DAVID II.—THE STORY OF BLACK AGNES
When Robert Bruce died in 1329 a.d., his son was at
once crowned under the title of David II. David was
only a little boy, so of course could not himself rule, and
Randolph, Earl of Moray, was made Regent. For three
years Randolph ruled. He was very just, but very strict,
and even cruel, so he made many enemies. One day he
died suddenly. Some people thought that he had been
poisoned, but that has never been proved
Another Regent was chosen, but he turned out to be
neither a good soldier nor a good ruler, and so once more
troubles began. There were, as you know, many great
lords who had lands both in England and in Scotland.
During the wars, many of these lords who had fought for
Edward lost their Scottish lands. This made them very
angry. Now that there was only a child upon the throne,
they rebelled, hoping to win their lands again. They
found a leader in Edward Baliol, the son of John Baliol,
who had been King before Robert the Bruce.
Edward Baliol said that he had a better right to
the throne than David, and, in spite of the treaty of
Northampton, he was helped and supported by Edward
of England, who hoped once more to become Scotland’s
Once again Scotland was torn in two by civil wars,
some taking the part of Baliol, some that of David A
190 SCOTLAND’S STORY
battle called the battle of Dupplin Moor was fought, á
few miles from Perth. In this battle the loyalist Scots,
that is, those who were fighting for the King, were utterly
A base Scottish baron showed Edward Baliol where
to cross the river, on the other side of which the King‘s
army lay. Silently, at midnight, Baliol led his soldiers
over, and broke into the Scottish camp while the soldiers
were all asleep. The Scots were soon awake, and sprang
to arms. Randolph, Earl of Moray, the son of the famous
Earl, gathered his men together quickly. They fought so
bravely, that in spite of the surprise the battle might have
ended in victory instead of defeat, if only the Regent had
known how to command his men. But he drew up his
soldiers in such close lines that they fell over each other,
and crushed each other to death, without ever getting
near the enemy. Thus, far more of the Scots were killed
by their friends than by their foes. So dense was the
crowd, so awful the slaughter, that in one part of the field
the dead lay in heaps of a spear length in depth. The
Regent and most of the bravest and the best of the
Scottish nobles were among the slain. After this battle
Edward Baliol hurried to Scone, and there he was crowned.
So there were two Kings in Scotland—David Bruce and
Edward Baliol. But King David and his young wife,
who you remember was Edward of England’s sister, fled
away to France.
One of the first things Edward Baliol did after he was
crowned, was to own himself, as his father had done, vassal
of the King of England. But Baliol’s triumph was not
for long. There were many Scotsmen who were still true
to their King. They chose another Regent to rule in
David’s name, and one dark night they suddenly attacked
Edward Baliol. They slew many of his barons, and
THE STORY OF BLACK AGNES 191
Edward himself barely escaped with his life. He had to
flee so fast that he had not even time to dress, but throw
ing himself on a bare-backed horse he galloped away
through the darkness. So in less than three months after
the crown had been placed upon his head, he was chased
from his kingdom, penniless, and almost naked.
He fled back to England, to his master Edward, and
Edward gathering a great army, marched against the
Scots, and in a battle called Halidon Hill, the Scots were
once more defeated.
Edward then overran the country, plundering and
conquering, till no one dared call David King any more,
except the little children in their games when they played
at being kings and queens.
But Scotland would by no means yield to England,
and fighting still went on. Among those who fought
most bravely for their country was the Countess of March.
She was called Black Agnes because she was so dark.
Her husband, the Earl of March, was away fighting for
the King, when the English besieged his castle of Dunbar.
Dunbar was a very important castle, and Black Agnes
made up her mind that nothing would make her yield it
In those days cannon had not yet come into use.
Instead of cannon, armies carried about with them great
engines, with which they threw enormous stones at the
walls of the castles which they wished to take.
The English brought their strongest engines against
Dunbar, but Black Agnes laughed at their big stones.
She used to stand on the walls with her ladies and her
maids, and when a stone hit the walls, she would bid
them wipe the spot with a clean white cloth, as if to say,
that she liked to keep her castle clean and tidy, and all
the harm the English could do was to make a little dust.
She was always on the walls, or at the gate, and in the
most dangerous places, taunting the English, and en
couraging her own men by her brave words.
‘ She kept a stir in tower and trench,
That brawling, boisterous Scottish wench ;
Came I early, came I late,
I found Black Agnes at the gate.’
Angry as they were, the English could not but admire
Black Agnes for her courage, and they accepted her gibes
and jeers with a rugged chivalry. ‘ There goes one of my
lady’s tiring-pins,’ said the English leader one day as a
knight fell dead beside him, pierced by a Scottish arrow.
‘ Black Agnes’s love-shafts go straight to the heart.’
For five months Black Agnes kept the castle. By the
end of that time the men and women within the walls
were near starving. Dunbar is by the sea, but the Eng
lish watched so carefully that no help could be brought
to the brave little garrison either by land or by sea.
One night, however, a bold Scotsman managed to slip
between the English ships which lay close about the
castle. In his little vessel were forty men, and plenty
of food for the brave defenders.
After this the English lost all hope of taking the
castle, so they went away, angry and ashamed at having
been beaten by a woman. But the Scottish people were
proud of Black Agnes, and the minstrels made poems
about her, and sang of her valiant deeds.
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