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An Outline of the Relations between England and Scotland (500-1707)
Chapter V - Edward III and Scotland 1328 - 1399

Almost immediately after the conclusion of the Treaty of Northampton, the conditions of government in England and Scotland were reversed. Since the death of Edward I, Scotland, under a strong king, had gained by the weakness of the English sovereign; now England, under the energetic rule of Edward III, was to profit by the death of King Robert and by the succession of a minor. On the 7th June, 1329, King Robert died (probably a leper) at his castle of Cardross, on the Clyde, and left the Scottish throne to his five-year-old son, David II. In October of the following year the young Edward III of England threw off the yoke of the Mortimers and established his personal rule, and came almost immediately into conflict with Scotland. The Scottish regent was Randolph or Ranulph, Earl of Moray, the companion of Bruce and the Black Douglas[50] in the exploits of the great war. Possibly because Edward III had afforded protection to the Pretender, Edward Balliol, the eldest son of John Balliol, and had received him at the English court, Randolph refused to carry out the provisions of the Treaty of Northampton, by which their lands were to be restored to the "Disinherited", _i.e._ to barons whose property in Scotland had been forfeited because they had adopted the English side in the war. A somewhat serious situation was thus created, and Edward, not unnaturally, took advantage of it to disown the Treaty of Northampton, which had been negotiated by the Mortimers during his minority, and which was extremely unpopular in England. He at once recognized Edward Balliol as King of Scotland. The only defence of Randolph's action is the probability that he suspected Edward to be in search of a pretext for refusing to be bound by a treaty made in such circumstances, and if a struggle were to ensue, it was certainly desirable not to increase the power of the English party. Edward proceeded to assist Balliol in an expedition to Scotland, which Mr. Lang describes as "practically an Anglo-Norman filibustering expedition, winked at by the home government, the filibusters being neither more nor less Scottish than most of our _noblesse_". But before Balliol reached Scotland, the last of the paladins whose names have been immortalized by the Bruce's wars, had disappeared from the scene. Randolph died at Musselburgh in July, 1332, and Scotland was left leaderless. The new regent, the Earl of Mar, was quite incapable of dealing with the situation. When Balliol landed at Kinghorn in August, he made his way unmolested till he reached the river Earn, on his way to Perth. The regent had taken up a position near Dupplin, and was at the head of a force which considerably outnumbered the English. But the Scots had failed to learn the lesson taught by Edward I at Falkirk and by Bruce at Bannockburn. The English succeeded in crossing the Earn by night, and took up a position opposite the hill on which the Scots were encamped. Their archers were so arranged as practically to surround the Scots, who attacked in three divisions, armed with pikes, making no attempt even to harass the thin lines of archers who were extended on each side of the English main body. But the unerring aim of the archers could not fail to render the Scottish attack innocuous. The English stood their ground while line after line of the Scots hurled themselves against them, only to be struck down by the gray-goose shafts. At last the attack degenerated into a complete rout, and the English made good their victory by an indiscriminate massacre.

The immediate result of the battle of Dupplin Moor was that "Edward I of Scotland" entered upon a reign which lasted almost exactly twelve weeks. He was crowned at Scone on September 24th, 1332, and unreservedly acknowledged himself the vassal of the King of England. On the 16thDecember the new king was at Annan, when an unexpected attack was made upon him by a small force, led, very appropriately, by a son of Randolph, Earl of Moray, and by the young brother of the Lord James of Douglas. Balliol fled to Carlisle, "one leg booted and the other naked", and there awaited the help of his liege lord, who prepared to invade Scotland in May. Meanwhile the patriotic party had failed to take advantage of their opportunity. Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell, the regent chosen to succeed Mar (who had fallen at Dupplin), had been captured in a skirmish near Roxburgh, either in November, 1332, or in April, 1333,and was succeeded in turn by Sir Archibald Douglas, the hero of the Annan episode, but destined to be better known as "Tyneman the Unlucky". The young king had been sent for safety to France.

In April, Balliol was again in Scotland, and, in May, Edward III began to besiege Berwick, which had been promised him by Balliol. To defend Berwick, the Scots were forced to fight a pitched battle, which proved a repetition of Dupplin Moor. Berwick had promised to surrender if it were not relieved by a fixed date. When the day arrived, a small body of Scots had succeeded in breaking through the English lines, and Sir Archibald Douglas had led a larger force to ravage Northumberland. On these grounds Berwick held that it had been in fact relieved; but Edward III, who lacked his grandfather's nice appreciation of situations where law and fact are at variance, replied by hanging a hostage. The regent was now forced to risk a battle in the hope of saving Berwick, and he marched southwards, towards Berwick, with a large army. Edward, following the precedent of Dupplin, occupied a favourable position at Halidon Hill, with his front protected by a marsh. He drew up his line in the order that had been so successful at Dupplin, and the same result followed. Each successive body of Scottish pikemen was cut down by a shower of English arrows, before being able even to strike a blow. The regent was slain, and Moray, his companion in arms, fled to France, soon to return to strike another blow for Scotland.

The victory of Halidon added greatly to the popularity of Edward III, for the English looked upon the shame of Bannockburn as avenged, and they sang:

  "Scots out of Berwick and out of Aberdeen,
   At the Burn of Bannock, ye were far too keen,
   Many guiltless men ye slew, as was clearly seen.
   King Edward has avenged it now, and fully too, I ween,
     He has avenged it well, I ween. Well worth the while!
     I bid you all beware of Scots, for they are full of guile.

  "'Tis now, thou rough-foot, brogue-shod Scot, that begins thy care,
   Then boastful barley-bag-man, thy dwelling is all bare.
   False wretch and forsworn, whither wilt thou fare?
   Hie thee unto Bruges, seek a better biding there!
   There, wretch, shalt thou stay and wait a weary while;
   Thy dwelling in Dundee is lost for ever by thy guile."[51]

In Scotland, the party of independence was, for the time, helpless. Edward and Balliol divided the country between them. The eight counties of Dumfries, Roxburgh, Berwick, Selkirk, Peebles, Haddington, Edinburgh, and Linlithgow formed the English king's share of the spoil, along with a reassertion of his supremacy over the rest of Scotland. English officers began to rule between the Tweed and the Forth. But the cause of independence was never really hopeless. Balliol and the English party were soon weakened by internal dissensions, and the leaders on the patriotic side were not slow to take advantage of the opportunities thus given them. It was, indeed, necessary to send King David and his wife to France, and they landed at Boulogne in May, 1334. But from France, in return, came the young Earl of Moray, who, along with Robert the High Steward, son of Marjory Bruce, and next heir to the throne, took up the duties of guardians. The arrival of Moray gave fresh life to the cause, but there is little interest in the records of the struggle. The Scots won two small successes at the Borough-Muir of Edinburgh and at Kilblain. But the victory in the skirmish at the Borough-Muir (August, 1335) was more unfortunate than defeat, for it deprived Scotland for some time of the services of the Earl of Moray. He had captured Guy de Namur and conducted him to the borders, and was himself taken prisoner while on his journey northwards. Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell, who had been made guardian after the battle of Dupplin, and was captured in April, 1333, had now been ransomed, and he was again recognized as regent for David II. So strong was the Scottish party that Balliol had to flee to England for assistance, and, in 1336, Edward III again appeared in Scotland. It was not a very heroic effort for the future victor of Crecy; he marched northwards to Elgin, and, on his way home, burned the town of Aberdeen.

As in the first war the turning-point had proved to be the death of Edward I in the summer of 1307, so now, exactly thirty years later, came another decisive event. In the autumn of 1337, Edward III first styled himself King of France, and the diversion of his energies from the Scots to their French allies rendered possible the final overthrow of Balliol and the Scottish traitors. The circumstances are, however, parallel only to the extent that an intervention of fortune rendered possible the victory of Scottish freedom. In 1337 there was no great leader: the hour had come, but not the man. For the next four years, castle after castle fell into Scottish hands; many of the tales are romantic enough, but they do not lead to a Bannockburn. The only incident of any significance is the defence of the castle of Dunbar. The lord of Dunbar was the Earl of March, whose record throughout the troubles had been far from consistent, but who was now a supporter of King David, largely through the influence of his wife, famous as "Black Agnes", a daughter of the great Randolph, Earl of Moray. From January to June, 1338, Black Agnes held Dunbar against English assaults by sea and land. Many romantic incidents have been related of these long months of siege: the stories of the Countess's use of a dust-cloth to repair the damage done by the English siege-machines to the battlements, and of her prophecy, made when the Earl of Salisbury brought a "sow" or shed fitted to protect soldiers in the manner of the Roman testudo,

  "Beware, Montagow,
   For farrow shall thy sow",

and fulfilled by dropping a huge stone on the machine and thus scattering its occupants, "the litter of English pigs"--these, and her "love-shafts", which, as Salisbury said, "pierce to the heart", are among the most wonderful of historical fairy tales. In the end the English had to raise the siege:

  "Came I early, came I late,
   I found Agnes at the gate",

they sang as the explanation of their failure.

The defence of Dunbar was followed by the surrender of Perth and the capture of the castles of Stirling and Edinburgh, and in June, 1341,David II returned to Scotland, from which Balliol had fled. David was now seventeen years of age, and he had a great opportunity. Scotland was again free, and was prepared to rally round its national sovereign and the son of the Bruce. The English foe was engaged in a great struggle with France, and difficulties had arisen between the English king and his Parliament. But the unworthy son of the great Robert proved only a source of weakness to his supporters. The only redeeming feature of his policy is that it was, at first, inspired by loyalty to his French protectors. In their interest he made, in the year of the Crecy campaign, an incursion into England, thus ending a truce made in 1343.After the usual preliminary ravaging, he reached Neville's Cross, near Durham, in the month of October. There he found a force prepared to meet him, led, as at Northallerton and at Mitton, by the clergy of the northern province. The battle was a repetition of Dupplin and Halidon Hill, and a rehearsal of Homildon and Flodden. Scots and English alike were drawn up in the usual three divisions; the left, centre, and right being led respectively, on the one side, by Robert the Steward, King David, and Randolph, and, on the other, by Rokeby, Archbishop Neville, and Henry Percy. The English archers were, as usual, spread out so as to command both the Scottish wings. They were met by no cavalry charge, and they soon threw the Scottish left into confusion, and prepared the way for an assault upon the centre. Randolph was killed; the king was captured, and for eleven years he remained a prisoner in England. Meanwhile Robert the Steward (still the heir to the throne, for David had no children) ruled in Scotland. There is reason for believing that, in 1352, David was allowed to go to Scotland to raise a ransom, and, two years later, an arrangement was actually made for his release. But Robert the Steward and David had always been on bad terms, and, after everything had been formally settled, the Scots decided to remain loyal to their French allies. Hostilities recommenced; in August, 1355, the Scots won a small victory at Nesbit in Berwickshire, and captured the town of Berwick. Early in the following year it was retaken by Edward III, who proclaimed himself the successor of Balliol, and mercilessly ravaged the Lowlands. So great was his destruction of churches and religious houses that the invasion is remembered as the "Burned Candlemas". Peace was made in 1357, and David's ransom was fixed at 100,000 marks. It was a huge sum; but in connection with the efforts made to raise it the burgesses acquired some influence in the government of the country.

David's residence in France and in England had entirely deprived him of sympathy with the national aspirations of his subjects. He loved the gay court of Edward III, and the Anglo-Norman chivalry had deeply affected him. He hated his destined successor, and he had been charmed by Edward's personality. Accordingly we find him, seven years after his return to Scotland, again making a journey to England. It is a striking fact that the son of the victor of Bannockburn should have gone to London to propose to sell the independence of Scotland to the grandson of Edward I. The difficulty of paying the yearly instalment of his ransom made a limit to his own extravagant expenditure, and he now offered, instead of money, an acknowledgment of either Edward himself or one of his sons as the heir to the Scottish throne. The result of this proposal was to change the policy of Edward. He abandoned the Balliol claim and the traditional Edwardian policy in Scotland, and accepted David's offer. David returned to Scotland and laid before his Parliament the less violent of the two schemes, the proposal that, in the event of his dying childless, Prince Lionel of England should succeed (1364).

  "To that said all his lieges, Nay;
   Na their consent wald be na way,
   That ony Ynglis mannys sone
   In[to] that honour suld be done,
   Or succede to bere the Crown,
   Off Scotland in successione,
   Sine of age and off vertew there
   The lauchfull airis appearand ware."

So the proposal to substitute an "English-man's son" for the lawful heirs proved utterly futile. Equally vain were any attempts of the Scotsto mitigate Edward's rigour in the exaction of the ransom, and Edward reverted to his earlier policy, disowned King David, and prepared for another Scottish campaign to vindicate his right as the successor of Balliol, who had died in 1363. But English energies were once more diverted at a critical moment. The Black Prince had involved himself in serious troubles in Gascony, and England was called upon to defend its conquests in France. In 1369 a truce was made between Scotland and England, to last for fourteen years.

David II died, unregretted, in February, 1370-1371. It was fortunate for Scotland that the miserable seven years which remained to Edward III, and the reign of his unfortunate grandson, were so full of trouble for England. Robert the Steward succeeded his uncle without much difficulty. He was fifty-six years of age, already an old man for those days, eight years the senior of the nephew whom he succeeded. The main lines of the foreign policy of his reign may be briefly indicated; but its chief interest lies in a series of border raids, the story of which is too intricate and of too slight importance to concern us. The new king began by entering into an agreement with France, of a more definite description than any previous arrangement, and the year 1372 may be taken as marking the formal inauguration of the Franco-Scottish League. The truce with England was continued and was renewed in 1380, three years before the date originally fixed for its expiry. The renewal was necessitated by various acts of hostility which had rendered it, in effect, a dead letter. The English were still in possession of such Scottish strongholds as Roxburgh, Berwick, and Lochmaben, and round these there was continual warfare. The Scots sacked the town of Roxburgh in 1377, but without regaining the castle, and, in 1378, they again obtained possession of Berwick. John of Gaunt, who had forced the government of his nephew to acknowledge his importance as a factor in English politics, was entrusted with the command of an army directed against Scotland. He met the Scottish representatives at Berwick, which was again in English hands, and agreed to confirm the existing truce, which was maintained till 1384, when Scotland was included in the English truce with France. The truce, which was to last for eight months, was negotiated in France in January, 1383-84. In February and March, John of Gaunt conducted a ravaging expedition into Scotland as far as Edinburgh. During the Peasants' Revolt he had taken refuge in Scotland, and the chroniclers tell us that the expedition of 1384 was singularly merciful. Still, it was an act of war, and the Scots may reasonably have expressed surprise, when, in April, the French ambassadors (who had been detained in England since February) arrived in Edinburgh, and announced that Scotland and England had been at peace since January. About the same time there occurred two border forays. Some French knights, with their Scottish hosts, made an incursion into England, and the Percies, along with the Earl of Nottingham, conducted a devastating raid in Scotland, laying waste the Lothians. About the date of both events there is some doubt; probably the Percy invasion was in retaliation for the French affair. But all the time the two countries were nominally at peace, and it was not till May, 1385, that they were technically in a state of war. In that month a French army was sent to aid the Scots, and, under the command of John de Vienne, it took part in an incursion on a somewhat larger scale than the usual raids. The English replied, in the month of August, by an invasion conducted by Richard II in person, at the head of a large army, while the Scots, declining a battle, wasted Cumberland. Richard sacked Edinburgh and burned the great religious houses of Dryburgh, Melrose, and Newbattle, but was forced to retire without having made any real conquest. The Scots adopted their invariable custom of retreating after laying waste the country, so as to deprive the English of provender; even the impatience of their French allies failed to persuade them to give battle to King Richard's greatly superior forces. From Scotland the English king marched to London, to commence the great struggle which led to the impeachment of Suffolk and the rise of the Lords Appellant. While England was thus occupied, the Scots, under the Earl of Fife, second son of Robert II (better known as the Duke of Albany), and the Earl of Douglas, made great preparations for an invasion. Fife took his men into the western counties and ravaged Cumberland and Westmoreland, but without any important incident. Douglas attacked the country of his old enemies, the Percies, and won the victory of Otterburn or Chevy Chase (August, 1388), the most romantic of all the fights between Scots and English. The Scots lost their leader, but the English were completely defeated, and Harry Hotspur, the son of Northumberland, was made a prisoner. Chevy Chase is the subject of many ballads and legends, and it is indissolubly connected with the story of the House of Douglas:

  "Hosts have been known at that dread sound to yield,
   And, Douglas dead, his name hath won the field".

From the date of Otterburn to the accession of Henry IV there was peace between Scotland and England, except for the never-ending border skirmishes. Robert II died in 1390, and was succeeded by his eldest son, John, Earl of Carrick, who took the title of Robert III, to avoid the unlucky associations of the name of John, which had acquired an unpleasant notoriety from John Balliol as well as John of England and the unfortunate John of France. Under the new king the treaty with France was confirmed, but continuous truces were made with England till the deposition of Richard II.


[Footnote 50: Douglas disappeared from the scene immediately after King Robert's death, taking the Bruce's heart with him on a pilgrimage to Palestine. He was killed in August, 1330, while fighting the Moors in Spain, on his way to the Holy Land.]

[Footnote 51: Minot. Tr. F. York Powell.]

Read about The Franco-Scottish League in the Fourteenth Century by James Mackinnon (pdf)


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