To follow this up, the Comyns now assembled in great strength: they declared that the government of the kingdom had been shamefully mismanaged,— that foreigners were promoted to the highest offices,— that their sovereign was detained in the hands of excommunicated 'and accursed persons,—and that an interdict would soon be fulminated against the whole kingdom. Finding that their party increased in weight and popularity, they resorted to more desperate measures. Under cover of night they attacked the court of the king, which was then held at Kinross; seized the young monarch in his bed; carried him and his queen before morning to Stirling; made themselves masters of the great seal of the kingdom; and totally dispersed the opposite faction. Nor were they remiss in strengthening their interest by foreign alliance. They entered into a remarkable treaty with Wales— at this time the enemy of England—which, with a wisdom scarcely to be looked for in those rude times, included in its provisions some important regulations regarding the commerce of both countries.
Alan Durward meanwhile precipitately fled to England; and the Comyns, eager to press their advantage to the utmost, assembled their forces, and marched with the king against the English party. A negotiation at length took place at Roxburgh; and the nobility and principal knights, who had leagued with Henry, engaged to submit themselves to the king and the laws, and to settle all disputes in a conference to be held at Forfar. This was merely an artifice to gain time, for they immediately fled to England; and the Earls of Hereford and Albemarle, along with John de Baliol, soon after repaired to Melrose, where the Scottish king awaited the arrival of his army. Their avowed purpose was to act as mediators between the two factions: their real intention to seize, if possible, the person of the king, and to carry him into England.But the plot was suspected; and Alexander, with the Comyns, defeated all hopes of its success, by appointing for the scene of their conference the forest of Jedburgh, in which a great part of his troops had already assembled.
The two English earls, therefore, resumed their more pacific design of negotiation. It was difficult and protracted; so that in the interval, the king and the Comyns, having time to collect a large force, found themselves in a situation to insist upon terms which were alike favourable to their own power and to the liberty of the country. The King of England was compelled to dissemble his animosity, to forget his bitter opposition against Bishop Gamelin, and to reserve to some other opportunity all reference to the obnoxious treaty of Roxburgh. A new regency was appointed, which left the principal power in the hands of the queen-mother and of the Comyns, but endeavoured to reconcile the opposite parties, by including in its numbers four of the former regents. Meanwhile the country, torn by contending factions, was gradually reduced to a state of great misery. Men forgot their respect for the kingly authority, and despised the restraint of the laws; the higher nobles enlisted under one or other of the opposite parties, plundered the lands and slew the retainers of their rival barons; churches were violated, castles and hamlets razed to the ground, and the regular returns of seed-time and harvest interrupted by the flames of private war. In short, the struggle to resist English interference was fatal, for the time, to the prosperity of the kingdom; and what Scotland gained in independence, she lost in improvement and national happiness.