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THE HISTORY OF SCOTLAND, BOOK XIV
FTER Alexander had died the unhappy death I have described, since he had left no testament appointing his heirs or regents, the realm was quite devoid of government, and in every quarter crimes were committed by bold fellows with impunity, since those who had previously been restrained by fear were turned loose to run riot everywhere. When good men appreciated this, in their prudence they assembled a parliament and took counsel as best they could as to how to counter these things. After much discussion of a variety of subjects, they decided, lest the kingdom go without a government until better counsels were devised, to appoint six regents of the realm: the north was to be governed by William Fraser, Bishop of St. Andrews, Duncan Earl of Fife, and John Comyn Earl of Buchan, while the administration of the south was to be entrusted to the other three, namely Robert Bishop of Glasglow, Lord John Comyn, of the same clan as the other, a man distinguished in both war and peace, and James, the Seneschal of Scotland. But King Edward of England, nicknamed Longshanks because of his long legs, saw the throne to be empty and turned his mind to its usurpation. A little girl, not yet of marriageable age, remained from the marriage of Alexander’s daughter Margaret to the King of Norway, and Edward asked the Scots for both her and the kingdom. Tthe parliament of Scots nobles was not averse to this, and the English king did not reject the conditions they imposed, namely that nothing would be done to the derogation of the laws and Church of the realm, and no issue resulted from this marriage or died before its time, then the kingdom would revert to its true heirs.
2. It was decided that two right noble knights, Sir John Scott of Balweary and Sir James Weemes to fetch the bride. Before they could reach her, on their journey they learned that the girl had died, and so went home, their business unfinished. And so this matter was broken off between the English king and the Scots for the moment. But immediately a far greater contest of ambition broke out among Alexander’s kinsmen, which turned everything human and divine topsy-turvy. There were two men who far surpassed all over in their closeness of kinship o the former king, John Baliol and Robert Bruce, the grandson of the man who had married David’s younger daughter Isabella and who had fathered a man of the same name, the Earl of Carrick, called The Noble because of his quick wit, from whom was the man about whom I am writing. And that John Baliol was born of David’s elder daughter Margaret. For by her Alan of Galloway had fathered two daughters, the elder of whom, Dervorguilla by name, had married Sir John Baliol and produced a son named John Baliol, the subject of my discussion. This John Baliol asserted that he should be created king in preference to anyone else, since no man was closer in descent to Alexander than the descendants of King William’s brother David, and he was born of that man’s elder daughter, albeit the line of descent was by way of a woman. Robert’s claim was that, being a descendant of the younger sister, he was descended from a male to whom the crown should have descended, should William have died childless. When this subject had been the subject of frequent heated debates among the regents of the realm and the parliament of nobles, both sides had powerful support and the issue could not be conveniently resolved (for they feared that, should they decide in favor of one party, the other would attempt to seize the crown by force), so they chose to refer the matter to some powerful king for his arbitration, who would have the strength to compel those who disliked it to defer to his judgment.
3. The aforementioned Edward seemed the most suitable of all sovereigns for this purpose, both for his power, since he was second to none of the kings of that age, and for his nearness, so he could speedily come to the aid of those beset by troubles. A delegation was therefore sent to Edward concerning the matter, and when he gave them an audience he replied pleasantly, saying that within a few days he would come to Berwick, so that their parliament should await his arrival there. When he had come, he give a hearing to both parties, and since the matter was complicated and thorny, and could not be adjudged upon its first hearing, he said that he desired to discuss this matter carefully with his doctors of law and the more prudent of his advisors, and he requested that he be given twelve Scotsman outstanding for their justice, good faith, and wisdom, and he would choose the same number of his subjects whom he knew to surpass the others in virtue and learning, and he believed the matter could be settled with these men sitting in judgment. When both sides had committed to writing the arguments favoring their sides, he returned to his own kingdom. But human minds are fragile and almost never incorruptible, as the proverb has it: “all offices are fat, and, once one has touched them, he cannot go away until his hands are well-greased.” In the same way, Edward could not keep his mind under control. So first he sent to France to consult some experts in the law about this matter, but with instructions that they should judge the matter corruptly, falsely, and with divided opinions, so that, should their decisions should be split, he could bestow and confer the crown on whichever of them he chose. The majority of those doctors supported Robert’s claim, both because of the man’s nobility and because his descent was through the male line. And yet some of them, having been corrupted by the English, pronounced for John.
4. Thinking the time was ripe for the subjugation of Scotland, Edward returned to Berwick and convened the council of twenty-four men whom he had previously designated to decide the case. He locked all the doors to the conference-room and stationed his guards to prevent anybody from going in or out without his leave. Then he bribed them so that he might bestow the crown on the first of the two contenders to swear fealty to him as his overlord. Since he knew that Robert was a brave man and beloved and popular with his fellow countrymen because of his greatness of mind and other virtues, he tested him first to determine whether, if given the crown, he would be willing to swear his oath. If not, he would discover how John was minded. Robert, greatly valuing his liberty and that of his nation, replied he was unwilling to place his nation, thus far free from all vassalage, in service to the English. And so Edward approached John, who, blind with desire as long as he gained the throne, had no care at all whether he gained it in vassalage (which he regarded as a trifle) or liberty. They say that after Edward had bestowed the kingdom on John, the Earl of Gloucester, a man of great authority because of his notable virtue, took Robert Bruce by the hand and said to him, “You will remember, king, what you have done today, how you have not judged this matter with truth. For, even if this is concealed from us now, when all things are brought to light, when that Judge who sees deeply into men’s minds and consciences considers it carefully, He will compel you to plead your case in that fearful courtroom, and then it will not remain hidden. You have now given your judgment concerning the making of a king, but know that then the judgment will concern yourself.”
5. A few days thereafter, John Baliol was created king at Scone in the traditional way, and in the same year, on the Feast of St. Stephen, he swore his fealty to Edward at Newcastle, against the will of his nobles. Thus he placed his nation in vassalage, although it had always been free in the past. He was destined to discover that kingship was not the happy thing he imagined it to be. For a few years later Edward demanded the assistance of John Baliol in a war against the French, and when he refused that command, saying that he had been intimidated into swearing his oath to Edward, and had done so without consulting the three orders of the realm (without such consultation it is illegal for a king to enter into any important undertaking), and also that it would be wrong for him to take up arms against an ancient friend and ally, in despite of their treaties. Summoned again, and then a third time, he did not comply, so Edward deposed him, and King Edward of England was not behindhand in putting his intentions into actions. For, so that he could fight the Scots with greater freedom, he immediately sent ambassadors to France, made a treaty with them, and asked the hand of their king for his son Edward. He did not, however, abandon his plan of waging war against the French at his first opportunity. The French promptly complied. And soon thereafter, having secretly achieved a reconciliation with Robert Bruce he induced him to hand over all castles garrisoned by his supporters. And King John, lest he be seen to be behindhand in protecting his own interests against this impending danger, sent Bishop William of St. Andrews, John Sir John Sowles and Sir Ingram Umfra to King Philippe IV of France to renew their treaty. To cement this treaty with yet firmer vows, the daughter of the king’s brother Charles Count of Valois and Anjou was betrothed to his underage firstborn son Edward, and as a dowry for his bride’s sake Charles Philippe gave Edward sixty thousand gold marks, together with the estates of Bailleul, Dampat, Harcour, and Horne, which had been John’s landholdings in France.
6. On the advice of his senior noblemen, John Baliol sent nearly all the nobility of Fife and Lothian to the aid of Berwick, where it was said that Edward would come with a great number of ships to ravage its seacoast and, if possible, take the town by storm. And so the arriving English were met by a Scottish fleet which defeated and fired eighteen English ships, killing their oarsmen and the soldiers aboard. The rest took flight and escaped. Edward, more irritated than daunted by this defeat, attacked Berwick with much larger numbers than before, and prepared to attack it with all the might at his disposal. . But when his siege proved more lengthy than he had wished, since its citizenry and the nobles within the town put up a fine resistance, he thought the business should be conducted by cleverness and guile. So he pretended to break off the siege, and led his army off into the countryside for some distance. Then he turned it around towards Berwick, displaying Scottish banners hastily manufactured for the purpose, and sent ahead some deserters to announce that John Baliol was approaching, so they should keep their gates open for his arrival. Such was his stratagem against Berwick. And so its inhabitants vied with each other in streaming out all the gates to greet their king, as they imagined. They not only rejoiced because the siege had been lifted, but also because, even if their enemy were still present, they thought themselves his match in strength. But when the enemy were at the gates and their dress and language revealed their true identity, the citizens tried to go back to their gates, but were cut off by the opposite side. And so they commenced a pitiful slaughter, not only of whatever armed men they encountered, but also of children, old men, and helpless women, something that seems like the unheard-of height of dementia to rage against those you have not defeated by force, and who have done you no personal wrong, while making no distinction of age. His soldiers ran about the city, dragging the victims they found out of houses and churches alike to a dreadful death, since in their eyes sacred and profane were one and the same. Rivers of blood flowed throughout the town, so that, although their mills usually ran more sluggishly at low tide, they began to turn freely, with the blood helping the water move them.
7. About seven thousand men were butchered that day, together with virtually the entire nobility of Fife and Lothian. When King John Baliol heard of the massacre of his subjects, he sent men to confront Edward. But when they joined battle not far distant from Dunbar, nearly all of them either died or were taken prisoner. Reduced to desperate straights, seventy knights, together with William Earl of Montrose, the Earl of Menteith, and some other distinguished soldiers took refuge in Castle Dunbar, but they were compelled by a dearth of all things to surrender, in the company of the commander of the castle. They were all subjected to dire torture and quickly killed. They say that Robert Bruce was the reason for this slaughter. For at the beginning of the fight, by prearrangement with Edward, he commanded those of his kinsmen fighting on the Scottish side to depart. The other Scots, frightened when the saw themselves betrayed by their fellow-countrymen, threw down their arms and started to flee, whereupon they presented themselves for the slaughter like so many sheep. But when Robert Bruce asked Edward for a reward for this betrayal (for he was ignorant of the fact that traitors are treated well by their enemies so long as they are useful, but when they have done all they can, they become hateful even in the eyes of those for whose sake they have acted), he received a rough reply. For King Edward was no less hungry to gain the throne of Scotland than Bruce himself. And so he cast these words in Robert’s teeth: “Do you imagine I have nothing else to do other than subdue kingdoms for your benefit?“ When Robert realized the king’s deceitfulness, he retired glumly to his English estates, indignant that his fellow-Scotsmen had thus been betrayed by himself. He thought that he must defer to the king’s greed for acquiring land. But he was determined, if ever he had the chance of regaining his fellow Scotsmen’s favor, to have a fine helping of revenge for the king of England’s insult.
8. When Edward had stormed Castle Dunbar and taken two others, namely Edinburgh and Sterling, he began his pursuit of John Baloil. He was staying at Forfar, vainly lamenting his helplessness and devoid of any idea how he might defend himself and his followers. John Comyn the Lord of Strathbogie went to King Edward suing for peace. Having been successful, he played a trick on John Baloil and his son Edward, using the hope of peace to lure them to Montrose. When they had fallen into Edward’s clutches, for fear of the death with which Edward threatened him, he held a white rod in his hand, as was the custom, and transferred all his rights to King Edward of England, and abdicated the throne. This was immediately formalized by documents drawn up in accordance with Edward’s wishes and signed by John. These things having been accomplished, Edward went to Berwick, summoned all the Scottish nobility, and compelled them to swear their fealty to himself. Then, throughout Scotland, nobles were compelled by force to surrender coastal towns and strongholds. He sent John Baliol and his son Edward, still in his minority, to London, where they were kept imprisoned in very close confinement. But after keeping them in prison for a long time, he finally sent John back to his kingdom, although he extracted an oath from him never to wage war against the English and retained his son. Returning to Scotland, John saw that he was not very well liked by his nobles or his people, and that he had experienced nothing worthwhile when sitting on the throne and had no better prospects for the future, so he voluntarily went into exile in England, and then returned to his hereditary homeland of Normandy, where at length, in his château at Hélicourt, blind and wasted away by advanced old age, he died. Much later his son Edward was released and went to join his father in France.
9. The English king had scarcely forgotten the French war he had intended to fight, had not the Scottish rebels forestalled him so that he had been obliged to delay it for such a long time. So he installed his garrison in Scotland’s strongholds and town and appointed his previous treasurer Hugh de Cressingham as his viceroy. Then he built as large a fleet as he could and crossed over into France. He imagined that the Scots could stage no kind of uprising, having suffered so many calamities in such a short span of time. But no tyranny is ever protected by sufficient safeguards, nor does any people, no matter how great the catastrophes and harms it has suffered, continue to tolerate servitude in silence, if any opportunity arises to punish that tyranny. Rather, it strives to shake that yoke from its neck as quickly as it can. And so, as soon as Edward had departed England, their spirits revived and all the nobles gathered at a parliament, where they unanimously voted that regents should be established for the retrieval of their liberty. Twelve men were elected with royal power, who were distributed into places suitable for warding off the tyrant’s mischief. John Comyn Earl of Buchan, easily the chief of these for his nobility and prudence in both peace and war, assembled as large an army as he could and invaded the north of England and caused widespread devastation by fire and sword. But after he had besieged the strongly fortified town of Carlile for a long while and tried all expedients in vain, he broke off his attempt without achieving anything.
10. In those days there was a certain young man, a knight’s son named Wallace, of great physical comeliness and stronger than all men of his time. He was a very tall man, and so skilled at warfare that nobody could be deemed comparable. From boyhood, he had been motivated by an innate loathing of Englishman, and had done many a noble deed. Whenever he saw a Scotsman being oppressed by the English, he would immediately come a-running to ward off their violence. From the time he first had the strength to wield a sword, he excelled in strength and daring. He could fight against three or four and always come away the winner. So his fame soon spread throughout Scotland, and gave many men hope that he was someday destined to free their kingdom of tyranny. Daily a great number of nobles or other oppressed men who admired his virtue flocked to him, so that he could not easily be entrapped by the English. And so at a time when there was the greatest need for such a man, by the votes of one and all he was appointed leader for the liberation of his nation, and commonly styled John Baliol’s regent. And so, made both more self-confident and more successful by being vested with this public power, he took command of John Comyn’s army, and, if there remained any Scottish supporters of the king of England, he would catch them and use either fear or violence to make them obedient to his command.
11. These things having being done and the Scottish had been reduced to obedience, he moved against the English. He first besieged Dundee, then Forfar, Brechin, and Montrose, all in English hands at the time. With these stormed and their garrisons either killed or taken prisoner, he thought that the minds of the rest of his people would change. Emboldened by these successes, Wallace took his forces and marched on Aberdeen to relieve it of English wrongdoing (for a large number of them where oppressing that town with their tyranny at the time). As he was on his march, he learned that a number of leading Englishmen had been summoned from nearby places for a conference at Dunnotar Castle, a stronghold excellently protected both by nature and human art, and that they were expecting nothing less than a Scottish uprising. He took it by a sudden assault and, killing all within, defended the place with a strong Scottish garrison. And during the following night he attacked Aberdeen, finding it virtually empty of its inhabitants and their fortunes. For the English, terrified by the rumor of his arrival, had sacked the town, betaken themselves to their ships lying at anchorage, and sailed off for England. Seeing this, and understanding that the stronghold was so well defended by its garrison and all warlike equipment that it could not be stormed without great risk, Wallace left that business undone and retired to Angus.
12. Not long thereafter, reports of Wallace’s accomplishments and the terror of his name reached Edward in France, so he sent his viceroy Hugh against him with an army. Wallace (who was besieging Cupar Castle at the moment) heard of Hugh’s approach and, leaving a sufficient garrison to continue the siege, he decided to confront him at the bridge at Sterling. There they joined in a very heated battle. The enemy commander Hugh was killed, part of his army put to the sword, and another part cast in the river and drowned, so that few men survived. Gaining this happy victory, Wallace returned to the siege. The terrified garrison immediately handed over the castle, and at the same time delegations from many others were sent to him, promising to obey his commands and help him with provisions. He put garrisons and governors known to be loyal in these, as the requirements of each individual one dictated, dismissed his army, and retired into Sterling Castle with his closest associated. Then there arose a great dearth of corn and all other things, and to give his countrymen a little relief the chose to spend the winter on enemy soil with a great host. Hence he summoned a certain number of soldiers from every district of Scotland and instructed them to be present on a certain day. But certain northern Scotsmen resisted his command and delayed. Their punishment was hanging. Their example frightened others into obedience, and a great number of people promptly joined him. Taking them, he invaded Northumbria as far as Newcastle, filling everything with devastation and arson. Having filled his enemy with the great terror of his name and gladdening his own followers with plunder and victory, he returned home to Scotland in triumph, to the great congratulations of one and all.
13. When he heard of the massacre of his subjects, an irate Edward came back to England with his army. He immediately sent a delegation to Wallace in Scotland, using savage words to rebuke him for having dared invade his kingdom, and saying that he would not have dared do that if he himself had remained in his realm. Wallace’s reply that it was no less his duty to take the opportunity of invading England in its king’s absence than it had been Edward’s, when he saw Scotland’s nobles quarreling over the throne and the decision of this matter had been entrusted to him, to violate right and the faith he had sworn the Scottish nobility and compelled their kingdom to submit to himself. “And Edward should be aware (said he) that I invaded England in defense of my people and to free their kingdom from tyranny, and to take revenge on him for his evildoing. Report my words to him: I invite him to come and celebrate Easter in England where (if God preserves us) my army and I shall await him.” And so, when both armies had arrived on that aforesaid day, Wallace with his old army, and Edward with one nearly twice its size, they both set a day for the battle. Wallace was the first to lead out his army in fighting array. The English only stood waiting, to give the Scots a chance to look at their great army. Their hope was that the Scots would be terrified by their numbers and not dare fight against them, since they relied on nothing but their size. They immediately melted awayin flight, abandoned their camp, and ran away. But the Scots, made fierce by their former victories, saw their enemy taking to their heels before they came within a spear’s cast, could scarcely be restrained from giving immediate chase to their fugitive enemies. Their commander swiftly rode out before the first rank of their battle-line and did his utmost to restrain them, begging, warning and exhorting them not to hurl themselves into an ambush prepared by the enemy: he knew for a certainty that it was not fear that had made them run away so quickly, and he thought it a sufficient victory that they had routed the enemy by the mere terror of his name, without drawing a sword or hurling a missile. Thus restrained by their leader’s authority they grew quiet and went back to Scotland, having accumulated a great amount of booty.
14. But while Wallace grew in stature and all men assisted him, his reputation achieved such fame that favor turned into envy, particularly among those whose place of command he how occupied, men who enjoyed honors and power while he was still obscure, most particularly the members of the Comyn clan and Robert Bruce. King Edward was secretly made aware of this by his supporters and, having negotiated with the leaders of that faction by means of intermediaries, he invaded Scotland with a large army. Wallace, unsuspecting, went to meet him near Falkirk. When he had arrived there, their armies had scarce been drawn up for battle when his officers began to quarrel between themselves, to the great detriment of all of them who ought to have led the front rank. For our countrymen consider it the highest honor to be in command of the front, standing beneath the banners. The three principal captains among the Scots, Stewart, Comyn, and Wallace, challenged each other for that honor and none seemed ready to yield to the others. For the other two scorned Wallace as a Johnny-come-lately who had risen from a humble estate to riches, while for his part Wallace maintained that he had been unanimously been voted supreme command for the conduct of this war. In their pride they grew hot in this argument, at a time when the enemy was upon them and their rivalry was unconcealed and Edward was egging them on, so the army was compelled to fight with next to no organization, and when the battle started, all of Comyn’s men retired from the field. Robert Bruce, not satisfied to fight against his fellow Scotsmen (for on that day he fought on the English side), added crime to treachery by leading his forces around to the Scottish rear and attacked them from behind when they were expecting nothing of the kind. So foul slaughter was committed in every quarter, their being no way of escape. Wallace nonetheless did not fail to do everything required of an excellent commander and a vigorous soldier, now exhorting his soldiers not to let those men who used to be terrified by their very appearance attack them with impunity, now taking his flying companies and fighting in the forefront, where great casualties were being inflicted by both sides, showing his soldiers what they themselves should be doing.
15. But since the English were greater in numbers and Bruce’s men were attacking them from the rear, nearly all of them were killed. When Wallace saw that he and only a few others were left, he made another sally and broke free of his enemies. They say that when a certain Friar Briange, an Englishman well known among his countrymen for his martial skill, was in hot pursuit of him, Wallace confronted and killed him, which had the effect of deterring the rest of the English from giving chase. In that battle died some famous men. John the Seneschal was killed together with his Brandians (for such they call men recruited for military service out of the seneschal’s estates), whom they say to have abandoned Wallace when he was exposed to utmost danger, although it was in his power to come to his relief; Macduff Earl of Fife and the soldiers who followed him into battle; Sir John Graham, whom Wallace himself valued highly for his martial skill; and many other most famous and brave men, whom it would be a lengthy task to enumerate. Some add that Robert Bruce, about to attack the Scots from the rear, said these words to Wallace for the purpose of intimidating him: “Wallace, what madness makes you dare fight this battle against your king’s great strength after you have been abandoned by your own followers? Do you not see you are being driven to your downfall? Do you not see that great slaughter awaits your followers?” Wallace’s response was “Your treachery cannot deter me from forever defending my nation against this most haughty and cruel tyrant. Go hang, as you richly deserve, you who are once more the deserter and betrayer of your nation. Someday God will put an end to your crimes, when you least expect it. You will not gain any joy b y having betrayed your homeland. For me, death for my nation’s sake will be a most welcome thing, for I do not shrink from defending its liberty day and night. As long as you live, furies will trouble you with a torment worse than the most disgraceful of deaths, while your eyes constantly agonize you with the sight of your nation, twice betrayed by you.”
16. The English gained this victory on St. Mary Magdalene’s day, for which reason the Scots still regard that as an inauspicious day for a fight. When the fleeing Wallace came to Perth, he greatly railed against the envy and disloyalty of certain men who had great cause to desire the English king to be expelled from Scotland, and he resigned his office. King Philippe IV of France, known as Philippe the Fair, pitied the losses and catastrophes of his ancient allies, all of which they were suffering for the sake of keeping their good faith to the French, sent ambassadors to Edward. He requested that for his sake (since he had thought fit to bestow his daughter on him in marriage in the previous year) he grant the Scots either peace or a truce. Since Edward’s new bride begged and urged Edward to agree, he easily obtained this, since Edward was afraid she would take offense if he refused. So a truce was granted, lasting from the Feast of All Souls until Pentecost. Meanwhile the Scots sent an embassy to Pope Boniface at Rome, complaining of the wrongs and slaughter that the English king was daily inflicting on them because of his greed for their kingdom. Pleading their liberty, since they had never been vassals to a foreign king, they begged and beseeched the pope, the father and protector of peoples, that he would exercise the power and authority which he possessed over the English (which was greater than that which he enjoyed over other nations), and write a letter and mandate to Edward to restrain that greed of his. They said that, inasmuch as their resort to arms had not gone well, they were prepared to decide everything by law and right. For their nobility was quarreling among themselves out of excessive ambition, and meanwhile their innocent people were gravely afflicted.
17. The matter was discussed back and forth by means of letters. In the end, the pope handed down a decision favoring the Scots. Their spirits lifted by this, they elected one of the noblest members of the Comyn clan, John, as their regent, and took small steps towards exercising their freedom. When this came to Edward’s attention, he sent an army to ravage all the land in the valley of the Forth and Fife as far north as Perth. For he was in possession of all territory south of the Forth, and all men therein were his subjects, with the exception of a few who lurked in forests out of dread of his tyrannical rule. John Comyn thought these things were intolerable indignities even for a weak people, and regarded death and the destruction of all the realm preferable to such servitude. So he took as his faithful ally Simon Fraser, and recruited a tiny band of soldiers, although ones of the bravest, to the number of eight thousand, and readied himself to avenge those insults. Whatever English officials and their servants could be caught he subjected to all the mistreatment he could invent, and then banished them from the kingdom. Edward was irate at the insults being inflicted on him by these desperate men and sent an army of thirty thousand into Scotland under the leadership of Ralph Confrey, a noble man and an energetic commander, to defeat the remnants of the kingdom. He came as far as Roslin with his army in loose array as he had only appeared to divide up the spoils, and he had divided his forces into three companies of ten thousand each to accomplish this task. John and his ally Simon joined forces, and thought they should attack one of those three parts; then, if Fortune favored them, they could do the same to the others. So they harangued their soldiers to be mindful that they should fight stoutly against henchmen of the most cruel tyrant for the sake of liberty, for their nation, for their parents, their children, and their hearths and homes. Then John drew up his battle-line and, fighting with might and main, they inflicted great slaughter, routing and scattering the English.
18. As soon as they had gained the victory, they collected the spoils and those who lacked weapons took them from the enemy plunder, or exchanged what they had for better ones. Meanwhile, another army unexpectedly arrived, while their blood was still up from their previous victory and they were not yet exhausted. So they all gathered together into a single mass and were set in order by their commander and attacked their enemy across the intervening space, which was quite small. Scarcely had they destroyed that force too, when the third came into sight. They were weary and some were wounded, but nevertheless they were exhorted and entreated by their captains not to allow their flagging spirits to squander their two former victories. They were told, “Your enemy expects nothing else than for you to be completely done in by your wounds and be unable to withstand their advance when you’ve once caught sight of their advance. But when they see you, stained with the gore of their armies and yet undiminished in strength, they will be too frightened to stand their ground.” This so animated the soldiers that they attacked with great energy. The enemy immediately turned tail and offered themselves up for the killing, and, had our own men not been exhausted by the great massacre they had meted out, very few would Englishmen would have survived that panicky retreat. But as the matter stood, they pursued the enemy a little distance, and then returned to their camp and the spoils. This was a great victory, and I don’t know if we have heard of a nobler one, to have met three enemy armies in an open fight, all of greater number, and to have defeated them in accordance with a prearranged strategy. And nobody thought this was gained without God’s singular favor, and they all thanked heaven.
19. But they did not enjoy their happiness for long. When Edward had heard of his subjects’ defeat, he ordered a conscription of choice men from all his domains and regions subject to the kingdom of England, with which to invade Scotland both by land and sea. Since nobody dared oppose such great forces, all Scotsmen kept themselves in safety, leaving the English army free to range Scotland from the south to the north. They encountered few enemies, scarcely anybody at all except for Wallace and his followers, devoted to liberty, wandered the mountains and trackless wastes, concealing themselves sometimes in forest, and sometimes in caves, and managing to elude English clutches. It is said that King Edward sent him ambassadors, promising that, if he would agree to come into the open and submit to the king, he would receive an earldom and great estates. and that his reply was that he valued liberty no less than all the lands and estates in the world. There was a very strongly fortified castle called Sterling, whose governor was Sir William Oliver. He, together with some friends and allies, trusted in the strength of its walls and dared lock its gates against the English. But they were tightly besieged for three months, and vainly asubjected to frequent attacks by various machines by the English, who used all the copper roofing of the abbey of St. Andrew for God knows what purpose In the end, hey were obliged by their dwindling supplies to surrender on terms of safe conduct. After Edward had signed a document of surrender, Governor William himself was dispatched to London and imprisoned.
20. The English stormed a number of other castles, and killed all men found within. Among these was the Winged Castle in Moray, nowadays commonly called Castle Urquhard. When it was taken, only a single woman was spared for the sake of the child she was carrying in her belly, for the enemies were afraid to kill her before it had been born. She was the wife of Alexander Boece, the master of the place, who changed her dress and disguised herself as a humble pauper. Released, she immediately went to the Hebrides, and thence to Ireland, where she gave birth to a son. A while later, after the English had been driven out by Robert Bruce, he returned to his pacified homeland and petitioned King Robert for the restoration of his heritage, now possessed by other. But Robert, unsure to do about this matter, thought it unkind to take back a thing once it had been bestowed as a reward for bravery, nor just to deprive a man who had lost his father and all his fortune to adversity for his sake, and to be his only subject to be deprived of an improved fortune at this time. So he found a middle course: he gave the son some landed estates in Mar, no whit inferior in extent or fertility to those he had lost, and begged him to rest content with these, since the others could not be dislodged without trouble. So he changed his surname from Boece to Forbest. For on that land he laid low a bear of immense size, and for his excellent accomplishment in overcoming it he claimed that name. Hence the noble Clan Forbes took its beginning, with its name slightly altered over time.
21. When Scotland had been subdued, Edward decided to abolish our ancient traditions regarding all things Scottish. For he thought that, if Scotsmen were to resemble the English in their manners, their minds would also grow to be alike. Therefore he commanded all Scottish histories, both sacred and secular, to be burned everywhere, with great penalties established for non-compliance. He decreed that holy books should be drawn up after the fashion of the English rite, and that only these should be used. He banished to Oxford all learned men Scotland nourished, of which there was no small number. For he feared lest the Scots be illuminated by their teaching and cast off their yoke. This applied particularly to our preeminent canonical and mendicant monks, as well as to members of other orders. He banished eleven Augustinian doctors of theology who lived in the abbey at Inverness, four from the Carmelites of Aberdeen, and many others who, it stands to reason, must have been of greater than average erudition, even if they had no resplendent titles. Nor do I think I should conceal what he foolishly and arrogantly did regarding the destruction of antiquities. For when roaming all Scotland with his army, he chanced to see the ancient temple of Claudius Caesar and Victory once built by Vespasian in the region of Camelodunum, tstanding alongside the river Carron, as I have mentioned in its proper place, conspicuous for its antiquity, he begrudged the Scots even this good thing, and ordered it demolished. But the locals, who loved their ancient things, took their time in carrying out his command. Then he had a quick change of mind and allowed its walls and roof to stand. But he wished all Caesar’s monuments to be destroyed, and so he removed the inscription identifying the building as having been sacred to Claudius and Victory and ordered it replaced with one bearing the name of the former English king Arthur and for the building to be called Arthur’s palace. Even within our memory it was called Arturi Hof in our language. It is round, in the ancient Roman way, since they believe that a circle was the most perfect form, complete in all its numbers.
22. And when Edward was about to return to England, so that no trace of our obliterated history might endure, he took away from Scone the stone chair on which our kings were customarily seated at their coronations, and brought it with him to London to be deposited in Westminster, where it can be seen at this present day. Before leaving Scotland, he convened another parliament of the entire Scottish nobility at St. Andrews, and compelled them to swear another oath of fealty to himself and to pledge themselves henceforth to remain loyal. All the nobles of Scotland were in attendance, with the single exception of Wallace, who shunned the sight of Englishmen as if they were snakes. Oudomarus de Valens was appointed viceroy of Scotland. John Comyn, known as The Red because of his ruddy complexion, and Robert Bruce complained to each other about Scotland’s wretched vassalage and oppression. At length, when they had both disclosed their opinions to each other, with groans and signs, Robert offered John the kingship, if we wanted it, and promised that he would strive with diligence and with all his might and main, to bring that thing about. Or, if he thought that station in life too great for himself, inasmuch as he himself should by right possess the crown by hereditary right, let John leave it for him: when all the English had been expelled, he promised, John would retain all his heritage, be richly rewards, and enjoy a standing second only to that of the king. When this had been confirmed by a written contract and by their oaths, Robert soon returned into England. For he was held in suspicion by the king for being heir to the realm, and it was unsafe for him to linger long in Scotland. He would have been put to death long ago, if Edward could have caught him and all his brothers gathered in a single place. But after entering onto the contract, Comyn, either fearing lest the undertaking could not succeed, comparing his strength with the king’s power, or thinking that, if the single most powerful man in Scotland were removed, he would surpass all the rest and stand nearest to the throne, sent a trusty messenger to Edward bearing the contract of the conspiracy and revealing their plans, so that Robert might quickly be convicted and taken to his execution.
23. Having read the document, Edward did not entirely believe these things to be true, but rather that they were the result of Comyn’s envy and rivalry for power. Anxious and very uncertain of mind, he summoned Robert, showed him the document, and asked him whether he acknowledged his signature. He managed to conceal the fact that he recognized the document, and stoutly maintained that it had been manufactured by John as a result of his old hatred and envy. He therefore asked that he be granted at least a single night of freedom to inspect the document, and then he could easily prove it to be a false forgery, saying he would offer his shire and all his worldly goods as a surety. Since the king had already concluded the accusation was be unlikely, he readily agreed, but he was indeed foolish to do so. For he had the power to arrest Robert whenever he wanted. But it was destined that Robert someday would gain the kingdom of Scotland. And so, as soon as he left the king’s presence, he summoned a blacksmith and, choosing three of his swiftest horses (for the Earl of Gloucester seems to have advised him to flee, by sending him a pair of golden spurs) and bade him shoe the horses with the shoes put on backwards. This was done so that his pursuers could not find him by his hoofprints. He fled in the middle of the night with two trusty friends, and it chanced that a heavy snow was falling, so that the hoofprints were quickly covered over, so that, even if his horseshoes had not been reversed, they could not have been overtaken.
24. When Edward discovered that Robert had made his escape, he was extremely angry at himself, and, although he sent men to hunt him down, he could not find him because of the snow. A week later Robert came to Annandale, his by hereditary right, and when he entered Lochmaben he met his brother David in the company of the noble young Robert Fleming. When David saw his brother was distraught and learned the whole story from him, he volunteered to accompany his brother in his flight. When they penetrated farther into their country, by Fleming’s help they caught a messenger carrying Edward’s letter to John Comyn instructing him to kill Bruce as soon as possible, and rewarded the messenger by the loss of his head. Then he went to Dumfries, guided by this same Fleming, where he knew Comyn to be staying. He found him at a Minorite chantry, where they had a short quarrel about his betrayal, with Comyn denying he had done it and Robert insisting that he had. Robert finally drew his sword and plunged it into Comyn’s breast, and dashed away. Thereupon he was asked by two of his friends, James Lindsey and Roger Gilpatric, what had happened, and said that he thought Comyn was dead. “Are you going to leave such a dangerous thing to chance?” they asked. Having spoken these words, they ran Comyn and calmly asked him if the wound were fatal, as if they were his friends. When he said it was not, as long as a skilled healer were quickly fetched, they killed him with three or four blows. At this same time, Wallace was taken prisoner at Glasgow by men in whom he had always placed great trust. For they were corrupted by the great bounty that Edward had set on his head. He was conveyed to London by a large military escort and very cruelly executed by Edward, and his limbs were hung up as a mockery in various parts of Scotland. This was the end of that most famous man, the the one free man of his time, when everyone else had basely surrendered themselves and their nation to the king of England. The things historians write about a hermit seeing him ascending to heaven in a dream resemble fantasies and old wives’ tales more than what most men consider true history, even if Wallace was scarcely unworthy of immortality because of the noble virtue he displayed in defending his nation.
25. Robert thought that he needed to dare something greater and acquire some kind of strength to resist Edward’s power, if he wished to elude his clutches. So, after having obtained a papal absolution for breaking his oath, with the help of his friends he went to Scone and assumed the royal crown. He collected as large forces as he could for the war he undoubtedly was about to fight against the English. But this was a small force, for he had few supporters in Scotland, whereas the English king was going to be leading great armies against him, containing the rest of the Scots. Edward sent his viceroy Oudomarus de Valens against Robert with a sufficiently strong host, although few men were killed. Since Robert’s career as king commenced with this reversal, the people’s minds grew averse to Robert, for they thought he had begun his reign inauspiciously. After Robert’s flight, Oudomarus issued an edict proscribing the wives of all his followers, and there ensued a great flight of women placed in dire straits, who hid themselves in forests, in mountains, and in caves. When the fleeing Robert came to Athol and Argyll, attempting to escape danger by his haste, he was attacked by some Englishmen, but particularly by Scotsmen of Clan Comyn, and so was obliged to fight another battle. The outcome was no different than that of the previous one. For, although they suffered few losses, the king and his followers were obliged to flee once more. Than, a vagabond abandoned by one and all, he ranged through forests and mountains, sustaining his life with plants. In his misfortune, he only had two faithful friends, the Earl of Lennox and Gilbert Hay. Even if they were sometimes obliged to part company with him out of necessity, they persisted in their constant loyalty.
26. And so he lurked in trackless wastes alone, or sometimes with one or two companions. For men had despaired of his fortune, so much so that his servants did not refrain from abusing him and mocking him for his calamities. In the end, although he was their master, they melted away. Throughout Scotland those who had ever sided with Robert were put to death. His brothers were dragged to their deaths, and their goods were proscribed. For first his brother Nigel was beheaded, and then so were Thomas and Alexander, together with a number of noblemen and sturdy commoners. His wife was brought to Edward by William Comyn and placed in close confinement at London. Although Robert was aware of all these things, and himself suffered no less every day, he nevertheless bore this all with patience until the very end. For in his boyhood he had been raised in the camp by his father and royal escort, so he knew how to sleep on the ground and drink water instead of wine or beer. This indeed appears to have befallen him with heaven’s help, that when he abandoned on every side, and his family had come close to full extinction, he nonetheless never abandoned hope that someday he would someday gain the kingdom for himself and liberty for his people. While wandering about in various places so as to escape the grasp of those who would entrap him, he finally came to the Hebrides, where he was briefly given refreshment by an old friend, a nobleman. From this man he acquired some soldiers and weaponry and ventured an undertaking.
27. And so, coming to Carrick, he captured a castle which was his by right of ancestral heritage, killed all its Englishmen, and generously shared out the plunder among his soldiers. The result was that his few remaining supporters took heart and began to collect, emerging from the forest and caves where each had thought best to hide himself. With his numbers somewhat enlarged, he went on to Inverness and stormed its very strong castle, killing all within, and enjoyed similar good fortune in taking other northern castles, destroying and burning them all until he came to Glenesk. For he had heard that John Comyn, aroused by the name he was making for himself, was coming against him with some Englishmen and Scots, he thought that would be a suitable place for a fight, and elected to stop there and await his enemies. When they saw him, remaining intrepidly with his army and ready for battle, they were astonished at the man’s boldness and, beginning to grow fearful themselves, did not dare fight him. Rather, they immediately sent ambassadors to Robert concerning a truce so that they might soon negotiate for a peace. So they avoided their imminent peril and increased their forces, and then gave hot pursuit to Robert, often attacking his army when wearied by its march, and sometimes when it was encamped. But by his martial virtue and daring he did not only receive their attacks boldly, but often gained the day, dealing out death and putting them to rout. But most of these encounters were small, and amounted only to confused skirmishes in which all participants could easily make their escape and save their skins with ease. Word of these fights won many men’s minds and support for Robert.
28. At this time James Douglas, a young man of great promise who was a favorite fixture at the court of William Lamberton Bishop of St. Andrews, decided to do his best to help Bruce. With the bishop’s connivance, he took a treasure and a number of fine, swift horses, but he administered a savage beating to their grooms so that it would appear that he was acting without the bishop’s knowledge. Then he and some nobles party to his plan swiftly disappeared. And for the rest of his life he remained most loyal to Robert in peace and war, through thick and thin. From this James Douglas sprang the distinguished clan which, albeit it had its origins somewhat before this time, then first began to shine in glory. Later it grew to such an extent that it tottered under its own weight, became an object of suspicion to our kings because of its immense wealth, and as the sequel will show, was to no little extent responsible for its own downfall. In any event, the upshot of these things was that Edward became alarmed lest the Scots be encouraged to start a new mutiny. So he was roused from his own home and marched against Robert with a larger army. But as he was approaching the Scottish border, he suddenly fell ill with a grave disease and died, giving no sign of contrition nor receiving the usual Sacraments. Hence there arose a rumor that at the hour of his death a certain William Bannister saw in a trance Edward being snatched by a gang of demons, receiving a bad scourging, and being dragged down to Hell. After this man returned to his normal self, he was remarkably terrified, and little later fell ill, and henceforth could never dismiss this vision from his mind. And so, even after he had regained his health, he changed his way of life and lived as a penitent until the day of his death.
29. I have no idea whether this was true or false, and I do not think it is my part to decide whether it is fable or history. I only report what is commonly said. Before Edward died, fifty-five sons of noble Scotsmen were brought to him while he still breathed, all of them in their minorities. Those who had been surrendered to Edward at the taking of Kildrummy Castle, to do with as he saw fit. So they were brought into his apartment as he lay on his deathbed, he was asked what he thought should be done with them. He was unmoved by their tender age, glared at them all, and passed a very cruel sentence on them, although he was on the verge of submitting to the verdict of the most righteous Judge of them all, saying, “Hang each and every one of them.” On the death of Edward I Longshanks, he was succeeded by his son Edward II, called Edward of Carnarvon after the castle in which he was born. He followed in his father’s wake, and immediately summoned a parliament of the nobles and churchmen of Scotland at Dumfries, where he compelled them to swear their fealty and loyalty, just as they had to his predecessor. But not everyone obeyed his edict, since they had a presentiment that their fortunes were about to take a turn for the better now that his father Edward was dead, since his son was not a prudent man, and that he relied on evil counsel. For he was very much subject to the will of a certain Piers Gaveston, who was hated by all Englishmen, let alone Scotsmen. But those who were cowed by the risk involved in refusal made their appearance on the appointed day. Then Edward went back to England, intent on increasing his forces. For he sent ambassadors to the king of France, demanding his aid in a war.
30. Meanwhile John Comyn had recruited a large army composed partly of Englishmen and partly of Scotsmen, to demonstrate his usefulness to the new king and, if possible, to gain the glory of having defeated Robert, and he began to follow him. Even though he was most seriously ill, Robert did not shun a conflict, and commanded himself to be carried into battle on a litter. The enemy hoped to rout Robert by nothing more than their large numbers, but when they saw him very boldly drawn up against them with his army, they themselves took to their heels. Robert gave chase for a while, killing many and capturing some alive. This victory was won near the village of Inverurie, about ten miles from Aberdeen, and he was so encouraged by having been freed from many difficulties that he was suddenly restored to good health. In the following year a large number of English and Scots attacked Robert once more, under command of Donald of the Islands. But with a quick-moving army his brother Edward Bruce met them by the river Daer. There they fought a battle which was very sharp at its beginning, and the victory long hung in the balance. Then a knight named Rothland was killed together with some nobles who he had with him, and Edward put them all to rout. He then wasted all the countryside in a wide circle, and brought his army back to his brother in triumph, laden down with plunder and bringing the captive commander Donald. Thanks to a number of these successful battles, Robert gained the favor of his countrymen, whose minds had formerly been alienated by their fear and the evils they had suffered. And he accepted the surrender of Alexander, Lord of Argyll, who had been defending himself in a very stout castle and refusing to submit to his government, on condition that he and his followers might depart for England with a safe conduct, possessing only the clothes on their backs. But this man soon died after coming to England.
31. In the following year, King Edward of England came into Scotland with a great host, and was met by no smaller an army of Scotsmen loyal to him. He led them as far as Renfrew, where nothing memorable was accomplished, since the English were slow in obeying their commander. In the same year, Scotland was affected by a very great dearth of all things, thanks to the protracted war. For all the countryside was in enemy hands, so that no grain was brought in, and all their livestock had been driven off as plunder. So, in the absence of the animals that normally supply men’s food, they were reduced to such expedients as eating their horses. In the next year, wherever King Robert Bruce went he defeated and routed his enemies, took many castles (but mostly without loss of life to his army), and twice invaded England with his angry army and drove off much plunder of every kind, visiting the same slaughter on the English which which they had harried Scotland in previous years. But they issued no less fierce threats than ever, boasting they would get revenge on their enemies in their own good time. King Robert next took Perth, hanging or putting to the sword all within, both English and Scottish, as punishment for their treachery, but sparing the common folk. He leveled the city walls and used them to fill the ditch that stood before them. He likewise either took by force or received the surrender of Dumfries, Tibbers, Ayr, Lanark, and many others. He also burned the town of Durham. In the following year the very strong castle of Roxburgh was taken by James Douglas during the riotous days before Lent, when all men indulge in wine and pleasure-seeking out of their fear for the coming fast, so that it was negligently guarded by its watchmen. In the year the castle at Edinburgh was stormed by Thomas Randolph, King Robert’s nephew by his sister, later created Earl of Moray, and Robert took the island of Mona and brought it within his power.
32. All the castles captured by King Robert were demolished, with the exception of Berwick, and from this there later arose great evils. Meanwhile Edward Bruce readied himself to attack Sterling Castle, set on high hill with steep slopes on every side, save where a very narrow avenue led to the caste gate. He thought that he would gain a great name for glory with friend and foe alike. But, attempting every plan possible for investing strongholds and cities, he only wasted his time. For, beside the fact that the place was excellently defended by nature and its strong walls made the castle impregnable, its garrison was commanded by Philip Mowbray, a Scotsman who had taken the English side, and a man particularly skilled at warfare. It had a sufficient grain supply to withstand the longest of sieges. And so the distraught Edward was unsure what to do: should he continue the siege, which would cost him a lengthy effort, or break it off? But he thought it would be disgraceful to abandon an effort which he had conceived with such optimism, and imagined he could take a middle course between taking it by storm or leaving his task undone, even if it offered him little hope: namely to test Philip’s mind and see if he would surrender the castle if he promised that he would enjoy no less standing with his brother Robert than he now did with King Edward. When he rejected the proposal, since regarded betrayal as wholly abhorrent, Edward made another suggestion which, albeit not a difficult one, was foolish, by proposing that if during that year the English did not come to his aid, then Philip would yield the castle to the Scots. Edward Bruce’s counsel was indeed unsound. For who could imagine that such a wealthy king, powerful with so many allies, would not come to the aid of his subjects against? Or who would not fear such long truces, which gave their enemies such an ability to rally their forces?
33. So Robert took his brother’s activities sorely amiss, although he did not dare make light of his loyalty, lest some disturbance or sedition arise. He was of the opinion that he should manage the war as best he could. Meanwhile King Edward of England sent messages to all friendly princes, calling on their aid. He obtained this all the easier by promising that, after he conquered it, he would divide it between them. Therefore not only men conscripted for this purpose by those princes arrived, but also many volunteers, poverty-stricken at home and hoping to gain quick wealth. They brought along their wives and children, together with all the moveable property they could carry or bring along on pack-animals, if such they had. The nations which sent aid to the English were Holland, Zealand, Brabant, Flanders, Picardy, Boulogne, Gascony, Normandy, Aquitaine, and Burgundy, all of which were either subject to the English or their confederates. And, as long as English affairs continued to flourish, a large number of Scotsmen adhered to their cause, in greater numbers than those furnished by any other region. They say that the number of all the forces at the disposal of the English king amounted to 150,000 foot soldiers and nearly the same number of horsemen, as well as a huge throng of groomss, camp-followers, sutlers, wives, children, and serving-wenches. This great rabble could be kept in no sort of order or military discipline.
34. Wives and children were intermingled with fighting men. Everywhere there was shouting and a great hubbub, such as would find in such a multitude and diversity of languages. As they neared Scotland, their captains met and debated the method they would use to torture and execute Robert, as if he were already their captive. They also brought along some Carmelite monk who was supposed to write a poem about the English victory and the destruction of the Scots. Many fierce but naive threats were issued against the Scots, beginning with the king, but then taken up by the entire army. On the other side, Robert managed everything and a prudent and well-considered way, marching to meet his enemy with thirty thousand horse and foot, mostly veterans. He encamped on an open plain, either trusting in his strength, or in order to remove his enemy’s contempt of him by adopting a bold counsel. And this did happen. For when many on the English side wondered at that commander’s great audacity, some are said to have responded that heaven would not give the victory to either side before a great slaughter had been inflicted. Robert added deception to his bold plans by digging as deep ditches as he could at the place he estimated the battle would be fought, planting sharp stakes in them, and then covering them over with green turf, so that a few men could walk on them afoot, but when the entire multitude advanced or tried to pass by on horse, then all the surface would collapse. Having made these disposition, there he awaited the English. A river called Bannockburn flowed by his camp, very famous because of this battle.
35. When the two armies were encamped no more than a mile from each other, King Edward sent eight hundred horsemen to Philip by a secret byway (I have written above that he was in command of the garrison at Sterling Castle), to notify him that he and his army were present. Robert saw them departing their camp and, so as to prevent them from ravaging, he sent five hundred horse against them under the command of that doughty man Thomas Randolph. Seeing these, the English reined in their horses, and a sharp and protracted calvary battle was fought in the sight of both armies. Randolph’s rival Douglas, seeing the struggle continue for a long time and fearing lest Randolph be overwhelmed by the enemy numbers, begged King Robert’s permission to forget their rivalry and go to his aid. After Robert had denied this repeatedly, at last he allowed him to go out of the camp with a few men, if only to frighten the enemy, and help him however he could. But when he approached those engaged in the fight and saw heaps of enemy dead and his own side victorious, he halted, and remained as a spectator of his rival’s virtue rather than hoping to snatch away a little of his glory. At length, when the battle was finish, he and his men joined Ralph and rode back to the camp in triumph. All the men in Bruce’s camp hoped this battle would serve as a harbinger of the results to come. But the enemy made light of the fact that a single squadron of cavalry had been defeated by an enemy force half its size, since they had far more than three or four times as many horse and foot within their camp. Nevertheless the English king thought that the Scots would be emboldened by their victory and so would not avoid battle, and he postponed giving the signal to fight until the following day. Robert did the same, to see if he could lure the enemy to his prepared ditches. Meanwhile he commanded each man to tend to his arms and prepare himself to meet his Maker by confessing his sins to priests and praying God for mercy, so that, having heard Mass and taken Communion, they would be well prepared to fight and win.
36. In the enemy camp every man had high hopes for himself, thinking that in exchange for a single day’s trifling effort he could gain great wealth and widespread lands. They fancied nothing would be easier than laying their enemies low at the first onslaught. During the night, Robert, anxious over his affairs, allowing his body next to no repose, devoted to his prayers and pondering everything in his mind. When he joined with some others in prayer (he was praying to God and St. Fillan, whose arm he thought he had brought along with the army, encased in a silver reliquary, to propitiously grant him victory), the reliquary opened, disclosing the arm, and then shut again as quick as a wink, although nobody had approached or touched it. The priest went to the altar to see what had happened, and when he saw that the arm was within, he exclaimed that this was a divine miracle. For he confessed his deed to the king: although the king had requested the arm of St. Fillan, he had removed the arm and only brought the empty silver reliquary out of fear lest it be lost in the confusion. The king was therefore hopeful and continued praying and giving thanks through the night. On the following day, when all preparations had been made, he assembled all his men to divine services and commanded them to take Communion, so that they would be spiritually strengthened. There was within the army an abbot of Inchechaffray named Maurice who said Mass standing on a high place and administered the Eucharist to the king and his nobles. Then the rest of the priests did the same for the common soldiers. When all had been done in a proper Christian fashion, he summoned his soldiers to hear his speech and delivered the customary harangue by means of his herald. Robert is said to have addressed them with words such as these:
37. “My soldiers, I believe you would understand our need to fight even if I held my silence. For you do not just see an English army coming against us composed of English subjects wishing to subject you to their rule, but one assembled from all neighboring regions, together with their wives and children, so that they might scatter us and gain possession of our property, till our fields, live in our houses, worship in our churches, and, having eradicated us and and even our very name, possess everything that is ours. I hear that our enemies’ captains (those very low-down fellows) have been very foolishly considering how to torture and punish us as brutally as they can before they have us in their hands. But, you being the men I know you to be, things will turn out the opposite of what think.What people would dare think, much less threaten, such things against you, the most sturdiest soldiers, hardened by so many victories? For you are the choicest men, drawn from all districts of Scotland, whereas they are the worst of dregs of all their regions. Have they been accustomed to bear arms since boyhood? Have they been trained in the military art? No, they are whoremongers who wallow in every manner of pleasure. In their homeland they have no land. By why speak of land? They have no farmstead, no family home — or, if they had one, they have squandered it on luxury, and so the,y the most cowardly of men, are trying to eject you, the most warlike of all, from hearth and home. After you have trampled them underfoot, will it be difficult to slaughter them like sheep? But to pass that over, even if they were men of fine martial virtue, you still would have no cause for fear, no reason to be less daring. For self-defense is a juster cause for us than invasion is for them, and hence we trust that heaven will be more favorable to ourselves than to them. When God shows His favor, no enemy host has power. And since, thanks to the remarkable miracle I know you have all heard about, we know for sure that He indeed is favorable. And so be of good cheer, as you are, and attack that confused host, bearing in mind that the greater numbers they have, the greater will be your plunder and spoils.”
38. With these words Robert encouraged his men. Edward for his part led out his battle-line, having given instructions to the captains of all his national contingents to encourage their soldiers in their own languages to bear in mind that, if they committed one or two acts of bravery, they would possess great wealth, but that it would be shameful to return to go home as poor as they had left it, and be branded with the mark of cowardice to boot. As they went out, they could scarcely be torn away from their wives and children. Nevertheless, rebuked by their officers, they were at length set in order. Archers stood on their wings, mixed in with horsemen, and the van was stationed in the middle. Having no heart for a genuine fight, they imagined that their enemy could not bear even the sight of so many men and horses. And something, perhaps, nourished that opinion. For Robert believed that his infantry and horse would rely on each other more if they ran a common risk, so he had his cavalry leave their horses behind and fight on foot. Father Maurice, the man I have previously described as saying Mass, went before the standards, holding in both hands a cross from which hung an effigy of Christ, and displayed it to the soldiers so they would defend their nation with a will in His name, trusting in Him alone. He bade them all prostrate themselves on the ground and commend themselves to God. When the enemy saw this, they all cried out that the Scots were making an abject surrender. But soon, when they saw them get to the feet and come running against themselves at a full charge, each man began to fear for himself. A large number fell at their first collision. But the archers placed on the wings did no little to hold the Scots back, raining down arrows on them from both sides. Those Scotsmen who had been left behind to guard the baggage thought they should venture something within their capacity to do. Lacking iron cuirasses, they put on white linen surcoats and tied towels to their spears (those without spears used long rods). They went out the back gate of the camp and circled around to a hill. Coming down from that hill, they offered a frightening sight to their enemy, some of whom thought a new army was arriving at a time when they could barely withstand the ones with whom they were engaged, while others imagined they were angels come down from heaven to aid the Scots. They turned tail, and the flight began with their king, the first to take fright.
39. And so great butchery was done, as the English stumbled over each other in their panic. They ran off in various ways, a great number fell into the pits that had been dug, and the Scottish grooms inflicted no small slaughter on the English. They had not stood in harm’s way in the manner of true soldiers, and you may observe that those who take advantage of the victory of others are the cruelest and most savage of all. Exhausted by all the killing, the Scots scarcely had the will to pursue the runaway King Edward, but at Robert’s command Douglas took five hundred horsemen and gave chase as far as Castle Dunbar. Edward would scarcely have escaped his clutches, had he not been given hospitality by the Earl of Merch and made his escape to England by sea. And so he who had proudly come with his immense forces presented a spectacle not unlike that of Xerxes, making a very risky escape to England in one or two small fishing-smacks. Fifty thousand Englishmen fell in that battle, including two hundred knights and the Duke of Gloucester, whereas only two Scottish knights were lost, Sir William Wepont and Sir Walter Ross, together with no more than four thousand common soldiers. In addition to the Scots, that noble Englishman Sir Giles D’Argentan was killed. Since he had always been a dear friend, Robert took his death so hardly that many of his nobles rebuked him for introducing a note of grief into their common joy, which needed to be expressed at that time. The spoils of gold, silver, and other moveable property was so great that those who had been impoverished by the continual war were all made wealthy men by that victory. For, in addition to the profit of the spoils, no small number of captives were ransomed. And so Roberts wife was exchanged for a certain nobleman, and freed after eight years’ imprisonment. The precious silk hangings from the royal pavilion, embroidered with gold thread, were shared out among the Dominican monasteries of the realm for use in their sacred services, and still exist within our day.
40. Nor should it be passed over in silence that that Carmelite whom King Edward had brought along to write about Scotland’s destruction fell into a Scotsman’s hands and was commanded by Robert to turn his pen around and hymn the Scottish victory for posterity, which he did in a barbaric way, but not contemptible by the standards of the time. Men associate certain miracles with this battle. On the day before St. John’s Day two fine gentlemen in armor appeared before the Abbot of Glastonbury requesting his hospitality for that night. Given a kindly reception and asked where they were going, they replied that they were on their way to Bannockburn to help the Scots on the following day. When they were escorted into the monastery, and in the early morning, when the monk supervising guest quarters came to wake them, as is the custom, he found nobody there and the beds were still made up, and so they were angels heaven-sent by God to help the Scots on that day. On the day of the battle, a knight in shining armor rode through Aberdeen announcing that the Scots had won a great victory, and he was seen crossing Pentland Firth on his horse. He was commonly thought to be St. Magnus, a former Jarl of the Orkneys. Robert Bruce was moved by the report of this thing to endow the cathedral of the Orkneys with a yearly income of five pounds sterling, derived from the port-duties and taxes of the town of Aberdeen, for the purchase of the bread, wine, and candles employed in its services. Nor did he forget Robert Fleming, who had revealed John Comyn’s perfidy so he could revenge himself on the man. He bestowed on him lands at Cummernald, confiscated from John’s heirs because of his treason, and they say this was the origin of the fine Fleming family, a clan that still survives among us.
41. They also say that two knights of Brabant were amicably invited by Edward to come along on his campaign, and on the day before the battle, when they heard nearly countless reproaches and insults being hurled against Robert, they took pity on him and publicly expressed the hope that he would be successful in the coming fight. This was reported to the English king, and by his order they were banished his camp and escorted to Robert by a herald, so they might fight on his side. Then Edward issued an edict that, after the battle had been fought, whoever would bring him the head of either of them would receive a hundred marks of silver as his reward. On the following day, when the victory was gained, those knight, in addition to the great amount of plunder they had acquired, were rewarded by generous gifts which they took home to Brabant with Robert’s good leave. And there, at great expense, these noblemen subsequently built the inn called Scotland (still to be seen at Antwerp), very well known for its image of Bruce, for the benefit of Scottish visitors, serving as a monument of their gratitude and good memory of King Robert and his people.
42. Now that the war was finished, Robert convened a parliament of all the orders of the realm at Ayr, where he was unanimously confirmed in the kingship, and the succession to the throne was decided by their common consent: if Robert’s male line should fail, the royal right should be transferred to his brother Edward Bruce, and then devolve on Robert’s daughter Marjorie, from whom the line of descent would continue. Furthermore, if he and his brother Edward both died before an heir had arrived at his maturity, Thomas Randolph would be regent of the realm until an heir attained his lawful age. And Marjorie should be given away in marriage, according to the advice of the nobility, to the man deemed most advantageous for the realm, for this was a matter that could not be delayed. So by the common vote of them all his father bestowed Marjorie on the right noble Walter Stewart, the seneschal of the realm. For he had fathered her on Isabella, daughter of Domhnall Earl of Mar, his previous wife. After her death, he took as his second consort Elizabeth, the daughter of the Earl of Ulster. From that marriage were born two daughters, Margaret, who married the Earl of Sutherland and died in giving birth to his son John, and Maud, who expired in the cradle, and also a single male child named David, born in the second year of Robert’s reign, who was destined to succeed his father. After the marriage of Marjorie and Walter Stewart had been celebrated with great pomp and circumstance, Robert made a progress through all the towns of Scotland and confirmed their privileges, especially those of Perth, Dundee, and Aberdeen, and added no few new ones.
43. In the following year the Irish, long oppressed by English tyranny and thinking that their defeat at Scottish hands offered an opportunity to regain their liberty, and at at the same time admiring the virtue and modesty of Robert Bruce and his brother Edward, sent an embassy to Edward, inviting him to Ireland both to free their nation and accept its crown. Furnished with a small band of soldiers by his brother, he crossed over to Ireland and, joining forces with them, recovered Ulster, killing a great number of English. This done, in accordance with the will and vote of all Ireland’s orders, he was declared Kings. To cement his rule, the Irish nobility sent a delegation to the pope, asking him to ratify what they had done for the sake of their safety, since they could bear English tyranny no longer. They spoke much about their rights, since they had been made vassals by a certain pope of English nationality. This might have been tolerable had not all their conditions changed along with their master, but the slaughters inflicted by English governors had grown so common that they thought no more of killing a good man than a dog, and this was no longer tolerable. The English were often warned by the pope to quit Ireland entirely, but were deaf to his words.
44. In the year after Edward had entered Ireland, Robert left behind a modest garrison in the borderland to fend of English inroads, and took the rest of his army to Ireland in aid of this brother. They suffered many hardships, most especially famine, when they were reduced to eating their horses. Finally, when he was no more distant than a single day’s march from his brother, Edward Bruce unadvisedly joined battle without waiting for Robert, either because he was unaware of his close proximity, or out of his greed for glory, so his brother would claim no share of it, so that he took matters into his own hands. But in the course of the battle, seeing his men’s spirits flagging, he was killed while putting up a very brave fight, as was fitting for his name and breeding. Meanwhile, King Edward of England heard that Robert Bruce had gone across to Ireland, and thought this was the time to attempt something. Believing that the kingdom was bereft of a guardian and protection, he attacked with a very large army. But Douglas, left in the borderland with its garrison, marched against the enemy, fought a battle, and gained a glorious victory, killing three enemy commanders, one by his own hand. So Edward realized that he was no match by land, and decided to make an attempt by sea (where the English ever outmatched the Scots) in Roberts absence. His fleet put in at the Firth of Forth, and he ravaged the land far and wide with fire and destruction.
45. When the Earl of Fife heard of their coming, he thought they would be scattered and roaming about, so that no few of them could be cut off. So at the rumor of their coming he brought up no more than five hundred men, and when he saw that their numbers were far too great to withstand in a fight, he grew anxious and backed off no little distance. But William Sinclair Bishop of Dunkeld, leading six hundred well-armed horsemen, rebuked him as he was retreating and urged him to place his hope in God and follow himself: he would attend to the rest. Therefore, thinking it would be a highly shameful thing not to follow the bishop as he led the way, the Earl’s men joined in an ardent attack on the English host, which, great though it was, was in a disorderly condition. Five hundred Englishmen died in that encounter, and the rest fell into a panic and went fearfully a-running towards their ships. Everyone boarded the nearest he could find, with the result that so many crowded aboard one ship that it sank under their weight while still close to land, within full site of the Scots, and was lost with all hands. For this accomplishment the Bishop of Dunkeld was so well liked by Robert that henceforth he referred to him as his bishop. At this same time was born Robert Stewart, the son of Walter Stewart and Marjorie, who afterwards came to the throne. Two years thereafter Thomas Randolph invaded the north of England without opposition, drove off rich prizes, and retook Berwick, which the English had held for twenty years. He did so with the help of a certain Englishman named Spalding, who was later granted lands in Angus far from the English border, where his descendants still reside.
46. In the next year King edward besieged Berwick, but was slothful in doing so and went home, not without disgrace, having accomplished nothing. At about the same time Robert’s daughter Marjorie died, leaving behind her son Robert Stewart, the future king, still in his boyhood. With matters between Scotland and England pacified, Robert convened a parliament of nobles at Perth, and commanded that all men bring with them deeds of possession to their estates. Many of them, not having these, brought weapons instead. Therefore, when the king demanded that they produce their documents, they produced their weaponry. The king was taken aback by this unexpected development but concealed his anger, and praised them as brave men who would take up arms in defense of their possessions. Nevertheless, in his heart he nursed his wrath, destined to blaze forth at an opportune time. They did not fail to observe this, and thought they must act before the were obliged to suffer something. Some of them entered into a conspiracy to hand the realm over to King Edward of England. This was not kept concealed from the king, since he was informed of it by a man party to the conspiracy. But, so that the truth could more easily be determined and they could be caught red-handed, he quietly waited until each of them sent his messenger bearing a letter to the king of England.
47. And so, at the day and hour that had been revealed to the king, a guard was set on the road over which the letters were to be carried to Edward, and they brought him to the king without any commotion. When he had inspected the letters, he summoned all those men signatory to them to come to him in order to discuss other matters. When they had arrived, he read the letters aloud and asked whether they recognized their seals. Their silence was an admission of guilt as they realized they had been found out, and they were placed under custody. The king went straight to Berwick, where he arrested the captain of its guard, William Soules, for his membership in the conspiracy, after he had been summoned in a similar way and accused of treason, and brought him to Perth. There a parliament was immediately assembled (in later times this was referred to as the Black Parliament), and, among the ringleaders, David Abernethy, his nephew by his sister, was compelled to plead his case. For, although he had been invited to join the conspiracy but refused, he had nevertheless kept it concealed, for which he was a party to the crime. Nevertheless, the king wished to see him freed, if anyone should intercede on his behalf. But he was condemned to death, since nobody begged for his life, and so he commanded the sentence to be carried out without having been commuted (which he regarded as a base thing). On the following day, the other conspirators were brought to the bar, and he pronounced a similar sentence on them, adding that, like traitors, they should be dragged to the place of execution bound to the tails of horses. At that point, friends of the accused sprang up on all sides and came a-running to the king, humbly pleading for their lives. But the king turned a deaf ear to their prayers, saying, “The time for forgiveness and pardon has passed. That was yesterday, when you all calmly witnessed my David, who was all but innocent in comparison with these men, being taken to his death. Now, when it is your kinsmen whom you see placed in well-deserved jeopardy, you come forth as their advocates. Come (he said to the executioners), do your duty, and do it as soon as possible.” Many others were accused, namely Walter Maxwell and Walter Barclay, the Sheriff of Aberdeen, and Patrick Graham. Furthermore, Sir Hamish Nedrington and Sir Eustace Rattray, and eight soldiers, who could not be convicted outright, were let go. The estates of the Earl of Buchan, executed at the same time, were divided into two halves, the one going to William Hay, whom the king created constable in place of John Quincy, executed in connection with the same conspiracy, and the other was given to William Reid, together with the office of seneschal.
48. At this same time, King Edward of England sent a letter to the pope lodging a serious complaint against the Scots, that they allowed him no respite from war. Like his predecessors, he was eager to go to the aid of Christendom with his forces, but because of Scottish belligerence he had no peace from domestic war, let alone sending an army abroad at that time. Therefore he begged and beseesched the pope that, if he loved the peace of his subjects and if he felt pity for those unhappy folk oppressed by the Turks, he would use his authority to restrain Scotland, raging with constant aggression. By these and many other words he provoked the pope against Scotland, although he and his father were responsible for all wors of that kind. Therefore an embassy was sent to Robert by the pope, who on his behalf greatly complained about the constant disturbance they were creating in a full parliament (for when Robert was given to understand that the delegation had arrived, he summoned the principal men of all orders of the realm to meet about this thing), and said over and over that Christendom would never rest easy if they continued troubling each other with internal warfare. “The pope says that the Turk is our greatest enemy, who has taken taken a great and flourishing part of Christian land away fom us, and is striving to enlarge his territory by taking it away from us. Someday the time will come (even if it may seem far distant) when you will see him (heaven forbid!) trheatening your own.” The ambassadors were bidden leave the meeing, and the king consulted his parliament concerning it. Historians record that those summoned by the king were these: Duncan Earl of Fife, Thomas Randoph Earl of Moray, Patrick Dunbar Earl of Merch, Malise Earl of Strathern, Malcolm Earl of Lennox, William Earl of Ross, Magnus Earl of Caithness and the Orkneys, William Earl of Sutherland, Walter Seneschal of Scotland, together with many bishops, abbots, and barons to numerous to list. The most warlike among them were indignant at this piece of English fraud and spoke against them harshly. They argued that the war should be renewed immediateliy, and the ambassadors’ complaints did not deserve an answer. For who thought the pope such a dullard that at such a time, when two kingdoms were engaged in a great war, he failed to comprehend its cause, nor who began it?
49. Those of a more gentle disposition maintain that, whatever the situation might be, if the pope’s grace and favor could be maintained by words, they should do nothing disrepectful. Therefore they gave a friendly reply to the ambassadors and requested them to inform the pope that he should not imagin them to be men such as would wish to impede Christendom. Indeed, they desired nothing more than an English peace, if that was their sincere wish. And yet they thoroughly understood the English trick and pretense, namely their wish to appear to be waging war with papal sanction. For they had no right over Scotland, a nation which had had more than ninety-six kings of its own in unbroken succession, but as soon as their royal dynasty began to fail, they employed both force and fraud to invade the kingdom of Scotland. So their greed must first be curbed. Afterwards, if anything in Scotland was in need of correction, they would not turn a deaf ear to the pope’s chastisement. Having recalled the ambassadors to the meeting, all this was repeated in their presence. Then the parliament was dismissed, and so that embassay went home, having achieved nothing. A little later, Bruce took a strong force and entered Engling, going as far as the district of Stanemure, where stood the old cross of the kings called the Recross, wasting all things with arson and devastation. Irate over these injuries, the king of England enlisted a large army and prepared to counter his enemy. Some say that it contained a hundred thousand horse and foot. But by Robert had brought back his forces and given instrucitons that they bring or drive everything from their fields into towns or fortified castles: their cattle, grain, moveable property, and either remove or destroy everything else that could serve as supplies for the enemy. The result was that the English came into Scotland as far as Edinburgh, but within two weeks were obliged to depart for want of provisions.
50. But they came back, fired by the indignity of the thing, which they regarded as an insult, and threw themselves headlong into every manner of wrongdoing. They rifled the abbey of Melrose, killing the sick monks who could not escape, and (the worst crime of all) removed the Host from its precious case and put it in a wooden box, plundering that which men regard as the most holy of things to satisfy their avarice, and, like Lucifer, seeking to evict God from His home. They also burned Dryburgh Abbey and some other holy places. And so in that same year Robert again invaded England with an angry army, bent on revenging their crimes, and with good success destroyed many towns and villages with fire, slaughter, and pillaging, going as far as York. He fought a battle with Edward near Byland Abbey with happy success, killing a large number of Englishmen and Normans. During the English flight, John de Bretagne, Henry de Sully, and other nobles sought refuge in Byland Abbey, where they were taken prisoner and ransomed for a large fee. In the following year, Robert sent out to embassies. One, composed of churchmen, was sent to the pope at Rome to appease him, after he had been long alienated from Scotland thanks to English efforts. This they obtained with great ease, when in his presence they had explained the Scottish cause and English iniquity. The other was made up of nobles of the realm, sent to the king of France for the renewal of their old alliance. They too encountered no rebuff, and obtained what they wished. But to the old stipulations of their league was added this new one: if the line of either king should fail and his realm lack an identifiable heir, this should be a matter to be decided by the nobility of the realm, and they should not only suffer no man to come to the throne without having been declared the lawful king, but also, if need be, forcibly intervene both to defend the one who had been declared king and to debar the one who who had not. So that this would remain in force even for their posterity, after hearing Mass they both took their oaths on it, and arranged for papal confirmation. It was further added that they could not subsequently be released from this oath by an act of papal authority, or, were this done, it would be deemed to be null and void.
51. Then things were at rest for a while on both sides of the border, more because their commanders were exhausted by constant fighting than for any other reason. At about this time a certain noble Englishman named Hanton fled to King Robert to avoid the anger King Edward had conceived against him. For after Bannockburn, in a conversation at the royal court at London he happened to praise the fortune and martial virtue of Robert Bruce, whom he had always loved. A certain John Despenser, a base-born fellow who was Edward’s chamberlain, drew a dagger and inflicted a slight wound on him, and this very noble, high-spirited man, took offense and returned to the same place on the next day and killed him. Then, warned by his friends that the irate king was looking for him with an eye to his execution, he saved himself by flight and galloped off the Scotland. Robert gave him a hospitable reception and out of his great kindness bestowed on him the landed estate of Cadzow. This man’s posterity has endured among us, increased into a very populous clan, and has since been honored by an infusion of the blood royal, known, by a slight alteration in their surname, as the Hamiltons. Meanwhile, King Edward, who in his domestic affairs relied on the advice of Hugh Despenser, a man who rose from the dregs of society to high fortune thanks to his crimes, in accordance with whose whim he did nearly everything at home and in the field, abused his consort, his other friends, and the higher clergy of England. And so the king was placed under arrest by his wife and his son Edward, now entering early adolescence, with the support of the English peerage, and imprisoned. The partners in his depraved counsels, or rather the men responsible for them, Hugh Spenser, Walter de Stapleton Bishop of Exeter, and John Arundell, were put to death. Not long thereafter (some say at the instigation of his won),he died a most hideous death at the hands of his jailers. First they placed a table on his chest and pressed it down with all their might in an attempt to smother him. When this did not go as they wished, they adopted another plan, inserted a funnel into his anus, and, by means of this, shoved up a red-hot iron to burn out his guts, so that there would be no outward sign of his murder and he would seem to have died of natural causes. Meanwhile his son came to the throne with the consent of all England, even though his father was still living.
52. While these things were afoot in England, even if Robert appeared to have sufficient right to the throne, because Baliol had quit his kingdom and abdicated the throne, having displayed himself as unfit to rule after handing over the people of Scotland to King Edward without the permission of the orders of the realm, so that John was justly deprived of his right to rule as being a enemy of public safety, so that he had stood forth as Scotland’s single protector, nevertheless he was anxious lest John’s descendents, if they ever regained their strength, would have the power to do mischief by warring against his own posterity with any showing of legal right. He therefore sent James Douglas to John Baliol in France bearing costly gifts. Douglas was to deal with the man in his name and promise him ample lands and honors in Scotland so that, if it could be arranged, he would transfer to Robert and his heirs whatever right to the Scottish crown he pretended to possess. They say that Baliol, now blind and tired of life, replied that it was by his own fault that he had been reduced to the rank of a private citizen, and that now he realized how useless he had been to the Scottish commonwealth and how necessary Robert was. It was therefore proper that he had abdicated the government of the nation, and that it had been bestowed on Bruce by God’s singular favor. He had done excellent work in protecting Scottish liberty against the evildoing of its enemies, and, having resigned it, he now regarded it as a foul plague and was happy to see it in the possession of the man whom God in His goodness had chosen. And so he freely granted to Robert whatever right he had to the throne of Scotland, and he wholeheartedly desired that he and his posterity would continue to rule. Gladdened by this response, Kenneth convened a parliament of all the orders of Scotland at Cambuskenneth, where he appointed his son David his heir, and then his sons, should he predecease them, and also Robert Stewart, his nephew by his daughter, as next in line to the throne, and required them all to swear their oath to both of them, lest any evasion or contention about the succession arise thereafter.
53. At this time Edward III of England made a fraudulent peace-overture to Robert, but his trick was revealed and he brought down a war upon himself. But, Robert now being infirm with old age, everything was managed by his regents, namely Thomas Randolph and James Douglas, the two most excellent commanders of that age, not just in Scotland, but in all the world. So , sent with twenty, or, as some say, twenty-five thousand choice horsemen these two captains devastated all of Northumbria far and wide. King Edward led a hundred thousand horse and foot to meet them. But they were so speedy in doing their work of destruction and making their escape that not even with supreme exertion could the English army, weighed down with its baggage and supply-train, keep up with them. Thinking they should try something else to prevent their enemy from doing his mischief, they headed towards Scotland, so that fear for their fellow countrymen, at any rate, would make the Scottish army turn back. And so within three days they arrived at the river Tyne, but it was so rain-swollen at the time that their army could by no means pass over its fords, and they also lacked boats, which had either been brought over to the far bank or destroyed by the locals. So they were obliged to encamp alongside the river. Meanwhile they permitted all Northumbria to be very fearfully ruined by Scottish fire and steel, and the Scots coursed through everything so rapidly that the English had no idea where they were. Their king offered no mean reward to the man who could discover there whereabouts, and immediately every swift horseman rode out to hunt for them. When it was reported a little later that they had settled on a hill three miles away from the English camp ready to fight, should the English go there, Edward straightway pitched camp next to the Scots. On the following day both sides led out their armies in battle array. But since the Scots were far inferior in number they kept their forces on the hillside, so that at least they would fight on more favorable ground and the terrain would compensate for their lesser sizes.
54. When the English saw that they were prepared to wait there a long time, they grew weary and retired their men to the camp. Then they foolishly sent a herald to the Scottish commanders, challenging them, if they wanted a fight, to descend to level ground, as if it were not the duty of prudent captains to manage everything in the safest possible ways, or as if it were not the mark of an imprudent, arrogant man, when he has the ability to check numerous enemy forces with a small band by staying in place, or to fight with them from a safer place without running risk, to endanger himself by fighting on equal terms. So, after the representative was sent back to his own people with general mockery, for three days both armies stood in front of their camps doing nothing, and then returned to camp. On the night following the third day, the Scots silently abandoned the first hill and occupied another one not far away, equally advantageous for their tactics and no less safe. When the English observed this, they moved closer, following in their track. But they felt contempt for the small number of Scotsmen and did a poor job of maintaining their watches in the nights. When this was appreciated by the Scottish commanders, who were watching and weighing their every move, Douglas conceived a bold plan, but one which would gain him supreme glory in the eyes of his countrymen and instill great fear in the enemy. In the deep of the night, he chose two hundred choice men who were most eager to gain glory, gave them his best horses, and rode up to the enemy camp with all the stealth he could. He bypassed enemy lookout posts at any distance from their camp, leaving them to their slumber, until he was at their gates, where the sentinels were awakened by the commotion of his horses and raised the alarm. They nevertheless quickly drove into the middle of the camp where the king had his headquarters, cutting down any man standing in their way. But with the enemy multitude awake, they thought they could stay no longer. Having used their swords to sever two ropes of the royal pavilion, they cut their way through many men as they rode back the same way they had come, and each and every one of them rejoined their comrades, safe and sound.
55. This exploit taught the English to maintain better watches. For if the Scots had attempted the same thing with their entire army that they had with that part of it, they doubtless would have been overcome. The Scots, thinking that they had inflicted enough fear of their name and virtue on the English, prepared to go home. Observing their departure, the English considered what should be done. Since they could not pursue their escaping enemy, and were afraid less they be attacked when weary from marching or from ambush, they thought it best to conclude the war. But they lingered, for they did not wish to disband their army immediately. Some of their scouts reported that the enemy camp had been abandoned and some of their spoils left behind. Therefore they sent forward a part of their army to see whether everything round about them was safe. When no traps were found, they happily ran forward to plunder the camp. There they found fifty dead wild game, killed because the Scots could not take them away and did not want them to fall into English hands. They also found five Englishmen lying there with their legs broken, and afterwards they counted up ten thousand rawhide boots with the hair left on, of the sort the Scots wore on campaigns at the hunt, after the Roman manner, which they had left behind so as not to slow them down. But this kind of footwear is disliked by the English, and so they scornfully let them lie. And so, frustrated in their hope of gaining booty, and having achieved nothing worthwhile nor having gained any enemy plunder, downcast because of the great catastrophes they had witnessed.
56. In that same year died Walter Stewart, a man distinguished for his nobility and glory in war, the father of the future King Robert and the son-in-law of King Robert Bruce. Furthermore Queen Elizabeth, the mother of Prince David, was buried with great mourning at Dumfermlin, Robert’s future burial-place. At this time Robert, besieged Norham Castle, and, having taken it by storm, went on to assault another called Alnwick. During that siege Sir William Montague, John Clapham, and Malise Dunbar died, as well as other noblemen. Finally, at the end of the year, towards the beginning of spring, ambassadors were sent to King Robert from King Edward, renouncing in his name all right which he and his predecessors had claimed to Scotland, freeing all Scotland from foreign vassalage, and restoring it to its posterity in the condition it had been under Alexander, the last king of Scotland, but with its borders being Northumbria to the east and Cumbria to the west. Furthermore, as restitution for the damages inflicted by the Scots on the English, Robert should pay thirty thousand marks in hard money. So that this agreement would be ratified and confirmed for posterity, Edward should betroth his sister Joan to King Robert’s son David, a bond of mutual concord. When Robert and the leading men of Scotland agreed to this, instruments of peace were drawn up, and signed and sealed by them all. And so two years later at Berwick, in the presence of Elizabeth, the consort of King Edward of Carnaveron, David married King Edward’s sister Joan, amidst a great throng of the nobility of both nations, and to the great joy of their peoples.
57. Robert did not long survive that marriage. Barely a year passed when he succumbed to leprosy, which had seized on him in his extreme old age. He was the man of his times most excellent for every manner of virtue, who had tasted good fortune and bad, who had lost his kingdom when his friends were lost and his all his brothers but Edward were put to death. Having little hope, he rescued the realm from the clutches of the most powerful of men and restored Scottish liberty, and did so over the opposition of the strongest leading men of Scotland. That all men should regard him as being what I say could easily be proven even by the testimony of his enemies. For at a festive banquet given by King Edward, after much talk about war tossed back and forth by his leading nobles, at length Edward posed the following invidious and thorny question to his King of Heralds (these are veteran soldiers, held in great honor by their countrymen), a nobleman particularly learned in military manners: who were the three most outstanding men of the age for their martial virtue? When he had said these words they all fell silent and awaited with pricked-up ears, both because of the man’s experience, for he was the only proper judge of such a matter, and because of the thing itself, for among them were no few men who hoped to hear themselves named. But they were very much off the mark. For he did not just consider those men whom he had known personally, but all he could remember after careful study of all foreign wars. He first mentioned, not without good reason, the Emperor Henry, because had overcome three realms and their kings, and defended his dignity until his life’s end amidst continual felicity. In the second place he ranked Sir Giles D’Argentan, for defeating the Sarecens thrice in a row, something hitherto unseen, and killing two of their commanders.
59. Then he said that, if he had the king’s leave to praise an enemy, he word award the third place to King Robert Bruce of Scotland as the most deserving of all candidates. When he had named him, immediately his table-companions laughed aloud because he had not been afraid to bestow such an honor on an enemy in the king’s hearing. But at the herald’s request the king bade them be silent. “Your majesty,” said the herald, “I should never have said that had you not been present and asked me, and if I did not know that the truth is always welcome to you. If I have given offence, I pray you take it in good part. For if it is necessary to be defeated by anyone, I think it better to be defeated by the most excellent of men rather than some very base knave. Indeed, so you may understand how highly I value Robert’s virtue, although you are indignant that I value him above the common run of commanders, I think he is not only preferable to them, but, if you want to value genuine virtue at its true worth rather than discount it out of envy, I think he is to be ranked far ahead of the other two I named. For Henry did what I mentioned with the great advice and help of his followers. But Robert was an exile and a refugee having little or no hope, but with a small band of followers he drove out great enemy forces. He recovered the kingdom of Scotland when it was occupied by your father, the world’s most powerful and warlike king of his day. And he did not just recover it, he put it on a such a solid footing that he was more of a terror to those who had previously fought and plundered so fiercely than ever they were to Scotland. If anyone cares to take up arms and dispute me (for this is the way noblemen settle arguments), he may meet me in the field. Let who emerges victorious have the better cause.” No man dared gainsay him, for they were familiar with his strenuous virtue, displayed in many a fight.
60. A little before Robert departed this life, when he sensed death was at hand, he summoned to his bedchamber those of the nobility he trusted the most First and foremost, he commended to them the care of his son David, still in his boyhood (for he had not yet completed his eighth year). He also gave them some precepts for governing the realm, among which these are still remembered. First, henceforth they should never create lords of the Hebrides who could hold them in their own right and do as they please, but only appoint governors for the term of one year, for the purpose of administering justice and send out treasurers to collect their annual taxes. For those islands are situated so opportunely, and their inhabitants have such mercurial natures, that they can be inspired to rebel for any reason at all, and once they mutiny, it is not easy to bring them back under Scottish rule. They are surrounded by the sea, which serves as their very stout walls and offers them protection when the need arises. He next warned them never to challenge their English enemy to an open battle or fight them in full strength, but only to skirmish with them to prevent their devastation or impede their march, thus never gambling the entire kingdom on a single throw of the dice. If they were to suffer a reversal, then they would have the resources to repair their forces. Further, they should make no lengthy peace with the English, but always be exercised in arms and remain aware that men’s spirits grow slack and corrupt with idleness, so that, when war brews up after a protracted peace, their spirits will be too weak to withstand its onslaught, with their young men being unaccustomed to fighting. Then too, they should be at peace with the English for no longer than it takes for a timely reason for fighting to show itself, so that it is not advantageous to enter into truces of more than three or four years’ duration. The time when they have the least cause to fear the English is the time to be most on their guard, lest they be taken unawares and overwhelmed.
61. Moreover, he earnestly beseeched them that after his death they choose one of the outstanding captains of the realm who would carry his heart to be buried at Christ’s sepulcher at Jerusalem. While in this life, his greatest wish was to go there and fight the enemies of Christendom. But since this was not allowed him, because of his frequent wars and his destiny, he would at least hope that the best part of a human body, with which he had often flown there would be buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at Golgotha. So when he was dead, to accomplish this the nobles voted to send James Douglas, scarcely against his will, albeit his presence would have been of great advantage to the realm.