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During the period embraced by
the above observations, the Catholic
Church, from the fear of encouraging
heresy and error, interdicted the un­
restricted study of the Scriptures to
the laity. Her solemn services were
performed in a language not under­
stood by the community at large.
The people were dependent not only
for religious knowledge, but for the
commonest elements of secular in­
struction, upon their parish priests;
printing was unknown, manuscripts
rare, and letters generally despised by
the higher orders. Under such ob­
stacles, we are not to be surprised
that the common character of the age
was that of great darkness and igno­
rance, and that our Scottish ecclesias­
tical annals (so far as I am able to
judge) present us with few active
efforts for their removal. But there
is another side upon which the view
which they offer is more pleasing : I
mean, the civil influence which the
Church exerted upon the character of
the government and of the people.
And here I cannot help observing
that the history of her early relations
with Rome is calculated to place our
clergy in a favourable light as the
friends of liberty. The obedience

3 Hailes’ Annals, vol. ii. p. 275. M’Pher-
son’s Annals of Commerce, Appendix, vol. iv.
No. III., Chronological Table of the Prices of
Corn, and other necessary articles.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            285

which, in common with the other
churches in Christendom, they paid
to the great temporal head of the
Catholic religion, was certainly far
from being either servile or unlimited;
and it is singular that the same fervid
national spirit, the same genuine love
of independence which marks the
civil, distinguishes also the ecclesiasti­
cal annals of the country. The first
struggles of our infant Church were
called forth, not against any direct
encroachments of the Papal power,
but to repel the attacks of the metro­
politan sees of York and Canterbury.
It was, at an early period, the ambi­
tion of one or other of these potent
spiritual principalities to subject the
Scottish primate, the Bishop of St
Andrews, to the dominion of the Eng­
lish Church, by insisting upon his
receiving the right of consecration
from the hands of one of the arch­
bishops of England ;1 and nearly the
whole reign of Alexander the First
was spent in a determined resistance
against such an encroachment, which
concluded in the complete establish­
ment of the independence of the Scot­
tish Church.

To introduce civilisation and im­
provement amongst his subjects, and
to soften the ferocity of manners and
cruelty of disposition which charac­
terised the different races over whom
he ruled, was the great object of Alex­
anders successor, David the First;
and he early found that the clergy,
undoubtedly the most enlightened and
learned class in the community, were
his most useful instruments in the
prosecution of this great design.
Hence sprung those munificent endow­
ments in favour of the Church, and
that generous liberality to the ecclesi­
astical orders which has been too
rashly condemned, and which was
perhaps necessary, in another point
of view, in providing something like a
counterpoise to the extravagant power
of the greater nobles. Under this
monarch the individual freedom of the
Scottish Church was rigidly main­
tained; while, at the same time, it

1 Eadmer, p. 99. Edition, folio, by Selden.
Hailes. vol. i. pp. 54, 55.

declared itself a willing subject of the
Papal throne, and received the legate
of the supreme pontiff with much
humility and veneration. Individual
independence, however, was esteemed
in no degree incompatible with an
acknowledgment of subjection to the
chair of St Peter. It is remarkable,
too, that at this remote period there
are traces of a freedom of discussion
and a tincture of heretical opinions
which, if we may believe an ancient
historian, had for a long time infected
the faith of the Scottish clergy.2

After a feeble and ineffectual at­
tempt, under the reign of Malcolm the
Fourth, to renew the attack upon the
freedom of the Church, Henry the
Second ungenerously availed himself
of the captivity of William the
Lion to extort an acknowledgment
of spiritual, as well as feudal, sub­
jection; but on this memorable
occasion the dexterous diplomacy
of the Scottish commissioners, the
Bishops of St Andrews and Dunkeld,
procured the insertion of a clause in
the treaty which left the question of
the independence of the national
Church open and undecided; 3 and at
a council, soon after held at North­
ampton, in the presence of the Papal
legate, the Scottish bishops asserted
their liberty, declaring that they
never had yielded any subjection to
the English Church; and opposing,
with a zeal and boldness which, in
this instance, proved successful, the
unfounded pretensions of the rival
sees of York and Canterbury.4

Hitherto engaged in repelling these
inferior attacks, the Scottish clergy
soon after found themselves involved,
by the imperious character of the
king, in a serious contention with the
popedom itself. On the death of the
Bishop of St Andrews, the chapter
chose, for his successor, an English
monk, in opposition to the wishes of
the king, who intended the primacy
for Hugh, his own chaplain. With
the violence which marked his char­
acter, William immediately seized the

2 R. Hagulstad. p. 325.

3 Fœdera, vol. i. p. 39.

4 Fordun a Goodal. vol. i. p. 474.

286                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

revenues of the see; procured Hugh
to be consecrated; put him in pos­
session ; and when his rival, who had
appealed in person to the Pope, re­
turned with a decision in his fa­
vour, he was met by a sentence
of banishment, which involved his
whole family and connexions in his

On this information reaching Rome,
legatine powers were conferred, by the
incensed Pontiff, on the Archbishop
of York and the Bishop of Durham,
with a reserved authority to direct the
thunder of excommunication against
the king, in the event of his con­
tumacy ; and the clergy of the diocese
of St Andrews were commanded,
upon pain of suspension, to acknow­
ledge the authority of the extruded
primate. But nothing could shake
the firmness of William. He replied
to this new sentence of the Pope by
banishing every person that dared to
yield obedience to the Papal favourite;
upon which the sentence of excom­
munication was pronounced by the
legates, and the kingdom laid under
an interdict. At this critical and ter­
rible moment, when the monarch’s de­
termination to assert his own right of
nomination had, in the sense of those
times, plunged the land in spiritual
darkness, the Pontiff, Alexander the
Third, died, and the King of Scotland
lost not a moment in sending his com­
missioners to Rome, who succeeded in
procuring from Lucius, the new Pope,
a recall of the sentence of excommuni­
cation and interdict, and an ultimate
decision in favour of the king. The
mode in which this was done was
ingeniously calculated to gratify Wil­
liam, without detracting from the
supreme authority of the Roman see.
The two rival candidates, John and
Hugh, came forward, and resigned
into the hands of the Pope all right to
the contested bishopric; upon which
the Pope installed Hugh, the favourite
of the king, in the throne of St
Andrews, and placed John in the in­
ferior see of Dunkeld: a remarkable
triumph, if we consider that it was
achieved at a time when the proudest
monarchs in Europe were compelled

to tremble before the terrors of the

Not long after, Lucius, in his pater­
nal anxiety to demonstrate his affec­
tion for his northern son, sent the
golden rose to William, an honour
rarely bestowed, and highly prized in
that age; and this distinction only led
to more important privileges, con:
ferred by Clement the Third, the
successor of Lucius, upon the Scottish
Church.2 It was declared that in
consequence of William’s devoted and
zealous affection to the Chair of St
Peter, (a singular compliment to a
prince who had lately opposed it in so
determined a manner,) the Scottish
Church was adopted as the special
and favourite daughter of the apos­
tolic see, and declared to be subject
to no other intermediate power what­
ever. To the Pope alone, or to his
legate a latere, was permitted the
power of publishing the sentence of
interdict and excommunication against
Scotland; upon no one, unless a na­
tive of Scotland, or at least a person
specially deputed by the Holy Father
for this purpose, was the office of
legate to be conferred; and in the
event of any controversies arising re­
garding benefices, it was enacted that
no appeal should be competent to any
foreign tribunal, except that of the
Roman Church.3

These were high privileges : they at
once put an end to the pretended
superiority of the English Church,
and conferred upon the Scottish pre­
lates a vantage ground, from which
they jealously defended, and eagerly
watched the opportunity to extend
and improve their rights. This is
strikingly exemplified in the reign of
the successor of William, Alexander the
Second. The Scottish monarch had
made war upon John, king of Eng­
land at the time that he had placed
himself and his realm under the pecu­
liar protection of the Pope—a pro­
ceeding which drew down a sentence
of excommunication and interdict

1 R. Hov. Hist. p. 621.

2 Chron. Melross, p. 92. Gulielm. Neubrig.
p. 754.

3 Chronicon. Joan. Brompton. p. 1196.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            287

against Alexander and his subjects.
The temper with which this was re­
ceived seems to have convinced the
Roman court that the terrors of his
spiritual thunder were little felt in
Scotland; and fearful, perhaps, of
losing its influence altogether, it per­
mitted the Scottish king, without
performing the ignominious penance
which generally preceded absolution,
to be again welcomed into the bosom
of the Church. At the same time, the
sentence was removed from the whole
body of his lay subjects; but the pre­
lates and the rest of the clergy found
that they could only be restored to
the exercise of their spiritual func­
tions upon the payment of large
sums of money to the legate and
his deputies.1 Against this severity
the king, jealous of the rights of
his clergy, appealed to Rome, and
obtained a judgment in his fa­
vour, which declared that the legate
had exceeded his powers, and con­
firmed the privileges of the Scottish

After a short time, this led to a still
more important concession. In a mo­
ment of carelessness or indulgence,
Honorius listened to the artful repre­
sentations of the Scottish clergy.
They lamented that, from the want
of a metropolitan, they could not hold
a provincial council, and that, in con­
sequence of this misfortune, many
enormities had been committed, upon
which he authorised them to dispense
with this necessary solemnity, and to
assemble a General Council of their
own authority. This permission, there
cannot be the least doubt, was meant
to be temporary; but it was loosely
expressed, and the Scottish clergy in­
stantly perceived and availed them­
selves of its ambiguity. They affected
to understand it as of perpetual
authority, assembled under its sanc­
tion, drew up a distinct form of pro­
ceeding, by which the Scottish pro­
vincial councils should in future be
held, instituted the office of Conser­
vator Statutorum, and continued to
assemble frequent provincial councils,

1 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 40,
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 42.

without any further application for
the consent of the holy see.3

This happened in 1225, and the im­
portance of the right which had been
gained was soon apparent. For a long
period Scotland had impatiently sub­
mitted to the repeated visits of a
Papal legate, who, under the pretext
of watching over the interests and
reforming the abuses of the Church,
assembled councils and levied large
sums of money in the country. On
the meeting of the Scottish king and
Henry the Third at York, Otho, a car­
dinal deacon, and at that time legate
in England, took an opportunity to
intimate his intention of visiting Scot­
land, in order to inquire into the
ecclesiastical concerns of the kingdom.
“I have never seen a legate in my
dominions,” replied Alexander, “and
as long as I live I will not permit such
an innovation. We require no such
visitation now, nor have we ever re­
quired it in times past.” To this firm
refusal the king added a hint, that
should Otho venture to disregard it
and enter Scotland, he could not
answer for his life, owing to the
ferocious habits of his subjects; and
the Italian prudently gave up all idea
of the expedition.4 But the zeal of
the Papal emissary was checked, not
extinguished; and after a few years
Otho again attempted to make his
way into Scotland. Alexander met
him while he was yet in England, and
a violent remonstrance took place,
which ended in the legate being per­
mitted to hold a council at Edinburgh,
with a stipulation given under his seal
that this permission to enter the king­
dom should not be drawn into a pre­
cedent. The king, however, refused
to countenance by his presence what
he affirmed to be an unnecessary inno­
vation, and retired into the interior of
his kingdom; nor would he suffer the

3 Cart, of Moray, MS. Ad. Library, Edin.
p. 11. The canons of the Church of Scotland
were transcribed by Ruddiman from the
Cartulary of Aberdeen, and communicated to
Wilkins, who published them in the first
volume of the Concilia Magnæ Britanniæ.
They were afterwards printed by Lord Hailes,
with notes.

4 Math. Paris a Wats., p. 377.

288                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

legate to extend his pecuniary exac­
tions beyond the Forth.1

In Alexander the Third, who
equalled his predecessor in firmness,
and surpassed him in sagacity, the
Church found a resolute patron and
defender. A summons, by a Papal
legate, addressed to the clergy of Scot­
land, commanding them to attend his
court at York, was pertinaciously re­
sisted as being an infringement of their
ancient privileges;2 whilst an attempt
to levy money upon the cathedrals
and parish churches, and to enter the
country, was opposed by the king;
and in both instances the opposition
was successful.3 But this was not all.
The Scottish clergy disclaimed obedi­
ence to the canons for the regulation
of the ecclesiastical affairs of the coun­
try, which were enacted in a council
held by the Papal legate in England;
and aware of their own strength, as­
sembled a provincial council at Perth,
in which they promulgated canons of
their own and asserted their independ­
ence. In this manner the opposition
which the firmness of the second
Alexander begun, the resolution of his
successor completed; and before the
conclusion of his reign the independ­
ent rights of the Scottish Church may
be regarded as firmly established.

Whilst the Scottish monarchs and
their clergy were thus amicably united
in their resolutions to establish their
independence, the internal relations
which united the civil and ecclesiasti­
cal authorities, and the good under­
standing subsisting between the Crown
and the Church, were little uninter­
rupted by those fierce contentions
which disturbed the repose of many
other European kingdoms; and the
superior information and influence of
the clergy were employed by our
monarchs as a mean of improving the
savage habits of their people, and a
counterpoise to the exorbitant power
of the great feudal nobles. It was
amongst the clergy alone that at this
early period we find anything like a
progress in the arts and in literature,

1 Math. Paris, p. 422.

2  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 96.

3  Ibid. vol. ii. p, 100,

if indeed, the learning of our country
during this age deserves so high a name.
In their disquisitions in scholastic theo­
logy ; in an acquaintance with the civil
and canon law ; in the studies of alche­
my and judicial astrology; and, in some
rare instances, in a knowledge of the
Oriental languages and the mathema­
tics, the clergy of Scotland were not
far behind their brethren of Europe.
There were a few individual instances
in which the subtle, fervid, and inde­
fatigable mind which, according to
Galileo, marked the Scots at the era
of the revival of letters, was to be seen
amongst the Scottish scholars and
philosophers of this remote age.4 John
Duns Scotus, a name which is now as­
sociated with feelings of unmerited
ridicule, the founder of a school which
extended its ramifications through
every country in Europe, for the en­
couragement of which princes lavished
their treasures, and the most noted
universities were ready to devote their
exclusive patronage, was undoubtedly
a Scotsman, born in the Merse in the
latter end of the reign of Alexander
the Third. Unable to procure instruc­
tion in any of the higher branches of
knowledge in his own country, he pur­
sued his studies at Oxford ; and from
this university repaired to Paris, where
he found an asylum at the time that
the arms of Edward the First had
gained a temporary triumph over the
liberties of his native country. The
labours of this indefatigable school­
man, shut up in twelve folios, once
handled with reverential awe, enjoy
undisturbed repose upon the shelves
of many a conventual library; yet his
genius undoubtedly impressed itself
strongly and lastingly upon his age ;
and the same mind, if fallen on better
days, might have achieved less perish­
able triumphs, and added to the stock
of real knowledge.5

It has been already remarked that
in those dark days in Scotland, as well
as in every other country in Europe,

4 This curious fact will be found mentioned
in Sir R. Sibbald, Historia Literaria Gentis
Scotorum, p. 30. MS. in the Ad. Library at

5 Cave, Hist. Literaria,. vol. ii. p. 3 of the

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            289

the whole stock of learning and science
was shut up in the Church; and as the
great body of the Scottish clergy re­
ceived their education in the universi­
ties of Oxford or Paris, for as yet no
great seminaries of learning had arisen
in their own country, we must look
for the intellectual acquirements of
this influential body in the nature of
the studies which were then fashion­
able in the schools. That period of
time which elapsed from the com­
mencement of the thirteenth to the
beginning of the fourteenth century has
been distinguished in the history of
human knowledge by the title of the
scholastic age; and a very slight view
must convince us how dark a picture
it presents. It is marked by the rise
of the second age of the scholastic
theology, in which the Aristotelian
logic and metaphysics were, for the
first time, introduced into the demon­
strations of divine truth, and employed
as an aid in the explanation of the
Holy Scriptures.

The compilation of voluminous and
intricate systems of divinity which was
introduced in the Greek Church, as
early as the eighth century, by John
of Damascus, and in the Latin by the
unfortunate Abelard, seems to have
suggested to Peter Lombard the idea of
compiling what he termed his “ Four
Books of the Sentences,” which he ex­
tracted from the writings of the fathers,
and more especially of St Augustine.1
This work acquired, in a short time, an
extensive reputation; and its author,
known by the name of the Master of
the Sentences, became the founder of
the scholastic theology. But this great
system continued for a century com­
paratively pure and unsullied; nor was
it till its second age that we meet with
the perpetual reference to the dogmas
of Aristotle, which, with equal absurd­
ity and impiety, were quoted as giving
authority to the word of God. In pro­
gress of time the error gained strength,
and, poisoning the sources of truth and
knowledge, transformed the pure doc­
trines of the Scriptures, as they are

1 Cave, Hist. Literaria, vol. ii. p. 221. Span-
heim, Epitome Isagogica ad Hist. Noyi Test.
p. 394.


found in the Bible, into an unmeaning
rhapsody of words. Under both these
ages of the scholastic theology, Scot­
land produced scholars whose reputa­
tion stood high in the schools. Richard,
a prior of St Victor at Paris, and Adam,
a canon regular of the Order of Pre-
monstratenses, illuminated the middle
of the thirteenth century by volum
nous expositions upon the Prophecies,
the Apocalypse, and the Trinity; by
treatises on the threefold nature of
contemplation, and soliloquies on the
composition and essence of the soul;
while, during the second age of the
scholastic theology, John Duns de­
livered lectures at Oxford to thirty
thousand students.2 In the exact
sciences, John Holybush, better known
by his scholastic appellation, Joannes
de Sacrobosco, acquired, during the
thirteenth century, a high reputation,
from his famous treatise upon the
Sphere, as well as by various other
mathematical and philosophical lucu­
brations; and although claimed by three
different countries, the arguments in
favour of his being a Scotsman are not
inferior to those asserted by England
and Ireland. Like his other learned
brethren, who found little encourage­
ment for science in their own country,
he resided in France; and even at so
late and enlightened a period as the
sixteenth century, and by no less a
scholar than Melancthon, was Sacro-
bosco’s work, the “ Computus Eccle-
siasticus,” esteemed worthy of the edi­
torial labours of this reformer.

Another extraordinary person, who
figured in those remote times, and over
whose life and labours superstition has
thrown her romantic and gloomy light,
was Michael Scott, the astrologer of the
Emperor Frederic the Second, and the
great assistant of that monarch in his
plan for restoring the works of Aris­
totle to the learned world of Europe,
through the medium of translations
from the Arabic. Previous to his re­
ception at the court of Frederic,
Michael had studied at Oxford; and
he afterwards visited France, Italy,
and Spain, in the unwearied pursuit

2 Cave, Hist. Liter, vol. ii. p. 228. Ibid.
Appendix, p. 3.


290                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

of such knowledge as the great univer­
sities of those countries afforded to
the students of the thirteenth century.
Mathematics, astronomy, and the sister
art of astrology, were his favourite pur­
suits ; and in Spain, then partly in pos­
session of the Arabians, and assuredly
at this time the most enlightened por­
tion of Europe, he acquired that ac-
quaintance with the Arabic which, in
the general ignorance of the Greek lan­
guage, was the only source from whence
a knowledge of the Aristotelian philo­
sophy could be derived. In obedience
to the injunctions of the emperor,
Michael Scott commenced his labours;
and from the manuscripts which he
has left, and which have reached our
times, it is probable that he did not
conclude them until he had translated
and commented on the greater part of
the works of the Stagyrite.1 From the
plan of Frederic, however, or the ver­
sions of the Scottish philosopher, little
real benefit could be derived to science,.
for the Arabians had themselves greatly
corrupted Aristotle ; and we need not
wonder that translations from such
sources, and made in utter ignorance
of the language of the original, must
have retarded rather than accelerated
the progress of real knowledge. Accord­
ingly, Roger Bacon, a man whose genius
was far in advance of the age in which
he lived, is not unsparing in his cen­
sure ; and, in no very measured phrase,
accuses the wizard of being at once a
plagiarist and an impostor.2 As a
mathematician and astronomer he is
entitled to less dubious praise; and
his commentary on the “ Sphere of
Sacrobosco” was thought worthy of
being presented to the learned world
of Italy at so late a period as 1495.3
It may be conjectured, therefore, that
Michael owes much of his fame to his
assumption of the character of a

1 Jourdain, Recherches Critiques sur l’age
des Traductions Latines d’ Aristotle, pp. 132,

2  “ Michael Scotus, ignarus quidem et ver-
borum et rerum; fere omnia quæ sub nomine
ejus prodierunt ab Andrea quodam Judæo
nmtuatus est.”—Roger Bacon apud Jourdain,
p. 141. This learned Oriental scholar conjec­
tures that in the above passage, for Andrea,
we should read Avendar Judæo.

3 Panzeri, Annales Typogr. vol. i. p. 231.

prophet and a magician; and that if
the greatest of our Scottish minstrels
had not embalmed him in his im­
perishable poem, and the high-wrought
superstition of his country interwoven
his dreaded predictions into the body
of her romantic legends, his name
might long ago have sunk into obli­
vion.4 He was Baron of Balwearie in
Fife, and must have been born pre­
vious to the year 1217.5 The name of
John Suisset, whose profound mathe­
matical attainments are commemorated
by Scaliger and Cardan, completes the
brief catalogue of those philosophers
and men of science whom Scotland, in
that remote age, sent out to contest
the palm of intellectual superiority
with their brethren of Europe; and
when we consider that everything
which could afford an encouragement
to letters or to science was then a de­
sideratum in our country, it is honour­
able to find, by the acknowledgment of
the scholars of Italy, “that the bar­
barians were considered not inferior in
genius to themselves.” 6

In turning, however, from such rare
examples of talent in the Church to the
literary attainments of the nobility, or
to the means of instruction possessed
by the great body of the people, the
prospect is little else than a universal
blank. During the long period from
the accession of Alexander the Third
to the death of David the Second, it
would be impossible, I believe, to pro­
duce a single instance of a Scottish
baron who could sign his own name.
The studies which formed the learning
of the times were esteemed unworthy

4 “Michael iste dictus est spirituprophetico
claruisse, edidit enim versus, quibus quarun-
dam Italiæ urbium ruinam variosque predixit
eventus.”—Pipino apud Jourdain, p. 131.
See also Benvenuto da Imola’s Commentary
on the Inferno, book xx. v. 115.

5 This is evident from a Latin MS. at Paris,
which bears to have been translated by
Michael Scott at Toledo, anno Christi mccxvii.

6 In speaking of Suisset and John Duns,
Cardan, in his Treatise de Subtilitate, p. 470,
observes, “Ex quo haud dubium esse reor,
quod etiam in libro de Animi Immortalitate
scripsi, barbaros ingenio nobis haud esse in­
feriores, quandoquidem sub brumæ cœlo
divisa toto orbe Britannia. duos tam clari
ingenii viros emiserit,”—Irving’s Lives of the
Scottish Poets, vol. i. p. 31.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                        291

of the warlike and chivalrous spirit of
the aristocracy, and universally aban­
doned to the Church. Yet there is
ample evidence in the Cartularies that
Scotland, although possessed of no col­
lege or university, had schools in the
principal towns, which were under the
superintendence of the clergy, and
wherein the youthful candidates for
ecclesiastical preferment were in­
structed in grammar and logic. We
find, for example, in the Cartulary of
Kelso that the schools in Roxburgh
were under the care of the monks of
Kelso during the reign of David the
First; and that the rector of the
schools of this ancient burgh was an
established office in 1241.1 Perth and
Stirling had their schools in 1173, of
which the monks of Dunfermline were
the directors; and the same authentic
records introduce us to similar semi­
naries in the towns of Ayr, South Ber­
wick, and Aberdeen.2

It seems also probable that, within
the rich monasteries and convents
which at this period were thickly
scattered over Scotland, there were
generally to be found schools, taught
by the monks, who were in the habit
of receiving and educating the sons of
the nobility.3 It is certain that, at­
tached to the cathedral church belong­
ing to the Monastery of St Andrews,
there stood a lyceum, where the youth
were instructed in the Quodlibets of
Scotus;4 and that, so early as 1233,
the schools of St Andrews were under
the charge of a rector. A remarkable
instance of this is to be found in the
Cartulary of Kelso, where Matilda, the
Lady of Moll, in the year 1260, grants
a certain rent to be paid to the abbot
and the monks of this religious house,
under the condition that they should
board and educate her son with the
best boys who were intrusted to their

In the Accounts of the Chamberlain

1 Cartulary of Kelso, pp. 1, 258, 343.

2 Sir L. Stewart’s Coll. Ad. Lib. No. 45. Cart,
of Paisley, p. 284. Cart, of Aberdeen, pp. 74,
80, 81 Caledonia, vol. i. pp. 767, 768.

3 Ant. Augustini Epitome Juris Pontificii
Veteris, vol. ii. p. 34.

4 Martine’s Reliquiæ Divi Andreæ, p. 187.

5 Cart, of Kelso, p. 114.

of Scotland we find an entry of twenty
shillings, given by Robert Bruce, in
1329, to the support of the schools at
Montrose;6 and the same record re-
counts a charitable donation of £13,
6s. 8d. presented by this monarch to
Master Gilbert de Benachtyn, for his
support in his studies.7 Yet the in­
stances of eminent Scottish scholars,
which have been already noticed, prove
convincingly that their own country
could, at this period, afford them little
else than the bare rudiments of edu­
cation ; and the consequent resort of
students to France led to the founda­
tion of the Scots College at Paris, in
the year 1325, by David, bishop of
Moray,—an eminent seminary, which
was soon replenished with students
from every province in Scotland.8

In addition to the Scholastic Theo­
logy, both the Civil and the Canon
Laws were ardently cultivated during
the thirteenth and fourteenth centu­
ries, an eminence in these branches
being considered the certain road to
civil and ecclesiastical distinction. The
titles of Doctor decretorum, Licen-
tiatus in legibus, and Baccalaureus in
decretis, are found, not unfrequently,
subjoined to the names of our digni­
taries in the Church; and the Records
of the University of Paris afford evi­
dence that, even at this early period,
the Scottish students had not only dis­
tinguished themselves in the various
branches of learning then cultivated,
but had risen to some of the highest
situations in this eminent seminary.9
From these foreign universities they
afterwards repaired to their own coun­
try, bringing with them the learning,
the arts, and the improvements of the

6 Cart, of Dunferm. M’Farlane’s Trans­
cript, p. 579.

7  Compot. Camerarii Scotiæ, pp. 95, 96.
See also p. 413 for this singular entry in the
time of David the Second, anno 1364. “Et
in victu et vestitu unius pauperis scolaris
consanguinei domini nostri regis apud Edin­
burgh de mandato regis, 4 lbs.”

8  Irving’s Lives of the Scottish Poets, Pre­
fatory Dissertation, p. 61. Nicholson’s Scot­
tish Historical Library, p. 77.

9  Bulæus, Hist. Univers. Parisiens, vol. iv.
pp. 960, 968, 974, 989. Keith’s Catalogue of
Scottish Bishops, pp. 82, 83, 84. Mylne, Vitæ
Episcoporum Dunkeldensium, p. 17. Editio

292                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

Continent. There is evidence, in the
history of the various foundations of
our religious houses by our early mo­
narchs, that the clergy who were edu­
cated abroad were especially favoured
at home; and after their settlement in
the Church, a constant intercourse with
their continental brethren enabled
them to keep pace, in intellect and
knowledge, with the great family of
the Churchmen of Europe. For such'
learning as then existed in the world
the monasteries afforded, in Scotland
as in other countries, a sacred recep­
tacle; and although the character of
the theology there taught was not of
a high order, and the state of other
branches of human learning deformed
by error, yet, without the feeble spark
preserved in the religious houses, and
the arts of life which were there culti­
vated and improved by the clergy, the
state of the country, during the period
of which we are now writing, would
have been deplorable indeed. Much
that we know of the authentic circum­
stances of the times we owe to the
monastic annalists, who employed their
leisure in the composition of those
rude chronicles which, distant as they
are from the model of a grave or en­
lightened history, often convey to us
very striking pictures.

In every monastery in Scotland it
appears to have been the custom to
compile three sorts of register-books;
specimens of which having been saved
from the wreck of time, enable us to
form a pretty correct idea of their
nature and contents. The first was a
general register, compiled in the shape
of a chronicle, or book of annals, con­
taining the events arranged under the
years in which they happened. Such
are the fragments entitled, “ Chronica
de Origine Antiquorum Pictorum;”
the “ Chronicon Sanctæ Crucis;” the
“ Chronicle of Melross ;“ the short frag­
ment of the “ Chronicle of Holyrood;”
the “ Liber Pasletensis;" and various
other ancient “ chronica,” which were
written anterior to the fatal year
1291, when Edward collected and car­
ried away the historical records of the

The second species of monastic re­

gister was a bare obituary, in which
we find recorded the decease and the
interment of the various abbots, priors,
and benefactors of the monastery; and
the third was the Cartulary, in which
the charters of the kings or other
great men who favoured the religious
house; the bulls of the popes; the
revenues of their lands; the leases
granted to their vassals or dependants;
the history and the proceedings of the
various lawsuits in which they were
engaged; the taxes which they paid
to the crown ; and many other mi­
nute and interesting particulars are
recorded.1 The collection of these last
is fortunately much more complete
than we should have anticipated, from
the lamentable havoc and destruction
which occurred at the period of the
Reformation. Many of the original
Cartularies are preserved in that noble
repository of manuscripts which is the
property of the Faculty of Advocates;
others have been discovered in the
libraries of ancient families or of pri­
vate collectors; and it is in this great
storehouse of authentic records that
there is to be found, although in a
shape somewhat repulsive to the gene­
ral reader, the most fresh and living
pictures of the manners of the times.

This period, however, besides these
monkish annalists, produced one writer
of original genius : I mean Barbour,
the metrical historian of Bruce, of
whose work it is difficult to say whe­
ther it ranks highest as a faithful his­
tory of this great monarch, and of the
manners of his age, or a graphic and
spirited poem, full of noble sentiment,
and occasionally varied with beautiful
descriptions of natural scenery. It is
in every respect a remarkable produc­
tion for so early an age as the middle
of the fourteenth century; and con­
tains many passages, which, in the
strength and purity of the language,
in the measured fulness of the rhythm,
and the richness of the imagery, are
not inferior to Chaucer,2 Its author
was born about the year 1316 ; and,

1 Nicholson’s Scottish Historical Library,
p. 77.

2 Warton’s History of English. Poetry,
p. 318.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            293

after having received the rudiments
of his education in his own country,
pursued his higher studies at Oxford,
and afterwards in France.1 On his
return to his native country, he rose
to considerable preferment in the
Church, and devoted the leisure which
he spared from the duties of his arch-
deanery to the composition of his great
national poem, for which he was re­
warded by a pension from Robert the
Second.2 Another work of this writer
was a history or genealogy of the Kings
of Scotland, compiled, in all proba­
bility, from Wace, or Geoffrey of Mon-
mouth, and entitled “ The Brute.” It
is mentioned in “ Winton’s Chronicle,”3
but has not reached our times. Win-
ton himself, and his brother historian,
Fordun, both writers of great value,
do not properly belong to this period.
Considerably prior, in point of time,
to Barbour was the celebrated Thomas
the Rhymer, or Thomas of Ercildoune,
the author of the romance of Sir Tris-
trem, a poem which enjoyed the high­
est celebrity, not only in his own
country and in England, but through­
out Europe. It has been observed
as a remarkable circumstance that
while, prior to the period of Chaucer,
there is to be found no English ro­
mance which is not a translation from
some earlier French original; and at
the time when the progress of the
English language, in the country
which has given it its name, was re­
tarded by many powerful obstacles,
the poets of the south of Scotland
appear to have derived their romantic
fictions from more original sources,
and to have embodied them in a
dialect of purer English, than the
bards of the sister kingdom. In the
romance of Sir Tristrem, written
about the middle of the thirteenth
century,4 and in two other more
ancient Scottish romances, Gawan and

1 Jamieson’s Memoirs of the Life of Bar-
bour, p. 6.

2 Ibid. p. 8.

3 Winton’s Chronicle, book iii. chap, iii,
v. 139, vol. i. p. 54. Ellis’s Specimens of the
Early English Poets, vol. i. p. 228.

4 Introduction to the Romance of Sir
Tristrem. by Sir Walter Scott, p. 12. Ibid,
p. 57.

Gologras, and Goloran of Galloway,
so very scanty are the traces of any­
thing like a French original, that,
according to the conjecture of the great
writer to whom we owe the publi­
cation of the first and most interest­
ing of these early relics, it is prob­
able they have been originally ex­
tracted from that British mine of
romantic fiction from which have pro­
ceeded those immortal legends of
Arthur and his knights, which took
such a hold on the youthful imagina­
tion of Milton. The names of all the
important personages in the story are
of British origin; and it is con­
jectured, upon data which it would
be difficult to controvert, that in Tris-
trem himself, however transformed by
the poetic colouring of Thomas of
Ercildoune, we are to recognise an
actual British warrior, who, in the last
struggles of the little kingdom of
Cornwall against its Saxon invaders,
signalised himself by those exploits
which have given the groundwork to
this poetic romance.5 In England, the
Norman conquest, and the consequent
prevalency of the Norman-French,
which became the language of the
court, and the medium in which all
legal proceedings were carried on,
necessarily corrupted the purity of
the Saxon language. “In England,”
to use the words of Sir Walter Scott,
in his introduction to Sir Tristrem,
“it is now generally admitted that
after the Norman conquest, while the
Saxon language was abandoned to the
lowest of the people, and while their
conquerors only deigned to employ
their native French, the mixed lan­
guage, now called English, existed
only as a kind of lingua Franca, to
conduct the necessary intercourse
between the victors and the van­
quished. It was not till the reign of
Henry the Third that this dialect had
assumed a shape fit for the purposes
of the poet; and even then it is most
probable that English poetry, if any
such existed, was abandoned to the
peasants and menials; while all who
aspired above the vulgar listened to
Introduction to the Romance of Sir
Tristrem, by Sir Waiter Scott, pp. 52, 53.

294                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

the lais of Marie, the romances of
Chrestien de Troyes, or the interesting
fabliaux of the Anglo-Norman trou-
veurs. The only persons who ventured
to use the native language of the
country in literary compositions were
certain monkish annalists, who usually
think it necessary to inform us that
they descended to so degrading a task
out of pure charity, lowliness of spirit,
and love to the ' lewed men,’ meaning
the lower classes, who could not under­
stand the Latin of the cloister, or the
Anglo-Norman of the court.”

Whilst such was the case in Eng­
land, the formation of the language
spoken in the sister country took
place under different circumstances;
so that, instead of considering the
language in which Thomas of Ercil-
doune and his successors have written
as a daughter of the Anglo-Saxon, it
would be more correct to regard it as an
independent stream, derived from the
great fountain of the ancient Gothic,
but coming to us, in Scotland, through
purer channels than those wherein it
flowed into England. Into the great
controversy regarding the origin of
the Pictish people it would be entirely
out of place to enter at present; al­
though any examination hitherto made
of the original authorities, upon both
sides of a question which has been
agitated with an asperity peculiarly
inimical to the discovery of the truth,
rather inclines me to consider them
as a race of Gothic origin,—an opin­
ion supported by the united testimony
of Bede, Nennius, Gildas, and the
Saxon Chronicle.1 Every hypothesis
which has been adopted to account
for the introduction of the Saxon lan­
guage into Scotland from England,
by the gradual influx of Saxon and
Norman nobles, by the multitude of
English captives taken in war, or by
the marriage of Malcolm Canmore with
a Saxon princess, seems extremely un­
satisfactory; and it appears a more
tenable theory to suppose that in the
great kingdom of Strathclyde,—which
came at last to be wrested from the

1 Jamieson’s Dissertation on the Origin
of the Scottish Language, pp. 2, 4, 26, pre­
fixed to his Dictionary.

original British tribes by the Saxons,
in the large district of the Lothians
and of Berwickshire, which was en­
tirely peopled by Saxons, and in the
extensive dominions of the Picts, a
race of people descended from the
same Gothic stem,—there was formed,
in the progress of centuries, a Gothic
dialect, which we may call the Scoto-
Saxon; similar to the Anglo-Saxon in
its essential character, but from the
circumstances under which its forma­
tion took place, more unmixed with
any foreign words or idioms. It was
this Scoto-Saxon language, called by
Robert de Brunne “ strange Inglis,” or
“ quaint Inglis,”2 which appears to
have been spoken by the Scots from
the beginning of the twelfth century,
and continued the language of the
court and of the people down to the
time of Barbour and Winton. It was
in this language that the wandering
minstrels of those days composed their
romantic legends of love or war; and
that the higher bards, who, to use the
words of the ancient chronicler above
quoted, wrote for “ pride and noblye,”
and to satisfy their thirst for fame,
composed the romances which were
then popular in Scotland, and came,
through the medium of translations,
into Latin and Norman-French, to be
famous throughout Europe.3 That
the Gaelic was the language of the
great body of the Celtic people, who
at a remote period overspread the
greatest part of Scotland, and that it
was understood and spoken by Mal­
colm Canmore himself, is a fact resting
on the most undoubted evidence; but
it is equally certain that such is the
radical difference in the character and
construction of these two tongues, that
they have continued, from the earliest
period to the present day, totally
distinct, refusing to blend or amalga­
mate with each other. In like man­
ner, the Norman-French, although un­
derstood by the Scottish monarchs
and their nobility, and frequently em­
ployed in their diplomatic correspond­
ence, seems never, as in England, to

2  Introduction to Sir Tristrem, pp. 65, 66.

3  Sir Walter Scott’s Introduction to the
Romance of Sir Tristrem, pp. 74, 75, 76.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                             295

have usurped the place of the ancient
national dialect of the Scoto-Saxon;
whilst the Latin, the language of
science, of theology, of all civil and
ecclesiastical contracts and legal pro­
ceedings, was principally understood
by the monks and the clergy. It may
be conjectured, therefore, on pretty
strong grounds, that the mass of the
people to the south of the Firth of
Tay spoke the Scoto-Saxon, and that
this “ quaint Inglis,” as it is called by
Robert de Brunne, was a purer stream
from the Gothic fountain than the
English spoken or written at the same
period in the sister country. Of this
language very few specimens have
reached our times in a genuine and
uncorrupted state. The constant al­
terations which took place in early
orthography, and in the gradual intro­
duction of new idioms, render it im­
possible to quote any fragment as a
correct specimen of the language of
the period, if this relic is only pre­
served in a writer of a later age, and
is not itself written at, or at least
within, a very short time of its real
date. Thus, we cannot say for certain
that the little song or monody, which
has already been quoted, composed
on the death of Alexander the Third,
as preserved by Winton, is exactly in
its genuine state, as the earliest manu­
script of Winton, now extant, could
not have been written prior to 1420
or 1421; 1 and in the long period of
nearly a century and a half a great
change must have taken place in the
language. The manuscript of Thomas
of Ercildoune’s poem is, on the con­
trary, of great antiquity, and has been
pronounced by able antiquaries to
belong to the middle of the fourteenth
century;2 but it appears to have
been transcribed in England, and must,
consequently, have undergone many
changes from its original purity. It
still, however, contains many idioms
which are at this day used in Scotland,
although they have long ceased to be
English; and its language exhibits,

1 M’Pherson’s Preface to Winton’s Chron­
icle, p. 31.

2 Dr Irving’s MS. History of Scottish
Poetry, p. 27. See postea, p. 296.

perhaps, the nearest approach to the
genuine Scoto-Saxon which is to be
found prior to the time of Barbour
and Winton. The description of Ro­
land Ris, the father of the good Sir
Tristrem, is as follows :—

“ He was gode and hende,
Stalworth, wise, and wight ;
Into this londes ende
Y wot non better knight;
Trewer non to frende,
And Rouland Ris he hight;
To batayl gan he wende ;
Was wounded in that fight,

Full felle :
Blaunche Flower the bright
The tale them herd she telle.” 3

The style of the poem is throughout
exceedingly abrupt and elliptical; and
there is a concentration in the narra­
tive which, by crowding events into
small room, produces an obscurity
which renders it difficult to follow the
story : but there are some fine touches
of nature; and it is valuable for its
pictures of ancient manners.

There is every reason to believe
that many other romances, written in
the ancient Scottish, or Scoto-Saxon,
were composed at this period; and
that their authors were in high esti­
mation, encouraged by kingly patron­
age, and welcomed in the halls and
castles of the feudal nobility. It un­
fortunately happened that the art of
printing was not yet discovered; so
that the few written copies of such
“gests and romances,” which must
have thrown such striking lights upon
the genius and manners of our ances­
tors, have long ago perished. The
simple names of the authors, or
makars,” with a brief and unsatis­
fying notice of the subjects of their
composition, are all that remain.
Amongst these shadows we find a
venerable poet commemorated by Win-
ton, in his Chronicle, under the name
of “ Hucheon of the Awle Ryall,” or
“ Hugh of the Royal Court,” whose
great work was entitled the “ Gest of
Arthure.” He appears, however, to
have been a voluminous writer for
those early days; as, in addition to
“ Arthure,” he composed the “ Geste
of the Brute,” the “ Aventures of Sir
Sir Tristrem, p. 15.

296                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

Gawyn,” and the “ Pystyl of Swete
Susan.”1 Of these works, the last, a
short poem, founded on the story of
“ Susannah and the Elders,” has
reached our times. It is composed in
a complicated alliterative stanza, in the
use of which the bards of the “ north
countrée “ are reputed to have been
especially skilful; but it undoubtedly
contains no passages which, in any
degree, support the high character
given of its author by Winton. “ It
becomes all men,” says this historian,
“to love Hucheon; who was cunning
in literature, curious in his style, elo­
quent and subtle; and who clothed
his composition in appropriate metre,
so as always to raise delyte and plea­
sure.” 2 If any reader, with the help
of a glossary, will consent to labour
through the “ Pystyl of Swete Susan,”
he will probably be disposed to come
to the conclusion, either that it is not
the identical composition of the bard
of the “ Awle Ryall,” or that his merits
have been infinitely overrated by the
partiality of Winton. His great his­
torical romance, however, or “ Gest
Historical,” was, we may presume, a
superior composition. In it he treated
of subjects which were dear to the
feelings and imaginations of our ances­
tors : of the doughty deeds of Arthur ;
of his worship and prowess; his con­
quests and royal estate; his round
table and twelve peers; and it was,
probably, in listening to these tales of
love and war that the ladies and
knights of Winton’s days experienced
that “plesans and delyte” which we
in vain look for in the only composi­
tion of his which has reached our days.
It has been asserted by Chalmers that
in Hucheon of the “ Awle Ryall “ we
are to recognise Sir Hugh de Eglinton,
whose death is lamented by Dunbar, in
his pathetic “ Lament “ for the death
of the Scottish poets who had preceded
him; but the grounds on which the
opinion is founded appear slight and

1  Winton’s Chronicle, vol. i. p. 121.

2  Ibid. p. 122.

3 “ I think there cannot be any doubt whe­
ther Sir Hugh de Eglynton were not Hucheon
of the ’ Awle Ryale.’ “ Letter of Mr Chal­
mers to Mr David Laing, and quoted in his

Besides these higher poets of estab­
lished excellence and fixed habita­
tion, there can be no doubt that Scot­
land, from an early period, produced
multitudes of errant minstrels, who
combined the characters of the bard
and the musician ; and wandering with
their harp from castle to castle, sang
to the assembled lords and dames those
romantic ballads of love and war which
formed the popular poetry of the day.
It was impossible, indeed, that it should
be otherwise. The Gothic tribes
which at a very early period possessed
themselves of the Lowlands; the
Saxons and Northumbrians, who dwelt
on the Border; the Scandinavians or
Norwegians, who for several centuries
maintained possession of the islands,
and of Ross and Caithness; and the
Normans, whose original love for ro­
mantic fiction was cherished by their
residence in France, were all passion­
ately addicted to poetry. They pos­
sessed a wild imagination, and a dark
and gloomy mythology; they peopled
the caves, the woods, the rivers, and
the mountains with spirits, elves,
giants, and dragons; and are we to
wonder that the Scots, a nation in
whose veins the blood of all those
ancient races is mingled, should, at a
remote period, have evinced an enthu­
siastic admiration for song and poetry;
that the harper was to be found
amongst the officers who composed the
personal state of the sovereign; and
that the country maintained a privi­
leged race of wandering minstrels, who
eagerly seized on the prevailing super­
stitions and romantic legends, and
wove them, in rude but sometimes ex­
pressive versification, into their stories

Introduction to the Pystyl of Swete Susan.
It has been acutely observed by Dr Irving,
in the third chapter of a History of Scottish
Poetry, not yet published, but which it is to
be hoped he will not long withhold from the
world, “ that when the author of Gawan and
Gologras introduces the name of Hugh, he
does not exhibit it in the form of Hucheon,
but that both he and Winton exhibit it in the
form of Hew.” I have great pleasure in ac­
knowledging the polite and liberal feeling
with which Dr Irving communicated to me
the three first chapters of his manuscript,
and the assistance I have derived, upon this
and many other occasions, from his learning
and research.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                           297

and ballads; who were welcome guests
at the gate of every feudal castle,
and beloved by the great body of
the people ? We learn from a curi­
ous passage in Giraldus Cambrensis,
which has been quoted by Sir Wal­
ter Scott, in his Introduction to Sir
Tristrem, that the country situated
beyond the Humber and the limits of
York, in remote times undoubtedly a
part of the kingdom of Scotland, ac­
quired much fame for a peculiar mode
of singing in parts, which Giraldus
describes with great minuteness, and
in terms of admiration. This ancient
style appears to have been nothing
more than a skilful combination of
two voices, a bass and a treble, “ una
inferius submurmurante, altera vero
superne demulcente pariter et delec-

In the reign of David the First, at
the battle of the Standard, which was
fought in 1138, minstrels, posture
makers, and female dancers, accom-
panied the army;2 and there can be
little doubt that in Scotland, as in
France and England, the profession of
a minstrel combined the arts of music
and recitation, with a proficiency in
the lower accomplishments of dancing
and tumbling.3 In Giraldus Cam-
brensis there is a remarkable testi­
mony to the excellency of the Scottish
music, during the reign of Henry the
Second, who was contemporary with
William the Lion. “ In Ireland,” says
he, “ they use for their delight only
two musical instruments, the harp and
the tabor. In Scotland we find three—
the harp, the tabor, and the bagpipe,4
(choro.) In Wales they have also
three—the harp, the pipe, and the
horn. The Irish employ strings made
of brass wire instead of the gut of

1 Sir Tristrem, Introduction, p. 70.

2 Ethelredus de Bello Standardi, T\vysden,
vol. i. p. 342.

3 Bishop Percy’s Essay on the Ancient
Minstrels, p. 25, and Notes, p. 62, note F.

4 Camdeni Angliea. Hiber. Normann. p. 739.
In the first edition of this history I intro­
duced cornu for choro in this sentence ; but
my friend Mr Dauney, in his learned and
excellent dissertation, prefixed to his “ An­
cient Scottish Melodies,” has completely
proved that the word is choro, and means
the bagpipe. Dissertation, pp. 122, 123.

animals. It is the opinion of many at
this day that Scotland has not only
equalled her mistress, Ireland, in musi­
cal skill, but has far excelled her, so
that good judges are accustomed to
consider that country as the fountain-
head of the art.”

It seems to have been a custom in
Scotland, as old, at least, as Alexander
the Third, that when the sovereign
made his progress through the coun­
try, minstrels and singers received
him on his entrance into the towns,
and accompanied him when he took
his departure; and we find Edward
the First, in his triumphal journey
through the land in 1296, paying cer­
tain Sums of money as a remuneration
for the same melodious reception.
Whether Bruce was himself a profi­
cient in music, the favourite accom­
plishment of many a knight in those
days, is not known; but he undoubt­
edly kept his minstrels : and we have
already seen that, upon the marriage
of David his son to the Princess
Joanna of England, there is an entry
in the accounts of the Great Chamber­
lain which shews that the royal nup­
tials were cheered by Scottish and
English minstrelsy;5 and that the
minstrels of the King of England,
having accompanied their youthful
mistress into her new dominions as
far as Dunbar, were there dismissed,
with a largesse of four pounds from
the king. At the coronation of David
the Second, the minstrels again make
their appearance; and, from the higher
sums which are then given, it may be
conjectured that a more numerous
band had attended upon this joyous
occasion than at the nuptials at Ber­
wick. They are presented with twenty
pounds by the king, and receive ten
from his consort.6 There can be no
doubt that, in many instances, these
minstrels, besides being harpers or
musicians, who sang and recited the
popular poetry of the country, were
themselves poets, who composed ex­
temporaneous effusions: or, in more
frequent instances, altered some well-

5 Chamberlains’ Accounts. Compotus Cam-
erarii Scotiæ, p. 90,
Ibid. p. 228.

298                                HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

known ditty of love or war to suit the
taste, and, by a skilful change of name,
to flatter the family pride of the feudal
baron in whose hall they experienced
a welcome. It is difficult, unless we
admit the existence of some such
system of poetic economy, to account
for the perpetual recurrence of the
same individual stanzas, or at least of
the same expressions, in many of our
oldest ballads, and the reappearance
of the same tale, with only a slight
change of incident, and alteration in
the names of the actors. We know,
from authentic evidence, that there
were gests and historic ballads written
upon the story of Wallace; and that,
upon the occurrence of any great
national event, or victory, the genius
of the country broke into songs, which
the Scottish maidens used to sing. A
single stanza of a Scottish ballad, com­
posed after the defeat of the English
at Bannockburn, has been preserved
in the St Alban’s Chronicle. “ For
he,” says the monkish author, speak­
ing of Edward the Second, “ was dys-
comfited at Banocksborne; therefore
the maydens made a song thereof in
that countrée, of Kynge Edward, and
in this manere they songe :—

“ Maydens of Englonde, sore may ye morne,
For ye have lost your lemmans at Banocks-

With hevelogh ;
What wenyth the kinge of Englonde
To have got Scotland,

With rombelogh.” 1

In Bower’s additions to the Sco-
tichronicon, written about 1441, he
mentions, with a contempt which is
ill concealed, that the vulgar crowd,
in his own day, were much delighted
with tragedies, comedies, ballads, and
romances, founded on the story of
Robin Hood and Little John, which
the bards and minstrels used to sing,
in preference to all others of the same
kind of compositions.2 These popular

1 St Alban’s Chronicle, part vii. sig. r. 11,
quoted in Dr Jamieson’s Notes on Bruce, p.
457. Winton’s Chronicle, vol. ii. p. 102,
speaking of Wallace :—

“Of his gud dedis, and manhad
Great gestis I hard say ar made ;
Bot sa mony I trow noucht
As he in til his dayis wroucht.”

2 Forduni Scotichro. a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 104.

songs and ballads, of which we can
merely trace the existence, were, in
all probability, written by the min­
strels and harpers, who not only
crowded the castles of the great, but
roamed over the country, and were
welcome guests at every cottage door.
Nor is it difficult to ascertain the cause
why nearly every trace and relic of
these ancient ballads has now perished.
The clergy of those remote clays were
the only men who committed any­
thing to writing; and it is certain
that the clergy were the bitter enemies
of the minstrels, whom they considered
as satirical rivals and intruders, who
carried off from the Church the money
which might have been devoted to
more pious and worthy uses. They
talk of them as profligate, low-bred
buffoons, who blow up their cheeks,
and contort their persons, and play on
horns, harps, trumpets, pipes, and
Moorish flutes, for the pleasure of
their lords, and who moreover flatter
them by songs, and tales, and adula­
tory ballads, for which their masters are
not ashamed to repay these ministers
of the prince of darkness with large
sums of gold and silver, and with rich
embroidered robes.3

From this natural antipathy of the
clergy to the singers and minstrels, it
has unfortunately happened that many
a monkish Latin rhyme, composed in
the miserable taste of the age, has
been preserved with affectionate care ;
whilst the historic tales and ballads
of this early period of our history have
been consigned to what was then
deemed a just and merited oblivion.
And yet a single ballad on the death
of Wallace, or the glory of Bruce, pre­
served as it then fell from the lips
of a Scottish minstrel or a Scottish
maiden, were now worth half the
proud volumes of those pedantic

It is extremely difficult to collect
any authentic information upon the
musical instruments, or the character

3 The proofs of this will be found in Du-
cange, voce Ministrelli. Rigordus, de rebus
G-estis Philippi Agusti, ann. 1185. St August,
tract. 100 in Joann. chap. vi. Compotus Hos-
pitii Ducis Normanniæ, ann. 1348.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                           299

of the music, of this remote period.1
The only specimens of the musical
instruments of the age are to be found
upon the rich stone carvings which
ornament the pillars of the Gothic
churches, and the tracery of the bor­
ders, windows, and gateways. Amongst
these we meet with the figures of
musicians, some of them so entire as
to give us a pretty correct idea of the
shape at least of the instrument they
hold in their hands. The flute with
six holes; the bagpipe with a single
drone ; the viol with four strings, and
the sounding holes above the bridge;
and the lute, or at least an instrument
approaching it in its shape, with six
strings, are all discernible in the carv­
ings of Melrpse Abbey, and some of
them appear in the beautiful specimen
of the florid Gothic to be seen in Roslin
Chapel.2 What was the particular
style and character of the music per­
formed by these instruments, or of
the songs which they accompanied, it
is now impossible to determine; and
although the opinion of Ritson, that
none of our present Scottish melodies
can be traced upon anything like au­
thentic evidence further back than the
Restoration, appears somewhat too
sweeping and positive, it is neverthe­
less true that, in the total want of
authentic documents, it would be idle
to hazard a conjecture upon the airs
or melodies of Scotland at the remote
period of which we now write. The
church music, however, was in a dif­
ferent situation; and owing to the
constant intercourse of the great body
of our clergy with the continent, the
same style of sacred music which had
been introduced into the religious ser­
vice of Italy, France, and England
must have been imported into our
own country. If we may believe

1 Since the publication of the first edition of
this work, Mr Dauney’s Introductory Disserta­
tion to his “Ancient Scottish Melodies” has
communicated a body of interesting and au­
thentic information upon these subjects.

2 Statistical Account, vol. ix. p. 90. “ On
the south-east of this church are a great many
musicians, admirably cut, with much pleasant­
ness and gaiety in their countenances, accom­
panied with their various instruments.”—
Dalzel’s Desultory Reflections on the State of
Ancient Scotland, p. 56.

Dempster, a writer of somewhat apo­
cryphal authority, Simon Taylor, a
Scottish Dominican friar, as early
as the year 1230, became the great
reformer of the church music of Scot­
land ; and, by his inimitable composi­
tions, brought this noble art to vie
with the music of Rome itself.

In 1250, when the body of St Mar­
garet was removed with much eccle­
siastic pomp from the outer church,
where she was originally interred, to
the choir beside the high altar, the
procession of priests and abbots, who
carried the precious load upon their
shoulders, moved along to the sounds
of the organ, and the melodious songs
of the choir singing in parts.3 It has
been asserted, indeed, by my late
venerable grandfather, in his Disserta­
tion on Scottish Music, that we owe
the first introduction of organs and of
a choral service into the cathedrals and
abbeys of Scotland to James the First ;
but this can only be understood as
applicable to the improved organs
of the days of James the Fourth,4 as
we see there is certain evidence of the
instrument, in its first rude state,
existing in Scotland at a much earlier
period. It would have been singular,
indeed, if the same invention, which
is found in England as early as the
reign of Edgar, and in Ireland during the
ninth century, should not have made
its way into Scotland till the reign of
James the First.5 Accordingly, in
Fordun’s account of the nuptials of
Alexander the Third, there is a minute
description of a masque, which proves
that in those days the Scottish musical
instruments were not only of various
sorts, but that some of those instru­
ments were similar to the organs used
in the performance of the tragedies
or mysteries which were then fre­
quently enacted by the clergy for the
amusement and edification of the

3 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 83.

4 Dissertation on Scottish Music, by William
Tytler, Esq. of Woodhouselee. Antiquarian
Transactions, vol. i. p. 482. “ Organa qualia
nunc sunt,”
is Boece’s expression.

5 M’Pherson’s Annals of Commerce, vol. i.
p. 252.

6 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 128.

200                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

The wise partiality of our early
kings to the manners and customs
of England; the enthusiasm which
David the First evinced for the erec­
tion of churches and monasteries ; and
the introduction of all the magnifi­
cence and solemnity of the Catholic
worship amongst his rude and barbar­
ous subjects,—entitles us to conjecture,
on strong grounds of probability, that
the church music of Scotland, during
the reign of this monarch, would be a
pretty close imitation of that which
was then to be found in the sister
country. Ethelred, an author of high
authority, and a friend and contem­
porary of David the First, gives us the
following minute and curious account
of the church music in his own days :
—“ Since all types and figures are now
ceased, why so many organs and cym­
bals in our churches ? Why, I say,
that terrible blowing of the bellows,
which rather imitates the frightsome-
ness of thunder than the sweet har­
mony of the voice ? For what end
is this contraction and dilatation of
the voice ? One restrains his breath,
another breaks his breath, and a
third unaccountably dilates his voice;
and sometimes, I am ashamed to say,
they fall a-quavering like the neighing
of horses. Next they lay down their
manly vigour, and with their voices
endeavour to imitate the softness of
women. Then by an artificial circum­
volution, they have a variety of out-
runnings. Sometimes you shall see
them with open mouths and their
breath restrained, as if they were ex­
piring and not singing, and by a ridi­
culous interruption of their breath
they appear as if they were altogether
silent. At other times they look like
persons in the agonies of death ; then,
with a variety of gestures, they per­
sonate comedians ; their lips are con­
tracted, their eyes roll, their shoulders
are shaken upwards and downwards,
their fingers move and dance to every
note. And this ridiculous behaviour
is called religion; and when these
things are most frequently clone, then
God is said to be most honourably
worshipped.”1 From this state of com­

1 Ælred, Speculum Caritatis, book ii. chap.

plicated perfection to which the reli­
gious music of England had arrived at
so early a period, we may be permitted
to attribute a considerable knowledge,
if not an equal excellence, in the same
science to our own country; for we
know that the Scottish clergy, in the
cultivation of the arts which added
solemnity and magnificence to their
system of religious worship, were, in few
respects, behind their brethren of the
South ; yet this is conjectural, and not
founded upon accurate historic proof.

The churchmen of those remote
times did not only monopolise all the
learning which then existed, they were
the great masters in the necessary and
ornamental arts; not only the his­
torians and the poets, but the painters,
the sculptors, the mechanics, and even
the jewellers, goldsmiths, and lapi­
daries of the times. From their pro­
ficiency in mathematical and mechani­
cal philosophy, they were in an espe­
cial manner the architects of the age ;
and the royal and baronial castles,
with the cathedrals, monasteries, and
conventual houses throughout Scot­
land, were principally the work of

Into the numerous and elegant arts
then practised by the clergy it is im­
possible to enter; but no apology will
be required for submitting a few re­
marks upon the last-mentioned sub­
ject, the domestic and the religious
architecture of the times, as the ques­
tion, In what sort of houses or fort-
alices were our ancestors accustomed
to live ? is not one of the least in­
teresting which presents itself in an
inquiry into the ancient condition of
the country.

At a remote era the fortifications in
the Lowland counties of Scotland, in­
habited by tribes of Gothic origin,
were, in all probability, the same as
the castles called Anglo-Saxon in Eng­
land. Their construction partook of
the rude simplicity of the times in
which they were built. They con­
sisted of an inner keep or castle, sur­
rounded by a strong wall, beyond

xx. Duaci, 1631, 4to, quoted in Pinkerton’s
Introductory Essay to the Maitland Poems,
vol. i. p. 67.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            301

which was a ditch or deep fosse, some­
times twenty or thirty yards in breadth;
and beyond this again was raised an
outer vallum or rampart, of no great
height, and apparently composed alone
of earth.1 They were generally placed
on the brow of a steep hill, on a neck
of land running into a river, or some
such situation of natural strength;
and as the art of war and the attack
of fortified places had made then but
little progress, the security they con­
ferred was equal to the exigencies of
the times.

In the earliest age of Saxon archi­
tecture, or at times when a temporary
fortification was speedily required, it
was common to build the walls round
the castles of strong wooden beams.
We learn, for instance, from the Scala
Chronicle, that “ Ida caused the castle
of Bamborow to be walled with stone,
that afore was but inclosed with
woode;”2 and the castle of Old Bale,
in Yorkshire, is described by Camden
as being at first fortified with thick
planks of wood eighteen feet in length,
and afterwards encircled with a wall
of stone. These stone walls were con­
structed in a singular manner. They
were faced, both without and within,
with large square blocks, and the space
between the facings was filled with a
deposit of small rough flint stones or
pebbles, mixed up with a strong cement
of liquid quick­lime.3

1  Strutt’s Manners and Customs of the In­
habitants of England, vol. i. p. 25. “ The
groundwork of another of these Saxon castles
is yet remaining at Witham, being between
the church and the town ; the form and size
of it are yet very visible. This castle was
likewise built by Edward the Elder, who re­
sided at the castle of Maldon while this was
completing, which was about the year 912 or
914. The middle circle contains the keep or
castle, and is about 160 yards in diameter,
and 486 yards round ; the ditch is, in its pre­
sent state, 260 feet in breadth, and beyond the
ditch is the external vallum, which is yet in
a very perfect condition, full four feet high,
and 18 or 20 feet in breadth, the circum­
ference of the whole being about 1000 yards.”

2 Leland’s Collectanea, vol. i. p. 514.

3 Will. Malmesbury says, speaking oi King
Athelstan,—“Urbem igitur illam (Exeter)
quarn contaminatæ gentis repurgio defœca-
verat, turribus raunivit, muro ex quadrat is
lapidibus cinxit.” Willelmi Malmesburiensis
Monachi. Gesta Regum Anglorum, vol. i. p.
214, edited, for the English Historical Society,

In the progress of years the Saxons
made great improvement in the art of
building; and, in point of strength
and security, their castles were capa­
ble of sustaining a creditable siege;
but the apartments were low, ill-
lighted, and gloomy; and it is not till
some time after the Conquest that we
find the Norman style of architecture
introduced, and a more lofty and mag­
nificent species of structures begin­
ning to arise in England, and to make
their way, with the arts and the man­
ners of this great people, into Scot­
land. Owing, however, to the remote
era in which the Scoto-Norman castles
were built, time, and, in some in­
stances, the tasteless and relentless
hand of man have, in our own coun­
try, committed great ravages. The
necessary policy, too, of Bruce, who
dismantled and destroyed most of the
castles which he took has been fatal
to the future researches of the anti­
quary and the historian; and few frag­
ments remain which can, on satisfac­
tory grounds, be pronounced older
than the reign of this monarch. Yet
the records of the Chamberlains’ Ac­
counts, and the incidental notices of
our early historians, furnish us with
ample evidence that, in the building
of castles and fortalices, and in the
erection of those magnificent churches
of which little but the ruins are now
seen, Scotland had made great pro­
gress during the thirteenth century.

We have already seen the effectual
precautions against attack which were
taken by Alexander the Third, when
it became certain that Haco, the King
of Norway, had determined to invade
his kingdom. The castles on the coast
of Scotland were carefully inspected ;
and from the details regarding their
repairs, which are to be found in the
few extracts that remain of the Cham­
berlains’ Accounts under this mon­
arch, some interesting information
may be gathered.

The northern coast of Scotland was
defended by a series or chain of strong
castles of stone, fortified by towers

and enriched with valuable notes, by my
learned friend, Mr Hardy, Principal Keeper
of the Records in the Tower.

302                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

and drawbridges, and containing a
dungeon, provided with iron fetters
for the prisoners, accommodation for
the stores and warlike engines, guard­
rooms for the garrison, and a great
hall or state apartment where the
baron or castellan resided and enter­
tained his vassals. Their situation
was generally chosen with great skill.
If on the coast, advantage was taken
of the vicinity of the sea; if in the
interior, of some river or hill, or insu­
lated rock, which rendered the ap­
proach on one side arduous or impos­
sible, while care was taken to fortify
the remaining sides by a deep fosse,
and strong walls, with towers at each
angle. Caerlaverock, a strong castle
of the Maxwells, is thus described by
an eye-witness in the year 1300, when
it was besieged and taken by Edward
the First:—“ Its shape was like that
of a shield, for it had only three sides
all round, with a tower on each angle;
but one of the towers was a double
one, so high, so long, and so large, that
under it was the gate with the draw­
bridge, well made and strong, and a
sufficiency of other defences. It had
good walls, and good ditches filled to
the edge with water; and I believe
there never was seen a castle more
beautifully situated : for at once could
be seen the Irish sea towards the west,
and to the north a fine country, sur­
rounded by an arm of the sea; so that
no living man could approach it on
two sides without putting himself in
danger of the sea. Towards the south
the attack was not easy, because there
were numerous dangerous defiles of
wood and marshes, besides ditches
where the sea is on each side, and
where the river makes a reach round,
so that it was necessary for the host
to approach it towards the east where
the hill slopes.” 1

This minute description of Caerlave-
rock may, with slight alterations, in­
troduced by the nature of the ground,
or suggested by the fancy and inge­
nuity of the architect, be applied to
most of the Scottish castles of the
period. Two principles were to be

1 Siege of Caerlaverock. Edited, with notes,
by Sir Harris Nicolas, pp. 61, 62.

followed out in their construction:
they were to be fitted, in the first
place, for strength and resistance;
whilst, according to the rank of the
feudal baron, provision was to be made
for his being comfortably or splendidly
accommodated ; and although the first
requisite was invariably made to regu­
late and control the second, yet it is
impossible not to admire the skill and
ingenuity with which the genius of
those ancient architects contrived to
combine security and comfort. The
earliest specimens of the strong Anglo-
Norman castle present us with a single
square tower; and it is evident that
the lowest storey of the castle, being
most exposed to attack, was required
to be formed in the strongest manner.
We find, accordingly, that the walls
in this part of the building, which
formed the chambers where the stores
were kept, and the dungeons for the
prisoners, were invariably the strong­
est and thickest part of the building.
These lower apartments were not
lighted by windows, but by small
loopholes in the solid stone, so inge­
niously constructed, that it was nearly
impossible from without to discharge
into them any arrow or missile, so as
to injure the soldiers within. The
wall itself, which was here about
twelve feet thick, was built in the
same way as those of the Saxon castles,
being cased within and without with
strong large square blocks of hewn
stone, and filled up in the middle with
flints embedded in fluid mortar; and
we know that the same mode of build­
ing was employed in both countries,
not only by an examination of the
Scoto-Norman castles which remain,
but by the evidence of the entries in
the Chamberlain Accounts.2 The en­
trance or principal door leading into
the castle was not in the lower storey;

2 Thus in the Chamberlain Accounts, Temp.
Alex. III. p. 64. “Item in conductione
cementariorum, et hominum fragentium lapi-
des fabrorum, et aliorum operariorum. In
pastu et ferrura Equorum cariancium lapides,
in calcem et in aliis minutis expensis factis
circa construccionem Castri de Strivelin.” 94
lib. 17 d. See Statist. Account, vol. xviii. p.
417 ; Description of Kildrummie Castle, and
of Dundargue, vol. xii. p. 578.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            303

but, for the purpose of security, gene-
rally placed pretty far up the wall,
and communicating by a drawbridge,1
with a flight of steps or staircase of
strong masonry. The door itself was
not only secured by a strong gate of
thick oak, with iron knobs, but by
a portcullis or grating, composed
sometimes wholly of iron, sometimes
of timber fenced with iron, fur­
nished at the bottom with sharp
spikes, and so constructed as to slide
up and down in a groove of solid stone
work, made within the body of the
wall, in the same way as we see a sash
window slide in its frame.2 Within
the doorway, and built in the thick­
ness of the wall, was generally a stone
seat, where the warder stationed him­
self, whose duty it was to keep castle
guard, and who could at pleasure pull
up the drawbridge and lower the port­
cullis when he suspected an attack, or
wished to have a safe parley with a
suspicious guest. On the second floor
were the apartments where the soldiers
of the garrison had their residence and
lodging, and which, as it was much
exposed to attack, had generally no
windows in the front wall. The rooms
were lighted by loopholes in the three
remaining sides, which, surrounded
by the strong wall enclosing the bal-
or outer court of the castle, were
more secure from the missiles of the
enemy. The third floor contained the
apartments of state, the hall of the
castle where the baron lodged his
friends and feasted his vassals. It
was lighted by Gothic windows, highly
ornamented, and was commonly hung
with arras or rich tapestry, and adorned
by a roof of carved oak. At each end
of the apartment was a large recess
in the wall, forming an arched fire-
place, highly ornamented with carv­
ing, and frequently formed so as to
have a stone seat all round; and in
the middle of the hall was an oaken
table, extending nearly the whole

1  See the Description of the Ancient Castle
of Dunaverty in Argyle, in which Bruce took
refuge. Statistical Account, vol. iii. p. 365.

2  Mr King’s Observations on Ancient
Castles, published in the Archæologia, vol.
iv. p. 364, containing an acute and ingenious
examination of this interesting subject.

length of the apartment, and sup­
ported on beams or pillars of oak.

One of the finest specimens of the
ancient feudal hall is still to be seen
at Darnaway, once the seat of the
great Randolph. Its roof is supported
by diagonal rafters of massive oak; its
height must originally have been above
thirty feet, and its remaining propor­
tions are eighty-nine feet in length,
by thirty-five in breadth. At one end
is a music gallery; and in the middle
of this magnificent apartment still
stands the baron’s board or table, sup­
ported on six pillars of oak, curiously
bordered and indented with Gothic
carving. His ancient oaken chair, in
form not unlike the coronation chair
at Westminster, and carved with his
arms and the insignia of his office,3 is
still seen; and although this descrip­
tion of Randolph’s hall is not to be
understood as applicable to the state
apartment of all, or even of most, of
our feudal castles, yet, making allow­
ance for the difference in the propor­
tions, the plan and disposition of the
room is the same in all, and was singu­
larly well adapted for that style of
rude and abundant hospitality, when
every man, who followed the banner
of his lord, found a seat at his table,
and every soldier who owned a jack
and a spear might have a place at his
hearth. The uppermost storey in the
castle was composed of rooms of
smaller dimensions, which were lighted
by windows of considerable size; and
in this highest floor, as from the great
height there were little precautions to
be taken against attack, the architect
was at liberty to indulge his fancy in
ornamenting the windows and the
battlements; so that it is not unfre-
quent, in the most ancient feudal
castles, to find the windows in the
floor next the roof of the largest
dimensions, and with the richest carv­
ing of any in the building. It was in
these highest rooms that, during a
siege, the catapults, balistæ, war-wolfs,
and other instruments of annoyance
and destruction were placed; and
there was a communication between
this highest storey and the roof,

3 Statistical Account, vol. xx. p. 224.

304                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

through which they could be drawn
up upon the leads of the castle as the
exigencies of the siege required.

Such was the general construction
and disposition of the feudal castles
of those remote times; and any one
fond of antiquities, and interested in
the history of the country, may, in
the course of a short tour in Scotland,
convince himself of the truth of the
description. Some, of course, were
of larger dimensions, and covered a
much greater extent of ground than
others; and according to the required
strength and importance of the station,
and the nature of the ground, to many
was added an outer or base court, sur­
rounded by walls and flanking towers.
Besides this, the castle itself was com­
monly encircled by a strong outer
wall, communicating with a tower,
the interior of which formed a kind
of vestibule to the principal entrance
of the castle; whilst, beyond the wall,
was a broad breastwork or barbican,
and a moat, which encircled the whole
building. In 1325, Bruce had com­
manded the castle of Tarbet to be in­
spected and repaired; and a minute
account of the expense laid out in
increasing the breadth of the walls,
building a new tower, and fortifying
the approach by a fosse, is to be found
in the Chamberlains’ Accounts. The
repairs appear to have occupied seven
months; and, during this period, there
was a consumption of seven hundred
and sixty chalders of burnt lime, the
expense of the whole work being four
hundred and thirty pounds ten shil­
lings and fivepence.1

Besides these stone buildings, adapt­
ed principally for strength and defence,
it was common to construct halls
and other apartments of wood within
the outer court, and even to build
castles and fortifications entirely of
that perishable material. In the hall,
the wooden framework, composed
of strong beams of oak, was covered
with a planking of fir, and this again
laid over with plaster, which was

1 The items of the accounts will be found
printed in the Illustrations. Chamberlains’
Accounts, Compot. Const, de Tarbart, pp.

adorned with painting and gilding,2
whilst the large oak pillars supporting
the building rested in an embedment
of strong masonwork. When the Earl
of Athole was assassinated by the
Bissets at the tournament at Hadding-
ton, in the early part of the reign of
Alexander the Third, the hospitium in
which he slept and was murdered
seems to have been a wooden build­
ing; and after the deed, the perpetra­
tors burnt it, and a manor and palace
connected with it, to the ground.3

There is a curious passage quoted by
Camden, which, in describing the siege
of Bedford castle during the reign of
Henry the Third, throws considerable
light on the disposition of these an­
cient buildings; and as the account is
written by an eye-witness of the siege,
the information is valuable and authen­
tic :—“ On the east side was one petrary
and two mangonells daily playing upon
the tower, and on the west were two
mangonells battering the old tower;
as also one on the south, and another
on the north part, which beat down
two passages through the walls that
were next them. Besides these, there
were two machines constructed of
wood so as to be higher than the
castle, and erected on purpose for the
slingers and watchmen; they had also
several machines where the slingers
and cross-bowmen lay in wait; and
another machine called cattus, under
which the diggers that were employed
to undermine the castle came in and
went out. The castle was carried by
four assaults. In the first was taken
the barbican; in the second they got
full possession of the outer ballia ; at
the third attack the wall by the old
tower was thrown down by the miners,

2 Chamberlains’ Accounts, p. 6. “In
servicio duorum carpentariorum arca leva-
cionem Aule in Castro ... In servicio
portancium et cariancium lutum et sabulo-
nem pro parietibus Aule, et servicio diver­
sorum operariorurn circa easdem, et servicio
tauberiorum et coopiencium, cum servicio
duorum cimentarionum subponencium postes
Aule cum petris et calce 15sh. 8d.” Ibid. p.
38. “Item in VI. petris crete empt. pro
pictura nova Cameræ apud Cardross.” See
also Strutt’s Manners and Customs of the
People of England, vol. ii. p. 95.

3 Fordun a Goodal. vol. ii. p. 72.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                        305

from which, by a vigorous attack, they
possessed themselves of the inner bal-
lia through a breach. At the fourth
assault, the miners set fire to the chief
tower on the keep, so that the smoke
burst out, and the tower itself was
cloven to that degree as to shew visibly
some broad rents, whereupon the ene­
my surrendered. " 1

In the various sieges which occurred
in Scotland during the war of liberty,
the same mode of attack was invari­
ably adopted, by mining and battering
the walls, and wheeling up to them
immense covered machines, divided
into different stages, from which the
archers and cross-bowmen attacked
the soldiers on the battlements of the

With regard to the houses within
burgh, which were inhabited by the
wealthy merchants and artisans, and
to the granges and cottages which
formed the residence of the free far­
mers, the liberi firmarii, and of the
unfortunate class of bondmen or vil-
leyns, they appear to have been in­
variably built of wood. In the year
1243, eight of the richest burghs in
Scotland were consumed by fire, and
reduced to ashes;2 and in the Cham­
berlains’ Accounts we constantly meet,
amongst the items of royal expendi­
ture, with the sums paid to the car­
penter, and the moneys laid out in the
purchase of wood, for the construction
of new granges, sheds, and cottages,
upon the various manors possessed by
the king. In 1228, Thomas de Thirle-
stane, one of those Lowland barons
who had made his way into Moray,
was attacked and slain in his strong­
hold by Gillescop, a Celtic chief, who
afterwards destroyed several wooden
castles in the same country, and con­
sumed by fire a great part of Inver­
ness ;3 and we know that the practice
of building the houses within burgh of
wood continued to a late period, both
in England and Scotland. We gene­
rally connect the ideas of poverty,
privation, and discomfort with a man­

1 Camden, in Bedfordshire, p. 287, quoted
in Strutt’s Manners and Customs, vol. i. pp.
94, 95.

2 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 75.

3 ibid. pp. 57, 58.

sion constructed of such a material;
but the idea is a modern error. At
this day the mansion which Berna-
dotte occupied as his palace when he
was crowned at Drontheim, a building
of noble proportions, and containing
splendid apartments, is wholly built of
wood, like all the houses in Norway;
and from the opulence of the Scottish
burghers and merchants, during the
reigns of Alexander the Third and
David the Second, there seems good
reason to believe that their houses
were not destitute either of the com­
forts, or what were then termed the
elegancies of life.

I come now to say a few words upon
the third, and by far the noblest class
of buildings which were to be seen in
Scotland during this remote period—
the monasteries, cathedrals, and reli­
gious houses. Few who have seen
them will not confess that, in the
grandeur of their plan, and the extra­
ordinary skill and genius shewn in
their execution, they are entitled to
the highest praise; and if we read
the description given in a monastic
chronicle in the British Museum, of
the earliest church at Glastonbury,4
composed of wooden beams and twisted
rods, and turn from this to the cathe­
dral of St Magnus in Orkney, to the
noble pile at Dunfermline, to the more
light and beautiful remains of Melrose
Abbey, or to the still more imposing
examples of ecclesiastical architecture
in England,—the strength of original
genius in the creation of a new order
of architecture, and the progress of
mechanical knowledge in mastering
the complicated details of its execution,
are very remarkable.

There cannot be a doubt that we
owe the perfection of this noble style
to the monks; and although the exact
era of its first appearance, either in
England or in our own country, is
difficult to be ascertained with preci­
sion, yet there are some valuable and
interesting notices in our early his­
torians, which make it probable that
our first masters in the art of building
churches in stone were the Italians.

4 Cotton MS. Tib. A. V. Bede, Hist. Eceles.
Gentis Anglorum, p. 160.

306                               HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

It may have happened that some of
those master-minds which appear in
the darkest times, when they had once
acquired a degree of skill in the man­
agement of their materials, struck out
the idea of imitating in stone the
wooden edifices of the period; and
when working from models of twisted
willow-rods, the pliable material of
which the walls and ornaments of our
ancient religious houses were con­
structed,1 the ideas of the arch, the
pillars, the groined roof, and the
tracery of the windows, began gradu­
ally to develop themselves in a man­
ner shewn by an able and acute writer2
to be perfectly natural and intelligible.
Indeed, when the idea was once seized,
and it was found that the knowledge
of working in stone, and of the mecha­
nical powers which the age possessed,
was sufficient to reduce it to practice,
we can easily conceive that its future
progress towards perfection may have
been tolerably easy and rapid.

The infinity of beautiful Gothic
forms which are capable of being
wrought, and which almost necessarily
suggest themselves to an artist work­
ing in willow, and the admirable skill
in carving and imitating in stone which
was acquired by the monkish artists at
an early period, produced an action
and reaction on each other; and the
same writer already mentioned has
shewn, by a careful analysis of every
portion of a Gothic church, that there
is not a single ornament in its struc­
ture and composition which does not
serve to corroborate this idea. As to
our earliest Norman builders having
been instructed by the Italians, there
is historical evidence. In the year
1174, the cathedral church at Canter­
bury was destroyed by fire, and in a
description by Eadmer, a contempor­
ary writer, it is stated that this ancient
edifice was built by the assistance of
Roman artists, after the model of the
church of St Peter’s at Rome.3

1 Simeon Dunelm. p. 27.

2 Sir James Hall’s Essay on the Origin,
History, and Principles of Gothic Architec­

3 Chronica Gervasii, Pars Prima, de Com-
bustione et Reparatione Durobornenis Ec-
clesiæ, 1290. Twysden, vol. ii.

That the most ancient churches in
Britain were constructed of pillars and
a framework of oak, covered with
reeds or twisted rods, we know from
authentic evidence ; and it is asserted
by Gervas, in his account of the re­
building of the church of Canterbury,
after its destruction by fire, that,
whereas in the ancient structure the
roof had been composed of wood, and
decorated with exquisite painting, in
the new church it was constructed of
an arch, built of stone, and light tufle-
work.4 Nay, even the name of the
adventurous artist who first seems to
have conceived the bold idea of work­
ing the ribbed and vaulted ceiling in
stone, in the same way in which it had
formerly been executed in wood, has
been preserved to us: it was William
of Sens, a French artist. He invented
also, as we learn from the monkish
historian who was an eye-witness of
his labours, ingenious machines for
the loading and unloading the ships
which brought the stones from foreign
parts, in all probability from Nor­
mandy, as well as for raising aloft the
immense weights of lime and of stone
which were required in the building;
he furnished the stone-cutters with
working plans, or models, which guided
them in their nice and difficult opera­
tions; and he began to form the
ribbed arches and vaulted panels upon
a framework of timber, to which was
attached the scaffolding where the
masons stood. As the building pro­
ceeded, this scaffolding unfortunately
gave way, and the adventurous artist
was incurably maimed. But he had
struck out the idea; and it was more
successfully carried into execution by
an English architect who succeeded
him.5 It is the opinion of the acute
writer who has pointed out this first
and most important step in the progress
of our ecclesiastical architecture, that
the idea of ornamenting the great pillars
with groups of smaller columns sur­
rounding them, was introduced at the
same period, and by the same artist.6

4 Gervasii Chronica, p. 1298.

5  See Archæologia, vol. ix. p. 115. Gover­
nor Pownall on Gothic Architecture.

6  Ibid. p. 116.

ANCIENT STATE OF SCOTLAND.                            307

The art of executing large and
magnificent buildings in timber frame­
work was carried to high perfection in
the northern countries of Europe dur­
ing the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth
centuries. It had made great progress
in England, and was there known and
practised in the building of churches,
under the name of the Teutonic style.
Owing, however, to the perishable
nature of the materials, and to acci­
dents by fire, these churches were fre­
quently either destroyed, or reduced
to a state of extreme decay; so that
the ruinous state of the ecclesiastical
edifices in the northern parts of Europe
became a serious subject of inquiry at
Rome about the commencement of
the thirteenth century; and measures
were taken to obviate the grievance.
These measures were of a singular
nature. The Pope created several cor­
porations of Roman and Italian archi­
tects and artisans, with high and ex­
clusive privileges; especially with a
power of settling the rates and prices
of their labour by their own authority,
and without being controlled by the
municipal laws of the country where
they worked. To the various northern
countries where the churches had fallen
into a state of decay, were these
artists deputed; and, as the first ap­
pearances of the Gothic architecture
in Europe was nearly coincident with
this mission of Roman artists, and, as
has already been observed, the new
style of imitating the arched frame­
work of wood by ribbed arches of
stone was known by the name of the
Roman style, there arises a presump­
tion that we owe this magnificent
style of architecture to these travel­
ling corporations of artists, who in
consequence of the exclusive privileges
which they enjoyed assumed to them­
selves the name of Freemasons, and
under this title became famous through­
out Europe.1 These same corporations,
from their first origin, possessed the
power of taking apprentices, and ad­
mitting into their body such masons
as they approved of in the countries
where their works were carried on;

1 Sir James Hall's Essay on Gothic Archi­
tecture, pp; 109,114.

so that, although the style may have
originated amongst Italian artists, it is
quite possible it may have been brought
to perfection by other masters, who
were natives of the different countries
to which these Roman workmen were
sent; and this will account for the
fact that the church of Canterbury, in
which the ribbed arch of stone is sup­
posed to have been introduced for the
first time into England, was originally
the work of a Norman, and afterwards
completed by an English architect.

In speaking of these corporations of
architects of the Middle Ages, Sir
Christopher Wren has given, in his
Parentalia, the following account of
their constitution : — “ The Italians,
with some Greek refugees, and with
them French, Germans, and Flemings,
joined into a fraternity of architects,
procuring Papal bulls for their encour­
agement, and particular privileges:
they styled themselves Freemasons, and
ranged from one nation to another as
they found churches to be built; for
very many, in those ages, were every­
where in building, through piety or
emulation. Their government was
regular; and where they fixed near
the building in hand, they made a
camp of huts. A surveyor governed
in chief; every tenth man was called
a warden, and overlooked each nine;
and the gentlemen of the neighbour­
hood, either out of charity, or commu­
tation of penance, gave the materials
and the carriages. Those,” adds Sir
Christopher, “ who have seen the ac­
counts, in records, of the charge of the
fabrics of some of our cathedrals, near
four hundred years old, cannot but
have a great esteem for their economy,
and admire how soon they erected such
lofty structures.” 2

This new and noble style of ecclesi­
astical architecture found its way into
Scotland about the beginning of the
twelfth century; and, fostered by the
increasing wealth of the Church, and
by the devotion and munificence of

2 Parentalia, pp. 306, 307. I have in vain
looked for the original authorities upon which
Sir Christopher Wren and Governor Pownall
have founded this description of the travelling
corporations of Roman architects.

our early monarchs, soon reached a
pitch of excellence not far inferior to
that which it had attained in England
and in France. Besides fourteen
bishops’ sees, to most of which was
attached a Gothic cathedral and palace,
there existed at the time of the Refor­
mation a hundred and seventy-eight
religious houses, consisting of abbacies,
priories, convents, and monasteries,
most of which were richly endowed,
situated in the midst of noble woods,
surrounded by spacious gardens, parks,
and orchards; and exhibiting, in the
style of their architecture, specimens
of the progressive improvement of the
art, from the simple and massy Saxon
to the most florid Gothic. It is subject
of deep regret that some of the strong-
minded and strong-handed spirits, who
afterwards acted a principal part in the
Reformation, adopted the erroneous
idea that these noble edifices were in­
consistent with the purity of the wor­
ship which they professed; and that
they permitted, or, as some authors
have asserted, encouraged the populace
to destroy them.

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