Scotland's History, Legends, Wildlife and Hunting Practices...because the past lives in us and guides our footsteps.
pic1

308                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

SECTION VI.

SPORTS AND AMUSEMENTS.

In this inquiry, where an attempt
has been made to give something like
a civil history of the country, the
sports and amusements of our an­
cestors form a subject of interesting
research; although here, as on almost
all other similar points, we have to
lament the extreme scarcity of au­
thentic materials. The chivalrous
amusements of Scotland appear to
have been the same as in the other
feudal countries of Europe. Hunting
and hawking, the tourney or play at
arms, the reading of romances, the
game of chess, masques and feasts,
minstrelsy and juggler’s tricks, with
the licensed wit of the fool, filled up
the intervals of leisure which were
spared from public or private war.

With regard to hunting, the im­
mense forests with which, as we have
already seen, our country was covered
during this period gave every facility

for the cultivation of this noble pas­
time; and there is ample evidence
that at an early period the chase
formed one of the principal recreations
of the kings and the barons of Scot­
land. David the First recounted to
Ethelred, abbot of Rievaux, an anec­
dote regarding Malcolm Canmore, his
father, which illustrates this in a
minute and striking manner. Mal­
colm had received private information
that a plot against his life was laid by
one of his courtiers in whom he placed
confidence. The king took no notice
of the discovery, but calmly awaited
the arrival of the traitor with his vas­
sals and followers at court; and when
they came, gave orders for his hunts­
men and hounds to prepare for the
chase, and be waiting for him on the
first dawn of the morning. “ And
now,” says Ethelred, “ when Aurora
had driven away the night, King Mal­
colm assembled his chief officers and
nobles, with whom he proceeded to
take the pastime of the chase in a
green plain which was thickly sur­
rounded by a wood. In the middle
of this forest was a gentle eminence
profusely covered with wild flowers,
in which the hunters after the fatigues
of the chase were accustomed to re­
pose and solace themselves. Upon
this eminence the king stood; and ac­
cording to that law or custom of the
chase which the vulgar call the trysta,
having allotted certain stations to the
different nobles and their dogs in such
a manner that the game should meet
death wherever it attempted to make
its escape, he dismissed them, but re­
quested the traitor to remain alone
with him, whilst the rest departed.
When this was done, the king took
him aside to a more remote part of the
wood, and drawing his sword, informed
him that he knew well the whole of
his treachery. ' We are alone,’ said
he, 'and on an equal footing, as be­
comes brave men; both are armed,
both are mounted; neither of us can
receive assistance. You have sought
my life: take it if you are able.’”1

1 Ethelredus de Genealogia Regum An-
glorum, p. 397, Inter X Scriptores Twysden,
vol. i.


ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            309

It is hardly necessary to add, that this
heroic conduct of the king was fol­
lowed by the immediate contrition and
pardon of his heart-struck vassal.

The use of the term trysta in this
passage enables us to throw some ad­
ditional light upon the ancient cus­
toms of the chase in Scotland. The
law of trysta, which Ethelred here
alludes to, was one by which the king’s
vassals, when he took the pastime of
the chase, were bound to attend the
royal muster at the ground appointed,
with a certain number of hounds; and
the phrase yet used in Scotland, to
“keep tryst,” seems to be derived
from this ancient practice in wood­
craft.1 In the Highlands at this day,
the mode of hunting by what is called
a tenkle is very similar to the trysta
held upon this occasion by Malcolm
Canmore. David the First appears to
have been no less fond of hunting than
his father Malcolm. Indeed, we may
believe that his intimate connexion
with England, previous to his coming
to the throne, must have given him
an additional love for an amusement
which the Normans then followed
with an enthusiasm which transformed
it from a recreation into a science.
Accordingly, when Robert de Bruce,
previous to the great battle of the
Standard, in which David was so
cruelly defeated, employed his elo­
quence to persuade the king, his old
friend and brother in­arms, to desist
from his unjust invasion of England,
he not only mentions the mutual
perils and labours which they had
shared, but especially alludes to the
delight which they had experienced in
the chase, and the pleasures of hawk­
ing and hunting;2 and in that beauti­
ful and touching eulogium which
Ethelred has left us of the same
monarch, who was his friend and pa­
tron, we find this testimony alike to his
humanity and his love of the chase :—
“Often with these eyes have I seen
him draw back his foot when it was

1 Ducange, voce Trista, who quotes Coke,
part iv. Institut. p. 306. In a charter of Ed­
ward III., Monast. Anglican, vol. ii. p. 827,
we find, “Et sont quieti de Henedpenny,
Huckstall. et Tristis.”

2 Ethelredus de Bello Standardi, p. 345.

already in the stirrup, and he was just
mounting to follow the diversion of
the chase, should the voice of any poor
supplicant be heard petitioning for an
audience ; the horse was left, the
amusement for that day given up,
and the king would return into his
palace.”3

Whether William the Lion, or
Alexander the Second, the immediate
successors of David the First, were
much addicted to this healthy and heart-
stirring exercise, we have no ground
to determine; but Alexander the
Third certainly kept a falconer, and
the sums of money expended in the
support of his hawks and dogs appear
in those valuable fragments of the
Chamberlains’ Accounts of this early
reign, which have been already so
often quoted. In 1263, this monarch
enjoyed the sport of hawking at his
palace of Forfar, where, along with his
queen and nobility, he held his court for
twenty-nine weeks; and the expenses
of the king’s horses, of his falcons, and
even of a bitch with seven puppies,
are minutely recorded.4 Besides the
grain consumed by these winged and
four-footed favourites, the king had to
pay the sum of eight pounds twelve
shillings and sixpence to his falconer,
William de Hamyll; and that of four
pounds seven shillings to the grooms
who kept his horses.5

It appears to have been the custom
of our monarchs to remove their court
at different seasons to the various
palaces, estates, or manors, which they
possessed in private property; and on
such occasions, as well as when the

3 Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 904.

4 Compotum E. de Montealto Vicecomitis
de Forfar, pp. 12, 13. “Redditus farine ordei
de illo anno de Forfar et glammes, ix. celd. v
boll, farine ordei. Expens. in servicio regis
iii celd. ii bol. et i firthelota. Item in ser-
vicio regine novem boll et dimidium. Item
in expensis septem catulorum et eorum
matris prehendinancium etc. iiii celd. x lib.
. . Item in expensis Willielmi de Hamyll
prehendinantis apud Forfar cum falconibus
dni regis per xxix septimanas et duos dies
anno 1263, viii C. et dimidium celdre, et tres
partes uuius boll. Item in expensis Equorum
dni regis prehendinancium apud Forfar usque
ad diem hujus computi xiiii C. et vi bol. pre-
bende.” Ibid. p. 38, we find the four fal­
coners oi Dunipace.

5 Ibid. pp. 13, 14.


310                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

exigencies of the state required the
personal presence of the sovereign in
any part of his dominions, the hounds
of the royal household formed part of
the equipage which accompanied him.1
About the same period, the preser­
vation of the game ; the enclosing
the parks or chases round the royal
castles by strong wooden pales; the
feeding the does during the winter;
the employment of park-keepers,
whose business was to guard the
forest from waste or intrusion ; and
of fox-hunters, who were hired to
destroy the beasts of prey and noxious
vermin, are all occupations which ap­
pear in the Chamberlain’s Accounts,
and evince a sedulous attention to the
sports of the field.2

In the romance of Sir Tristrem,
which may be quoted as good au­
thority for the manners of Scotland
in the days of Alexander the Third,
we meet with some characteristic pic­
tures of the sports and amusements
of the times; and amongst these the
chase holds, as might be expected, a
most conspicuous place. The hero is
the very king of hunters, and his pro­
found acquaintance with the mystery
of woodcraft is dwelt upon with a
fond minuteness, which proves how
high was the place which the science
occupied in what were then considered
the accomplishments of a brave and
perfect knight. Tristrem, in travelling
through a forest, encounters a com­
pany of huntsmen, who are returning
from the chase with their hounds in
leash, and the game which they had
slain. He is scandalised at the awk­
ward and unsportsmanlike manner in
which they had broke up the venison;
and on upbraiding them for their want
of science, an unflayed hart is thrown
down before him, and he is courteously
requested to give them a lesson. This
he performs in a manner so masterly
and admirable, that the huntsmen are
in ecstacies ; and this new and superior
mode of carving the buck is communi-

1 Compotum E. de Montealto Vicecomitis
de Forfar, p. 20.

2 Compotum Patricii de Graham Vice-
comitis de Strivelin. Chamberlains’ Ac­
counts, p. 61.

cated to the king of the country, who
esteems himself fortunate in having
lived at an era when knowledge was
destined to make so important a step
towards perfection.3 From the whole
adventure, it is evident, that to break
up a stag, or, in the language of Sir
Tristrem, to “dight the erber” ac­
cording to the most scientific method;
to give his rights to the forester, the
nombles to the hunters and spectators,
the quarre to the hounds, and the
expected corbin bone to the raven; to
allot the due portion to himself as
carver; to tie up the paunch with the
grease; to preserve the gurgiloun;
and, lastly, to recite the appropriate
rhyme, and blow the tokening or
death-note, were considered matters of
deep study, and of no very easy attain­
ment, which in those early ages formed
a material part of a chivalrous and
noble education, and which, it must
be observed, constituted only a small
portion of the complicated science of
woodcraft. It is evident that Robert
Bruce, who seems to have been ac­
counted one of the most accomplished
knights of his time, was an adept in
the mysteries of the chase. He winds
his horn in so masterly a way, that Sir
James Douglas instantly pronounces
that blast to be none but the king’s;
and the strength with which he draws
the bow, and the unerring aim with
which the shaft is directed, are par­
ticularly mentioned by Barbour. In­
deed, for many months, when he led
the life of a proscribed and wandering
fugitive, he and his followers were
driven to support themselves by the
chase;4 and there is evidence in the
Chamberlains’ Accounts that his dogs,
his falcons, his horses, and his hunts­
men were afterwards subjects of con­
siderable care and expense.5

3  Romance of Sir Tristrem, pp. 31, 32, 33.
Fytte i. stanza 41 to 49 incl. Notes, p. 277.

4  Barbour. pp. 40, 55, 80, 107.

5   “Gilisio Venatori ex dona dni regis p.
lram. 13 sh. 4 d.” Compotum Constab. de
Cardross, p. 39. Chamberlains’ Accounts.
Ibid. p. 40. “Item pro emendatione et
tectura domus cuidam pro falconibus ibidem,
cum constructione cuidam sepis circa ipsam
domum 2 sh.” Ibid. p. 44. “Item Gilisio
venatori capiente boll, per iii. septimanas,”

&c.


ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            311

At a remote period, indeed, we find
that the Scottish stag-hounds and
wolf-dogs were prized in foreign
countries; 1 and, under the reign of
David the Second, the character of
the Scottish dogs and falcons stood so
high, that they became an article of
export;2 while in the charters of the
island lords the eyries of falcons are
particularly mentioned.3 The hawks
of Norway, however, for strength and
flight, were the most famous in the
world; and there is a curious early
notice in Sir Tristrem, which shews
that the Norwegian merchant-ships
imported them into Scotland.

“Ther com a schip of Norway
To Sir Rohante’s hold,
With hawkes white and grey,
And panes fair y fold.”4

In the Chamberlains’ Accounts, the
falconer of John of the Isles appears
bringing falcons to David the Second;6
and from the enthusiasm with which
the sport of hawking is described in
the early romances, and the gravity
with which its mysteries are explained,
we may conclude that in Scotland, as in
the other countries of Europe, it was
esteemed one of the most fascinating
of feudal pastimes. It is easy, indeed,
if we carry our mind back to the
thirteenth or fourteenth century, to
imagine how imposing and delightful
must have been those field sports of
our ancestors. Let us for a moment
dwell on the picture. We see the sun
just rising upon a noble chase, or park,
with breezy slopes and gentle undula­
tions, variegated with majestic oaks,
and getting wilder and more rugged
as you approach the mountains that
surround it. His level rays are glanc­
ing on the windows of a baron’s castle,
and illuminating the massy gray walls,

1 Sir James Ware’s Antiquities of Ireland,
vol. ii. p. 166. Edition by Harris.

2 Rotuli Scotiæ, p. 891. 20th May 1365.
“Salvus’ Cond. pro Scutifero Godefridi de
Roos Canes, et Falcones e Scotia ducturo.”

3 Robertson’s Parliamentary Records, p. 89.
Carta Reginaldi Filii Rodorici. “ Una cum
œriis falconum.”

4  Sir Tristrem, p. 25, notes, p. 274. Ware’s
Antiquities of Ireland, in his works by Harris,
vol. ii. p. 172.

5  Chamberlains’ Accounts, p. 282. ’’Cui-
dam falconario Johannis de Insulis portant.
falcones dni regis 13 sh. 4 d.”

till they look as if they were built of
gold. By and by, symptoms of busy
preparation are seen : horses are led
into the court; knights, squires, and
grooms are booting and mounting, and
talking of the coming sport; the hunts­
men and the falconer stand ready at
the gate ; and the ladies palfreys, led
by their pages, are waiting for their
fair mistresses. At last, these gentle
dames descend from their bower, and
each, assisted by her favourite knight,
“lightly springs to selle;” the aged
baron himself is gravely mounted, and
leads the way; and the court of the
castle rings with hoof and horn as the
brilliant and joyous cavalcade cross
the drawbridge, and disperse them­
selves through the good greenwood.
There are few who could resist a wish
to join in the pastime.

Within doors, and when not occu­
pied by war or the chase, we are apt
to believe that the time must have
passed somewhat heavily with our an­
cestors ; yet here, too, they had their
resources. In the first place, their
solemn feasts and banquetings were
on a great scale, occupied much of
their attention, and were not speedily
concluded, if we may form an opinion
from the variety and quantity of the
viands.

All great occasions of festivity or
solemnity, such as baptisms and mar­
riages, the installation of bishops or
other dignified churchmen, the recur­
rence of Christmas and the new year,
the birthday of the king or the prince,
it was the custom of those ancient
times to commemorate by feasts; and
the Chamberlains’ Accounts of our
early monarchs afford ample evidence
of the scale upon which these enter­
tainments were conducted. Immense
quantities of beef and mutton, of pork
and poultry; large and constant Sup-
plies of salmon, herring, hard fish and
white fish, sturgeons, lampreys, and
eels in great abundance; large impor­
tations of white and red wine, with a
variety of spiceries and sweetmeats,
besides figs, raisins, oil of olives, gin­
gerbread, wax, vinegar, verjuice, and
porpoises, form the anomalous and
multifarious articles which swell the


312                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

account of William de Buthirgask,
clerk of the kitchen to the good king
Robert.1 These were the articles of
usual and daily consumption; but on
occasions of unusual festivity, the en­
tertainments were in the last degree
extravagant and expensive. At the
feast given at Canterbury on the in­
stallation of Ralph, abbot of St Augus­
tine, six thousand guests sat down to
a dinner of three thousand dishes;2
and this was far exceeded by the
splendour of the marriage banquet
when the Earl of Cornwall espoused
Cincia, the daughter of the Count of
Provence, upon which occasion thirty
thousand dishes were served up to an
immense assemblage of guests, who
had arrived from the remote parts of
England as well as from Scotland.3
In the feast which was given by the
Archbishop of York upon the marriage
of Alexander the Third, sixty stalled
oxen were slain to furnish out the
first course, and the rest of the enter­
tainment was on an equal scale of
magnificence. It was the custom, at
these feasts, to bring in the boar’s
head with great state ; sometimes the
whole boar himself, stuffed, and stand­
ing on his legs, surrounded by a forti­
fication of pastry, from the battle­
ments of which little flags and banners
waved over the grisly savage, was
ushered in, carried by the master of
the feast and his servants, with the
trumpets sounding before him. In
like manner the peacock, the swan,
and the heron were greatly esteemed
in those times, and brought in, with
their plumage unbroken, upon pla­
teaus richly gilt, and with a net­
work of gold thrown over them;
whilst, between the courses, the guests
were entertained by a species of opera,
acted by little puppets of paste, in
which Arthur and his Knights of
the Round Table, Godfrey of Bulloign,
or some such heroes, performed their
parts amidst magic islands, captive
ladies, turbaned pagans, fiery dragons,
and all the fantastic machinery of the
period. When this was concluded.

1  Chamberlains’ Accounts, pp. 74 to 85.

2  Chronica, W. Thorn, p. present.

3  Math. Paris, p. 536.

the company again resumed the feast,
which was continued till a late hour,
and often prolonged for many days.

These were the solemn banquets of
the Middle Ages ; but even their ordi­
nary meals, when the baron, in his
feudal hall, feasted his vassals twice
a day, were conducted with rude plenty
and protracted hospitality. They dined
early; and from the quantity of wines
and spices imported into the country,
there is reason to believe they sat
late.

In the reign of Alexander the Third,
the famous Thomas the Rhymer and
the Earl of Dunbar, in whose castle
he lived, sat down to dinner before
twelve o’clock;4 and, between the di­
version afforded by the licensed wit
of the fools who were kept by the
king and the higher nobles; the hours
spent in the game of chess, then popu­
lar ; the listening to the lays of the
harpers and minstrels, and the reading
romances of interminable length, the
day glided away.5 We are to remem­
ber, also, that much time was spent
in the devotions of the Catholic Church;
that the labours of the needle and em­
broidery filled up many hours of a
lady’s life; whilst the older knights
and barons, who received into their
castles the sons of the nobility for the
purpose of superintending their edu­
cation, devoted much of their leisure
to this occupation. In the speech
which Walter Espec addresses to the
English barons before the battle of
the Standard, chess and dice are
alluded to as the games in which the
youthful knights passed their time ;
while the reading works of history, or
the listening to the gests of their war­
like ancestors, are considered as the
more appropriate employments of an
aged baron.6

At an early period in our history
the system of chivalry made its way
into Scotland, and gave that romantic
tone to the character of the people

4  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 131.

5  Rotuli Compotorum, Temp. Alex. III.
p. 4. Compotum Constab. de Cardross, p. 41.
Sir Tristrem, fytte i. sec. 29, 30. Compotus
Camerarii, p. 96. Barbour, pp. 49, 54. Sir
Tristrem, notes on fytte ii. p. 306.

6 Ethelredus de Bello Standardi, p. 339.


ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            313

which its usages, in a greater or less
degree, communicated to every coun­
try in Europe. The early intercourse
of our country with Scandinavia, the
possession of the Western Isles, and of
part of the mainland by the northern
nations, and the circumstance that the
Gothic tribes, at a remote period, had
extended themselves over the whole
of the Lowlands, created a predisposi­
tion in favour of this system of man­
ners ; for the first rude germ of chi­
valry is undoubtedly to be found in
the habits and the character of this
heroic race of men. Their unshaken
and generous courage ; the high and
dignified station occupied by their
women ; their love of enterprise and
adventure; their consideration for
their scalds and minstrels ; and their
passion for marvellous and romantic
fictions, are just so many features
which, with a slight change, we find
in chivalry under its more advanced
and artificial shape. We are not,
therefore, to wonder that, even as
early as the end of the eleventh cen­
tury, when Duncan, assisted by the
Norman knights and soldiers of Wil­
liam Rufus, expelled Donald Bane
from the throne, the light of chivalry
is seen beginning to dawn in Scotland;1
but the subsequent expulsion of the
Normans and English by the Celtic
population was unfavourable for a
time to its further progress.2

Under Alexander the First, and
during the reign of that wise and ex­
cellent prince, David the First, some
traces of chivalrous manners and edu­
cation are perceptible in the educa­
tion of Henry of Anjou at the court
of the latter monarch, and in the cere­
mony of the young prince receiving
from the hands of David the order of
knighthood when he had completed
his sixteenth year.3 Under Malcolm

1 Sax. Chron. by Ingram, pp. 307, 310.
Duncan was knighted by William Rufus.

2  Simeon Dunelm, p. 219.

3  Chron. Thom. Wikes, p. 29. From this
author, as well as from Hoveden, p. 490,
there is little doubt, I think, that Henry was
educated at the court of David. After his
military education was completed, he appears
to have gone over to Normandy ; and upon
his return from that country to England, he re­
paired to DaYid at Carlisle, and was knighted.

the Fourth and his successor in the
throne, William the Lion, the thirst
for knightly renown, and the existence
of chivalrous manners, are distinctly
seen. It was not till Malcolm had
gained his spurs in France, by fighting
at the siege of Thoulouse under the
banner of the King of England, that
this monarch, in the city of Tours,
girded the youthful king with the
belt of knighthood. During the same
reign we have an example of a baron
accused of treason appealing to his
sword, and perishing in single combat;
and the spirited speech of William
the Lion, when he and a body of his
barons were surprised and taken pri­
soners before Alnwick, “ Now it will
be seen who are good knights ! " is
decisive as to the progress of chivalry
in Scotland during the twelfth cen­
tury.4 Indeed, the warm attachment
of Richard Cœur de Lion, the most
chivalrous of kings, to William the
Lion, and the constant friendly inter­
course which subsisted during this
reign between the two countries,5 could
not fail to have its influence in dis­
seminating the principles of a system
which, in England, had taken such a
hold both upon the monarch and the
nation. Accordingly when William,
in 1186, married Ermengarde de Beau­
mont, part of the dower stipulated in
the marriage contract consisted in the
feudal services of forty knights ;6 and
the virtues of this monarch, as they
are enumerated by Winton, his ten­
derness and fidelity in friendship, his
generous emulation and companion­
ship with Richard in deeds of renown,
his courtesy and generosity, are all of

I differ here from Lord Hailes, who pro­
nounces it to be certain that Henry had no
more than an occasional interview with David,
and founds his opinion upon Gervas, p. 1366 ;
W. Neubrig. p. 75; and J. Hagulstad. p.
277. If the reader will examine these pas­
sages, he will, I think, agree with me that
they do not support such an assertion.

4 Fordun a Goodal, vol. i. p. 450. Chronicon
Sanctæ Crucis, p. 33. Editio Bannatynian.
Gervas, p. 1381. Gulielm. Neubrig. p. 237.
"
Illico ferociter arma concutiens, suoque ver-
bo simul et exemplo accendens, modo inquit,
Apparebit quis miles esse noverit.”

5 Fordun a Goodal, vol. i. p. 507. Winton,
vol. i. p. 339.

6 R. Hoveden, p. 632.


314                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

them chivalrous. A passion for reli­
gious war, and a thirst for the glory
which was gained against the Infidels,
was the only ingredient wanting to
complete the chivalrous character of
the country; and this last principle is
to be seen in the conduct of David,
earl of Huntingdon, the brother of
William the Lion, who assumed the
cross immediately after his marriage,
and departed for the Holy War in
company with Richard the First.1

Not long after the departure of the
Earl of Huntingdon for the Holy
Land, William Malvoisine, the bishop
of St Andrews, in a great council of
the clergy held at Perth, preached a
crusade, and deputed many emissaries
throughout Scotland to enforce the
same holy warfare in their sermons
and addresses to the people; but, al­
though multitudes of the middle and
lower classes assumed the cross, they
were joined by few of the rich and
the powerful in the land.2

The tournaments we find an estab­
lished amusement in Scotland under
Alexander the Second. This mon­
arch himself received the belt of
knighthood from John, king of Eng­
land; and, under the reign of his
successor, we see, in the remarkable
debate which arose on the subject
whether the youthful monarch could
be crowned before he was knighted,
how strong a hold the system and in­
stitutions of chivalry had taken of the
national mind. When Bisset was ac­
cused of the murder of the Earl of
Athole, he instantly appealed to his
sword. The marriage of Alexander
the Third; the feasts and music ; the
sumptuous dresses and largesses; the
future progresses of the youthful king
and his consort to visit their father’s
court,—were full of all the pomp and
circumstance of chivalry. The cha­
racter of Alan Durward, celebrated as
being the flower of Scottish knight­
hood; the solemnity with which we
find this order conferred by the sove-

1 It ought to be observed, however, that
this crusade of the king’s brother rests only
on the apocryphal authority of Boece, and is
not to be found in the more authentic pages
of Fordun or Winton.

2 Fordun a Goodal, vol. i. p. 534.

reign upon the sons of the nobility at
the palace of Scone; the increasing
passion for the crusades; and the de­
parture of many of the Scottish nobles
for Palestine, confirm this opinion; 3
but it is chiefly under the reign of
Bruce, and his son David the Second,
that we discover the complete intro­
duction of chivalry into Scotland.

The work, indeed, to which this
great king devoted his life was of too
serious a nature to be often interrupted
or encroached upon by the splendid
and fantastic trifling of chivalry. Yet,
in personal prowess, and the use of
his weapons, Bruce was accounted
one of the best knights in Europe;
and in Ireland we find the king halt­
ing the army, when retreating in cir­
cumstances of extreme difficulty, on
hearing the cries of a poor lavendere,
or washerwoman, who had been seized
with labour, commanding a tent to be
pitched for her, and taking measures
for her pursuing her journey when she
was able to travel: an action full of
the tenderness and courtesy so espe­
cially inculcated by chivalry, yet
springing here, perhaps, not so much
from the artificial feelings of a system,
as from the genuine dictates of a brave
and gentle heart. Bruce, and Doug­
las, and Randolph, it may be said, were
too good soldiers and patriots to be
diverted from their objects by the
pursuit of personal adventure; but,
from the nature of the long war with
the English, feats of individual prow­
ess, and gallant “points of arms,” per­
formed by a handful of brave vassals
and partisans, were often the only
efforts which kept up the desponding
spirits of the nation; and the spirit of
chivalrous adventure, and of useful
patriotic exertion, thus became simul­
taneous and compatible in their opera­
tion.

The battle of Bannockburn, it has
been said by a late writer on chivalry,
was not a chivalrous battle.4 In one
respect it assuredly was not similar to
Poictiers and Cressy, which the same
writer has dwelt on with justifiable

3 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. pp. 72, 73, 80,
112, 113.
4
Miffs History of Chivalry, vol. i. p. 402.


ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            315

enthusiasm ; for the laurels of Cressy
and Poictiers were barren as to every­
thing but glory, while at Bannockburn
the freedom of a whole people was
sealed and secured for ever. But it
would be difficult, either at Cressy or
Poictiers, to select two finer examples
of chivalrous daring than the defeat of
Clifford by Randolph, and the single
combat between Bruce and Boune in
the presence of the two armies : and
the courtesy of Bruce to his noble
captives is more natural than the
overstrained generosity of the Black
Prince to his royal prisoner King John.
That well-known incident, the trium­
phant entry of the Black Prince into
London, mounted on a little palfrey,
whilst the person of the King of
France was displayed upon a noble
horse in gorgeous trappings, had some­
thing in it too ostentatious and con­
descending to merit the encomium
which has generally been bestowed on
it. It is not to be forgotten, also, in
estimating the comparative influence
of chivalrous principles upon the cha­
racter of Bruce, when compared with
that of the First and Third Edwards
and the Black Prince, that there does
not occur during the whole reign of
the Scottish king, even in those mo­
ments when most exasperated by per­
sonal injuries, and when he possessed
ample power of giving loose to a spirit
of revenge, a single instance of cruel
or vindictive retaliation. On the other
hand, the massacre of Berwick, and
the imprisonment of the Countess of
Buchan by Edward the First; the in­
tended sacrifice of the six citizens of
Calais; the penurious economy with
which the captive king and the Scot­
tish prisoners were treated after the
battle of Durham, by Edward the Third;
and the massacre of Limoges by the
Black Prince, remind us that these
heroic men, although generous in the
use of victory, could sometimes be
irritated by defeat into cruelty and
revenge. But while Bruce was true
to his chivalrous faith in kindness,
courtesy, and humanity, he permitted
not the love of personal adventure to
interfere with that strict military dis­
cipline which he rigidly maintained;

and on one memorable occasion, in his
Irish campaign, the king, with his
truncheon, nearly felled to the ground
a young knight, named Sir Colin
Campbell, for daring to break the
array, that he might revenge an insult
offered him by one of the skirmishers
of the enemy.1 We have already seen
what a rich glow of chivalrous devo­
tion was shed over the last scene of his
life; and in the whole history of this
singular system, which for so many
centuries possessed such an influence
over European manners, it will not
be easy to point out a more striking
event than the death of the good Sir
James, in his first battle against the
Moors in Spain.

In this inquiry we have not yet
made any remarks upon the dress, the
arms, and the warlike accoutrements
of those remote times; and yet the
subject, although of inferior interest
to many other branches of the history
of manners, is of considerable import­
ance in estimating the civilisation of
the period. Ascending, then, to that
period under David the First, when,
as we have already seen, his people
were of a mixed race, including the
tribes of Celtic original, as well as the
Saxons and Normans, we find that the
first-mentioned race were in dress and
arms far inferior to his subjects of
Gothic origin. They were armed with
long spears pointed with steel, but so
blunt as to be incapable of doing much
execution, and which not unfrequently
broke at the first thrust; 2 they bore
also swords, and darts or javelins, and
made use of a hooked weapon of steel,
with which they laid hold of their
enemies ; their shields were formed of
strong cowhide; a rough mantle, or
outer coat of leather tanned with the
hair on, was thrown over their shoul­
ders, which, on occasions of show or
ceremony, was exchanged for a scarlet

1 Barbour, pp. 315, 316. See, for a duel in
1329, Chamberlains’ Accounts, p. 136. “Et
vic de Edinburgh pro factura Parci juxta
Edinburgh ubi milites pugnabant. et in quo
miles Anglie fait devictus, vi lib. xiii sh. iiii
d.” And again, in 1364, under David the
Second, Chamberlains’ Accounts, p. 427, “Et
Simoni Reed pro factura palicii pro duello.”

2 Ethelredus de Bello Standardi, p. 340.


316                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

robe ; and their under vestment was
so short, that from the knee down­
wards the leg was wholly bare.1 They
allowed their hair and beards to grow
to such a length, that their coun­
tenances were almost covered. Even
their nobles and leaders appear to have
been strangers to the steel armour of
the Saxons and Normans; for we have
already remarked that the Earl of
Strathern, on the eve of the battle of
the Standard, reproached David the
First for trusting too much to the
steel coats of his Norman subjects ;
and boasted that, unarmed as he was,
he would precede Alan de Percy in the
onset.2 This dress and these weapons
were common to the whole race of the
Celts; and are evidently the same
with those used by the Irish, as we
find them described by one of the
ablest antiquaries who has written
upon the subject.3 The Galwegians
appear to have been generally mount­
ed ; but they were accustomed to act,
according to the emergency, either on
foot or horseback ; and, by the fury
of their charge, which they accom­
panied with loud yells of “ Albyn!
Albyn ! ’’ they not unfrequently suc­
ceeded in throwing into disorder, and
eventually cutting to pieces the more
disciplined troops which were brought
against them.4 They understood, also,
the art of defending their mountain
passes by barriers of trees, which they
felled and placed transversely, so as
to oppose an almost impenetrable ob­
stacle to an invading army. But al­
though brave to excess, and, according
to their own rude degree of knowledge,
skilful in war, their manners were
cruel and ferocious ; and the picture
left us, by a faithful contemporary, of
their excesses is too revolting to be
dwelt upon.5

1 “ Hispida Chlamys, Crus intectum.” For-
dun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 82.

2 Ethelredus de Bello Standardi, p. 342.
Ralph de Diceto, p. 573.

3 Sir James Wave, Irish Antiquities, vol.
ii. pp. 175, 176.

4 Benedict. Abbas, p. 447. Rog, de Hoved.
p. 813, quoted in Ritson’s Ann. of Caledo­
nians, vol. ii. p. 293. Richar. Prior. Hagul-
stad, p. 322. Ethelredus de Bello Standardi,
p. 345.

5 Ethelredus de Bello Standardi, p. 341.

Different in their dress, superior in
their arms and warlike accoutrements,
and more civilised in their manners,
were the races of Gothic extraction
whom we find composing a great part
of the army of David the First in the
battle above alluded to, and which we
can discern, from the time of Malcolm
Canmore, gradually gaining upon and
pressing back the Celtic population of
Scotland, In the beginning of the
eleventh century, Eadulph-ludel, a
Saxon earl, surrendered to Malcolm
the Second all his right to the terri­
tory or province of Northumberland.
Previous to this, the extensive district
then denominated Cumberland, includ­
ing the modern shires of Cumberland,
Westmoreland, and part of Lancaster,
had been acquired by the Scottish
princes as feudatories of England;
and the marriage of David, earl of
Cumberland, afterwards David the
First, to the daughter of Earl Wal-
theof, procured as an appanage to the
Scottish crown a part of the ancient
kingdom of Nortlmmberland, then
known by the name of the earldom of
Northumberland. All that fertile and
extended tract of country which was
formed by the union of these succes­
sive acquisitions, and which compre­
hended the greater portion of the
south of Scotland, was peopled by the
Saxons and the Normans, whose dress
and arms, at the period of which we
now speak, assimilated much to each
other, the superiority in the richness
of the stuffs and in the temper of
the armour and the weapons of of­
fence being on the side of the Nor­
mans.

The sword of the Scoto-Saxons was,
in all probability, exactly similar to
that of the Anglo-Saxons,—a long
straight weapon, double-edged, and
fitted both to cut and thrust. A late
able English antiquary, in his deduc­
tions and delineations from ancient
illuminated manuscripts, has thrown
much light upon the subject; and,
following his authentic descriptions,
we find that the shield was of a middle
size, always convex, formed of wood
covered with leather, and commonly
armed in the centre with a strong


ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                             317

sharp-pointed cone of iron.1 At an
early period the Saxons do not appear
to have used armour for the body, but
to have gone into battle with a short
upper coat of leather, which was
girded round the loins, and beneath
which are seen the folds of the under
tunic worn close to the skin, and reach­
ing to within a little of the knee.2 In
persons of rank, the tunic and the
coat were ornamented with rich bor­
ders round the edges; and the legs
clothed in hose composed of twisted
rolls of woollen, reaching to the middle
calf; while the feet were shod with
buskins. Besides the shield and the
sword, they carried a long spear with
a sharp steel point, sometimes armed
with a barb, and the battle-axe ; but
we do not find either the cross-bow or
the long-bow originally employed by
them. These last weapons were brought
in. by the Normans, who used them
with fatal and murderous effect, and
from whom the Saxon soldiers bor­
rowed them in the course of years.
The head of the common soldier was
protected by a species of conical cap,
not unlike the Kilmarnock nightcap,
which appears to have been made of
the skin of some animal, with the hair
turned outwards. This headpiece,
however, in persons of rank, was
formed of steel or brass, and frequently
ornamented with a broad gilded bor­
der, or even set with precious stones ;
whilst, in the dress of kings and
princes, it gave place to a crown itself,
or to a small circlet of gold. The
sword-hilts and scabbard, the shields
and head­gear of the kings and nobles,
were often richly ornamented, studded
with precious stones, or inlaid with
gold; they animated their troops with
the sound of a Long horn or trumpet;
whilst there were carried before them
into battle rich banners, upon which
the figure of a white horse, of a raven,
or a fighting warrior, were curiously
wrought in gold, and not unfrequently
decorated with jewels. In the battle
of the Standard, the royal Scottish
banner was embroidered with the

1  Meyrick’s Ancient Armour, Introduction,
vol. i. p. 62.

2  Ibid. p. C2.

figure of a dragon, around which ral­
lying point, when the day was going
against them, the flower of the Scot­
tish army crowded in defence of their
sovereign.

The era, however, of the arrival of
the Normans in England, and of the
subsequent gradual progress of this
remarkable people from England into
Scotland, till they fixed their names
and customs even in the remote pro­
vinces of the north, is the era also of
a perceptible change in the dress,
arms, and warlike inventions of the
Scoto-Saxons. The shirt of mail was
probably known to the Saxons in its
first rude state : it was composed of
small pieces of iron sewed in rows
upon a leathern jacket, overlapping
each other like the scales of a fish,
and seems to have been early intro­
duced. An experiment was next made
to form something like the same piece
of body armour, by twisting or inter­
weaving strong wires with each other,
so as to create a species of iron wicker,
which must have proved stiff and dis­
agreeable to the free motion of the
body. Probably, for this reason, it
was not attempted to be carried lower
down than the bottom of the stomach,
and a short way below the shoulder,
so as to leave the arms and limbs full
room for action. In time, however,
these rude beginnings were superseded
by more correct and skilful imitations
of the armour of the Normans; and
as hitherto the chief force of the Scot­
tish army had consisted in infantry, it
is curious to trace the gradual depar­
ture from this system as early as the
reign of David the First, and the few
feeble efforts which were then made
to imitate the Normans, whose chief
force consisted in cavalry. As early,
for instance, as in the battle of the
Standard, the Scottish horsemen make
their appearance, although bearing no
proportion to the infantry; and it is
singular that on both sides the leaders
made the cavalry dismount and fight
on foot. Yet, under the reign of
Alexander the Second, when that mon­
arch invaded England, we have already
seen the encomium pronounced by
Mathew Paris upon his cavalry, which.


318                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

although mounted on neither Spanish
nor Italian horses, made a splendid
and martial appearance; and in the
battle of Largs, in the subsequent
reign, the destruction of the Norwe­
gians who had landed was completed
by a •Scottish army in which there was
a body of fifteen hundred horsemen,
the knights and leaders of which were
mounted on Spanish horses, armed,
both horse and man, from head to heel,
in complete mail, and the rest on the
small active horses, whose chests were
protected by a steel breastplate. Be­
sides this select body of cavalry, we
find that the foot soldiers were well
accoutred, and, in addition to the long
spear of the Saxons, they now carried
the Norman bow.1

The principal arms of the Normans
are well described in an ordinance, or
assize of arms, of Henry the Second,
preserved by Hoveden, in which it is
declared that every man possessed of
goods and chattels to the value of one
hundred pounds is to provide, for the
king’s service, a horse and a soldier
completely armed in mail; whilst every
man possessed of any sum, from forty
to twenty-five pounds, was to have for
his own use an albergellum, or hauber-
geon, an iron helmet, a lance and a
sword. This refers to the Norman
dominions of the king. In England,
the name monarch commanded every
man who held a knight’s fee to furnish
a soldier completely armed in a coat
of mail and a helmet, with a lance and
a shield; every freeman who possessed
goods and chattels to the value of six­
teen marks was to have a coat of mail,
a helmet, a shield, and a lance; every
freeman possessed of the value of ten
marks, to have a haubergeon, an iron
cap, and a lance; and lastly, every
burgess and freeman whatsoever, to
furnish himself with a wambais, an
iron cap, and a lance, which, on pain
of severe penalties, he was not to sell
or pawn.2 In the reign, therefore, of
Henry the Second, and in the year
1181, which is the date of this assize,

1  Norse Account of the Expedition, pp. 93,
94, 95.

2  Hoveden, p. 614. Rerum Angl. Script, a
Saville.

the principal armour for the body was
of three kinds : the lorica or entire
coat of mail, the albergellum or hau-
bergeon, and the wambais; the first
worn by the richest knights; the next
by the higher order of yeomanry, or
gentry; and the last by the burgesses
and freemen in general.

It is not difficult to ascertain more
minutely the construction of these
different kinds of body armour, which
it is certain were used promiscuously
both in Scotland and in England.
The lorica, or coat of mail, is to be
seen distinctly on the seals of the First
and Second Henry. It appears to
have been formed by rings of steel or
iron, sewed or fixed closely together,
upon a leathern coat, reaching from
the neck, which it covers, to the knee,
not unlike our modern surtout. In
other instances, however, the neck and
head were protected by a separate
piece, called the chaperon, or hood of
mail, which could either be drawn
over the head in time of action, or
after battle thrown loosely on the
shoulder, so as to give the warrior air
and refreshment. Over the chaperon
the helmet was placed; 3 and of this
graceful costume some beautiful ex­
amples are to be seen in the recum­
bent monuments of the knights which
we frequently meet with in the Eng­
lish churches, and more rarely in Scot­
land. The sleeves of the coat, as seen
in the seals of these two Henrys, cover
the whole arm down to the wrist,
leaving the hands bare and unpro­
tected ; but an elongation of the coat
of mail was soon after introduced, so
as to form a mailed glove, which com­
pletely protected the hands; and yet
from its pliancy, being formed of the
same rings of steel, quilted on a simple
leather glove, left them free room for
action. Over this mail coat, which,
under Richard the First,4 was so formed
as to cover the whole body from head
to heel, it became the fashion, during

3 See Strutt’s Dress and Habits of the
People of England, vol. i. plates 43 and 45.
The seals of Henry the First and Henry the
Second will be found beautifully engraved in
the new edition of the Fœdera, vol. i. pp. 6, 19.

4 See the seal of this monarch, Fœdera,
ne
w edition, vol. i. p. 48.


ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            819

the reign of the Third Henry, for the
knights to wear a surcoat, formed of
cloth or linen, which at first appears
to have been a mark of distinction,
and which, latterly, during the four­
teenth century, was ornamented with
the arms of the wearer, richly em­
broidered. Surcoats in England, al­
though found at an earlier period
abroad, were not worn before the reign
of Henry the Second; did not become
general till the time of John; and
bore no armorial bearings till the
period of Henry the Third.1

The albergellum, or haubergeon, in
its early form, afforded less protection
to the whole person than the coat of
mail, and was a less costly article of
body-armour. It appears to be exactly
the same piece of armour with the
halsberga of Ducange, and was origi­
nally intended, as we learn from its
component words, hals-berg, for the
protection of the neck alone; but it
probably soon came to cover the breast
and the shoulder. It was formed of
the same ringed mail, quilted on
leather,2 and is particularly mentioned
in the assize of arms passed by Robert
Bruce. The wambais was nothing
more than a soldier’s coat-of-fence
made of leather, or cloth, quilted with
cotton, which, although it afforded a
security inferior, in a great degree,
both to the mail-coat and the hauber-
geon, gave considerable protection
against a spear-thrust or sword-cut.3
It is well known that while the great
force of the Saxons consisted in infan­
try, the Normans fought on horseback;
and that, from a little after the time
of William the Conqueror, the power
of the Norman cavalry became so
formidable as to be celebrated and
dreaded throughout Europe. The
horses were armed in steel, as well as
the men; and both being thus impene­
trably protected, the long spears of
their enemies, (to use an expression

1 Meyrick’s Ancient Armour, vol. i. p. 21.
2 So, in an old German anonymous poem
quoted in Ducange, voce Halsberga.
“ Geh und bring mir doch here,
Mein halsperg und mein schwerd.”
And in the Will of Duke Everard, in Miræus,
chap, xxi., “Et helmum cum halsberga.”
3
Meyrick’s Ancient Armour, vol. i. p. 67.

of Hoveden,) “ might have as well
struck against a wall of iron.” 4 Under
the Conqueror himself, indeed, and
judging from the costume in which he
is seen upon his seal, this horse-mail
does not appear to have been used at
all; and the same observation is appli­
cable to the seal of Henry the First,
and to those of Richard Cœur de Lion,
John, Henry the Third, and Edward
the First. Upon the seal of Henry
the Second, however, we find his horse
armed with the chamfreyn, or steel
frontlet; and the disappearance of it
upon the seals of the monarchs who
succeeded him was evidently a caprice
of taste, either in the artist or the
sovereign; for we know for certain
that the steel-clad steeds, or Equi
Cooperti,
formed the principal force in
the battle of the Standard, fought in
the reign of Stephen, against David
the First; and we have already seen,
that the Scottish cavalry, at the battle
of Largs, was composed partly of
Spanish steeds in complete armour, and
partly of horses with breastplates; a
convincing proof how completely the
Norman habits and arms had been
adopted in Scotland under Alexander
the Third.5

The offensive weapons of the Nor­
man knights and higher soldiers con­
sisted of the sword, which was in no
respect different from the Saxon sword,
and the lance, with a streamer or pen­
non; whilst the arms of the lower
classes of the infantry, not including
the archers, were the club and mace,
denominated, in the Norman-French
of Wace, “pilx et macheues.’’6 The
arms of a higher baron, or count, in
the time of the Conqueror, are accu­
rately pointed out in an ordinance of
this prince, which directs “ that every
count shall be bound to bring to the

4 Hoveden, p. 277. Strutt’s Manners of
the People of England, vol. i. p. 99.

5 Norse Account of Haco’s Expedition,
p. 95.

6 Wace, in describing the Duke of Nor­
mandy’s summons to the “ vilains :"—
“Par la contrée fit mander
Et a vilains dire et crier,
Que a tiex armes, com il ont
Viengnent a lui ains quil porront,
Lors voissiez haster vilains,
Pilx et macheues en lor mains.’”


320                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

assistance of the king eight horses
saddled and bridled, four hauberks,
four helmets, four lances, and four
swords.” 1 These were termed by the
Normans free arms, libera arma, as
being those peculiarly appropriated to
men of high and noble rank; but in
the course of time the short dagger,
the gis arma, or bill, the cross-bow,
and battle-axe were introduced amongst
the Norman weapons of offence, and
borrowed by the Scoto-Normans from
their countrymen.2

The attention which has been paid
to render this description of the Saxon
and Norman armour clear and authen­
tic will not be deemed superfluous
when it is understood that the Scot­
tish armour used during this period
appears, with a few alterations, bor­
rowed in all probability from the Nor­
wegians, to have been the same as that
worn by the Saxons and Normans.
The battle-axe, the mace of iron, and
the short dagger were adopted by the
knights, and, along with the other
arms of the lower ranks, borrowed by
the Scoto-Normans from their country­
men, and introduced into Scotland.
Thus, on the seal of Alexander the
First of Scotland, who succeeded Mal­
colm Canmore, and whose sister Ma­
tilda married Henry the First of Eng­
land, we find the scaled mail-coat
composed of mascles, or lozenged
pieces of steel, sewed upon a tunic of
leather, and reaching only to the mid
thigh; the hood is of one piece with
the tunic, and covers the head, which
is protected with a conical steel cap,
and a nasal; the sleeves are loose, so
as to shew the linen tunic worn next
the skin, and again appearing in grace­
ful folds above the knee ; the lower
leg and foot are protected by a short
boot, armed with a spur; the king
holds in his right hand a spear, to
which a pennoncelle, or small flag, is

1   “ De relief al cunté, que al rei afeist. viii
chivalz, selez et enfrenez, les iiii halbers, et
iiii hammes, et iiii escuz, et iiii lances, et iiii
espes.”—Leg. Gulielm. I. chap. xxvi.

2  Strutt’s Manners and Customs of the
People of England, vol. i. p. 98, So Wace,
speaking of the Norman infantry,—

“Et vous avez lances aquis,
Et quis armes bien emollues.”

attached, exactly similar to that worn
by Henry the First; the saddle is
peaked before and behind, and the
horse on which he rides is ornamented
by a rich fringe round the chest, but
altogether unarmed.3

Another curious specimen of the
Scottish armour of the twelfth cen­
tury is to be seen on the seal of David,
earl of Huntingdon, brother of William
the Lion. It is of the species called
by the contemporary Norman writers
the “ trelissed,” and consists of a cloth
coat or vest, reaching only to the
haunches, and with sleeves extending
to the wrist. This is intersected by
broad straps of leather, laid on so as
to cross each other, but to leave inter­
vening squares of the cloth, in the
middle of which is a round knob or
stud of steel. The chaperon or hood
is of quilted cloth, and the under tunic,
of linen, covers the knee, and hangs in
folds over the saddle, which is highly
peaked in the shape of a swan’s neck.
His shield is rounded at the top, and
he holds a long spear, ornamented by
a gonfanon, on which a rose is em­
broidered. His helmet is the conical
one, plain, and worn over the hood,
and the horse has neither armour nor
trappings.4 It was this David, earl of
Huntingdon, who, having embarked
for the Holy Land with Richard Coeur
de Lion, is said to have been ship­
wrecked on the coast of Egypt, and
sold as a slave to a Venetian merchant.
His master brought him to Constan­
tinople, where he was fortunately re­
cognised by some English merchants,
redeemed, and sent home.5

3 Seal in the Diplomata Scotiæ, plate viii.,
and the plate in Dr Meyrick’s History, p. 29,
plate x.

4 Meyrick, vol. i. p. 11. Anderson’s Diplo-
mata, plate x.

5 Chron. Melross, p. 179. Hailes, vol. ii.
p. 341. Dr Meyrick has accidentally mis­
taken this David, earl of Huntingdon, from
whose daughter Robert Bruce was descended,
for his grandfather, David the First; but the
error is a trifling one. Mills, in his amusing
but superficial work, the History of Chivalry,
affects to despise the critical inquiry of Dr
Meyrick. That there may be some few errors
in an inquiry embracing so wide a range none
will deny ; but in point of research and his­
torical interest it is worthy of much praise.
It is to be regretted that the valuable matter
of the text should be shut up from most


ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                        321

The shield which was used in Scot­
land at this period was the kite-shaped
shield of the Normans; and, although
plain and unornamented at first, we
find that in the beginning of the thir­
teenth century, under Alexander the
Second, the lion rampant of Scotland
appears upon it for the first time. On
the shield of Prince Henry, grand­
father of William the Lion, who died
about sixty years before the accession
of that prince to the throne, there is
no appearance of any heraldic blazon­
ing, and the practice, which was first
introduced by Richard Cœur de Lion
into England, appears to have been
adopted during this interval by our
Scottish monarchs.1 The strict friend­
ship and constant intercourse which
was maintained between William the
Lion and Richard the First, and the
attention which was paid by the latter
monarch in Europe and in Palestine
to everything connected with the im­
provement of the military art, must
have produced a correspondent en­
thusiasm in our own country; and
these improvements would speedily
be brought into Scotland by David,
earl of Huntingdon, and his compan­
ions, the brother crusaders of Richard.
This observation is accordingly con­
firmed by the fact just noticed, that
Richard first bore the three lions on
his shield, and that the same practice,
formerly unknown, was adopted not
long after in our own country.

Another change appears in the hel­
met of Alexander the Second, which
confirms this remark. The aventayle
or visor, and the cylindrical shape, are
seen in its construction for the first
time, and these we know were brought
in by Richard the First, although
under a slightly different form as used
by the lion-hearted king. This Alex­
ander succeeded his father, William
the Lion, in the beginning of the thir­
teenth century. He appears clothed
in a complete coat of mascled mail,
protected by plates at the elbows.
The surcoat also, first worn in Eng-

readers by the costly price which the plates
render indispensable.

1 Anderson’s Diplomata Scotiæ, plate xx.
Meyrick’s Ancient Armour, vol. i. p. 101.
VOL. 1,

land by John, is thrown over his
armour—another proof of the progress
of military fashions from England into
this country; and his shield is hollowed
so as to fit the body, and completely de­
fend it. His horse, without any defen­
sive armour, is ornamented with a fring­
ed and tasselled border across the chest,
and an embroidered saddle-cloth, on
which the lion rampant again appears.2
Under the succeeding reigns of
Alexander the Third, Baliol, Bruce,
and his son David the Second, the
military costume, the fashion, shape,
and ornaments of the arms, and the
science of war, appear to have been
almost exactly the same in both coun­
tries. Alexander the Third wears the
cylindrical helmet, with the perforated
aventayle; there is a superior richness
and splendour in the ornaments of his
armour, and the horse is covered from
head to foot with flowing housings, on
which the lion rampant is richly em­
broidered, with a bordure set with
fleurs-de-lis. A plume of feathers
surmounts the helmet, and the same
ornament is seen on the head of his
horse.3 Little difference is discernible
in the military costume of Robert
Bruce, except that his steel casque is
surmounted by a royal crown, which
we have seen him wearing at the battle
of Bannockburn.

As the arms and military costumes
of both countries appear to have been
exactly similar, so we may with equal
truth apply the same remark to the
science of war itself. The superior
genius of Bruce soon indeed per­
ceived that to cope with the English
in cavalry was impossible, and he
accordingly directed his principal at­
tention to perfecting the arms and the
discipline of his infantry,—a system
taught him by the example of Wal­
lace; but this was chiefly occasioned
by the poor and exhausted state of the

2 Seal in Anderson, plate xxxi. Meyrick’s
Armour, vol. i. p. 101.

3 Anderson’s Diplomata, plate xxxvi. See
Chamberlains’ Accounts, Temp. Alex. III.
p. 35, “In reparacione loricæ dni regis 18 sh.”
&c. Ibid. p. 38, “In mundacione armormn
dni regis 13 sh. et 8 d.” Ibid. p. 45, “Item
in 14 targis bene munitis sciltarga pro 5 sh.
70 sh. In emendacione 3000 querellis 5sh.”

X


322                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

country. Previous to the long war of
liberty, which drained away its wealth,
and arrested it in its career of improve­
ment, the cavalry of Scotland, as we
have seen in our former allusions to
the battle of the Standard and the
battle of Largs, held a principal place
in the composition of the army. The
disastrous defeat which David experi­
enced in the first of these actions was
in all probability occasioned by his
being compelled to place the ferocious
and half-armed Galwegians in the first
line; and, even after their undisci­
plined conduct had introduced disorder
and flight, the day was nearly restored
by a successful charge of the Prince
of Scotland, at the head of his men-
at-arms, who, to use the expressive
phrase of Ethelred, “scattered the
English army like a cobweb.” In the
battle of Largs, the appearance of the
Scottish knights on Spanish horses,
then considered of high value, and
which were clothed in mail, evinces
that, under Alexander the Third, the
cavalry of Scotland was equal in equip­
ment to the sister country. We learn,
from the Chamberlains’ Rolls of the
same monarch, that, in the prepara­
tions which were made for defence and
security in the different castles, about
the time of the expected invasion of
the King of Norway, the warlike
engine called the balista was in use;
and that there was an officer in the
castle of Aberdeen called Balistarius,
who was allowed twenty shillings for
the purchase of staves, and other neces­
saries which belonged to his office.1 At
an earlier period still, when David the
First, and his son, Prince Henry, in­
vaded England in 1138, they attacked
the castle of Werk with balistæ, and
other warlike engines;2 and we have

1 Chamberlains’ Rolls, Temp. Alex. III.
p. 19, “Item, Willelmo ballistario ad emen-
dum baeulos, et alia que pertinent ad officium
suum 20 sh.” Ibid. p. 9, “ Item, Balistario
de illo anno 2 marcas et dimidiam.” Ibid,
p. 10, “Idem comes petit sibi allocari costu-
mas de xixx petris ferri et fabricam de mille
septingentis et septuaginta querellis et fabri-
cam de ixxx fern ;" and again, p. 47, “Item
quod die hujus computi remanserunt in
custodia ipsius, H. 12 lorice, 2 honbergell,
unam par calligarum ferrearum, 14 targyss, et
12 bipennes.”

2 Rich. Prioris Hagulstad. p. 315.

every reason to believe that the science
of war, and the attack and defence of
fortified places, must have been the
same, with very slight variations, in
both countries. It is evident, from
the history of the Bruce and Baliol
wars, and the most remarkable sieges
which took place during their con­
tinuance, that, in whatever terms of
wonder these warlike machines for the
battering of the walls are described
by the contemporary historians, they
were truly very clumsy and inefficient
inventions; and that a strong-built
castle, if well victualled and toler­
ably garrisoned, could defy for many
months the whole efforts of a numer­
ous army, with its balistæ, mangonels,
tribuchets, sows, and rams playing
upon it without intermission.

During the reigns of Edward the
Second and Third in England, and the
corresponding period occupied by the
latter years of the reign of Robert
Bruce, and the whole of that of David
the Second in Scotland, the plate-
armour began gradually to supersede
the mailed coat; and various improve­
ments and new inventions, both in the
strength and in the ornamental parts
of the equipment of knights and
soldiers, were introduced, which, from
the constant intercourse between the
two countries, were adopted simul­
taneously in both. In 1367, a duel
was fought between Thomas Erskine,
a Scottish knight, and James Douglas
of Egmont, on some quarrel not now
discoverable. Both champions ob­
tained permission from Edward the
Third to purchase their arms and
body-armour, on this occasion, in Lon­
don ; and the royal letters inform us
of what pieces they consisted. A
breastplate and back-piece, a helmet,
a habergeon, arm-plates, thigh-pieces,
greaves for the legs, and iron gauntlets,
formed the body-armour. The wea­
pons were, a dagger or short sword,
a long sword, and a knife; and one
of the knights requests to have
body-armour for two horses, whilst
his antagonist contents himself
with a chamfreyn or iron frontlet
for one.3

3 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. i. pp. 916, 917,


ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                        323

In the use of the bow, the English
continued invariably to be superior to
the Scots, and their bodies of mounted
archers, and of cross­ bowmen, who
were not unfrequently armed in mail,
often made cruel havoc amongst the
Scottish spearmen. It is a singular
circumstance, that although the im­
portance of the long-bow could not
fail to have suggested itself to such
masters in war as Wallace and Bruce,
and Randolph and Douglas, there does
not appear to have been any very suc­
cessful efforts made to introduce it as
a national weapon. In remote times,
indeed, we find the Scottish archers
bearing a part in the battle of the
Standard;1 but, at the subsequent
battles of Dunbar, Stirling, and Fal-
kirk, they do not appear. In the
memorable defeat, indeed, which Bruce
gave to the Lord of Lorn, in the pass
of Cruachan-Ben, Sir James Douglas
appears at the head of a body of
archers lightly armed,2 but they are
not to be found in the muster of the
army at Bannockburn; and although
Bruce, in an ordinance of arms passed
in 1319, commands every man pos­
sessed of the value of a cow to arm
himself, either with a bow and a sheaf
of arrows, or with a spear, the last
weapon was evidently preferred by the
Scottish yeomanry. Neither in the
future expeditions during the reign of
this monarch, nor in the disastrous
battles of Dupplin, Halidon, and Dur­
ham, do we meet with a body of Scot­
tish archers.3 With regard to the first
of these battles at Halidon, there is to
be found, in the British Museum,
amongst the Harleian Manuscripts, a
minute and curious account of the
numbers, the arms, and the arrange­
ment of the Scottish army, with the
names of all the leaders;4 which

1 Ethelredus de Bello Standardi, p. 342,
“ Alteram aciem filius regis, et milites Sagit-
tariiquc cum eo, adjunctis sibi Cumbrensibus
et Tevidalensibus, cum magna sagacitate
constituit.”

2 Barbour, pp. 190,191.

3 At the siege of Perth, however, under the
regency of Moray, Fordun mentions that
Alan Boyd and John Stirling, “ duo valentes
armigeri, rectores architenentium,” were slain.

4 This interesting fragment is printed in
the Illustrations, letters FF.

proves that the Scottish army con­
sisted of knights, and of heavy-armed
and light-armed infantry, without
either archers or cross-bowmen. The
same remark may be made with re­
gard to the array at the battle of Dur­
ham; the knights armed cap-à-pé,
with the homines armati, or heavy-
armed infantry, formed the strength
of the army; and besides these there
was a large body of half-armed foot.5
The ordinance of arms which was
passed by Robert Bruce in 1319
acquaints us, in sufficiently minute
terms, with the arms then used by the
Scottish soldiers. An acton and a
steel helmet, gloves of plate, and a
sword and spear, were to be provided
by every gentleman who had ten
pounds value in land, or ten pounds of
movable property. Those of inferior
rank and fortune were bound to fit
themselves with an iron jack, an iron
head -piece, and gloves of plate; and
the lowest class of all with a spear, or
with a bow and a sheaf of arrows.6

The civil dress of those remote
times, as it is seen in the illumina­
tions of manuscripts, and in the re­
verses of the seals of our early mon-
archs, appears to have been rich and
graceful. A robe of purple velvet or
scarlet cloth, lined and hooded with
ermine, with a border of gold em­
broidery, and flowers of gold scat­
tered over it; an under tunic of silk,
or other precious stuff, made some­
times close to the figure, and at other
times hanging in loose folds almost to
the heel; hose and breeches in one
piece, and laced sandals, formed the
common state dress of the kings,
princes, and nobles, their more ordi­
nary habits being nearly the same in
shape, but of less costly materials.7

5  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 342.

6  History, supra, p. 136. See Illustrations,
letters RR.

7  Strutt’s Dress and Habits of the People
of England, vol. ii. plates lxxxiii. and lxxxv.
Chamberlains’ Accounts, Temp. Alex. III.
p. 13, “ Augustino cissori per perceptum dni
regis ad emendum panum et furur, ad opus
dni regis vi. marcas et dimidium.” See Ibid,
p. 17, “In empcionibus tam in panao serico
et aliis, quam in peletria speciebus electuariis,
et aliis minutis empcionibus, 10 lib. 8 sh. 1 d.”
Ibid. p.43, “Item in duobus paribus ocrearum
ad opus dni regis 12 sh.”


324                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

During the thirteenth century, a
fantastic fashion prevailed of clothing
one-half of the figure in one colour,
and the other half in another; and,
where this was not done, of having
one stocking red or blue, and the
other green or yellow; so that the
man had the appearance of having
stept into one-half of his neighbour’s
breeches or hose. But this absurd
practice did not long continue, and
appears to have been at last aban­
doned to the exclusive use of fools
and jesters.

The costume of the ladies at the
same period was elegant, but so vari­
ous, that it is difficult, in any written
description, to give an idea either of
its beauty, or of the complicated
grouping of its parts. The upper part
of the dress consisted of a jacket of
rich broad cloth or velvet, with sleeves
reaching to the wrist, and terminating
in a border of gold embroidery, which
was made to fit close to the bosom
and the waist, so as to shew the
beautiful outline of the female figure.
It was fastened down the middle with
a row of buttons of silver, gold, or
precious stones, on each side of which
was a broad border of ermine or
miniver, and it reached considerably
below the waist. Below this jacket
appeared, in ample folds, an under
robe or tunic of a different colour,
and under all, a slip or petticoat of
silk or linen. The tucker was high
and modest, and made so as to leave
only the neck and throat bare. The
head-dress consisted either of the
wimple, of the turban, or of a small
circlet of gold, or garland of artificial
flowers, from beneath which the hair
sometimes flowed down the back, and
sometimes was gracefully plaited or
braided in forms of great variety.
Over the whole dress, it was not un­
common, on days of state or ceremony,
to wear a long cloak of velvet or other
precious stuff, which was clasped
across the bosom, and lined with
ermine, martins, or gold lace. The
golden girdle, too, worn round the
waist, and sometimes set with pre­
cious stones, must not be forgotten.
The splendour of the civil dresses of

this period, both in England and
in Scotland, is alluded to in terms of
reprobation by Mathew Paris in his
account of the marriage of Alexander
the Third at York; and as the monas­
tic historian was himself present, his
account is the more curious and au­
thentic.1 It proves satisfactorily that
the dresses of the higher ranks in
England, Scotland, and France were
the same. A passage, therefore, which
we find quoted by Strutt, from an
ancient MS. history of France, written
in the fourteenth century, may be
quoted as throwing light upon the
costly variety of the dress of this
period. It alludes to a sumptuous
entertainment given at Paris in 1275,
on the coronation of Mary. “The
barons and the knights were habited
in vestments of different colours:
sometimes they appeared in green,
sometimes in blue, then again in
gray, and afterwards in scarlet, vary­
ing the colours according to their
fancies. Their breasts were adorned
with fibulæ or brooches of gold, and
their shoulders with precious stones
of great magnitude, such as emeralds,
sapphires, jacinths, pearls, rubies, and
other rich ornaments. The ladies
who attended had rings of gold, set
with topaz stones and diamonds,
upon their fingers; their heads were
ornamented with elegant crests or
garlands; and their wimples were
composed of the richest stuffs, em­
broidered with gold, and embellished
with pearls and other jewels.”

In the ancient French poem, the
Romance of the Rose, which was com­
pleted by John de Meun in 1304, the
poet has introduced the story of Pig-
malion, and he represents the ena­
moured sculptor clothing his marble
mistress in every variety of female
finery. “He arrayed her,” says he,
“ in many guises : in robes made with
great skill of the finest silk and wool­
len cloths, green, azure, and brunette,
ornamented with the richest skins of
ermines, minivers, and grays: these
being taken off, other robes were tried
upon her of silk, cendal, maliquins,
mallbruns, damasked satin, camlet,
1
Math. Paris a Wats., pp. 715, 716.


ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                      325

and all of divers colours. Thus de­
corated, she resembled a little angel,
her countenance was so modest. Then
again he put a wimple upon her head,
and over that a coverchief, which con­
cealed the wimple, but hid not her
face. All these garments were then
laid aside for gowns, yellow, red,
green, and blue, and her hair was
handsomely disposed in small braids,
with threads of silk and gold, adorned
with little pearls, upon which was
placed, with great precision, a cres-
tine, and over the crestine a crown or
circle of gold, enriched with precious
stones of various sizes. Her little
ears, for such they are said to have
been, were decorated with two beau­
tiful pendant rings of gold, and her
necklace was confined to her neck by
two clasps of gold. Her girdle was
exceedingly rich, and to it was at­
tached an aulmoniere, or small purse
of great value.” 1 This amusing and
curious passage gives us some idea of
the richness and intricacy of the
female dress of the times : and we may
conceive how striking and pictur­
esque the spectacle must have been
to have seen an ancient Gothic hall,
on some night of solemnity and re­
joicing, filled with fair forms in such
splendid apparel, and crowded with
barons, knights, squires, and pages, in
their velvet robes and jewelled girdles,
while the music of the minstrels
echoed through the vaulted roof, and
the torches threw their gleams upon
its fretted arches, bringing out in clear
relief their fantastic but often beauti­
ful decorations.

There remain a few gleanings of in­
formation upon the state of some of
the ornamental and useful arts in
Scotland, too scanty to be included
under any separate division, and which
yet appear of importance, when we
are collecting every scattered light

1 I have employed the translation, or rather
the abstract of this passage given by Mr
Strutt in his excellent work on the Habits
and Dresses of the People of England, from a
manuscript in the British Museum. Strutt’s
Habits and Dresses, vol. ii. pp. 235, 236. He
has in some places used a little liberty with
the original, which will be found in the Illus­
trations, letters SS.

which may serve to illustrate the man
ners and civil history of the country.
At an early period, for instance, we
can just trace an interesting attempt
of David the First to soften the man­
ners of his people, by introducing a
taste for gardening. He spent some
portion of his time, as we learn from
his friend and contemporary, in his
orchard in planting young trees, or in
the more difficult operation of graft­
ing ; and it was his anxious desire
to encourage the same occupations
amongst his subjects. The gardener
appears constantly in the Chamber­
lains’ Accounts of the royal household,
as an established servant, attached to
the different palaces and manors.
Alexander the Third had his gardeners
at Forfar and Menmoreth.2 We meet
with the royal garden at Edinburgh
as early as 1288 ; and the Cartularies
contain ample evidence that the
higher nobles and dignified clergy,
and even the lesser knights and barons,
considered their gardens and orchards
as indispensable accompaniments to
their feudal state.3

It must be evident to any one who
has perused this Inquiry, that besides
this elegant branch of rural economy,
many of the other useful and orna­
mental arts must have arrived, during
this period, at a state of considerable
perfection in Scotland. The pitch of
excellence, for instance, to which the
architecture of the country had at­
tained, necessarily includes a corre­
spondent excellence in the masons,
the carpenters, the smiths, the plum­
bers, the plasterers, the painters, and
the glaziers, of those remote times.
The art of working skilfully in steel
and iron must have been well known,
and successfully practised, by a people
and a nobility armed and accoutred
for war, in the fashion we have just
described; and the mysteries of em­
broidery and needlework, with the
professions of the clothier, silk-mer­
chant, milliner, and tailor, could not
fail to thrive and become conspicuous

2 Chamberlains’ Accounts, Temp. Alex. III.
p. 13. “ Item gardinario de Forfar, de illo an 10
v. marc. Item gardinario de Menmoreth de
illo anno i. marc.” See also pp. 59. 112.

3 Robertson’s Index, p. 86.


326                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. VII.

in so splendid a court, and amid such
a display of dames and knights as we
have seen thronging the royal resi­
dences during the course of the thir­
teenth and fourteenth centuries. The
jeweller, too, the goldsmith, and the
enameller, must have been lucrative
professions, where the girdles, ear-
rings, brooches, tiaras, and jackets of
velvet, powdered with pearls, were
conspicuous articles in female dress;
and where the palls, copes, rocquets,
crosiers, censers, and church plate,
were still more sumptuous. There is,
accordingly, decided evidence in the
Chamberlains’ Accounts, that the art
of working in the precious metals had
attained to considerable perfection,
although in the extent of their gold
and silver plate, the kings and nobles
of Scotland appear to have been far
inferior to the splendour and extrava­
gance of their English neighbours. It
must be remembered, also, that the
most splendid specimens of the armour,
jewellery, and gold and silver work,
which are met with in the wardrobe
books of the times, or which we read
of in the descriptions of contemporary
historians, were of Italian, Flemish, or

Oriental workmanship, imported from
abroad by the Scottish merchants.

In the sketch of the learning of
those remote times, I have said nothing
of the state of the healing arts, during
a period when it may be thought, from
the frequency of war and bloodshed,
their ministration was much called for.
But, unfortunately, upon this Subject
no authentic data remain, upon which
an opinion may be formed; yet it has
been already seen that our kings had
their apothecaries and physicians. As
to the actual skill, the prescriptions,
and operations of such persons, we are
quite in the dark ; but, if we may form
our opinion from the low and degraded
condition of medicine in England at
the same period, the patient who fell
into the hands of these feudal practi­
tioners must have rather been an ob­
ject of pity than of hope; and it is
probable, that a sick or wounded knight
had a better chance for recovery from
the treatment of the gentle dames or
aged crones in the castles, whose know­
ledge of simples was often great, than
from the ministrations inflicted upon
him by the accredited leeches of the
times.

But first, if you want to come back to Scotland's History and Legends again, just add www.historyandlegends.com to your bookmarks or favorites now! Then you'll find it easy!

Also, please consider sharing our Scottish History and Legends website with your online friends.


Our Privacy Policy can be found at www.cholesterolcholestrol.com/privacypolicy.htm
Copyright © 2000-present Donald Urquhart. All Rights Reserved. Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners. Use of this Web site constitutes acceptance of our legal disclaimer.


MAIN INDEX WANT TO HELP? ABOUT US CONTACT US