ROBERT III.—THE STORY OF A FEARFUL HIGHLAND
The eldest son of King Robert II. was called John. But
that name was thought to be unlucky. The people re
membered John Baliol and his unhappy reign, they had
also heard that King John of England, and King John of
France, had been unfortunate, so they changed John
Stewart’s name to Robert, and he was crowned as
Robert III. But changing his name made no difference
either to his fortunes or to his nature.
Robert III. was not a strong man, and he was lame,
having been kicked by a horse when he was a boy. He
was kind and gentle, and quite unfit to rule the fierce
lords and barons. So, even after he came to the throne,
he allowed his brother, who was also called Robert, to
continue to rule as he had done at the end of their
King Robert had a son called David, to whom he gave
the title of Duke of Rothesay. To Robert his brother, he
gave the title of Duke of Albany. These were the first
dukes ever made in Scotland.
Rothesay was young, gay, and handsome. He was
wild, and wicked too, and often caused much sorrow to
his father, who loved him dearly.
Albany was silent, dark, and cunning. He hated
Rothesay, because he knew that one day he would be
King, and he himself wanted to be King.
When Robert III. came to the throne, there was peace
with England. But not having England to fight against,
the great lords fought all the more fiercely among them
selves. They fought, too, with the Highland chieftains,
who lived in the wild and mountainous parts of Scotland.
These Highlanders were so fierce, that the English called
them the Wild Scots. They were formed into various
clans and families, and fought often among themselves, as
well as with the Lowland lords.
Had the King been a strong man, he might have
tamed the wild nobles. But he left everything to his
brother Robert, the Duke of Albany. And Albany tried
to make friends with the nobles by leaving their wicked
deeds unpunished, for he hoped that some day they would
help to put him upon the throne. So the whole land was
full of fighting, quarrelling, and oppression. Those who
were strong, took from those who were weak. There was
neither justice nor mercy to be found anywhere, and
Albany, although he was a strong and clever man,
allowed these things to be.
Among the wildest of the Highland clans were two
called Clan Kay and Clan Chattan. There was a deadly
hatred between them. They were always fighting, and
they filled the whole country round with war and blood
shed. At last they decided to settle their quarrels by a
great tournament, thirty of the best men from one clan
fighting against thirty of the other.
The place chosen for this battle was a beautiful plain
close to the walls of Perth. Wooden galleries were built
all round for the people who came to watch, and the
King and all his court consented to be present. This
was no ordinary tournament, such as knights often took
A FEARFUL HIGHLAND TOURNAMENT 209
part in, for the knights fought in full armour and often
with blunted weapons. These Highlanders, when they
entered the lists, wore no armour, and carried not only
bows and arrows, but swords, battle-axes, and short, keen
daggers. They were all fierce, strong men, and they
meant to fight to the death.
But at the last moment, when the trumpets sounded
for this fearful tournament to begin, one of the Clan
Chattan men lost heart. Throwing down his weapons he
fled from the lists. Full of fear he leaped the barriers,
plunged into the river, and, swimming across it, dis
appeared into the wood beyond.
The King, who did not love bloodshed, was not ill
pleased at the thought that the fight could not take place.
For the numbers were now uneven, and no man of the
Clan Kay would retire lest he should be thought cowardly.
But from the bystanders, a little crooked-legged man, who
was a blacksmith in Perth, stepped forward.
‘ I will take the coward’s place,’ he cried, ‘ if you
pay me half a French crown.’ The offer was at once
accepted, for there was no time to send to the Clan
Chattan country for another man, and rather than not
fight at all, they were glad to have the little crooked-
So the trumpets sounded and the bagpipes screamed,
and with mighty yells the two clans closed upon each
other. A terrible fight it was. The great battle-axes
swung and fell, sword and dagger flashed, and the fair
meadow was red with blood.
In the middle of the fight the crooked-legged black
smith, having killed a man, stood still. ‘ How now,’ said
the Clan Chattan chief, ‘ are you afraid ? ‘
‘ Not I,’ replied the smith, ‘ but I have done enough
210 SCOTLAND’S STORY
‘On and fight,’ cried the chief, ‘ I will not grudge
wages to him who does not grudge his work.’
So the smith fell to again, and fought as fiercely as
any. Both sides fought, filled with bitter hatred of each
other, till at last only one man of Clan Kay was left alive.
Of Clan Chattan there were ten, and the little crooked-
legged blacksmith, all sorely wounded.
Then the King flung down his baton, and cried out
that Clan Chattan had won the day.
This was a very terrible way of settling a quarrel, but
probably some of the great Lowland nobles encouraged
the clans to fight, in the hope that if some of the fiercest
of the Highlanders were killed, the others would be more
easily kept in order. And indeed, for a long time after
this slaughter, the Highlands remained more peaceful.
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