Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]



of succession devolved on the descendants of David, earl of Huntingdon. third son of David I. Among these, Robert Bruce and John Baliol ap peared as competitors for the crown. Bruce was the son of Isabel, ear) David's second daughter; Baliol, the grandson of Margaret, the eldest daughter. Although the right was incontestable in Baliol, the prejudices of the people favoured Bruce, each was supported by a powerful faction, and anns alone; it was feared, must decide the dispute. In order to avoid the threatened miseries of civil war, Edward 1., king of England, was chosen umpire, and both parties agreed to acquiesce in his decree. This measure had nearly proved fatal to the independence of Scotland Edward was artíul, brave, and enterprising. The anarchy which pre vailed in Scotland invited him first to seize, and then to subject the king. dom. Under the authority of an umpire, he summoned all the Scottish barons to Norham; and having gained some, and intimidated others, he prevailed on all who were present, not excepting Bruce and Baliol, the competitors, to acknowledge Scotland to be a fief of the crown of England, and to swear fealty to him as their sovereign lord. Edward now demanded possession of the kingdom, that he might be able to deliver it to him whose right should be found preferable; and such was the pusillanimity of the nobles, and the impatience of the competitors, that both assented to his deinand, and Gilbert d'Umpfreville, earl of Angus, was the only man who refused to surrender the castles in his custody to the ene. my of his country: Edward, finding Baliol had the best right, and was the least forniidable of the two competitors, gave judgment in his favour, and Baliol once more confessed himself the vassal of England. Edward now concluded that his dominion was fully established in Scotland, and began to assume the master; his new vassals, however, bore the yoke with impatience. Provoked by his haughtiness, the humble spirit of Baliol began to mutiny. But Edward, who had no further use for such a pageant king, forced him to resign the crown, and attempted to seize it, as having, fallen to liimself by the rebellion of his vassal.

Sir William Wallace, a hero and patriot, now first made his appearance, and almost singly ventured to take arms in defence of the kingdom; bui his courage, although for a time it revived the spirit of his countrymen, could not save then from the power of the English king. He had lived a free man, and a free man he resolved to die ; but the season of resista ance was passed. He at length fell into Edward's hands, was arraigned at Westminster as a traitor, and an ignominious death was the reward of his unexampled bravery. Robert Bruce, the grandson of the competitor of Baliol, then came forward, to assert his own rights and to vindicate the honour of his country. The nobles crowded to his standard, and many battles were fought with the English. The Scots, though often vanquished, were not subdued; the prudent conduct of Bruce, aided by the national enthusiasm, baffled the repeat à efforts of Edward ; and, although the war continued, with little intermission, upwards of seventy years, Bruce and his posterity kept possession of Scotland.

But while the sword, the ultimate judge of all disputes between contending nations, was employed to terminate this controversy, neither Edward nor the Scots seemed to distrust the justice of their cause, and both appealed to history and records, and from these produced in their own favour, such evidence as they pretended to be unanswerable. The letters and memorials addressed by each party to the pope, who was then reverenced as the common father, and often appealed to as the common judge of all Christian princes, are still extant. The fabulous tales of the early British history, the partial testimony of ignorant chroniclers, suppositions, treaties, and charters, are the proofs on which Edward founded his title to the sovereignty of Scotland; and the homage done by the Scottish monarchs for their lands in England is preposterously supposed to imply the subjec



tion of the whole kingdom. Ill-founded, however, as their right was, thu English did not fail to revive it, in all the subsequent quarrels between the two kingdoms, while the Scots disclaimed it with the utmost indignation. To this we must impute the fierce and implacable hatred to each other, which long inflamed both. Their national antipathies were excited, not only by the usual circumstances of frequent hostilities, and reciprocal injuries, but the English considered the Scots as vassals who had presumed to rebel, and the Scots, in their turn, regarded the English as usurpers who aimed at enslaving their country.

A. D. 1336.--Robert Bruce began to reign in, 1306, and no prince was ever more indebted to his nobles. Their valour conquered the kingdom, and placed him on the throne, and he bestowed upon them, in return, the .ands of the vanquished. Robert died in 1329, and was succeeded by his son David. He had been an exile in France, and afterwards a prisoner in England, and being involved in continental war with Edward III. of England, had not time to attend to the internal police of the kingdom He died without children in 1371, and was succeeded by Robert Stuart


THE HOUSE OF STUART. A. D. 1371.--The reign of Robert II. (the first of the House of Stuart), is replete with accounts of skirmishes and inroads, but of very little consequence in an historical point of view. He died in 1390, and was succeeded by Robert III., who was a man of weak mind and sickly constitution, and very unfit to check the growing power of the martial barons. Robert died in 1406, and an interregnum of eighteen years took place, owing to James, his successor, being a prisoner in England.

A. D. 1424.--The English had unjustly detained the heir of the Scottish throne, but they certainly made some amends for their injustice, by the care they took in his education. During his long residence in England, he had an opportunity of observing the feudal system in a more advanced state, and refined from many of the imperfections which still adhered to it in his own kingdom. He saw there nobles great, but not independent; à king powerful, though far from absolute; he saw a regular administration of government, wise laws enacted, and a nation flourishing and hapa


he returned to his native country, which presented to him a very different scene. The royal authority, never great, was now contemptible, by hava ing been so long delegated to regents. The ancient patrimony and revenues of the crown were almost totally alienated. The license of many years had rendered the nobles independent. Universal anarchy prevailed; the weak were opposed to the oppression of the strong ; the barbarous chieftain ruled at pleasure, and neither feared the king, nor felt for the people.

James was too wise to employ open force to correct such rooted evils; neither the men nor the times would have borne it. He applied the gentler remedy of laws and statutes, tending visibly to re-establish order, tranquillity, and justice, in the kingdom. But, at the same time that he endeavoured to secure these blessings to the people, he discovered his intention to recover those possessions of which the crown had been unjustly deprived, and for that purpose obtained an act, by which he was impow. ered to summon such persons as had obtained crown-lands during the three last reigns, to produce the rights by which they held them. As this statute threatened the property of the nobles, another, which passed in a subsequent parliament, aimed a dreadful blow at their power. By it the cagues and combinations which rendered the nobles so forniidable to the erown, were declared unlawful. James now took bolder and more deci. sive steps. During the sitting of parliament, he seized his cousin Murdo, duke of Albany, and his sons; the earls of Douglas, Lenox, Angus, March, and above twenty others of the first rank, who appeared restless under the new statutes. To all of them, however, he was soon after reconciled, except Albany and his sons, and Lenox. These were tried by their peers, and condemned. Their execution struck the whole order with terror, and the forfeiture of their estates added considerably to the possessions of the crown. He seized likewise the earldoms of Buchan and Strathern upon different pretexts, and that of Mar fell to him by inheritance. The patience and inactivity of the nobles, while the king was proceeding so rapidly in aggrandizing the crown, are amazing. The only obstruction he met with, was from a slight insurrection, headed by the duke of Albany's youngest son, which was soon suppressed. Encouraged by the facility with which he had advanced, James ventured upon a measure that irritated the whole body of the nobility. The father of George Dunbar, earl of March, had taken arms against Robert IIl. the king's father; but that crime had been pardoned, and his lands restored, by Robert, duke of Albany, during the confinement of James in England. Under the pretext that the regent had exceeded his power, and that it was the prerogative of the king alone to pardon treason, James declared the pardon to be void. Many of the nobles and great men held lands by no other right than what they derived from grant of the two dukes of Albany. Although Dunbar was at present the only sufferer, it caused great alarm, as the precedent might be extended. Terror and discontent spread far and wide upon this discovery of the king's intentions; the common danger called on the whole order to unite, and to make one bold stand, before they were strip ped successively of their acquisitions. A conspiracy was formed against the king's life by those who had been the chief sufferers under the new laws, and the first intelligence of it was brought to him while he lay in his camp before Roxburgh castle. He instantly dismissed his nobles and their vassals, in whom he could place no confidence, and retired to a monastery near Perth, where he was soon afterwards murdered in a mosta cruel manner, in 1437. James was a prince of great abilities, and, in general, conducted his operations with prudence; he was beloved by the people, and hated by the nobles. His maxims and manners were too refined for the age and country in which he lived. He was succeeded by his son, James II., an infant.

A. D. 1437.-Crichton, who had been the minister of James I., still held the reins of government. He did not relinquish the design of the late king for humbling the nobility, but endeavoured to inspire his pupil with the same sentiments. But what James had attempted to effect slowly, and by legal means, his son and Crichton pursued with the impetuosity natural

to their barbarous policy. He was decoyed to an interview in the castle of Edinburgh, and there murdered with his brother. Crichton, however, gained little by this act of treachery, which rendered him universally odious. William, the eighth earl of Douglas, was no less powerful, and no less formidable to the crown than his predecessor; he had united

led him into the same snare which had been fatal to the former earl. Relying on the king's promises, who had now attained to the years of man. hood, and having obtained a safe conduct under the great seal, he ventured to meet him in Stirling castle. James urged him to dissolve that dangerous confederacy into which he had entered; the earl obstinately refused. * If you will not,” said the enraged monarch, drawing his dagger, “this hall;" and stabbed him to the heart This filled the nation with astonish

ment. The earl's vassals ran to arms, marched to Stirling, burnt the town, and threatened to besiege the castle. An accommodation, however, ensued, on what terms is not known; but the king's jealousy, and the new earl's power and resentment, prevented it from being of long continuance. Both took the field at the head of their armies, and met near Abercorn. That of the earl, composed chiefly of borderers, was far superior to the king's both in number and in valour; and a single battle must, in all probability, have decided whether the house of Stuart or of Douglas was henceforth to possess the throne of Scotland. But as his troops were impatiently expecting the signal to engage, the earl ordered them to retire to their camp. His principal officers, now convinced of his want of genius and courage, deserted him; and he was soon after driven out of the kingdom, and obliged to depend for his subsistence on the friendship of the king of England. The ruin of this great family, which had so long rivalled and overawed the crown, secured the king for some time from opposition, and the royal authority remained uncontrolled, and al most absolute. James did not suffer this favourable interval to pass unimproved; he procured the consent of parliament to laws more advan'. tageous to the prerogative, and more subversive of the privileges of the aristocracy, than were ever obtained by any former or subsequent monarch of Scotland. During the remainder of his reign, this prince pursued the plan which he had began with the utmost vigour ; and had not a sud den death, occasioned by the splinter of a cannon which burst near him at the siege of Roxburgh, prevented his progress, he wanted neither genius nor courage to perfect it, and Scotland might, in all probability, have been the first kingdom in Europe which would have seen the subversion of the feudal system.

A. D. 1460.--James III. succeeded his father in 1460, and discovered nc less eagerness than his father, or grandfather, to humble the nobility ; but far inferior to either of them in abilities or address, he adopted a plan extremely impolitic, and his reign was disastrous, as well as his end tragical. James feared and hated his nobles; he kept them at an unusua. distance, and bestowed every mark of confidence and affection upon a few mean persons. Shut up with these in his castle of Stirling, he seldom appeared in public, and amused himself in architecture, music, and other arts, which were then little esteemed. The nobles resented this conduct in the king, and combinations, secret intrigues with England, and all the usual preparations for civil war, were the effects of their resentment. Alexander, duke of Albany, and John, earl of Mar, the king's brothers, two young men of turbulent and ambitious spirits, and incensed against James, who treated them with great coldness, entered deeply into all their cabals. The king detected their designs before they were ripe for execution, and seizing his two brothers, committed the duke of Albany to Edinburgh castle. The earl of Mar having remonstrated with too much boldness, it is said, was murdered by the king's command. Albany, apprehensive of the same fate, made his escape out of the castle, and reached France. James' attachment to favourites rendering him every day more odious to his nobles, soon inspired Albany with more ambitious and criminal thoughts. He concluded a treaty with Edward IV. of England, in which he assumed the name of Alexander, king of Scots; and, in return for the assistance which was promised him towards dethroning his brother, he bound himself, as soon as he was put in possession of the kingdom, to swear fealty and do homage to the English monarch, to renounce the ancient alliance with France, to contract a new one with England, and to surrender some of the strongest castles and most valuable counties in Scotland. The aid which the duke so basely purchased, at the price of his own honour and the independence of his country was punctually granted him, and Richard, duke of Gloucester with a Perful almy

conducted nin towards Scotland. The danger of a foreign invasion soon induced James to ask the assistance of those nobles whom he had so long treated with conteinpt. They expressed their readiness to stand forward in defence of their king and country against all invaders, and took the field at the head of a large army of their followers; but it was evident at the same time that they were animated by a stronger desire to redress their own grievances than to annoy the enemy, and with a fixed deter mination of punishing those favourites whose insolence had become intolerable. This resolution they executed in the camp near Lauder. Having previously concerted their plan, the earls of Angus, Huntley, and Lauder, followed by almost all the barons of note in the army, forcibly entered the apartments of the king, seized every one therein, except Ramsay, who had taken shelter in his arms, and hanged them immediately over a bridge. Among the most remarkable of those who had engrossed the king's favour, were Cochran, a mason, Hommil, a tailor, Leonard, a smith, Rogers, a musician, and Torlifan, a fencing-master. Having no reason to confide in an army so little under his command, James dismissed it, and shut himself up in the castle of Edinburgh. At length Albany made his peace with the king, but it was not of long duration, for James abandoned himself once more to his favourites, and Albany, again disgusted, retired to his castle at Dunbar, and renewed his former confederacy with Edward. The death of Edward, soon after, blasted his hopes of reigning in Scotland. He fled first to England, and then to France, and from that time he took no part in the affairs of his native country. Grown fonder of retirement than ever, and sunk into indolence or superstition, James suffered his whole authority to devolve upon his favourites. The nobles flew to arms, and obliged or persuaded the duke of Rothsay, the king's eldest son, a youth of fifteen, to set himself at their head; and they then openly declared their intention of depriving James of the crown. Roused by this danger, the king quitted his retirement, took the field, and encountered them at Bannockburn; but his army was soon routed, and he was slain in the pursuit. Suspicion, indolence, immoderate attachment to favourites, and all the vices of a feeble mind, are visible in his whole conduct. Many of those who acted against James, being fearful of the terrors of excommunication for having imbrued their hands in the blood of their king, endeavoured to atone for the treatment of the father by their loyalty and duty towards the son. They placed him instantly on the throne, and the whole kingdom soon united in acknowledging his authority

A. D. 1488.--James IV. ascended the Scottish throne in the year 1488. He was naturally generous and brave; loved magnificence, and delighted in arms. Indeed, so well suited was he for those over whom he ruled, that during his reign the ancient enmity between the king and the nobles seemed almost to have entirely ceased. He envied not their splendour, because it contributed to the ornament of his court; and their power he considered as the security of his kingdom, not as an object of terror to himself. This confidence on his part met with duty and affection on theirs ; and in his war with England he experienced how much a king beloved by his nobles is able to perform. Through the ardour of his courage, rather than from any prospect of national advantage, he declared war against England, and was followed by as gallant an army as ever any of his ancestors had led into England. The battle of Flodden Field, (see "Eng. land,” vol I.] gained by the earl of Surrey over James, and in which he lost his life, served to humble the aristocracy of Scotland more than all the premeditated attacks of the preceding kings. Twelve earls, thirteen lords, five eldest sons of noblemen, and a great number of barons, fell with the king.

A. D. 1517.-James V. succeeded his father when only one year old. The office of regent was conferred upon his cousin, the duke of Albanr,

« ZurückWeiter »