At this crisis, when they had effectually succeeded in diminishing, if not destroying, the English influence, the Comyns lost the leader whose courage and energy were the soul of their councils. Walter Comyn earl of Menteith died suddenly. It was reported in England that his death was occasioned by a fall from his horse ; but a darker story arose in Scotland. The Countess of Menteith had encouraged a criminal passion for an English baron named. Russel, and was openly accused of having poisoned her husband to make way for her paramour, whom she married with indecent haste. Insulted and disgraced, she and her husband were thrown into prison, despoiled of their estates, and at last compelled to leave the kingdom.* Encouraged by the death of his opponent, and anxious to regain his lost influence, the English king now became desirous that Alexander and his queen should pay him a visit at London; and for this purpose he sent William de Horton, a monk of St Albans, on a secret mission into Scotland. Horton arrived at the period when the king and his nobles were assembled in council, and found them jealous of this perpetual interference of England.
They deemed these visits incompatible with the independence of the country; and the messenger of Henry met with great opposition.The nature of the message increased this alarm. It was a request that Alexander and his queen should repair to London, to treat of matters of great importance, but which were not communicated to the parliament; and it was not surprising that the nobility, profiting by former experience, should have taken precautions against any sinister designs of Henry. Accordingly, the Earl of Buchan, Durward the Justiciar, and the Chancellor Wishart, were in their turn despatched upon a secret mission into England; and the result was, that Alexander and his queen consented to visit London, under two conditions: first, an express stipulation was made that, during their stay at court, neither the king, nor any of his attendants, were to be required to treat of state affairs; and, secondly, an oath was to be taken by the English monarch, that if the Queen of Scotland became pregnant, or if she gave birth to a child during her absence, neither the mother nor the infant should be detained in England; so great, at this moment, in the minds of the Scottish nobility, was the jealousy of English ambition and intrigue.