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Relations Between Scotland & England

The following is taken from Outline of the Relations between England and Scotland (500-1707) by Robert S. Rait:

Chapter IV

The War of Independence (1297-1328)

Edward I had failed to recognize the difference between the Scottish barons and the Scottish people, to which we have referred in a former chapter. To the Norman baron, who possessed lands in England and Scotland alike, it mattered little that he had now but one liege lord instead of two suzerains. To the people of Scotland, proud and high-spirited, tenacious of their long traditions of independence, resentful of the presence of foreigners, it could not but be hateful to find their country governed by a foreign soldiery. The conduct of Edward's officials, and especially of Cressingham and Ormsby, and the cruelty of the English garrisons, served to strengthen this national feeling, and it only remained for it to find a leader round whom it might rally.[44] A leader arose in the person of Sir William Wallace, a heroic and somewhat mysterious figure, who first attracted notice in the autumn of 1296, and, by the spring of the following year, had gathered round him a band of guerilla warriors, by whose help he was able to make serious attacks upon the English garrisons of Lanark and Scone (May, 1297). These exploits, of little importance in themselves, sufficed to attract the popular feeling towards Wallace. The domestic difficulties of Edward I rendered the time opportune for a rising, and, despite the failure of an ill-conceived and badly-managed attempt on the part of some of the more patriotic barons, which led to the submission of Irvine, in 1297, the little army which Wallace had collected rapidly grew in courage and in numbers, and its leader laid siege to the castle of Dundee. He had now attained a position of such importance that Surrey and Cressingham found it necessary to take strong measures against him, and they assembled at Stirling, whither Wallace marched to meet them. The battle of Stirling Bridge (or, more strictly, Cambuskenneth Bridge) was fought on September 11th, 1297. Wallace, with his army of knights and spearmen, took up his position on the Abbey Craig, with the Forth between him and the English. Less than a mile from the Scottish camp was a small bridge over the river, giving access to the Abbey of Cambuskenneth. Surrey rashly attempted to cross this bridge, in the face of the Scots, and Wallace, after a considerable number of the enemy had been allowed to reach the northern bank, ordered an attack. The English failed to keep the bridge, and their force became divided. Surrey was unable to offer any assistance to his vanguard, and they fell an easy prey to the Scots, while the English general, with the remnants of his army, retreated to Berwick.

Stirling was the great military key of the country, commanding all the passes from south to north, and the great defeat which the English had sustained placed the country in the power of Wallace. Along with an Andrew de Moray, of whose identity we know nothing, he undertook the government of the country, corresponded in the name of Scotland with Lübeck and Hamburg, and took the offensive against England in an expedition which ravaged as far south as Hexham. To the great monastery of Hexham he granted protection in the name of "the leaders of the army of Scotland",[45] although he was not successful in restraining the ferocity of his followers. The document in question is granted in the name of John, King of Scotland, and in a charter dated March 1298,[46] Wallace describes himself as Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland, acting for the exiled Balliol. In the following summer, Edward marched into Scotland, and although his forces were in serious difficulties from want of food, he went forward to meet Wallace, who held a strong position at Falkirk. Wallace prepared to meet Edward by drawing up his spearmen in four great "schiltrons" or divisions, with a reserve of cavalry. His flanks were protected by archers, and he had also placed archers between the divisions of spearmen. On the English side, Edward himself commanded the centre, the Earls of Norfolk and Hereford the right, and the Bishop of Durham the left. The Scottish defeat was the result of a combination of archers and cavalry. The first attack of the English horse was completely repulsed by the spearmen. "The front ranks", says Mr. Oman, "knelt with their spear-butts fixed in the earth; the rear ranks levelled their lances over their comrades' heads; the thick-set grove of twelve-foot spears was far too dense for the cavalry to penetrate." But Edward withdrew the cavalry and ordered the archers to send a shower of arrows on the Scots. Wallace's cavalry made no attempt to interfere with the archers; the Scottish bowmen were too few to retaliate; and, when the English horse next charged, they found many weak points in the schiltrons, and broke up the Scottish host.

As the battle of Stirling had created the power of Wallace, so that of Falkirk completely destroyed it. He almost immediately resigned his office of guardian (mainly, according to tradition, because of the jealousy with which the great barons regarded him), and took refuge in France. Edward was still in the midst of difficulties, both foreign and domestic, and he was unable to reduce the country. The Scots elected new guardians, who regarded themselves as regents, not for Edward but for Balliol. They included John Comyn and Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, the future king. The guardians were successful in persuading both Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII to intervene in their favour, but Edward disregarded the papal interference, and though he was too busy to complete his conquest, he sent an army into Scotland in each of the years 1300, 1301, and 1302. Military operations were almost entirely confined to ravaging; but, in February 1302-3, Comyn completely defeated at Rosslyn, near Edinburgh, an English army under Sir John Segrave and Ralph de Manton, whom Edward had ordered to make a foray in Scotland about the beginning of Lent. In the summer of 1303, the English king, roused perhaps by this small success, and able to give his undivided attention to Scotland, conducted an invasion on a larger scale. In September, he traversed the country as far north as Elgin, and, remaining in Scotland during the winter of 1303-4, he set to work in the spring to reduce the castle of Stirling, which still held out against him. When the garrison surrendered, in July, 1304, Scotland lay at Edward's feet. Comyn had already submitted to the English king, and Edward's personal vindictiveness was satisfied by the capture of Wallace by Sir John Menteith, a Scotsman who had been acting in the English interest. Wallace was taken to London, subjected to a mock trial, tortured, and put to death with ignominy. On the 23rd August, 1305, his head was placed on London Bridge, and portions of his body were sent to Scotland. His memory served as an inspiration for the cause of freedom, and it is held in just reverence to the present hour. If it is true that he did not scruple to go beyond what we should regard as the limits of honourable warfare, it must be remembered that he was fighting an enemy who had also disregarded these limits, and much may be forgiven to brave men who are resisting a gratuitous war of conquest. When he died, his work seemed to have failed. But he had shown his countrymen how to resist Edward, and he had given sufficient evidence of the strength of national feeling, if only it could find a suitable leader. The English had to learn the lesson which, five centuries later, Napoleon had to learn in Spain, and Scotland cannot forget that Wallace was the first to teach it.

It is not less pathetic to turn to Edward's scheme for the government of Scotland. It bears the impress of a mind which was that of a statesman and a lawyer as well as a soldier. It is impossible to deny a tribute of admiration to its wisdom, or to question the probability of its success in other circumstances. Had the course of events been more propitious for Edward's great plan, Scotland and England might have been spared much suffering. But Edward failed to realize that the Scots could no longer regard him as the friend and ally to whose son they had willingly agreed to marry their queen. He was now but a military conqueror in temporary possession of their country, an enemy to be resisted by any means. The new constitution was foredoomed to failure. Carrying out his scheme of 1296, Edward created no vassal-king, but placed Scotland under his own nephew, John of Brittany; he interfered as little as might be with the customs and laws of the country; he placed over it eight justiciars with sheriffs under them. In 1305, Edward's Parliament, which met at London, was attended by Scottish representatives. The incorporation of the country with its larger neighbour was complete, but it involved as little change as was possible in the circumstances.

The Parliament of 1305 was attended by Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, who attended not as a representative of Scotland, but as an English lord. Bruce was the grandson of the Robert Bruce of Annandale who had been promised the crown by Alexander II, and who had been one of the claimants of 1290. His grandfather had done homage to Edward, and Bruce himself had been generally on the English side, and had fought against Wallace at Falkirk. When John Balliol had decided to rebel, he had transferred the lands of Annandale from the Bruces to the Comyns, and they had been restored by Edward I after Balliol's submission. From 1299 to 1303, Bruce had been associated with Comyn in the guardianship of the kingdom, but, like Comyn, had submitted to Edward. Nobody in Scotland could now think of a restoration of Balliol, and if there was to be a Scottish king at all, it must obviously be either Comyn or Bruce. The claim of John Comyn the younger was much stronger than that of his father had been. The elder Comyn had claimed on account of his descent from Donald Bane, the brother and successor of Malcolm Canmore; but the younger Comyn had an additional claim in right of his mother, who was a sister of John Balliol. Between Bruce and Comyn there was a long-standing feud. In 1299, at a meeting of the Great Council of Scotland at Peebles, Comyn had attacked Bruce, and they could only be separated by the use of violence. On the 10th February, 1305-6, Bruce and the Comyn met in the church of the convent of the Minorite Friars at Dumfries. Tradition tells that they met to adjust their conflicting claims, with a view to establishing the independence of the country in the person of one or other of the rivals; that a dispute arose in which they came to blows; and that Bruce, after inflicting a severe wound upon his enemy, left the church. "I doubt I have slain the Red Comyn," he said to his followers. "Doubt?" was the reply of Sir Roger Fitzpatrick, "I'll mak siccar." The actual circumstances of the affair are unknown to us; but Bruce may fairly be relieved of the suspicion of any premeditation, because it is most unlikely that he would have needlessly chosen to offend the Church by committing a murder within sanctuary. The real interest attaching to the circumstances lies in the tradition that the object of the meeting was to organize a resistance against Edward I. Whether this was so or not, there can be no doubt that the result of the conference compelled the Bruce to place himself at the head of the national cause. A Norman baron, born in England, he was by no means the natural leader for whose appearance men looked, and there was a grave chance of his failing to arouse the national sentiment. But the murder of one claimant to the Scottish throne at the hands of the only other possible candidate, who thus placed himself in the position of undoubted heir, could scarcely have been forgiven by Edward I, even if the Comyn had not, for the past two years, proved a faithful servant of the English king. There was no alternative, and, on the 27th March, 1306, Robert, Earl of Carrick and Lord of Annandale, was crowned King of the Scots at Scone. The ancient royal crown of the Scottish kings had been removed by Balliol in 1296, and had fallen into the hands of Edward, but the Countess of Buchan placed on the Bruce's head a hastily made coronet of gold.

It was far from an auspicious beginning. It is difficult to give Bruce credit for much patriotic feeling, although, as we have seen, he had been one of the guardians who had maintained a semblance of independence. The death of the Comyn had thrown against him the whole influence of the Church; he was excommunicate, and it was no sin to slay him. The powerful family, whose head had been cut off by his hand, had vowed revenge, and its great influence was on the side of the English. It is no small tribute to the force of the sentiment of nationality that the Scots rallied round such a leader, and it must be remembered that, from whatever reason the Bruce adopted the national cause, he proved in every respect worthy of a great occasion, and as time passed, he came to deserve the place he occupies as the hero of the epic of a nation's freedom.

The first blow in the renewed struggle was struck at Methven, near Perth, where, on the 19th June, 1306, the Earl of Pembroke inflicted a defeat upon King Robert. The Lowlands were now almost entirely lost to him; he sent his wife[47] and child to Kildrummie Castle in Aberdeenshire, whence they fled to the sanctuary of St. Duthac, near Tain. In August, Bruce was defeated at Dalry, by Alexander of Lorn, a relative of the Comyn. In September, Kildrummie Castle fell, and Nigel Bruce, King Robert's brother, fell into the hands of the English and was put to death at Berwick. To complete the tale of catastrophes, the Bruce's wife and daughter, two of his sisters, and other two of his brothers, along with the Countess of Buchan, came into the power of the English king. Edward placed some of the ladies in cages, and put to death Sir Thomas Bruce and Alexander Bruce, Dean of Glasgow (February, 1306-7). Meanwhile, King Robert had found it impossible to maintain himself even in his own lands of Carrick, and he withdrew to the island of Rathlin, where he wintered. Undeterred by this long series of calamities, he took the field in the spring of 1307, and now, for the first time, fortune favoured him. On the 10th May, he defeated the English, under Pembroke, at Loudon Hill, in Ayrshire. He had been joined by his brother Edward and by the Lord James of Douglas (the "Black Douglas"), and the news of his success, slight as it was, helped to increase at once the spirit and the numbers of his followers. His position, however, was one of extreme difficulty; he was still only a king in name, and, in reality, the leader of a guerilla warfare. Edward was marching northwards at the head of a large army, determined to crush his audacious subject. But Fate had decreed that the Hammer of the Scots was never again to set foot in Scotland. At Burgh-on-Sand, near Carlisle, within sight of his unconquered conquest, the great Edward breathed his last. His death was the turning-point in the struggle. The reign of Edward II in England is a most important factor in the explanation of Bruce's success.

With the death of Edward I the whole aspect of the contest changes. The English were no longer conducting a great struggle for a statesmanlike ideal, as they had been under Edward I—however impossible he himself had made its attainment. There is no longer any sign of conscious purpose either in their method or in their aims. The nature of the warfare at once changed; Edward II, despite his father's wish that his bones should be carried at the head of the army till Scotland was subdued, contented himself with a fruitless march into Ayrshire, and then returned to give his father a magnificent burial in Westminster Abbey. King Robert was left to fight his Scottish enemies without their English allies. These Scottish enemies may be divided into two classes—the Anglo-Norman nobles who had supported the English cause more or less consistently, and the personal enemies of the Bruce, who increased in numbers after the murder of Comyn. Among the great families thus alienated from the cause of Scotland were the Highlanders of Argyll and the Isles, some of the men of Badenach, and certain Galloway clans. But that this opposition was personal, and not racial, is shown by the fact that, from the first, some of these Highlanders were loyal to Bruce, e.g. Sir Nigel Campbell and Angus Og. We shall see, further, that after the first jealousies caused by Comyn's death and Bruce's success had passed away, the men of Argyll and the Isles took a more prominent part on the Scottish side. In December, 1307, Bruce routed John Comyn, the successor of his old rival, at Slains, on the Aberdeenshire coast, and in the following May, when Comyn had obtained some slight English assistance, he inflicted a final defeat upon him at Inverurie. The power of the Comyns in their hereditary earldom of Buchan had now been suppressed, and King Robert turned his attention to their allies in the south. In the autumn of 1308, he himself defeated Alexander of Lorn and subdued the district of Argyll, his brother Edward reduced Galloway to subjection, and Douglas, along with Randolph, Earl of Moray, was successful in Tweeddale. Thus, within three years from the death of Comyn, Bruce had broken the power of the great families, whose enmity against him had been aroused by that event. One year later the other great misfortune, which had been brought upon him by the same cause, was removed by an act which is important evidence at once of the strength of the anti-English feeling in the country, and of the confidence which Bruce had inspired. On the 24th February, 1309-10, the clergy of Scotland met at Dundee and made a solemn declaration[48] of fealty to King Robert as their lawful king. Scotland was thus united in its struggle for independence under King Robert I.

It now remained to attack the English garrisons who held the castles of Scotland. An invasion conducted by Edward II in 1310 proved fruitless, and the English king returned home to enter on a long quarrel with the Lords Ordainers, and to see his favourite, Gaveston, first exiled and then put to death. While the attention of the rulers of England was thus occupied, Bruce, for the first time since Wallace's inroad of 1297, carried the war into the enemy's country, invading the north of England both in 1311 and in 1312. Meanwhile the strongholds of the country were passing out of the English power. Linlithgow was recovered in 1311; Perth in January, 1312-13; and Roxburgh a month later. The romantic capture of the castle of Edinburgh, by Randolph, Earl of Moray, in March, 1313, is one of the classical stories of Scottish history, and in the summer of the same year, King Robert restored the Scottish rule in the Isle of Man. In November, 1313, only Stirling Castle remained in English hands, and Edward Bruce rashly agreed to raise the siege on condition that the garrison should surrender if they were not relieved by June 24th, 1314. Edward II determined to make a heroic effort to maintain this last vestige of English conquest, and his attempt to do so has become irrevocably associated with the Field of Bannockburn.

In his preparations for the great struggle, which was to determine the fate of Scotland, the Bruce carefully avoided the errors which had led to Wallace's defeat at Falkirk. He selected a position which was covered, on one side by the Bannock Burn and a morass, and, on the other side, by the New Park or Forest. His front was protected by the stream and by the famous series of "pottes", or holes, covered over so as to deceive the English cavalry. The choice of this narrow position not only prevented the possibility of a flank attack, but also forced the great army of Edward II into a small space, where its numbers became a positive disadvantage. King Robert arranged his infantry in four divisions; in front were three schiltrons of pikemen, under Randolph, Edward Bruce, and Sir James Douglas, and Bruce himself commanded the reserve, which was composed of Highlanders from Argyll and the Islands and of the men of Carrick.[49] Sir Robert Keith, the Marischal, was in charge of a small body of cavalry, which did good service by driving back, at a critical moment, such archers as made their way through the forest. The English army was in ten divisions, but the limited area in which they had to fight interfered with their arrangement. As at Falkirk, the English cavalry made a gallant but useless charge against the schiltrons, but it was not possible again to save the day by means of archers, for the archers had no room to deploy, and could only make vain efforts to shoot over the heads of the horsemen. Bruce strengthened the Scots with his reserve, and then ensued a general action along the whole line. The van of the English army was now thoroughly demoralized, and their comrades in the rear could not, in these narrow limits, press forward to render any assistance. King Robert's camp-followers, at this juncture, rushed down a hill behind the Scottish army, and they appeared to the English as a fresh force come to assist the enemy. The result was the loss of all sense of discipline: King Edward's magnificent host fled in complete rout and with great slaughter, and the cause of Scottish freedom was won.

The victory of Bannockburn did not end the war, for the English refused to acknowledge the hard-won independence of Scotland, and fighting continued till the year 1327. The Scots not only invaded England, but adopted the policy of fighting England in Ireland, and English reprisals in Scotland were uniformly unsuccessful. Bruce invaded England in 1315; in the same year, his brother Edward landed with a Scottish army at Carrickfergus, in the hope of obtaining a throne for himself. He was crowned King of Ireland in May, 1316, and during that and the following year, King Robert was personally in Ireland, giving assistance to his brother. But, in 1318, Edward Bruce was defeated and slain near Dundalk, and, with his death, this phase of the Bruce's English policy disappears. A few months before the death of Edward Bruce, King Robert had captured the border town of Berwick-on-Tweed, which had been held by the English since 1298. In 1319, Edward II sent an English army to besiege Berwick, and the Scots replied by an invasion of England in the course of which Douglas and Randolph defeated the English at Mitton-on-Swale in Yorkshire. The English were led by the Archbishop of York, and so many clerks were killed that the battle acquired the name of the Chapter of Mitton. The war lingered on for three years more. The year 1322 saw an invasion of England by King Robert and a counter-invasion of Scotland by Edward II, who destroyed the Abbey of Dryburgh on his return march. This expedition was, as usual, fruitless, for the Scots adopted their usual tactics of leaving the country waste and desolate, and the English army could obtain no food. In October of the same year King Robert made a further inroad into Yorkshire, and won a small victory at Biland Abbey. At last, in March, 1323, a truce was made for thirteen years, but as Edward II persisted in declining to acknowledge the independence of Scotland, it was obvious that peace could not be long maintained.

During the fourteen years which followed his victory of Bannockburn, King Robert was consolidating his kingdom. He had obtained recognition even in the Western Highlands and Islands, and the sentiment of the whole nation had gathered around him. The force of this sentiment is apparent in connection with ecclesiastical difficulties. When Pope John XXII attempted to make peace in 1317 and refused to acknowledge the Bruce as king, the papal envoys were driven from the kingdom. For this the country was placed under the papal ban, and when, in 1324, the pope offered both to acknowledge King Robert and to remove the excommunication, on condition that Berwick should be restored to the English, the Scots refused to comply with his condition. A small rebellion in 1320 had been firmly repressed by king and Parliament. The birth of a son to King Robert, on the 5th March, 1323-24, had given security to the dynasty, and, at the great Parliament which met at Cambuskenneth in 1326, at which Scottish burghs were, for the first time, represented, the clergy, the barons, and the people took an oath of allegiance to the little Prince David, and, should his heirs fail, to Robert, the son of Bruce's daughter, Marjorie, and her husband, Robert, the High Steward of Scotland. The same Parliament put the financial position of the monarch on a satisfactory footing by granting him a tenth penny of all rents.

The deposition and murder of Edward II created a situation of which the King of Scots could not fail to take advantage. The truce was broken in the summer of 1327 by an expedition into England, conducted by Douglas and Randolph, and the hardiness of the Scottish soldiery surprised the English and warned them that it was impossible to prolong the contest in the present condition of the two countries. The regents for the young Edward III resolved to come to terms with Bruce. The treaty of Northampton, dated 17th March, 1327-28, is still preserved in Edinburgh. It acknowledged the complete independence of Scotland and the royal dignity of King Robert. It promised the restoration of all the symbols of Scottish independence which Edward I had removed, and it arranged a marriage between Prince David, the heir to the Scottish throne, and Joanna, the sister of the young king of England. A marriage ceremony between the two children was solemnized in the following May, but the Stone of Fate was never removed from Westminster, owing, it is said, to the opposition of the abbot. The succession of James VI to the throne of England, nearly three centuries later, was accepted as the fulfilment of the prophecy attached to the Coronation Stone, "Lapis ille grandis":

"Ni fallat fatam, Scoti, quocunque locatum,
Invenient lapidem, regnare tenentur ibidem".

Thus closed the portion of Scottish history which is known as the War of Independence. The condemnation of the policy of Edward I lies simply in its results. He found the two nations at peace and living together in amity; he left them at war and each inspired with a bitter hatred of the other. A policy which aimed at the unification of the island and at preventing Scotland from proving a source of danger to England, and which resulted in a warfare covering, almost continuously, more than two hundred and fifty years, and which, after the lapse of four centuries, left the policy of Scotland a serious difficulty to English ministers, can scarcely receive credit for practical sagacity, however wise its aim. It created for England a relentless and irritating (if not always a dangerous) enemy, invariably ready to take advantage of English difficulties. England had to fight Scotland in France and in Ireland, and Edward IV and Henry VII found the King of Scots the ally of the House of Lancaster, and the protector of Perkin Warbeck. Only the accident of the Reformation rendered it possible to disengage Scotland from its alliance with France, and to bring about a union with England. Till the emergence of the religious question the English party in Scotland consisted of traitors and mercenaries, and their efforts to strengthen English influence form the most discreditable pages of Scottish history.

We are not here dealing with the domestic history of Scotland; but it is impossible to avoid a reference to the subject of the influence of the Scottish victory upon the Scots themselves. It has been argued that Bannockburn was, for Scotland, a national misfortune, and that Bruce's defeat would have been for the real welfare of the country. There are, of course, two stand-points from which we may approach the question. The apologist of Bannockburn might lay stress on the different effects of conquest and a hard-won independence upon the national character, and might fairly point to various national characteristics which have been, perhaps, of some value to civilization, and which could hardly have been fostered in a condition of servitude. On the other hand, there arises a question as to material prosperity. It must be remembered that we are not here discussing the effect of a peaceful and amicable union, such as Edward first proposed, but of a successful war of conquest; and in this connection it is only with thankfulness and gratitude to Wallace and to Bruce that the Scotsman can regard the parallel case of Ireland, which, from a century before the time of Edward I, had been annexed by conquest. The story we have just related goes to create a reasonable probability that the fate of Scotland could not have been different; but, further, leaving all such problems of the "might have been", we may submit that the misery of Scotland in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries has been much exaggerated. It is true that the borders were in a condition of perpetual feud, and that minorities and intrigues gravely hampered the progress of the country. But, more especially in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there are not wanting indications of prosperity. The chapter of Scottish history which tells of the growth of burghs has yet to be written. The construction of magnificent cathedrals and religious houses, and the rise of three universities, must not be left out of account. Gifts to the infant universities, the records of which we possess, prove that for humble folk the tenure of property was comparatively secure, and that there was a large amount of comfort among the people. Under James IV, trade and commerce prospered, and the Scottish navy rivalled that of the Tudors. The century in which Scottish prosperity received its most severe blows immediately succeeded the Union of the Crowns. If for three hundred years the civilizing influence of England can scarcely be traced in the history of Scottish progress, that of France was predominant, and Scotland cannot entirely regret the fact. Scotland, from the date of Bannockburn to that of Pinkie, will not suffer from a comparison with the England which underwent the strain of the long French wars, the civil broils of Lancaster and York, and the oppression of the Tudors. Moreover, there is one further consideration which should not be overlooked. The postponement of an English union till the seventeenth century enabled Scotland to work out its own reformation of religion in the way best adapted to the national needs, and it is difficult to estimate, from the material stand-point alone, the importance of this factor in the national progress. The inspiration and the education which the Scottish Church has given to the Scottish people has found one result in the impulse it has afforded to the growth of material prosperity, and it is not easy to regret that Scotland, at the date of the Reformation, was free to work out its own ecclesiastical destiny.

Chapter V - Edward III and Scotland (1328-1399) - Footnotes

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