ROBERT II.—THE STORY OF THE BATTLE OF OTTERBURN
The Scottish nobles now resolved again to invade Eng
land. They made all their preparations secretly, keeping
them from the King as they would from an enemy, for
they knew that he desired peace. But the Scottish nobles
knew too, that the English King was in trouble, that he
was quarrelling with his own family and with his people,
and that it was therefore a good time to avenge them
selves upon England.
So, secretly, and in spite of the King, they gathered
to arms and crossed the Border.
The Scottish army was divided into two bodies, one
of which, led by Earl Douglas, marched into Northumber
land. There, after having done much damage, they met
the English under the Earl of Northumberland’s two sons,
Henry and Percy. Henry, the elder, was so gallant and
eager a knight that he was called Hotspur. He and his
brother were among the bravest of the English knights,
just as Douglas was among the Scottish.
Near Newcastle, Douglas and Hotspur met, and in
the fight which took place, Douglas captured and carried
off Hotspur’s pennon.
‘ I will carry this with me to Scotland,’ cried Douglas,
waving it aloft ‘ I will place it upon the topmost tower
of my castle that it may be seen from far.’
‘ By heaven, Earl Douglas,’ cried Hotspur, frill of
THE BATTLE OF OTTERBURN 208
anger, ‘ you shall not even bear it out of Northumberland.
You shall never have that pennon to brag about.’
‘ You must come then this night and take it,’ replied
Douglas scornfully. ‘ I shall fix it before my tent.
Come and take it if you dare.’
It was now late in the evening, so each army went
back to camp to rest and have supper. The Scots had
plenty of food, and having had a good meal, they lay
down to sleep. But a strict watch was kept, for they
expected Hotspur to make good his proud boast and
to come to take his pennon.
But the night passed. Hotspur did not come, and
next morning the Scots began to march homeward.
They might have gone safely home, without more
fighting, but Douglas decided to remain for two or three
days near the castle of Otterburn. ‘ For,’ said he, ‘ I
conquered Hotspur’s pennon in fair fight, and I will give
him a chance of winning it back again. He will find it
well defended if he comes.’
In those days knights looked upon war almost as a
game, and Douglas was anxious to play fair and to keep
In the meantime, Hotspur was greatly ashamed that
he had not kept his word and won his pennon again from
Douglas. The knights who were with him tried in vain
to comfort him. ‘ Many such losses happen in war,’ they
‘ If Douglas did take your pennon, he had to fight
hard for it’
‘ We are not strong enough now to attack so great a
host Let us wait until more men come to help us. It
is better to lose a pennon than two or three hundred
Very unwillingly Hotspur yielded to this advice. But
204 SCOTLAND’S STORY
when some English knights came galloping into the
camp with the news that the Scots were near Otterburn,
and that they were not more than three thousand
strong, Hotspur sprang up. ‘To horse, to horse,’ he
shouted ; ‘ by the faith that I owe to my God, and to my
lord and father, I will yet recover my pennon this very
It was a warm, calm August evening, and the moon
shone brightly as Hotspur and his men galloped im
The Scots had had supper, many of them had already
fallen asleep, when the whole camp was aroused with the
cry of ‘ Percy I Percy ! ’
Hotspur had come for his pennon.
Quickly the Scottish knights armed themselves, the
soldiers fell into fighting order, and soon the cry of
‘ Douglas ! ’ answered that of ‘ Percy! ’
Although it was night, it was not very dark, for the
harvest moon shone brightly and calmly on the raging
battle. Lance met lance, sword rang on sword, great
deeds of valour were done, and many a brave man fell on
‘ Douglas I Douglas I ’ shouted the Earl, pressing with
his banner where the fighting was most fierce.
‘ Percy ! Percy ! ’ came the answering cry.
The two banners met. Round them the battle raged
most furiously. Cowardice was unknown. With splendid
courage, Scottish and English knights fought gaily and
courteously, as if in play. Never had there been such a
chivalrous, knightly battle fought Yet it was no play,
but deadly earnest
At last, pierced by three lances, Douglas, fighting
desperately, was borne to the ground. His standard-
bearer was killed, and his banner, trampled and blood
THE BATTLE OF OTTERBURN 205
stained, lay beside him. Only his chaplain still fought
fiercely, guarding his master’s body, as the English swept
past little knowing how great a general lay dying upon
‘How fares it, cousin ?’ asked a knight as he knelt
‘ But so and so,’ answered Douglas. ‘ But thanks be
to God, there are few of my ancestors who have died in
their beds. Now, I bid you avenge my death, for I have
but little hope of living. Raise my banner. Shout
“ Douglas,” and do not tell friend or foe that I am not
with you. For, should my enemies know that I am dead,
they would greatly rejoice, and should my followers know,
they would lose heart. There is an old saying in our house,
that one day a dead man shall win a battle. Please God,
this night it will come true.’
So speaking, upon the battle-field the Douglas died.
Then the knight drew his dead body out of the press
of battle, raised the fallen banner and shouted, ‘ Douglas !
Douglas ! ’
The Earl‘s men, who had been scattered, hearing again
the sound of their master’s battle-cry, gathered once more
round his banner, and so well did they fight, that at last
the English were scattered and beaten.
Many prisoners were taken, among them, both Hotspur
and his brother. So Hotspur, as well as his pennon, was
carried to Scotland. But Douglas could never place the
captured pennon on his castle walls, for he lay quiet and
still in the fair Abbey of Melrose, and over his grave was
hung the torn and bloodstained banner which had won
After this a nine years’ truce was made, and in
1890 a.d. King Robert died. He had grown so ill and
feeble, that for some time the power had really been in
206 SCOTLAND’S STORY
the hands of his second son, who was called Robert, Earl
As Regent, Robert Stewart had been a good ruler,
and had fought valiantly against the Kings of England.
But as King, he had been idle and weak. He had allowed
the great lords to carry on war with England, although
he himself wished for peace, and knew that peace would
have been best for the country. For when the King of
England gave up trying to make himself overlord of
Scotland, the great reason for fighting had gone. But,
during the wild years of war, the great barons had grown
to love war, and they were glad of the smallest excuse for
fighting. Only a stern, strong King could have repressed
them, and forced them to keep peace. Robert II. was
neither strong nor stern, and so the barons carried on war
in spite of his wishes.
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