Kingship of the Scots, 842-1292: Succession and Independence (Edinburgh Classic Editions) by Duncan A A M

Kingship of the Scots, 842-1292: Succession and Independence (Edinburgh Classic Editions) by Duncan A A M

Author:Duncan, A A M [Duncan, A A M]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Published: 2016-08-29T16:00:00+00:00


The road to Norham

Urgent news from the Scots at Skelbo, or from Orkney, would take at least a week to reach the Tay. 1 That such news was despatched about 23 September is suggested by the bishop of St Andrews’ newsletter to Edward I from Leuchars on 7 October 1290. 2 First he reported on the Perth assembly of 1 October, then that he and the English envoys had prepared to set out for Orkney to treat with the Norwegian ambassadors and to receive ‘our lady queen’ – the only voluntary Scottish ascription of that title to her known to me. But a rumour arose among people that ‘our lady must be dead’, as a result of which the kingdom is in turmoil and the community disperata, ‘in despair’ or ‘scattered’. 3 When this rumour was heard and published, Robert Bruce, who had been absent, came with a large following to hinder certain persons, 4 and the earls of Mar and Atholl (both Bruce supporters) gathered their armies. There is fear of civil war unless God provides a swift remedy through Edward’s industry and service. This worried part of the letter was probably drafted not long after 1 October, but the next passage shows that it was not sent immediately.

Subsequently Bek, Warenne and the writer heard that ‘our lady’ had recovered but was still weak, and so they have agreed to remain near Perth until they hear definite news from the knights sent to Orkney – the two messengers even then travelling south from Wick. As soon as they hear good news, which is expected daily, they will set out for the north for the business committed to them. Here, I suggest, was a break in composition, somewhere near Perth. The bishop’s comments on Bruce are unfriendly, and his hopes for peace from Edward evident.

The remainder of the letter seems a hasty postscript on a new tack, a comment on the future. If Balliol comes to the king, ‘we advise that in every outcome you take care to deal [ or treat] with him so that your honour and advantage are preserved’. In the context of ‘every outcome’, that is whether the Maid be alive or dead, the wording ‘we advise that you take care’ is extra-ordinarilly forthright, and suggests that Fraser feared that Balliol would entrap King Edward into something dishonourable; whatever they foresee, these are not the words of a politician pushing the claims of Balliol. 5 They are a warning against promising support to Balliol in the disturbed state of Scotland, for that would be dishonorable to Edward.

Finally Fraser looks at the ‘worst case’ scenario: ‘if [the Maid of Norway] has in truth died – God forbid – let your excellency deign, please, to approach the Border to the consolation of the Scottish people and to staunch effusion of blood, so that the true men of the kingdom can maintain their oath unbroken and set up ( preficere ) as king him ( illum ) who by law should inherit, if so be that he ( ille ) is willing to abide by your advice’.


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