To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square. To see a textual note, click on a red square.
THE TENTH BOOK
ROBERT III, THE HUNDRED AND FIRST KING
OBERT the Second was succeeded by his eldest son John, in the Ides of August and year of our Lord 1390. He was called John till that time, but then by the decree of the Estates his name was changed into Robert. Whether if were for the misfortunes and calamities of two Kings called John, one of France, the other of England, or for the eminent virtues and felicity of two Roberts, both in peace and war, who lately reigned in Scotland, as authors are silent in, so I will not determine. The excellency of this Robert was that he rather wanted vice than was illustrious for any virtue, so that the name of King was in him but the management of all publick affairs rested on Robert his brother. In the beginning of his reign there was peace abroad by reason of the three years truce made with the English, which a while after was enlarged for four years more. But at home a sedition was begun by Duncan or Dunach Stuart. He was the son of Alexander Earl of Buchan, the Kings brother, and was every jot as feirce as his father, who upon the death of his grandfather, imagining now that he had a fit opportunity for rapine and pillage, got a band of rosters about him, and, descending into Angus, spoiled all as if it had been an enemies country. Walter Ogilby and Walter Lichton his brother, endeavouring to oppose him, were slain with sixty of their followers. They, being lifted up with this success, did afflict the country more grievously than ever, but, hearing of the approach of the Earl of Crawford, whom the King had sent to restrain their insolence, the nimblest of them fled speedily to their lurking holes; of those who made not so much hast some were slain, some taken and afterwards put to death. Thus the wickedness of these unquiet and turbulent men being hindred from breaking in upon the plain and champion countries, they fell out most grievously amongst themselves at their own homes. And especially two families of them did exercise great rage and cruelty one upon another. They refused to end their fewds by course of law or to refer them to indifferent arbitrators, so that the King sent two Earls to suppress them, Thomas Earl of Dunbar and James Lindsay, his father being dead, now Earl of Crawford. These commanders, considering they were to engage against a feirce and resolute people who valued not their lives nor the pleasures thereof, so that they were not likely to subdue them by force without great slaughter of their own men, they therefore resolved to try what they could do by policy. And thereupon they accosted the clans of both families a part, and represented to them what danger would accru to both by their mutual slaughters one of another; and if one family should extirpate the other; yet that was not likely to be effected without the great damage even of the conquering side, and if either party should prevail, yet the contest would not end so. For then they were to engage the Kings forces (tho’ they were weakned before by their mutual conflicts), of whose anger against them both they might be justly sensible because he had sent them with forces to destroy them both even before they had severely and irrecoverably engaged against one another. But in regard they were more desirous of their preservation than their ruin, if they would hearken to them they would shew them a way how they might be reconciled with the King’s good liking, and that on no dishonourable terms neither; no, nor unrevenged upon one another. To this motion they seemed inclinable, so that the condition was proposed that 300 of each side should try it out in fight before the King armed only with their swords. They that were conquered should have an amnesty for all past offences, and the conquerors should be honoured with the King’s favour and the Nobles too.
2. Both sides were well pleased with the terms, so that a day was fixed for the combate, and at the time appointed the heads of the families with their parties came to Court, and part of the field on the north side of the town of Perth, which was severed from the rest by a deep trench, was appointed for the place of combate, and galleries built round for spectators. Hereupon a huge multitude was assembled together and sate ready to see the dispute. But the fight was delayed awhile because one of the 300 of the one party had hid himself for fear and their fellows were not willing to engage without having just an equal number with their adversaries; neither was any one found to supply the place of him who was absent. And of the other party not a man would be drawn out or exempted from the fight, lest he might seem less valued and not as courageous as the rest. After a little pause an ordinary tradesman comes forth and offers to supply the place of him that was absent, provided that if his side conquered they would pay him halfe a gold dollar of France and also provide for him afterward as long as he lived. Thus, the number being again equalled, the fight began, and it was carried on with such great contention both of body and mind as old grudges inflamed by new losses could raise up in men of such fierce dispositions as were accustomed to blood and cruelty, especially seeing honour and estate was propounded to the conqueror, death and ignominy to the conquered. The spectators were possessed with as much horror as the combatants were with fury, as detesting to behold the ugly and deformed mutilations and butcheries of one anothers bodies, the detruncation of their limbs, and, in a word, the rage of wild beasts under the shape of men. But all took notice that none carried himself more valiantly than that mercenary and supposititious hireling, to whose valour a great part of the victory was to be ascribed. Of that side that he was of there were ten left alive besides himself, but all of them grievously wounded. Of the contrary faction there remained only one, who was not wounded at all. But, seeing there was so much odds that he alone must encounter with so many, he cast himself into the River Tay, which was near at hand, and in regard his adversaries were not able to follow him by reason of their wounds, he escaped to the other side. By this means the forwardest of both parties being slain, the promiscuous multitude, being left without leaders, left off their trade of seditioning for many years after, and betook themselves to their husbandry again. This fight, or combat, happened in the year 1396.
3. About two years after, in an assembly of the States at Perth, the King made David his son, being 18 years before old, of Rothes, and Robert his brother, Earl of Moneith and Fife, Dukes of Albany. This vain title or honour then was first celebrated in Scotland, a great increase to ambition but none at all to virtue; neither did it afterwards thrive with any who enjoyed it. The King would have bestowed the same title of honour upon the Earl of Douglas also, but he, being a grave and solid person, absolutely refused that nominal shadow of empty honour, and if any man told him that he should be a Duke, he rebuked him sharply for it. Some say that the name of Governour, which was given by his father to Robert the Kings brother, was this year confirmed by the King, as also that the family of the Lindsys had the Earldom of Crawford added to their former honours, but they do not fully clear whether the name of the first Earl of that family were Thomas or David. The next year after, Richard the Second, King of England, was enforced to resign the crown, and Henry the Fourth succeeded him. In the beginning of his reign, before the truce was quite ended, new seeds of war with the Scots were sown. George Dunbar, Earl of Merch, had betrothed his daughter Elizabeth to David, the King’s son, and had already paid a good part of her dowry. Archibald Earl of Douglas, storming that so powerful a man and his corrival should be preferred before him, alleging that the consent of the Estates was not obtained in this case (which no man ever remembered was asked in any of the King’s marriages before), offered his daughter Mary with a large dowry, and by means of Robert, the King’s brother, who could do all at Court, he brought it about that the condition was accepted and the marriage was consummated by the decree of the Estates. George was much affected at this injury, as well as reproach, and made great complaint to the King. But, seeing what was once done could not be undone, he desired at least the repayment of the dowry. This his just demand being denied, and perceiving that he was not like to obtain any right, in regard the minds and ears of all the Court were prepossessed by his rival, he departed upon very angry, yea, threatening terms, and so giving up the Castle of Dunar to Robert Maitland his sister’s son, he went for England.
4. Robert presently yielded up the Castle to an herald sent by the King to demand it, and Douglas was admitted into it with a garison, so that when George returned home he was denied entrance. Hereupon he took his wife, children, and some intimate friends and returned into England. Being there, as he was a man powerful at home and famous abroad, he joyned counsels with Percy, a mortal enemy to the name of the Douglas’s; and in regard he was well beloved by all the bordering Scots, of which many were either his tenants, allies, or otherwise obliged to him, he made an inroad into the whole province of Merch and drove great preys from the country, especially from the lands of the Douglasses. The King of Scots first proclaimed George a publick enemy and confiscated all his estate; next he sent an herald to demand that he might be given up as a fugitive according to the league made betwixt them, and also to complain of the violation of the truce. Henry of England gave a peremptory answer to his demands, that he had given the publick faith to George for his protection and that he would not break his royal word, as if a private pact with a runagate were more religiously to be observed than that which had been publickly confirmed by embassadors and heralds, for the days of the truce made with Richard were not yet expired. In the mean time, Henry Percy the younger, called Hot-Spur, and George Dunbar ceased not to infest the neighbouring lands of the Scots with their incursions. Which when they had often and successfully done, their boldness encreased with their success, so that, gathering 2000 men together, they entred Lothian and made great havock about Hadington. They besieged Hales-Castle, but in vain. When they came to Linton (a village scituate on the Tine, a river of Lothian), they were so disturbed at the sudden coming of Douglas against them that they left their prey and all their baggage behind them and ran away in such fear that they never stopp’d till they came to Berwick.
5. This was done about the beginning of February in the year 1400. The same year, upon the return of the herald, war was denounced against England, and then also Archibald Douglas, sirnamed The Austere, a man inferiour to none of his ancestors in all kind of praise, fell sick and died in a very bad time for his country, which had lately lost by sundry misfortunes so many brave Generals before. His son, of the same name, succeeded him. In the Ides of August the English King with great forces entered Scotland. When he came to Haddington he stayed there three days, and then marched to Leith. And, staying there as many days, he laid siege to the Castle of Edinburgh. The Governor led an army against them, but very slowly, so that it easily appeared that he did not much care if the Castle of Edinburgh were taken by the English, and in it David, the Kings son. For by this time his wicked ambition did begin to shew it self. For he undervalued his brother as an effeminate person and sought the destruction of his children as much as he could, that he might enjoy the kingdom himself, so that their loss he counted his gain. But the King of England and his army, on the contrary, did exercise their enmity very moderately, as if by an ostentation of war they had only sought for peace. For having made some sleight onset on the Castle, he raised the siege and returned home without doing any considerable damage to the places thro’ which he marched, insomuch that in his marches both backward and forward he got the praise and commendation of a mild, clement and moderate enemy. He was courteous to those that surrendered, yea, he rewarded those bountifully who had formerly entertained his father. All which did more ingratiate him and render the Governor more odious in regard he did not prosecute the war with any eagerness as against an enemy, nor yet endeavour to make so easy and beneficent a King his friend.
6. After Henry was returned for England, George Dunbar did still trouble the Borders rather with frequent than great inroads. To suppress him there was more need of a diligent than numerous force, and therefore Douglas divided the forces of each county into small bands and appointed commanders over them, who by turns were to stop the enemy or, if they saw cause, to fight him. The first lot fell upon Thomas Halyburton of Birlington, who took a great booty from the enemy out of the lands near to Bamburgh. But Patrick Hepburne, who wandred further abroad with a greater band of men, had not the like success. For trusting too much in the numbers of his men, and not being very wary in his retreat with his prey, he was cut off by the English, and with him all the flower of the Lothian soldiery. Archibald Douglas, to revenge the slaughter of his friend, by the consent of the Governor gathered above ten thousand men together. Abundance of the Nobles accompanied him in his march, and amongst them Murdo the Governors son. When they came to Northumberland at New-Castle upon Tine, they passed the river and spoiled the country with fire and sword. But there encountering with Henry Percy the younger and George Dunbar in a pitch’d battel, they were overcome, many of the Nobles were slain, and Douglas was taken prisoner, having lost one of his eyes. So was Murdo Earl of Fife, Thomas Earl of Murray, and George Earl of Angus, with many other noble and illustrious persons. And indeed the strength of Scotland was not so much weakned in any one fight for many years before, as it was in this. It was fought at Homeldon, a town in Northumberland, in the Nones of May, and year of Christ 1401. Percy, having obtained so notable a victory, resolved to subject all the country which lay betwixt Northumberland and the Forth to the English scepter, and he thought it would be a work of no great difficulty so to do, in regard most of the Nobility of those countrys were either slain in the fight or held prisoners by him. Thereupon, beginning with Cockaw, a Castle in Teviotdale, the Governor agreed that unless the Castle was relieved by the Scots in forty days, he would surrender it up. When these conditions was brought to the King and then to the Governor, some were of opinion that the Castle should be surrendred in regard it was not of that consequence as for the sake thereof to hazard the strength of the kingdom a second time, which had been so sorely shaken and weakned in the late fight. This dejection of spirit proceeded not so much from fear of the enemy as from the perfidiousness of the Governor, who gaped for the kingdom. He, on the other side, to avert all suspicion from himself, in high confident words affirmed that this cow-heartedness and confession of publick fear would more encourage the enemy than the loss of a battel. And if any one thought that the English would be contented with the taking in of one castle, they were very much mistaken. For as fire is more encreased by a light aspersion of water, so the desire of the English upon surrender of some places would not be extinguished, but rather inflamed to the taking of more, so that what was given up at first would be but a step to a further progress. “But (says he) if all of you refuse to march out for the relief of the Castle, I my self will go alone, for as long as I live and am in health I will never suffer such a mark of disgrace to be branded on the Scotish name.” Upon this stout speech of the Governors the rest, either extinguishing or dissembling their suspicion, cryed out that they would follow him. But fortune decided the controversy and blew off that danger. For Percy was called back to the civil war in England, and so the siege was raised without blows.
7. Whilst these things were acted abroad against the enemy, matters stood less prosperously at home. For shortly after the death of Archibald Douglas the year before, there immediately followed the decease of the Queen Annabella and of Walter Trayle, Arch-Bishop of St. Andrews, insomuch that all mens minds did presage a great mutation of affairs. For the splendour of military matters was upheld by Douglas; the ecclesiastical authority and resemblance (such as it was) of ancient discipline by Trayle; and the dignity of the Court by the Queen, as did soon appear by what happened after her death. For David, the Kings son, was a young man of a fierce disposition and enclined to wantonness and lust. The indulgence of his father encreased those vices, for, tho’ he had not authority enough to maintain the reverence due from him to his father, yet by the diligent monitions of those who were appointed to be his tutors in his youth, but much more by the counsel and advice of his mother, his youthful heats were somewhat blunted and restrained. But when she was died he, as now freed from this curb, returned to his own manners and lustful courses. For, laying aside all shame and fear, he took away other mens wives by force; yea, and virgins too, tho’ well descended. And those that he could not persuade by fair means he ravished by compulsion; and if any one endeavoured to stop him in his libidinous ways, he was sure to come off not without punishment. Many complaints were brought to his father about these his exorbitancies, so that he wrote to his brother the Governour to keep him with him and to oversee his conversation until his lustful spirit did abate and till he gave some hopes of his amendment of life. The Governour had now an opportunity put into his hands to effect that he most desired, which was to destroy his brother issue, so that he met David three miles from St. Andrews and carried him into the Castle thereof, which he kept in the nature of a garison after the Arch-Bishops death. After a while he took him out from thence and carried him to his own Castle of Falcoland and there shut him up close prisoner, intending to starve him. But that miserable death which his uncles cruelty had designed him to was prorogrued and staved off for a few days by the compassion of two of the female sex. One was a maid and virgin whose father was Governour of the Castle and garison. She gave him oate cakes made so thin that they would be folded up together (as ’tis usual in Scotland so to make them), and as often as she went into the garden near the prison she put them under a linen vail or hood which she did, as it were, carelessly cast over her head to keep her from the sun, and thrust them into the prison to him thro’ a small crany rather than a window. The was a country nurse who milked her breast, and by a little canale conveighed it into his mouth. By this mean fare, which served rather to encrease than kill his hunger, his wretched life and punishment was protracted and lengthned out for a little while, till at length by the vigilance of the guards they were discovered and put to death, the father mightily abhoring the perfidiousness of his own daughter whilst he endeavoured to manifest his faithfulness to an unfaithful Regent. The young man, being thus left destitute of all human support, having by force of hunger gnawed and torn his own flesh, died at length more than a single kind of death. His end was concealed from his father, tho it were commonly known abroad, because no man durst to be the messenger of such sad tidings to him.
8. But to return to the affairs of England, as far as they are intermixed with ours, when Percy and a great number besides of the Nobility had conspired to make war upon their own King, he agrees with Douglas, whom he still held prisoner since the battel of Homeldon, that if he would improve his interest by assisting him against the King as strenuously and as faithfully as he had before done against him, he would set him at liberty without ransom, which Douglas frankly promised him to do, as being willing to omit no opportunity of service against the English King. Hereupon he gathered some of his friends and tenants about him and prepared himself for the fight, wherein he behaved himself as stoutly as he promised to Percy, so that, without regard to the common soldiers, his mind and eye was wholly intent upon the King only. And in regard there were several commanders cloathed in royal attire, which was done on purpose by the English either to deceive the enemy if they should press hard upon him, or else that the soldiers in more places than one might find him a present witness of their courageousness or cowardize. Douglas took notice of one of these who had gallant armour and rushed in upon him with all his might, and so unhorsed him. But he being relieved by those who were next, he did the same to the second and a third who were all attired as Kings (thus Edward Hall, the English writer, affirms, as well as ours), so that he was not taken up so much with the apprehension of his own danger as with a wonderment from whence so many Kings should start up at once. At length, after a terrible and bloody fight, fortune turned about and the King won the day. Douglas was sore wounded and found amongst the prisoners, and whereas many urged to put him to death, the King saved him and did not only commend his faithfulness to his friend, but also rewarded him for his valour, and when his wounds were cured after he had staid some months with him, upon the payment of a great sum of money he was released.
9. In the mean time, the Scotish King heard of the death of David his eldest son by the unnatural cruelty of his uncle. The author was sufficiently pointed at by private whisperings, tho’ no man dared publickly to accuse so potent a man. Whereupon the King sends for his brother and makes an expostulation with him concerning the matter. He had prepared the tale before-hand, and charges others with the guilt of the young man’s death. As for him and his, they were ready, forsooth, whenever the King pleased to plead and assert their innocency in a due course of law. As for the murderers, some of them he had taken already, and the others he would diligently look out. Thus the matter being brought to examination in the law, the author of the wickedness summons a council, sets up an accuser, and he who was impleaded [indicted] as guilty was by them acquitted as innocent of the murder. The King imprecated a most dreadful punishment from the God of heaven above to be poured down him and his posterity who had committed that horrid wickedness. And thus being overpressed with grief and bodily weakness, he returned to Bote, whence he came. The suspicion was encreased in him that his brother had committed the parricide, tho’ he was too powerful to be brought by him to justice and punishment for the same. But he, like a strong dissembler, brings the supposititious authors of the wickedness out of prison and put them to cruel deaths: ’tis true they were lewd persons, yet innocent of that particular fact for which they suffered. In the interim, the King advised with his friends how he might preserve James, his youngest son, for whose safety he was very solicitous, and whom he had left in the custody of Walter Wardiloe, Arch-Bishop of St. Andrews, an honest man and faithful to him. They gave their opinion in the case that he could not be safe in any part of Scotland, and that therefore it was best to send him over to Charles the IV, King of France, the old ally and only friend of the Scotish nation, for he could be educated no where more safely and honourably than there. The fresh example of David Bruce stuck yet in their minds, who in dubious and troublesome times at home had there for some years an honourable retreat and entertainment. Hereupon a vessel was prepared and he put on bord at the Base, a rock rather than an island. Henry Sinclare, Earl of the Orcades, was sent with him as his guide or rector. Whilst they were compassing the shore, he landed at the promontory of Flamburgh, either driven in by tempest or else to refresh himself on shore from his sea-vomit and nauseation. There he was detained by the English till they sent to their King, who commanded that he should be brought up to Court, so that neither the law of the truce which was made a little before for 8 years, nor the supplicating letters of his father did prevail, but he was kept as a lawful prisoner. For his father at his departure had sent letters by him to the King of England (if possibly he should be necessitated to land there), wherein he made complaining and lamentable discourses both of his own and also the common fortune of all mankind.
10. But tho’ the King of England were not ignorant of the inconstancy of human affairs, yet the old grudge against the nation of the Scots more prevailed with him than either the respect of the youth’s innocent age, or the tears of his grieved father, or the dignity of the kingly name, or the faith of the pacification and truce. For having referred the matter to his Council how he should treat the son of the King of Scots being arrived in his dominions, those who had any regard to equity and were weary of the present war inclined to the milder opinion, viz., that the royal youth, who fled from the cruelty of his own countrymen and was now their suppliant, should be hospitably and friendly entertained, that so a feirce nation, and unconquer’d by the war of so many ages, might be won and wrought over to a reconciliation by courtesie. For this, they thought, was the most solid and firm victory, not when liberty was taken away by force, but when minds are united by the indissoluble bond of amity. Others were of contrary opinion, that he might be lawfully detained as a prisoner, either because many of the Scots Nobility had personally assisted Percy in the insurrection which he made against the King, or because his father had entertained and relieved Percy the elder when he was banished and condemned as a traitor in England. This opinion (as commonly the worst things do) prevailed, tho they that were present at the consult knew well enough that those Scots who fought against the English King in Percy’s insurrection were not sent by any publick commission from the King, but came out of their private affection to Douglas, who was then also in Percy’s power. They might also have remembred what Henry himself had answered to the Scots a few years before when they demanded George Dunbar to be given up. Yet notwithstanding, they stuck to this last opinion, as commonly in the Courts of princes a false pretence of advantage doth weigh down honest and righteous counsels. Yet in one thing Henry dealt nobly and royally with his captive, that he caused him to be educated in learning and good discipline. This calamity of the son was brought to his fathers ears whilst he was at supper, and did so overwhelm him with grief that he was almost ready to give up the ghost in the hands of his servants that attended him. But, being carried to his bed-chamber, he abstained from all food, and in 3 days dyed for hunger and grief at Rothesay, which is a town in the island Bote, in the 16th year of his reign, in the Calends of April and year of Christ 1406. He was buried at the Abbey of Pasley. This Robert for tallness of stature and the beauty and composition of his whole body was inferior to none of his contemporaries. His life was very harmless, and there was no virtuous accomplishment fit for a private man wanting in him, so that it may be truly said of him that he was a better man than a King.
11. After the King’s death the government of the kingdom was settled upon Robert his brother by the decree of all the Estates, who had many things in him worthy of that office and dignity, if out of a blind ambition to rule he had not used unjust courses to hasten to the throne. He was valiant in war, prudent in counsel, just in judgment, liberal to the Nobles, and tender in levying taxes on the Commons. That same year, Percy the elder again entered into a conspiracy against the King to revenge upon him the deaths of his brothers and two sons who had been slain. But his design was discovered, many of his accomplices taken and put to death, and he himself for fear fled into Scotland, that from thence he might pass over into Flanders and France to procure auxiliaries to renew the war. In the mean time, Henry, the King of Englands son, made great incursions into Scotland both by land and sea. When he was returned home with a great booty, the Castle of Jedburgh, which the enemy had kept from the fight in Durham to that day, was taken by the Commons of Teviotdale, pillaged, and then by the Governors order wholly demolished. And George Earl of Merch, who had done much damage to his countrymen in behalfe of the English, being not able to procure from them aid to recover his own, nor an honest maintenance amongst them neither, pacified the Governor by his friends and so returned home, yet he lost part of his patrimony, viz., his Castles in the Loch-Maban and Annandale, which were given to Douglas for the losses he had sustained, and thus all offences were forgiven on both sides, and he passed the rest of his life in great concord with his neighbors and faithful subjection to his King. The next year Percy, after he had made a vain and fruitless peregrination over France and Flanders, returned into Scotland to his old friend the Earl of Merch, by whom he was courteously entertained and accommodated according to his estate. There he transacted by private messengers about returning into his own country, and, amongst the rest, he wrot to Ralf Rokesby, his ancient and faithful friend, as he thought, that he did not want force both of Scots and English who were ready to assist him to recover his ancient patrimony, provided that he would joyn in his assistance with them. This Ralfe was at that time Sheriff of Yorkshire, so they there call the officer which presides in chief over juridical assemblies. He enticed Percy to him upon pretence of giving him aid, and then discovered the conspiracy to the King. Thus his friend was betrayed by him, his head cut off and sent to the King at London. There was also at that time a certain Englishman in Scotland who called himself Richard the Second, but, I judge, falsly. For when Percy the elder did often and earnestly desire to speak with him, he would not by any persuasion be induced thereunto, fearing, as may be guessed, lest his imposture might be detected by a man who so well knew his King. Yet he was for some years treated as one of the bloody-royal, and, that he might live more securely, he feigned himself most averse from any desire of enjoying the kingdom. But at last he was buried in the church of the Franciscan-Fryers at Sterlin, the title of the King of England being inserted in his epitaph.
12. Not long after, Fastcastle, a very strong castle (as the name intimates) in Merch, was taken from the English by Patrick Dunbar, son to George, and therein Thomas Holden, Governor thereof, who had infested all the neighboring places of Lothian with his continual thievery. And moreover, in Teviotdale William Douglas and Gawin Dunbar, youngest son to the Earl of Merch, had broken down the bridge of Roxburgh and burnt the town, but they attempted not the Castle because they were destitute and unprovided of all things necessary for a siege. But the next year after, which was 1411, Donald the Islander, Lord of the Aebudae, claiming Ross as the next heir (for so indeed he was), as unjustly taken away from him by the Governor, when he could get no right he levied 10000 islanders and made a descent on the continent, and so easily seized on Ross, the whole country being willing to return to the subjection of their own just master. But this facility of the Rossians in submitting to him gave him (whose mind was greedy of prey) encouragement to attempt greater matters. For he passed over into Murray and, there being no force to defend it, he reduced it to his obedience and then passed further in his depredations into Strath-Bogy and did threaten Aberdeen. Against this suddain and unexpected enemy the Governor gathered forces, but in regard the greatness and propinquity of the danger did not admit the expectancy of slow-paced aid, Alexander Earl of Marr, the son of Alexander the Governours brother, and almost all the Nobility beyond the Tay, at a village called Harlaw set themselves and their men in battel-array against him. The fight was cruel and bloody, for the valour of many Nobles did then contend for estate and glory against the savage cruelty of the opposite party. At last the night parted them, and it may rather be said that they were both weary with fighting than that either party had the better, so that the event of the fight was so uncertain that when both sides had reckoned up how many they had lost, each counted himself the conquered. In this fight there fell so many eminent and noble personages as scarce ever perished in one battel against a foreign enemy for many years before, and therefore the village, which was obscure before, grew famous therefrom, even to posterity. This year also, publick schools began first to be opened at St. Andrews, which was effected rather by the consent of learned men who made an overture at the profession of science than by the occasion of any private or publick assistance.
13. The next 10 years there was hardly any memorable thing acted betwixt the Scots and English, either because there was a truce made, which yet authors are silent in, or because Henry the 4th dying on the 12th of the Calends of April, and his son Henry the 5th presently succeeding him, being all the rest of his life intent on the affairs of France, the English abstained from offering any injury to the Scots. And besides, the Governour of Scotland did not dare to stir on his side, for fear lest the English should bring back upon them the true heir of the crown, whom, he knew, many of the Scots would close with out of the commiseration of his misfortunes. Therefore what inroads were made at that time were rather like robberies than wars. For both Penrith in England was burnt by Archibald Douglas, and Dunfrize in Scotland by the English. And also there was an exchange of prisoners made, Mardo, the Governours son taken at Homildon fight, was exchanged for Percy, who, when his grandfather’s party was subdued in England, was brought into Scotland and left with the Governor. But upon the new King’s coming to the crown he was restored to the dignity of his ancestors. He, though he were not properly a prisoner by the law of arms, yet the unjust detention of James, son to the King of Scots, stopt the mouths of the English that they could not justly complain of any injury in the case. As for Percy himself, he was so far from resenting it that as long as he lived he acknowledged the civility and great friendship of the Scots to him in all kind of mutual service. Moreover, the same year another embassy came from the Council of Constance, the head whereof was the Abbat of Pontinsack, and another from Peter Lune, who had seized on the Papacy and as pertinaciously kept it. He by Henry Harding, an English Franciscan, had wrought over the Governor to his party, but in vain, for the whole body of the priesthood was against them. For they, having assented to the Council of Constance, had subscribed to the election of Martin the Fifth.
14. In the mean time, the King of France, by means of a violent disease, fell besides himself, and his distemper was encreased by the monks who pretended to cure him. By which means France was divided into two factions. The head of the one was the Duke of Burgundy, who, having slain the Kings brother, drew him to the English party. The head of the other was the Kings son, who, being disinherited by his distracted father, was called by his enemies in a jeer the King of Berry, because he usually kept himself at Burges in Berry, a town of the Bernois. He, being forsaken by a great part of his own country men and destitute also of foreign aid, in the year 1419 sent the Earl of Vendosme his ambassador to the Scots to demand aid of them according to the league made betwixt the two nations. The assembly of the Estates ordered him seven thousand men, and indeed at that time, in regard the soldiers were increased by reason of the long peace with England, it was no hard matter to make up such a number of men, being only voluntiers. John Earl of Buchan, the Governours son, was made General of the forces, and many eminent persons followed him. But Archibald Earl of Wigdon, the son of Archibald the Second, Earl of Douglas, was far most eminent than all the rest. When they came into France they were sent by the Dolphin (so they call the eldest son of the King of France) into Turein, a country very plentiful in all sorts of provision and near to the enemy. For the Duke of Clarence, brother to the King of England, was then in France instead of the King himself, and made great havock of the country of Anjou, whose inhabitants remained in their obedience to the French King. And it was thought he would have come as far as the town of Beujeu. This was done two days before Easter. Whereupon the Scots, thinking that the General would cease from any military action those few days of that feast (as the custom is) and apply himself to ecclesiastical duties, or (as others say) presuming upon an eight days truce which was made, carried themselves more securely than otherwise they were wont to do. The Duke of Clarence was informed thereof, either by Andrew Fregose, an Italian, or else by some Scots foragers whom his horse had taken prisoners, and having gotten a fair opportunity for action (as he thought) he rose up presently from dinner and with his horse only marched toward the enemy. He himself, besides his other gallant furniture and armour, had a royal diadam on his head, beset with many jewels. Some few French who were quartered nearest the enemy in a village called Little Beaujou, being terrified with his sudden coming, fled into the tower of a church adjoyning. Whilst he was assaulting of these the alarum was given to the rest of the army, and presently, in great dismay, they all cryed out to your arms. The Earl of Buchan, whilst the rest were fitting themselves, sent out 30 archers to take possession of a bridge which was the only passage over a neighbour river. There a skirmish begun and Hugh Kennedy, who quartered in a church hard by, came in to them with one hundred men, who in so sudden a fright were but half-armed.
15. This party with their arrows hindred the horse from passing over. Whereupon Clarence with the forwardest of his men leapt from his horse and maintained the combat on foot, so that in a lusty charge they repelled the Scots, who were some unarmed and some but half-armed, from the bridge, and this opened the passage for his men. In the mean time, whilst Clarence was mounting his horse and his men were passing the narrow bridge a few at a time, the Earl of Buchan was at hand with 200 horse, who being very earnest to shew themselves on both sides, a sharp fight began with equal courage and hatred. For the Scots were glad that they had gotten an opportunity to give the first proof of their valour and so to reproaches of the French, who were wont to upbraid them as men given more to eating and drinking than fighting. The like reproach do the same French use to cast upon the Britains; the Spaniards on the French; and the Africans on the Spaniards. On the other side, the English took it in great disdain that they should be attack’d by such an implacable enemy not only at home but even beyond the seas, and so they fought stoutly, but none more fiercely than Clarence himself. He was known by his armour. John Swinton ran at him, and with his lance grievously wounded him in the face, and the Count of Buchan also smote him with a truncheon and struck him from his horse. When he was fallen, the English ran way and were slain in the pursuit even until night. This battel was fought the day before Easter, when the days are short in cold countries, a little after the Vernal Equinox. There fell of the English in the fight above 2000, amongst which were 26 of eminent rank. Many prisoners were taken of good accompt in their own country, and especially some of the Dukes allies. Few of the Scots or French were lost, and those of no great note neither. This is the most common report concerning the death of Clarence, but the Pluscarty Book says that he was slain by Alexander Maccasland, a knight of Lennox, who took off the aforesaid diadem from his head and sold it to John Stuart of Dernely for 1000 angels of gold; and he again pawned it to Robert Huston, to whom he owed 5000 angels. This, he says, was the vulgar opinion. The chief praise of this victory was ascribed to the Scots, neither could their greatest detractors deny it. Whereupon Charles the Dolphin created the Earl of Buchan Lord High Constable, which is the high office in France next the King. The rest of the commanders had also honours bestowed on them according to their rank and valour.
16. Whilst these things were acted in France in the year 1420, Robert Governor of Scotland died the same year, in the third of the Nones of September and fifteen years after death of King Robert the Third. His son Murdo succeeded in his place, a man of a sluggish disposition and scarce fit to govern his private family, much less the common-wealth, so that either by his slothfulness or else his too much indulgence he so spoiled his children (for he had three) that in a short time he brought both them and himself into great calamity and, at last, destruction. This change of domestick affairs caused the Earls of Buchan and Wigton with many of their kindred to return from France. But matters being soon setled at home, the Dolphin recalled the Earl of Buchan, who with his son in law Archibald, James his son, and the flower of the Scotish soldiers, sailed into France, leaving his other son, the Earl of Wigton, behind him, who, being grievously sick, could not follow him. They landed with 5000 soldiers at Rochel and so came to the Dolphin at Pictou, where they were joyfully received and Douglas was made Duke of Turein. When Henry of England heard of the death of Clarence, he substitute John Earl of Bedford, his other brother, in his place and sent him before into France with 4000 horse and 10000 foot. He himself followed soon after and took with him James King of Scots in the expedition, thinking by that means either to insinuate himself with the Scots who fought against him in France, or else to render them suspected to the French. But he obtained neither of his ends, nor could he prevail with them at the desire of their own King so much as to return home and to be newters [neutrals] and spectators only of the war. For, addressing to all the garisons held there by the Scots, they made him one general answer, that they could not acknowledge him for their King who was under the power of another man. Henry, being offended at their peremptoriness and constancy, having taken the town of Meaux by storm, hanged up 20 Scots which he found there, alleging that they bore arms against their own King. Soon after, he and Charles the Sixth, King of France, died immediately one after another. About two years after, the English prevailed in a battel at Vernevil, where there were slain of the prime Scots the Earl of Buchan and Douglas, one Duke of Turein, the other Master of the Horse to the French King, and also James Douglas his son, Alexander Lindsay, Robert Stuart and Thomas Swinton, and of common soldiers above 2000. And about three years after, the auxiliary Scots received another great overthrow at Beaux when they were carrying provisions to Orleans. They set upon the English in the way, in which fight there were slain of Scots of note William Stuart with his brother and two eminent knights of the family of the Douglas’s, whose posterities do yet enjoy two castles and large possessions about them in Scotland, viz., one of them the Castle of Drumlanrick, and the other the Castle of Lough Levin in Fife.
17. Thus I have briefly touched at the actions of the Scots performed in a few years in France as external and foreign occurrences. The farther explication of them is to be had in the French annals, which though they be not quite alien from the affairs of Scotland, yet I had not stepped out of my way to mention them if the calumny of some English writers had not compelled me so to do. For they endeavour to undervalue and speak evil of what they do not deny. If histories did not mention their atchievements, yet the munificence of the Kings, the decrees of the cities, and the honourable monument at Orleance and Turein do sufficiently declare them. What, I pray, can they here object/ The Scots, say they, are too poor to maintain so great a force in a foreign country. I answer, first, that if they be poor, it is the fault of the soil, not of the men; neither would I have taken this for a reproach if it did not appear by their writings that the English intended it for such. And therefore I shall only answer them with this, that these poor and indigent Scots (as they call them) have got many great and famous victories over the opulent and wealthy English. And if they do not believe me herein, let t hem consult their own histories; and if they suspend their belief of them also, let them not require of us to receive them for true in other things. But to return to the affairs of Scotland. Merdo being set up, as I said but now, in the place of his father, he maintained a very loose discipline in his own house. His children (whose names were Walter, Alexander, and James) did despise their inferiors, and consequently oppress them with many injuries, and they infected the youth with those vices to which they themselves were addicted. And seeing their father did not curb nor restrain them, at last he was punished himself for giving them such bad education. The old man did highly prize a certain bird he had, of that sort of hawks which they call falcons. Walter had often begg’d him of his father, and was as often denied, so that upon a time he catched it out of his fathers hand and wrung off his neck. To whom his father replied, “Because thou can’st not find in thy heart to obey me, I will bring in another that both thou and I too shall be forced to obey.”
18. And from that time forward he bent his thoughts to restore his kinsman James. And there was an eminent man of Argile, chief of the country, named Calen Cambel, whom before Walter had affronted and wronged, who approved of his design herein, so that he assembled the Estates at Perth, and, a consultation being had concerning the revocation [recall] of their King, they all, either out of true favour to the true heir of the kingdom, or out of weariness of the present posture of affairs, willingly agreed to send an embassy about his restitution. Some Nobles were chosen embassadors, who, coming into England, found the English more inclinable to it than they expected. For the Duke of Gloucester, who in the Kings minority governed the affairs of England, called the Council together and easily persuaded them that James, son to the King of Scotland, should be sent back, at the desire of his people, into his own country, seeing he was not in his present posture of so great authority amongst them as to be able to recall the Scots auxiliaries out of France or to draw any part of the kingdom into an alliance with England. And besides, he thought to make another advantage of him, that he would not only be his sure and fast friend, but would always be under the power and influence of England. For he had married Joan, the Earl of Salisbury’s daughter, the beautifullest woman of her time (which he then was mightily in love with). He persuaded himself that by her means the league with France might be easily undermined, and, if he were freed, either he would be obliged by that courtesy, or else, whilst he was busie in revenging the wrongs his kindred had done him, he would intangle his country in a grievous intestine war, and by this means it would come to pass that either the English would be made stronger by the accession of such a friend, or, if their Scotish enemies disagreed amongst themselves, yet they should be more disingaged and readier for a foreign war. And indeed these were no imprudent considerations, if they themselves by the narrowness of their spirits had not marred their own market. For seeing they demanded a greater sum of money for his redemption than the Scots in their present circumstances either durst promise or were able to pay, a compromize was made that the dowry of his wife should be retained as for one half, and that the sons of some Noblemen should be given in hostage for the payment of the other. James, being set at liberty upon these terms, returned home 18 years after he had been a prisoner, in the year of our Lord 1423. Amidst the great concourse of people which flocked in to see him and to gratulate his return, he was soon entertained with the complaint of those who had grievously lamented what wrongs they had sustained since the last Kings death, partly by the negligence, and partly by the injuries of the late Governors. Walter, the son of Murdo, Malcolm Fleming and Thomas Boyd were highly accused, who, to pacifie the Commons for the present, were committed to several prisons until the next convention of the Estates, which was appointed to be the sixth of the Calends of June. But Fleming and Boyd, upon payment of damages and some kind of compensation, and also upon laying down a round sum which they were fined at into the Kings exchequer, were set at liberty.
19. JAMES I, THE HUNDRED AND SECOND KING
In the meantime, the King with the Queen was crowned on the eleventh of the Calends of May, he being placed in the chair of state by his cousin Murdo (an office belonging to the Earl of Fife). A while after, many profitable laws were enacted for the good of the publick, but especially to restrain robberies, which by the licentiousness of former times had grown to such an height that laws and magistrates were despised, as if right had been only in arms. Afterwards they consulted how to raise the Kings ransom. For, seeing the publick treasure was very low by reason of so many wars, the Governours having pardoned the offendors and bestowed rewards on good patriots, so that, the Kings revenue being mortgaged and money taken up thereupon, he could not pay it of his own, but was forced to crave aid of his subjects. And indeed, the Nobles whose sons were left hostages easily obtained than an act should pass to that purpose. But in the payment of the money there was not so ready an obedience. For upon a valuation of all moveables a twentieth part which was imposed, which in so great a want of money, yet plenty, and consequently cheapness, of other things seemed intolerable to men who were not accustomed to taxes, and who also were more concerned at the example for the future than for the present damage. And moreover the higher sort were calumniated by the vulgar as if they had cast too much of the burden upon the shoulders of the poor. But that which troubled the Commons most was the short day appointed for the payment of the tax, for it was commanded to be brought in within 15 days, and if any one did not play his cattel were to be seized upon, either by the lord of the mannor or the Sheriff of the county. And if any one alleged his being in debt or arrears of rent to his landlord, the exception did not avail to abate his contribution. And the mischief was increased by the severity and harshness of the collectors, who did not only thus vex the people, but by false reckonings or upon the accompt of charges they deducted a great part of the money which was collected for the publick use. Besides, the imposition seemed more grievous because the former Governours had been very remiss and moderate in their levies and cessations, that so they might insinuate themselves into the love of the Commons and thereby keep them off from designing the restitution of their lawful King. And for that cause it was that, when the assembly had given liberty to Robert, the King’s uncle, to levy a tax, he to ingratiate himself with the commonalty refused to let it pass into an act, affirming that he had rather pay down so much money of his own than that the Commons should be burdened on such an account. When the King had exacted the first payment, which came in very hardly and with the ill-will of the people, who complained that, besides the burden of the wars, they had these new taxes imposed upon them, he forgave the rest.
20. In this assembly Murdo Duke of Albany, Walter and Alexander his sons, Dunach Earl of Lennox, his son in law, and Robert Grame, who some years before had killed the King, were taken and committed to prison; so were 24 more of the chief Nobility, but the rest were not long after set at liberty, Murdo only with his sons and son-in-law being retained in custody. The same day that Murdo was taken the King seized upon all his Castles, as Falcoland in Fife and Down in Menteith, out of which his wife was carried to the Castle of Tintallon in Lothian. James, his youngest son, hearing of the havock of his family, gathered a band of men together and burnt the town of Dunbarton and slew John Howard (the King’s uncle) sirnamed Rufus, and 32 of his followers, and then he fled into Ireland where he dyed shortly after. And also Finlaw, Bishop of Lismore, one of the Dominican Order, who fled with him and was his counsellor in all his affairs, departed this life there. The wife also of Walter with her two sons Andrew, Alexander and Arthur, a base-born son, fled into Ireland also, who in the reign of James the Third returned again and were endowed with great honour. The same year in an assembly of the Estates at Sterlin Murdo with his two sons and son-in-law were had out of prison to be tryed according to law. The proceedings were after the custom of the country, which was this. Some man eminent for wisdom and authority is chosen out to be President of the Court, and he hath at least twelve Assessors joyned with him, who are to hear the crimes objected and to pass sentence on the prisoner or party accused, according to their oaths. These judges are usually of the same quality with the party accused, or at least of the next condition to him as near as may be. The prisoner hath power to except against his judges till the number of 12, and sometimes more, be compleated, and when the crimes are weighed the sentence is pronounced according to the majority of voices. In this case judges were chosen after the same manner; it is not much material to mention their names (but certainly they were persons of repute, and some of them nearly related to the accused), but the prisoners were condemned by them of high treason. The two young men were put to death the same day, their father and grandfather by the mother’s side the day after, on a little rising hill over against the Castle of Sterlin. There is a constant report, tho’ I find it not mentioned in history, that the King sent to Isabella, wife of his cousin-german, the heads of the father, husband and son, to try whether so fierce a woman out of impatience of grief (as it sometimes comes to pass) would not reveal the secrets of her mind. But tho’ she was much disturbed at the suddain spectacle, yet she gave no intemperate language, onely answered that if the crimes objected were true, that the King had done justly and according to law.
21. When the assembly was ended, John Montgomery and Humprhy Cuningham were sent by the King to take a castle which was held in the name of James Stuart the fugitive, and they reduced it accordingly. And not long after, John Stuart of Dernely (who, when the Scots commanders in France were destroyed several ways was made General of the Horse amongst them), together with the Arch-bishop of Rhemes, came into Scotland to renew the antient league with the French and to contract a marriage between Lewis the son of Charles the Seventh and Margarite, daughter of James, both of them yet but children. Which matters being accomplished the next year, which was 1426, all Scotland was subdued within the Mount Grampius, and the King took heart to proceed further in his conquests. Aft first he caused the Castle of Inverness to be repaired, which is situate in a convenient place in the furthest part of Murray. Two years after, he went thither to administer justice and suppress robberies; thither he sent for the chief of all the families, especially of those which were wont to issue out with great troops and fetch in booties from the neighbouring countries. And when he had subdued them he laid taxes on them, and made the commonalty provide victuals for them which were idle themselves. Some of those robbers had 1000, some 2000, some more partizans at their command, whereby good people were kept under for fear of danger, and the bad, who found a sure refuge amongst them, were made more bold to commit all manner of wickedness. The King had persuaded most of them, some by threatnings, others by flatteries, but he committed about 40 of the chief of them to prison, and upon tryal two of the most eminent, Alexander Macrory and John Macarthur, were hanged up; also James Cambel was put to death for the murther of John the Islander, one of note in his country. The rest were divided into several prisons, of which some afterward suffred, and others were freely set at liberty. Thus, the heads of the faction being either slain or kept prisoners, the King judged the common sort, being deprived of their leaders, would not stir, and therefore he persuaded them by kind and gentle words to do that which was just, and to place the hopes of their safety upon no other basis as firm and secure but innocency of life. If they would do so, he would be always ready to honour and reward them; if not, they might take example by the punishment of others, and most certainly expect the like themselves.
22. When other matters were thus composed, yet the King had still with him Alexander the Islander, one of the most potent persons in the land next the King himself, for he commanded over all the Aebudae; and besides, he had an accession of the fertile country of Ross by means of his mother, who was daughter to Walter Lesly, Earl of Ross. He, having committed many cruel and flagitious acts, was thereupon in great fear of the King, whom yet he found very exorable [capable of being swayed] by the mediation of his friends, insomuch that he was courteously invited to Court, kindly entertained there, and, having obtained an amnesty for what was past, great hopes were propounded to him if he would inure himself to a more quiet and obedient carriage and deportment for the time to come, and so he was sent home. But he was so far from being thankful to the King for his pardon, and afterwards for his liberty, that he thought he had great wrong done him that he was kept some days in prison. And therefore, as soon as he was returned to his old comrades, he gathered a company of them together who were accustomed to live upon the spoil, and went to Innerness in a seemingly peaceable manner; where being hospitably entertained, he suffered his followers to pillage the town, and after he had set fire to the houses he laid siege to the castle; but, hearing of a force coming against him, was compelled to raise his siege and march in great haste to Loch-Abry. There by reason of the opportunity of the place he resolves to put himself upon the fortune of a battel with that army which he had with him, which were 10000 men hardned to the wars. But two tribes or clans of those who followed him chearfully to the plunder, when they heard of the Kings preparations made against them, deserted him, to wit, the Catans and the Camerons, called vulgarly Clan-Chattan and Clan-Cameron. Being thus deprived of part of his strength and having no confidence in the fidelity of the rest, he began to think of hiding himself again, and so, dismissing his army, he retired with some few into the Aebudae and there consulted concerning his flight into Ireland, But presuming that even there he could not be safe from the wrath of the King, he thought it best to fly to his last refuge, viz., the Kings mercy and clemency, which before he had so large experience of. But here his thoughts were at a loss betwixt hope and fear when he considered what mischiefs he had done at his first revolt, and, after the King had graciously pardoned him, with what perfidiousness and cruelty he had again broke forth, and so cut off hopes of further indemnity; and therefore was in great doubt and perplexity whether he would commit himself, his life and fortunes to the Kings anger, so justly conceived against him. In these circumstances he resolved to take a middle course between flight and surrendring himself, which was to send agents to Court to beg pardon for his offences and to incline the Kings heart to lenity towards him. And for his service he chose quiet, moderate men, and not at all infected with the same contagious villanies whereof he himself was guilty, and on that account not unacceptable to the King. Yet notwithstanding, they could obtain no other answer from him but that he would hear nothing unless he would put himself into his hands, neither would he treat with him as long as he was absent. Alexander cast up all his dangers in his mind and, foreseeing that he could be safe no where from the Kings fury, resolved to choose a fit time and place, and so to cast himself upon him. For he thought he would count it a shame to injure or punish an humble supplicant. Whereupon he comes privately to Edinburgh, where the King then was, and on the day wherein our Lord’s resurrection is celebrated with great solemnity he threw himself at the Kings feet, having a linen cloak or plad about him wherewith he was rather covered than cloth’d, and in a speech composed to procure pity put himself into his hands and begg’d his life and estate. His habit, the place and time, and so great and sudden a change of fortune did much affect the by-standers. The Queen and the Nobles who were present interceded with the King for him, and did so far incline and affect his mind that they were commanded to stay until their devotions were ended. In the interim the King pondered every thing with himself, and thought it not safe to dismiss so perfidious, potent, and factious a person without any punishment at all; and yet, on the other side, to make some gratification to the request of the Queen, he thought it best to keep him alive in safe custody. For by this means he might gain an opinion of clemency and also prevent his opportunity to do further mischief; provide for the security of the common people; and withal terrify others by his example. Hereupon he was sent prisoner to Tintallon Castle, and his mother, a fierce woman, was banished into the isle of Inch-colm. For it was thought that she would have excited him to new attempts.
23. The licentiousness of Alexander being thus repressed, yet all things were not quiet in the northern countrys. For the men of Caithnes and Cameron who the year before had deserted Alexander fell out grievously amongst themselves, and fought one another with so great eagerness. That many of Caithnes were slain, but the Cameronians almost all lost. Also in the Aebudae, where ’twas thought things would be quiet by reason of Alexander’s exile, yet new commotions were raised by Donald Balock, cousin-german to Alexander, on pretence to revenge the wrong done to his kinsman. To quell this insurrection Alexander and Alan, both Stuarts, one Earl of Caithnes, the other of Marr, gathered some of their countrymen together and went into Loch-Abyr to meet Donald (for the report was that he would make his descent there), where they waited his coming. He, perceiving that they kept no order, but were without tents or guard, in the fourth watch landed his men without any noise and so set upon them unexpectedly whilst they were half a sleep, and made a great slaughter amongst them. Alan with almost all his brigade was lost there, and Alexander with a few saved his life by flight. Donald was exalted with this success, and so wasted all Loch-Abyr with fire and sword, no man daring to oppose him. But at length, hearing that the King was making towards him with a greater force, he trussed up his large bundles of pillage, sent them a-shipboard, and returned into the Aebudae. The King marched as far as Dunstasnage after him, and there saw the ruin and fearful devastation which had been made. Whereupon he conceived great wrath in his breast and was about to pass over into the islands, but the chiefs of their families came with their humble supplications to him, alleging that there was no general guilt in the case because nothing had been acted by publick advice, but all the fault lay at Alexanders own door, and of some indigent and lewd persons besides that sided with him. The King answered he would not admit of their excuse unless they would apprehend the authors of those wicked pranks and deliver them up to him to be punished. When they had promised to do their endeavour therein, the King let some of them go to find out the thieves; the rest he kept in the nature of hostages. Those who were dismissed slew many of the thieves and brought 300 of them prisoners to the King (Donald himself, for fear of punishment, being fled away), who caused them all to be hanged.
24. The punishment of the robbers, tho’ for the present it made things a little more quiet in the Aebudae and the neighbouring parts, yet the unquiet dispositions of some wicked and turbulent persons would not suffer that calm to be long-lived. The King at the desire of his Nobles had released two of the Angus’s, Duffus and Murdo, commanders of the thieves. These turned their fury upon one another, meeting in equal numbers (for each of them maintained about 1500 partisans out of the rapines of the people). They fought so obstinately that there was scarce any one left on either side to be messengers of the slaughter made, for ’tis said that on the one side there were but twelve, on the other but nine left alive, so that the King, who was equally angry with both, had scarce any left of them to inflict punishment upon. And yet their calamity did not restrain one Macdonald from his wonted fierceness. He was a noted robber, born in Ross, whose wicked disposition was excited by the impunity of the former times, so that he (as we say) played rex a long time among his neighbours. Amongst the rest, they say, he committed one fact superlatively cruel. A widow-woman being robbed by him grievously bemoaned her case, and ever and anon cryed out that she would complain to the King. “Wilt thou so (says he)? Then to the intent thou mayst better compass thy journy I my self will assist thee.” And so, calling a smith, he caused him to nail horse-shoes to the soles of her feet, and, not contented with that wrong, he added also contumelious and jeering words, telling her now that she was more fenced against the roughness of the ways, and, in a mockery, he shewed her thus shod to those that passed by. The woman, being of a fierce and stern disposition and rather enraged than terrified by his reproaches, as soon as she was able to go went to the King and declared to him the matter of fact. The King had heard of the same before by others, and, he having the authors in prison, bid the woman be of good chear, for she should speedily see the same punishment inflicted on the inventors of it. And hereupon he caused Mackdonald and twelve of his complices to be brought out of prison and to have their feet shod with iron nails, and so to be carried three days about the city, a cryer going before and declaring the cause of this new punishment. Then the captain was beheaded and his twelve associates hanged, all their bodies being set upon gibbets in the high-ways. These new crimes, which a pardon, once obtained, had not prevented, made the King more eager to find out Donald the Islander. And therefore, being informed that he lay concealed in a Noblemans house in Ireland, he sent messengers to him to give him up to punishment. The Nobleman, fearing that if he should send him away alive thro’ so long a tract both by land and sea he might possibly make an escape, and then his maligners might allege that it was done by his connivance, caused him to be slain and sent his head to the King by his own messenger.
25. Open robberies being thus diligently suppressed, the King endeavoured to extirpate some hidden crimes and evil customs, and to accomplish this work he made choice of eminent persons much commended for their prudence and sanctity, giving them power to travel all over the kingdom to hear complaints; and if their were any offences complained of to them, which ordinary judges either for fear durst not, or for favour and affection would not, intermeddle with, then they themselves should hear the case and determine it. And moreover he added to them one who was to correct and rectify weights and measures, a thing very necessary, seeing then not only every city but almost every house used a different kind of measure. In a Parliament he made wholesome laws to this purpose and caused iron measures to be set up in certain places, and sent out one to all markets and fairs who was to regulate all the measures according to that standard, and a grievous punishment was denounced on him who used any other measure than that which was publickly thus signed and marked. Whilst he was transacting these things for the publick good, in the year 1430, the fourteenth day of October, his Queen was brought a-bed of twins, and thereupon a publick rejoycing was made, and the King, to add something to the popular mirth, forgave former offences to some Noblemen, the chief whereof were Archibald Douglas and John Kennedy, who, because they had spoken too rashly and unadvisedly concerning the state and government of the realm, were made prisoners, Douglas in the Castle of Loch-Levin and Kennedy in the Castle of Sterlin. And as a farther testimony of his reconciliation to Douglas he made him Godfather (as we call him) at the baptizing of his children, which is wont to be accounted a matter of great honour, and a testimony of intimate friendship; and moreover he made his son one of the knights which were created in testification of the publick joy on this occasion.
26. The other parts of his kingdom being thus purged and amended, he next bent himself to reform the ecclesiastical state, but the priests could not be corrected by the civil magistrate, for, the Kings of Europe having been long engaged in mutual wars, the ecclesiastical order had by little and little withdrawn themselves from their obedience and obeyed only the Pope of Rome, and he indulged their vices, partly because he gained thereby, and partly because he might make Kings more obnoxious [obligated] to him by reason of the great power of the clergy in their kingdoms. Whereupon he resolved to prevent their tyranny the best and onely way he was able. For, seeing it was not in his power to amend what was past, nor to out unworthy men of those preferments which they once enjoyed, he thought to provide the best he could for the future, which was to set up publick schools for learning and liberally to endow them, because these would be seminaries for all orders of men, and whatsoever was eminent or noble in any commonwealth issued ouit from them as from a fountain. Hereupon he drew learned men to him by rewards; yea, himself would be sometimes present at their disputations, and when he had any vacation from civil affairs he delighted to hear the collations [disputations] of the learned, thereby endeavouring to eradicate the false opinion which many Nobles had imbibed, viz., that learning drew men off from action to sloth and idleness and did soften military spirits, either breaking, or at least weakening, all their vigorous efforts, to that the study of letters was only fit for monks who were shut up as in a prison and good for no other use. But alas, the monks, as they had degenerated from the simplicity and parsimony of their ancestors, so they had turned themselves wholly from the culture of their minds to the care of their bodies, and learning was as much neglected by the rest of the priesthood also, and especially for this cause, that benefices were bestowed on the most slothful and worst persons of Noblemens families, which were unfit for other employments, or else they were intercepted by the fraud of the Romanists, so that a parsonage was nothing else but a reward for some piece of service, and that ordinarily none of the best.
27. And besides, there was another mischief which added much to the corrupting of ecclesiastical discipline, and that was the orders of Begging-Friers. These Friers at the beginning pretended greater sanctity of life, and so easily imposed upon the people to hear them rather than their parish-priests, who were commonly gross-bodied and dull-witted. Yea, those parish-curates or priests as they grew rich did scorn to do their own work themselves, but would hire these Fryars (for so they called themselves) for a small yearly stipend to preach a few sermons in the year to the people. In the interim, they withdrew into cities, and there chaunted out their idle songs, as it were, after a magical manner, not knowing what they said. And there was none of them that ever hardly looked towards his own parish but when tithes were to be gathered. Yea, and by degrees they withdrew themselves from this office of singing at certain hours in cathedrals and churches to, which, though it were but a light, was yet a daily service, and hired poor shavelings to supply their places in singing and massifying. And so by muttering and mubling out a certain task and jargon of Psalms which was appointed every day, they made a collusive kind of a tragedy, sometimes contending in alternate verses and responses, otherwhiles making a chorus between the acts, which at last closed with the image or representation of Christs death. And the Friers, their hirelings, on the one side, did not dare to offend their masters, on whom their livelihood depended; neither yet, on the other, could they bear their insolence conjoined with so much avarice, so that they pitched upon a middle way that they might engage them to make easier payment of their pensions. They oftentimes bitterly inveighed against their lust and avarice before the people, who gave ear to their doctrine, and when they had raved enough in their sermons to keep them in fear, and also to conciliate the minds of the vulgar, they took up and consulted for themselves also in time, seeing they were also in ecclesiastical orders. They told them that whatever disorders were, yet the order of priesthood was a sacred thing and that the temporal or civil magistrate had no power to punishment. They were only responsible to God and to the Pope (who had almost equal power with God), and because, their avarice encreasing with their luxury, they thought they should not squeez gain enough from the people, therefore these Friers set up a new kind of tyranny, holding forth in their sermons the merits of works. Hence arose Purgatory and the lustration [cleansing] of souls (which the Pope was pleased to detain there) by the sacrifices (forsooth) of the Mass, by the sprinkling of holy water, by alms and pensions given or offered, by indulgences, pilgrimages and worshipping of reliques. The Friers, being exercised in this kind of bartering trade and chaffer, in a little time claimed the power to themselves, both over the living and the dead, too.
28. In this ill condition James the First found Church affairs in Scotland, and therefore he thought it the most compendious way to restore the old discipline, if good and learned men were admitted to benefices. And to increase the emulations of young scholars he told the Masters and Governors of Universities and Schools that, because he himself was hindred by the publick affairs of state so that he could not consider every students particular merit, they should therefore be very careful to commend learned and virtuous young scholars to him, that he might gratifie them with Church-preferments; who, being thus advanced, might not only be useful to the people by their doctrine and example, but also might assist the meaner and poorer sort of those that were designed for Churchmen with their substance, and so far to relieve their tenuity [slender means] that good witts might not be compelled for want to break off their studies and course of learning and betake themselves to mechanical, sordid, or mercenary trades and employments. And to the intent that good men might with more diligence apply themselves to learning, and the slothful might know that their only way to preferment was by virtue, he distinguish’t degrees of study, that so he might now who were fit for such or such promotions. Which course if succeeding Kings had followed, certainly we had never fallen into these times wherein the people cannot endure the vices of the priests, nor the priests the remedy of those vices. Neither was the King ignorant that the Church was incumber’d with those great mischiefs under which it then labour’d by reason of the immoderate opulency thereof, and therefore he did not approve the prodigality of former Kings in exhausting their treasury to inrich monasteries, so that he often said that, though David was otherwise the best of Kings, yet his profuse piety, so praised by many, was prejudicial to the kingdom; yet notwithstanding, he himself, as if he had been carry’d away by the rapid torrent of evil custom, could not with-hold his hand from building a monastery for the Carthusians near Perth, nor from endowing it with large revenues. One thing in him was very admirable, that amidst the greatest cares for the high affairs of the publick, he thought the most inferior and private matters not unworthy of his diligence, provided some benefit came to the publick by them. For whereas Scotland had been exercised with continual wars after the death of Alexander the Third for almost 150 years, wherein her cities had been so often spoil’d and burnt, and her youth generally made soldiers, so that other trades were much neglected, he invited tradesmen of all sorts to come out of Flanders, proposing great rewards and immunities to them, by which means he filled his cities (almost empty before, in regard the Nobility did usually keep themselves in the country) with this sort of artificers. Neither did he only restore the appearance of ancient populousness to the towns hereby, but also ingag’d a great number of idlers to fall to honest labour, and hereby it came to pass that what was with small cost made at home need not with far greater be fetch’t from abroad.
29. Yet whiles he was thus strengthning all the weak parts of his kingdom by proper remedies, he ran into the great dislike and offence of his subjects, especially for two reasons. The one seem’d light in appearance, yet was that which is the beginning of almost all calamity to a people. For when peace was universally setled, idleness, luxury and lust, to the destruction, first of ones self, then of others, followed thereupon. Hence arose sumptuous feastings, drinking carouses by day and night, personated masks, delight in strange apparel, stateliness of houses not for necessary use but to please the eye, a corruption of manners falsely called neatness, and in all things a general neglect of the country customs, so that nothing, forsooth, was accounted handsom or comely enough but that which was new-fangled and strange. The commonalty did willingly cast off the fault of these things from themselves and laid it on the English courtiers who followed the King, and yet they did not inveigh against such wanton and pleasurable courses more bitterly in their words than they studiously practis’d them in their lives. But the King obviated this mischief as much as he could, both by good laws and also by his own example, for he kept himself in his apparel and frugality within the rate of the richer sort of private men, and if he saw any thing of immoderation in any part of a man’s life, he shew’d by his countenance, and sometimes by his words, that ’twas displeasing to him. By this means the course of increasing luxury was somewhat restrain’d, rather than the new intemperance exitinguisht and the old parsimony reduc’d [brought back].
30. His other fault was bruited abroad by his enemies, and afterwards broke forth into a publick mischief. Robert, the King’s uncle, and Murdo his cosin-german, who had the Regency of the kingdom for many years, seeing they themselves aspir’d to the throne and yet knew not how to remove James out of the way, they did what was next to it, i. e., engage the affections of men so to them that the better sort might have no extraordinary miss of a King, nor any ardent desires after him, so that they us’d such great moderation in the management of affairs that their government seem’d to many not only tolerable, but very desireable, if Walter, Murdo’s son, had carried it with a semblable popularity and moderation. For they so engaged the Nobles to them by their liberality and munificence that some injoyned the lands belonging to the King by connivence. To others they have them, and in favour of some particular men they cancell’d proceedings and judgments in law, and restor’d some who had been banish’d, and among them one eminent and potent person, George Dunbar, Earl of Merch, who during his exile had done much mischief to this country, and by this means they hop’d so to ingage the Nobility that they would never so much as think of calling home the King. And then, if James dy’d without issue, the kingdom would come to them without any competitor. But if he should chance to return from his banishment, yet their faction would be so powerful that if the King bore them a grudge, yet they were able to defend themselves by force against him. But when the King did actually return, the old favour and respect born to the uncle seem’d to be quite extinguish’d by the new injury and flagitiousness of Murdo, so that it plainly appear’d that nothing was more popular than justice. And therefore the people were not only consenting, but also contributed their assistance, to the execution of Murdo the father and his two sons, and to the banishment of a third, so that the King’s revenue was augmented by the confiscation of their estates, and also by the accession of the estates of John Earl of Buchan, who died childless in France, and of Alexander Earl of Merch, who was also childless and a bastard, who dy’d at home, concerning whom I shall speak a few words by way of digression.
31. This Alexander was the son of Alexander son to King Robert. In his youth, by the ill advice of some bad men, he turn’d to be a commander amongst thieves, but when he came to man’s estate he was so reform’d that he seem’d plainly to be quite another man, so that, his vices gradually decreasing by the benefit of wholsom counsel, he so manag’d things both at home and abroad that he left a memory behind him precious to posterity. For at home he quell’d the insurrection of the islanders at Harlaw, making great slaughter of them. And so he extinguisht a dangerous war in the very rise and bud, and tho he had great wealth well gotten and had brought many stately seats, insomuch that he much exceeded his neighbours, yet he addicted not himself to idleness or pleasure, but went with a good party of his country-men into Flanders, where he follow’d Charles Duke of Burgundy against the Luick-landers, in which war he got both estate and honour. And besides, he married richly in Holland, an island of the Batavians, but the Hollanders not being able to bear the government of a stranger, he return’d back and provided a stately fleet witg great cost, yet no great benefit, because it was against men who were very well provided both with land and sea-forces. At length he set upon their numerous fleet returning from Dantzic, which he took and pillaged, and slew the mariners and burnt the ships, so that he repaid the enemy for the loss he receiv’d from them many times over; yea, he so subdued the fierceness of their minds that they desired a truce for an hundred years and obtain’d it. He also caused a breed of brave mares to be brought from as far as Hungary into Scotland, whose race continu’d there for many years after.
32. These rich Earls dying without issue, Buchan and Marr, their patrimonial inheritances descended rightfully to the King. And moreover, he alone injoy’d all the possessions of the three brothers sons to King Robert the 2nd by his last wife, but not without the grudges of the Nobility (who had been accustomed to largesses) that he alone should enjoy all the prey without sharing any part of it amongst them. Further, they conceiv’d another and fresher cause of offence, that the King had revoked some grants made by Robert and Murdo, the last Regents, as unjust. Amongst those grants there were two noted ones. George Dunbar, who was declared a publick enemy, was afterwards recall’d by Robert and part of his estate restor’d to him. His son George succeeded him therein, to the joy of many, who were well pleas’d that so ancient a noble a family, which had so often deserv’d well of their country, were restor’d to their ancient dignity. But the King, who look’d narrowly (and perhaps too pryingly) into his revenue was of opinion that the power to restore incapacities, to recall exiles, and to give back their goods forfeited for treason, and so brought into the King’s exchequer, was too great for one, that was but a guardian of another man’s kingdom and chosen but as a tutor only, to claim and use, especially since largesses made in the minority of princes by the old laws of Scotland might be recalled, if not confirm’d by their respective Kings when to came to be of age. And therefore James, that he might reduce the Merch-men into his power without noise, in regard they were a martial people and Borderers upon England, detains George with him and sends letters to the Governour of the Castle of Dunbar commanding him on receipt thereof he should immediately surrender it up to William Douglas, Earl of Angus, and Alexander Hepburn of Hales, whom he had sent to receive it. Hereupon George complain’d that he was wrongfully dispossest of his ancient patrimony for anothers fault, and such a fault, too, as was forgiven by him who then had the supreme power. The King, to pacifie him and to proclaim his clemency amongst the vulgar, bestowed Buchan upon him.
33. This fact of the King’s was variously spoken of as every ones humour and disposition led him. And moreover, there was also another action which much hastned his end, the beginning whereof is to be fetcht a little higher. I said before that King Robert the 2nd had three sons by his concubine. He had also two by his wife Eufemia, Walter Earl of Athole and David Earl of Strathearne, yet when their mother the Queen was dead he married the concubine afore-spoken of, that so he might by that marriage legitimate the children he had by her and leave them heirs to the crown, and accordingly at his death he left the kingdom to the eldest of them. To the 2nd he gave great wealth and the Regency also. The 3rd was made Earl of several counties. In this matter, tho’ his other wif’s children thought themselves wrong’d, yet, being younger and not as powerful as they, they smothered their anger for the present. And besides, their power was somewhat abated by the death of the Earl of Strathern, who left but only one daughter behind him, afterwards marry’d to Patrick Graham, a noble young man and one of a potent family in that age, on whom he begat Meliss Graham. His parents liv’d not long after, and the child after a few years, being yet a stripling, was sent as an hostage into England till the money for the King’s ransom was paid. But the Earl of Athole, tho’ every way too weak for the adverse faction, yet never gave over his project to cut off his kindred, nor cast away his hopes to recover the kingdom. And because he was inferior in open force, he craftily fomented their divisions and discords, and invidiously made use of their dangers to promote his own ends, so that by his advice that large family was reduc’d to a few. For many were of opinion that he gave the counsel to take off David, King Robert’s son, and James had not escap’d him neither, unless he had past a good part of his life in England, far from home. For he gave advice to the Earl of Fife that, seeing his brother was a drone, he himself should seize on the kingdom. When the King lost all his children and was obnoxious to his brothers will, and not long after dyed of grief himself, there was only the Regent of the kingdom with his children that hindred his hopes, in regard he was an active man of great wealth, power and authority, and moreover very popular and full of children. These considerations did somewhat retard his counsels, but when Robert dyed of a natural death, and his son John was slain in the battel of Vernevil, then he resum’d this former project with greater earnestness, and bent all his mind and endeavour how to free James and set him at variance with Murdo and his children. And seeing they could not all of them stand safe together, which soever of them fell, he foresaw that his hope would be advanced one step higher to the kingdom. And when James was returned into his country he turn’d every stone to hasten Murdo’s destruction, he suborn’d men fit for the turn to forge crimes against him and he himself sate judge upon him and his sons. And when they were cut off, there was only James left, and one little son, a child not yet 6 years old. And if he were slain by the conspiracy of the Nobles, he did not doubt but himself, who was then the only remaining branch of the royal stock, should be advanc’d to the throne. Athole was in these thoughts night and day, yet he conceal’d his secret purposes and made a great shew of loyalty to the King in helping to rid his allies out of the way, for that was his only contrivance, that by the offences of others he might increase his own power and diminish his enemies.
34. In the mean time, Meliss Graham (who, as I said before, was given as hostage to the English) was depriv’d of Strathern because the King, making a diligent enquiry into his revenue, found that ’twas given to his grandfather by the mothers-side upon condition that if the male-line fail’d it should return to the King in regard ’twas a male-feo, as lawyers now speak. This young man’s loss, who was absent and also an hostage, did move many to commiserate the case, but Robert his tutor took it so heinously that it made him almost mad. For he, taking the case of his kinsman more impatiently than others, did not cease to accuse the King openly of injustice, and, being summon’d to answer for it in law, he appear’d not and thereupon was banish’d the land. This made his fierce mind more enrag’d for revenge, as being irritated by a new injury, so that he joyn’d secret counsels with those who had also their estates confiscated or who took the punishments of their friends, tho’ justly inflicted, in great disdain, or who accus’d the King as a covetous man because he was so intent upon his gain that he had not rewarded them according to their expectations. And besides, he bewailed that not only many noble families were brought to ruin, but that the wardships of young Nobles, which were wont to be the rewards of valiant men, were now altogether in the Kings hands, so that all the wealth of the kingdom was almost in one hand, and others might starve for misery and want under such an unjust valuer of their labours. Now that which he upbraided him concerning wardships with is this. ’Tis the custom in Scotland, England, and some countrys of France that young gentlemen or Nobles, when their parents dye, should remain in the tutelage of those whose feudetarys they are till they arrive at the age of 21 years, and all the profits of their estates (besides the charges necessary for their education), and also the dowry given with their wives, comes to their tutors and guardians. Now these tutelages (or, as they are commonly call’d, wardships) were wont to be sold to the next of kin for a great sum of money, or sometimes well deserving men were gratify’d with them, so that they expected benefit upon the sale of such wardships or incomes for a reward by their keeping of them. But now they were much vex’d that the King took them all to himself, neither did they conceal their vexation and displeasure. When the King heard of these murmurings and complaints, he excus’d the thing as done by necessity, because the publick revenue had been so lessn’d by former Kings and Governors that the King could not maintain his family like himself, nor be decently guarded and attended, nor yet give magnificent entertainment to ambassadors without them. Besides, he alleged that this parsimony and care of the King in providing money in all just and honest ways was not unprofitable to the Nobility themselves, whose greatest damage was to have the Kings exchequer low. For then Kings were wont to extort by force from the rich what they could not be without; yea, sometimes they were forced to burden and vex the Commons too by exacting taxes and payments from them; and that the parsimony of the King was far less prejudicial to the publick, by imposing a mean to immoderate donations, than his profuseness was wont to be. For then he was still forc’d to seize on other mens estates when his own was consum’d, This answer satisfy’d all those who were moderate, but those who were more violent, and who rather sought after occasions of complaint than were willing to hear any just compurgation [defense] of an imputed crime, were more vehemently enraged by it.
35. This was the state of Scotland when embassadors arrived out of France to fetch Margarit, James his daughter, who had before been betrothed to Lewis, son of the Charles the 7th, home to her husband. That embassy brought on another, from the English. For, seeing that the Duke of Burgundy was alienated from their friendship and meditated a revolt, and that Paris and other transmarine provinces were up in a tumult, lest when all the strength of the kingdom was drawn out to the French war the Scots should invade them on the other side, the English sent embassadors into Scotland to hinder the renovation of the league with France and the consummation of the marriage, but rather to persuade a perpetual league with them, who were born in the same island and us’d the same language. And if they would do so, and solemnly swear that they would have the same friends and enemies with the English, then they promis’d; that their King would quit his claim to Berwick, Roxburgh, and other places and countrys which were before in controversy betwixt the nations. James referr’d the desire of the English to the Assembly of the Estates, where, after a long debate upon it, the ecclesiasticks were divided into two factions, but the Nobility cry’d out that they knew well enough the fraud of the English, who by this new league sought to break their old band of alliance with the French, that so when the Scots had lost their ancient friend they might be more obnoxious to hem, if any time, they were freed from other cares and could wholly intend a war with Scotland, and that the liberal promises of the English were for no other end. But as for themselves, they would stand to their old league and not violate their faith once given. The English, being thus repuls’d, turn from petitions to threats, and seeing they refus’d to embrace their friendships, they denounc’d war, telling the Scots that if their King sent over his betroth’d daughter into France, one that was an enemy to the English, the English would hinder their passage if they could; yea, and take them prisoners, and their retinue too, having a fleet ready fitted for that purpose. This commination [threat] of the embassadors was so far from terrifying James that he rigg’d his navy and shipped a great company of Noblemen and ladies for her train, and so caus’d his daughter to set sail sooner than he had determin’d, that he might prevent the designs of the English.
36. And yet notwithstanding all this precaution, it was God’s providence rather than Man’s care that she came not into the enemies hand. For when they were not far from the place were the English, concealing themselves, waited for their coming, behold! upon a sudden a fleet of Hollanders appear’d, laden with wine from Rochel to Flanders. The English fleet made after them with all their sail (because the Burgundian, being a little before reconciled to the French, did oppose their enemies with all his might), and, being nimble ships, they quietly fetcht them up, being heavy laden and unarm’d, and as easily took them. But before they could bring them into port, the Spaniards set upon them unawares and took away their prey and sent the Flandrians safe home. Amidst such changeable fortune betwixt three nations, the Scots landed at Rochel without seeing any enemy. They were met with many Nobles of the French Court and were brought to Tours, where the marriage was celebrated to the great joy and mutual gratulation of both nations. Upon this occasion the English writers, especially Edward Hall and he that pilfers from him, Grafton, inveigh mightily against James as ungrateful, perfidious, and forgetful of ancient courtesys, who, being nobly entertain’d among the English for so many years, honoured with a royal match and large dowry, and besides, restor’d to liberty from a long imprisonment, suffer’d all those obligations to be post-pon’d, and preferr’d the alliance with France before that with England. But the thing it self doth easily refute their slanders. For, first, their detaining of him when he landed on their coast, being against their league and also the law of nations, ’twas a wrong, not a courtesy. Next, as to their not killing him but putting him to a ransom for money rather than imbrue their hands in the blood, not of an enemy, but of a guest, that was attributable not so much to their love or mercy toward him as to their covetous and avaricious minds. And grant there were any courtesy in it, yet what was it other but like that of thieves who would seem to give the life which they took not away? And if he were ingag’d to the English on that account, ’twas a private, not publick, debt. As for their bestowing education upon him, who was innocent by reason of his age, a suppliant by his fortune, and a King by descent, tho’ most unrighteously detain’d, it bears, indeed, some shew of humanity, which if they had neglected, they might have been justly blamed. And indeed it had been a commendable piece of kindness, if the injury going before and the covetousness following after had not marr’d it, unless you will say that if you purposely wound a man you may require him to give you thanks for his cure, and so you imagin a light compensation for a great loss is to be esteem’d as a courtesy; or because you have done some part of your duty, that therefore you should expect the reward in full of a benefit bestowed on another. For he that takes care that his captive should be educated in learning either for his own pleasure or that he may yield him a better price, tho some advantage accrue hereby to the party educated, yet the master does not aim at the good of the slave in his institution, but at his own.
37. “But (says he) the King honoured him with the marriage of his kinswoman, and thus the royal young man was as royally bestowed.” But what if that affinity were as honourable to the father as the son in law? He would else [otherwise] have marry’d her to a private man, but now he made her a Queen and ingrafted her by marriage into that family on which the famousest of the English Kings had often before bestowed their children, and from whom so many former Kings had descended. “But he gave a very large dowry with her.” To whom, I pray, was it given but to the English themselves, who took it away before it was paid, and made a shew of it in words to the husband, but, indeed, kept it for their own use? So that the dowry was only spoken of, not given, and so spoken of that they would have the young man, whom they also had otherwise grievously wrong’d, much in debt to them, that he carried his wife away with him without a dowry. “But they sent him home a freeman (say they).” Yes, as a pyrate doth discharge his captive when his ransom is paid. But how free, I pray? Even if we may believe the English writers themselves, under the inforc’d obligation of an oath always to obey the English King as his lord, and so to bring a kingdom which he did yet injoy into a perpetual servitude, which if he had actually injoyed he could not alienate, and yet he must mancipate it, forsooth, before he received it. This is not to set one free, but to turn him loose with a longer chain, and that not a King but as a steward only or viceregent of another man’s kingdom. I forbear to urge that they compell’d a man id captivity, and as yet under the power of another, to make a promise; yea, a promise of that which he could not perform, neither could he compel those to perform it who had power so to do. This is that high piece of liberality which, they say, James was unmindful of. But let us suffer these unskilful writers, and forgetful of all moderation and modesty in their stories, to account profits receiv’d as courtesys given. How great must we think that liberty of falsifying, or else desire of evil speaking, to be, which they use against the daughter of the aforesaid King? For (whereas such men, otherwise impudent enough, had nothing to allege against her manners) they write that she was unacceptable to her husband because of her stinking breath. Whereas Mostrelet, a contemporary writer of those days, doth affirm that she was very faithful and beautiful, and he wrote The Pluscartin Book, who accompanied that Queen both at sea and at her death, hath left it on record that as long as she lived she was very dear to her father and mother in law, and to her husband too, as appeared by the inscription and epitaph in French verses at Chalons by the River Matrona where she dyed, which sound much to her praise. ’Twas then published and afterwards turned into the Scotish lingue [tongue], which some of our country men have by them to this day.
38. But I will leave these men who do so calumniate other mens credits and neglect their own, that they care little what they say of others, or what others think of them, and return to the matter. When the King, having been at charge to rig out his navy, had try’d to exact a tax from the people, and the greatest part plainly refused to pay a penny, a few paid a small matter, and that grudgingly too, he commanded his collectors to desist from levying the rest and to restore what they had already received. And yet he did not thereby shun the clamours of the people, for some malevolent persons who were angry for some private loss did daily incite seditious persons and innovators against him. At the same time, the English began to prey upon Scotland both by land and sea under the command of Percy, Earl of Northumberland. William Douglas, Earl of Angus, was sent to encounter him with near an equal number of men, for they were about 4000 on either side. Of the Scots there fell Alexander Johnston of Lothian, a noble person and of known valour; some write that 300 other, others that only 40 were slain of both armies, and about 1500 English taken prisoners. James, having been twice provoked by the English, first by their fleet which lay in wait to intercept his daughter, and next by the late spoiling of his country, resolves to proclaim open war against them, whereupon he listed as great an army as he could and made a fierce assault on Roxburgh, and in a short time he expected the surrender thereof, when, behold, the Queen came posting to him in as long journys as ever she was able to make, to inform him of a sad message, which was that there was a grievous conspiracy form’d against his life, and unless he took special care his destruction was at hand. The King, being dismay’d at this sudden news, disbanded his army and return’d home, but was very ill spoken of amongst the vulgar because, just upon the point of surrender, at the beck of a woman he retir’d after the kingdom had been at so much charge and trouble, so that he seem’d to have fought for nothing by his arms but disgrace. After he return’d he went to the monast’ry of the Dominicans near the walls of Perth to make a private enquiry into the conspiracy as well as he was able, but his design was smelt out by men that watcht all opportunities to do mischief. For one of the Kings domesticks who was in the plot (historians call him John, but his sirname is not mentioned) discovered to his complices what was doing at Court, so that they hastned the matter lest their secret caballs should be discovered and remedies apply’d against them.
39. Walter Earl of Athole, the Kings uncle, tho’ he were the ring-leader of the conspiracy, yet did what he could to avert all suspicion from himself. He sent for his kinsman Robert Graham (of whom I have spoken before), as fit for execution but rash in counsel, and who bore an old grudge to the King because of his former imprisonment and banishment, and also upon the account of his brothers son (to whom he was guardian, in his hope), who had Strathern taken from him. He joyns with him Robert his nephew by his son, an active young man. He informs them what he would have them to do, and that when the deed was done he should be in high authority, and then he would provide for their safety well enough. They freely promise to do their endeavour, and accordingly hasten to perpetrate the fact before the whole series of the plot was made known to the King. Hereupon they privately gathered their company together, that so, knowing the King had but a few about him in the monast’ry of the Dominicans, they might with as little noise as might be cut him off. And that they might surprize him unawares, they advise John his servant above-mentioned, whom they had drawn to their party, to be assistant to them. According to his promise, he brings the conspirators in the midst of the night into the Court, and placed them privately near the Kings bed-chamber, and shews them the door which they might easily break, in regard he had taken away the bar thereof. Some think that they were received into the palace by Robert, nephew of the Earl of Athole. In the mean time, whilst they waited there, being solicitous how to break the door, which they thought would be their greatest obstacle, fortune did the work without their helps. For Walter Straton, who a little before had carried in wine, coming forth and perceiving men in arms, endeavour’d to get in again and cry’d out with as loud a voice as he could traitors, traitors. Whilst the conspirators were dispatching him, a noble young damsel of the family of the Douglas’s as most say, tho’ some write she was a Lovel, shut the door and, not finding the bar which was fraudulently laid aside by the servant, she thrust her arm into the hole or staple instead of a bolt, but they quickly brake that and so rusht in upon the King. The Queen threw herself upon his body to defend him, and when he was thrown down she spread herself over him, and after she had receiv’d two wounds she could hardly be pluckt off. And then when he was left of all they have him 28 wounds, and some of them just in his heart, and so kill’d him.
40. Thus this good King came to his end (and that a most cruel one, too, and much lamented by all good men) by the conspiracy of most wicked assassins and robbers. When his death was divulg’d by the noise and lamentation which was made, a great concourse of people came presently into the Court and there spent the rest of the night (for the parricides had made their escape in the dark) in bewailings and complaints. There every one spake variously according to their several dispositions, either bitterly to raise a greater odium against the parricides, or lamentably to increase the grief of their friends. Each man reckon’d up what prosperities or adversities he had undergone. In his childhood he was expos’d to the treacheries of his uncle, and, endeavouring to escape them, he was precipitated into his enemies hands. Afterwards his father died and the rest of his youth was spent in exile among his enemies. Then fortune chang’d and he had an unlook’d for restoration. And after his return in a few year he govern’d so that the turbulent state of the kingdom was chang’d in a calm and serene one. And again having suddain mutation of affairs, he whom his enemies had spar’d abroad was now slain by the treachery of his kindred at home, and that in the flower of his age and in the midst of his intended course to settle good laws and customs in his kingdom. And besides, they gave him his deserved elogies for all his virtues both of body and mind, for mens envy was extinguish’d towards him now he was dead. For tho his bodily stature was scarce of a full size, yet he was robust and strong, so that he exceeded all his equals in those exercises wherein agility and manhood use to be shewn. And as to his mind, he was endued with that quickness and vigor of wit that he was ignorant of no art worthy the knowledge of an ingenious person; yea, he could make plain Latin verses, according to that age, ex tempore. Some poems of his written in the English tongue are yet extant, in which there appears excellency of wit, tho’ perhaps some more polite learning be wanting in them. He was excellently well skill’d in musick more than was meet or expedient for a King, for there was no musical or singing instrument but he could readily play thereon, and tune his voice so that he might have been compar’d with the best masters of that art in those days. But, perhaps, some will say these are but the flowers of his studies, where is the fruit? These are more for ornament than instruction or use to strengthen a man for doing of business. Know, then, that after he had learn’d other parts of philosophy, he was also skill’d in politicks concerning the regulation of kingdoms and of mens manners. How great and how ripe civil abilities were in him doth sufficiently appear by the order of the matters perform’d by him and by the laws which he made, whereby he exceedingly benefited not only his own age, but posterity also.
41. And his death declar’d that there is nothing more popular than justice, for they who were wont to detract from him whilst he was alive, now he as dead had most flagrant desires after him, insomuch that the Nobles, as soon as they heard he was murder’d, came in of their own accord from their respective countries and before a tryal was appointed they voluntarily sent out into all parts to apprehend the murderers and bring them to justice. Very many of them were taken. The principal of them was put to new and exquisite kinds of death. The rest were hang’d. The chief heads in perpetrating the wickedness were reckon’d to be Walter Earl of Athole, Robert his nephew by his son, and their kinsman Robert Graham. The punishment of Walter (because he was the chief author and instigator of the whole plot) was divided into three days suffering. In the 1st he was put on a cart wherein a stork-like swipe [crane] or engine was erected, and by ropes let through pullies was hoisted up on high and then, the ropes being suddainly loos’d, he was let down again almost to the ground with grievous pains by reason of the luxation [stretching] of the joints of his body. Then he was set on a pillory that all might see him, and a red-hot iron crown set on his head with this inscription, that he should be called King of all Traitors. They say the cause of this punishment was that Walter had been sometimes told by some female witches (as Athole was always noted to have such) that he should be crown’d king in a mighty concourse of people. For by this means that prophecy was either fulfill’d or eluded, as indeed such kind of predictions do commonly meet with no other events. The day after, he was bound upon a hurdle and drawn at an horse-tail thro’ the greatest street in Edinburgh. The 3rd day he was laid along upon a plank in a conspicuous place and his bowels were cut out whilst he was alive, cast into the fire, and burnt before his face. Afterwards his heart was pulled out and cast into the same fire. Then his head was cut off and expos’d to the view of all, being set upon a poll in the highest place of the city. His body was divided into four quarters and sent to be hang’d up in the most noted places of the best cities of the kingdom. After him, his nephew was brought forth to suffer, but because of his age they would not put him to so much pain; and besides, he was not the author, but only an accomplice in another man’s wicked design, as having obey’d his grandfather therein, so that he was only hang’d and quarter’d. But Robert Graham, who did the deed with his own hand, was carried in a cart thro’ the city, and his right hand was nail’d to a gallows which was set up in the cart, and then came executioners which did continually run red-hot iron spikes into his thighs, shoulders, and those parts of his body which were most remote from the vitals, and then he was quarter’d, as the former. After this manner was the death of James vindicated. ’Tis true, ’twas a cruel one, but ’twas reveng’d by punishments so cruel that they seem’d to exceed the very bounds of humanity. For such extreme kinds of punishment do not so much restrain the minds of the vulgar by the severity as they do make them wild to do or suffer any thing; neither do they so much deter wicked men from committing offences by their acerbity as they lessen their terror by often beholding them, especially if the spirits of the criminals be so hardened that they flinch not at their punishment. For among the unskilful vulgar a stubborn confidence is sometimes prais’d for a firm and stable constancy.
42. James departed this life on the beginning of the year 1437, the 12th day of February, when he had reign’d 13 years, and in the 44th year of his age. So great diligence was us’d in revenging his death that within 40 days all the conspirators were taken and put to death. He left one son, the younger of the twins, halfe of whose face was red, as if it had been blood-shotten.
Go to Book XI