As previous chapters have covered much of the activities of the Scots and how they upset or distracted the kings and northern nobility of England, there will be some brevity hereabouts
In the previous volume it was annotated, recorded and generally written about, over the long history of these Isles the folk who lived in the part we call Scotland were wont to march south to raid, enslave, loot or conquer folk in places we now call Northern England. If we go even farther back to about half way through Volume I they did the same to those who were what we would call Welsh, only they were Britons and lived in a place called Strathclyde. Being a fair-minded folk The Scots of the lowlands of Scotland did the same to those who lived in the Highlands or the Islands (as opposed to Ireland, which is another matter). Thus, the Scots in general were a busy and industrious folk who when they had no particularly serious issue with outsides (or Highlanders or Islanders) fought amongst themselves for land, heritage and if they were ambitious enough the Scots throne.
The Perceived Wisdom of the Scots of the Middle Ages
It was an acknowledged fact of Scottish politics that no matter what had been done by whom and when, if the fighting involved the English (or to be precise the Norman Kings and nobles), at least one side was fighting for Scottish Independence, even if they had started it by invading England. As we will see this was used to good effect.
The problem facing those who survived long enough to be a king of Scotland was the number of other folk who wanted to be king and kept on asking some of those Norman lords (aka English) to the south if they could lend them a retinue to bolster the campaign. This became very irritating and Alexander III last of the Dunkeld had some very strong words with Edward I but did not invade, preferring to visit nuns, widows, virgins and in fact any women and as recorded previously died 1286 in a hurry to meet his new bride.
The Rise of The Bruces
Not happy with the other twelve or fifty candidates for the throne or people asking what an English king thought about it, The Bruce family acted. The Bruces from 1306 started by killing John III of Comyn who was Scots but might have wanted to be English
As John had been killed in a church Robert Bruce was quick to say this was only done to protect Scotland from being taken over by the English. In the confusion he then said that all his wars were against the Kings of England and various rouges bought by English Gold and so everything was a war of Independence which gave him the rite to invade not just England but Ireland as well. This worked quite well in Scotland but as noted previously did not do so well for Robert’s brother Edward who died of unconvinced Irish. Robert however defeated the English and their Norman kings, nobles etc at Bannockburn in 1324 on the 23rd June. A peace treaty was signed in which it was clearly stated that only scots nobles could massacre other scots nobles but that Robert could not be held responsible for cattle raiders. He then ruled Scotland but made a hobby of acquiring various ailments and so died in 1329, but the pope at the time said Robert could be buried, so all ended well.
A Time of Turbulence and Then Stability and then Not So Much
Because there was no Son The Bruce, matters were somewhat tempestuous between 1329 & 1356 when David (The II and a Bruce) and Edward (Not a Norman one but a Balliol) disputed who should be king. A lot of time was wasted with small battles, one king escaping from or imprisoning the other until Edward noticed no one was supporting him anymore and he retired.
With all this practice David (The II and no one arguing about it) set to massacring or just punishing disagreeable nobles and inventing a Treasury by which means he was able to prove that Scotland was very wealthy. Thus ahead of the game he cannily died in 1371.
Regrettably there was no David to be the III, so a nephew named Robert but who was really A Stewart was crowned The II. England and France at the time were having peace talks and Robert (The II) wanted to join in. This did not go well with his sons or other nobles and he spent the rest of his life losing his throne to various claimants until 1390 when he expired of coups.
In this unhappy situation Robert (the II)’s son, John said it was in order that he should now be king, because he had had experience at trying to depose David II and/or Edward and also rebel against his father. Although he convinced the Scots parliament to allow him to be called Robert and thus be The III, the nobles were not convinced. Considering some of these had splendid names such as Black Douglas, Red Douglas (possibly an early socialist) or Archibald The Grim it is easy to see why. He was also blamed for failing the pacify the west and north of Scotland where folk were wont Gaelic and opposed to Scots. It is likely he would have been deposed or slewed but for the king of England being Richard The II, The Hopeless and The Deposed. This allowed the nobles in the south of Scotland to raid, pillage, slaughter etc the north of England and not really care who might call themselves King of Scotland. He was to eventually die in 1406 0f ill-health possibly bought on by a series of Douglases.
The Church in Scotland
Whereas the Scots had been properly Christian, they had to put up with the Archbishop of York telling them what to do. What with Scottish nobles raiding across the border this was not always an effective means of religious leadership. The Papacy in 1192 attempted to sort this out by telling Scottish bishops they didn’t have to speak to the Archbishop of York anymore. Regrettably due to a clerical oversight no Scots’ Archbishop was appointed even though the Scots’ church was titled Ecclesia Scoticana which sounded very important. For some obscure reason they were known as The Special Daughter of Rome even though they were more than one and naturally men. Thus, somewhat confused and not a little depressed the church in Scotland generally restricted itself to religious matters.
The Scottish Parliamentary Experience
As was fashionable in parts of Europe various knights, local important un-nobles and folk with money felt the nobles were having far too much say in the running of things and so grumbled together. Kings liking the idea of having folk who were not nobles around the place allowed them to form parliaments. The idea unravelled a bit when these folk stopped just talking and gained powers.
In Scotland to avoid the attentions of nobles disagreeable or otherwise, these used never to meet in the same place but in various towns, then tell the king what they thought of things. By deft manoeuvring they even managed to gain some powers of taxation and telling the king what his name should be (See Robert III).
Unlike later commoners (see Oliver Cromwell) they were never able to gain an army and so their role was often marginal.
In the not uncommon circumstance of the various Middle Ages there was no shortage of folk to fight, the Scots very cannily invented the Clan. This was based around the family of a chief. However not only his family, but followers etc could join and all use the same name. This made raids, squabbles and wars a much neater affair as everyone knew which side they were on. Something not always shared in England and Ireland (Wales being in a bit of a sulk). Because the ordinary person gave loyalty to the Clan they did not have to listen to The King. Whereas this seemed a smidge democratic it meant that kings of Scotland developed aggressive tendencies, or went into a sulk neither of which boded well for stable or healthy long-term government. However, as the Clans survive to this day, theirs, it must be argued, was the better arrangement.
Because English Kings felt obliged, for many reasons, to fight both Scotland and France it was understandable the latter two should form an alliance. In Scotland, this was called The Auld Alliance, and to ensure everyone Scottish knew who was who The English were titled The Auld Enemy. This arrangement allowed the French and Scots to be very sentimental about each other and when it suited kings of either nation they could join with the other in wars with England without footling about with new treaties.
Conclusion of The 14th Century.
Although far from united, The Scots were able to maintain the argument that whatever they did was to ensure they remained independent from England. This enabled Scottish History to be Romantic so more socially attractive than England’s which was deemed only to be Eventful and Turbulent.
A True History of the Isles Vol II Chap 9 – The Celts A Necessary(Socialist) Overview
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