Historical Children's Literature Collection

History of the life and death, of the great warrior Robert Bruce, King of Scotland [between 1840 and 1857?]

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? of Scotland*
When Edward the First of England, in ths
year 1305, had cruelly put to death the Scot-
tish Champion Sir William Wallace, the bold
assertor of Scotland's independence, he imagined
himself to be now secure in the possession of that
kingdom. John Baliol, who latterly had been
king, or rather Edward's viceroy, was now dead,
and the goverment had been committed into the
hands of BalioVs nephew, John Comyn, who was
completely devoted to Edward's interests, But
the English monarch had still one person to
dread,—that was Robert Bruce, the young Earl
of Carrick, whose grandfather had been the rival
candidate of Baliol for the crown of Scotland,
when their pretensions had been unfortunately
submitted to the decision of Edward at Norham,
in the year 1292. All along it had been the
opinion of the majority of the Scots that the
claims of Bruce were the best founded, and he
himself had never lost sight of his title.
Bruce was one of those individuals admirably
fitted, both by qualities of mind and body, for
great and dangerous undertakings. His frame
was vigorous and robust; he was possessed of the
most heroic courage ; but, above all, he was endowed with invincible patience and unswerving
perseverance. He at tnat time, like many others
of the Scottish nobility, resided in London.
While there he secretly made proposals to Comyn,
who was well aware of his rights, for the purpose
of recovering of the Scottish crown. Comyn
appeared to enter into his views, and arrangements, either proposed or seconded by him, with
a view to Brace's recall to the throne of his ancestors, had proceeded to considerable maturity,
when the perfidy of Comyn was made known to
Bruce by Edward's upbraiding him with.a design
upon Scotland. He even shewed him one of
Comyn's letters.
Bruce, though startled by the announcement,
and enraged at the treachery of his confidant, had
presence of mind enough to subdue his emotions,
and answered the English king in so mild and
prudent a manner that he appeared satisfied. But
he only dissembled his resentment.
One evening, not long after, Edward was so
imprudent while heated with wine, as to disclose
his intentions respecting Bruce, and even named
the following day for putting him to death, when
the Earl of Gloucester, who was a friend of Bruce,
immediately made him aware of his danger by
sending him at midnight, by a servant, a pair of
spurs and a piece of money. Bruce understood
the hint. As there was at the time a fall of snowf
he caused his horse and those of two attendant
to be shod backwards,  to prevent  their being
tracked by the print of the hoofs.
As he drew near the Scottish border, bv the
western side, he observed a person journeying
alone, who seemed very anxious to avoid him.
Bruce stopt this suspicious-looking personage,
and, on close examination, found him to be a
messenger charged with a letter from Comyn to
the English king, in which he strongly advised
Edward to lose no time in either putting Bruce
in close confinement, or despatching him at once.
Incensed at the villany of Comyn, Bruce stabbed the messenger.    Bruce then hurried on for
the castle of Lochmaben.
Having there learned that Comyn was at Dumfries, he hastened thither, inspired with feelings
of the deepest indignation against this treacherous
nobleman.    On his arrival in the town, he found
that Comyn was at that moment engaged at his
devotions in the church.    But this consideration
did not suspend his purpose.    He hastened to the
sacred place, and upbraided him with his perfidy
At last his resentment and passion rose  to so
violent a height, that he drew his dagger and
stabbed him to the heart before the altar,—an
atrocious deed, which no injury, however flagrant,
could at all justify or even extenuate.    No sooner
had the crime been commited than Bruce felt all
the horrors of remorse h& rushed out of th* church
 pale and trembling, where he met two of his
friends, Lindsay and Kirkpatrick. They having
questioned him as to the cause of his agitation,
Bruce replied, " It fares ill; I doubt I have slain
Comyn." " You doubt," cried Kirkpatrick; " I
will secure him !" So saying he rushed into the
church, and plunged his dagger into Comyn's
heart. It was perhaps fortunate that Bruce had
no time to brood over what had happened, but
required immediate action to secure his personal
safety. He threw himself on Cornyn's horse, and
collecting his small band of friends around him,
suddenly rode to the castle where the English
judges were then sitting, and seizing the gates,
summoned all the Scots to his assistance. He
then sent word to the judges to surrender themselves, but found the gates of the court barricaded; fire was instantly brought to burn them out;
and, afraid of being destroyed, they surrendered,
and were permitted to flee to England.
The nation being generally inclined in Robert's
favour, and having besides the support of the
most of the nobles, his cause daily gained new
friends and greater strength; so that in the course
of a few weeks from his flight from London he
was crowned king, with all due solemnity, at the
royal palace of Scone, near Perth.
Nothing could exceed the rage of Edward
when informed of this erenU    He instantly levied
an army for the invasion of Scotland, which he
put under the command of the Earl of Pembroke.
As that nobleman proceeded into  Scotland he
was joined by many of Cornyn's friends and
adherents,  who considered  Bruce as a bloody
assassin.    Robert's army on this account was
not so numerous,  and his soldiers besides were
raw and undisciplined.    While the two armies lay
in the neighbourhood of each other ready to engage, near Methven, in Perthshire, Robert sent
a challenge to the English general, which he accepted, saying he would fight Bruce on the morrow, But, instead of waiting till next day, he stole
upon the Scots during the night, who were wholly
unprepared.    Bruce hastily arming himself, and
commanding his leaders to follow  his example,
had scarcely time to mount his horse,  when he
found himself furiously attacked by a force which
nearly tripled his own ; he made, however, a desperate resistance, and the battle was maintained
for a while wTith considerable obstinacy.    The
king was four times unhorsed, and as often rescued and remounted ; but the Scots were finally
overpowered by numbers, and the rout became
general.    Robert, with a broken remnant, escaped into Athole.
Bruce and his party now led the life of out*
lawTs among the hills, till the greater part of hid
followers were dispersed or broken down by mis*
ery; and at last having received intelligence that
his queen, with the wives and sisters of his followers, had arrived at Aberdeen, with the determination to share their perils, he ventured from
his stronghold, and, meeting them in that city,
conducted them in safety into the heart of Bread-
albane.    They then slowly retreated to the head
of Loch Tay; but Bruce now found himself beset with danger,  as this part of the Highlands
into which he had been compelled to retreat was
under the sway of his mortal enemy, the Lord of
Lorn, who had married the aunt of the murdered
Comyn.    This chief accordingly assembled his
friends and dependants, and in a body of a thousand strong, attacked Bruce, while retreating in
a narrow valley.   They swarmed round the little
still phalanx like hornets, and several deadly encounters took place.    At one moment Bruce himself had a narrow7 escape. '? Three strong Highlanders threw themselves in his way, resolved to
become masters of his person.     One seized his
bridle-reins, and attacked him in front; another
grasped his steel boot, and thrusting his arm between the  stirrup and the foot,  endeavoured to
unhorse him.    Bruce with  one blow felled the
foremost to the  ground,  and clapping his legs
close to the flanks of his horse, spurred him, and
dragged his other opponent off his feet.    In the
mean time, his third assailant sprung up behind
him, and, grappling him round the middle, attempted to stab him with his dirk. Bruce, however, shook the mountaineer from his hold, and
as he fell cleft him with his battle-axe from the
skull to the chin : he then despatched his companion, whose hands were pinioned by his leg
and stirrup to the horse, and, disengaging him«*
self from the dead body, rejoined his men.
The king and his small subsistence; resolved
to effect a passage into the north of Ireland, crossing over from Argyleshire. In this undertaking
he encountered dreadful hardships and dangers.
Many of his party were cut off, and the rest so
dispirited that they all forsook him, except Sir
Gilbert Hay, and a few of their vassals and dependants.
In the midst of these distressing circumstances
Robert's natural fortitude and ardour remained
unshaken. He encouraged his few faithful followers with prospects of future success ; and, to
beguile the heaviness of their gloom, lie related
the adventures of brave princes and warriors who
had triumphed over similar reverses. When this
small remnant reached the borders of Lochlo-
mond, their progress was arrested from the want
of means of conveyance to the opposite shore.
An old crazy boat was at last espied by Douglas,
and, what between swimming and the aid thus
thrown in their way, the whole party got across
They were now reduced to the last extremity,
and were wandering about in quest of food,
when they were met by Lennox, an attached
friend of Robert's, who had hitherto been ignorant of the fate of his king*. At the sight of
Brace's forlorn condition, this faithful chieftain
hurst into tears, and Robert, overpowered by his
feelings, wept in sympathy. Journeying onwards, Bruce and his friends were received by
Angus of the Isles, Lord of Kintyre, who entertained them with the warmest hospitality at his
castle of Dunavarty.
From thence the king, with a faithful few, passed over to an island on the north coast of Ireland,
where they remained for a season free from the
pursuit of their enemies.
But though the king was for the present safe,
his friends in Scotland were exposed to dreadful
sufferings by the cruelty of Edward.    The queen
and the daughter of Bruce, on hearing of the approach of the English, had fled to the sanctuary
of St Duthac in Tain.    The Earl of Ross, who
favoured the English, violated the sanctuary, and,
seizing those unfortunate ladies,  delivered them
up to Edward.    The queen was confined in different places for nearly eight years, and her daughter was sent to a convent.   The Countess of Bueh»
an, who had placed the crown on Robert's head at
bis coronation, was shut up in a small iron cage
in the castle of Roxburgh; not a few who had
favourd Robert's cause were beheaded, and many
of inferior rank suffered on the gallows; and, to
complete the measure of the severities exercised
against the Scots, the pope's legate at Carlisle
at Edward's instigation, passed sentence of excommunication against Bruce and all who should
remain faithful to his cause,-—a dreadful sentence
in those days, which never failed to carry along
with it the deepest awe and alarm.
Bruce sent over Sir James Douglas and Sir
Robert Boyd to attempt a fort on the isle of Ar?
ran, then occupied by the English. Their success was complete; on learning which Robert
immediately followed them. It was then concerted that their next endeavour should be to recover possession of the district of Carrick, in
Ayrshire, in which Brace's patrimonial domains
lay. With this intent, Cuthbert, a confidential
servant, was sent over with instructions, that, if
the people were favourable, he should display a
light from an eminence above the castle of Turn-
Cuthbert found matters in the very worst state.
The English held possession of all the places of
importance; and so overawed were the people by
their power and severity, that they were, for the
most part, either indifferent or hostile to any e£»
forts on behalf of Robert,
On the day appointed for making the signal,
Bruco and his party repaired to their station |
but no signal appeared. At last, while hope was
becoming extinct, they perceived a distant gleam.
Hastening to the boat, they rowed over for the
Carrick shore. Darkness overtaking them, they
held on, guided by the blaze; but, jumping a-
shore, how strangely w7ere they surprised to meet
Cuthbert running up and telling them there was
no chance of success! " Traitor l" exclaimed
Bruce in a rage, " why did you then make the signal?"—" I made no signal," replied Cuthbert;
" but, observing a fire on the eminence, I was
afraid that it might deceive you, and I hastened
hither to warm you from the coast."
This was disastrous intelligence to Robert;
but he resolved to persevere. Fortunately a report had been current, which was credited by the
English, that he was dead. This belief caused
his enemies to relax in their vigilance; and Robert, taking advantage of this, surprised and overpowered several of their detachments and garrisons ; but the English having at last collected a
very powerful force, he was compelled to retire
into the mountainous districts of Carrick.
In the mean while Edward had made preparations on a greater scale than ever for the invasion
of Scotland. But, while about to cross the border,
he'wm suddenly taken sick, and soon after expir-
ad. With his last breath he commanded his son
to carry his body along with the army, and never
to bring" it back to England till he had achieved
the full and complete conquest of Scotland.
Though the young king, Edward the Second,
did not think proper to comply with this part of
his father's injunctions, he resolved to carry
through the campaign. But, being of a much
more indolent and less enterprising spirit, he had
not proceeded far into Scotland when he became
tired, and returned south.
This inglorious retreat was highly gratifying
to Bruce, who now advanced into Galloway.
While he was here recruiting his ranks, he was
opposed by the Earl of Pembroke, who had been
appointed Guardian of Scotland in Edward's
name. Being overawed by the superior numbers
of the English general, Robert prudently retired
to the north, where he possessed himself of tha
whole country without molestation, Returning
again northwards, with a more efficient army,
he encountered an English force under John
Comyn, Earl of Buchan, who fled at Brace's approach.
About this time Robert was attacked by a severe fit of illness, brought on no doubt by the
unceasing hardships and toils to which he had
been for so long a time exposed. While in this
languid Earl of Buchan assembled &
large army, with which he resolved to inarch a-
gainst King Robert. The two armies met near
Inverury, in Aberdeenshire. Feeble and depressed as the king was, he did not decline the contest,
nor would he listen to any proposal of delegating
the command to another. He desired that he
should be lifted from his couch and placed on
horseback; and in this situation he was supported on each side by an attendant. He sketched
the order of battle, and led on the charge with
his usual courage. The onset of the troops,
augmented perhaps by a sympathy for the
peculiar situation of their leader, was so impetuous, that the enemy were almost instantly broken, and pursued wdth great slaughter. From
this day a visible and progressive change for the
better took place in Robert's health, and he himself declared that the excitment of that day had
done more for him than twenty physicians.
He determined to proceed against his old enemy the lord of Lorn. Who mustering his whole
force; awaited the approach of the Scottish king.
The only entrance into the country of Lorn lay
through the pass of Brandir, which winds along
the rugged base of a noble mountain three thousand feet above the sea; on the other side a precipice almost perpendicular descended to Loch-
awe ; and, farther on, the pass became so narrow
that two men could scarcely march abreast.
The men of Lorn, about 2000 strong, concent
td themselves in the thick copsewood which covered the sides of the mountain, intending to attack the king's army while entangled in the defile ; but Bruce having received information from
his scouts of the disposition of the army of Lorn,
despatched Sir James Douglas, with his archers
and light-armed troops, by a pathway, which the
enemy had neglected to occupy, with directions
to advance silently, and gain the heights above
and in front of the hilly grounds where the men
of Lorn were concealed; and Bruce at the head
of his own division fearlessly advanced into the
defile. Having proceeded some little way, a
fearful yell burst from the rugged bosom of the
mountain ; and the woods, which the moment before had waved in silence and solitude, gave forth
their birth of steel-clad warriors, and became animated with the vitality of war. Whilst Bruce
pressed with his division up the side of the mountain, and furiously attacked the men of Lorn,
amidst masses of rock which the enemy rolled
down from the precipices, Sir James Douglas
and his party suddenly raised a shout from the
Heights above them, and showered down their
arrows, and, when these missiles were exhausted,
attacked them with their swords and battle-axes.
This attack, both in front and rear, occasioned
the total discomfiture of the army of Lorn.    A
wooden bridge thrown over the Awe, and supported upon two immense rocks, formed the solitary communication between the ground where
the battle was fought, and the country of Lorn.
To this bridge the residue of the Lorn army flew,
with the object of securing their retreat, and then
cutting it down, and thus to throw the impassable
torrent of the Awe between them and their enemies.    But their intention   was frustrated by
Douglas,   who,   rushing  down from   the high
grounds at the head of his troops,  attacked the
body of the mountaineers who occupied the bridge,
and drove them from it with great slaughter ; so
that Bruce and his division coming up, passed it
without molestation ; and the army of Lorn were
in a few hours literally cut to pieces ; while their
chief, from his ships, witnessed their discomfiture,
without being able to render them the smallest
assistance.    The king now gave up Lorn's country to military plunder,  and shortly after laid
siege to the Castle of Dunstaffnage, the stronghold of the chief; and having wasted the country,
ind drawn his lines so closely round the castle that
no supplies could be introduced, he attacked and
carried the outworks; and Lorn, compelled by
famine and the fear of a final assault, surrendered.    Bruce then led back his army to resume his
warlike labours in the low country.    Success
every where crowned his efforts,  Scotland was
freed from her oppressors, and Robert Bruce
was once more an independent sovereign*
But while the Scottish king was thus victorious over the English, Edward was actively preparing for another invasion, on a scale of such
magnitude as plainly showed how incensed and
mortified he was at the determined opposition of
the Scottish nation.
In the mean time the English retained possession of no place of importance, except the castle
of Stirling. In this castle there was a considerable garrison, commanded by a very brave knight,
Sir Philip Moubray. This stronghold being considered of great importance, Robert was very
anxious to reduce it, and intrusted the siege of it
to his brother Edward, in those skill and valour
he put every trust. Moubray had made preparation for a stout defence; but as he knew the determined perseverance of the king's brother, he
proposed to deliver the fortress into his hands on
a given day, at the distance of seven months,
provided no succour should in that interval arrive
from the English king, his master,—a stipulation
to which Edward agreed. When this transaction was made known to Bruce, he was very
much displeased at so rash and imprudent a bargain ; but being too honourable to break the
treaty, he chose the only alternative he now had,
 to meet the enemy in the field before the appointed day.
Edward had now matured his plans, and entered Scotland with the largest army that had
ever crossed the border, for the purpose, not only
of relieving Stirling, but of utterly overwhelming all opposition in the field, and reducing the
kingdom to a state of final and permanent subjection. Robert, knowing that a battle must inevitably take place in the neighbourhood of Stirling, gave orders that his forces should assemble
at the Tor wood, between Stirling and Falkirk.
The English army amounted to more than
100,000 men, quite confident of victory, and only anticipating the spoil they had in prospect.
The army of Robert scarcely amounted to 30,000,
but it consisted of soldiers inured to war and hardship, and burning with zeal and patriotic ardour.
Besides this army there was a tumultuary and
undisciplined rabble, who, as was the custom in
those days, followed the camp. These on this
occasion, as the sequel showed, were of essential
service in the battle that enused.
Robert, who was no less skilful than brave,
took up Ids position with the greatest judgment.
He had the small rivulet of Bannockburn on the
right, and Stirling', at the distance of nearly two
miles, on the left. He was deficient in cavalry ;
but the banks of the rivulet being in many pla
ces steep and rugged, and the ground between it
and Stirling partly, covered with wood, he was
thus protected from the assault of the English
horse. And still more to render this part of their
force of little avail, he caused a number of pits to
be dug in every part of the field where cavalry
could act. Into these spikes and stakes were
driven, and the whole carefully concealed by a
covering of turf and patches of brushwood.
On the 23d of June, it was known that the
English were approaching; when Robert, having
resolved that his troops should fight on foot, drew
them up in three lines, having previously given
his nephew, Randolph, strong orders to prevent
the enemy from throwing succours into Stirling*
But 800 horsemen, commanded by Sir Robert
Clifford, rode by a long sweep round, and were
rapidly approaching the castle when Robert descried them. Riding up to Randolph, he cried
out with much vehemence and indignation,
" Thoughtless man, you have allowed the enemy to pass 1" Randolph instantly perceived the
justness of his uncle's rebuke, but had scarcely
time to draw up his troops, which he did in a ci
cular form, with their spears presented, when he
found himself completely surrounded. His friend
Douglas saw his danger, and requested the king's
permission to go to his assistance. " You shall
not nuove from your ground," cried the  king,
 u Let Randolph get out of the danger as he best
may. I will not alter my order of battle, and
lose the advantage of my position."—" I cannot
stand by," replied Douglas, " and see Randolph
perish ; with your leave I must aid him," The
king very unwillingly consented, and Douglas
flew to the rescue of his friend. On drawing
near, however, he observed that the English were
falling into disorder, when he instantly commanded a halt. " Those brave men," said he, " have
already repulsed the enemy; let us not lessen
their glory by seeming to share it,"—a sentiment
which showed how generous was the character
of this steadfast friend.
Soon after this the advanced guard of the English appeared, Robert was then in front of his
army with a battle-axe in his hand and a crown
above his helmet. Espying him in this guise,
an English knight, named Henry de Bohun,
equipped in complete armour, rode forward to
attack him. The combat was of short duration.
With one blow of his battle-axe Robert cleft the
skull of his adversary, and laid him dead at his
feet. The English hastily fell back, and the
Scots, exulting in the prowess of their king, regarded this encounter as a presage of immediate
Darkness beginning to set in, further hostilities
were for the present suspended,    The night was
spent by the English in feasting and riot, while
the Scots passed the intervening hours in watch«
fulness and devotion.
At break of day, Edward drew out his army,
and rushed on to the attack. The ground wras
so awkwardly hemmed in for the advance of the
English, that they had no room to expand their
columns, and when they came in contact with
the Scottish front, they were united in one dense
On an eminence was seen the Abbot of Inchaf-
fray, a venerable priest, celebrating mass in front
of the Scottish army. Ashe passed along the
front, barefooted, with a crucifix in his hand, and
exhorted the Scots to fight bravely for their country, their liberty, and their lives, the whole army
kneeled down, and implored the blessing of the
God of Battles. " They yield !" cried Edward.
" See ! they implore mercy."—" They implore
not ours," said De Umfraville, one of his generals; " on that field they will be victorious or
The combat was obstinate and bloody. Robert, perceiving his troops were much galled by
the English archers, ordered Sir Robert Keith,
with a small but resolute band of horse, to make
a circuit and attack them in flank. The charge
was so impetuous 'that the archers instantly gave
way, and threw a part of the English army into
the greatest disorder. At this critical moment,
Robert rushed forward with a body he had held
in reserve. The young Earl of Gloucester,
nephew of the English king, attempted to bring
back the flying English to the charge, but fell
among the pits prepared for the cavalry, and was
dismounted and slain.
While the disorder was thickening among the
English ranks, their consternation was augmented by the appearance of a second Scottish army,
which seemed to be advancing along the edge of
a hill, as if for the purpose of cutting off their retreat. This was the band of idle attendants before noticed, and whom Bruce had provided with
military standards and other equipments, so as to
give them the semblance of an army. Panic-
struck by this unlocked for and unwelcome appearance, the English fled in dismay. Many of
them crowded to seek shelter among the rocks
in the neighbourhood of Stirling Castle, and
great numbers were drowned in attempting to
cross the Forth.
Edward was attended during the battle by
Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, and Sir
Giles d'Argentine, a brave knight, wTho had highly distinguished himself in the wars of the Crusades. Pembroke, seeing that the battle was irretrievably lost, forced Edward of the field, who
fled to Linlithgow without halting; the gates of
which he had scarcely entered, when he found
himself pursued by a band of the Scots, who
were close at his heels. These were Sir James
Douglas with sixty horsemen. He immediately
mounted his horse, and allowed himself not a
moment's rest till he had reached Dunbar, where
he was received by the Earl of March, who conveyed him by sea to England.
Such was the great and decisive battle of Ban-
nockburn. Robert Bruce gained great honour by
his humane treatment of the captives, many of
whom he released without ransom. In return for
the Earl of Hereford he received his queen and
daughter, the Bishop of Glasgow, and the young
Earl of Mar; and large sums were paid by the
English for the ransom of other captives, which
greatly enriched the coffers of the kingdom.
Some years afterwards the English king was
compelled by his subjects to resign his power to
his son,  Edward the Third, then a boy about
fifteen years of age.    This young man, was beginning to meditate an attack upon Scotland,
when Robert, became acquainted with his design,
(resolved to be before-hand with him.    He ordered
Randolph and Douglas to march into England,
and lay   waste the northern  counties.    In the
mean time Edward put himself at the head of his
larmy, and crossed the Tweed, laid siege to Berwick ; but all his efforts failed although he eom-
rrmnded a force which enabled him completely to
invest it from the river Tweed to the sea. For
six days the English were employed in erecting
dikes and mounds against the wall, for the pur*
pose of fixing their ladders, and carrying the
fortifications by storm, which, after b#ing completed they made a simultaneous assault both by
sea and land. But the Scots brought forward
another machine, armed with a huge mass of rock,
which being discharged against the sow, a tremendous crash, mingled with the shrieks of the
victims and the shouts of the soldiers on the wall,
declared the success of the besieged. The English now withdrew.
Randolph, and the brave Lord Douglas distinguished by their gallant exploits, now became
the assailants, and entered England with an army of 20,000 horsemen. King Edward led an
army of 30,000 men, who assembled at Durham.
The two armies continued in sight of each other
for two days, but victory crowned the efforts of
the Scots.
The Scots afterwards mantained there inde-
pence, and remained comparitively at peace, and
King Robert Bruce resolved that at the head of
an army to undertake an expidition to the Holy
Land, to make religious atonement, but was taken
ill and died in the year 1329, at the age ** 55,


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