Fortunately the patriotic arguments of the Earl of Menteith prevailed. The Bishop of St Andrews girded the king with the belt of knighthood, and explained to him the respective oaths which were to be taken by himself and his subjects, first in Latin, and afterwards in Norman French.They then conducted the boy to the regal chair, or sacred stone of Scone, which stood before the cross in the eastern division of the chapel. Upon this he sat: the crown was placed on his head, the sceptre in his hand; he was invested with the royal mantle; and the nobility, kneeling in homage, threw their robes beneath his feet. A Highland sennaohy or bard, of great age, clothed in a scarlet mantle, with hair venerably white, then advanced from the crowd; and, bending before the throne, repeated, in his native tongue, the genealogy of the youthful monarch, deducing his descent from the fabulous Gathelus. It is difficult to believe that, even in those days of credulity, the nobility could digest the absurdities of this savage genealogist.
Henry the Third, at this time influenced by the devotional spirit of the age, had resolved on an expedition to the Holy Land; and in order to secure . tranquillity to his dominions on the side of Scotland, the marriage formerly agreed on, between his daughter Margaret and the young Scottish king, was solemnized at York on Christmas day, with much splendour and dignity. The guests at the bridal were the King and Queen of England; Mary de Couci queen-dowager of Scotland, who had come from France, with a train worthy of her high rank ; the nobility, and the dignified clergy of both countries, and in their suite a numerous assemblage of vassals. A thousand knights, in robes of silk, attended the bride on the morn of her nuptials; and after some days spent in tournaments, feasting, and other circumstances of feudal revelry, the youthful couple, neither of whom had reached their eleventh year, set out for Scotland. "Were I," says Mathew Paris, in one of those bursts of monastic eloquence which diversify his annals, "to explain at length the abundance of the feasts, the variety and the frequent changes of the vestments, the delight and the plaudits occasioned by the jugglers, and the multitude of those who sat down to meat, my narrative would become hyperbolical, and might produce irony in the hearts of the absent. I shall only mention, that the archbishop, who, as the great Prince of the North, showed himself a most serene host to all comers, made a donation of six hundred oxen, which were all spent upon the first course; and from this circumstance, I leave you to form a parallel judgment of the rest.In the midst of these festivities, a circumstance of importance occurred. When Alexander performed homage for the lands which he held in England, Henry, relying upon the facility incident to his age, artfully proposed that he should also render fealty for his kingdom of Scotland. But the boy, either instructed before-hand, or animated with a spirit and wisdom above his years, replied, "That he had come into England upon a joyful and pacific errand, and that he would not treat upon so arduous a question without the advice of the states of his kingdom upon which the king dissembled his mortification, and the ceremony proceeded.
Alan Durward, who, as High Justiciar, was the Scottish king's, chief counsellor, had married the natural sister of Alexander; and, during the rejoicings at York, was accused, by Comyn earl of Menteith and William earl of Mar, of a design against the crown. The ground on which this accusation rested, was an attempt of Durward, in which he was seconded by the Scottish chancellor,to procure from the court of Rome the legitimation of his wife, in order, said his accusers, that his children should succeed to the crown, if the king happened to die without heirs. From the ambitious and intriguing character of Durward, this story probably had some foundation in fact, and certain persons who were accused, actually fled from York; upon which Henry made a now appointment of guardians to the young king, at the head of whom were placed the Earls of Menteith and Mar.
The peace of Scotland was for many years after this interrupted by that natural jealousy of England, so likely to rise in a kingdom its equal in the sense of independence, although its inferior in national strength. Henry, too, adopted measures not calculated to secure the confidence of the Scottish people. He sent into Scotland, under the name of guardian to the king, Geoffry de Langley, a rapacious noble, who was immediately expelled. He procured Innocent the Fourth to grant him a twentieth of the ecclesiastical revenues of that kingdom, nominally for the aid of the Holy Land, but really for his own uses; and he despatched Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, on a mission, described as secret in his instructions, but the object of which may be conjectured from the increasing animosity of the disputes between the Scottish nobility. Many English attendants, some of them persons of rank and consequence, accompanied Margaret into her new kingdom; and between these intruders and the ancient nobility of Scotland, who fiercely asserted their privileges, disputes arose, which soon reached the ears of the English court. The young queen, accustomed to the indulgence and superior refinement of her father's court, bitterly lamented that she was immured in a dismal fortress, without being permitted to have her own attendants around her person, or allowed to enjoy the society of her husband, the king.
These complaints, which appear to have been highly exaggerated, and a still more horrid report that the queen's physician had been poisoned by the same party because he ventured to remonstrate against the confinement of his mistress, were not lost upon Alan Durward, the late justiciar. He had accompanied Henry in his expedition to Guienne, where, by his courage and address, he regained the confidence of that capricious monarch; and he now prevailed upon the king to despatch the Earl of Gloucester and MaunseU his chief secretary, to the Scottish court, for the purpose of dismissing those ministers who were found not sufficiently obsequious to England.
In sending these noblemen upon this mission, Henry solemnly engaged to attempt nothing against the person of the Scottish king, and never to insist upon his being disinherited, or upon the dissolution of the marriage settlement; promises, the particular history of which is involved in much obscurity, but which strongly, though generally, demonstrate, that the English king had been accused of designs inimical to the honour and independence of Scotland. At the head of the party which steadily opposed the interested schemes of Henry, was Walter Comyn earl of Menteith, whose loyalty we have seen insisting on the speedy coronation of the young king, when it was attempted to be deferred by Alan Durward. Many of the principal nobility, and some of the best and wisest of the clergy, were found in the same ranks.
The Earl of Gloucester and his associates accordingly repaired to Scotland; and, in concert with the Earls of Dunbar, Strathern, and Carrick, surprised the castle of Edinburgh, relieved the royal couple from the real or pretended durance in which they were held, and formally conducted them to the bridal chamber, although the king was yet scarcely fourteen years of age.English influence appears now to have been predominant; and Henry, having heard of the success of his forerunners Maunsell and Gloucester, and conceiving that the time was come for the reduction of Scotland under his unfettered control, issued his writs to his military tenants, and assembled a numerous army. As he led this array towards the borders, he took care to conceal his real intentions, by directing, from Newcastle, a declaration, that in this progress to visit his dear son Alexander, lie should attempt nothing prejudicial to the rights of the king, or the liberties of Scotland. In the meantime, the Comyns collected their forces, and the opposite faction suddenly removed the king and queen to Roxburgh, in which castle Alexander received Henry, who conducted him, with pomp and acclamation, to the Abbey of Kelso. The government of Scotland was there remodelled; a new set of counsellors appointed; and the party of the Comyns, with John Baliol and Robert de Ross, completely deprived of their political influence. In the instruments drawn up upon this occasion, some provisions were inserted, which were loudly complained of as derogatory to the dignity of the kingdom; the abettors of England were stigmatized as conspirators, who were equally obnoxious to prelates, barons, and burgesses; and the Bishop of Glasgow, the Bishop elect of St Andrews, the chancellor, and the Earl of Menteth, indignantly refused to affix their seals to a deed, which, as they asserted, compromised the liberties of the country.
A regency was now appointed, which included the whole of the clergy and the nobility who were favourable to England, to whom were intrusted the custody of the king's person, and the government of the realm for seven years, till Alexander had reached the age of twenty-one. Henry assumed to himself the title of "principal counsellor to the illustrious King of Scotland;" and the Comyns, with Bishop Gamelin, the Earl of Mar, Baliol, Ross, and their chief accomplices, were removed from all share in the government of the kingdom.
Alexander, upon his part, engaged to treat his young queen with all honour and affection; and the Earl of Dunbar, according to a common solemnity of this age, swore upon the soul of the king, that every article of the agreement should be faithfully performed. Thus ended a negotiation conducted entirely by English influence; and which, although the ambition of the Comyns may have given some plausible colour to the designs of their enemies, was generally and justly unpopular in Scotland. Alexander and his queen now repaired to Edinburgh; and Henry, after having attempted to recruit his exhausted coffers, by selling a pardon to John de Baliol, and confiscating the estates of Robert de Ross, returned to commit new attacks upon the property of his English subjects.
Upon his departure, Scotland became the scene of civil faction and ecclesiastical violence. There were at this time in that kingdom thirty-two knights and three powerful earls of the name of Comyn; and these, with their armed vassals, assisted by many of the disgraced nobility, formed an effectual check upon the measures of the regency. Gamelin, the Bishop elect of St Andrews, and the steady enemy of English influence, unawed by his late removal, procured himself to be consecrated by the Bishop of Glasgow; and although placed without the protection of the laws, he yet, in an appeal to the court of Rome, induced the pope to excommunicate his accusers, and to declare him worthy of his bishopric. Henry, enraged at the bold opposition of Gamelin, prohibited his return, and issued orders to arrest him if he attempted to land in England; while the regents performed their part in the persecution, by seizing the rich revenues of his see.
In the midst of these scenes of faction and disturbance, the King and Queen of Scotland proceeded to London on a visit to their father, and were received with great magnificence. They were entertained at Oxford, Woodstock, and in London. Tents were raised in the meadows for the accommodation of their followers; and Henry renewed to Alexander a grant of the honour of Huntingdon, which had been held by some of his predecessors.§ The party of the Comyns, however, were slowly regaining ground. The pope, by his judgment in favour of Gamelin, espoused their quarrel; and they soon received a powerful support in Mary de Couci the widow of Alexander the Second, and John of Acre her husband, who at this time passed through England into Scotland.This was deemed a favourable conjuncture by the delegates of the pope, to publish the sentence of excommunication against the counsellors of the king. The ceremony, in those days an affair of awful moment, was performed by the Bishop of Dumblane, and the Abbots of Jedburgh and Melrose, in the abbey church of Cambuskenneth, and repeated, "by bell and candle," in every chapel in the kingdom.
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.
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.
In fulfilment of this promise", the King of Scotland repaired with a concourse of his nobility to the court of England; and left his queen, whose situation now speedily promised an heir to the Scottish throne, to follow him, by slow stages, with the Bishop of Glasgow. On her approach to St Albans, she was met by her younger brother Edmund, who received her with a splendid retinue, and conducted her in the morning to London. The object of this visit of Alexander was not solely to gratify the King of England. He was anxious to exercise his rights over the territory of Huntingdon, which he held of the English crown; and the payment of his wife's portion had been so long delayed, that he wished to reclaim the debt.
The reception of the royal persons appears to have been unusually magnificent; and the country round the court was greatly exhausted by the sumptuous entertainments, and the intolerable expenses which they demanded.f In the midst of these festivities, the queen drew near her time; and, at the pressing instance of her father, it was agreed that she should lie-in at the court of England: not however without a renewed stipulation, sworn upon the soul of the king, that the infant, in the event of the death of its mother or of Alexander, should be delivered to an appointed body of the Scottish nobility.
Having secured this, Alexander returned to his kingdom; and in the month of February 1261, his young queen was delivered at Windsor of a daughter, Margaret, afterwards married to Eric king of Norway.
Having secured this, Alexander returned to his kingdom; and in the month of February 1261, his young queen was delivered at Windsor of a daughter, Margaret, afterwards married to Eric king of Norway.
In the beginning of the following year, Henry seems to have interposed his good offices, to prevent a rupture between Alexander and Haco king of Norway, regarding the possession of the western islands, the petty chiefs of which had for a long period been feudatory to the Norwegian crown." Their habits of constant war and piratical excursion had at this time rendered the Norwegians a formidable people; and their near vicinity to Scotland enabled them, at a very early period, to overspread the whole of the Western Archipelago. The little sovereignties of these islands, under the protection of a warlike government, appear to have been in a flourishing condition. They were crowded with people; and the useful and ornamental arts were carried in them to a higher degree of perfection than in the other European countries. A poet of the north, in describing a dress unusually gorgeous, adds, that it was spun by the Sudreyans. And even in science and literature, this remarkable people had, in their colonies especially, attained to no inconsiderable distinction.