who had won his throne by his sword, and confirmed its independence by a
written treaty, died in 1329, and his son, David II a minor, was left
under the care of Randolph, Earl of Moray, as Regent of the realm.
About this time Edward Baliol, son of John, the whilom puppet king
of Scotland, was discovered in a French prison by the Lord Beaumont, an
English baron, and deeming young Baliol a suitable instrument for his
purpose, induces him to revive his claim to the Scottish Crown.
Many other English nobles, having obtained grants of Baliol’s
imaginary estates in Scotland, saw the utility of Baliol in stirring up a
new war nearly twenty years after Bannockburn.
They applied to King Edward for his concurrence in their plan;
though he wished the enterprise well, he was ashamed to avow his approval
of it. He was afraid that
injustice would be imputed to him if he attacked with superior force of a
minor king-a boy and a brother-in-law-whose independent title had been so
lately confirmed by treaty after terrible bloodshed; but he secretly
encouraged Baliol in his claim, connived at the muster of his forces in
the north, and gave countenance to all who were disposed to join him.
This adventurer, with only 3,000 men, landed on the coast of Fife,
and marching into the heart of the country, defeated the Earl of Mar, of
whose force 12,000 are alleged to have been slain.
Offers to do Homage
Baliol now made himself
master of Perth, and at Scone was crowned by his followers as “King of
Scotland.” But he lost his
imaginary power almost as quickly as he won it, being unexpectedly
attacked near Annan by Sir Archibald Douglas and other loyal chieftains,
who routed him, slew his brother John, and chased him in a wretched plight
home to England. In this
extremity, the servile but ambitious Baliol had again recourse to Edward
III., without whose assistance he saw that his designs on the Scottish
crown were vein. He offered,
if it were obtained for him, to do homage for it, to acknowledge
Edward’s superiority over it, to espouse the Princess Jane, or do
anything else his patron wished; and then, ambitious of emulating his
predecessors, the third Edward put himself at the head of the powerful
army in order to involve the affairs of Scotland once more in blood and
confusion, and to place Baliol on the throne.
Edward before Berwick
capture and reduction of Berwick was the first object of the English King;
and on uniting his forces with the malcontents of Baliol, he sat down
before the town and closely invested it by land and sea.
The governor vigorously defended it.
Sir William Seton, who repulsed an attempt to take the town by
storm, and also contrived to burn a portion of the English fleet.
The siege now became a blockade, and the inhabitants were reduced
to such distress that they agreed to surrender if not relieved by a
Scottish army before a certain day, giving hostages to Edward in the
meantime, and among these was young Seton, the Governor’s son.
Sir William Keith, at the head of a body of Scots, succeeded in
cutting his way into the town; he was chosen Governor by the garrison, and
refused to comply with the king of England’s second summons to
Edward then threatened to put the hostages to death.
The Scots could not believe he would be guilty of an act so
infamous, and remained firm. Nevertheless,
they were all put to death, and Thomas Secton, “a brave and handsome
young man, was hanged so near the walls that his father could witness his
dying struggles.” Horror-struck
by this scene, the citizens of Berwick clamoured on Keith to surrender,
lest worst should befall them at the hands of one so merciless; and he
promised to them and to Edward “that the town and castle of Berwick
should e unconditionally given up before the hour of vespers, on the 19th
July, unless the Scots in the meanwhile could reinforce the garrison with
200 men at arms, or defeat the English in a pitched battle.”
The Relief Army
prevent the loss of so important a frontier town, the Scottish army, under
the new regent, crossed the Tweed on July 18th, and encamped at
Dunse Park, a few miles north of Berwick.
Archibald Douglas, Lord of Galloway, who led them, was the brother
of Bruce’s comrade, the good Sir James, who had fallen in battle against
the Moors of Spain. He was a
brave man but an imprudent leader, and was neglecting the dying advice of
King Robert, “that the fate of the kingdom should never, if possible,
depend on the doubtful issue of a general engagement.”
He found the English army strongly posted on the crest of an
eminence called Halidon Hill, situated to the westward of the town, with a
great body of Irish in their ranks under Lord Darcy.
Of their strength and particular disposition history fails to
inform us, save that the traitor Baliol commanded one of the wings, and
that a marshy hollow lay in front of their line.
The regent of Scotland divided his army into four columns.
John, Earl of Moray, son of the veteran Randolph; led the first but
being young and inexperienced, he had to assist him two well tried
soldiers, John and Simon Fraser, of Olive Castle, whose father was killed
at the battle of Duplin (1332). The
second was led by the Steward of Scotland, a boy of sixteen, assisted by
his uncle, Sir James Stewart, of Rosythe, in Fifeshire.
The regent himself, having with him the Earl of Carrick; led the
third and the fourth, or reserve, was led by Hugh, Earl of Ross.
Historians variously state the numbers of the Scottish army.
The continuator of Hemingford, an author of that age, and Knyghton,
who lived shortly after, ascertain their strength with more precision than
is generally required by historical facts.
The former records the Scottish force to have been, besides Earls
and the other great lords and barons, 55 knights, 1,100 men-at-arms on
horseback, and 13,500 of the commons, lightly armed-in all 14,655 men-but
the servants pages, and camp followers were more numerous than the actual
combatants. At noon on July
19th they advanced to decide the fate of Berwick, but their
leaders exhibited a deplorable lack of all military skill.
As the English were so posted that cavalry could not attack them,
the whole of the Scottish knights and men at-arms dismounted, committed
their horses to their pages, and prepared to fight on foot.
While drawing near they were severely galled by the English
archers, but managed to reach the intervening morass in very good order;
but then the disasters of the day began.
Impeded in their advance by the soft and spongy nature of the
ground, their remakes became broken; while from the crest of the hill the
archers poured on them volley after volley of arrows with certain aim and
fatal effect. An ancient
writer, quoted by Tytler, says, “These arrows flew as thick as motes in
the sunbeam,” and every instant hundreds were wounded or slain.
Yet the four columns cleared the swamp, and writhe levelled lances,
18 feet in length, made so furious an uphill charge upon the English, that
for a few minutes the ranks of the latter were broken, and defeat seemed
at hand till their reserve came on. Then,
breathless and disordered by their ascent of the eminence, the ill-fated
and ill-led Scots were unable to sustain the ground they had won.
brief but terrible struggle they were borne down the hill towards the
swamp. The Earl of Ross, in
leading the reserve to attack the flank of the wing led by Baliol, was
killed. Fighting in the van,
the Regent received a mortalwound, and was taken prisoner, with the Earls
of Sutherland and Menteith. The
Scots gave way on all hands, and as the pages were the first to fly with
the horses very few of the nobles or men-at-arms escaped in the bloody
pursuit that ensued and was continued for some miles, chiefly by the Irish
kerns under Lord Darcy. Four
thousand Scots and more lay dead on the field.
Among these were the aged Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, one of the
earliest adherents of Robert Bruce; Alexander Bruce, Earl of Carrick; John
Campbell, Earl of Athole, nephew of the late king; John Graham, Alexander
Lindesay, and other great barons; the two Frasers; and John, James, and
Alan Stuart. “It may br
remarked,” says Lord Hailes, “that a Haildon two Stewarts fought under
the banner of their Chief-Alan of Dreghorn, the paternal ancestor of
Charles I.; and James of Rosythe, the, maternal ancestor of Oliver
Cromewell.” Rapin, from an
old authority, states the number of states the number of Scots killed as
36,907 of all ranks, more than twice the number of men on the field.
The victory was won with very inconsiderable loss.
English historians that on the side of their countrymen there were
killed one-knight, one esquire, and twelve-foot soldiers relate it.
“Nor will this appear incredible,” says Lord Hailes, “When we
remember that the English ranks remained unbroken, and that their archers,
at a secure distance, incessantly annoyed the Scottish infantry.”
Aware that it had been provided by the
treaty of capitulation “that Berwick should be considered as relieved in
case 200 men-at-arms forced a passage into the town,” the Scottish
men-at-arms during the action had made a vigorous effort to achieve this,
but were opposed by Edward in person, and repulsed with great loss; and
after this great loss; and after this disastrous battle, on July 20th
the town and castle of Berwick were surrendered according to the
After the battle of Halidon Hill, Edward once more over ran the
country. He again seized the
garrisoned the castles, again exacted public homage from Baliol, and
compelled him to cede Berwick, Roxburgh, Edinburgh Dunbar, and all the
southern eastern counties of Scotland-the best and most fertile portions
of the kingdom-which were declared to be part and parcel of England.
Edward left an army of Irish and English to support his vassal in
his fragment of a kingdom, but no sooner did he turn homewards than in the
indignant Scots rose against Baliol and compelled him to seek refuge
amongst the English garrisons of the south of Scotland.
During the next year or so Edward was obliged to make fresh
expeditions into Scotland to support Baliol, and in the result the Scots
sought and obtained the aid of France, the Throne of which Edward claimed
in the right of his mother. The
long wars with France that followed undoubtedly proved the salvation of
Scotland, for the English had not sufficient resources to carry out the
great ambitions of Edward.