthwith rode among the Saracens. There they made room about them, and dealt blows fast with all their might; and slew many. Never was greater defence made by so few against so many as was made by these knights while they could stand to give battle. But no valour could avail them there, and every one was slain. The Saracens were nigh twenty for their one. The good Lord Douglas was slain, and Sir William St. Clair as well, with two other valiant knights, Sir Robert and Sir Walter Logan. Our Lord, for His greatness' sake, receive their souls to the bliss of heaven!

Thus was the good Lord Douglas slain. As for the Saracens, they tarried no more in that place, but made off, leaving their knights dead on the field. Some of the Lord Douglas's men found their lord dead, and went wellnigh mad for sorrow and despair. They mourned long over him, and with great lamentation bore him borne. They found the king's heart on the spot, and took that home with them, and went towards their quarters with weeping and evil cheer. Their sorrowing was grievous to hear.

Good Sir William of Keith had been all that day at home; for, by his great misfortune, because of a broken arm, be came not that day to the battle. When he saw the people make such sorrowing he asked quickly what it was, and they told him frankly how their doughty lord had been slain by the Saracens when they rallied. And when he knew how it was, he was most sorrowful of all, and made such wondrous evil cheer that all who were by him marvelled.

But it were grievous and to little purpose to tell of their sorrowing. It can be well understood without being told, how grievous, sorrowful, and dire a thing it was to his host to lose such a lord as Douglas; for he was sweet and debonair, and dealt well and fairly by his friends, and by his great feats of arms right fiercely dismayed his foes. Pomp he loved little, but above all things he loved loyalty. Treason he detested so greatly that no traitor could come near him, to his knowledge, without being well punished for his crime.

I trow the loyal Fabricius, who was sent with a great host from Rome to war against Pyrrhus, hated treason no more than he. When this Pyrrhus had made dreadful discomfiture of him and his host, from which he escaped by chance while many of his men were slain, and when Fabricius gathered a host again, a great master of medicine, who had Pyrrhus' health in his keeping, made offer to Fabricius to slay Pyrrhus by treason, by giving him deadly poison in his first draught. Fabricius marvelled that he made him such an offer, and said, "Certes, Rome is well able, by strength of arms, to overcome her foes in battle, but by no means does she stoop to treason. And since thou wouldst do this treachery, thou shalt, for thy reward, go tell Pyrrhus, and let him do to thee whatever seems good to him." Then he sent the physician to Pyrrhus, and made him tell the whole tale openly from end to end.

When Pyrrhus had heard it all, he said, "Never was there a man who bore himself so loyally to his enemy as Fabricius does to me. It is as difficult to turn him from the path of right, or to make him consent to treachery, as at mid-day to turn back the sun while he openly runs his race."

Thus Pyrrhus spoke of Fabricius, who afterwards vanquished him by hard fighting in open battle. The honest loyalty of Fabricius caused me to bring him in here as an example, for he had sovereign renown for his loyalty. This, too, had the Lord Douglas, who was honest, loyal, and valiant. For his death all, stranger and friend, made lamentation.

When his men had long mourned him, they disembowelled him, and caused him to be seethed, that the flesh might be taken wholly from the bones. The flesh they buried there in holy ground with right great reverence; the bones they took with them, and went to their ships.

They took leave of the Spanish king, who sorrowed for their grief; then they went to sea, and, with a fair wind shaped their course for England. There they arrived in safety, and afterwards made their way towards Scotland, where they arrived full soon. The bones were right honourably buried with great care and sorrow in the Kirk of Douglas, and Sir Archibald, the good Lord Douglas's son, [The Good Lord James of Douglas was unmarried. His natural son was Sir William Douglas, afterwards variously known as the Knight of Liddesdale and the Flower of Chivalry. The Archibald Douglas mentioned by Barbour was, according to the family historian, the Good Lord's third brother, 'Lord of Galloway and Governor of Scotland'.] afterwards caused a tomb to be set up of rich alabaster, fine and fair, such as behoved so valiant a knight. [A generation ago, when the Earl of Home, descendant of the Douglases, and holder of their estates, restored the choir of St. Bride's Kirk at Douglas, the tomb of the Good Lord James was discovered, and at the present day his heart, in a silver case, along with the heart of a later head of the house of Douglas, Archibald Bell-the-Cat, rests within a stone combing in the choir floor.]

When Sir William of Keith had in this fashion brought home the bones of Douglas and the heart of the good king, and the bones had been buried with rich and splendid pomp, the Earl of Moray, who at that time had the whole care of Scotland, caused the king's heart to be buried with great reverence at the Abbey of Melrose. There prayer is constantly made that he and his may dwell in Paradise. [Bruce had restored Melrose Abbey, and the resting-place of his heart is pointed out under the great eastern window of the choir there. The spot and circumstance receive full honour in a famous passage of 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel'.]

After this was done the good Earl governed the land, protecting well the poor, and upholding the law so well, and keeping the country so in peace that never since his day has it been governed so ably. Thus have I heard old men say. But alas! he was afterwards poisoned; his death was a grievous sight. [Moray died at Musselburgh July 20, 1332. Scott believed the pathetic ballad of 'Lord Randal' to refer to this death.]

Thus died these lords. May the supreme Lord of all bring them to His great bliss, and grant of His grace that their offspring govern well the land, and give heed to follow through all their life their noble forefathers' great excellence!

The Triune God bring us to the high bliss of heaven, where everlasting happiness is found! Amen.



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