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David the Second, the only son of
Robert the First, dying without chil­
dren, the succession to the throne
opened to Robert the High Steward
of Scotland, in consequence of a so­
lemn act of the Parliament, which had
passed during the reign of his grand­
father, Robert the First, in the year
1318.1 The High Steward was the
only child of the Lady Marjory Bruce,

1 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 290.

the eldest daughter of Robert the
First, and of Walter the High Steward
of Scotland ; and his talents in dis­
charging the difficult duties of regent,
had already shewn him to be worthy
of the crown, to which his title was
unquestionable. Previous, however,
to his coronation, opposition arose
from an unexpected quarter. Wil­
liam, earl of Douglas, one of the most
powerful of the Scottish nobles, being
at Linlithgow at the time of the king s

1370-1.]                                          ROBERT II.                                                  327

death, publicly proclaimed his inten­
tion of questioning the title of the
Steward to the throne ; but the
motives which induced him to adopt
so precipitate a resolution are exceed­
ingly obscure. It is certain that
Douglas could not himself lay claim
to the throne upon any title preferable
to that of Robert; but that the com­
mon story of his uniting in his person
the claims of Comyn and of Baliol is
entirely erroneous, seems not so ap­
parent.1 Some affront, real or imagin­
ary, by which offence was given to the
pride of this potent baron, was pro­
bably the cause of this hasty resolution,
which, in whatever feeling it origi­
nated, was abandoned as precipitately
as it was adopted. Sir Robert Erskine,
who, in the former reign, had risen
into great power, and then commanded
the castles of Edinburgh, Stirling, and
Dumbarton, instantly advanced to
Linlithgow at the head of a large force.
He was there joined by the Earls of
March and Moray; and a conference
having taken place with Douglas, he
deemed it prudent to declare himself
satisfied with their arguments, and
ready to acknowledge a title which he
discovered he had not strength to
dispute.2 It was judged expedient,
however, to conciliate so warlike and
influential a person as Douglas, and to
secure his services for the support of
the new government. For this pur­
pose the king’s daughter, Isabella, was
promised in marriage to his eldest son,
upon whom an annual pension was
settled; and the earl himself was pro­
moted to the high offices of King’s
Justiciar on the south of the Forth,
and Warden of the East Marches.3 To
the rest of the barons and nobles who
supported him, the High Steward was
equally generous. The promptitude
of Sir Robert Erskine was rewarded

1 The story is to be found in Bower, the
continuator of Fordun, vol. ii. p. 382 ; and in
the MS. work, entitled, Extractaex Chronicis
Scotiæ, fol. 225. It was repeated by Buch­
anan, attempted to be proved to be erroneous
by the learned Ruddiman, and again revived
by Pinkerton, in his History of Scotland, vol.
i. p. 10. See Illustrations, letters TT.

2 Winton, vol. ii, pp. 304 and 514.

3 Chamberlain Accounts, vol. ii. p. 26.
Ibid. pp. 9, 10.

by the gift of three hundred and
thirty-three pounds, an immense pre­
sent for that time ; whilst the services
of March and Moray, and of Sir Tho­
mas Erskine, were proportionably ac­
knowledged and requited.4

This threatened storm having passed,
the High Steward, accompanied by a
splendid concourse of his nobility,
proceeded to the Abbey of Scone, and
was there crowned and anointed king,
on the 26th of March 1371, by the
Bishop of St Andrews, under the title
of Robert the Second.5 To confer
greater solemnity on this transaction,
which gave a new race of monarchs to
the throne, the act of settlement by
Robert the First was publicly read ;
after which, the assembled prelates
and nobles, rising in their places, sepa­
rately took their oaths of homage.
The king himself then stood up, and
declaring that he judged it right to
imitate the example of his illustrious
grandfather, pronounced his eldest son,
the Earl of Carrick and Steward of
Scotland, to be heir to the crown, in
the event of his own death. This
nomination was immediately and un­
animously ratified by consent of the
clergy, nobility, and barons, who came
forward and took the same oaths of
homage to the Earl of Carrick, as their
future king, which they had just
offered to his father; and upon pro­
clamation of the same being made
before the assembled body of the
people, who crowded into the Abbey
to witness the coronation, the resolu­
tion of the king was received by con-

4  Chamberlain Accounts, vol. ii. pp. 26,

“Et in solucione facta Domino Willelmo
Comiti de Douglas, circa contractum matri-
moniale inter filium ipsius Comitis, et Isabel-
lam filiam regis, ut patet per literas regis de
predicto, et ipsius Comitis de re. onss. super
computum, Vc. li:

“Et in soluc : facto dno. Robto. de Erskine
et de dono regis concess : sibi per literam
ons. et cancellat. sr. compotum et ipsius Dni.
Roberti de rc. ons. super computum IIIc,
xxxiii li. vi s. viii d.”

5  Robertson’s Records of the Parliament of
Scotland, p. 119, sub anno 1371. It is there
stated that all the barons and prelates took
the oaths of homage, except the Bishop of
Dumblane and Lord Archibald de Douglas,
who only took the oath of fidelity. Yet this
seems contradicted by the “Act of Settlement.”

828                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. VII.

tinued shouts of loyalty, and the
waving of thousands of hands, which
ratified the sentence. An instrument,
reciting these proceedings, was then
drawn up, to which the principal
nobles and clergy appended their seals,
and which is still preserved amongst
our national muniments : a venerable
record, not seriously impaired by the
attrition of four centuries and a half,
and constituting the charter by which
the house of Stewart long held their
title to the crown.1

Robert the High Steward, who now
succeeded to the throne, had reached
his fifty-fifth year, a period of life
when the approaches of age produce
in most men a love of repose, and a
desire to escape from the care and an­
noyance of public life. This effect
was to be seen in the character of the
king. The military and ambitious
spirit, and the promptitude, resolution,
and activity which we observe in the
High Steward during his regency had
softened down into a more pacific and
quiet nature. He possessed strong
good sense, and a judgment in state
affairs matured by experience; but
united to this was a love of indolence
and retirement, little suited to the
part which he had to act, as head of a
fierce and lawless feudal nobility, and
the guardian of the liberty of the
country against the unremitting at­
tacks of England. Yet, to balance this
inactivity of mind, Robert enjoyed
some advantages. He was surrounded
by a family of sons grown to manhood.
The Earl of Carrick, Robert, earl of
Fife, afterwards Duke of Albany, and
Alexander, lord of Badenoch, were
born to him of his first marriage with
Elizabeth More, daughter to Sir Adam
More of Rowallan;2 David, earl of
Strathern, and Walter, lord of Brechin,
blest his second alliance with Eu-
phemia Ross, the widow of Randolph,
earl of Moray; whilst seven daughters

1 Robertson’s Index to the Charters, Ap­
pendix, p. 11. “Clamore consono ac manu
levata in signum fidei dationis.” A fac­
simile of this deed has been engraved, and
will be found in the first volume of the Acts
of the Parliament of Scotland, sub anno 1371.

2 Records of the Parliament of Scotland,
p. 119, sub anno 1371.

connected him by marriage with the
noble families of the Earl of March,
the Lord of the Isles, Hay of Errol,
Lindsay of Glenesk, Lyon, and Doug­
las. To these legitimate supports of
the throne must be added the strength
which he derived from a phalanx of
eight natural sons, also grown to man’s
estate, and who, undepressed by a
stain then little regarded, held their
place among the nobles of the land.3
Although, after his accession to the
throne, the king was little affected with
the passion for military renown, and
thus lost somewhat of his popularity
amongst his Subjects, he possessed
other qualities which endeared him to
the people. He was easy of access to
the meanest suitor : affable and plea­
sant in his address ; and while possess­
ing a person of a commanding stature
and dignity, his manners were yet so
tempered by a graceful and unaffected
humility, that what the royal name
lost in pomp and terror, it gained in
confidence and affection.4

In the political situation of the
country at this period there were
some difficulties of a formidable na­
ture. A large portion of the ransom of
David the Second, amounting to fifty-
two thousand marks, was still unpaid;5
and if the nation had been reduced to
the brink of bankruptcy by its efforts
to raise the sum already collected, the
attempt to levy additional instalments,
or to impose new taxes, could not be
contemplated without alarm. The
English were in possession of a large
portion of Annandale, in which Edward
continued to exercise all the rights of
a feudal sovereign ; they held, besides,
the castles of Roxburgh and Lochma-
ben, with the towm and castle of Ber­
wick ;6 so that the seeds of war and
commotion and the materials of na­
tional jealousy were not removed;
and however anxious the English and
Scottish wardens might shew them­
selves to preserve the truce, it was

3 Duncan Stewart’s History of the Royal
Family of Scotland, pp. 56-58.

4  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 383.

5  Records of the Parliament of Scotland,
sub anno 1371, p. 120.

6 Ilotuli Scotiae vol. i. pp. 944, 947, 951,
958, 963. 965.

1371-6.]                                ROBERT II.                                        329

scarcely to be expected that the fierce
borderers of both nations would be
long controlled from breaking out into
their accustomed disorders. In addi­
tion to these adverse circumstances,
the kingdom, during the years imme­
diately following the accession of
Robert the Second, was visited by a
grievous scarcity. The whole nobility
of Scotland appear to have been sup­
ported by grain imported from Eng­
land and Ireland; and a famine which
fell so severely upon the higher classes
must have been still more intensely
experienced by the great body of the

But Scotland, although as far as her
political circumstances are considered
undoubtedly not in a prosperous con­
dition, enjoyed a kind of negative se­
curity from the weakness of England.
Edward the Third was no longer the
victorious monarch of Cressy and
Poictiers. His celebrated son, the
Black Prince, a few years before this,
had concluded his idle though chival­
rous expedition against Spain; and
after having been deceived by the
monarch whom his valour had re­
stored to the throne, again returned
to France, drowned in debt, and broken
in constitution. Prince Lionel, whom
Edward had hoped to make King of
Scotland, was lately dead in Italy, and
still severer calamities were behind.
Charles the Fifth of France, a sove­
reign of much wisdom and prudence,
had committed the conduct of the war
against England to the Constable de
Guesclin, a captain of the greatest
skill and courage; and Edward, em­
barrassed at the same time with hos­
tilities in Flanders and Spain, saw
with deep mortification the fairest pro­
vinces, which were the fruits of his
victories, either wrested from him by
force of arms, or silently lost, from in­
activity and neglect. In his attempts
to defend those which remained, and
to regain what was lost, the necessity
of fitting out new armies called for
immense sums of money, which,

1 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. i. pp. 963, 965, 9GC, 967,
968. The evidence of the Rotuli Scotiæ con-
tradicts the assertions of Bower, vol. ii. For-
dun a Goodal, p. 383.

though at first willingly granted by
parliament, weakened and impover­
ished the country; and the loss of
his greatest captains, his own feeble
health, and the mortal illness of the
Black Prince, rendered these armies
unavailable from the want of experi­
enced generals.

From this picture of the mutual
situation of the two countries it may
be imagined that both were well aware
of the benefits of remaining at peace.
On the part of Scotland, accordingly,
it was determined to respect the truce,
which in 1369 had been prolonged for
a period of fourteen years, and to fulfil
the obligations as to the punctual pay­
ment of the ransom ; whilst England
continued to encourage the commercial
and friendly intercourse which had
subsisted under the former monarch.2
Yet notwithstanding all this, two
events soon occurred which must
have convinced the most superficial
observer that the calm was fallacious,
and would be of short duration. The
first of these was a new treaty of
amity with France, the determined
enemy of England, which was con­
cluded by the Scottish ambassadors,
Wardlaw, bishop of Glasgow, Sir
Archibald Douglas, and Tynninghame,
dean of Aberdeen, at the castle of Vin-
cennes, on the 30th June 1371; in
which, after an allusion to the ancient
alliances between France and Scotland,
it was stipulated that, in consideration
of the frequent wrongs and injuries
which had been sustained by both
these realms from England, they
should be mutually bound as faithful
allies to assist each other against any
aggression made by that country.
After some provisions calculated to
prevent any subjects of the allied
kingdoms from serving in the English
armies, it was declared that no truce
was henceforth to be concluded, nor
any treaty of peace agreed on, by either
kingdom in which the other was not
included; and that in the event of a
competition at any time taking place
for the crown, the King of France
should maintain the right of that per­
son who was approved by a majority

2 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. i. sub. annis l372, 1373.

330                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. VII.

of the Scottish estates, and defend his
title if attacked by England. Such
was the treaty as it appears ratified
by the Scottish king at Edinburgh on
the 28th October 1371 ;1 but at the
same time certain secret articles were
proposed, upon the part of France, of
a still more decisive and hostile char­
acter. By these the French monarch
engaged to persuade the Pope to annul
the existing truce between England
and Scotland ; to pay and supply with
arms a large body of Scottish knights;
and to send to Scotland an auxiliary
force of a thousand men-at-arms, to co-
operate in a proposed invasion of Eng­
land. These articles, however, which
would again have plunged the king­
doms into all the horrors of war,
do not appear to have been ratified by

The other event to which I allude
afforded an equally conclusive evidence
of the concealed hostility of England.
When Biggar, High Chamberlain of
Scotland, repaired to Berwick to pay
into the hands of the English commis­
sioners a portion of the ransom which
was still due, it was found that the
English king, in his letters of dis­
charge, had omitted to bestow his
royal title on Robert. The chamber­
lain, and the Scottish lords who ac­
companied him, remonstrated in vain
against this unexpected circumstance.
They declared that they paid the ran­
som in the name and by the orders of
their master the King of Scotland;
and unless the discharge ran in the
same style, it was null, and could not
be received. Edward, however, con­
tinued obstinate: he replied that if
David Bruce had been content to
accept the discharge without the addi­
tion of the kingly title, there was no
good reason why his successor should
quarrel with it for this omission; and
he drew up a deed declaring that the
letter complained of was, in every
respect, as full and unchallengeable as
if Robert had been therein designed
the King of Scotland.3 With this the

1 Records of the Parliament of Scotland,
sub anno 1371, pp. 122, 124.
Ibid, sub anno 1371, p. 122.
Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. i. p. 953.

Scottish commissioners were obliged
for the present to be satisfied; and
having paid the sum under protest,
they returned home, aware from what
had passed, that however enfeebled by
his continental disasters, Edward still
clung to the idea that, in consequence
of the resignation of Baliol, he himself
possessed the title to the kingdom of
Scotland, and might yet live to make
it good.4

Notwithstanding these threatening
appearances, the country continued
for some years to enjoy the blessings
of peace; and the interval was wisely
occupied by the sovereign in providing
for the security of the succession to
the crown; in regulating the expenses
of the royal household, by the advice
of his privy council; in the enactment
of wise and useful laws for the ad­
ministration of justice, and the punish­
ment of oppression. For these pur­
poses, a parliament was held at Scone,
on the 2d of March 1371, and another
meeting of the estates took place in
April 1373, in which many improve­
ments were introduced, and some
abuses corrected.5 It seems at this
period to have been customary for the
lords of the king’s council to avail
themselves of the advice of private
persons, who sat along with them in
deliberation, although not elected to
that office. This practice was now
abolished. Sheriffs and other judges
were prohibited from asking or re­
ceiving presents from litigants of any
part of the sum or matter in dispute ;
several acts were passed relative to the
punishment of murder, in its various
degrees of criminality; ketherans, or
masterful beggars, were declared not
only liable to arrest, but, in case of
resistance, to be slain on the spot; and
all malversation by judges was pro­
nounced cognisable by a jury, and
punishable at the king’s pleasure.
These enactments point to a state of
things in which it was evidently far

4  Records of the Parliament of Scotland,
pp. 126, 127, sub anno 1372. Chamberlain
Accounts, vol. ii. p. 3.

5  Ibid. p. 124. The parliament consisted
of the dignified clergy, the earls, barons, and
free tenants in capite, with certain burgesses
summoned from each burgh.

1376-8.]                                          ROBERT II.                                                   331

easier to make laws than to carry them
into execution.1

In the meantime, England was
visited with two great calamities.
Edward prince of Wales, commonly
called the Black Prince, to the uni­
versal regret of the nation, and even
of his enemies, died at Westminster;
and his illustrious father, broken by
the severity of the stroke, and worn
out with the fatigues of war, survived
him scarcely a year. Anxious for the
tranquillity of his kingdom, it had
been his earnest wish to conclude a
peace with France; but even this was
denied him ; and he died on the 1st of
June 1377, leaving the reins of govern­
ment to fall into the hands of a boy of
eleven years of age, the eldest son of
the Black Prince, who was crowned at
Westminster, on the 11th July 1377,
by the title of Richard the Second.
Edward the Third was a monarch de­
servedly beloved by his people, and
distinguished for the wisdom and the
happy union of firmness and lenity
which marked his domestic adminis­
tration ; but his passion for conquest
and military renown, which he gratified
at an immense expense of money and
of human life, whilst it served to
throw that dangerous and fictitious
splendour over his reign which is yet
scarcely dissipated, was undoubtedly
destructive of the best and highest
interests of his kingdom. Nothing,
indeed, could afford a more striking
lesson on the vanity of foreign con­
quest, and the emptiness of human
grandeur, than the circumstances in
which he died : stript of the fairest
provinces which had been the fruit of
his victories, the survivor of his brave
son and his best captains, and at last
pillaged and deserted in his last mo­
ments by his faithless mistress and
ungrateful domestics. His death de­
livered Scotland for the time from
apprehension, and weakened in a great
measure those causes of suspicion and

1 Records of the Parliament of Scotland,
pp. 124, 125, sub anno 1371. A parliament
was held by Robert the Second at Scone, on
the 3d of April 1373, of which an important
document has been preserved, touching
the succession to the crown. Ibid, sub anno

distrust which have already been de­

But, although the action of these
was suspended, there were other sub­
jects of mutual irritation, which could
not be so easily removed. The feudal
system, which then existed in full
vigour in Scotland, contained within
itself materials the very reverse of
pacific. The power of the barons had
been decidedly increasing since the
days of Robert the First; the right of
private war was exercised by them in
its full extent; and, on the slightest
insult or injury offered to one of their
vassals by the English wardens of the
Border, they were ready to take the
law into their own hands, and at the
head of a force, which for the time
defied all resistance, to invade the
country, and inflict a dreadful ven­
geance. In this manner, the king was
frequently drawn in to support, or at
least to connive at, the atrocities of
a subject too powerful for him to
control or resist ; and a spark of
individual malice or private revenge
would kindle those materials, which
were ever ready to be inflamed, into
the wide conflagration of a general

The truth of these remarks was soon
shewn. At the fair of Roxburgh, a
gentleman, belonging to the bed-
chamber of the Earl of March, was
slain in a brawl by the English, who
then held the castle in their hands.
March, a grandson of the great Ran­
dolph, was one of the most powerful
of the Scottish nobles. He instantly
demanded redress, adding that, if it
was not given, he would not continue
to respect the truce; but his repre­
sentation was treated with scorn, and,
as the earl did not reply, it was
imagined he had forgotten the affront.
Time passed on, and the feast of St
Laurence arrived, which was the sea­
son for the next fair to be held, when
the town was again filled with the
English, who, in unsuspicious security,
had taken up their residence for the
purposes of traffic or pleasure. Early
in the morning, March, at the head of
an armed force, surprised and stormed
the town, set it on fire, and commenced

332                            HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                 [Chap. VII.

a pitiless slaughter of the English,
sparing neither age nor infancy. Many
who barricaded themselves in the
booths and houses, were dragged into
the streets and murdered, or met a
more dreadful death in the flames;
and the earl, at his leisure, drew off
his followers, enriched with plunder,
and glutted with revenge.1

This atrocious attack proved the
commencement of a series of hostili­
ties, which, although unauthorised by
either government, were carried on
with obstinate and systematic cruelty.
The English borderers flew to arms,
and broke in upon the lands of Sir
John Gordon, one of March’s principal
assistants in the recent attack upon
Roxburgh. Gordon, in return, having
collected his vassals, invaded England,
and carried away a large booty in
cattle and prisoners ; but, before he
could cross the Border, was attacked
in a mountain-pass by Sir John Lil-
burn, at the head of a body of knights
and men-at-arms, double the number
of the Scots. The skirmish was one
of great obstinacy, and constituted
what Froissart delights in describing
as a fair point of arms, in which there
were many empty saddles, and many
torn and trampled banners; but,
although grievously wounded, Gordon
made good his retreat, took Lilburn
prisoner, and secured his plunder.2
This last insult called down the wrath
of the English warden, Henry Percy,
earl of Northumberland, who, loudly
accusing the Scots of despising the
truce, at the head of an army of seven
thousand men, broke across the Bor­
der, and encamped near Dunse, with
the design of laying waste the exten­
sive possessions of the Earl of March,
which were situated in that quarter.
But this “Warden Raid,” which in­
volved such great preparations, ended
in a very ridiculous manner. The
great proportion of the English con­
sisted of knights and men-at-arms,
whose horses were picketed on the
outside of the encampment, under the
charge of the sutlers and camp-boys,

1 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 384. Winton,
vol. ii. p. 306. Walsingham, p. 198.
Winton, vol. ii. p. 309.

whilst their masters slept on their
arms in the centre. It was one of the
injunctions of the good King Robert’s
testament, to alarm the encampments
of the English

“ By wiles and wakening in the nycht,
And meikil noise made on hycht;”3

and in this instance Percy suffered
under its success. At the dead of
night, his position was surrounded,
not by an army, but by a multitude
of the common serfs and varlets, who
were armed only with the rattles
which they used in driving away the
wild beasts from their flocks; and
such was the consternation produced
amongst the horses and their keepers,
by the sounding of the rattles, and
the yells and shouting of the assail­
ants, whose numbers were magnified
by the darkness, that all was thrown
into disorder. Hundreds of horses
broke from the stakes to which they
were picketed, and fled masterless over
the country ; numbers galloped into
the encampment, and carried a panic
amongst the knights, who stood to
their arms, and every moment ex­
pected an attack : but no enemy ap­
peared; and when morning broke, the
Earl of Northumberland had the mor­
tification to discover at once the
ridiculous cause of the alarm, and *to
find that a great proportion of his
best soldiers were unhorsed, and com­
pelled, in their heavy armour, to find
their way back to England. A retreat
was ordered; and, after pillaging the
lands of the Earl of March, the war­
den recrossed the Border.4

It was unfortunate that these infrac­
tions of the truce, which were decid­
edly injurious to the best interests of
both countries, were not confined to
the eastern marches. The Baron of
Johnston, and his retainers and vas­
sals, harassed the English on the
western border;5 while at sea, a Scot­
tish naval adventurer, of great spirit
and enterprise, named Mercer, infested
the English shipping, and, at the head
of a squadron of armed vessels, con-

3  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 232.

4  Ibid. vol. i. p. 385. Winton. vol. ii. p. 309.
Winton, vol. ii. p. 311.

1378-80.]                                         ROBERT II.                                                   333

sisting of Scottish, French, and Span­
ish privateers, scoured the channel,
and took many rich prizes. The
father of this bold depredator is said
by Walsingham to have been a mer­
chant of opulence, who resided in
France, and was in high favour at the
French court. During one of his voy­
ages he had been taken by a North­
umbrian cruiser, and carried into
Scarborough;1 in revenge of which
insult, the son attacked this seaport,
and plundered its shipping. Such was
the inefficiency of the government of
Richard, that no measures were taken
against him; till at last Philpot, a
wealthy London merchant, at his own
expense fitted out an armament of
several large ships of war, and attack­
ing Mercer, entirely defeated him,
took him prisoner, and captured his
whole squadron, among which were
fifteen Spanish vessels, and many rich

It would be tedious and uninstruc-
tive to enter into any minute details
of the insulated and unimportant
hostilities which, without any precise
object, continued for some years to
agitate the two countries : committed
during the continuance of a truce,
which was publicly declared to be
respected by both governments, they
are to be regarded as the outbreakings
of the spirit of national rivalry engen­
dered by a long war, and the effects
of that love of chivalrous adventure
which was then at its height in
Europe. The deep-laid plans of Ed­
ward the Third for the entire sub­
jugation of Scotland were now at an
end; the character of the government
of Richard the Second, or rather of
his uncles, into whose hands the
management of the state had fallen,
was, with regard to Scotland, decid­
edly just and pacific ; and the wisest
policy for that country would have
been to have devoted her whole atten­
tion to the regulation of her internal
government, to the recruiting of her
finances, and the cultivation of those
arts which form the true sources of

1 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 16. 20th June,
2 Rich. II.
Walsingham, p. 211.

the prosperity and greatness of a king­
dom. Had the king been permitted
to follow the bent of his own disposi­
tion, there is reason to think that
these principles would have been
adopted; but the nobility was still
too powerful and independent for the
individual character of the sovereign
to have much influence; and the de­
sire of plunder, and the passion for
military adventure, rendered it im­
possible for such men to remain at

Another cause increased these hos­
tile feelings. Although the alliance
with France was no longer essentially
advantageous to Scotland, yet the con­
tinuance of the Scottish war was of
importance to France in the circum­
stances in which that country was
then placed, and no means were left
unemployed to secure it. The conse­
quence of all this was the perpetual
infringement of the truce by hostile
invasions, and the reiterated appoint­
ment of English and Scottish commis­
sioners, who were empowered to hold
courts on the Borders for the redress
of grievances. These repeated Bor­
der raids, which drew after them no
important results, are of little interest.
They had the worst effect, as they
tended greatly to increase the exas­
peration between the two countries,
and to render more distant and hope­
less the prospect of peace ; and they
become tedious when we are obliged
to regard them as no longer the simul­
taneous efforts of a nation in defence
of their independence, but the selfish
and disjointed expeditions of an aris­
tocracy whose principal objects were
plunder and military adventure. It
was in one of these that the castle of
Berwick was stormed and taken by a
small body of adventurers, led by
Alexander Ramsay, who, when sum­
moned by the Scottish and English
wardens, proudly replied, “that he
would give up his prize neither to the
monarch of England nor of Scotland,
but would keep it while he lived for
the King of France.” Some idea may
be formed of the ignorance of the
mode of attacking fortified towns in
those days from the circumstance that

334                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. VII.

the handful of Scottish borderers,
who were led by this intrepid soldier,
defended the castle for some time
against the Earl of Northumberland,
at the head of ten thousand men,
assisted by miners, mangonels, and
all the machinery for carrying on a

It was in this siege that Henry
Percy, afterwards so famous under the
name of Hotspur, first became ac­
quainted with arms; and a quarrel,
which had begun in a private plun­
dering adventure, ended in a more
serious manner. After making him­
self master of Berwick, the Earl
of Northumberland, along with the
Earl of Nottingham, and Sir Thomas
Musgrave, the governor of Berwick,
invaded the southern parts of Scot­
land; and Sir Archibald Douglas,
having under him a considerable force,
had advanced against him, but being
unable to cope with the army of
Percy, he retired and awaited the re­
sult. As he had probably expected,
Musgrave, who enjoyed a high reputa­
tion for military enterprise, pushed on
to Melrose at the head of an advanced
division, and suddenly on the march
found himself in the presence of Doug­
las and the Scottish army,—a conflict
became unavoidable, and it was con­
ducted with much preparatory pomp
and formality. Douglas called to him
two sons of King Robert, who were
then under his command, and knighted
them on the field; Musgrave conferred
the same honour on his son, and al­
though he was greatly outnumbered
by the Scots, trusting to the courage
of his little band, who were mostly of
high rank, and to the skill of the Eng­
lish archers, began the fight with high
hopes. But after a short and despe­
rate conflict, accompanied with a
grievous slaughter, the English were
defeated. It was the custom of Sir
Archibald Douglas, as we learn from
Froissart, when he found the fight be­
coming hot, to dismount, and attack
the enemy with a large two-handed
sword; and on this occasion, such was
the fury of his assault that nothing

1 Walsingham, p. 219. Frcissart, par Bu-
chon, vol. vii. pp. 44. 48. ,

could resist it.2 Musgrave and his
son, with many other knights and
esquires, were taken prisoners; and
Douglas, who felt himself unequal to
oppose the main army of Percy and
the Earl of Nottingham, fell back
upon Edinburgh. The succeeding
years were occupied in the same
course of Border hostilities, whilst in
England, to the miseries of invasion
and plunder was added the calamity
of a pestilence, which swept away
multitudes of her inhabitants, and by
weakening the power of resistance in­
creased the cruelty of her enemy.3

At length John of Gaunt, the duke
of Lancaster, who at this time directed
the counsels of his nephew, Richard
the Second, approached Scotland at
the head of a powerful army, although
he declared his object to be solely the
renewal of the truce, and the establish­
ment of peace and good order between
the two countries. Sir Archibald
Douglas, lord of Galloway, along with
the Bishops of Dunkeld and Glasgow,
and the Earls of Douglas and March,
were immediately appointed commis­
sioners to open a negotiation; and
having consented to a cessation of
hostilities, Lancaster disbanded his
army, and agreed to meet the Scottish
envoys in the following summer in a
more pacific guise, at the head of his
usual suite. The conference accord­
ingly took place, and the Earl of Car-
rick, the heir of the throne, managed
the negotiations on the part of Scot­
land, which concluded in an agreement
to renew the truce for the space of
three years, during which time the
English monarch consented to delay
the exaction of the remaining penalty
of the ransom of David the Second,
of which twenty-five thousand marks
were still due.4

It was at this time that the famous
popular insurrection, which was head­
ed by Wat Tyler, had arrived at its
height in England; and Lancaster,
who was suspected of having given
countenance to the insurgents, and

2  Froissart, par Buchon, vol. vii. p. 57.

3  Rotuli Scotiæ, June 7, 2 Rich. II., and
March 5, 5 Rich. II. vol. ii. pp. 16, 42.

4  Rymer, vol. vii. p. 312.

1381-5.]                                          ROBERT II.                                                   335

who dreaded the violence of a party
which had been formed against him,
found himself in an awkward and
perilous dilemma. He begged per­
mission of the Earl of Carrick to be
permitted to retreat for a short season
into Scotland; and the request was
not only granted., but accompanied
with circumstances which marked the
courtesy of the age. The Earl of
Douglas, along with Sir Archibald
Douglas, lord of Galloway, conducted
him with a brilliant retinue to Had-
dington, from which they proceeded
to Edinburgh, where the Abbey of
Holyrood was fitted up for his recep­
tion. Gifts and presents were made
to him by the Scottish nobles, and
here he remained till the fury of the
storm was abated, and he could return
in safety, escorted by a convoy of
eight hundred Scottish spears, to the
court of his nephew.1 This friendly
conduct, and the desire of remaining
at peace, which was felt by both
monarchs, might have been expected
to have averted hostilities for some
time; yet such was the influence of a
restless aristocracy, that previous to
the expiry of this truce Scotland again
consented to be involved in a negotia­
tion with the French king, which
eventually entailed upon the nation
the calamities of a war, undertaken
with no precise object, and carried on
at an immense expense of blood and

The foundation of this new treaty
appears to have been those secret
articles regarding an invasion of Eng­
land, which have been already men­
tioned. A prospect of the large sum
of forty thousand franks of gold, to
be distributed amongst the Scottish
nobles, and an engagement to send
into Scotland a body of a thousand
men-at-arms, with a supply of a thou­
sand suits of armour, formed a temp­
tation which could not easily be
resisted; and although no definite
agreement was concluded, it became
evident to England that her enemy
had abandoned all pacific intentions.2

1 Winton, vol. ii. pp. 315, 316.
Records of the Parliament of Scotland,
sub anno 1383, p. 131.

When the truce expired, the war
was renewed with increased rancour.
Lochmaben, a strong castle, which
had been long in the hands of the
English, was taken by Sir Archibald
Douglas; 3 and the Duke of Lancaster
invaded Scotland at the head of a
numerous army, and accompanied by
a fleet of victualling ships, which an­
chored in the Forth near Queensferry.
But the expedition was singularly un­
fortunate. Although it was now the
month of March, the Scottish winter
had not concluded, and the cold was
intense. Lancaster, after exhausting
the English northern counties in the
support of his host, pushed on to Edin­
burgh, which his knights and captains
were eager to sack and destroy. In
this, however, they were disappointed ;
for the English commander, mindful
of the generous hospitality which he
had lately experienced, commanded
the army to encamp at a distance from
the town, and issued the strictest
orders that none should leave the
ranks. For three days parties of the
Scots could be seen carrying off every­
thing that was valuable, and trans­
porting their goods and chattels be­
yond the Forth. Numbers of the
English soldiers, in the meantime, be­
gan to be seized with sickness, occa­
sioned by exhalations from the marches;
and within a short time, five hundred
horses died of cold. When at length
permitted to advance to Edinburgh,
the soldiers, as was to be expected,
found nothing to supply their urgent
wants : the Scots had even carried off
the straw roofs of their wooden
houses; and having retreated into
the woods and strongholds, quietly
awaited the retreat of the English;
and began their usual mode of warfare,
by cutting off the foraging parties
which, disregarding the orders of Lan­
caster, were compelled, by the calls of
hunger, to leave the encampment.4
In the meantime, Sir Alexander Lind­
say had attacked and put to the
sword the crew of one of the English
ships which had made good a landing
on the ground above Queensferry; and

3 Winton, vol. ii. p. 317.
Walsingham, pp. 308, 309.

336                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. VII.

the King of Scotland had issued orders
to assemble an army, for the purpose
of intercepting Lancaster in his retreat
to England.

At this crisis, ambassadors arrived
from France, to notify the truce lately
concluded between that country and
England ; whilst, at the same time, in
the spirit of military adventure, then
so prevalent, a party of French knights
and esquires, tired of being idle at
home, took shipping for Scotland, and,
on their arrival at Edinburgh, found
the Scottish parliament deliberating
on the propriety of prosecuting the
war. The king and the nobles were
divided in their opinion. Robert, with
true wisdom, and a desire to promote
the best interests of his people, desired
peace; and whilst he received the
French knights with kindness and
courtesy, commanded them and his
nobles to lay aside all thoughts of
hostilities. Meanwhile Lancaster had
profited by the interval allowed him,
and made good his retreat; which was
accompanied, as usual in these expedi­
tions, with the total devastation of the
country through which he passed, and
the plunder of the immense estates of
the Border earls. To them, and to
the rest of the nobility, the king’s
proposal was particularly unsatisfac­
tory ; nor are we to wonder that
when their fields and woods, their
manors and villages, were still black­
ened with the fires of the English, and
their foot had been in the stirrup to
pursue them, the counter order of the
king, and the message of the French
envoys regarding the truce, came
rather unseasonably.

These, however, were not the days
when Scottish barons, having resolved
upon war, stood upon much ceremony,
either as to the existence of a truce, or
the commands of a sovereign. It was,
accordingly, privately determined by
the Earls of Mar and Douglas, along
with Sir Archibald, the lord of Gallo­
way, that the foreign knights who had
travelled so far to prove their chivalry
should not be disappointed, and after
a short stay at Edinburgh they were
surprised by receiving a secret mes­
sage from Douglas requiring them to

repair to his castle at Dalkeith, where
they were warmly welcomed; and,
again taking horse, found themselves,
in three days’ riding, in the presence
of an army of fifteen thousand men,
mounted on active hackneys, and
lightly armed after the fashion of their
country.1 With this force they in­
stantly broke into the northern coun­
ties of England; wasted the towns
and villages with fire and sword;
wreaked their vengeance upon the
estates of the Earls of Northumber­
land and Nottingham; and returned
with a large booty in prisoners and
cattle. We learn from Froissart, that
the King of Scotland was ignorant of
this infraction of the truce; and in
much concern immediately despatched
a herald to explain the circumstances
to the English court.2 But it is more
probable that, knowing of the in­
tended expedition, he was unable to
prevent it. However this might be,
its consequences were calamitous ; for,
as usual, it brought an instantaneous
retaliation upon the part of the Earl
of Northumberland ; and the French
knights, on their return to their own
country, spoke so highly in favour of
the pleasures of a Scottish “raid,”
and the facilities offered to an attack
upon England in this quarter, that
the King of France began to think
seriously of carrying the projected
treaty, to which we have already
alluded, into immediate execution,
and of sending an army into Scot­

An interval, which cannot be said
to belong either to peace or to war,
succeeded these events, and offers little
of general interest: the Border inroads
being continued with equal and un­
varied cruelty ; but in a meeting of
the parliament, which took place at
Edinburgh, a few provisions were
passed regarding the state of the
country, which are not unworthy of

1  Froissart, vol. ix. p. 27. Walsingham, p.
309. About this time, the remaining part of
Teviotdale, which, since the battle of Dur­
ham, had been in the hands of the English,
was recovered by the exertions of the Earl of
Douglas. Winton, vol. ii. p. 322.

2 Froissart, par Buchon, vol. ix. p. 28.
Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. 1385, p. 63.

1385.]                                            ROBERT II.                                                 337

notice.1 It was determined that those
greater and lesser barons to whom the
sovereign, in the event of war, had
committed certain divisions of the
kingdom should have their array of
men-at-arms and archers in such readi­
ness, that, as soon as required, they
should be ready to pass to the Borders
in warlike apparel, with horse, arms,
and provisions; so that the lands
through which the host marched
should not be wasted by their exac­

It appears that grievous injury had
been suffered, owing to the total want
of all law and justice in the northern
districts of the kingdom. Troops of
feudal robbers, chiefs who lived by
plunder, and owned no allegiance
either to king or earl, traversed the
Highland districts, and enlisted into
their service malefactors and ketherans,
who, without respect to rank or au­
thority, burnt, slew, and plundered,
wherever their master chose to lead.
This dreadful state of things called
for immediate attention ; and to the
Earl of Carrick, the heir to the throne,
was the arduous affair intrusted. He
was commanded to repair instantly to
the disordered districts, at the head
of a force which might insure obe­
dience ; to call a meeting of the wisest
landholders of these northern parts;
and, having taken their advice, to
adopt such speedy measures as should
strike terror into the guilty, and
restore order and good government
throughout the land.2

The large district of Teviotdale,
which had long been in the possession
of the English, having been now
cleared of these intruders and restored
to the kingdom by the arms of the
Earl of Douglas, it became necessary
to adopt measures for the restoration
of their lands to those proprietors who
had been expelled from them during
the occupation of the country by the
enemy. It was ordered that all per­
sons in Teviotdale who had lately
transferred their allegiance from the

1 Records of the Parliament of Scotland,
sub anno 1385, p. 133.

2 Cartulary of Aberdeen, Advoc. Library,
pp. 104, 105.

King of England to the King of Scot­
land should, within eight days, exhibit
to the Chancellor their charters, con­
taining the names of the lands and
possessions which they claimed as
their hereditary right, wherever they
happened to be situated; along with
the names of those persons who now
possessed them, and of the sheriffdoms
within whose jurisdiction they were
situated. The object of this was to
enable all those persons who, on the
part of the claimants in Teviotdale,
were about to receive letters of sum­
mons from the Chancellor, to present
their letters with such diligence to the
sheriffs, as to enable these officers with­
in eight days to expedite the proper
citations. It was, besides, ordained
that the Chancellor should direct the
king’s letters to the various sheriffs,
commanding them to summon all
persons who then held or asserted
their right to hold any lands, to ap­
pear before the king and council,
bringing with them their charters and
title-deeds, that they might hear the
final decision on the subject.3

The next provision of the parlia­
ment introduces us to a case of feudal
oppression, strikingly characteristic of
the times, and evinces how feeble and
impotent was the arm of the law
against the power of the aristocracy.
William de Fentoun complained that
he had been unjustly expelled from
his manor of Fentoun by a judgment
pronounced in the court of the Baron
of Dirleton. He immediately appealed
to the Sheriff of Edinburgh, and was
restored. Again was he violently
thrust out: upon which he carried his
cause before the king’s privy council,
and by their solemn award his lands
were once more restored. In the face
of this last decision by the sovereign
and his council, this unfortunate
person continued to be excluded
from his property by the Baron of
Dirleton, who, against all law, vio­
lently kept him down; so that he
was compelled, in extreme distress,
to appeal to the parliament. This
case of reiterated tyranny and oppres-

3 Records of the Parliament of Scotland
sub anno 1385, p. 1:3,

338                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. VII.

sion having been proved by the evi­
dence of the sheriff, it was resolved
that Fentoun, without delay, should
be reinstated by the royal power, and
that the rents due since the period of
his expulsion should be instantly re­
stored to him. Whether this final
judgment by the court of last resort
was more successful than the former
sentences against this feudal tyrant,
cannot now be discovered; but it is
very possible that Fentoun never re­
covered his property. The remaining
provisions of the parliament are of
little moment, and relate chiefly to
the amicable arrangement of some
disputes which had arisen between
the Earls of Buchan and of Strathern,
both of them sons of the king.

An event of great interest and im­
portance now claims our attention, in
the expedition of John de Vienne,
the admiral of France, into Scotland.
It is one of the miserable consequences
of war and the passion for conquest
that they almost indefinitely perpetu­
ate the evils which they originally
produce. A nation once unjustly at­
tacked, and for a time treated as a
conquered people, is not satisfied with
the mere defence of its rights, or the
simple expulsion of its invaders :
wounded pride, hatred, the desire of
revenge, the love of plunder, or of
glory, all provoke retaliation ; and
man delights to inflict upon his enemy
the extremity of misery from which
he has just escaped himself. France
accordingly began to ponder upon the
best mode of carrying the war into
England; and the representations of
the knights who had served in the
late expedition of Douglas had a
strong effect in recommending an in­
vasion through Scotland. They re­
marked that the English did not fight
so well in their own country as on the
continent;1 and without adverting to
the true cause of Douglas’s success in
the skill with which he seized the
moment when Lancaster’s army had
dispersed, and his rapid retreat before
the English wardens could assemble
their forces, they contrasted the obsti­
nacy with which the English disputed
Froissart, par Buchon, vol. ix. p. 162.

every inch of ground in France with
the facility with which they them­
selves had been permitted to march
and plunder in England.

It was accordingly determined to
fulfil the stipulations of the last treaty,
and to attack the English king upon
his own ground, by sending a large
body of auxiliaries into Scotland, and
co-operating with that nation in an in­
vasion . For this purpose they selected
John de Vienne, admiral of France,
and one of the most experienced cap­
tains of the age, who embarked at
Sluys, in Flanders, with a thousand
knights, esquires, and men-at-arms,
forming the flower of the French
army, besides a body of cross ­bowmen
and common soldiers, composing alto­
gether a force of two .thousand men.
He carried along with him fourteen
hundred suits of armour for the Scot­
tish knights, and fifty thousand franks
of gold,2 to be paid on his arrival to
the king and his barons. It was de­
termined to attack England at the
same time by sea; and a naval arma­
ment for this purpose had been pre­
pared at a great expense by the French.
But this part of the project was unsuc­
cessful, and the fleet never sailed.

Meanwhile all seemed to favour the
expedition of Vienne. The wind was
fair, the weather favourable—for it
was in the month of May—and the
transports, gleaming with their splen­
did freight of chivalry, and gay with
innumerable banners, were soon wafted
to the Scottish coast, and cast anchor
in the ports of Leith and Dunbar.
They were warmly welcomed by the
Scottish barons : and the sight of the
suits of foreign armour, then highly
prized, with the promise of a liberal
distribution of the French gold, could
not fail to make a favourable impres­
sion.3 On the arrival of the admiral

2 Winton, vol. ii. p. 324. He says there
were eight hundred knights, of which num­
ber a hundred and four were knights-ban­
nerets ; , and besides this, four hundred
arblasts or crossbows.

3 The proportion in which the French
money was distributed amongst the Scottish
nobles gives us a pretty correct idea of the
comparative consequence and power of the
various members of the Scottish aristocracy.
See Rymer, vol. vii. pp. 484, 485.

1385.]                                             ROBERT II.                                                    339

at Edinburgh, he found that the king
was then residing in the district which
Froissart denominates the wild of
Scotland,—meaning, perhaps, his pa­
lace of Stirling, which is on the bor­
ders of a mountainous country. His
speedy arrival, however, was looked
for ; and till then the Earls of Moray
and Douglas took charge of the
strangers. To provide lodgings for
them all in Edinburgh was impossible;
and in the efforts made to house their
fastidious allies, who had been accus­
tomed to the hotels of Paris, we are
presented with a striking picture of
the poverty of this capital, when con­
trasted with the wealth and magnitude
of the French towns. It became neces­
sary to furnish quarters for the knights
in the adjacent villages; and the ne­
cessity of billeting such splendid guests
upon the burgesses, farmers, and yeo­
men occasioned loud and grievous
murmurs. Dunfermline, Queensferry,
Kelso, Dunbar, Dalkeith, and many
other towns and villages not men­
tioned by Froissart, were filled with
strangers speaking a foreign language,
appropriating to themselves without
ceremony the best of everything they
saw, and assuming an air of superiority
which the Scots could not easily tole­
rate. Mutual dissatisfaction and hatred
naturally arose; and although the
Earls of Douglas and Moray, who were
well contented with an expedition
which promised them the money of
France as well as the plunder of Eng­
land, continued to treat the French
with kindness and courtesy, the people
and the lesser barons began to quarrel
with the intruders, and to adopt every
method for their distress and annoy­
ance. All this is feelingly described
by the delightful and garrulous histo­
rian of the period :—“ What evil spirit
hath brought you here ? was,” he tells
us, “ the common expression employed
by the Scots to their allies. Who
sent for you ? Cannot we maintain
our war with England well enough
without your help? Pack up your
goods and begone ; for no good will
be done as long as ye are here ! We
neither understand you nor you us.
We cannot communicate together, and

in a short time we shall be completely
rifled and eaten up by such troops of
locusts. What signifies a war with
England ? the English never occa­
sioned such mischief as ye do. They
burned our houses, it is true ; but
that was all: and with four or five
stakes, and plenty green boughs to
cover them, they were rebuilt almost
as soon as they were destroyed.” It
was not, however, in words only that
the French were thus ill-treated. The
Scottish peasants rose against the for­
aging parties, and cut them off. In a
month more than a hundred men were
slain in this manner, and, at last, none
ventured to leave their quarters.1

At length the king arrived at Edin­
burgh, and a council was held by the
knights and barons of both nations,
on the subject of an immediate inva­
sion of England. And here new dis­
putes and heartburnings arose. It
was soon discovered that Robert was
averse to war. “He was,” says Frois-
sart, whose information regarding this
expedition is in a high degree minute
and curious, “a comely tall man, but
with eyes so bloodshot that they
looked as if they were lined with
scarlet; and it soon became evident
that he himself preferred a quiet life
to war; yet he had nine sons who
loved arms.” The arguments of his
barons, joined to the remonstrances of
Vienne, and the distribution of the
French gold, in the end overcame the
repugnance of the king; and the ad-
miral had soon the satisfaction of
seeing an army of thirty thousand
horse assembled in the fields near

Unaccustomed, however, to the
Scottish mode of carrying on war, and
already disposed to quarrel on account
of the injuries they had met with, the
French were far from cordially co-
operating with their allies ; so that it
was found necessary to hold a council
of officers, and to draw up certain
regulations for the maintenance of
order during the expedition, which
were to be equally binding upon the
soldiers of both nations. Some of

1 Froissart, par Buchon, vol. ix. pp. 155

340                           HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                 [Chap. VII

these articles are curious and charac­
teristic :—No pillage was permitted in
Scotland under pain of death; the
merchants and victuallers who fol­
lowed or might resort to the camp
were to be protected and have prompt
payment; any soldier who killed
another was to be hanged; if any
varlet defied a gentleman, he was to
lose his ears; and if any gentleman chal­
lenged another he was to be put under
arrest and justice done according to
the advice of the officers. In the case
of any riot arising between the French
and the Scots, no appeal to arms was
to be permitted ; but care was to be
taken to arrest the ringleaders, who
were to be punished by the council of
the officers. When riding against the
enemy, if a French or a Scottish man-
at-arms should bear an Englishman to
the earth, he was to have half his
ransom; no burning of churches, ra-
vishing or slaughter of women or in­
fants, was to be suffered; and every
French and Scottish soldier was to
wear a white St Andrew’s cross on
his back and breast; which, if his
surcoat or jacket was white, was to
be embroidered on a division of black

It being now time to commence the
campaign, the army broke at once across
the marches, and after a destructive
progress appeared before the castle of
Roxburgh. The king’s sons, along
with De Vienne, the admiral, and the
Earls of Douglas, Mar, Moray, and
Sutherland, were the Scottish leaders;
but Robert himself, unwieldy from his
age, remained at Edinburgh. Rox­
burgh castle, strong in its fortifications
and excellently situated for defence,
offered little temptation to a siege.
For many months it might have been
able to defy the most obstinate attacks
of the united powers of France and
Scotland; and all idea of making
themselves masters of it being aban-
doned, the army pushed on towards
Berwick, and with difficulty carried by
assault the two smaller fortalices of
Ford and Cornal, which were bravely
defended by an English knight and

1 Records of the Parliament of Scotland,
sub anno 1385, pp. 135. 136.

his son.2 Wark, one of the strongest
Border castles, commanded by Sir
John Lusborn, was next assaulted;
and after a severe loss stormed and
taken chiefly, if we may believe Frois-
sart, by the bravery of the French;
whilst the country was miserably
wasted by fire and sword, and the
plunder and the prisoners slowly
driven after the host, which advanced
by Alnwick, and carried their ravages
to the gates of Newcastle. Word was
now brought that the Duke of Lan­
caster and the barons of the bishoprics
of York and Durham, with the Earls
of Northumberland and Nottingham,
had collected a powerful force, and
were advancing by forced marches to
meet the enemy ; and here it became
necessary for the captains of the dif­
ferent divisions to deliberate whether
they should await them where they
were and hazard a battle, or fall back
upon their own country. This last
measure the Scots naturally preferred.
It was their usual mode of proceeding
to avoid all great battles ; and the re­
sult of the war of liberty had shewn
the wisdom of the practice. Indeed,
outnumbered as they always were by
the English, and far inferior to them
in cavalry, in archers, in the strength
of their horses and the temper of their
arms, it would have been folly to have
attempted it. But Vienne, one of the
best and proudest soldiers in Europe,
could not enter into this reasoning.
He and his splendid column of
knights, squires, and archers were
anxious for battle; and it was with
infinite reluctance that he suffered
himself to be over-persuaded by the
veteran experience of Douglas and
Moray, and consented to fall back
upon Berwick.

In the meantime the King of Eng­
land assembled an army more potent
in numbers and equipment than any
which had visited Scotland for a long
period. It was the first field of the
young monarch; and his barons, eager
to demonstrate their loyalty, attended
with so full a muster, that, according
to a contemporary English historian,
three hundred thousand horses were
2 Winton, vol. ii, p. 324,

1385.]                                             ROBERT II.                                                   341

employed.1 The unequal terms upon
which a richer and a poorer country
make war on each other were never
more strikingly evinced than in the
result of these English and Scottish
expeditions. The Scots, breaking in
upon the rich fields of England, mount­
ed on their hardy little hackneys,
which lived on so little in their own
country that any change was for the
better; carrying nothing with them
but their arms ; inured to all weathers
and fearlessly familiar with danger,
found war a pastime rather than an
inconvenience; enriched themselves
with plunder, which they transported
with wonderful expedition from place
to place, and at last safely landed it at
home. Intimately acquainted with
the seat of war, on the approach of the
English, they could accept or decline
battle as they thought best; if out­
numbered, as was generally the case,
they retired, and contented themselves
with cutting off the convoys or forag­
ing parties and securing their booty;
if the English, from want of pro­
visions or discontent and disunion
amongst the leaders, commenced their
retreat, it was infested by their un­
wearied enemy, who instantly pushed
forward, and hovering round their line
of march, never failed to do them
serious mischief. On the other hand,
the very strength and warlike and
complicated equipment of the English
army proved its ruin, or at least totally
defeated its object; and this was soon
seen in the result of Richard’s inva­
sion. The immense mass of his host
slowly proceeded through the Border
counties by Liddesdale and Teviot-
dale,2 devouring all as they passed
on, and leaving behind them a black
desert. In no place did they meet an
enemy; the Scots had stript the
country of everything but the green
crops on the ground; and empty vil­
lages which were given to the flames,
and churches and monasteries razed

Walsingham, pp. 316, 537. Otterburn,
p. 161.

2 In the Archæologia, vol. xxii. part i. p.
13, will be found an interesting paper, de­
scribing the army of Richard and its leaders,
printed from a MS. in the British Museum,
and communicated by Sir Harris Nicolas.

and plundered, formed the only tri­
umphs of the campaign.

One event, however, is too charac­
teristic to be omitted. When the
news of this great expedition reached
the camp of Douglas and Vienne, who
had fallen back towards Berwick, the
Scots, although aware of the folly of
attempting to give battle, yet deemed
it prudent to approach nearer, and
watch the progress of their enemy.
Here, again, the impatient temper of
the French commander broke out, and
he insisted that their united strength
was equal to meet the English, on
which the Earl of Douglas requested
him to ride with him to a neighbour­
ing eminence, and reason the matter
as they went. The admiral consented,
and was surprised when they arrived
there to hear the tramp of horse and
the sound of martial music, Douglas
had, in truth, brought him to a height
which hung over a winding mountain
pass, through which the English army
were at that moment defiling, and
from whence, without the fear of dis­
covery, they could count the banners
and perceive its strength. The argu­
ment thus presented was not to be
questioned, and Vienne, with his
knights, permitted themselves to be di­
rected by the superior knowledge and
military skill of the Scottish leaders.3

Meanwhile, King Richard pushed on
to the capital. The beautiful Abbeys
of Melrose and Dryburgh were given
to the flames; Edinburgh was burned
and plundered, and nothing spared but
the Monastery of Holyrood. It had
lately, as we have seen, afforded a re­
treat to John of Gaunt, the king’s
uncle, who now accompanied him,
and, at his earnest entreaty, was ex-
cepted from the general ruin. But
the formidable expedition of the king
was here concluded, and that unwise
and selfish spirit of revenge and de­
struction, which had wasted the coun­
try, began to recoil upon the heads
of its authors.4 Multitudes perished

3  Froissart, par Buchon. vol. ix. p. 144.

4 Froissart, vol. ix.p.147, asserts that the Eng­
lish burnt St Johnston, Dundee, and pushed on
as far as Aberdeen ; but I have followed Wal-
singham and Fordun, who give the account
pf their ravages as it is found in the text.

342                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. VII.

from want, and provisions became
daily more scarce in the camp. In
such circumstances, the Duke of Lan­
caster advised that they should pass
the Forth, and, imitating the example
of Edward the First, attack and over­
whelm the northern counties. But
Richard, who scrupled not to accuse
his uncle of treasonable motives, in
proposing so desperate a project,
which was, in truth, likely to in­
crease the difficulties of their situation,
resolved to retreat instantly by the
same route which he had already tra­

Before this, however, could be
effected, the Scottish army, with their
French auxiliaries, broke into Eng­
land by the western marches; and,
uniting their forces with those of Sir
Archibald Douglas, lord of Galloway,
ravaged Cumberland with a severity
which was increased by the accounts
of the havoc committed by the Eng­
lish. Towns, villages, manors, and
hamlets were indiscriminately plun­
dered and razed to the ground; crowds
of prisoners, herds of cattle, waggons
and sumpter-horses, laden with the
wealth of burghers and yeomen, were
driven along ; and the parks and plea­
sure grounds of the Earls of Notting­
ham and Stafford, of the Mowbrays,
the Musgraves, and other Border
barons, swept of their wealth, and
plundered with a merciless cruelty,
which increased to the highest pitch
the animosity between the two nations,
and rendered the prospect of peace
remote and almost hopeless. After
this destruction, the united armies
made an unsuccessful assault upon the
city of Carlisle,1 the fortifications of
which withstood their utmost efforts ;
and upon this repulse, which seems to
have renewed the heartburning be­
tween the French and Scots, they
again crosse the Border, the French
boasting, they had burnt, de­
stroyed, and plundered more in the
bishoprics of Durham and Carlisle
than was to be found in all the towns
of Scotland put together.2

1 Winton, vol. ii. p. 325, affirms they would
not assault Carlisle, for “ thai dred tynsale of

When the army reached their former
quarters, and proceeded to encamp in
Edinburgh and the adjacent country,
an extraordinary scene presented itself.
The land, so late a solitary desert, was
in a few hours alive with multitudes
of the Scots, who emerged from the
woods and mountain passes, driving
their flocks and cattle before them,
accompanied by their wives and chil­
dren, and returning with their chattels
and furniture to the burnt and black­
ened houses which they had aban­
doned to the enemy. The cheerful­
ness with which they bore these
calamities, and set themselves to re­
pair the havoc which had been com­
mitted, appears to have astonished
their refined allies; but the presence
of two thousand Frenchmen, and the
difficulty of finding them provisions,
was an additional evil which they were
not prepared to bear so easily; and
when the Admiral of France, to lighten
the burden, abandoned his design of a
second invasion of England, and per­
mitted as many as chose to embark for
France, the Scots refused to furnish
transports, or to allow a single vessel
to leave their ports, until the French
knights had paid them for the injuries
they had inflicted by riding through
their country, trampling and destroy­
ing their crops, cutting down their
woods to build lodgings, and plunder­
ing their markets. To these conditions
Vienne was compelled to listen; in­
deed, such was the miserable condition
in which the campaign had left his
knights and men-at-arms, who were
now for the most part unhorsed, and
dispirited by sickness and privation,
that to have provoked the Scots
might have led to serious conse­
quences. He agreed, therefore, to dis­
charge the claims of damage and re­
paration which were made against his
soldiers; and for himself came under
an obligation not to leave the country
till they were fully satisfied, his
knights being permitted to return

These stipulations were strictly ful­
filled. Ships were furnished by the

2 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 401. Frois-
sart, par Buchon, vol. ix. p, 155.

1385-7.1                                         ROBERT IT.                                                    343

Scots, and, to use the expressive lan­
guage of Froissart, “ divers knights
and squires had passage, and returned
into Flanders, as wind and weather
drove them, with neither horse nor
harness, right poor and feeble, cursing
the day that ever they came upon
such an adventure; and fervently de­
siring that the Kings of France and
England would conclude a peace for a
year or two, were it only to have the
satisfaction of uniting their armies,
and utterly destroying the realm of
Scotland.” Some knights who were
fond of adventure, and little anxious
to return to France in so miserable
a condition, passed on to Denmark,
Norway, and Sweden; others took
shipping for Ireland, desirous of visit­
ing the famous cavern known by the
name of the purgatory of St Patrick;1
and Vienne himself, after having
corresponded with his government,
and discharged the claims which were
brought against him, took leave of the
king and nobles of Scotland, and
returned to Paris.

Such was the issue of an expedition
fitted out by France at an immense
expense, and which, from being hastily
undertaken, and only partially exe­
cuted, concluded in vexation and dis­
appointment. Had the naval arma­
ment which was to have attacked Eng­
land on the south been able to effect
a descent, and had the Constable of
France, according to the original in­
tention, co-operated with Vienne, at
the head of a large body of Genoese
cross-bowmen and men-at-arms,2 the
result might perhaps have been dif­
ferent ; but the great causes of failure
are to be traced to the impossibility of
reconciling two systems of military
operations so perfectly distinct as those
of the Scots and the French, and of
supporting for any length of time, in
so poor a country as Scotland, such a
force as was able to offer battle to the
English with any fair prospect of suc­
cess. One good effect resulted from
the experience gained in this campaign.
It convinced the Scots of the superior

1 See Rymer, Fœdera, vol. viii. p. 14.
Froissart, par Buchon, vol. ix. p. 162.

excellence of their own tactics, which
consisted in employing their light
cavalry solely in plunder, or in attacks
upon the archers when they were
forced to fight, and in opposing to the
heavy-armed cavalry of the English
their infantry alone, with their firm
squares and long spears. It also
taught them that any foreign auxiliary
force of the heavy-armed cavalry of
the continent was of infinitely greater
encumbrance than assistance in their
wars with England, as they must
either be too small to produce any
effect against the overwhelming armies
of that country, or too numerous to be
supported, without occasioning severe

Upon the departure of the French,
the war continued with great spirit;
and from the imbecility of the govern­
ment of Richard the Second, a feeble
opposition was made against the suc­
cesses of the Scots. The systematic
manner in which their invasions were
conducted is apparent from the plan
and details of that which immediately
Succeeded the expedition of Vienne.
It was remembered by the Scottish
leaders that in the general devastation
which had been lately inflicted upon
the English Border counties that por­
tion of Cumberland, including the
rich and fertile district of Cocker-
mouth and the adjacent country, had
not been visited since the days of
Robert Bruce; and it was judged
proper to put an end to this exemp­
tion. Robert, earl of Fife, the kings
second son, James, earl of Douglas,
and Sir Archibald Douglas, lord of
Galloway, at the head of thirty thou­
sand light troops, passed the Solway,
and for three days3 plundered and
laid waste the whole of this beautiful
district; so that, to use the expression
of Fordun, the feeblest in the Scottish
host had his hands full: nor do they
appear to have met with the slightest
opposition. A singular and character­
istic anecdote of this expedition is

3 Forclun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 403. “Excr-
citum caute et quasi imperceptibiliter duce-
bat usque ad Cokirmouth, . . . per terrain a
diebus Domin Roberti de Bruce regis a Scotis
non invasam.”

S44                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. VII.

preserved by this historian. Amid
the plunder, an ancient Saxon charter
of King Athelstane, with a waxen
seal appended to it, was picked up
by some of the soldiers, and carried
to the Earl of Fife, afterwards the
celebrated Regent Albany. Its lucid
brevity astonished the feudal baron :—
“I, King Adelstane, giffys here to
Paulan, Oddam and Roddam, als glide
and als fair, as ever thai myn war;
and thairto witnes Mald my wyf.”
Often, says the historian, after the
Earl became Duke of Albany and
Governor of Scotland, when the tedi­
ous and wordy charters of our modern
days were recited in the causes which
came before him, he would recall to
memory this little letter of King
Athelstane, and declare there was
more truth and good faith in those
old times than now, when the new
race of lawyers had brought in such
frivolous exceptions and studied pro­
lixity of forms.1 It is singular to
meet with a protestation against the
unnecessary multiplication of words
and clauses in legal deeds at so remote
a period.

At the time of this invasion, another
enterprise took place, which nearly
proved fatal to its authors : a descent
upon Ireland by Sir William Douglas,
the natural son of Sir Archibald of
Galloway, commonly called the Black
Douglas. This young knight appears
to have been the Scottish Paladin of
those days of chivalry. His form and
strength were almost gigantic; and
what gave a peculiar charm to his
warlike prowess was the extreme
gentleness of his manners : sweet,
brave, and generous, he was as faith­
ful to his friends as he was terrible to
his enemies. These qualities had
gained him the hand of the king’s
daughter Egidia: a lady of such
beauty, that the King of France is
said to have fallen in love with her
from the description of some of his
courtiers, and to have privately de­
spatched a painter into Scotland to
bring him her picture; when he
found, to his disappointment, that the

Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii, p 403,

princess had disposed of her heart in
her own country.2

At this time the piracies of the
Irish on the coast of Galloway pro­
voked the resentment of Douglas,
who, at the head of five hundred
lances, made a descent upon the Irish
coast at Carlingford, and immediately
assaulted the town with only a part
of his force, finding it difficult to
procure small boats to land the whole.
Before, however, he had made him­
self master of the outworks, the
citizens, by the promise of a large
sum of money, procured an armistice ;
after which, under cover of night,
they despatched a messenger to Dun-
dalk for assistance, who represented
the small number of the Scots, and
the facility of overpowering them.
Douglas, in the meantime, of an
honest and unsuspicious temper, had
retired to the shore, and was busied
in superintending the lading of his
vessels, when he discerned the ap­
proach of the English, and had scarce
time to form his little phalanx, before
he was attacked not only by them
but by a sally from the town. Yet
this treacherous conduct was entirely
unsuccessful : although greatly out­
numbered, such was the superior disci­
pline and skill of the Scots, that every
effort failed to pierce their columns,
and they at length succeeded in totally
dispersing the enemy ; after which the
town was burnt to the ground, the
castle and its works demolished, and
fifteen merchant ships, which lay at
anchor, laden with goods, seized by
the victors.3 They then set sail for
Scotland, ravaged the Isle of Man as
they returned, and landed safely at
Lochryan in Galloway; from which
Douglas took horse and joined his
father, who, with the Earl of Fife,
had broken across the Border, and
was then engaged in an expedition
against the western districts of Eng­

The origin of this invasion requires
particular notice, as it led to import­
ant results, and terminated in the

2  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 403.

3  Fordun a Hearne. pp. 1073, 1074. Win-
ton, vol. ii. pp. 335, 336.

1387-8.]                                          ROBERT II.                                                  345

celebrated battle of Otterburn. The
Scots had not forgotten the miserable
havoc which was inflicted upon the
country by the late expedition of the
King of England ; and as this country
was now torn by disputes between the
weak monarch and his nobility, it was
deemed a proper juncture to retaliate.
To decide upon this, a council was
held at Edinburgh. The king was
now infirm from age, and wisely
anxious for peace; but his wishes
were overruled, and the management
of the campaign intrusted by the
nobles to his second son, the Earl of
Fife, upon whom the hopes of the
warlike part of the nation chiefly
rested, his elder brother, the Earl of
Carrick, who was next heir to the
crown, being of a feeble constitution,
and little able to endure the fatigues
of the field. It was resolved that
there should be a general muster of
the whole military force of the king­
dom at Jedburgh, preparatory to an
invasion, upon a scale likely to insure
an ample retribution for their losses.1
The rumour of this great summons
of the vassals of the crown soon
reached England; and the barons, to
whom the care of the Borders was
committed, began to muster their
feudal services, and to prepare for
resistance. On the day appointed,
the Scots assembled at Yetholm, a
small town not far from Jedburgh,
and situated at the foot of the Cheviot
Hills. A more powerful army had
not been seen for a long period. There
were twelve hundred men-at-arms and
forty thousand infantry, including a
small body of archers, a species of
military force in which the Scots were
still little skilled, when compared with
the formidable power of the English
bowmen. It was now necessary to
determine in what manner the war
should begin, and upon what part of
the country its fury should first be let
loose; and, when the leaders were
deliberating upon this, a prisoner was
taken and carried to head­quarters,
who proved to be an English gentle­
man, despatched by the Border lords
for the purpose of collecting informa-
Froissart, par Buchon, vol. xi. p. 363,

tion. From him they understood
that the wardens of the marches did
not deem themselves strong enough
at that time to offer battle, but that,
having collected their power, they had
determined to remain quiet till it was
seen in what direction the Scottish
invasion was to take place, and then
to make a counter expedition into
Scotland ; thus avoiding all chance of
being attacked, and retaliating upon
the Scots by a system of simultaneous
havoc and plunder.

Upon receiving this information,
which proved to be correct, the Earl
of Fife determined to separate his
force into two divisions, and for the
purpose of frustrating the designs of
the English, to invade the country
both by the western and eastern
marches. He himself, accordingly,
with Archibald, lord of Galloway, and
the Earls of Sutherland, Menteith,
Mar, and Strathern, at the head of a
large force, being nearly two-thirds of
the whole army, began their march
through Liddesdale, and passing the
borders of Galloway, advanced towards
Carlisle. The second division was
chiefly intended to divert the atten­
tion of the English from opposing the
main body of the Scots; it consisted
of three hundred knights and men-at-
arms, and two thousand foot, besides
some light-armed prickers and camp-
followers,2 and was placed under the
command of the Earl of Douglas, a
young soldier, who, from his boyhood,
had been trained to war by his father,
and who possessed the hereditary val­
our and military talent of the family.
Along with him went the Earls of
March and Moray; Sir James Lindsay,
Sir Alexander Ramsay, and Sir John
St Clair, three soldiers of great expe­
rience ; Sir Patrick Hepburn with his
two sons, Sir John Haliburton, Sir
John Maxwell, Sir Alexander Fraser,
Sir Adam Glendinning, Sir David
Fleming, Sir Thomas Erskine, and
many other knights and squires.
With this small army, the Earl of
Winton, vol. ii. p. 337, gives a much
higher number ; but we may here trust rather
to Froissart, who affirms that he had no more
than “three hundred mcn-at-arms, and two
thousand infantry.”

346                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. VII.

Douglas pushed rapidly on through
Northumberland, having given strict
orders that not a house should be
burnt or plundered till they reached
the bishopric of Durham. Such was
the silence and celerity of the march,
that he crossed the Tyne near Brans-
peth, and was not discovered by the
Enlgish garrisons to be in the heart
of this rich nd populous district until
the smoke of the flaming villages, and
the terror of the people, carried the
first news of his arrival to the city of
Durham. Nor did the English dare
at present to oppose him, imagining
his force to be the advanced guard of
the main army of the Scots : a natural
supposition, for the capture of their
spy had left them in ignorance of the
real designs of the enemy. Douglas,
therefore, plundered without meeting
an enemy; whilst Sir Henry Percy,
better known by his name of Hotspur,
and his brother Ralph, the two sons
of the Earl of Northumberland, along
with the Seneschal of York, the Cap­
tain of Berwick, Sir Mathew Redman,
Sir Ralph Mowbray, Sir John Felton,
Sir Thomas Grey, and numerous other
Border barons, kept themselves, with
their whole power, within the barriers
of Newcastle,1 and the Earl of North­
umberland collected his strength at

Meanwhile, having wasted the coun­
try as far as the gates of Durham, the
Scottish leaders returned to Newcastle
with a rapidity equal to their advance,
and in the spirit of the times, deter­
mined to tarry there two days, and
try the courage of the English knights.
The names of Percy and of Douglas were
at this time famous : Hotspur having
the reputation of one of the bravest
soldiers in England, and the Earl of
Douglas, although his younger in
years, being little inferior in the esti­
mation in which his military prowess
was held amongst his countrymen.
In the skirmishes which took place at
the barriers of the town, it happened
that these celebrated soldiers came to
be personally opposed to each other ;
and after an obstinate contest, Douglas

1 Winton, vol. ii. p. 338. Froissart, par
Buchon, vol. xi. p. 377. “

won the pennon of the English leader,
and boasted aloud, before the knights
who were present, that he would carry
it to Scotland, and plant it, as a proof
of his prowess, on his castle of Dal­
keith. “That, so help me God!”
cried Hotspur, “ no Douglas shall ever
do; and ere you leave Northumber­
land you shall have small cause to
boast.” “Well, Henry,” answered
Douglas, “your pennon shall this
night be placed before my tent; come
and win it if you can !" 2

Such was the nature of this defiance;
and Douglas knew enough of Percy
to be assured that, if possible, he would
keep his word. He commanded, there­
fore, a strict watch to be maintained ;
struck the pennon into the ground in
front of his tent, and awaited the as­
sault of the English. There were
occasions, however, in which the bra­
vadoes of chivalry gave way to the
stricter rules of war; and as the Eng­
lish leaders still entertained the idea
that Douglas only led the van of the
main army, and that his object was to
draw them from their entrenchments,
they insisted that Percy should not
hazard an attack which might ring
them into jeopardy. The Scots, ac­
cordingly, after in vain expecting an
attack, left their encampment, and
proceeded on their way. Passing by
the tower of Ponteland, they carried
it by storm, razed it to the ground,
and still continuing their retreat,
came, on the second day, to the village
and castle of Otterburn, situated in
Redesdale,3 and about twelve miles
from Newcastle. This castle was
strongly fortified, and the first day
resisted every attack; upon which
most of their leaders, anxious not to
lose time, but to carry their booty
across the Borders, proposed to proceed
into Scotland.

Douglas alone opposed this, and
entreated them to remain a few days
and make themselves masters of the
castle, so that in the interval they
might give Henry Percy full time, if
he thought fit, to reach their encamp­
ment, and fulfil his promise. This

2 Froissart, par Buchon, vol. xi. p. 377.
Winton, vol. ii. pp. 339, 340.

1388.]                                            ROBERT II.                                                    347

they at length agreed to; and having
skilfully chosen their encampment,
they fortified it in such a way as
should give them great advantage in
the event of an attack. In its front,
and extending also a little to one side,
was a marshy level, at the narrow
entrance of which were placed their
carriages and waggons laden with plun­
der, and behind them the horses,
sheep, and cattle which they had
driven away with them. These were
committed to the charge of the sut-
tlers and camp-followers, who, although
poorly armed, were able to make some
resistance with their staves and knives.
Behind these, on firm ground, which
was on one side defended by the
marsh, and on the other flanked by a
small wooded hill, were placed the
tents and temporary huts of the lead­
ers and the men-at-arms; and having
thus taken every precaution against a
surprise, they occupied themselves
during the day in assaulting the castle,
and at night retired within their en­
campment.1 But this did not long
continue. By this time it became
generally known that Douglas and his
little army were wholly unsupported;
and the moment that Percy ascertained
the fact, and discovered that the Scot­
tish earl lay encamped at Otterburn,
he put himself at the head of six
hundred lances, and eight thousand
foot, and, without waiting for the
Bishop of Durham, who was advanc­
ing with his power to Newcastle,
marched straight to Otterburn, at as
rapid a rate as his infantry could

Hotspur had left Newcastle after
dinner, and the sun was set before he
came in sight of the Scots encamp­
ment. It was a placid evening in the
month of August, which had succeeded
to a day of extreme heat, and the
greater part of the Scots, worn out
with an unsuccessful attack upon the
castle, had taken their supper and
fallen asleep. In a moment they were
awakened by a cry of “ Percy, Percy ! "
and the English, trusting that they
could soon carry the encampment from

1 Froissart, par Buchon. vol. xi. p, 385.
ibid. p. 384.

the superiority of their numbers, at­
tacked it with the greatest fury. They
were checked, however, by the barrier
of waggons, and the brave defence
made by the servants and camp-follow­
ers, which gave the knights time to
arm, and enabled Douglas and the
leaders to form the men-at-arms before
Hotspur could reach their tents. The
excellence of the position chosen by
the Scottish earl was now apparent;
for, taking advantage of the ground,
he silently and rapidly defiled round
the wooded eminence already men­
tioned, which completely concealed
his march, and when the greater part
of the English were engaged in the
marsh, suddenly raised his banner, and
set upon them in flank. It was now
night; but the moon shone brightly,
and the air was so clear and calm, that
the light was almost equal to the day.
Her quiet rays, however, fell on a
dreadful scene; for Percy became
soon convinced that he had mistaken
the lodgings of the servants for those
of their masters; and, chafed at the
disappointment, drew back his men
on firm ground, and encountered the
Scots with the utmost spirit. He was
not, indeed, so well supported as he
might have been, as a large division of
the English under Sir Mathew Red­
man and Sir Robert Ogle,3 having
made themselves masters of the
encampment, had begun to plunder,
and his own men were fatigued with
their march ; whilst the Scots, under
Douglas, Moray, and March, were
fresh and well-breathed. Yet, with
all these disadvantages, the English
greatly outnumbered the enemy ; and
in the temper of their armour and
their weapons were far their su­

For many hours the battle raged
with undiminished fury; banners rose
and fell; the voices of the knights
shouting their war-cries were mingled
with the shrieks and groans of the
dying, whilst the ground, covered with
dead bodies and shreds of armour, and
slippery with blood, scarce afforded
room for the combatants, so closely

3 Winton, vol. ii. p. 340.

4 Froissart, par Buchon, vol. xi. p. 389,

348                                  HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. VII.

were they engaged, and so obstinately
was every foot of earth contested. It
was at this time that Douglas, wielding
a battle-axe in both hands, and followed
only by a few of his household, cut his
way into the press of English knights,
and throwing himself too rashly upon
the spears, was borne to the earth, and
soon mortally wounded in the head
and neck. Yet at this time none knew
who had fallen, for the English pressed
on ; and a considerable interval elapsed
before the Earls of March and Moray
again forced them to give back, and
cleared the spot where Douglas lay
bleeding. Sir James Lindsay was the
first to discover his kinsman; and, run­
ning up hastily, eagerly inquired how
it fared with him. “ But poorly,” said
Douglas. “ I am dying in my armour,
as my fathers have done, thanks be to
God, and not in my bed; but if you
love me, raise my banner and press
forward, for he who should bear it lies
slain beside me.” Lindsay instantly
obeyed; and the banner of the crowned
heart again rose amid the cries of
“ Douglas ! “ so that the Scots believed
their leader was still in the field, and
pressed on the English ranks with a
courage which at last compelled them
to give way.1 Hotspur, and his bro­
ther, Sir Ralph Percy, surrendered
after a stout resistance; and along
with them nearly the whole chivalry
of Northumberland and Durham were
either slain or taken. Amongst the
prisoners were the Seneschal of York,
the Captain of Berwick, Sir Mathew
Redman, Sir Ralph Langley, Sir Ro­
bert Ogle, Sir John Lilburn, Sir Tho­
mas Walsingham, Sir John Felton, Sir
John Copland, Sir Thomas Abingdon,
and many other knights and gentle­
men,2 whose ransom was a source of
great and immediate wealth to the
Scots. There were slain on the Eng­
lish side about eighteen hundred and
sixty men-at-arms, and a thousand were
grievously wounded.3 We are informed
by Froissart that he received his ac­
count of this expedition from English

1 Froissart, par Buchon, vol. xi. pp 393-
395. Winton, vol. ii. pp. 340-342.
Ibid. vol. xi. p. 398.
Ibid, vol, xi. p. 420.

and Scottish knights who were engaged
in it; and “ of all the battles,” says he,
“ which I have made mention of hereto­
fore in this history, this of Otterburn
was the bravest and the best contested;
for there was neither knight nor squire
but acquitted himself nobly, doing
well his duty, and fighting hand to
hand, without either stay or faint­
heartedness.” And as the English
greatly outnumbered the Scots, so sig­
nal a victory was much talked of, not
only in both countries, but on the

The joy which was naturally felt
upon such an occasion was greatly
overclouded by the death of Douglas.
His conduct became the theme of uni­
versal praise; and his loss was the
more lamented, as he had fallen in
this heroic manner in the prime of
manhood. All the soldiers mourned
for him as their dearest friend; and
the march to Scotland resembled more
a funeral procession than a triumphant
progress, for in the midst of it moved
the car in which was placed the body
of this brave man. In this manner
was it conveyed by the army to the
Abbey of Melrose, where they buried
him in the sepulchre of his fathers,
and hung his banner, torn and soiled
with blood, over his grave.5

The causes of this defeat of Hotspur,
by a force greatly his inferior, are not
difficult to be discovered. They are
to be found in the excellent natural
position chosen by Douglas for his
encampment; in the judicious manner
in which it had been fortified; and in
the circumstance of Percy attempting
to carry it at first by a coup-de-main;
thus rendering his archers, that por­
tion of the English force which had
ever been most decisive and destruc­
tive in its effects, totally useless.6 The
difficulties thrown in the way of the
English by the entrenchment of wag­
gons, and the defence of the camp
followers, were of the utmost conse­
quence in gaining time; and the sub-

4  Froissart, par Bachon, vol. xi. p. 401.

5  Ibid. vol. xi. p. 422.

6 Ibid. vol. xi. p. 389. “Et etoient si
joints l’un à l’autre et si attachés, que trait
d’archers dc nul coté n’y avoit point de lieu.”

1388-90.1                                        ROBERT II.                                                  349

sequent victory forms a striking con­
trast to the dreadful defeat sustained
by the Scots at Dupplin in conse­
quence of the want of any such pre­
caution.1 Even at Otterburn, the
leaders, who were sitting in their
gowns and doublets at supper when
the first alarm reached them, had to
arm in extreme haste; so that Doug-
las’s harness was in many places un­
clasped, and the Earl of Moray fought
all night without his helmet;2 but
minutes in such circumstances were
infinitely valuable, and these were
gained by the strength of the camp.
One circumstance connected with the
death of Douglas is too characteristic
of the times to be omitted. His
chaplain, a priest of the name of Lun-
die, had followed him to the war, and
fought during the whole battle at his
side. When his body was discovered,
this warrior clerk was found bestriding
his dying master, wielding his battle-
axe, and defending him from injury.
He became afterwards Archdeacon of
North Berwick.3

On hearing of the defeat at Otter-
burn, the Bishop of Durham, who,
soon after Percy’s departure, had en­
tered Newcastle with ten thousand
men, attempted, at the head of this
force, to cut off the retreat of the
Scots; but, on coming up with their
little army, he found they had again
intrenched themselves in the same
strong position, in which they could
not be attacked without manifest risk;
and he judged it prudent to retreat,4
so that they reached their own coun­
try without further molestation. So
many noble prisoners had not been
carried into Scotland since the days of
Bruce;5 for although Hotspur’s force
did not amount to nine thousand men,
it included the flower of the English
Border baronage. The remaining divi­
sion of the Scots, under the Earl of
Fife, amounting, as we have seen, to
more than a third part of the whole
army, broke into England by the west

1 History, supra, p. 165.

2  Winton, p. 339.

3  Froissart, par Buchon, vol. xi. p. 393.

4  Ibid. vol. xi. p. 419.

5 Winton, vol. ii. p, 343,

marches, according to the plan already
agreed on; and after an inroad, at­
tended by the usual circumstances of
devastation and plunder, being in­
formed of the successful conclusion of
the operations on the eastern border,
returned without a check to Scotland.

Tt is impossible not to agree with
Froissart, that there never was a more
chivalrous battle than this of Otter-
burn : the singular circumstances un­
der which it was fought, in a sweet
moonlight night; 6 the heroic death
of Douglas; the very name of Hotspur ;
all contribute to invest it with that
character of romance so seldom coin­
cident with the cold realities of his­
tory; and we experience in its recital
something of the sentiment of Sir
Philip Sidney, “ who never could hear
the song of the Douglas and Percy
without having his heart stirred as
with the sound of a trumpet.” But it
ought not to be forgotten that it was
solely a chivalrous battle : it had no­
thing great in its motive, and nothing
great in its results. It differs as
widely in this respect from the battles
of Stirling and Bannockburn, and from
the many contests which distinguish
the war of liberty, as the holy spirit
of freedom from the petty ebullitions
of national rivalry, or the desire of
plunder and revenge. It was fought
at a time when England had aban­
doned all serious designs against the
independence of the neighbouring
country; when the king, and the great
body of the Scottish people, earnestly ’
desired peace; and when the accom­
plishment of this desire would have
been a real blessing to the nation : but
this blessing the Scottish nobles, who,
like their feudal brethren of England
and France, could not exist without
public or private war, did not appre­
ciate, and had no ambition to see real­
ised. The war originated in the char­
acter of this class, and the principles
which they adopted; and the power
of the crown, and the influence of the
commons, were yet infinitely too feeble
to check their authority ; on the con­
trary, this domineering power of the

6 It was fought on Wednesday, 5th August.
M’Pherson’s Notes on Winton. vol. ii. p. 516.

350                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [CHAP VII.

great feudal families was evidently on
the increase in Scotland, and led, as
we shall see in the sequel, to dreadful

But to return from this digression.
The age and indolence of the king,
and his aversion to business, appear to
have now increased to a height which
rendered it necessary for the parlia­
ment to interfere; and the bodily
weakness of the Earl of Carrick, the
heir-apparent, who had been injured
by the kick of a horse, made it impos­
sible that much active management
should be intrusted to him. From
necessity, more than choice or affec­
tion, the nation next looked to Ro-
bert’s second son, the Earl of Fife;
and in a meeting of the three estates,
held at Edinburgh in 1389, the king
willingly retired from all interference
with public affairs, and committed
the office of governor of the kingdom
to this ambitious and intriguing
man, who, at the mature age of fifty,
succeeded to the complete manage­
ment of the kingdom.1 A deep self­
ishness, which if it secured its own
aggrandisement, little regarded the
means employed, was the prominent
feature in the character of the new
regent. His faults, too, were redeemed
by few great qualities, for he possessed
little military talent; and although
his genius for civil government has
been extolled by our ancient historians,
his first public act was one of great

Since the defeat at Otterburn, and
the capture of Hotspur, the Earl Mar­
shal, to whom the English king had
committed the custody of the marches,
had been accustomed to taunt and
provoke the Scottish Borderers to re­
new the quarrel, and had boasted that
he would be ready to give them battle,
if they would meet him in a fair field,
though their numbers should double
his. These were the natural and fool­
ish ebullitions that will ever accom­
pany any great defeat, and ought to
have been overlooked by the governor;
but, instead of this, he affected to
consider his knightly character in­

1 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 414, He died
n 1419, aged eighty.

volved ; and prepared to sacrifice the
true interests of the country, which
loudly called for peace, to his own
notions of honour. An army was as­
sembled, which Fife conducted in
person, having along with him Archi­
bald Douglas, and the rest of the Scot­
tish nobles. With this force they
passed the marches, and sent word to
the Earl Marshal that they had ac­
cepted his challenge, and would expect
his arrival; but, with superior wisdom,
he declined the defiance ; and, having
intrenched himself in a strong position,
refused to abandon his advantage, and
proposed to wait their attack. This,
however, formed no part of the pro­
ject of the Scots, and they returned
into their own country.2 In such
absurd bravadoes, resembling more
the quarrels of children than any grave
or serious contest, did two great na­
tions employ themselves, misled by
those ridiculous ideas which had arisen
out of the system of chivalry, whose
influence was now paramount through­
out Europe.

Not long after this, a three-years’
truce having been concluded at Bou­
logne between England and France, a
mutual embassy of French and Eng­
lish knights arrived in Scotland, and
having repaired to the court, which
was then held at Dunfermline, pre­
vailed upon the Scots to become par­
ties to this cessation of hostilities; so
that the king, who, since his accession
to the throne, had not ceased to desire
peace, enjoyed the comfort of at last
seeing it, if not permanently settled,
at least in the course of being estab­
lished. 3 He retired soon after to one
of his northern castles at Dundonald,
in Ayrshire, where, on the 13th
May 1390, he died at the age of
seventy-four, in the twentieth year of
his reign.4 The most prominent fea­
tures in the character of this monarch
have been already described. That he
was indolent, and fond of enjoying
himself in the seclusion of his north-

2 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 414. Winton,
vol. ii. p. 346.

3 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. pp. 89, 99.

4 Winton, vol. ii. pp. 350, 351. Some fine
remains of this ancient castle still exist. Stat,
Account, vol. vii. p. 619.

1390.]                                              ROBERT II.                                                  351

ern manors, whilst he injudiciously
conferred too independent a power
upon his turbulent and ambitious sons,
cannot be denied : but it ought not to
be forgotten that, at a time when the
liberties of the country were threat­
ened with a total overthrow, the
Steward stood forward in their de­
fence, with a zeal and energy which
were eminently successful, and that he
was the main instrument in defeating
the designs of David the Second and
Edward the Third, when an English
prince was attempted to be imposed
upon the nation. The policy he pur­
sued after his accession, so far as the
character of the king was then allowed
to influence the government, were
essentially pacific; but the circum­
stances in which the nation was placed
were totally changed; and to maintain
peace between the two countries be­
came then as much the object of a
wise governor as it formerly had been
his duty to continue the war. Unfor­
tunately, the judgment of the king
was not permitted to have that influ­
ence to which it was entitled: and
many years were yet to run before the
two nations had their eyes opened to
discern the principles best calculated
to promote their mutual prosperity.

During the whole course of this
reign, the agriculture of Scotland ap­
pears to have been in a lamentable
condition—acircumstance to be traced,
no doubt, to the constant interruption
of the regular seasons of rural labour;

the ravages committed by foreign in
vasion, and the havoc which neces­
sarily attended the passage even of a
Scottish army from one part of the
country to another. The proof of this
is to be found in the frequent liceuces
which were granted by the English
king, allowing the nobles and the mer­
chants of Scotland to import grain into
that country, and in the fact that the
grain for the victualling of the Scottish
castles, then in the hands of the Eng­
lish, was not unfrequently brought
from Ireland.2 But the commercial
spirit of the country during this reign
was undoubtedly on the increase; and
the trade which it carried on with
Flanders appears to have been con-
ducted with much enterprise and ac­
tivity. Mercer, a Scottish merchant,
during his residence in France, was,
from his great wealth, admitted to the
favour and confidence of Charles the
Sixth; and, on one occasion, the cargo
of a Scottish merchantman, which had
been captured by the English, was
valued as high as seven thousand
marks, an immense sum for those re­
mote times.2 The staple source of
export wealth continued to consist in
wool, hides, skins, and wool-fels. We
have the evidence of Froissart, who
had himself travelled in the country,
that its home manufactures were in a
very low condition.

1 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. i. pp. 963, 965, 966
968, 975.
Walsingham, p. 239.

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