Post-classical history



SAFE-conducts to six Scots were issued on 15 August to allow them to meet two envoys of Philip of France in England, presumably seeking an extension of the truce. However, Edward had every intention of reasserting military pressure even before a full-scale campaign could be organised. On 11 September, Sir John Segrave and Sir Edmund Hastings at Berwick, Sir Alexander Balliol at Selkirk, Sir William Latimer at Roxburgh, Sir Walter Huntercombe (captain of Northumberland), and Sir Robert Clifford (keeper of the bishopric of Durham) were informed that, despite recent orders summoning them to a parliament in London in October, they should not ‘in any way depart from Scotland or its marches’.1 Edward was extremely concerned to ensure the security of his garrisons: nothing was to endanger future military success on the road to reconquest. On 24 September he wrote to Langton, the treasurer, ordering him to be

. . . attentive in such manner that our affairs should prosper, that the wages be well and promptly paid to our people who stay in these parts; and that you have well overlooked the castles of Scotland, the fortresses and other places which concern us there and that they be well provisioned, so that there will be no want and that the new castles which we are having made there have all that they need for the completion of their works. For if they are well provisioned everywhere, this will be a great security to the whole of our business there. And if our business goes well there, we hope that it will go well everywhere.2

On 14 September 1302, Edward received the news of the death of Sir John de St. John, to whom the king was ‘much bound’. Indeed, this loyal servant was owed so much from the crown that writs had to be sent to the escheators and royal officials ordering them to ‘take nothing’ from his estate until the king had spoken to them. However, it took another two months for St. John’s executors to be given free administration of his affairs and for his debts at the exchequer to be discharged. His office as warden in Scotland was awarded to his son, another Sir John, until further orders, although Sir Richard Siward took over in the meantime, ‘that the district be not left unprovided’.3

By late September Edward had, in fact, decided that Sir John Botetourt should succeed to St. John’s office in Scotland. The situation in the south-west was again becoming difficult, with starvation proving the biggest challenge to the security of the garrisons. At the end of October, the king received a message from Siward, delivered by ‘his dear friend’, Sir Ralph Manton. The latter had recently visited Lochmaben, but, since his departure, things had taken a turn for the worse. Siward supposedly had ‘not above ten men-at-arms there [at Lochmaben] or at Dumfries. . . . As to sustenance, he [Siward] has received nothing since he [Manton] left them except £10 then paid to him’. This was worrying news, especially considering that the late warden’s retinue supposedly numbered seventy-one men-at-arms, split between the two garrisons.4 Sir Richard could report, however, that ‘the country is quiet’ and that ‘the earl of Carrick went to parliament on Sunday 21 October’.

As the autumn progressed, Edward continued to make arrangements for his garrisons, with a view to the renewal of full-scale military activity as soon as possible. To that end, and before the expiry of the truce rendered any English movement outside their own secure zones more dangerous, the king wished to find out exactly the state of the country west of Stirling. Speed was clearly uppermost in the king’s mind. On 29 September, he wrote to Sir John Segrave at Berwick, ordering

that the expedition lately arranged between you and Ralph Manton, our cofferer, should be done with all haste and in the best manner that you can, so that you go by Stirling and . . . the . . . by Kirkintilloch, as near as you can by our enemies in the lands which are in our hands, so that it can be done in safety . . . and the foray being thus done (inform us by your letters), send a special man to tell us the manner in which it was done, together with the condition and news from parts of Scotland with all possible haste.5

The enemy seem to have been largely concentrated north of Glasgow. Segrave and Manton could certainly have gone west in comparative safety along the southern banks of the Forth, via Linlithgow, to Stirling, then south to Kirkintilloch. However, the king was still preoccupied with ‘the gateway to the north’. Without control of Stirling castle itself – whatever the situation in the town – the English were restricted to the region south of the Forth, while the Scots could move about freely as far south as Lennox and Menteith.

On 7 November 1302 the first summonses went out for a campaign planned to begin on 26 May 1303. The muster point was Berwick. A request for service was also issued to ‘the magnates and commonalty of the land of Ireland’, under the considerable inducement of a reduction or remittance of their debts to the king.6

Orders for purveyance were sent out to seven English counties, who were to send supplies to Berwick before 26 May 1303. The king ordered that ‘all purchases are to be paid for’, presumably as the only means to persuade those to whom he was already in debt to part with their goods. However, ordering payment was one thing; bringing it about was another. Royal officials were thus to ensure that ‘no debts are to remain owing to the king, either of the issues [of their bailliwicks] or of the moneys which are leviable and for which [they are] answerable at the exchequer, or of the aid granted to the king for marrying his eldest daughter’.7 Such strict accounting was doubtless essential to the successful collection of supplies; however, the pressure on royal officials to exact every last penny owed to the crown cannot have done much to endear them to the tax-paying population.

Summonses also went out for the fleet. The Cinque Ports were ordered to provide twenty-five ships out of their quota, but these were to be crewed with the same number of men as if they were the full fifty-seven. They were to arrive at Ayr by 16 May 1303, along with a further twenty-five ships from the abbot of Battle, the prior of Christchurch and forty-one towns on the coasts of Sussex, Hampshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. These were all counties whose service in the Scottish war was usually conspicuous by its absence, except in terms of contributing to the fleet. A royal clerk, Walter Bacun, was also sent to the counties of Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Lincoln, York and Northumberland to find a further fifty ships to go to Berwick by 26 May 1303.8

December was a very good month for Edward and marked the vindication of any deviousness in his diplomatic dealings over the last few years. On 2 December 1302 the treaty of Amiens, between France and England, excluding Scotland, was ordered to be proclaimed by all English sheriffs. Walter Amersham, as chancellor of Scotland, was also commanded ‘to issue orders to all the sheriffs of that land to cause the like proclamation to be made’.9 Though this statement is disingenuous, given that Scotland beyond the Forth was still unequivocally outwith his control, the fact that Edward bothered to issue such an order suggests that a form of English administration, based at Berwick, was beginning to take shape again in southern Scotland.

In the meantime the garrisons were preparing to repel any new Scottish offensive as the truce expired. On 4 January 1303, Sir John Segrave and Sir John Botetourt were appointed captain of Northumberland and captain of Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancaster and Annandale to the western boundary of the sheriffdom of Roxburgh respectively. Both were ordered to assemble the men-at-arms of these counties within eight days of their appointment, as had been agreed with their inhabitants on 27 December 1302.10 An expedition under Botetourt’s command was organised soon after; though it was seemingly planned for December 1302, most of the men-at-arms were paid from 5 to 28 January 1303 except for Sir Robert Clifford and his retinue who received wages from 13 December. The numbers involved were quite substantial, reaching a peak of one hundred and nineteen men-at-arms and over two thousand footsoldiers and twelve hobelars around the middle of the month. Half of the footsoldiers came from the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, as usual.11

The garrison of Dumfries was also strengthened between 1 and 27 January 1303. A further twenty archers took residence there at the end of January and were paid right up until the end of April ‘against the coming of the Scottish army’. In addition, ‘bretasches, barriers and a certain palisade’ were constructed ‘outwith the gate of the pele of Dumfries by order of Sir John Botetourt, Sir Robert Clifford, Sir John de St. John, junior, against the coming of the Scottish army between 6 December 1302 and 7 January 1303’. Repairs were also carried out on both the castle and pele at Lochmaben around the same time.12 The south-west was clearly preparing itself for an onslaught by the Scots, presumably led by Sir John Comyn, now sole guardian.

In fact the Scottish army appears to have gone east, rather than west, in a move that was clearly unanticipated and perhaps suggests that the English in the south-east had grown rather lax. On 7 January Sir William Latimer at Roxburgh informed the king rather melodramatically that ‘we are daily in peril of our lives’. On 13 January Sir Ralph Manton was in the northern English counties, having been ‘sent there to advise touching the protection of those parts and of divers lands in Scotland in the king’s hands’. A week later he was ordered back to Scotland to arrange the payment of wages to men-at-arms en route for the north. On 20 January the archbishop of York received notice to supply men, horses and arms; twenty-five magnates, mostly northerners with long experience in border warfare, were summoned

to go in person to John Segrave . . . with horses and arms and all his power . . . until the king’s Scottish enemies have been repelled, who, as the king learns from John for certain, have invaded the land in those parts that are in the king’s hands and it is feared that they may invade England.13

It is not possible to ascertain how much of a threat the Scottish army actually posed; nevertheless, its successes in early 1303 indicate perhaps an element of grim determination on the part of the Scottish political community, as well as a rather worrying display of panic and disarray in the English camp. Despite the precautions of 20 January, Segrave and his company at Berwick were unable to prevent Edward’s newly constructed fortress at Selkirk from falling into enemy hands. The castle must have been captured in January 1303, since orders to arrest its keeper, Sir Alexander Balliol, and bring him to the king were issued on 3 February. Balliol was freed by 14 March, having promised to ‘serve the king well and safely in time of peace and war with all his power’, though his son, Thomas, remained as a hostage. It took until March 1305, however, for the king to forgive Sir Alexander ‘for the loss of the pele at Selkirk’ and restore his lands to him.14

Edward had certainly been furious; he may also have been unduly suspicious of his officers in and around Selkirk Forest, although there is absolutely no evidence that Sir Alexander Balliol ever sought to emulate Sir Simon Fraser’s career pattern. The harsh measures taken against Balliol perhaps reflect less on his own conduct than on Edward’s own determination to bring about the final conquest of Scotland sooner rather than later, and his growing frustration at events, and people, thwarting that ambition.

Having achieved success at Selkirk, the Scots then turned their attention to Edward’s other new construction in the south-east, the pele at Linlithgow. The castle was besieged in February 1303, but its defences proved strong enough to resist the attack. The Scots had given up by 24 February since on that date the army under Sir John Comyn and Sir Simon Fraser had moved east again to surprise Segrave’s force at Roslin.15

Sir John Segrave, appointed keeper of Berwick castle on 5 August 1302,16 resided there with fifty-three men-at-arms to make expeditions throughout the south-east; Sir William Latimer had thirty-eight men-at-arms with him at Roxburgh for the same purpose. According to Guisborough, Segrave, ‘being near to Edinburgh at the beginning of Lent [20 February 1303]’ and not knowing ‘about the Scottish ambush’, divided his men ‘into three troops and were distanced from each other by about two leagues’. On 24 February he was informed by ‘a boy’ that the Scottish army was nearby and decided not to retreat, despite being separated from the other two troops. His own troop supposedly numbered three hundred men, suggesting that it had been reinforced, perhaps by the men-at-arms ordered north on 20 January.17 Wyntoun says that the ‘Treasurer’ – meaning Manton – brought an army of 20,000 horsemen north before the battle, a figure that we can quite happily disregard. The Scottish army, by contrast, reputedly numbered seven thousand. Wyntoun describes the battle itself with much glee:

And with them [the English] the Scotsmen

Then fiercely fought, and laid on then

Where many hard blows were seen,

Many there lay dead on the green:

The Scotsmen embarrassed them so,

That many were forced on to their backs there:

They took many prisoners

And divided among them wilfully

The armour and other gear

Of war that they won from them there.

Five of Segrave’s valets lost horses at Roslin and Sir John was himself taken prisoner, having been badly injured. Complete disaster was avoided when a second brigade of English troops managed to rescue some of the prisoners, including Segrave. However, we should be careful not to overplay the significance of this ‘battle’ which was little more than an ambush involving only a small English force. Certainly the experience left the English dispirited and unenthusiastic, a situation further compounded by a lack of money; the Scots, on the other hand, received a much-needed boost to their morale, not least because among the dead was Sir Ralph Manton, whose career seems to have followed that of Sir Hugh Cressingham to a rather unfortunate degree.

Perhaps, in taking on the job of taxman and paymaster, no-one could have expected to win the love of the Scottish population or even of other colleagues. On the other hand, it perhaps takes a ‘special’ kind of person to carry out such a job in the first place. Manton, like Cressingham before him, was doubtless sorely missed by the king, for whom his energy had accomplished much. However, it is not easy to find any direct evidence after 1297 that the English regime was in any sense heavy-handed in its treatment of the Scottish population falling under its control; if anything, English officials were trying very hard to act reasonably and efficiently where they could. Of course, we would not expect English government documents to trumpet their own misdeeds but there is certainly no further reference to huge sums of money milked from Scotland such as that sent to the Count of Bar in 1297.

The initiative had now passed to the Scots, and the English could merely react to the increasing pressure coming their way until Edward brought his army north. Eight of those assigned to help Segrave on 20 January were summoned to attend a meeting at York with the treasurer, barons of the exchequer, certain members of the king’s council and others on 15 March: they were to discuss ‘the state of the magnates and others in the army against our enemies’, a rather oblique way of describing the confusion caused by Roslin.18

At the end of the same month, Segrave, up and about despite his injuries, wrote to the exchequer complaining that the attack on the Scots on the march ‘cannot be accomplished unless the sheriff [of Northumberland] does as he has been charged to do’. This was presumably to raise money, or perhaps men, since Segrave also referred to the respite of debts until Easter promised to those of the county who served with him. £1000 or 1000 marks was ordered to be taken to Roxburgh on 26 March to pay for this expedition, to be paid for out of the fifteenth granted to the king in October 1302. Further supplies of money from the relaxing of service to Scotland to ecclesiastics (i.e., payment not to go) were to be at the exchequer by 2 June.19 The only good news so far was the confirmation of the Truce of Amiens on 22 March and its extension until 26 May 1303.20

In the meantime, preparations for the forthcoming campaign should have been well underway. However, Edward was soon expressing concern about the state of purveyance in particular: on 26 March various royal clerks were sent to the counties where it was supposedly happening, to inquire ‘touching the diligence’ of those entrusted with it.21

He was also facing severe difficulties in assembling a fleet. In March, writs of aid were sent to the sheriffs of Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Lincoln, York and Northumberland on behalf of the king’s clerk, Walter Bacun, who was trying to select the fifty ships expected from these counties:

as it appears that some of such towns have refused to send their ships, others have refused to find security to send them, and others, though willing to grant a certain number, have refused to send them furnished at their own expenses without the aid of the men of the adjacent towns.

Sir Robert Clifford, as keeper of the bishopric of Durham, was also ordered to ensure that the four ships chosen by Bacun from towns within his jurisdiction were sent to Berwick by inducing ‘the men, by all means that he shall see fit, to do this and [distraining] them, if need be’, since they were ‘wholly contemning the king’s order on this behalf’. Equally, the men of Yorkshire, ‘although they granted that they should send a certain number of ships to the king, are not able to send them to Berwick, thus found at their own cost, without the aid of the men of the towns of the adjoining parts’. On 16 April another clerk, William Walmsford, was sent to help Bacun, ‘because the latter has been negligent in the matter’, suggesting that the ships were still not forthcoming.

The eastern counties were by no means alone in their unwillingness to provide their quotas. In Bristol, already noted for the brazen behaviour of its mariners, ‘certain men of the town and the parts adjoining capable of this service [two ships] refuse to go with the ships to Scotland well-found with men at their own cost’. Again full measures, including distraint, were ordered against them. Three Cornish towns – Loo, Polperro and Ash – also claimed that they could not provide their quota of one ship, with its men and equipment, without help from four neighbouring towns. The admiral, Gervase Alard, wrote to the king, explaining that since these last four towns were not used to contributing to the fleet, the king should send a writ ordering them to do so.22 In the end, ships were sent, but most towns joined together with others to provide the quotas, in comparison to 1301 when very few did. This ultimately made for a smaller fleet.

Admittedly the blame cannot be attributed completely to the king’s demands – corruption and opportunism played their part. On 10 March 1303 an inquiry was ordered on behalf of two citizens of Southampton, Walter Frest and Alice, widow of Ralph Bishop. Their ship, ‘with its whole gear and fittings’, had been selected to go to Scotland and was duly handed over to one Robert Wynton; he then promptly sold it to a Winchelsea merchant ‘and refused to restore it or pay for it, to the damage of the said Walter and Alice, and the harm of the Scottish expedition’.23

The royal clerks had faced widespread problems in persuading most ports to fulfill their quotas by 1302, never mind 1303, though the Cinque Ports were much more reliable in this respect. The repeated threats to the non-Cinque ports indicate once more the fleet’s importance to the prosecution of the war; unsurprisingly, its regular call-out caused exactly the same problems as with the army, though perhaps to an even greater extent.

Preparations for the campaign were stepped up by April 1303, probably because of the set-backs of the first months of the year. The muster-point was now Roxburgh, rather than Berwick. On 9 April writs were sent out to various clerks to choose footsoldiers in each county. Writs of summons were also sent out to Ireland, seeking five hundred men-at-arms, one thousand hobelars, and ten thousand footsoldiers. Altogether this Irish army actually totalled only three thousand four hundred but (by contrast with 1301) the earl of Ulster did sail to Scotland, having demanded, and received, the pardon of all his debts at the Irish exchequer, amounting to the spectacular sum of over £16,000.24

Preparations for the royal arrival began long before Edward himself turned up at Roxburgh on 16 May. Most royal clerks were fully occupied throughout May to ensure that adequate supplies reached Scotland in time, in conjunction with sixteen ships and their crews.25 Bolts for crossbows and spears for the footsoldiers were also brought up to Berwick, presumably to be distributed among those arriving at Roxburgh. Purveyance in Northumberland provided the spears in this case, as well as horseshoes and nails.

Large amounts of hard cash were also brought up in lump sums. These sums were generally paid into the wardrobe, to be used for the immediate expenses of the expanded household. There were also many instances of arrears of wages paid out in May to members of various garrisons who joined the royal army in that month.26 There was nothing like the royal presence to facilitate the payment of wages, although that was not necessarily true for colleagues back at the castle.

Ten thousand three hundred footsoldiers had been requested to arrive at Roxburgh by 12 May; at its peak in early June, the numbers reached only seven thousand five hundred. By June there were also some four hundred and fifty men-at-arms at wages in the king’s household and one hundred and eighty with the prince of Wales.27

Writs were also issued for the first time for levies to be made within Scotland itself. The earl of Carrick was ordered ‘to come with all the men-at-arms he can’, in addition to one thousand footsoldiers from Carrick and Galloway (presumably from ex-Comyn lands in the latter region granted to him by Edward I). Sir Richard Siward was told to bring ‘three hundred chosen foot of Nithsdale’; the earl of Angus was ‘to be asked to send his men-at-arms and at least three hundred foot’; and the earl of March was also to bring ‘as many men-at-arms as he can’. There is no evidence to show exactly how many of these Scottish contingents actually served, though Carrick, and probably Siward also, was certainly with Sir John Botetourt over the summer.28

Edward and his army proceeded along the southern banks of the Forth to Linlithgow at the beginning of June. Unfortunately, the river was still unfordable, at Stirling, not because of the Scottish garrison there, but because the bridge destroyed in 1297 was probably not yet rebuilt; however, a specially constructed pontoon bridge saved the day, allowing the king to reach Clackmannan on 10 June.29 The army then continued up to Perth, where it remained for over a month for what seems to have been a second muster.30

Not surprisingly, fresh supplies were also needed and twenty-one ships sailed up the Tay to Perth. The names of the merchants selling these goods – such as Thomas Pody of Ravensere and William of Alnmouth – indicate that they were English rather than Scottish; Edward could by no means rely on being able to purchase any supplies once he had advanced into enemy territory. However, some purchasing was done from local merchants: one hundred and sixty lagens of red wine were bought from various men of Perth for the king and the prince of Wales, for example.31 Scotland north of the Forth may have been unaccustomed to any English presence but it was hard not to take advantage of this large market.

The Scottish government was presumably aware by now of Edward’s intention to move north of the Forth; there was really only one military option available to them and they took it even before the English army had reached Perth. According to a letter of 14 June to the bishop of Durham, the Scottish army had ‘entered Annandale and Liddesdale and elsewhere within the marches in the county of Cumberland with a great multitude of armed men’.32

Sir Thomas Multon of Egremond and Sir John Hoddleston were duly appointed to assemble the footsoldiers and men-at-arms of Cumberland and Westmorland and the other areas over which Sir John Botetourt had command while the latter was away with the king. Sir Walter Huntercombe was to take over in Sir John Segrave’s absence in Northumberland. Sir Aymer de Valence, now the king’s lieutenant in the south of Scotland, was still at Berwick, and was ordered to hold a council there with these three to plan action for the defence of the march.33

While the Scots were undoubtedly a grave concern, the usual supply problem was also rearing its ugly head for those left to defend southern Scotland. Dalilegh, the receiver at Carlisle, was the first to indicate that he was finding it difficult to make ends meet, given that the king’s priority was to feed the army via the eastern stores. However, six ships from Ireland did arrive at Skinburness between 18 April and 28 June, although the totals of 390 quarters of wheat, 427 quarters of oats and 12 casks of wine were unlikely to last for long.

By the time the Scots were beginning their offensive in the south-west, Dalilegh had already written to Droxford at the exchequer requesting more funds. Given that both Droxford and Langton, the treasurer, were with the king, an official at York wrote back on 17 June, explaining that all the money at the exchequer had been sent to Perth. Since Dalilegh had already been sent money after Botetourt’s departure for the army on 1 May, the writer questioned his need for more. Nevertheless, to safeguard the garrisons at Dumfries and Lochmaben, the collectors of the fifteenth in Cumberland were ordered to send the receiver any money that they had in hand.34

The situation on the march was deteriorating rapidly. A letter from the bishop of Carlisle, Multon and Hoddleston on 23 June informed the exchequer that the Scots, under Sir Simon Fraser and Sir Edmund Comyn of Kilbride, had crossed the border on 18 June with a large force and destroyed lands around Carlisle. Another contingent of Scots, this time under Sir John Moubray and Sir William Wallace, recently returned from the continent, had marched through Galloway ‘and have attracted to them most of the Galwegians’. They then ‘harassed’ the countryside around Caerlaverock and Dumfries on 23 June and ‘are coming to destroy Annandale and to join Sir Simon Fraser and his company’.

This combined force was imminently expected to threaten the north of England, prompting the bishop and the two knights to seek advice and assistance urgently ‘because almost all the men-at-arms and footmen are with the king’. Those whom they had managed to assemble at Carlisle naturally required provisions. The exchequer responded immediately, ordering Sir James Dalilegh to provide ‘sufficient victuals’ for those defending the march.35 Again, this was easy enough to order, but difficult to execute if there was no money and no supplies.

Despite the exchequer’s attempt to rise to the situation, it soon became clear that such arrangements were insufficient. On 16 July Multon and Hoddleston wrote again to York, explaining that the defence of the western march was being undertaken at their own expense and that they were unable to recruit men into their service to cross the border unless the king’s wages were paid. They urgently requested money for equipment so that at least some retaliatory measures could be taken against the Scots; payment to them and their men was also required because of their own indebtedness. They mentioned that Dalilegh had been trying to provide for them, but he had informed them that there was hardly enough in the store to provide for the garrisons in the area, let alone extra troops.

A similar story was told by Sir John le Moigne, keeper of Galloway and Nithsdale in Botetourt’s absence. The Scots were also making life extremely difficult for the garrisons at Dumfries and Lochmaben by preventing supplies from reaching them from Carlisle; those remaining there required urgent relief ‘before it is too late’. Le Moigne asserted that ‘in the two garrisons there are neither enough knights nor esquires nor crossbowmen to mount guard nor to go to the king, if you do not command that their wages and arrears be paid by the bearer of this letter’.36

This implies that the garrisons were on the point of disintegrating and that this was caused less by direct enemy activity than by the failure to make wage payments, for whatever reason. The men involved had absolutely no incentive to remain at their posts in such circumstances; even the men-at-arms, whom we might expect to stay for reasons of honour, were on the point of mutiny. This was not a popular war. The overall picture, allowing for exaggeration on the part of royal officials desperate to provoke a reaction from the central administration, is one of extreme difficulty. The loss of these castles, through desertion or surrender, would have gone a long way to counterbalance any success which Edward might achieve in the north-east.

On the other hand, the Scottish government was now under threat in its own heartland and there was surely much desperation in Scottish activities over the summer of 1303. This sense of fighting against ever-increasing odds is also hinted at in the letters written by the Scottish magnates who were over in Paris trying, and failing, to regain King Philip’s effective support: although they all urged Comyn and his team to continue the fight, they clearly recognised that it was now merely a question of struggling on.37 This issue was hugely complicated by the fact that many must now have been asking exactly what they were fighting for. ‘Scotland’ as a political concept separate from its king was not easily understood in the middle ages, even if it surely existed at an emotional level. If King John was not coming home in the foreseeable future, it became more and more difficult to justify prolonging the fight in his name; to this thorny question of political theory must also be added the profound economic and social problems caused by prolonged warfare.

However, this does not detract from the effectiveness of Comyn et al’s strategy. For the royal officials at Berwck, Carlisle and York, failure because of the overwhelming scale of the problem was not sufficient excuse to save them from blame. On 14 August, Dalilegh was requested to pay Sir John Botetourt for the service which he and his retinue of thirty-two men-at-arms were performing in Scotland. The payment was to be made from the (unspecified) lands which the king had given Botetourt in ward. By November, however, Edward was ‘expressing his surprise’ that this order had not been executed, thus preventing Sir John from making an expedition due to lack of funds.38 Given Dalilegh’s extreme lack of money, it is not at all surprising that he was loath to spare any sum, however justified, if it was not required for the direct assistance of the south-western garrisons.

Part of this financial crisis stemmed from the fact that a lack of money and supplies was also affecting the main army even before it had left Perth. On 15 June, the treasurer’s lieutenant at York, Sir Philip Willoughby, wrote to Richard Bremesgrave at Berwick, ordering him to send all money received from the exchequer to the king as quickly as possible, by land or sea, so long as it was safe to do so. Scottish ships were presumably attempting to disrupt the army’s supply line, although the fact that twenty-one English boats got through to Perth implies that they were not particularly successful. Even if it were not possible to deliver the money, the king was to be informed as to how much Richard had received, and when, ‘so that said Philip will not be blamed for negligence if the king is lacking’. It takes little imagination to envisage the kind of letters Willoughby had been receiving from the king. £1000 was duly received at Berwick in the next week, £300 of which was paid into the wardrobe at Perth on 24 June, though doubtless this was still not satisfactory in Edward’s eyes.39

Victuals were not in a much better state. On 20 June Sir Nicholas Fermbaud, the constable of Bristol castle, was ordered to arrest ships and their crews so that grain purveyed in Somerset and Dorset could be taken safely and quickly to Berwick since it was urgently required to feed the army and household. Ships did arrive at Perth with more victuals. Nevertheless, on 30 June William Burgh, a royal clerk, was sent from Perth to York to hasten the dispatch of money needed by the royal cooks.40

Edward’s immediate plan on leaving Perth seems to have been to capture Brechin castle. Preparations for the siege had been made throughout the previous month: on 15 July Sir Ebulo Mountz, now constable of Edinburgh castle, was ordered to send siege engines from both Edinburgh and Jedburgh to Montrose by sea as soon as possible.41 Presumably others were told to do the same.

The army left Perth on 17 July and effectively entered enemy territory. Two days later, prayers were said at Coupar (Angus) abbey for William Redinsle, a valet of Sir Hugh Bardolf, ‘killed by the Scots’. There was then a ten-day gap, when Edward seems to have returned to Perth, probably on hearing of the difficulties caused by Scottish activities. However, he was soon back en route: on 29 July, ‘the goods of Scottish enemies found in Coupar abbey after a search by Sir Walter Teye and Sir Matthew Montemartin’ were sold.42 The English army then continued round the coast to Arbroath, and from there to Montrose, where the siege engines and more victuals were picked up from waiting ships. They then cut inland to Brechin.

As Edward and his men advanced further into Scotland, it became imperative to arrange for the despatch of further supplies of money and victuals. On 28 July orders were sent to each county to send the proceeds from the fifteenth to the exchequer. On 7 August further demands for purveyance were made in six counties.43 It was no wonder that there was little or nothing left for poor Dalilegh. In addition, the prince of Wales seems to have maintained an army separate from his father: for two weeks in July he and his men were busy in Strathearn, where they also made direct contact with the enemy.44

The siege of Brechin lasted around five days, until 9 August when Sir Thomas Maule, the Scottish constable, was killed and the rest of the garrison capitulated.45 The king and his army remained there another week, presumably organising the installation of a garrison and the provision of victuals, before moving on up to Aberdeen by 24 August. Though five ships did meet them there with supplies, there was still a desperate need for more. On 28 August, the very day of, but presumably just before, the ships’ arrival, Edward wrote to Philip Willoughby complaining that even though his previous letters had commanded that all available cash should be sent up immediately to pay those at royal wages, it had been very slow in arriving and ‘we owe treble the sum that you have sent’.

The king went on to state what was really on his mind: ‘If we cannot make these payments, we cannot hold this part in peace and they [ie., his men] will go back to their own parts, as they are already doing from day to day, because of the lack’. To make matters worse, the Berwick store had not yet fully received the goods which had been acquired by purveyance. Willoughby was again held responsible for this and was to ‘hasten the said purveyance to us so that we can leave where we are’.

Edward also mentioned the Irish, who, he said ‘do not wish to serve without pay nor to suffer greatly like our other people of England have done’. These were presumably the great Irish magnates, such as the earl of Ulster, who had only been persuaded to take part in the campaign by means of an impressive piece of financial bribery. The Irish footsoldiers, on the other hand, were left to fend for themselves and most generally returned home ‘the minute their hundred days’ service was complete, except for the poor souls who ended up at Linlithgow’. Ulster did, in fact, remain in Scotland over the winter, but returned home owed nearly £6000; ‘. . . other leaders were owed sums in proportion to the retinues they brought with them’.46

The king was clearly faced once more with the prospect of his army disintegrating slowly before his eyes and the campaign grinding to a halt long before his plans had been fulfilled. But it was absolutely essential that nothing should get in the way of what was surely regarded as the final push. Fortunately, the arrival of the five ships on 28 August seems to have done the trick and the army moved on the same day, arriving at Kinloss abbey on 12 September.

Despite further resistance, the castles of Urquhart and Cromarty were apparently restored to English control (possibly by the prince of Wales’s army); Inverness presumably also surrendered; and the Comyn castle of Lochindorb was probably also successfully besieged. It has even been suggested that the alleged death of Alastair MacDougall at Lochindorb in this year was related to the siege. His presence there certainly suggests the continuing close affinity between these two families – one ostensibly ‘Celtic’ and the other ‘Norman’. Having gone as far as the much more satisfying progress of 1296, Edward then turned back south via the difficult route over the Mounth, reaching Dundee on 16 October.47

Despite the implication that the south-western garrisons had been on the verge of calamity throughout the summer, the situation does not seem to have deteriorated any further. This stability can presumably be attributed, in part at least, to the organisation of an expedition under Sir Aymer de Valence around the middle of July. A detachment of men-at-arms, which included Sir John Botetourt and the earl of Carrick, had been sent south from the army to join him on the king’s orders, indicating the seriousness with which Edward did indeed take the threat. The expedition had reached as far west as Lincoln’s beloved Inverkip by 24 August, remaining there until 4 September.48 The lieutenant then moved back east again, reaching Glasgow five days later.

By the end of September, while at Linlithgow, Valence had become party to a most interesting development on the part of the Scots. On 26 September he was able to write to the chancellor that he had been ‘treating with the great lords of Scotland to bring them to the king’s will and hopes to be successful by God’s help; but cannot say for certain’.49 Unfortunately for this putative peace process, however, Valence’s army was also experiencing very visible difficulties. Thus, two days later he was forced to send word to Richard Bremesgrave and Alexander Convers at Berwick that

The Irish troops, who are at their wages for nine or more weeks, have heard it said that money has come to Berwick, and are staying in the country around Linlithgow where they can have nothing to live on except ready money, unless they rob the people who have sworn allegiance to the king; and they see clearly that no man cares for them or their lives, so they have packed their baggage to go home. And Sir John de Menteith and Sir Alexander Menzies, who had come to treat in good form for peace, broke off their business by reason of the scarcity that they saw among the said people.50

These Scots, at least, despite the knowledge of English success over the summer of 1303, were so shocked by the state of Valence’s army that they presumably became convinced that Edward could not possibly stay in Scotland over the winter, as had been the case in 1301/2. It was worth continuing the struggle after all. Poor Margaret, countess of Lennox, was then forced to send to the king for help against Comyn and his followers, who came north of the Forth ‘as far as Drymen’ shortly thereafter.51 Menzies and Menteith could, by virtue of their behaviour after 1306, be regarded as pro-Bruce, or, at least, not pro-Comyn. The pair may not be particularly representative of the Scottish leadership in 1303, but their decision to remain hostile to Edward as a result of what they saw at Linlithgow is surely in terms of continuing Scottish self-confidence, however fragile, as late as autumn 1303.52

However, this optimism was misplaced; Edward soon made it clear that he could, and would, winter in Scotland. The success of the summer could not, therefore, be undone to any significant degree over the winter. It was also made quite clear by the fact that the army marched south from Dundee to Cambuskenneth, via Dunblane, that Stirling castle was next on the hit list. On 24 October the king wrote that ‘we do not wish to leave there until we have made headway in the best way we can’. The pontoon bridge, which had been stored at Berwick, was to be sent up to Blackness, along with six engines and further supplies of victuals, and then shipped to the king.53 However, this was not the time of year to engage in a major siege and Edward was forced to wait until 1304 to recapture Stirling castle.

The army which spent the winter in Scotland seems to have remained a reasonable size, a considerable achievement in terms of resourcing. Out of a total of three hundred and sixty-three men-at-arms paid royal wages throughout the campaign, two hundred and eighteen received payment at Dunfermline. The Prince of Wales with his household left the king at Dunfermline on 25 November to form a separate court at Perth. This unusual arrangement was undoubtedly prompted by the knowledge that Comyn and his council were known to be in Atholl, to the north of Perth. Edward still wanted to see his son take the ostensible credit for bringing the war to an end, even if there had certainly been no grand military finale. This hunch was soon justified: by the end of December messengers were travelling between the prince and his father with letters concerning the demands made by the Scottish government for the submission of the Scottish people.54

However, they had not submitted yet and Edward was still keen to maintain military pressure over the winter, not least to concentrate the guardian’s mind. In January 1304 Sir John Segrave, Sir Robert Clifford and Sir William Latimer were placed in charge of a company chosen to make chevauchées. Detailed instructions were issued to them, indicating that secrecy was absolutely paramount: only those whose names appeared on an indenture were to go with them and a number of searches were to be made to ensure that no ‘strangers’ slipped in unnoticed.55 This expedition was apparently heading south from Dunfermline (though it had, as usual, to take a circuitous route towards Stirling to cross the Forth): this would suggest that their target was a ‘rebel’ force unconnected with the guardian and operating in southern Scotland, probably under Sir Simon Fraser and Wallace.

This was not the only expeditionary force retained over the winter. On 9 January 1304, immediately before negotiations with Comyn reached their preliminary stages, Sir John Botetourt wrote to Sir James Dalilegh, informing the receiver of the number of men he was retaining because ‘he intends to make a foray on the enemy’. This force numbered one hundred and twenty-four men-at-arms, including Sir Robert Clifford and the earl of Carrick, nineteen hobelars and two thousand seven hundred and thirty-six footsoldiers from the counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancaster. Botetourt and his men then joined the main company under Segrave. They had good reason to continue the military offensive: on 25 February 1304, despite the fact that peace negotiations were well underway, two messengers were attacked en route to the king with letters from Carrick.56

On 3 March the king wrote to Segrave and the other nobles, applauding ‘their diligence in his affairs’ and begging ‘them to complete the business which they have begun so well and to bring matters to a close before they leave the parts on that side [of the Forth]’. Not all were so industrious, however: the earl of March was the object of the king’s ‘surprise that he let the enemy go’. The earl was to keep a close watch on the Scottish garrison of Stirling ‘and cut them off if they sally’.57

Just over a year after Roslin, Segrave finally extracted his revenge, ‘discomfiting’ Sir Simon Fraser and Sir William Wallace at Happrew, Fraser’s own lands near Peebles. The greatest barrier to success prior to that date seems to have been the usual problem of actually locating the Scots. This was overcome by the use of a local informant, one John of Musselburgh, who was paid 10s. on 15 March for ‘leading Sir John Segrave, Sir Robert Clifford and other magnates in their company, assigned to a certain horsed expedition over Sir Simon Fraser, William Wallace and other Scottish enemies of the king then being in parts of Lothian’.58 Unfortunately for Edward, the two were neither captured nor killed.

Fraser and Wallace were now operating without the sanction of the Scottish government and the Scottish political community generally, even though both were individual members of it. On the other hand, their activities make it clear that the decision to submit was by no means unanimous. A letter from the abbot of Coupar Angus which arrived at Perth on 9 January reported that ‘a great part of the enemy who had gone towards Strathearn have now returned to Angus and . . . they would willingly break down the bridge [across the Tay] if they could’.

The Scottish guardian, Sir John Comyn, who sent his clerk to ask for a parley around the same time, was keen to distance himself from such activities. He now recognised that the Balliol star was waning, though, in reality, it had been in almost terminal decline for the past year and a half. The Comyns and most members of the Scottish political community would now have been concerned to secure their own positions, especially since the earl of Carrick was two years ahead of them.

In reality, their choices were extremely limited. Active support for King John among local communities had been hæmorrhaging away for a number of years in areas inured to the English presence; this might have been tolerable when it was limited to parts of southern Scotland but Edward’s breakthrough into northern Scotland in 1303 must surely have released an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. There was of course every reason to suppose that the English might be expelled from these areas, as they had been in 1297/8, but at what cost?

The Scottish political community had governed a large part of the kingdom and maintained a credible war machine for six years against a formidable opposition. During that time neither they, nor Edward, had been able to fully perform a medieval government’s peacetime functions, especially the administration of justice, because their writs were only effective in certain parts of the country. Of course, the English king was not getting any younger – at sixty-four he could not be expected to maintain his current level of activity for much longer. Though this might seem like an argument for continuing, there were perhaps more pressing reasons, such as the scale of damage inflicted by this war, to demand an end to the conflict.

It is perfectly credible to argue – as many must have done as the political community worked out its decision to submit – that Scotland’s interests were best served by peace, certainly in the short term. The batteries could be recharged, ready – perhaps – for better odds under Edward’s less-committed son. All of this is, of course, unprovable; however, we must not presume that either altruism or self-interest can be wholly ascribed to those whose motivations we can never know.

Men like Fraser and Wallace clearly disagreed with the arguments put forward; however, carrying on the fight was not by definition the right thing to do, even if it was regarded as right by the individuals concerned. As Rhys Davies has pointed out, for most, especially those whose lives were already hard enough, peace and order were of paramount importance: ‘Men insisted on leading their lives as normally as possible, regarding rebellion as a contingency, no more’. Edward had disrupted that normality when he invaded Scotland and expected its people to accept the burdens commensurate with absorption into a comparatively centralised state like England. Now many of those who had bitterly resented such impositions found that interminable warfare produced even more unbearable burdens. Patriotism may be a deep emotion, but it is mostly underpinned by a pragmatism that does not necessarily – for good reason – endure against all odds.

On 11 January a letter was sent from Perth to an official or noble of note at Dunfermline (possibly either John Benstede or Sir Henry Percy, both of whom subsequently became negotiators). This letter told the addressee to go to the royal castle of Kinclaven with Sir Aymer de Valence, who was also at Dunfermline, ‘to hear what [Sir John Comyn] wishes to say and if ‘he wishes to treat’. Comyn’s clerk, who had been sent to Perth to arrange this meeting, was to ‘return [to Perth] on Sunday [19 January] [on which day] Comyn will come to Kinclaven’. The earl of Ulster and Sir Hugh Despenser, who were both with the prince, were also to accompany them with at least two hundred men-at-arms, just in case.59

‘Sir John Comyn and those who are of his party, both beyond the sea as here’, did indeed want to make a preliminary offer of submission. The basis of their offer was, understandably, a guarantee of safety of life and limb, freedom from imprisonment and the confirmation of all lands and property for themselves and their heirs in England, Scotland and Ireland. They then asked to be pardoned for all acts committed during the war for all time, including liability for all issues raised previously from royal and other lands.

Thirdly, they requested that all the ‘laws, usages, customs and franchises’ should be kept ‘in all points as they were in the time of king Alexander’; any amendment should be made with the advice of the king and the advice and assent of the bones gentz of the land. They by no means envisaged a return to the spirit of 1296. The fourth clause contained specific requests from Sir John Comyn and Sir John Moubray relating to land which they had been granted by King John. The fifth clause requested that there should be no hostage-taking or other forms of surety except homage and fealty. Those Scots still in France could arrange for the extraction of their oaths independently. Finally, a document sealed with the seals of the king, his lieges and his baronage was to be given as sufficient security.

Although Prince Edward was technically responsible for these negotiations, his father was still very much in charge. By 2 February the king had drawn up his own set of conditions for those who wished to return to his peace. These terms were generous enough: he certainly agreed to the main condition, that there should be no loss of life or limb, and no imprisonment or disinheritance. However, he insisted that the Scots submit completely to his future ordinances on ransoms, amends for previous misdeeds and, most importantly, the settlement of the land of Scotland. There were also some who could not be forgiven so easily and were excepted from the general conditions ‘since they are of another category than the others’. The king was also of the opinion that Comyn and Moubray had better do some crawling if they wanted any special favours.

The Scots with the guardian were now assembled at Strathord, a forest near Dunkeld, some twelve miles from Kinclaven. On 5 February a team of negotiators – probably the earl of Ulster, Sir Henry Percy, Sir Aymer de Valence and Master John Benstede – were sent from the prince at Perth to firm up a more definitive peace formula. A memorandum of these negotiations and a full copy of further draft terms were sent to the king the following day. The Scots basically accepted Edward’s terms, with additional requests relating to the rights of heirs, the maintenance of strongholds in the hands of the current holders until the next parliament, and the release of all prisoners except – interestingly – Sir Herbert Morham and his father. The career of the younger Morham in particular is unclear after his capture in 1299. However, he and his esquire, Thomas de Bois, certainly joined the Scottish army at the same time as Sir Simon Fraser (1301). The fact that Bois was named as a member of the Edinburgh garrison before that date suggests that Sir Herbert may also have joined Edward’s service, albeit temporarily. However, after jumping ship, he must have been recaptured at some unknown date, otherwise, like Bois, he would certainly have been mentioned more specifically in the surrender negotiations.

Comyn understood what was expected of him – after all, he had led the ‘rebel’ Scottish government for much of the period between 1298 and 1304 and required therefore to be absolved not just for what he had done himself, but for what he had caused others to do as guardian. Having taken the trouble to place all his lands in the king’s hands, he was duly rewarded for his humility by having them returned to him. Edward would not hold the previous six years against him, apart from demanding a punishment of one year’s exile, so long as it was now quite clear who ruled Scotland.

The list of reprobates from whom the king wished to extract some form of punishment grew as the negotiations continued. These included the bishop of Glasgow, whom Edward accused of ‘great evils’, Sir Alexander Lindsay, who was ‘to make some penance . . . for the flight he made from the king who made him a knight’, and Sir David Graham, who had apparently borne ‘himself so falsely with regard to the discussions which he held with the members of the king’s council’.

The longest period of exile was reserved for Sir Simon Fraser and Thomas de Bois, who were to spend three years banished not only from the British Isles and Gascony (Edward’s dominions), but also from the lands of the King of France ‘if they can find no greater grace in the meantime’. However, William Wallace was singled out as by far the most deserving of punishment: he was simply to submit ‘to the will and grace of the king, if it seems good to him [i.e. Edward]’. Although this requirement was certainly most onerous, implying no guarantees whatsoever, it should be noted that at one point Wishart, bishop of Glasgow was also going to have to submit to the king’s will.

The key to the severity of punishment, with the exception of Wallace, seems to have been the extent to which Edward felt himself personally betrayed. Treachery may not have been good for the state but it was still done to an individual, the king. The careers of Fraser and de Bois shared one particular feature: both had at one time been part of the English administration. Both also changed sides around the middle of 1301.

With the finer details still under discussion, it was nevertheless felt that a day could be fixed for Comyn and those with him to finally come to the king. Decisions had also to be made regarding letters of safe-conduct to be issued to the Scots, a submission date for those such as Sir John Soules, James the Steward and the bishop of St. Andrews who were still in France, and the form of guarantees which the royal messengers were to give ‘to stand by the things granted’. Edward was to send back his reply by Saturday 8 February.

Sunday 16 February was chosen as the day on which the Scots would pay their homage and fealty to the king. The prince was to lead this victory parade, to which the earls of Strathearn and Menteith, who had already submitted, were also invited. However, Perth was still to be left properly defended, indicating that the peace process was still by no means universally accepted. Those in France were to come to Edward’s peace by 12 April, ‘each according to his condition and state’ (although as late as September 1304 the English king was making representations to the King of France on the subject of the departure of at least some of these Scots). Once Comyn and the rest had performed their homage and fealty, ‘the king will have made his letters patent to keep all the things as they were discussed and granted’.60

These negotiations and the final terms of the Scottish nation’s surrender to English rule are vitally important to an understanding of the previous years of war. In essence, the final conditions were not, overall, vindictive or ungenerous, for the simple reason that Edward was in no position to demand harsh penalties. Despite his success in wintering in Scotland, the king undoubtedly knew that he could not afford to keep his army together for much longer; the emptiness of his coffers made it abundantly clear that it was in no-one’s interests to prolong the war any longer than necessary.

As a result, and in marked contrast to 1296, he clearly wished to obtain the active support of the Scottish nobility as the best means of ensuring effective and acceptable government in the future. It thus made sound political sense to allow all Scots, except Sir William Wallace, who was a rather different kettle of fish, to retain their lands and positions in Scotland. This was no mere temporary expedient either: three of those named as Sir John Comyn’s own council in 1304 became sheriffs in the new administration, for example.61 However, the decision to return to the landholding status quo of 1296 was not without its own difficulties and Edward had to spend the next eighteen months sorting out the resulting legal morass before he could finalise the settlement of Scotland.62

In the meantime, there was still work to be done. In March 1304 a parliament was held at St. Andrews, only the second to be held by Edward I in Scotland. This was the first important test of Anglo-Scottish solidarity, and the Scottish nobility had to be seen to be there. However, ‘The parliament was clearly not Scottish, but neither was it English. Circumstances had dictated its composition. Perhaps the terminology of ‘English’ and ‘Scottish’ in this instance does not aptly describe the occasion; rather, it was the king’s parliament’.63 The assembled throng witnessed, among other things, a declaration of outlawry passed on Wallace, Fraser, and the Stirling garrison, which alone held out, ‘secundum iuris processum et leges Scoticanas [according to the process of law and Scottish laws]’. Edward was now quite happy to use Scottish law and custom to give legitimacy to actions which many of his audience might well rather not have condoned. A total of one hundred and twenty-nine landowners, including Malcolm, earl of Lennox, took Edward as their liege lord on either 14 or 15 March, together with the ‘evil’ bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart.64

The net around Stirling was now being drawn exceedingly tight. On 1 March the earls of Menteith, Lennox and Strathearn were sent to prove their recent loyalty to Edward by deploying both horse and foot ‘so that the enemy on the other side [of the Forth] cannot injure the people on this at the king’s peace’. Around the same time Sir Alexander Abernethy was sent by the Prince of Wales to guard the fords north-west of Stirling, preventing access to and from Menteith and Strathearn. It was presumably Wallace who was potentially causing problems since Abernethy was specifically told only to receive the latter and his men if they surrendered unconditionally into the king’s will. A month later the same earls (Menteith, Lennox and Strathearn) were all ordered to prevent their people from attempting to provision the garrison, suggesting that those living in the earldoms to the north of Stirling certainly remained unconvinced by recent developments.65

William Biset, the new sheriff of Clackmannan, who resided at Tulliallan castle (Kincardine-on-Forth), was also experiencing trouble but it had nothing to do with recalcitrant Scots. On 17 April Edward had to write to Sir Henry Percy, having heard that the latter’s ‘people have come there [Tulliallan] and wish to eject him [Biset]’. Percy was ordered ‘for his love to allow Biset to remain and attend to his duties’. Though it is not clear why Sir Henry was interested in the area, this would seem to indicate that those who had served Edward long and loyally were now jockeying for reward.

Biset had already paid for the strengthening of the walls at Tulliallan, and he was also involved in harassing the Stirling garrison about twelve miles upstream. By 17 April, he and his brother had managed to capture the garrison’s boats, which presumably were used to ferry supplies to the castle. Biset was eventually rewarded with the keepership of the castle and sheriffdom of Stirling, relinquishing Clackmannan.66

Once parliament was over, preparations for the forthcoming siege were stepped up. On 20 March the current sheriff of Stirling, Sir Alexander Livingston, was ordered to muster ‘all the forces, both horse and foot, of his bailliwick, including baronies in it, but excluding any part of the Lennox . . . to come without delay before Sir Thomas Morham and Alwyn Calendar, to whom they are to be obedient’. The exclusion of the men of the Lennox is presumably a further indication of their dubious loyalty.67 Equally, the fact that Livingston had been named as sheriff of Stirling since 1301 may also indicate that the Scots in the castle had been receiving a taste of their own medicine for a year or so before its recapture since they were becoming increasingly isolated from those areas still firmly under the control of the Scottish administration.68

The Linlithgow garrison was also preparing to harass the enemy, but could not acquire sufficient men-at-arms because ‘the king’s men were dispersed foraging and before they could be assembled the time would come for the king to move near Stirling, which he intends shortly to do’. Edward therefore ordered the constable to inform Sir John Comyn ‘and other good men in those parts’ of what he knew of the ‘enemy’s plans’. Comyn and his own garrison at Kirkintilloch, ‘and any others whom they can hire are to do the best they can until the king’s arrival’. In the meantime, engines and their equipment were to be sent to Stirling, a process that did not run entirely smoothly.69

Despite evidence for continuing enemy activity, there had clearly been a fundamental change in the English position in Scotland. Edward was now coming to Stirling as the country’s accepted ruler, serenaded on his way by various women ‘just as they used to do during the time of Alexander, later king of Scots’.70 While there may well have been a note of triumphalism in this last piece of rather unnecessary administrative detail (which only royal clerks would see), it may also indicate a sense of satisfaction among some sections of the population that a king once more ruled in Scotland. Public opinion on even such a crucial issue as the very nature of government was clearly as varied and contradictory as it is today.

Most importantly, however, Edward could now make preparations for the siege through his own officials and the Scottish lords in and around the Stirling area, instead of having to rely entirely on his own military machine co-ordinated from York. This surely marks the transformation, admittedly still incomplete, of the English presence in Scotland from a military regime to a peacetime administration. The parliament at St. Andrews, no doubt intentionally, reinforced this transition. The measures taken against those who still refused to submit were approved there by the Scottish political community. Even though the siege of Stirling was obviously very much a military endeavour, there was a sense in which it was portrayed as a national effort in the interests of law and order.

Edward left St. Andrews on 5 April, arriving at Stirling seventeen days later. His first action was to refuse to grant the Scottish constable, Sir William Oliphant, permission to consult with Sir John Soules, who had placed the castle in his custody. Since Soules was currently in France (he never, in fact, returned to Scotland), the request was presumably made primarily as a delaying tactic, and it should have come as no surprise that it was rejected.

The outcome was certainly inevitable, not just because of the presence of much of the former Scottish government in Edward’s army, but also thanks to the range and number of siege-weapons arrayed against the garrison. Having been threatened with the direst punishment for their insolence, and endured a pounding by the mighty ‘War Wolf’ after they had offered to surrender, Oliphant and his men handed over the last Scottish-held stronghold on 24 July 1304. They were then led off to captivity in England. Edward doubtless thought they deserved worse, though there were many who admired their bravery. The next day William Biset took charge as sheriff and keeper of the castle. Even Sir Simon Fraser realised exactly which way the wind was blowing and submitted before the end of the siege.71 The war was over.

Up until this juncture, Edward really does seem to have acted with uncharacteristic prudence and forbearance, albeit in the interests of getting his own way. However, the contemptible bombardment of Stirling castle with the War Wolf does seem to mark the point at which the gloves came off. On 25 July, ‘the day after the castle was handed over’, Edward ordered the people of Scotland, but especially Sir John Comyn, Sir Alexander Comyn,72 Sir David Graham and Sir Simon Fraser ‘to make an effort between now and [13 January 1305] to take Sir William Wallace and hand him over to the king so that he can see how each one bears himself whereby he can have better regard towards the one who takes him, with regard to exile or ransom or amend of trespass or anything else in which they are obliged to the king’. Edward also refused to allow Sir John Soules, the Steward and Sir Ingram d’Umfraville, who had so far failed to return from France, to submit until Wallace had been captured.73

This was base bribery and it is hard to imagine how any honourable man could have taken any part in it. Given the general tone adopted since January, it is actually likely that Edward would not have executed Wallace out of hand if he had indeed submitted into the king’s will – Fraser had certainly suffered no extra penalty for submitting late, despite being declared an outlaw at the St. Andrews parliament. However, Sir William evidently could not bring himself to give in and Edward probably knew this, hence the original unconditional stipulation. But the fall of Stirling changed any instinct for clemency and Wallace now without doubt symbolised the spirit of Scottish resistance in the mind of the conqueror; however shabby it might seem to demand that the Scottish nobility hand over their erstwhile colleague, Edward was doubtless determined to test their commitment to the peace, not least because they had been so ready to go back on their homage and fealty in 1297.

The reconquest of Scotland was by no means a foregone conclusion even during the summer of 1303. Militarily, the Scots were still able to prove, as they had done throughout the war, that the supply line was extremely vulnerable and that a sustained attack might well jeopardise the maintenance of the immense English war machine.

However, a number of factors were now working against the Scottish government’s ability to compel Edward to change his plans through pressure on the garrisons particularly, a strategy that had proved most successful before. Most of these factors were psychological and related primarily to the unpalatable reality that King John was unlikely to return to Scotland in the foreseeable future (indeed, ever); this meant that the authority justifying the waging of this war was effectively a symbol with no substance.

It is important not to judge the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries by our own standards. We have no difficulty with the concept of a country existing independently from whoever actually runs it; in the middle ages, such a concept – though it presumably existed in the hearts of individuals if rhetoric such as the Declaration of Arbroath is anything to go by – ran contrary to the ethos of personal lordship which had generated a fundamental link between king and kingdom. Though the guardians had proved themselves more than equal to the task of governing in John’s name, they were no substitute for the king himself; without the hope of his return, there was indeed little moral justification for continuing the fight.

However, despite the unenviable fact that the Scots were increasingly out on a political limb, a powerful patriotic instinct to continue despite everything is clearly in the discernible exhortations coming particularly from the Scottish delegation in Paris. This was most strongly associated with churchmen like Wishart and Lamberton; however, the lay élites, to whom it came less easily because personal lordship was their raison-d’être, could and did identify with it. The Scottish government did not therefore give up immediately after experiencing the chilly atmosphere of their diplomatic isolation.

But many increasingly found that they could not square the dubiousness of their position with the world as they saw it. These were men, like the earl of Atholl, who had fought long and hard for an independent Scottish government and undoubtedly saw themselves now as standing between a rock and a very hard place. They came from all kinds of backgrounds; they presumably also came from all social classes, though we must be wary of speaking about those whose actions, let alone their motivations, remain almost completely hidden. The point is that there was now an evaporation of support not just from ‘the middling sort’ in southern Scotland, but also from those on whose shoulders government had rested for the last six years in areas which had not yet gone head to head with an English army. Once Edward had crossed the Forth and shown himself determined to maintain his war machine throughout the winter, the arguments for submitting – on good terms – must surely have become overwhelming.

If we let ourselves take a flight of fancy for a minute, and imagine that a referendum had been the means of deciding whether or not to submit, the result might not have been much to the liking of many in the late twentieth century. The, rather small, ‘No surrender’ camp to which Wallace certainly belonged might make good cinema today, but it does not seem to have been much of a vote-winner from 1304 onwards. Again, class doesn’t come into it: there are plenty of examples of obscure men, and sometimes boys, who pop up sporadically in the records because they have earned their reward for spying on their fellow countrymen. That was how Wallace and Fraser were caught at Happrew. On the other hand, there were certainly those, like the men of Lennox (though who exactly they were is not clear), who disagreed with the decision made by their earl. We must all live with the consequences of the choices made by our predecessors, but we can never know that we would have chosen or acted any differently. It is really very difficult, seven hundred years after the event, to justify the belief that we know better.

King Edward must have been very, very relieved. It is not at all clear how he managed to sustain this last push over both 1303 and 1304; perhaps England was prepared to throw everything into one last effort, so long as it really was the last. Although this war was never popular, the idea that the inferior Scots could prevail against the might of the English must certainly have stuck in many a throat.

Edward had also learned a few hard lessons. He would certainly never admit it, nor make any concessions regarding his right to do as he liked with his reconquest; however, the basic leniency of the surrender terms, together with the presence of many former ‘rebels’ in the new administration, attests to the success of the Scottish government in keeping the great Plantagenet at bay for so long. This ability to learn, adapt and compromise – always with an eye on the main prize in the long run – was perhaps what defined Edward’s greatness. On the other hand, although this was undoubtedly a defeat for the Scots in general, and the Comyns in particular, the political community does not seem to have experienced the sense of shame and bewilderment that afflicted it after Dunbar in 1296. It would be wrong to use hindsight at this point – the Scots did not submit because they knew that the earl of Carrick was going to seize the throne in a couple of years’ time; nevertheless, there was much to be proud of, even in defeat.


1 CCR, 1296–1302, p. 599.

2 Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 446–7.

3 CDS, v, no. 292; CDS, ii, nos. 1325, 1331.

4 CDS, v, no. 297. The earl was leaving rather late for the parliament of 14 October.

5 Stevenson, Documents, ii, p. 448.

6 CCR, 1296–1302, pp. 611–2; CPR, 1301–1307, pp. 74–5.

7 Ibid., p. 98.

8 CCR, 1296–1302, p. 612; CPR, 1301–1307, p. 75.

9 CCR, 1302–1307, pp. 65–6.

10 Parl. Writs, i, pp. 368–9.

11 E101/11/19, m. 3.

12 Ibid., mm. 3, 4, 6.

13 CDS, ii, no. 1341; CPR, 1301–1307, p. 105; CCR, 1302–1307, p. 71.

14 CPR., 1301–1307, p. 111; CCR, 1302–1307, pp. 71, 20; CDS, ii, no. 1649.

15 CDS, iv, p. 456; CPR, 1301–1307, p. 109.

16 CPR, 1292–1301, pp. 60–61.

17 Guisborough, pp. 351–2.

18 E159/76, m. 68.

19 Ibid., mm. 12, 15; Parl. Writs, i, p. 132.

20 CCR, 1302–1307, p. 80.

21 CDS, v, no. 321; CPR, 1301–1307, p. 129.

22 CCR, 1302–1307, p. 76; CPR. 1301–1307, p. 131.

23 Ibid., p. 187.

24 Parl. Writs, i, p. 370–1; J. Lydon, ‘The Years of Crisis, 1254–1315’, p. 200.

25 E101/364/13, mm. 4–22, mm.99–100.

26 E101/365/6, mm. 2, 17; E101/684/53, mm. 11–13; E101/11/20, m.10; E101/13/36, part 3, m. 187; E101/364/13, m. 32.

27 Prestwich, Edward l, p. 498: Prestwich, War, Politics and Finance, pp. 80, 97–8; E101/612/11.

28 CDS, ii. nos. 1356, 1385; Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 178–9 (wrongly calendared under 1297).

29 CDS, ii, no. 1375; Itin., p. 210.

30 E101/364/13, mm. 65–102.

31 Ibid., m. 5.

32 CCR, 1302–1307, p. 91.

33 CPR, 1301–1307, pp. 146–7.

34 CDS, v, no. 331 E101/11/19, m. 5.

35 E159/76, m. 18.

36 Ibid., m. 20.

37 APS, i, pp. 454–5; Palgrave Documents, p. 333; Barrow, Bruce, pp. 127–8.

38 CDS, ii, no. 1389.

39 E159/76, m. 74.

40 Ibid., m. 70; E101/364/13, m. 12.

41 CDS, ii, no. 1386.

42 E101/364/13, m. 93; Haskell, The Scottish Campaign of Edward I, 1303–4, p. 27; E101/364/6, m. 3.

43 E101/364/13, m. 100; E159/76, m. 74.

44 Haskell, The Scottish Campaign of Edward I, 1303–4, p. 28.

45 Barrow, Bruce, p. 127.

46 E159/76, m. 21; J. Lydon, ‘The Years of Crisis, 1254–1315’, pp. 200–1; see below, p. 181.

47 E.M. Barron, The Scottish War of Independence (Inverness, 1934), p. 193; Haskell, The Scottish Campaign of Edward I, 1303–4, pp. 31–3; E101/364/13, m. 100.

48 E101/11/21, mm. 55–59; CDS, ii, no. 1390.

49 Ibid., nos. 1392–3.

50 Stevenson, Documents, ii, p. 453.

51 CDS, ii, no. 1405.

52 Barrow, Bruce, pp. 183, 325.

53 E101/10/18; mm. 1,193.

54 CDS, ii, pp. 392–3; C47/22/3, m. 33.

55 CDS, ii, no. 1432.

56 Ibid., no. 1437; CDS, iv, p. 481.

57 CDS, ii, no. 1465; Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 467–70.

58 CDS, iv, p. 475. Wallace is here denied his knighthood in the English sources, though he was accorded it earlier in the year [eg. E159/76, m. 18].

59 CDS, v, no. 346. The brackets in this document indicate illegible parts of the manuscript and their most likely contents.

60 Palgrave, Documents, i, pp. 286–8; 278–9; 280; 278–9; 279–82; 283;; 283–5; 288–291, 334; E159/79, m. 30; The Gascon Calendar of 1322, no. 437.

61 E159/79, m., 30; CDS, ii, no. 1691.

62 See Watson, ‘Settling the Stalemate: Edward I’s peace in Scotland, 1303–5, pp. 127–143, for a fuller discussion of the context, conditions and aftermath of the Scottish submissions of 1304.

63 Haskell, The Scottish Campaign of Edward I. 1303–4, p. 38.

64 H.G. Richards and G. Sayles. ‘The Scottish Parliaments of Edward I’, SHR, xxv (1925), p. 311; Palgrave, Documents, i, pp. 194–7, 299–301, 345–6.

65 CDS, ii, nos. 1471, 1489, 1462–3.

66 Ibid., nos. 1515, 1561.

67 Ibid., no. 1457; CDS, v, no. 353.

68 See above n. 29.

69 Ibid., no. 363; CDS, ii, no. 1519.

70 CDS, iv, p. 475.

71 Itin., pp. 225–6; Prestwich, Edward I, pp. 501–2; Barrow, Bruce, pp. 128–30; Foedera, i, p. 969; CDS, ii, no. 1564.

72 This is presumably Sir John’s uncle, rather than the other Sir Alexander, his cousin, brother of Comyn of Buchan, who had remained, technically at least, on Edward’s side.

73 Palgrave, Documents, i, pp. 274, 276.

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