SCOTLAND TO 1328
The racial basis of Scottish nationality presents a problem obscure, perhaps insoluble, and, apart from the question of language, relatively unimportant. No convincing evidence associates Scotland with a palaeolithic population. But thereafter, as in England, successive waves of immigrant Celts, Goidelic and Brythonic, reached her shores, and, ahead of them, a Mediterranean neolithic race whose presence along the western coast, in the Clyde valley, and elsewhere in the Lowlands, is discovered by distinctive long barrows or cairns. The sixth century added other racial ingredients, Saxon immigrants; and it is probable that nordic settlers were drawn to the northern mainland and islands long before their subsequent predatory exodus from Scandinavia. Late in the Roman occupation the Picts are named. That the word connoted an observed racial content cannot be supposed. In the use of Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it distinguishes an assumed aboriginal Scottish population from the Irish Scots and Strathclyde Britons. But modern investigation is not in agreement upon the Picts’ racial identity. The theory that they represented a pre-Aryan immigration is challenged by the ascription to them of a Celtic origin, a hypothesis supported by their personal, tribal, and geographical names recorded by Ptolemy and classical writers, by an eloquent, though meagre, corpus of sepulchral inscriptions ranging from the fourth or fifth to the eighth or ninth centuries, and by the facile union of the Scottish and Pictish kingdoms under Kenneth MacAlpin. Unlike contemporary inscriptions within Romanised Scotland below the Forth, which exhibit mixed Latin and Celtic, these northern examples are pure vernacular and declare a Goidelic speech akin to Erse, Manx, and Gaelic.
Upon a population preponderantly Celtic, Rome descended towards the close of the first Christian century, and nowhere else enforced so faint an impress of her genius. The theory of Roman continuity, which vexes the institutional history of Saxon England, has no counterpart in Scotland’s experience. Neither have there survived material evidences of Rome’s constructive genius, nor, to the same degree as elsewhere, did her industry improve the physical conditions of the soil. Her beneficent activity was confined to the region between Hadrian’s Wall and the Vallum of Antoninus Pius. Excavations within it, at Newstead, near Melrose, Balmuildie, and elsewhere, reveal the amenities of a military garrison. But outside this narrow area Rome’s power was demonstrated only intermittently, as at Mons Graupius (a.d. 84?) over Calgacus; and though the footsteps of the Romans can certainly be traced at Ythan Wells, it is a credible but unverified tradition that Severus led his legions to the Moray Firth (208-11). Certainly the population of North Britain was never Romanised nor submitted to the municipal organisation Rome elsewhere established. Throughout the fourth century her hold upon Caledonia was increasingly precarious, till the tramp of Alaric’s Goths, reverberating through Western Europe, incited Picts, Irish Scots, and English to challenge a weakening giant. Early in the fifth century Rome abandoned a remote country she had never tamed.
After a darkened interval, the sixth century discovers four political systems ethnically distinguished, whose slow fusion created the Scottish nation and kingdom. (1) Most considerable in area, the kingdom of the Picts extended from the Pentland Firth to the central plain, including, apparently, a number of vassal provinces whose locality and nomenclature are preserved in the ancient earldoms of Angus, Atholl, Fife, Lennox, Mar, and Menteith, subject to a monarch whose principal seat was on the Ness. (2) What impulse drove Fergus Mor and bis brothers Loam and Angus, sons of Ere, from the Irish main is not recorded. The event (c. 498) laid the foundation of Dalriada, a Scottish State which at its largest extent embraced Argyllshire and the islands Jura and Islay. Subject for half a century to the Irish ard-ri, interlopers and Christians, the newcomers provoked the enmity of their pagan neighbour. About the year 559 the Pictish King Brude (c. 555-84), son of Maelchon, inflicted on them a defeat from which they had not recovered when St Columba came among them four years later. His intervention saved the stricken colony from extinction; the third generation of Fergus’ line was already on the throne, and every one of its princes had died a violent death. (3) Meanwhile, the Anglian advance into the interior of South Britain drove before it Brytbonic, Welsh-speaking refugees who settled in Strathclyde, dominating or expelling into the shires of Wigtown and Kirkcudbright an aboriginal Pictish population which maintained its distinctive language there until after the union of the crowns in 1603. Circumstances decreed the isolation of the newcomers from the national system out of which they were expelled, and linked their future with Scotland’s fortune. Having in 573 fixed their seat at Dumbarton on the Clyde, Aethelfrith of Bernicia’s victory at Daegsastan (603) thirty years later cut them off conclusively from their Welsh kindred. (4) Eastward of Strathclyde, in the same period, Ida of Bernicia laid his hand upon the rich pastoral region between Tweed and Forth, whose possession embroiled the English with the Scottish monarchy till the eleventh century, and profoundly affected the economy of the Scottish kingdom.
Full thirty years before Augustine’s arrival in Kent, the coming of Columba (521-97) to Scotland invited North Britain to a similar profession of Christian ideals and endeavour. “Angelic in appearance, polished in speech, holy in work, excellent in intelligence, great in resourcefulness”, a busy founder of religious houses throughout his middle years, he still could involve himself in the secular feuds of his countrymen. A banished and excommunicated man, he landed on Iona with twelve companions in 563. Two years later the indomitable apostle stood before the Pictish palace on the Ness. Its gates, fast locked against him, flew open at the holy sign. Thaumaturgic contests, in which the royal magicians met their master, completed the sovereign’s conversion. Bruce declared himself a Christian and led his people to the font. Ethical considerations probably influenced his decision but little, and moral standards were not immediately raised. But touch was established with Ireland’s riper culture, and forces were loosed which in time evolved a consolidated kingdom and a united people. The con version of the Picts may be held to be the governing factor in early Scottish history. For more than thirty years it was Columba’s absorbing task. Monastic colonies (“families of Iona”), tribal in organisation, centres of light, examples of noble purpose, were planted throughout the territory of the northern Picts. To the Minch, by Eigg, Tiree, and Applecross, the apostles of Iona made their way; thence to the Black Isle (Rosemarkie) and the coastal plain bordering Moray Firth, at Mortlach, Forglen, Aberdour, Deer, and Turriff; and, by another route, through Glen Dochart, to Strath-Tay, Dunblane, Abernethy, and Kilrimont (St Andrews). Disciples of Columba—Machar, Ternan, Serf, Devenick—expanded their leader’s work; while southward, in Strathclyde, Kentigem (Mungo) gleaned a harvest of souls in a field his predecessor Ninian (c. 397) had tilled.
Scotland received her first impulse towards a cultured Christian life through Columba from Ireland, whose sons in Dalriada eventually made her speech dominant. But the forces that moulded Scotland’s political development came from across the English border. Sixty-seven years after Columba’s death England rejected the rule of Iona, which, carried by Aidan thence to Lindisfarne (635), threatened to sever England and Scotland from Latin Christendom. Boasting neither the traditions, authority, nor cultural promise of the Roman Church, that of Iona practised rites which its rival denounced as barbarous, followed a calendar which Rome had abandoned, and tonsured its clergy from ear to ear instead of upon the scalp. Its supremacy involved rejection of a system and ideals competent to advance the political no less than the ethical welfare of the island kingdoms. Forbidding the threatened isolation, the Synod of Whitby (664) decisively linked England with Rome and the continental churches. A generation later, Nechtan, King of the Picts (706-24), admitting, like Oswy, the superior authority of the See of St Peter and the poverty of the Scoto-Irish Church in apostolic tradition, also imposed the Roman use upon his subjects. In 716 Iona herself adopted the Roman tonsure and calendar; though, down to the fourteenth century, the Culdees perpetuated certain obstinate Celtic usages.
An event of political moment preceded Nechtan’s decision. Oswy of Northumbria’s victory over Penda at Winwaed (655) laid England at his feet, and thereafter subjugated the Pictish kingdom dominant beyond the Forth. For a generation Picts and Scots owned her supremacy, till his successor, Ecgfrith, headstrong and ill-counselled, was shamefully overthrown at Dunnichen (Nechtansmere), near Forfar (685). The event broke English power in Scotland. The Picts, Scots, and Britons of Strathclyde recovered their independence, and the nascent kingdom of which they were the embryo, no longer impeded from outside, was free to pursue the stubborn process of consolidation. To this endeavour the closing years of the eighth century contributed a new and disturbing factor. Impelled by economic conditions and the Saxon wars of Charles the Great, Scandinavian exiles fared westward along the not unfamiliar path to Orkney and the Shetlands, whence the Hebrides, the plains of Caithness, the southern shores of Moray Firth, and the sea lochs of Ross, Sutherland, and Inverness were accessible to them. In 794 the Annals of Ulster record the devastation of “all the islands of Britain” by “the gentiles.” In 795 Skye was pillaged. In 798 the Hebrides were wasted. In 802 Iona was again in ashes, and four years later its whole community perished. For a generation every coast was at the mercy of Viking war-keels, till the Pictish kingdom was drained of its strength in wearying warfare with an enemy already possessed of its islands and northern provinces. Its plight stirred the cupidity of the Dalriada princes or invited them to press a claim to a disputed and tottering throne. Succeeding a father who died fighting the Picts in Galloway, Kenneth MacAlpin, “when Danish pirates had occupied the shores, and with the greatest slaughter had destroyed the Picts who defended their land, passed over into and turned his arms against the remaining provinces of the Picts; and, after slaying many, drove [the rest] into flight. And so he was the first of the Scots to obtain the monarchy of the whole of Albania, which is now called Scotia”. Circumstances facilitated the union (844) achieved in his person. In Iona lately, and soon in Dunkeld, the conjoined kingdoms owned a common ecclesiastical capital. In blood probably, in language certainly, they were akin, and the Scandinavian assault advised the need to compose the futile rivalries of three centuries. That the union proved permanent declares it opportune. Its achievement reduced the four systems to three. In less than two centuries the three were compressed into one, and, excepting the Norse regions, Scotland geographically was complete.
The central fact in the history of Scotland after 844 is the clear intention of the new kingdom, whose sovereigns are distinguished as Rí Alban, to emerge from the Highland table-land to which for the most part it was as yet confined. No deterring physical barrier proscribed its expansion, and over the central plateau, extending from Dumbarton to Dunnottar, from Girvan to Dunbar, it was imperative to assert its ownership. Only in this district, richer in soil and more accessible to commerce, could an ordered polity be developed. Its attachment to the Scottish system was the achievement of Alpin’s dynasty. Kenneth I (ob. 858), who significantly planted his seat at Forteviot in Perthshire and established the religious centre at Dunkeld in the same county, six times invaded English territory, raiding Dunbar and Melrose. But the depredations of the Danes and Norsemen, subjecting England and Scotland to a common experience, invited defensive co-operation. Kenneth’s grandson Constantine II (900-43) made a pact with Alfred the Great’s daughter Aethelfleda, Lady of the Mercians, and in 921, “with his whole nation”, chose her brother Edward the Elder for lord. The obligation weighed lightly on him. To punish his disregard of it, Aethelstan, asserting the imperial pretensions of the house of Wessex, wasted Scotland to the Mearns in 934 and shewed his fleet off the coast of Caithness. Three years later (937) Constantine, in alliance with Norse and Northumbrian princes dispossessed by Aethelstan, sought to throw off the yoke imposed on him and was overthrown at Brunanburh.
Scottish policy at this juncture, involved on two fronts, sought to turn a shifting situation to its advantage, hoping to gain the coveted territories beyond the Forth. As his “helper both by land and sea”, ally or vassal, Malcolm I (943-54) received Cumbria from Edmund in 945 and undertook arduous responsibilities with its possession; the district formed the highway between the Northumbrian Danes and their kinsmen in Galloway, Wales, and Ireland. A generation later, Malcolm’s son, Kenneth II (971-95), is declared to have received the Lothians from Edgar; if so, the obligation of service cannot fail to have been exacted. The significance of this cession is heightened by the fact that Kenneth’s predecessor, Indulf (95-4-62), had already acquired Edinburgh, and Kenneth himself had taken measures to strengthen the defences of the Forth. From that vantage-ground the rich Bernician plains, the granary of the north, were the more coveted. The Annals of Ulster record in 1006 a Scottish defeat, apparently upon the contested territory. Twelve years later (1018) the decision was reversed by the victory of Malcolm II (1005-34) over Eadulf at Carham, which added Lothian to the domains of the Scottish crown, an acquisition destined to transform the polity of the Scottish State. The date is otherwise memorable; in the same year died Owen the Bald, prince of Strathclyde. His kingdom passed to Malcolm’s grandson, “gentle Duncan,” on whose accession in 1034 it was attached to Scotland in a bond thereafter not broken. The union of the four original kingdoms was achieved, and Scotland, saving the Norse districts, was geographically complete.
Scotland exhibited in 1034 neither political nor racial homogeneity. Her Isles and northern coasts remained under Scandinavian lordship, while her English neighbour, imminently to fall to a Norman invader, aimed at submitting her to the rigid obligations of vassalage. But the most urgent need was to assimilate her populations and reconcile their cultural and political standards. The Anglo-Norman polity was well adapted to develop her backward state. But for two centuries there was hardly any Scottish king that did not feel the anger of his Celtic subjects at his preference for it; Alexander III was the first whom the true Scots took to their hearts. The two hundred and fifty years between his death (1286) and Duncan Is accession (1034) were consequently a period of racial and civil turmoil. For the first ninety years (1034-1124) Celt and Teuton, Scot and Englishman, contended for mastery of the kingdom. Under David I (1124-53) the issue at length was decided: Scotland abandoned the polity of ancient Alba, received from England the apparatus of a feudal monarchy, and qualified herself to enter the system of European States.
The familiar tragedy of Duncan’s death (1040) becomes significant in the light of these reflections. His is the first example of direct succession to the Scottish throne. For nearly two centuries the crown had alternated between the elder and younger branches of Kenneth MacAlpin’s line. The younger became extinct in 997, and thereafter the succession promised to alternate within the elder line exclusively. Thus, while Kenneth III (997-1005) was succeeded by his cousin Malcolm II (1005-34), Malcolm’s heir, in the eyes of Celtic legitimists, was to be found in Kenneth III’s family, according to the custom of alternation hitherto unbroken. But Malcolm challenged the rule. His heir was his grandson Duncan by his daughter’s marriage with Crinan, lay Abbot of Dunkeld. Kenneth’s heir, preferred by the legitimists, was an unnamed infant who fell into Malcolm’s hands in 1033 and was conveniently removed. The feud thus provoked persisted for generations and immediately involved Duncan in its tragedy. Her nephew’s removal made Kenneth’s granddaughter Gruoch heiress of his line. She was already, or soon became, the wife of Macbeth, Mormaer of Moray, himself through his mother descended from Malcolm III, chieftain of a house that claimed the throne itself, behind whom was the patriotic fervour of Celtic Scotland. On that constituency his marriage to Gruoch established another claim. Behind Duncan, on the other hand, were forces which the Celtic pretenders could not command. English aid pulled down Macbeth, his stepson Lulach the Fatuous, who briefly succeeded him, and Donald Bane (1093-97), who championed the interests that supported him. Donald was the last king of pure Celtic birth who sat on Scotland’s throne. But in remote Morayshire, in touch with a rebellious Scandinavian element, Macbeth (or Macheth) pretenders were not extinguished till the reign of Alexander III.
Malcolm Canmore; Saint Margaret
A new chapter opens with the accession of Malcolm Canmore (1058-93), Duncan’s son and avenger. An exile since early youth at the Confessor’s court, he grew to manhood in an English atmosphere, married first the Norse Ingeborg, and in 1070, after her death, Margaret, sister of the English heir to the Confessor’s crown, like herself exiled to Scotland before the Conqueror’s fury. Malcolm made her quarrel his own, using it to pursue his kingdom’s advantage and gain an increment of English territory. Before the year of his marriage was out, he was over the border, carrying fire and sword southward to Yorkshire. Two years later the Conqueror retaliated, marched unresisted to the Tay, and at Abernethy Malcolm homo suus devenit. The transaction was the first of many of similar character which compromised Scotland’s independence, founded the Plantagenet claim upon her fealty, and provoked her later to a struggle which won her freedom. Taking advantage of the Conqueror’s preoccupation in Normandy, Malcolm again invaded England in 1079 and laid waste the country between Tweed and Tyne. In 1091, following the familiar road, he found in Rufus an antagonist as stout as his father and repeated his homage; the castles of Newcastle (1080) and Carlisle (1092) were raised to exclude him. Rufus’ insistence upon their feudal relationship brought Malcolm a last time into England. Returning from a stormy interview with his suzerain at Gloucester, he was intercepted at Alnwick and fell there (1093). His warfare added no territory to Scotland, but altered the texture of her population. English exiles and captives of war settled in the Lothians among their own race. Beyond the Forth English speech, population, and culture entered in the wake of commercial intercourse, strengthening that racial element on which the sovereign relied to impose English ideas and institutions.
In any circumstances the fortunes of the Scottish State must have been profoundly affected by English infiltration. But the consequences were deeper and more immediate because, for a quarter of a century, Malcolm’s queen was the unflagging missionary and pattern of English culture. Turgot’s (?) life of her, written shortly after her death for her daughter’s comfort, pictures a saintly, masterful woman, whose chamber, littered with chasubles, stoles, altar cloths, and priestly raiment worked by herself and her attendants, seemed “a workshop of celestial art.” None was more intent in prayer, more given to works of mercy and almsgiving. In Lent her devotion was unremitting, her abstinence so rigid that all her life she suffered acute abdominal pain. Every day she washed and fed the poor, whose marshalling was her chamberlain’s principal daily duty. Over Malcolm her influence was unbounded. Unable to read, he cherished the books she used and bound them in rich covers studded with jewels of price. At all times he courted her counsel, and Turgot declares the adventure that cost him his life a rare exception of failure to obey her admonition. No less was she the monitor of her children. She transformed the ceremonial of a rude court and multiplied the adornment of the royal palace. At her bidding and example her courtiers adopted refinement of dress and “seemed indeed to be transformed by this elegance.” The laws were submitted to her judgment, merchants had her patronage and protection, precious wares till then unfamiliar began to circulate, prosperity followed in the wake of commerce, and a rude society assumed a veneer of culture. Upon the Church especially Margaret left her mark: she purged the ritual of the Mass of “barbarous” practices, reformed the lax observance of Lent, Easter, and Sunday, and suppressed irregular degrees of matrimony. Thus she completed the work of Nechtan and brought the Scottish Church into union with Roman Christendom.
For nearly sixty years, three of Margaret’s sons, holding rule in succession, continued the process of Anglicisation, after an interlude of Celtic revolt suppressed by English arms in 1094 and 1097. The population of Lothian, which otherwise must have been attracted into the English system, was repelled from it by the Norman conquest and well-disposed to a Scottish sovereign who, on the spindle side, represented the dispossessed house of Cerdic. Celtic irreconcilables in Ross, Moray, and Galloway were ever ready to advance a pretender. But on the Lothians the royal hold was secure. Edinburgh, superseding Canmore’s Dunfermline, became the capital, a fact which, along with Edgar’s (1097-1107) measures for the devolution of his authority, declares the dominance of English Scotland in what so recently had been a Celtic State. For, while his brother Alexander I (1107-24) succeeded him in the territories above the Forth, his younger brother David was placed as Earl over Lothian and Strathclyde, an administrative device which confessed the uneasy relations of those provinces with ancient Alban, and also promised to elude England’s intention to compromise the dignity of the Scottish crown. No similar separation was attempted in the ecclesiastical sphere. Alexander, faithful to his mother’s preference, committed his Church to English direction. To the bishopric of St Andrews, sole see beyond the Forth, vacant since 1093, he appointed in succession three Englishmen, the first two of whom, however, incurred his anger and their dismissal by acknowledging the metropolitan authority of York or Canterbury. A priory of Augustinian canons superseded the Culdee society at St Andrews, and similar brotherhoods were established in Scone, Inchcolm, and elsewhere. Dunkeld and Moray received episcopal foundations.
Only the reign of Mary Stewart approaches that of David I (1124-53), youngest and greatest of Margaret’s sons, in its vital contribution to Scotland’s development. His purpose was to weld into an effective unity the diverse populations that called him lord by subjecting them to the Crown’s authority. Norman England offered her experience, and David’s reign has been termed aptly a “bloodless Norman Conquest” of his kingdom. In both countries a new aristocracy was introduced as the agent, and eventually the tyrant, of the monarchy. But whereas in England a feudal polity riveted the subjugation of a conquered people, only in Moray was David able to use rebellion as a pretext for the confiscation of the soil and settlement of an Anglo-Norman aristocracy upon it. Neither Pictish Galloway nor Highland Alban as yet succumbed. But elsewhere Anglo-Norman families—Morevilles, Somervilles, Bruces, Balliols, Lindsays, Fitz Alans (Stewarts), and others—received the land and planted an alien culture upon it. The aboriginal Celtic population was not expelled; tenure by charter merely replaced the customary lordships hitherto vested in the senior kindred of the sept. But ultimately the texture of Scottish society was radically changed. The cadets and servitors of the Anglo-Norman proprietor received parcels of his estate upon conditions of feudal tenure and, like himself, propagated a new culture and language. Performing prescribed services to his superior upon the security of a charter, the new proprietor was ready to accord as much to others upon a similar obligation. Before Scotland was provoked by Edward I to defend her liberties, the greater part of the kingdom outside the Highlands was owned by powerful vassals of the Crown fulfilling the obligations feudal custom prescribed and, in their turn, imposing them upon sub-vassals of Celtic stock. The smoothness with which the transformation was accomplished was due, it may be assumed, to the fact that in Scotland, as in England, an archaic polity was already shaping itself to the institutions feudalism employed.
David I, his descendant complained, was a “sair sanct for the crown.” A true son of his mother, the Church acquired from him a disproportionate share of the national wealth. Holyrood, Kinloss, Jedburgh, Cambuskenneth, Newbattle, Dundrennan, and Dryburgh owed their foundation to his munificence and contributed, as was his purpose, to cement the fabric of Anglo-Norman culture. Of the four dioceses then existing he already was founder of one (Glasgow); as king he added five more—Dunblane, Brechin, Aberdeen, Ross, and Caithness. Lothian, as yet grouped within the diocese of St Andrews, was administered by an archdeacon. Ninian’s twice desolated see of Candida Casa was revived1, perhaps under the stimulus of David’s example at Glasgow, by Fergus of Galloway (ob. 1161), distant ancestor of the Balliols and Cornyns of the War of Independence. The bishops of the Orkneys and the Sudreys were suffragans of Nidaros; not until 1472 were they brought under the Scottish primate by the Bull of Sixtus IV. Thus, excepting Argyll, which was constituted a diocese apart from Dunkeld about the close of the twelfth century, the sometime embracing authority of St Andrews was completely subdivided by David and his predecessor in a period (1106-53) marked by larger and more abiding ecclesiastical changes than any other in Scotland’s history except the Reformation.
Accompanying these developments in the social and ecclesiastical fabric of the nation proceeded a transformation of its administrative apparatus. Already in Alexander I’s reign a Constable, Justiciar, and Chancellor make their appearance, the nucleus of a royal Council which perhaps superseded the Celtic council of Mormaers, if that body ever existed. To these high officials David added a Chamberlain, Marshal, and Steward, the last becoming hereditary in the family of Fitz Alan, cadets of the English house of Arundel, ancestors of the royal Stewarts. Like his English brother, the Scottish sovereign exercised the administrative functions of the Crown with the advice of his principal vassals, though as yet no organised system of Estates was established. Till David I’s reign Scotland adhered to her Celtic judicial customs. Mormaers, rendering uncertain homage to their sovereign, held supreme jurisdiction within their provinces, delegating their judicial functions to subordinate Toisecs (Toshachs) and judges. Into this simple scheme David introduced the office of sheriff, associating its holder invariably with one of the royal castles, which thus became the capitals of their respective areas. Charged with the duties attached to the office in England, David’s sheriffs were appointed for military and fiscal purposes rather than with the object of supplanting the archaic Celtic machinery. Toshachs and Brehons continued in office, the former ranking as thanes, next below the earl in dignity, and exercising authority which the sheriff gradually absorbed. A system of jury trial, the visnet or voisinage, has its origin in David’s reign, and in that of Alexander II (1214-49) trial by ordeal of water and iron disappeared. The number of sheriffdoms was in the same period increased, though the institution of Regalities conferred upon their owners judicial rights on which the sheriff might not trespass, the pleas of the crown (murder, rape, arson, robbery) being reserved for the cognisance of justiciars sitting twice a year in Lothian, Galloway, and the Lowland districts above the Forth. Thus Scotland was equipped to stand beside her neighbours in feudal Europe, clogged no longer by the obstinate conservatism of her Celtic traditions.
Simultaneously with these processes of consolidation, the relations of Scotland with England moved surely towards a breach. David, like his father, was brought up at the English court. His sister was the wife of Henry I; his brother Alexander I was Henry’s son-in-law. David’s own marriage as clearly marked the new orientation of Scottish policy: in the winter of 1113-14 he wedded Matilda, elder daughter of Earl Waltheof of Northumbria, widow of Simon de Senlis, recently deceased on crusade, to whom, after Walthcof’s execution (1076), the Conqueror had granted the earldom of Northampton and Huntingdon, with which David was invested on his marriage. Through his wife he could advance claims to the earldom of Northumbria, and also to Cumbria, in which her grandfather Siward had dominion. To establish them and coincidently advance the frontier of his kingdom was David’s purpose, though their possession involved his vassalage to the English Crown. The civil commotions of Stephen’s reign gave him the opportunity he desired. By supporting his niece, the Empress Matilda, David attached himself at first to the weaker side. A compact with Stephen in 1136, however, obtained his son Henry’s (ob. 1152) recognition as Earl of Huntingdon, possession of the castles of Doncaster and Carlisle, and a promise that his claims to Northumberland should have preference over those of Simon de Senlis’ son. Not content with the agreement, David again took arms, and, though defeated in the battle of the Standard (1138), obtained from Stephen (1139) recognition of young Henry’s claim to the coveted earldom. Its concession advanced the Scottish frontier to the Tees, as already by the pact of 1136 it had moved to Carlisle and the Eden. In subsequent warfare these successes were not maintained; for the vigorous Henry II recovered much of the territory in 1157, leaving to Malcolm IV only the Honour of Huntingdon, and to his brother William the Liberty of Tynedale.
William the Lion
Between the death of David in 1153 and that of his great-great-grandson Alexander III in 1286, an interval of one hundred and thirty years, four reigns intervened. The period was one of steady and, upon the whole, quiet consolidation, in which, while Scotland’s relations with England moved inexorably towards the impending collision, the separatist inclination of the Norse and Celtic populations was as steadily overborne. So far from being the cradle of the Scottish nation, as it has been represented, the War of Independence tested a system already close welded in the generations that preceded it. Of the four kings—David’s two grandsons, great-grandson, and great-great-grandson—only the last was untroubled by factious revolt in Moray or Galloway. A union of Norse and Celtic irreconcilables at once faced David’s successor Malcolm IV (1153-65) upon his accession. Somerled of the Isles, “regulus” of Argyll, uniting with his kinsman Donald, son of Malcolm Macheth, disturbed the peace. In 1156 Donald joined his father in confinement; Somerled remained at large till 1164, when, landing in the Clyde with a miscellaneous host from Ireland and the Isles, he was overcome and slain at Renfrew. Thrice within those years Malcolm fought in Galloway and, by 1160, quelled its disobedience; Fergus, its lord, surrendered his son Uchtred as a hostage and himself took the habit of a canon in David’s abbey of Holyrood, where he died (1161). Thirteen years later, William the Lion’s capture at Alnydck in 1174 invoked renewed disturbance in the province. It was not quelled until 1185, when Uchtred’s son Roland made submission. Simultaneously, under Donald MacWilliam (or Bane), alleging himself to be a great-grandson of Malcolm Canmore’s Norse marriage, Moray and Ross also raised the flag of revolt and were not subdued until 1187. In 1215 Mac William’s son Donald appeared in Moray along with Kenneth Macheth, probably the son of Somerled’s ally. With their defeat and death the line of Celtic pretenders comes to an end. For half a century Galloway remained passive, till Roland’s son Alan, dying in 1234, left his lordship to his three daughters, wives of Anglo-Norman husbands. “Preferring to have one lord rather than several”, the Galwegians desired Alexander II (1214-49) to assume direct rule over them. Upon his refusal, they set up an illegitimate brother of the co-heiresses and were reduced to obedience. Galloway thereafter made no effort to assert her particularism.
Equally significant was the period in the Crown’s assertion of Scottish authority over Norse separatism. Since Kenneth Mac Alpin’s reign a princely alliance between the two races had been not infrequent. Malcolm II gave his daughter to Earl Sigurd of Orkney, who died at Clontarf (1014). On their son Thorfinn he conferred Caithness and Sutherland with the title of earl, designing to detach an ally from the Macbeth faction. Thorfinn, however, proved a stubborn enemy, whose defeats of Duncan I rendered easier Macbeth’s overthrow of his sovereign (1040). Thorfinn’s collusion with Macbeth is not exposed in the Saga, but Malcolm Canmore’s marriage with his widow Ingeborg clearly was planned to enlist Norse friendship. For the moment it did so; but from it sprang pretenders to the throne who troubled Scotland for more than a century, until 1215. Earl Thorfinn, who died c. 1065, held sway also in Galloway, where Norse power was so firmly settled that its timber was felled to build Manx fortresses. In 1098 and 1102 a more formidable enemy appeared in Magnus Bareleg, King of Norway, who came to assert his distant authority and wrested from Edgar (1097-1107) all the western islands between which and the mainland a vessel could sail with rudder shipped. Landing in Kintyre, he caused his long-ship to be drawn across the isthmus at Tarbert, himself grasping the rudder, and so added the peninsula to his spoils. Somerled’s activities, already remarked, and his collusion with the Moray pretenders, declared Scotland’s danger from this exposed flank, and, in the last year of the twelfth century, Scottish authority began to assert itself. In 1197 and 1198 William the Lion reduced Harold, “Earl of Orkney, Caithness, and Shetland,” who took arms at the instigation of his wife, sister of the Donald Macheth whom Malcolm IV overthrew in 1156. These successes, and his peaceful relations with England, stimulated Alexander II (1214-49) to accomplish an exploit not yet attempted. In 1222 he subjugated Argyll; a sheriffdom planted there c. 1226 brought the district within the operation of royal writs. Alexander next demanded the Hebrides, and, upon Hakon of Norway’s refusal to surrender or sell them, prepared a fleet for their recovery, but died at Kerrera, his purpose unfulfilled. His son Alexander III (1249-86) resumed the negotiation and provoked Hakon to assert his sovereignty. Sailing in 1263, “to avenge the warfare the King of Scots had made in his dominions,” his armada was scattered near Largs off the Cumbraes; he died in the Orkneys, whither he withdrew to refit. Alexander pressed his advantage, subdued the Hebrides, and in 1266 received from Magnus of Norway the surrender his father had refused. On payment of 1000 marks of refined silver for four years and 100 annually in perpetuity, Man and the Hebrides passed under Scottish sovereignty. The marriage of Alexander’s daughter Margaret to Magnus’ son and successor Eric in 1281 clinched the bargain.
Very different is the English aspect of the period. Two of David’s successors, sons-in-law of the English monarch, by their eager quest of the Northumbrian earldom afforded England occasion to assert her suzerainty. Malcolm IV did homage for Huntingdon in 1157, and, to his people’s dismay, attended his liege’s banner in Toulouse. He surrendered Northumberland and Cumberland, for whose recovery the more intemperate William the Lion fatally compromised the status of his crown. Made prisoner in 1174 when campaigning on the soil he coveted, he was conveyed to Falaise in Normandy and accepted terms which strictly defined Scotland’s feudal dependence on England. Edinburgh, Berwick, and Roxburgh castles were delivered to English garrisons, hostages were surrendered, and at York Minster, in 1175, in token of his unqualified allegiance, William offered his casque, lance, and saddle upon the high altar. Till the death of Henry II (1189) Scotland was a vassal fief over which he exercised his suzerainty with inexorable punctilio. The autonomy of the Scottish Church also was compromised, till Pope Clement III declared it filia specialis and immediately subject to the Holy See. At the price of submission to papal authority it eluded that of York, which claimed metropolitan jurisdiction ad extremos Scotiae fines. But Henry II’s death relieved Scotland of her humiliation. Needing money for his Crusade, and fearing to leave an enemy on the flank of his kingdom, Richard I gave William acquittal (1189) of the obligations imposed in 1174, saving that “he shall do us, entirely and fully, all that the King of Scotland, Malcolm, his brother, did by right to our predecessors, and ought by right to have done.” Whatever were Malcolm’s obligations, Scotland was absolved from an unqualified admission of English suzerainty. When Edward I revived the claim, other precedents needed to be invoked.
Alexander III. The War of Independence
Meanwhile John showed as strong a will as his grandson to assert English paramountcy, erected a castle at Tweedmouth to overawe Berwick, and in 1209 received William’s daughters to dispose of in marriage. Three years later (1212) William entrusted to him the marriage of his son Alexander also, whose union (1221) with Henry III’s sister Joan, and his own sister’s marriage to Hubert de Burgh, established relations which permitted Alexander to plan the reduction of Argyll, the principal achievement of his reign. Having accomplished it, he vainly revived his father’s demand for Northumberland, and accepted at York a definitive settlement (1237) of the old controversy. Alexander abandoned his hereditary claims upon Northumberland, Westmorland, and Cumberland, and received instead two hundred librates of rural land in the first and last of those counties, for which he did homage and swore fealty. But his second marriage, with Marie de Coucy, as suspicious to English eyes as the Ancient League of a later generation, disturbed the prospects of peace and stirred Henry to demand renewed submission. At Newcastle (1244) the pact of 1237 was confirmed and Henry contracted his infant daughter to Alexander’s heir. For the remainder of Alexander’s reign his relations with England were cordial.
Alexander III (1249-86), last king of Canmore’s line in male descent, came to the throne a boy of eight. Married two years later (1251) to his English wife, it was not until 1261 that his daughter Margaret’s birth assured direct succession to the throne; the succession consequently stood in dangerous uncertainty. Three years before his son’s birth Alexander II had recognised (1238) Robert Bruce as heir apparent, a natural choice of the male representative of David, Earl of Huntingdon (ob. 1219), among whose descendants the king was to be sought upon the extinction of the elder line. Bruce’s prospects were revived by the tardy birth of Alexander III’s heir. Other interests also were concerned: Alan the Doorward, husband of Alexander II’s natural daughter Marjorie, had a daughter whose claims, if legitimated, could be advanced; a third interest was represented by Walter Comyn, Earl of Menteith, whose influence in the north and Galloway and his descent from Donald Bane (1093-97) made him the representative of the nationalist party lately headed by the Macbeth pretenders. Alternately these jealous interests coerced the youthful sovereign, until in 1258, for the quiet of the realm, Henry III set up a Council of Regency which included the Doorward and Comyn factions. Concurrently (1262) the birth of Alexander’s daughter Margaret settled the succession, and his coming of age terminated his tutelage. Ten years later Henry’s death (1272) called Alexander to renew his homage to his brother-in-law Edward I: he performed it in 1278 for his English lands, “reserving” his kingdom, a qualification which Edward, too, on his side, “reserved.” Events inexorably demanded a settlement. In 1281 Alexander’s younger son died. The deaths of his remaining son and daughter extinguished his issue in 1284. Only his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, survived, and in February 1284 a council of his vassals declared her heiress to the throne. Her prospects of succession seemed remote; for Alexander, a hale man of forty-four, took a second wife (1285), Joleta of Dreux, and could expect children by her. In fact she bore him none, and less than six months after his marriage he died (March 1286). Anglo-Scottish relations had reached a crisis.
On 2 July 1286 the Council of Regency, on which the Comyns were prominent, proclaimed the Maid of Norway queen. The sovereign was an infant, resident abroad, heiress to a foreign throne, and of a sex that never yet had ruled Scotland. Her father Eric therefore took steps to establish her authority. For two generations the royal houses of England and Scotland had sought each other in marriage, and Edward I welcomed an exceptional opportunity to unite the crowns by that means and so establish English paramountcy. The Holy See was invited to legalise the union of the Scottish Queen with her cousin, the English heir-apparent, and plenipotentiaries from Norway and Scotland assembled at Salisbury (1289) to examine the conditions upon which it might be concluded. In the following July (1290) a numerously attended council of the Scottish vassals in capite, convened at Birgham, sanctioned the projected union subject to conditions which amply safeguarded Scotland’s autonomy. A last calamity, however, befell Canmore’s fated house. In September 1290 the youthful queen sailed from Bergen. On the voyage to Scotland she died, and the peace of Scotland passed with her.
The death of the queen invited competition for the throne from among the nobility, Anglo-Normans or Normanised Celts, whose genealogies alone revealed a Scottish descent. The comparative remoteness of even the chief candidates from the royal stem, the frequent intermarrying of the nobility with illegitimate offspring of the sovereign, and a situation to which the experience of Europe afforded no parallel, all combined to encourage even those remotely allied with royalty to come forward. The War of Independence was primarily an issue between the Scottish people and their alien baronage. Undeterred by patriotic scruples, and in many cases already involved in feudal relations with an English suzerain, his assistance was not repugnant to them. On the news of the queen’s death, Bruce and his most formidable rival, John Balliol, directly or through their partisans, put themselves in touch with Edward. It is idle to discover “no evidence that the Scots as a nation invited [his] interference in the affairs of their country”. Neither in Edward’s view nor in that of his petitioners were popular suffrages involved. Nor had medieval law evolved the impartial arbitrator. A situation had arisen for whose solution the feudal code afforded no guide; to determine the dispute in which he was invited to intervene Edward needed to be accorded the status which alone, short of naked force, could make his verdict authoritative. English paramountcy, often asserted, fostered by the ambition of Scotland’s rulers for generations, encouraged by her baronage, needed first to be admitted. Edward moved to obtain it.
Careful to establish a preliminary historical foundation, Edward ordered exhaustive search of documents to elucidate the past relations of the two crowns. Much fantastic material, credible to an uncritical age, was laid before the Scottish vassals at Norham in May 1291, and, though it elicited a protest from the minor vassals, was elsewhere accepted as authoritative. The competitors already in the field, including Bruce and Balliol, put their seals in June to a document binding them to accept Edward’s award as lord paramount, being satisfied that “the sovereign lordship of Scotland and right to determine our several pretensions” belonged to him. The legal suit opened two months later (August 1291) and terminated in November 1292. It adjudicated on the claims of thirteen competitors, only one of whom was related to the royal house by paternal descent. Six were the issue of illegitimate children of Alexander II and William the Lion. One traced from Canmore’s brother Donald Bane. Two were descended from David I’s son, Prince Henry. Three—John Balliol, Robert Bruce, and John Hastings—were respectively great-grandson, grandson, and great-grandson of the Lion’s brother, David, Earl of Huntingdon (ob. 1219), through the marriages of his three daughters. Bruce, the son of the second daughter, stood one degree nearer to the common ancestor than Balliol or Hastings, grandsons respectively of the eldest and youngest; whether his seniority outweighed Balliol’s descent from Huntingdon’s eldest daughter was a novel point of law which Edward’s award determined. Hastings, otherwise without a case, contended that the kingdom was partible and claimed a share.
The procedure which determined the most famous suit of the Middle Ages was formed upon the ancient centumvirale iudicium, and was charged to explore a cause closely related to its prerogative. Like the Roman court, Edward’s consisted of 105 assessors, including the sovereign—eighty nominated by the Scottish interests concerned, twenty-four by the lord paramount. Early in August 1291 the court assembled at Berwick to receive statements of claim from the competitors, and adjourned. Reassembling in June 1292, the pleadings of all but Bruce and Balliol were dismissed, and, after a further adjournment, those of Bruce also were rejected. It remained to test Hastings’ submission that the kingdom was partible, and the contention having been negatived, Edward made his award in the hall of Berwick Castle on 17 November 1292. He gave the kingdom, whole and undivided, to John Balliol, who swore fealty to his suzerain, and before the end of the month was crowned at Scone.
Unwelcome to the true Scots, Edward’s intervention saved the country from civil war. On the other hand, it gave Scotland an indifferent sovereign, from whom his suzerain was resolved to exact the last ounce of feudal obligation. A summons to attend him abroad, however, exceeded the limits of Balliol’s acquiescence. More than a century earlier, Malcolm IV, obeying a similar call, was threatened with death by his indignant subjects on his return. Balliol refused to obey, and in 1295 sought the support of France in a defensive alliance which for three centuries profoundly influenced Scotland’s cultural and political development. Edward’s vengeance was swift. Descending upon Scotland, in July 1296 he compelled Balliol’s submission at Stracathro, near Brechin. Leaving English garrisons to assert his authority, and a triumvirate of Englishmen to administer it, Edward marched out of a country apparently subdued, taking with him, to point the significance of Balliol’s degradation, the Stone of Destiny, on which Scottish sovereigns were wont to be crowned, and a cargo of the nation’s archives.
In the moment of her humiliation the voice of Scotland’s commonalty found utterance. Hardly had Edward turned his back before William Wallace appears, a second Calgacus. History records few examples of so meteoric a rise, an achievement so striking, a fate so swift and heroic. The younger son, apparently, of Malcolm Wallace of Elderslie, near Paisley, he emerges in the spring of 1297 as the leader of guerrilla patriots pledged to recover Scotland for her king. Before the autumn English authority was in the dust, its officers in flight, and Wallace and his colleague Andrew of Moray masters of the kingdom in the name of King John. But their success was brief. In 1298 Edward came in person and at Falkirk overthrew Wallace’s authority. France, seduced from the Scottish cause, afforded no help; Bruce and Comyn watched their own fortunes; and Pope Boniface VIII’s warning (1300) to Edward to respect a vassal of the Holy See went unheeded. In 1304 Edward was again in possession of Stirling. Wallace, becoming his prisoner a few months later (1305), died a patriot’s death. The way was clear to a settlement, and in September 1305, three weeks after Wallace’s execution, Edward revealed his policy. Abandoning the experiment of a puppet State, he assumed direct lordship over the kingdom, naming his nephew John of Brittany as his viceroy. Precautions were taken to secure the loyalty of officials, and the castles were received into English hands. Scotland’s ancient legal customs were abolished, and, attentive to her historical divisions, efficient plans were drawn for the administration of Anglo-Norman law. But Edward reckoned without the spirit Wallace had stirred. Within six months the Constitution of 1305 was a dead letter, and under a new leader Scotland received the crowning mercy of Bannockburn.
Wallace’s mantle descended upon Robert Bruce, chief of an Anglo-Norman house whom David I had established in Annandale with princely possessions two centuries earlier, a man whose career exhibits to this point duplicity and self-seeking remarkable even in an age not scrupulous. Grandson of the competitor, his father’s death in 1304 encouraged him to sustain the ambitions Balliol’s nomination had disappointed. After Wallace’s defeat at Falkirk he joined himself to John (Red) Comyn in Scotland’s cause. In 1302 he was Edward’s sheriff in Lanarkshire, attended his campaigns in 1303 and 1304, and early in 1306 left London ostensibly to aid the newly constituted English executive in Scotland. With Bishop William Lamberton of St Andrews, however, he was already in collusion for the overthrow of what he professed to serve, and an encounter with Red Comyn at Dumfries removed an impediment from the path of his ambition. Thence he rode to Glasgow, sought absolution for his sacrilegious deed, and, meagrely attended, was crowned at Scone. Three months later he was a hunted fugitive. But in May 1307 he scattered his enemies at Loudon Hill, and Edward’s death in July made his fortunes secure. By the end of August 1307 Edward’s worthless son was out of Scotland and Bruce free to establish his authority. First he subdued the Comyns—his “herschip” of Buchan was a proverb for vindictive destruction for half a century—and when the clergy owned his sovereignty in 1310 the north had passed under his authority. Edward II retaliated with a feeble invasion that never passed the Forth. Upon his withdrawal Bruce assailed the English garrisons with unrelaxing pressure. Roxburgh and Edinburgh surrendered early in 1314, when the English flag flew only above Stirling beyond the Forth. Even the spiritless Edward was spurred to succour the surviving evidence of English supremacy. On Midsummer Day (1314) at Bannockburn the issue was decided. Had Bruce been defeated, the history of Britain must have run another course. As it was, Scotland survived to contribute her individuality and experience to the United Kingdom of a later day.
Bannockburn planted Bruce firmly upon the throne and gave him the heart of his people as no king before or after him possessed it. “Like another Judas Maccabaeus”, his council declared to the Pope in 1320, he had “rescued his people and inheritance out of the hands of their enemy”. But England stubbornly withheld acknowledgment of the defeat of Plantagenet imperialism. The Papacy also refused recognition of Bruce’s sovereignty. To compel it was the purpose of the king’s remaining years. Sir James Douglas’ name became a terror on the Marches. Berwick passed to Scottish hands in 1318, and Douglas raided Yorkshire. Foiled in his intention to abduct the English queen, he won the White Battle or Chapter of Mytton (1319). In Ireland Edward Bruce, aiding the O’Neills against English oppression, was crowned king and fought a stubborn fight till his death in 1318. Five years later (1323) Edward II accepted a truce for thirteen years, and his son’s preoccupation in France at length gave Scotland her liberty. The Treaty of Northampton (1328) explicitly surrendered England’s claim to suzerainty and put the seal upon Bruce’s life-work. A few months later he died (1329), a man of rare force, sagacity, and decision. The greatness of his achievement cannot be exaggerated. In material advantage Scotland was the poorer by the postponement of her economic union with England till the eighteenth century. But her loss was amply compensated by the opportunity to develop her national life and character under the independent conditions Bannockburn secured for her.