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Chapter IV Robert Bruce 1305-1314

Douglas and Edward Bruce Invade England

Taking advantage of this dejection, the king, in the beginning of autumn,-f- sent Douglas and Edward Bruce across the eastern marches, with an army which wasted Northumberland, and carried fire and sword through the principality of Durham, where they levied severe contributions. They next pushed forward into Yorkshire, and plundered Richmond, driving away a large body of cattle, and making many prisoners. On their way homeward, they burnt Appleby and Kirkwold, sacked and set fire to the villages in their route, and found the English so dispirited everywhere, that their army reached Scotland, loaded with spoil, and unchallenged by an enemy.

Edward, indignant at their successes, issued his writs for the muster of a new army to be assembled from the different wapentachs of Yorkshire; commanded ships to be commissioned and victualled for a second Scottish expedition; and appointed the Earl of Pembroke to be governor of the country between Berwick and the river Trent, with the arduous charge of defending it against reiterated attacks, and, to use the words of the royal commission, " the burnings, slaughters, and inhuman and sacrilegious depredations of the Scots.''These, however, were only parchment levies; and before a single vessel was manned, or a single horseman had put his foot in the stirrup, the indefatigable Bruce had sent a second army into England, which ravaged Redesdale and Tynedale, again marking their progress by the black ashes of the towns and villages, and compelling the miserable inhabitants of the border countries to surrender their whole wealth, and to purchase their lives with large sums of money. From this they diverged in their destructive progress into Cumberland, and either from despair, or from inclination, and a desire to plunder, many of the English borderers joined the invading army, and swore allegiance to the Scottish king.

Alarmed at these visitations, and finding little protection from the inactivity of Edward, and the disunion and intrigues of the nobility, the barons and clergy of the northern parts of England assembled at York; and having entered into a confederacy for the protection of their neighbourhood against the Scots, appointed four captains to command the forces of the country, and to adopt measures for the public safety. Edward immediately confirmed this nomination, and, for the pressing nature of the emergency, the measure was not impolitic; but these border troops soon forgot their allegiance, and, upon the failure of their regular supplies from the king's exchequer, became little better than the Scots themselves, plundering the country, and subsisting themselves by every species of theft, robbery,and murder.

Unsuccessful negotiations for peace

Robert wisely seized this period of distress and national dejection, to make pacific overtures to Edward, and to assure him that, having secured the independence of his kingdom, there was nothing which he more anxiously desired, than a firm and lasting peace between the two nations. Negotiations soon after followed. Four Scottish ambassadors met with the commissioners of England, and various attempts were made for the establishment of a perpetual peace, or at least of a temporary truce between the rival countries; but these entirely failed, owing, probably, to the high tone assumed by the Scottish envoys; and the termination of this destructive war appeared still more distant than before.Towards the end of this year, the unfortunate John Baliol died in exile at his ancient patrimonial castle of Bailleul, in France, having lived to see the utter demolition of a power which had insulted and dethroned him. He had been suffered to retain a small property in England; and his eldest son appears to have been living in that country, and under the protection of Edward, at the time of his father's death.

Famine in England and Scotland

In addition to the miseries of foreign war and intestine commotion, England was now visited with a grievous famine, which increased to an excessive degree the prices of provisions, and, combined with the destructive inroads of the Scots, reduced the kingdom to a miserable condition. A parliament, which assembled at London in January, (1314-15,) endeavoured, with short-sighted policy, to provide some remedy in lowering the market price of the various necessaries of life; and making it imperative upon the seller, either to dispose of his live stock at certain fixed rates, or to forfeit them to the crown —a measure which a subsequent parliament found it necessary to repeal. 

The same assembly granted to the king a twentieth of their goods, upon the credit of which, he requested a loan from the abbots and priors of the various convents in his dominions, for the purpose of raising an army against the Scots.§ But the king's credit was too low, the clergy too cautious, and the barons of the crown too discontented, to give efficiency to this intended muster, and no army appeared. The famine, which had begun in England, now extended to Scotland; and as that country became dependent upon foreign importation, the merchants of England, Ireland, and Wales, were rigorously interdicted from supplying it with grain, cattle, arms, or any other commodities. Small squadrons of ships were employed to cruise round the island, so as to intercept all foreign supplies; and letters were directed to the Earl of Flanders, and to the Counts of Holland, Lunenburgh, and Brabant, requesting them to put a stop to all commercial intercourse between their dominions and Scotland—a request with which these sagacious and wealthy little states peremptorily refused to comply.

A Scottish force ravages Northumberland

In the spring, another Scottish army broke in upon Northumberland, again ravaged the principality of Durham, sacked the seaport of Hartlepool, and, after collecting their plunder, compelled the inhabitants to redeem their property and their freedom by a high tribute. Carrying their arms to the gates of York, they wasted the country with fire and sword, and reduced the wretched English to the lowest extremity of poverty and despair. Carlisle, Newcastle, and Berwick, defended by strong fortifications, and well garrisoned, were now the only cities of refuge where there was security for property; and to these towns the peasantry flocked for protection, whilst the barons and nobility, instead of assembling their vassals to repel the common enemy, spent their time in idleness and jollity in the capital.

An important measure, relating to the succession of the crown, now occupied the attention of the Estates of Scotland, in a parliament held at Ayr, on the 26th of April. By a solemn act of settlement, it was determined, with the consent of the king, and of his daughter and presumptive heir, Marjory, that the crown, in the event of Bruce's death, without heirs male of his body, should descend to his brother, Edward Bruce, a man of tried valour, and much practised in war. It was moreover provided, with consent of the king, and of his brother Edward, that, failing Edward and his heirs male, Marjory should immediately succeed; and failing her, the nearest heir lineally descended of the body of King Robert; but under the express condition, that Marjory should not marry without the consent of her father, and failing him, of the majority of the Estates of Scotland. If it happened, that either the king, or his brother Edward, or Marjory his daughter, should die, leaving an heir male, who was a minor, in that event Thomas Randolph earl of Moray was constituted guardian of the heir, and of the kingdom, till the Estates considered the heir of a fit age to administer the government in his own person; and in the event of the death of Marjory, without children, the same noble person was appointed to this office, if he chose to accept the burden, until the states and community, in their wisdom, determinethe rightful succession to the crown.

Marriage of Majority Bruce to Walter the High Steward

Not long after this, the king bestowed his daughter Marjory in marriage upon Walter the hereditary Highsteward of Scotland; an important union, which gave heirs to the Scottish crown, and afterwards to the throne of the United Kingdoms.

Acts Regarding the Succession to the Crown

An important measure, relating to the succession of the crown, now occupied the attention of the Estates of Scotland, in a parliament held at Ayr, on the 26th of April. By a solemn act of settlement, it was determined, with the consent of the king, and of his daughter and presumptive heir, Marjory, that the crown, in the event of Bruce's death, without heirs male of his body, should descend to his brother, Edward Bruce, a man of tried valour, and much practised in war. It was moreover provided, with consent of the king, and of his brother Edward, that, failing Edward and his heirs male, Marjory should immediately succeed; and failing her, the nearest heir lineally descended of the body of King Robert; but under the express condition, that Marjory should not marry without the consent of her father, and failing him, of the majority of the Estates of Scotland.

If it happened, that either the king, or his brother Edward, or Marjory his daughter, should die, leaving an heir male, who was a minor, in that event Thomas Randolph earl of Moray was constituted guardian of the heir, and of the kingdom, till the Estates considered the heir of a fit age to administer the government in his own person; and in the event of the death of Marjory, without children, the same noble person was appointed to this office, if he chose to accept the burden, until the states and community, in their wisdom, determinethe rightful succession to the crown.

Invasion of Ireland by Edward Bruce

An extraordinary episode in the history of the kingdom now claims our attention. Edward Bruce, the king's brother, a man of restless ambition, and undaunted enterprise, fixed his eyes upon Ireland, at this time animated by a strong spirit of resistance against its English masters ; and having entered into a secret correspondence with its discontented chieftains, he conceived the bold idea of redncing that island by force of arms, and becoming its king. A desire to harass England in a very vulnerable quarter, and a wish to afford employment, at a distance, to a temper which was so imperious at home, that it began to threaten disturbance to the kingdom, induced the King of Scotland to agree to a project replete with difficulty; and Edward Bruce, with six thousand men, landed at Carrickfergus, in the north of Ireland, on the 25th of May, 1315.

He was accompanied by the Earl of Moray, Sir Philip Mowbray, Sir John Soulis, Sir Fergus of Ardrossan, and Ramsay of Ochterhouse; In a series of battles, which it would be foreign to the object of this history to enumerate, although they bear testimony to the excellent discipline of the Scottish knights and soldiers, Edward Bruce overran the provinces of Down, Armagh, Louth, Meath, and Kildare; but was compelled by want, and the reduced numbers of his little army, to retreat into Ulster, and despatch the Earl of Moray for new succours into Scotland.

He is crowned King of Ireland

He was soon after crowned King of Ireland, and immediately after his assumption of the regal dignity, laid siege to Carrickfergus. On being informed of the situation of his brother's affairs, King Robert is trusted the government of the kingdom to his son-in-law the Steward, and Sir James Douglas. He then passed over to the assistance of the new king, with a considerable body of troops; and, after their junction, the united armies, having reduced Carrickfergus, pushed forward through the county Louth, to Slane, and invested Dublin; but being compelled to raise the siege, they advanced into Kilkenny, wasted the country as far as Limerick, and after experiencing the extremities of famine, and defeating the enemy wherever they made head against them, terminated a glorious but fruitless expedition, by a retreatinto the province of Ulster, in the spring of 1317. The king of Scotland now returned to his dominions, taking along with him the Earl of Moray, but having left the flower of his army to support his brother in the possession of Ulster.

A miserable fate awaited these brave men. After a long period of inaction, in which neither the Irish annals nor our early Scottish historians afford any certain light, we find King Edward Bruce encamped at Tagher, near Dundalk, at the head of a force of two thousand men, exclusive of the native Irish, who were numerous, but badly armed and disciplined. Against him, Lord John Bermingham, along with John Maupas, Sir Miles Verdon, Sir Hugh Tripton, and other Anglo-Irish barons, led an army which was strong in cavalry, and outnumbered the Scots by nearly ten to one. Edward, with his characteristic contempt of danger, and nothing daunted by the disparity of force, determined, against the advice of his oldest captains, to give the enemy battle. In the course of a three years' war, he had already engaged the Anglo-Irish forces eighteen times; and although his success had led to no important result, he had been uniformly victorious.

Defeated and Slain

But his fiery career was now destined to be quenched, and his short-lived sovereignty to have an end. On the 5th of October, 1318, the two armies joined battle, and the Scots were almost immediately discomfited. At the first onset, John Maupas slew King Edward Bruce, and was himself found slain, and stretched upon the body of his enemy. Sir John Soulis and Sir John Stewart also fell; and the rout becoming general, the slaughter was great. A miserable remnant, however, escaping from the field, under John Thomson, the leader of the men of Carrick, made good their retreat to Carrickfergus, and from thence reached Scotland. Two thousand Scottish soldiers were left dead upon the spot, and amongst these some of Bruce's best captains.J Thus ended an expedition which, if conducted by a spirit of more judicious and deliberate valour than distinguished its prime mover, might have produced the most serious annoyance to England. Unmindful of the generous courtesy of Bruce's behaviour after the battle of Bannockburn, the English treated the body of the King of Ireland with studied indignity. It was quartered and distributed as a public spectacle over Ireland, and the head was presented to the English king by Lord John Bermingham, who, as a reward for his victory, was created Earl of Louth.

Having given a continuous sketch of this disastrous enterprise, which, from its commencement till the death of Edward, occupied a period of three years, we shall return to the affairs of Scotland, where the wise administration of King Robert brought security and happiness to the people both at home and in their foreign relations.