Post-classical history



THE collapse of John Balliol’s government less than two months after the catastrophic defeat at Dunbar brought Scotland quickly and easily under King Edward’s direct control. He and the triumphant English army were well-pleased with their efforts: the king himself allegedly remarked, with a believable air of crude over-confidence, that ‘It’s a good thing to be rid of shit’.1 Since the decision to go to war had been taken on a broad basis of consent, the events of April to July 1296 must be seen as a defeat of the Scottish political community as a whole, and its Comyn leadership in particular.2

The choice facing the Scottish nobility captured as a result of Dunbar was a stark one: either accept Edward as overlord or remain hors de combat in prison. A number, such as William, earl of Ross, refused to give in for several years, before finally accepting that such a course, however honourable, was also quite futile.3 Of course, once an oath of allegiance had been taken, the honourable course was to stick to it; a true knight would not merely pretend to swear it, then change sides the minute he was released. That many did choose to go back on their word was as much an issue of conscience as it was for those who did not. Obviously, what Edward had done was not regarded as honourable by the Scots either, but contemporary ethical codes made it difficult for the élites to always know which was the ‘right’ course of action. The reticence of the Scottish nobility in these next couple of years, which contrasts sharply with their assurance and assertiveness in 1295, signifies a profound crisis of confidence caused by the ease with which the English had brought about their defeat and submission. Unfortunately for Edward, however, this was only a temporary state of affairs.

Having progressed pointedly through an abject Scotland, Edward returned to Berwick in August to lay down ordinances for the future government of the conquered kingdom. The records bear out the assertion of the chronicler, Walter of Guisborough, that the king ordained a new treasurer, seal and chancellor, appointed justices and commanded all to do homage to him. Though sufficient to provide for the establishment of the new regime, this was not a ‘paper constitution’: ‘. . . the kingdom was not abolished but remained in abeyance’. Nine years later, Edward would finally pronounce on Scotland’s status but his silence in 1296 indicates just how ambivalent even he felt his legal position to be.4

The most senior member of the new administration was the royal lieutenant, John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, the victor of Dunbar. As Edward’s immediate representative in Scotland, his duties were almost as varied as those of the king himself and thus he was crucial to the smooth running of the new regime. The temporalities of vacant sees were his to administer, as well as the patronage of benefices up to the value of forty marks,5 which would have included most Scottish parishes in royal patronage.6 However, apart from his military capacity, the earl’s most important responsibility was to administer justice: he could either deal with petitions from Scots himself, or, if they had been submitted directly to Edward (in parliament), he was still obliged to investigate each case before the king made judgement.7

The best hope of the new regime in gaining the acceptance of the vanquished Scots was surely to promote an effective judicial system for the redress of any grievances, although the imposition of overtly English, in preference to Scottish, practices was a potential cause of resentment. Surrey, however, soon made it perfectly clear that he was seriously underwhelmed by the honour of his new office and would expend the minimum amount of effort on it. This appointment was undoubtedly a serious error on Edward’s part and is indicative of the high-handedness and lack of foresight which characterised the English king’s treatment of his new acquisition in 1296. He would soon live to regret it.

The new chancellor was Walter Amersham, a royal clerk who did have previous experience of Scottish affairs, having served as an associate of Bishop Alan of Caithness, the chancellor during the interregnum.8 Amersham’s primary responsibility was to oversee the issuing of royal writs. The other important official at the chancery was William Bevercotes, appointed on 5 October 1296 to ‘keep, collect and deliver writs sealed with the seal used by the king in Scotland’. This was a new seal presumably struck in the same year as the conquest and a telling reminder to the Scots of the profound alteration in their relationship with England and its king. Bevercotes was also to account for the issues of the seal9 at the exchequer at Berwick.

However, the most important office turned out to be that of treasurer of Scotland, perhaps more by virtue of the ‘qualities’ brought to the job by its incumbent, Sir Hugh Cressingham, than through any deliberate royal policy. He was certainly extremely experienced, having served as a justice in various English counties, including Lancashire most recently.10 It should be noted that the very office of treasurer was still likely to be an offensive innovation, since the chief financial officer under the kings of Scots (before Balliol) had been the chamberlain. In September 1296 the early rolls of the Scottish exchequer were sent from Edinburgh castle to Berwick; however, in March 1297 a transcript of regulations was despatched from London to establish the Scottish exchequer along the same lines as the one at Westminster. Various rolls from the early years of Edward’s reign and a bundle of writs from the reign of Henry III were also sent up to Scotland, presumably for reference. Thus, despite having sufficient documentation to provide examples of Scottish procedure, the new regime had no qualms about replacing it with English practice. However, these various documents were all returned to Westminster in November 1297, only two months after the hated Cressingham was killed at the battle of Stirling Bridge; there was no further need for them because the Edwardian administration had collapsed.11

These three offices formed the main core of the administration at Berwick. They were supplemented by three justiciars, conforming to the traditional Scottish format of ‘a justiciar of Lothian, a justiciar beyond the sea of Scotland [i.e., north of the Forth] and a justiciar of Galloway’. The appointees were William of Ormesby, William Mortimer and Roger Skoter respectively,12 all Englishmen who cannot have been well versed in Scots law or the Scottish legal system, surely a necessary prerequisite for the job. Nevertheless, the office of justiciar was obsolete in England but not in Scotland, and thus Edward cannot be said to have been completely insensitive to Scottish practices.13 Finally, two Englishmen were appointed as escheators: Henry Rye north of the Forth and Peter Dunwich in the south. Rye was also granted custody of the royal castles of Elgin and Forres, while Dunwich was made keeper of the Gifford castle of Yester in east Lothian. Edward was here conforming to English custom, since the office of escheator was normally performed by the sheriffs in Scotland.14

The keepers of royal castles, who were often also sheriffs, were of great importance to the new administration. As the king’s officers throughout the country, they were the most widespread and obvious representatives of the new regime. This was naturally of greater moment if the new appointees were English. The significance of castles as power-centres in Scotland was much less than in England and France, reflecting the uncentralised nature of power in the northern kingdom. The thirteenth-century kings of Scots generally had little need to architecturally overawe their greatest subjects who were, indeed, the accepted instruments of royal power. The exceptions were areas, such as Galloway, which had once resisted royal control.15

After the conquest of 1296, several changes were introduced, providing the new administration with thirty sheriffdoms.16 A number of appointments were made as early as May 1296,17 while the conquest of Scotland was still underway; however, most were superseded in the autumn. Between September and October the sheriffdom of Roxburgh, with its impressive castle, was granted to Sir Robert Hastangs, junior; Sir Hugh Elaund took over the combined responsibility of the keepership of Jedburgh castle and the strategically vital Selkirk Forest; Sir Walter Huntercombe went to Edinburgh castle as sheriff of Edinburgh and its two constabularies, Linlithgow and Haddington; Dumbarton castle and sheriffdom were given to Sir Alexander Leeds; and Sir Richard Waldegrave was installed at Stirling.18

The majority of appointments do not survive in the official record, but a number can certainly be added to the above list from other evidence. Sir Robert Joneby was described as sheriff at Dumfries by August 1296; we can surely presume that the infamous William Heselrig became sheriff of Lanark around this time; Sir William FitzWarin was certainly in residence at Urquhart castle in 1297, as was Sir Reginald Cheyne, senior, a Scotsman, at Inverness and Sir Henry Lathum at Aberdeen.19

The most important office after the lieutenant was the wardenship of the land of Galloway and of the county [comitatum] of Ayr, awarded to Sir Henry Percy on 8 September, nearly three weeks before Surrey’s appointment. The castles of Ayr, Wigtown, Cruggleton and Buittle were also committed to his custody. The first two were straightforward royal castles controlling sheriffdoms; Buittle and Cruggleton20 were Balliol castles and thus were forfeited by King John, the only Scot to suffer permanent loss of lands after 1296.21 With Surrey based in the east and Percy in the west, access to and from the border was effectively controlled. This meant, however, that the centre of Scottish government was located in the far south of the country, a very different power-base from the Edinburgh-Stirling-Forfar axis favoured by the thirteenth-century kings of Scots.

On balance the men appointed to office in Scotland (and those who held such positions subsequently) came from a wide range of geographical backgrounds. This stands in stark contrast to the composition of the armies, which tended to be dominated by the northern sheriffdoms who had most to lose in this war. The main criteria for a more permanent position within Scotland were obviously the abilities of the men involved but also, and far more importantly as the war dragged on, their inclination to take up appointment.

There was one other wardenship created in 1296, though its role and significance was rather different from that held by either Surrey or Percy. In order to extend English control into the north-west highlands and islands, and to counteract the influence of the pro-Comyn/Balliol west highland magnate, Alastair MacDougall of Argyll, Edward had initially made use of MacDougall’s main rival, Alastair MacDonald of Islay, who had been with the Bruces in Edward’s army in March 1296.22 However, on 10 September 1296, the earl of Menteith, who had been captured in Dunbar castle in April, was appointed as warden of an area of the west stretching from Ross to Rutherglen. As such, he was given authority over the men of important Scots such as James the Steward and Sir John Comyn of Badenoch and Lochaber. It is not at all clear what exactly prompted this munificence towards Menteith, but it is likely that Edward was looking for someone less completely enmeshed in west highland politics than MacDonald, although the earl had considerable interests in the area himself. The English king may also have been attempting to operate a divide-and-rule policy among the Scottish nobility, although this may also indicate Edward’s own need of their support.23

Arrangements for the payment of all Edward’s officials in Scotland were made between September and November 1296. Surrey was to receive 2000 marks per year; Sir Henry Percy, 1000 marks; Amersham, 200 marks, plus the income from the church of Kinross to which he was presented in September 1296; the three justiciars, 60 marks each. No records survive for the fee to be paid to either Cressingham or the two escheators.24

Payments to the keepers of castles, and the constables who were usually in immediate charge,25 varied considerably, depending on the size of the garrison and whether or not their duties included those of sheriff. Such payment often took the form of a fixed annual fee, or certum, agreed with the keeper, for himself and a set number of men-at-arms. Footsoldiers were always paid by the day, as were the various tradesmen and officers required for the day-to-day welfare of the garrison, such as smiths, masons and watchmen, not to mention the chaplains. All annual, as opposed to daily, fees were to be paid in two instalments in the Trinity and Michaelmas terms, supposedly from the issues of Scotland at the Berwick exchequer.26

To what extent was the regime imposed on the Scots by Edward I likely to be seen as oppressive, antagonistic and/or overtly alien in composition? With regard to this last element, it is quite true that almost all appointments made in 1296 were of Englishmen, and certainly the key offices exclusively so; this effectively de-politicised the native magnates and indicated an indifference on Edward’s part towards Scots law or the peculiarities of Scottish government generally.

Obviously the fact that there was no longer a resident king necessitated changes, but it was perhaps at a local level that the ‘alien’ nature of the new regime had most impact. The new sheriffs of 1296 no longer had any connection with the areas in which they served, with the exception, for a few months at least, of Sir Reginald Crawford at Ayr and Sir Walter Twynham at Wigtown, as well as the longer-lasting Sir Reginald Cheyne at Inverness.27 Throughout the kingdom, therefore, the local community was obliged to deal with men who were foreign in every sense – strangers to both county and kingdom and perhaps not even able to speak the local language.28 It is true that the earl of Menteith was given an important office but, to be honest, the government of the north-west highlands and islands was unlikely to be regarded as part of the mainstream administration; in any case, there is no evidence that he actually took up the job.

Edward may well have regarded the Scottish system as backward and worthy of contempt but such an attitude, given that he was dealing with a well-established kingdom which had developed an administrative system to suit its own needs, was likely to arouse considerable resentment. Scotland was certainly not as centralised as England but, equally, it was not Ireland or Wales with no prior history of a unified administration. On the one hand, it could be argued that the form of government imposed on Scotland in 1296 was far less of an innovation than in England’s other two ‘British’ acquisitions; there was no need to introduce shires, for example, simply because the native system was much closer to the English model, even if there were significant differences. On the other hand, perhaps those Scots who would normally have been involved in the administration of the kingdom felt that anglicisation had taken place for its own sake, with a corresponding appreciation of the ‘Scottishness’ of the original system. Moreover, the example of Ireland, which was fairly effectively milked of large sums of money and goods by Edward I,29 not to mention Wales, so recently and so violently subdued, now stood before the Scots as a fate to which they undoubtedly had once regarded themselves as too superior to succumb.

It took a considerable amount of time for Edward even to consider that the spectacularly easy conquest of Scotland might have given him a rather false picture of the inability of the Scots to challenge his military annexation of the northern kingdom. As an indication of his confidence, the English king embarked on a town-planning programme for Berwick, similar to that practised on Kingston-upon-Hull a few years earlier. Berwick’s strategic and commercial importance – based on its peninsular site between the Tweed and the sea – had already made the town the most prosperous in Scotland. Nevertheless, Edward, typically, believed that there was potential for much improvement, including ‘the displacement of the Scottish population and the assignment of their homes to English settlers, to attract whom a new constitution was clearly necessary’.30

Various representatives from England’s major boroughs were summoned to a general parliament held at Bury St. Edmunds from 3 November 1296. London, for example, was to choose ‘four wise men of the most knowing and most sufficient to know best how to devise, order and array a new town to the most profit of the king and of the merchants’. Twenty-three other cities and boroughs were each to elect two representatives with similar qualifications.

This first meeting achieved little and another group of advisors was ordered to consult with the king on 2 January 1297. It was only at this point that Edward intimated that Berwick-upon-Tweed was the object of his attention. Tout states that ‘the transparent veil of secrecy’ was adopted merely for its own sake. However, the English king might also have become aware that his enthusiasm for transforming this Scottish town, so recently the subject of a brutal assault, might not have been shared by any of his subjects. Certainly he now dropped the idea of elected representatives and sent writs to his own nominees, who included Henry le Waleys, ‘the sometime joint-planner of Winchelsea’ and mayor of London, and Thomas Alard, warden of Winchelsea.

Yet again, nothing happened, presumably because the frozen north was of little or no interest to these southerners. A third set of summonses called for nominees from certain north-eastern towns to meet at Berwick itself in April 1297. This assembly finally managed to arrange for a number of Englishmen to be resettled there, but little was done to change the actual plan of the town.31 Issues of far greater urgency were to occupy Edward’s mind for the next five years and thus only Berwick’s military and defensive needs were attended to during that period.

Contrary to expectations, it soon became very clear that the newly-established administrative mechanisms were not working properly. By May 1297, Sir Henry Percy, warden of Galloway, was already complaining to the king that he hadn’t been paid for the Trinity term; the £2000 which Cressingham received from the English exchequer in the following month was almost certainly used primarily to pay overdue wages.32 Equally, Walter Amersham, the chancellor, appears to have been unable to extract any income from the church of Kinross, granted to him the previous September, judging by the fact that Surrey was ordered to present him to another living ‘in Scotland or Galloway’ on 3 July 1297.33 This would strongly suggest that the Scots en masse were generally successful in denying their new government the revenues which ordinarily should have sustained it, and that within about nine months of its establishment.

Problems were not restricted to those holding office at a distance from the central administration; even those at Berwick were finding it difficult to establish and maintain their authority. Amersham is described as chancellor for the last time in August 1297. Crisis then completely overwhelmed the Edwardian government and, from then until 1302, he is described only as receiver of royal revenues in Northumberland, an office to which he was appointed on 12 July 1297. This appointment in itself underlines the already overwhelming need to subsidise Scotland’s government from south of the border. William Bevercotes, the keeper of the seal, also seems to have become redundant, though he returned as chancellor in 1304, after Amersham’s death; the seal appears to have gone into retirement for the same period.34

The treasurer’s basic function should have been to receive and audit the issues of Scotland, through the exchequer at Berwick, and to use the same to maintain the administration. Credit and debit were thus, in theory, intended to cancel each other out. Initially Cressingham and his officials appear to have been very successful in raising revenue – in June 1297 the considerable sum, by Scottish standards, of £5188 was used to pay a subsidy to the Count of Bar, whom Edward was cultivating as an ally in his imminent war against France. This can’t have been the annual total either, since some government expenditure must still have been outstanding.35 As noted above, and a month before the Count’s subsidy was accounted for in London, the revenues of Scotland started to become uncollectable. It is highly likely that this situation arose directly from Cressingham’s success in raising such an unprecedented amount in a few months. He was certainly notorious for his rapaciousness: the English chronicler, Walter of Guisborough, remarked, with just a hint of unusual sympathy for the Scots, that the treasurer ‘loved money’ ‘. . . and robbed too much and they [the Scots] did not call him treasurer but treacherer to the king, and they believed this as the truth’.36

Initially it was anticipated that the £2000 sent up to cover arrears of wages would be paid back out of the issues of Scotland by 1 August. However, Cressingham soon had to admit to sir Philip Willoughby at the Westminster exchequer that this would not be possible since the king had ordered that all (any) revenues received at Berwick were to be handed over to Surrey, suggesting that the latter’s fee was also in arrears.37 By the end of July, the treasurer was forced to inform the king that the flow of cash to the Berwick exchequer from north of the border had now well and truly dried up:

. . . from the time when I left you, not a penny could be raised in your [realm of Scotland by any means] until my lord the earl of Warenne [Surrey] shall enter your land and compel the people of your country by force and sentences of law.

Cressingham, unlike Amersham, still had plenty to do in his office as the system began to collapse around him, but now he was responsible for the auditing and disbursement of large sums direct from the English exchequer. After his death at Stirling Bridge, his office was not officially refilled and control of Scottish finances was taken over by two receivers, Amersham at Berwick and the other, Richard Abingdon, at Carlisle.

References to the escheators and justiciars also peter out in 1297. William Ormesby, perhaps as a result of his close encounter with William Wallace and Sir William Douglas in June of that year,38 was transferred to England in August on the king’s business. William Mortimer and Henry Rye both came with Edward on campaign in the summer of 1298. Roger Skoter was still in Scotland in July 1297, but there is no further mention of him thereafter. By December 1297 Peter Dunwich had given up his office of escheator and had been sent to Lancashire with William Dacre to choose footsoldiers for the winter expedition planned by the regency government in the aftermath of Stirling Bridge. This was his last appearance in official records before he was released from Scottish prison in April 1299, presumably having been captured during that expedition.39 These officials had surely not reckoned that being sent to Scotland would be so dangerous.

However, the most illuminating illustration of the instability of the Edwardian administration is Surrey himself. Soon after his appointment in September 1296 there were doubts about his commitment. Walter of Guisborough says, in a most incisive passage, that:

The earl of Warenne, to whom our king committed the care and custody of the kingdom of Scotland, because of the awful weather, said that he could not stay there and keep his health. He stayed in England, but in the northern part and sluggishly pursued the exiling [of the] enemy, which was the root of our later difficulty.40

This accusation appears to have been largely true. In June 1297, during the uprising of Bishop Wishart, James the Steward and the earl of Carrick, Surrey wrote to the king, blaming the postponement of his arrival in Scotland on the need for more troops, and promising that the delay would cause no harm.41 Nevertheless, when news of Wishart et al’s capitulation at Irvine was conveyed to Cressingham and his force gathered at Roxburgh, a decision as to whether or not they should move against ‘the enemies on the other side of the Scottish sea’ (Andrew Murray) or upon Wallace in Selkirk forest had to be put off until the earl’s arrival. ‘And thus’, as Cressingham so eloquently informed his master, ‘matters have gone to sleep.’42

There can be little doubt that Surrey lacked enthusiasm for his office. On 4 August 1297 a letter was sent to Edward from Berwick, perhaps from Osbert Spaldington, the sheriff there, stating that the earl had offered the lieutenancy to someone else, as the king had ordered. The importance of the need for firm government in the north – and further evidence that Surrey had indeed been remiss in his duties – is illustrated by the writer’s advice that the Scots, who, despite Irvine, were still extremely restless, would ‘be obedient . . . if the lieutenant frequently oversees that no-one does harm to them or mistreats them’.43 This also clearly implies – with greater significance since it comes from an English official – that the regime had been unable to enforce the rule of law effectively.

Surrey himself had probably petitioned the king to be relieved of his duties in the north; the writer of the above letter certainly states that the earl, together with Sir Henry Percy, the warden of Galloway, intended to go with the king to Flanders. The fight against France was surely much more to the taste of both these officers. Surrey and Percy were soldiers, doubtless with little inclination for the burden of administration which formed a significant part of their work in Scotland. The extent to which service in the northern kingdom was unpopular among those whom the king sought to appoint there is extremely important to our understanding of the difficulties faced by the Edwardian administration; equally, the regime was far less likely to endear itself to the native population if it was served by men who resented being there.

The person to whom Surrey had, in fact, offered the job of lieutenant was Sir Brian FitzAlan of Bedale, ‘an English baron of more reputation than fortune’, who had served as joint guardian with the four Scots in 1291–2.44 Most recently, in July 1297, he had been appointed captain of royal fortifications in Northumberland, with responsibility for overseeing royal expenditure there. From the government’s point of view, he was an eminently suitable choice. FitzAlan was not so sure, however. On 5 August 1297, he wrote to the king asking to decline the offer, or perhaps to squeeze more money from him:

. . . due to insufficient skill and ability to take on such a great thing, unless I had the wherewithal to support it to your honour . . . My resources, however stretched, are too small to sustain the land to your honour (they do not extend to more than £1000) and to keep fifty armed horses. Thus I would not be able to keep the land in peace to your honour when such a nobleman as the earl cannot well keep it in peace from what he received from you. Nor do I know how I could do it with less than he receives.45

Sir Brian had clearly understood one of the main difficulties facing those who took up office in Scotland. Though an appropriate income was allocated to each position, it was frequently insufficient to maintain men and equipment in what was fast becoming a war situation; equally, the difficulties in actually making wage payments often meant that retinues had to be sustained for long periods of time from their leaders’ own pockets. FitzAlan was being offered £1128 per year, compared with the 2000 marks (£1333 13s.4d.) granted to Surrey, though this reflected the different social status of each man. The contract was to last, initially at least, for six months, to begin when the earl had brought Scotland to a peaceful state, something of an optimistic prospect in itself.46 In refusing, FitzAlan seems to have had a far more realistic grasp of the situation in the north than Edward, primarily, perhaps, because the king’s attention was currently directed firmly towards Flanders.

However, by 18 August the matter was regarded in the south as settled, since on that date the chancellor was ordered to issue letters patent to FitzAlan as lieutenant similar to those previously issued to Surrey. Ten days later custody of Galloway was entrusted to Sir John Hoddleston, presumably because Sir Henry Percy was now on his way to Flanders. On the same date writs were sent out to all sheriffs north of the Trent, ordering them to help ‘Brian FitzAlan, keeper of the realm and land of Scotland, whom the king is sending to the parts of Scotland to do justice on the rebels who are wandering about there committing murders and other crimes and to repress their malice’.47 However, there is no definite evidence that he actually left Northumberland, despite the fact that he authorised the issue of £200 as ‘keeper of said kingdom [Scotland]’.48

The reality of the situation in the north meant that Surrey was unable either to join the king in Flanders, or, in effect, to relinquish his position as lieutenant. On 12 September 1297, shortly after Edward’s arrival on the continent, rumours of continuing and increasing unrest in Scotland had reached the king and he ordered the earl to remain in Scotland until the country was pacified.49 Such rumours came rather too late: Surrey’s army had been routed at Stirling Bridge the previous day.

The increasing inability of the Edwardian administration to fulfill its functions was, of course, primarily a result of the growing threat of rebellion throughout almost the whole of Scotland as 1297 progressed. One of the most revealing pieces of evidence relating to the success of the Scots in challenging the Berwick government comes, yet again, from Hugh Cressingham, who informed Edward on 24 July that:

. . . by far the greater part of your counties of the realm of Scotland are still unprovided with keepers, as well by death, sieges or imprisonment; and some have given up their bailliwicks and others neither will nor dare return; and in some counties the Scots have established and placed bailiffs and ministers so that no county is in its proper order excepting Berwick and Roxburgh, and this only lately.50

While the Treasurer may have been exaggerating, in order to shock Edward into taking the threat seriously, it is difficult to see the English presence in Scotland by this point as much more than a military occupation, almost entirely defensive in nature. Equally – and perhaps more importantly – the Scots were already proving able to set up and operate an alternative administrative system, despite the fact that their ostensible leaders had resubmitted to Edward’s officers at Irvine a few weeks before Cressingham wrote the above letter.

The first hint of revolt may not perhaps have caused much surprise, nor great consternation, in Berwick since it originated in the north-west highlands, which had proved antipathetic to rule from south of the highland line long before Edward took control of Scotland. Despite the appointment of the earl of Menteith as lieutenant there, Alastair MacDonald was named as Edward’s baillie of Lorn and Ross and the Isles, much of which had previously been under MacDougall control, on 9 April 1297.51 What remains unclear is why Edward had appointed the earl in the first place; perhaps the latter had proved unwilling to serve in the Edwardian government even at the price of this lieutenantship.

MacDonald’s appointment may well have been made in anticipation of trouble, since it was certainly not long in coming. Part of the problem lay in the fact that, even though Alastair MacDougall had submitted to Edward and was currently in prison at Berwick, many of the nobiles of Argyll, including MacDougall’s sons, John and Duncan, together with the MacRuaries of Garmoran, Lachlan and Ruarie, remained unreconciled. Alastair of Islay claimed in a letter to Edward, probably of late April, that these gentlemen had now performed homage but, nevertheless, the MacRuaries were soon on the rampage, killing Edward’s officials and seizing their ships, as well as invading royal lands in Skye and Lewis.52

The inhabitants of these lands naturally looked to Edward’s representative to protect them and MacDonald moved in force against the MacRuaries, who both almost submitted in April. However, Lachlan changed his mind and he was expected to look for support from the men of his father-in-law, Alastair of Argyll, whose son, Duncan, also commanded a ‘rebel’ force. Most interestingly, Lochaber, belonging to Sir John Comyn, was also regarded as disaffected. Certainly Comyn’s men in Inverlochy castle, which guarded the western entrance to the Great Glen, subsequently refused to co-operate with MacDonald, whose authority, and Edward’s with it, was looking increasingly ineffective.53

To add to these difficulties, MacDonald was also aware of the renewed disaffection of James the Steward and had seized, on Edward’s behalf, the castle and barony of Glasrog (Glassary) which the Steward apparently held.54 To cap it all, Alastair also claimed that he was prevented from fulfilling his duties by a lack of funding, either from royal issues from the areas supposedly under his control, or directly from England.55 The government did, at last, make some attempt to control the situation, freeing Alastair MacDougall from Berwick castle on 24 May 1297; he alone could be expected to bring his son, Duncan, to heel, and also, perhaps, to restore a degree of stability to the area. His release was not, however, likely to bring relief to his long-standing enemy, Alastair MacDonald, and, in fact, the lord of Argyll soon joined his sons and MacRuarie relatives in causing devastation of MacDonald lands in particular.56

It is usual to dismiss this rebellion as essentially a local civil war; certainly, it represents the resumption of long-standing hostilities among important members of north-west highland society which were far more important to them than the relationship between the kingdoms of Scotland and England – the quarrel between the MacDonalds and the MacDougalls was partly over the disputed lands of Lismore. However, as Alan Young points out, this rebellion can also ‘be seen as the response of representatives of the Scottish government’. MacDougall of Argyll, like King John himself, was brother-in-law to John Comyn of Badenoch.57 Although the latter was still in prison in England, we can also read this revolt as the reaction of a common-interest group which had lost power after 1296 but which was intimately connected with the Comyn-dominated Balliol government.

William Wallace began his brief but remarkable career early in May at the latest. The sheriff of Westmorland was unable to undertake an assessment for the lay twelfth in that county, as he was ordered to do in a writ dated 26 April 1297, because ‘all the knights and free tenants are in Cumberland to defend the march between England and Scotland against the coming of the Scots’.58 Thus, by early May, if not late April, the Scots on the western border were already in revolt.

The rebellion begins traditionally with the murder of the English sheriff of Lanark; Wallace then raised the men of Clydesdale.59 The fact that those in the northern English counties expected a raid may suggest that they moved south first of all and perhaps conducted a remarkably successful foray which reached right into Dumfriesshire. A letter from the king dated 13 June certainly thanked Sir Donald MacCan, Gillemichael MacGeche, Maurice Stubhille and others in the company of Sir Thomas Staunford ‘for their late ready and willing service in repelling disturbers of the peace and recapturing for the king castles which had been taken by those in those parts’.60 MacCan, MacGeche and Stubhille were all men of Dumfriesshire, while Staunford was one of Sir Henry Percy’s retinue.61 Although it is tempting to suggest that the reduction of castles was more likely to have been achieved by the ‘aristocratic’ rebellion of Robert Wishart, bishop of Glasgow, the Steward and the earl of Carrick, that rebellion was probably not launched until at least the end of May and thus there was not time for Dumfriesshire to have been lost and won by the time the king heard about it around 13 June.

Wallace, now joined by Sir William Douglas, moved north to Scone, where the justiciar, William Ormesby, was holding a court. Ormesby may have been the object of particular odium, and hence the target of this attack, because, according to Guisborough, he ‘. . . prosecuted all those who did not wish to swear fealty to the king of England without making distinction of person’. Though the justiciar escaped, word was getting around: Guisborough goes on to state that Wallace received certain messengers at Perth who arrived ‘in great haste on behalf of certain magnates of the kingdom of Scotland’. These were almost certainly sent by the Steward, the bishop of Glasgow, and the earl of Carrick, which argues strongly for collusion between Wallace’s activities and the rebellion planned by these nobles. It should be remembered that the Wallace family’s lands were held of the Steward.62

The reason for the noble rebellion, according to the surrender negotiations, was the fear of military service overseas on the part of ‘the middling folk’ of Scotland. Fifty-seven Scottish nobles were certainly summoned to serve in Flanders on 24 May;63 in addition, any Scot still imprisoned in England after Dunbar could go with Edward in return for his freedom. It was presumably also anticipated north of the border that the kind of conscription of footsoldiers which went on in each English county with the approach of a campaign (and also, on occasions, in Ireland and Wales) would also happen in Scotland, though there is no evidence that this was Edward’s intention in 1297. In reality, very few Scots actually went overseas and all who did travelled straight from English prisons.

It is not clear exactly when Wishart, the Steward and the young earl came out in open rebellion, though their actions probably reflected the demands for military service at the end of May; certainly Wallace’s revolt appears to have been already well underway. Staunford and his company’s ‘ready and willing service’, which may have pushed Wallace north a month previously, certainly did not signify the end of rebellion in the west. On 24 June, and this time presumably as a reaction to the activities of Wishart et al, Sir Henry Percy and Sir Robert Clifford were given powers to ‘arrest, imprison and otherwise do justice on persons making meetings, conventicles and conspiracies against the king’s peace in divers parts of Scotland’. Dumfries and Nithsdale were mentioned specifically, as well as the north-western English counties; the danger was sufficient for the people of Cumberland and Westmorland to make a ‘voluntary’ offer of service on an expedition against the Scots, although they required reassurance that this would not be used as a precedent in the future.64

Clifford and Percy forced the Scots back and entered into negotiations with their leaders soon thereafter; the rebellion came to an end at Irvine on 7 July 1297. However, according to Guisborough, who had already noted collaboration at Perth, these Scottish nobles, who demanded a return to the ancient laws and customs of their land, ‘took so long in discussing the concessions with frivolous points, so that Wallace could gather more people to him’.65 The ignominy of Dunbar was still too fresh in the minds of the Scottish nobility to risk an engagement with an English force and the capitulation at Irvine was doubtless regarded as the only sensible option at the time. However, their actions, deliberately or otherwise, certainly permitted Wallace and his men to make their way to Selkirk Forest in the more strongly English-held south-east, reputedly reducing several castles on the way.66

The murder of a sheriff, followed by the attack on Ormesby, together with the rhetoric used during the ‘aristocratic’ revolt, strongly suggests that there was a fierce revulsion throughout Scotland against the experience of intensive Edwardian government. It should be noted that this year witnessed the peak of opposition to Edward I’s regime in England itself; as well as provoking a reaction to demands for military service overseas, preparations for the war with France had unleashed all manner of deeply resented forms of taxation, including the compulsory seizure and sale of wool. Scotland was not exempted from such treatment: both Sweetheart and Melrose abbeys later petitioned Edward for compensation for eight and a half and fourteen sacks of wool respectively, seized in 1297.67 The Scots, quite unused to this level of governmental demand, were bound to view it as highly oppressive, compounded by the fact that the regime itself was presumably regarded as foreign and illegal.

The southern rebellions, perhaps partly because they took place in that part of Scotland which caused greatest concern to the English government, tend to receive the most attention. However, in terms of achievement, the most significant rebellion was arguably that of the young Andrew Murray in the north-east. It appears to have begun in late May, around the same time as the aristocratic one in the south-west. The first objective of Murray’s force, which included the enigmatic Alexander Pilche and other burgesses of Inverness, was the castle of Urquhart, guarding the eastern end of the Great Glen. Urquhart belonged to William Soules, nephew of John Comyn, earl of Buchan, but, because he was a minor, the castle had been granted by Edward I to Sir William FitzWarin in 1296.68 It is important to note that Murray was himself a nephew of Comyn of Badenoch and these family ties, together with the disaffection of the latter’s men at Inverlochy at the other end of the Great Glen, provide a potential connection both between the two northern rebellions, and with the former government of Scotland.69

Having survived the first attack, Urquhart was nevertheless extremely vulnerable. On 11 June, a group of Scottish nobles, which included Sir John Comyn of Badenoch and the earl of Buchan, were granted safe-conducts to return home. Buchan was to join Henry Cheyne, bishop of Aberdeen, and Gartnait, son of the earl of Mar, who were already in the north, in going to FitzWarin’s aid.70 Guisborough, with the benefit of hindsight, was very scathing about Buchan’s efforts, claiming that he ‘. . . at first pretended to repress certain bold people, but in the end turned perversely from us’. Certainly Buchan’s excuse that Murray and his army ‘. . . took themselves into a very great stronghold of bog and wood, where no horseman could be of service . . .’ sounds rather lame coming from a man whose family had gained an earldom by subduing the men of Moray only a few generations earlier. Cressingham, who seems to have had a nose for these things, certainly didn’t believe it.71

With no effective support coming from the south, the fall of Urquhart and the surrounding castles, including Inverness, was really only a matter of time. FitzWarin certainly survived intact, since he fought in the English army at Stirling Bridge and had the misfortune of joining the Stirling garrison on the same day.72 However, Sir Reginald Cheyne, the sheriff of Inverness, later claimed that he had been ‘. . . thrice burned and destroyed and thrice imprisoned for his faith of his liege lord the King of England’.73 It would seem likely that one of those occasions was late in 1297.

Aberdeen also went over to the ‘rebel’ side during the summer of 1297, although the exact motivation of its sheriff, the Englishman, Sir Henry Lathum, whom Surrey accused of ‘making a great lord of himself’ there, is hard to determine.74 It thus seems likely that, by the time they joined Wallace at Dundee about August, Andrew Murray and his men had effectively recovered control of the north-east of Scotland and re-established some form of a Scottish administration over it including sheriffs.75

Edward either could not, or would not, believe that the Scots posed a sufficient threat to postpone or cancel his departure abroad. While this is understandable, given that Scotland was not as important to him as Gascony, his presence in the north would surely have provided a different outcome to the year’s events. Nevertheless, he certainly recognised a degree of danger and ordered measures to be taken to provide for the safety of the border. On 12 July – news of Irvine presumably not yet having reached the south – Sir Ralph FitzWilliam and Sir Brian FitzAlan were appointed captains of fortifications in Northumberland and Sir Robert Clifford, currently returning from Irvine, in Cumberland.76

In the meantime Cressingham, at least, was taking things very seriously, going personally to Northumberland to raise troops. The muster organised for 17 July at Roxburgh produced, according to the treasurer’s own letter to the king, a considerable force of three hundred covered horse and ten thousand foot but its northerly progress was forestalled by the arrival at Berwick of Sir Henry Percy and Sir Robert Clifford on the same evening. Their good news from Irvine, together with the assurance of hostages to be taken from key members of the revolt, convinced the Scottish government – with the exception of Cressingham – that ‘their enemies of Scotland were dispersed and frightened from their foolish enterprise’. In any case, they now had to wait for Surrey.77

Cressingham was right, of course: the situation was about to get much worse. Wallace had left the security of Selkirk Forest and was busy besieging Dundee castle when he heard word that the Treasurer had brought in a fresh army from England. Reputedly ordering the burgesses to ‘kepe that castell rycht stratly’, he and his men set off south again.78 Murray was also on his way and the two forces probably met up in August, perhaps at Perth, the most obvious crossing-point of routes from Inverness and Dundee. Surrey had also finally arrived in Scotland and was firmly told on 7 September, some two weeks after Edward’s departure for Flanders, to stay there to deal with the continuing unrest. However, a mere week later he was recalled to London as civil war threatened to engulf England, led by the earls who had refused to go to Flanders.79 This was the biggest crisis of Edward Longshank’s reign and he wasn’t there to deal with it.

However, Surrey, for once, was bent on action and had already gone to meet the Scots. His army, which presumably comprised those he had brought north himself, those raised by Cressingham in mid-July, and those brought back to Berwick by Clifford and Percy from Irvine, was certainly not the one thousand cavalry and fifty thousand foot claimed by Guisborough. However, it may well have been a respectable force of perhaps one-fifth of that size. A similar reduction would give Murray and Wallace thirty-six horse and eight thousand foot.80 Presumably most of the cavalry on the Scottish side came with Murray, the nobleman.

The two armies met at Stirling, where both required to cross the Forth. The Scots took position on the high ground to the north, while the English, controlling the castle and burgh, remained on the south bank. Negotiations, apparently conducted for the English by James the Steward and the earl of Lennox, brought nothing more than the determined avowal of the ‘rebels’ to fight for the liberty of their country. Cressingham, presumably driven to distraction by Surrey’s late rising the next morning, 11 September, finally urged an immediate advance over the narrow bridge in preference to using the less suicidal ford upstream. He died a brutal death at the head of the army, the true leader of the Edwardian administration; Surrey, at the back, was able to flee.81

The news of the massacre had reached London by 26 September. The only fortunate outcome for the English government was that the ensuing crisis finally united the discontented English nobility behind it. Writs were immediately directed to the sheriff of York, fifteen northern lords and thirteen Scottish magnates, including Comyn of Badenoch and the earls of Dunbar, Angus, Strathearn, Menteith, Lennox, Buchan and Sutherland (but, interestingly, not Carrick whose loyalty to Edward must thus have been still in question). Sir Brian FitzAlan, effectively still keeper of the Northumberland fortresses, would lead this force against the ‘rebels’; Surrey, on the other hand, was ordered to London to give a personal account of events.82

In the immediate aftermath of Stirling Bridge, with Cressingham dead and Surrey discredited, the most important members of what was left of the English administration were Master Richard Abingdon, the receiver of Cumberland, based at Carlisle, and Master Walter Amersham, receiver of Northumberland and erstwhile chancellor, still at Berwick. They had been appointed to replace a single receiver, Robert Beaufey, on 12 July 1297, the need for two attesting to the increased flow of resources from England to Scotland by that date. Each was assigned a keeper of the counter-roll (comptroller) to work with him – Master Robert Heron, who had also been keeper of the new customs at Berwick since 1296, was to work with Amersham, and Robert Barton with Abingdon.83 For some reason, perhaps associated with the turmoil of the summer months, Abingdon and Amersham do not actually seem to have taken up their offices until November.84 We should not underestimate their role, however, since their rise to prominence is one of the most fundamental indications of the state of the English administration of Scotland.

The Scots were naturally eager to re-establish control over castles manned by English garrisons. They had some temporary success in the south-east over the winter of 1297/8 and more permanent success in parts of the south-west. In addition, Scotland north of the Forth was pretty much cleared of all English officials and remained under the authority of the Scottish government from then until 1303. Wallace, with Murray until his death shortly after Stirling Bridge, now operated as the representative of King John and ‘the Community of the Realm of Scotland’, rather than as an unknown member of the lesser nobility with a dodgy reputation; he thus had far greater resources at his disposal and a slightly different agenda to perform.

According to one of the charges laid against Wallace at his trial, he had been audacious enough to issue writs in the name of King John, which carried sovereign authority. This included the letter written by both Murray and Wallace on 11 October 1297 to the mayors and communes of Lübeck and Hamburg, re-establishing trading links between these ports and the newly liberated kingdom of Scotland.85 The confidence exhibited by Wallace, and the inference that an administrative structure, including the re-institution of a chancery to issue these writs, had been revived by him shortly after Stirling Bridge, attests to his success; doubtless he was ably advised on administrative matters by men such as Bishop Wishart of Glasgow and, soon, William Lamberton, bishop of St. Andrews, implying that Wallace could take advice as well as issue orders.

Militarily, the guardian86 extended his repertoire, rather than adopting fundamentally new tactics. Roxburgh and Berwick castles were besieged and survived only through the intervention of an English army in February 1298; Jedburgh was successfully reduced and a Scottish garrison installed under John Pencaitland; Stirling castle, ‘the gateway to the north’, despite a last-minute rescue by Sir William FitzWarin, Sir Marmaduke Tweng and Sir William Ros after Stirling Bridge, succumbed not long after; and there is firm evidence of Scottish control of Dumbarton.87 Given the lack of references to English garrisons in the west, and Edward’s activities after the battle of Falkirk in 1298, it would seem likely that the Scots secured control of southern Scotland west of Edinburgh in the aftermath of Stirling Bridge. The English garrisons in the south-east were clearly none too secure either.

The Scots did not confine their activities to home, however. On 11 December 1297, Sir Robert Clifford, captain of the Carlisle garrison, in collaboration with other knights of the area, and the bishop of Carlisle, keeper of the castle, made arrangements to strengthen the town’s defences. According to Guisborough, Wallace and his men had already attacked the town, but clearly it was believed that he, or others, would be back; Newcastle had been similarly subjected to Scottish attentions and thus the entire border needed to defend itself.88 The actual numbers subsequently staying at Carlisle did not quite reach the stipulated figure of thirty covered horses and one hundred footsoldiers; this may reflect the fact that those in charge of the defence of the northern counties had to be very careful, when dividing their manpower between the garrisons and expeditionary forces against the Scots, that neither was left short and thus vulnerable to attack. This was a problem faced by the English garrisons within Scotland also.

One expedition against the Scots left at Christmas for Annandale, led by Clifford himself. A force totalling 460 footsoldiers under five constables – presumably raised specially – as well as Clifford’s own retinue of seven knights and sixteen esquires, was thus withdrawn from the defence of the Carlisle area. When it returned a couple of weeks later, a group of one hundred footsoldiers was left north of the Solway ‘as they believed the Scots were coming’.89 Those living immediately south of the border doubtless came to the conclusion during those months that William Wallace could give Edward I a lesson or two in oppression; the vitriol reserved for the Scottish leader by the Lanercost chronicler, particularly, indicates that xenophobia was not restricted to the Scots. Equally, as Lanercost again makes clear, those in the north of England also considered that their government paid far too little attention to protecting them from Scottish attacks.90

So far as the regency government in London was concerned, Stirling Bridge – disaster that it undoubtedly was – did wonders to halt the drift towards civil war as England united in outrage and consternation at this unthinkable defeat. Prince Edward and his advisers, not to mention Surrey himself, were also no doubt keen to undo some of the damage inflicted on the English in Scotland before the king’s return.

Their first reaction was to set about organising a winter campaign which it was initially intended would be led by the prince himself but ended up, unimaginatively, under Surrey. Writs for service on the expedition were issued on 26 October 1297 for the muster at Newcastle on 6 December. The numbers summoned, which totalled nearly thirty thousand, bore little relation to the numbers which actually arrived; equally, although twenty thousand of the total were supposed to be raised from the northern counties, Wales provided the greatest proportion of men (5157) in reality. The North Wales contingent actually missed fulfilling its quota of 2000 by only 61 men, a high turnout for any winter campaign.91 Doubtless, and quite naturally, the men of the northern counties preferred to stay and defend their families and property from Scottish attack.

By 24 December a dilatory twenty constables and nineteen hundred men had arrived at Newcastle from various counties in England. A note attached to the wages account for the period 18 December to 31 January made to Sir Ralph FitzWilliam, captain of the Newcastle garrison and temporarily also commander of this paltry army, states that they were – typically – waiting for Surrey.92

Since so few English magnates had accompanied Edward to Flanders, this at least meant that they were available for the campaign against the Scots. Five hundred horsemen, divided into six groups, ranging in size from thirty to one hundred and thirty, and to be led by the earls of Surrey, Norfolk, Gloucester, Hereford, Warwick and Sir Henry Percy, were paid for by the £7691 16s.8d. contributed primarily by the archbishop and clergy of Canterbury.93

The activities of the receivers, Sir Walter Amersham at Berwick and Sir Richard Abingdon at Carlisle, underpinned this whole exercise since the collection and distribution of hard cash for wages was crucial to the maintenance of the army over this difficult winter period. Nevertheless, by late March, Surrey and Percy, the two most heavily involved in Scottish affairs, had again not been properly paid and money was desperately sought from the clerical tenth in the bishopric of Lincoln.94

The archbishop of York and his clergy also contributed to the war effort with a grant of a fifteenth of clerical property, as would be expected given their proximity to the border, in November 1297. This was to be used ‘. . . when necessary for the defence of the kingdom against our enemies and for the sustenance of Brian FitzAlan, captain of our garrisons of Northumberland and the same garrisons against the Scots rebels’. Wallace’s attacks on the border counties were indeed hitting the English where it hurt most – their pockets.95

By 12 February 1298 the English army had reached Roxburgh, forcing the Scots to abandon their siege and moving on to a similar mission to Berwick only three days later.96 The town, captured by the Scots a few months previously, was duly restored to English control, rendering the castle less of an English oasis in a Scottish desert. The army reached its maximum size, some sixteen thousand men, while at Berwick, but by mid-March the numbers had dropped dramatically to just over three thousand. This was the result of the arrival of fresh orders from the king ordering Surrey to postpone the campaign until Edward returned from Flanders to lead the army personally. Such a decision is hardly surprising: campaigning during the winter season was unlikely to be either popular or successful, victuals were low and Surrey’s qualities of leadership were by now distinctly questionable.97

Edward had also been humiliated on the continent. The carefully constructed network of alliances which included the emperor-elect, Adolf of Nassau, the duke of Brabant and the counts of Bar and Savoy, at a cost of one million pounds, rapidly disintegrated. His own army, largely as a result of the domestic discontent with taxation which had come to a head in 1297, was far too small. Even worse, he had arrived in Flanders in August to find that the French were already well on their way to winning the war. The Flemish towns, who often did not see eye-to-eye with their count, proved troublesome and Count Guy of Flanders himself found his English ally of far less use than the latter’s earlier promises had suggested. All rested on the appearance of Adolf of Nassau and when that failed to happen, Philip of France had certainly won the day. By October 1297, when Edward had surely also heard of Surrey’s defeat at Stirling, negotiations had begun, culminating in the truce of Vyre-Saint-Baron on 9 October. However, the English king was not now free of his continental obligations – that could only happen when at least some of his allies had been paid, which took until March 1298. 1297 had certainly not been a good year for Edward I.98

Given that most, if not all, of the victuals required both by what was left of the English administration in Scotland and the troops on campaign had to come from either England or Ireland, the acquisition of sufficient provisions for men and horses obviously played a vital role in the success or failure of the English in Scotland.

On 26 October 1297 various towns, including York and Newcastle, were ordered to issue proclamations stating that those with victuals for sale for the forthcoming expedition should have them carried by land or sea for purchase at Holy Island or Newcastle. With an eye to the current and vociferous grievances concerning prise – the compulsory seizure of goods for royal activities for less than their market value – prompt payment was promised. On 5 November 1297 further purveyance was ordered in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Cambridge and Huntingdon, and Nottingham.99

The accounts for the purchase and collection of supplies in this regnal year100 are incomplete but the evidence strongly suggests that most of the purveyance came from Yorkshire; as a county greatly affected by events in Scotland, but perhaps not as subject to the full impact of Wallace’s devastating raids as those counties immediately south of the border, this makes sense. As with the muster itself, however, the purveyance did not occur on time and by early December William Fraunk of Grimsby was appointed to hurry the proceedings up. The provisions from Yorkshire did not, in fact, reach the store at Berwick from Hull until 1 March, implying that the army, which was in Scotland by mid-February, faced a dearth of supplies for at least two weeks.101

Not surprisingly, the accounts of the two receivers, Abingdon and Amersham, for this regnal year deal almost exclusively with the winter/ spring campaign led by Surrey, and the defence of the border. Abingdon’s account is not very large, involving a total of just £900. His sources of revenue were those sums collected from the lay ninth levied in Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmorland. His greatest expense in this year was the wages for the garrison at Carlisle, which totalled about £400.102

Amersham, by contrast, was responsible for over ten times the amount of money which passed through the hands of his colleague in the west. The main sources of his income were again the various taxes – the clerical fifth and the lay ninth – granted to the king in response to the threat to the kingdom, primarily from Yorkshire, but also from Northumberland, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Warwickshire. On this occasion he also received the impressive sum of £252 from the customs at Berwick, suggesting that trade had by no means completely dried up in this difficult year, and, in contrast, the pathetic figure of £17 from the rest of its issues.103 It is clear, therefore, that almost all the king’s revenue in the north of England was required either for the defence of these areas or to support operations within Scotland itself.

The major problem for those accounting for Scotland was simply that of raising any revenue to set against the large sums of money sent north. Certainly, the Crown, having acquired supplies effectively at cost price, could recoup some of its expenditure by hiking up the price on these same goods even when selling to other government departments. In the summer of 1298, for example, one quarter of wheat cost around 2s. 4d. when purchased by the Crown; it was then sold on to Amersham at Berwick for a staggering 15s. per quarter, presumably in order to compensate for transport costs.104

In reality, however, since wages were so often in arrears, credit had to be allowed for the purchase of supplies by those on active service and such credit was not always easily redeemed. In addition, the certums and wages paid to Scottish garrison commanders effectively had to be written off by the English exchequer, except for amounts deducted for victuals, since it was still impossible to collect any of the issues of the areas nominally under their jurisdiction. It must have been painfully obvious that England was now saddled with an expensive project which was showing no immediate signs of even partially paying for itself. Certainly Amersham’s account already showed a deficit of £108 16s. 8d. This sum was eventually deducted from his fee as chancellor in 1303.105 The attractions of royal service are sometimes to be wondered at.

The collapse of the Edwardian administration in 1297 was almost as swift and unexpected as the conquest itself had been. However, Edward had been unwise to assume that the capitulation of the Scottish government after the humiliating defeat at Dunbar would be the end of the story; equally, he exhibited a considerable lack of foresight in assuming that the draconian financial measures which he instituted throughout his domains in preparation for the war with France would be construed in the northern kingdom as anything other than the oppressiveness of an illegal regime. It was but a short step to transform that general feeling of resentment into patriotic fervour. The very effectiveness of Cressingham and Ormesby, in particular, in implementing Edward’s demands, together with the lack of commitment to maintaining an impartial and effective judicial system which might benefit the Scots, meant that the new regime had done very little by the spring of 1297 to make itself at all attractive to any section of the Scottish population.

It was also clear that weaknesses already existed within the administration which, once pressure was applied, began to look very serious indeed. Its top lay officials clearly did not relish serving in the north and it cannot be doubted that Surrey’s reluctance, in particular, to take firm action throughout Scotland allowed the situation to degenerate rapidly. The decision to release from prison those Scots, like Alastair of Argyll and Comyn of Badenoch, who might prove more effective in restoring order was made only once it was clear that the actions of Edwardian officials had generally failed to do so; this can only have underlined to these Scottish nobles how important they were to the government of their country, with a corresponding increase in their desire to occupy their pre-conquest positions of authority. They might have accepted such positions from Edward, but the latter had neither the time nor the inclination to bother about Scottish sensibilities over the summer of 1297.

The Scottish nobility were not ready to come out in open revolt yet, but once Andrew Murray and William Wallace had shown what could be achieved when less orthodox military tactics were employed, the rising tide of Scottish success, particularly after Stirling Bridge, began to look convincing. Of course, that was not the end of the story either. Edward I would return and, with his full attention and England’s considerable resources turned towards the Scots, he promised to be a quite different proposition in the field to Cressingham and Surrey. Both sides therefore had their strengths and weaknesses.

The success or failure of English activities in Scotland now fundamentally depended on the effectiveness of Amersham, Abingdon and their subordinates. There is no doubt that their task was a difficult and thankless one, with resources and credit, not to mention their royal master’s patience, often stretched to the limit. The financial threat to any military strategy employed in Scotland was no idle one either: for example, by mid-February 1298 the earls and barons on campaign informed Surrey that they could not remain in the north any longer unless the footsoldiers were paid their wages, without which they could not, of course, buy food. The royal clerks immediately sought to avert the crisis by buying 1000 marks-worth of victuals and other merchandise from English merchants. Although they succeeded, they soon found themselves being sued by the merchants for payment for these goods. It was essential that such men were paid, in order to encourage them to sell to future campaigns, and they soon got their money;106however, the incident illustrates just how stressed the whole system could easily become. The battle for Scotland had only now begun.


1 Scalachronica, p. 17.

2 Though the Comyns do not seem to have participated in the battle at Dunbar, the earl of Buchan had certainly been one of the leaders of the Scottish army in the north of England and they were still undoubtedly directing events: see A. Young, Robert the Bruce’s Rivals: The Comyns, 1212–1314 (East Linton, 1997), p. 257.

3 CDS, iv, p. 448; CDS, ii, p. 177; CDS, ii, no. 1326; E101/364/13; CDS, ii, no. 1403.

4 Guisborough, p. 284; Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 31–2; Barrow, Bruce, p. 75. See Duncan, ‘The Process of Norham’, passim and F. Watson, ‘Settling the Stalemate: Edward I’s peace in Scotland, 1303–5’, passim, for discussions of the efforts made to bestow legality on Edward’s activities vis-à-vis Scotland before 1296.

5 One mark (merk in Scotland) was equal to three-quarters of a pound.

6 Feodera, i, p. 731; CDS., ii, no. 928; CPR, 1292–1301, p. 205.

7 Rot. Scot., i, p. 35.

8 CDS, ii, no. 496; Rot. Scot., i, p. 35.

9 The revenues brought in for the use of the seal on, for example, grants of charters.

10 CDS, ii, no. 853; Bateson, ‘The Scottish King’s Household’, in Miscellany, ii (SHS, 1904) p. 38; CPR, 1292–1301, p. 148.

11 CDS, ii, no. 835; no. 876.

12 Bateson, ‘The Scottish King’s Household’, pp. 18–19; Rot. Scot., i, p. 37.

13 The office of justiciar was revived in England in 1258, at the instigation of the Montfortians, after a lapse of twenty-four years. However, this was not a permanent revival and the main judicial officers under Edward I were the justices: Prestwich, Edward I, pp. 25; 289–92.

14 CDS, ii, no. 853; Rot. Scot., i, p. 27, 30; Bateson, ‘The Scottish King’s Household’, p. 42.

15 See F. Watson, ‘The expression of power in a medieval kingdom: thirteenth-century Scottish castles’ (forthcoming).

16 Two of King John’s creations of 1293, Skye and Lorne, disappeared; Rutherglen seems to have taken on shrieval status independent of Lanark, although there is only one piece of evidence for this arrangement, suggesting that it was short-lived: Rot. Scot., i, pp. 24–28.

17 Ibid., p. 23.

18 CDS, ii, p. 264; Rot. Scot., i, p. 36.

19 CDS, ii, no. 824 (4); Barrow, Bruce, p. 83; Rot. Scot., i, pp. 41, 42.

20 Cruggleton had been inherited, after the death of Roger de Quincy, earl of Winchester, by the Comyns of Buchan. However, John Comyn of Buchan subsequently resigned some of his lands in Galloway to King John in return for others in the north-east; Cruggleton almost certainly formed part of this package and thus escheated to King Edward along with the rest of Balliol’s lands: SP, ii, pp. 254–5; Stevenson, Documents, i, p. 329; R.C. Reid, ‘Cruggleton Castle’, TDGAS, xxxi (1962) pp. 153–4; CDS, ii, no. 1541.

21 Rot. Scot., i, p. 31.

22 Ibid., p. 22.

23 Ibid., pp. 31–2. See R A MacDonald, The Kingdom of the Isles, (East Linton, 1997), pp. 107, 113, 143 for the Stewart earls of Menteith’s interests in the north-west.

24 Rot. Scot., i, p. 36; CPR, 1292–1301, p. 198.

25 Some were described indiscriminately as both keepers and constables, though this usually applied to royal castles, whose keeper was ultimately the king. In private castles, the keeper – the owner – was often non-resident and a constable was therefore required to lead the garrison.

26 Rot. Scot., i, pp. 34, 36, 37. The Trinity and Michaelmas terms are the eighth Sunday after Easter to 8 July and 6 October to 25 November respectively. It is interesting to note that these are the English names for these terms. The Scottish equivalents are Whitsun and Martinmas.

27 Ibid., p. 23; CDS, ii, no. 824 (1), (6). Sir Reginald was perhaps a member of the Bruce contingent which defected to the English side in March 1296 and the office of sheriff of Ayr was thus his reward: see Barrow, Bruce, p. 146 and Rot. Scot., i, p. 23, for Crawford’s association with the Bruces. Twynham is less easy to place. He was named as co-heir to Helewisa Levintone, wife of Eustace Balliol, who was probably King John’s uncle (CDS, ii, no. 35; CDS, i, nos. 1098, 2665); however, it is highly unlikely that a ‘Balliol man’ was given office in a sheriffdom which had formed part of King John’s demesne lands.

28 The extent of Gaelic-speaking among the Scottish élites cannot be ascertained. It seems highly likely, however, that men such as the earl of Carrick, whose mother came from an ancient Celtic family, and James the Steward, who moved in Gaelic-speaking circles, were able to communicate in that language. We can presume, however, that the Edwardian sheriffs generally could not.

29 Prestwich, Edward I, pp. 553–4.

30 T.F. Tout, ‘Medieval Town-planning’, in The Collected Papers of Thomas Frederick Tout (Manchester, 1934), iii, pp. 79–80, 84–5.

31 Parl. Writs, i, pp. 49–50; Tout, ‘Medieval Town-planning’, iii, pp. 85–6.

32 Rot. Scot., i, 4; Prestwich, Documents, p. 100.

33 Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 195–6, 227.

34 Stevenson, Documents, ii, p. 227; CDS, iv, p. 464; p. 484.

35 Prestwich, Documents, 23. In 1264 the chamberlain’s account brought in approximately £5500 as the entire Scottish royal revenue for that year: Duncan, Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom, p. 599. Bar is in modern-day Lorraine, on France’s eastern border during this period.

36 Guisborough, pp. 294, 303.

37 Prestwich, Documents, p. 104.

38 A. Fisher, William Wallace (Edinburgh, 1986), p. 40.

39 Rot. Scot., i, p. 42; Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 222, 226; CCR, 1296–1301, p. 42; Gough, Scotland in 1298, p. 55; Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 369–70.

40 Guisborough, p. 294.

41 Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 183–4.

42 Ibid., pp. 200–3.

43 Ibid., pp. 221–2.

44 Barrow, Bruce, p. 35; CDS, ii, no. 499; Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 194–5.

45 Ibid., pp. 222–4.

46 Ibid., pp. 225–6.

47 CDS, ii, no. 941; Foedera, i, p. 793; CPR, 1292–1301, pp. 306–7.

48 CDS, v, no. 1168; E159/71, m.102.

49 CDS, ii, no. 945.

50 Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 206–7.

51 Rot. Scot., p. 40; A.A.M. Duncan and A.L. Brown, ‘Argyll and the Isles in the earlier Middle Ages’, PSAS, xc (1956–7), pp. 216–7.

52 Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 187–8; CDS, ii, p. 195; Rot. Scot., i, pp. 31, 40; Stevenson, Documents, ii, p. 190. Despite the fact that the two letters from Alastair of Islay to Edward I have been putatively placed by Stevenson in June 1297, the only date mentioned in either was the reference to Alastair’s army going to the Isles after Palm Sunday (7 April 1297). This proves that the rebellion was underway long before Alastair of Argyll was released. The first letter was thus probably written earlier than the second, which indicates that though the latter was not initially involved, he quickly joined the rebellion.

53 Rot. Scot., i, p. 40.

54 It is not clear why he held Glassary, which lies within the sheriffdom of Lorne once held by Alastair of Argyll: APS, i, p. 447. Perhaps the action taken by MacDonald against MacDougall led the Steward to assume that office, as well as trying to hold on to his own office of sheriff of Kintyre.

55 Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 189–90.

56 Rot. Scot., i, p. 40; Stevenson, Documents, ii, p. 187. Cf. MacDonald, The Kingdom of the Isles, pp. 163–7.

57 MacDonald, The Kingdom of the Isles, p. 167; Young, Robert the Bruce’s Rivals: The Comyns, pp. 72, 85; 165 Barrow, Bruce, p. 56.

58 Prestwich, Documents, p. 73.

59 Wyntoun, ii, p. 342; CDS, ii, no. 1597; Hary’s Wallace, i, pp. 34, 39.

60 CDS., ii, no. 894.

61 Ibid., pp. 198, 210.

62 Guisborough, pp. 294, 295–6; Stevenson, Documents, ii, p. 192; Barrow, Bruce, pp. 81–2.

63 Stevenson, Documents, ii, p. 198; Parl. Writs., i, pp. 294–5.

64 CPR, 1292–1301, p. 251; CDS, ii, p. 235.

65 Guisborough, p. 299.

66 Ibid., p. 294.

67 Rot. Scot., i, p. 40; see Prestwich, Edward I, pp. 414–435, for a full account of English opposition to Edward I in 1297; Memo. de Parl., nos. 280, 302.

68 See F. Watson, ‘Edward I in Scotland, 1296–1305’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis (Glasgow, 1991), p. 245.

69 A Young, Robert the Bruce’s Rivals: The Comyns, pp. 163–5.

70 Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 175, 210.

71 Guisborough, p. 297; Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 212, 227.

72 CDS, ii, p. xxx; CDS, iv, no. 1835.

73 CDS, ii, no. 1737.

74 Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 217–8.

75 See Barrow, Bruce, p. 86.

76 Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 195–6.

77 Ibid., pp. 201–2; 218; CCR, 1296–1302, p. 67; CDS, ii, nos. 1054–5; Stevenson, Documents, p. 221.

78 Wyntoun, ii, pp. 343–4.

79 CCR, 1296–1302, p. 63.

80 Guisborough, p. 301.

81 Ibid., p. 300; Lanercost, pp. 190–1;

82 Rot. Scot., i, pp. 49–50; CCR, 1296–1302, p. 132.

83 Stevenson, Documents, pp. 102, 195–6.

84 E159/71, m.108.

85 Stevenson, Wallace Papers., no. xv.

86 Wallace was first described as ‘keeper of the kingdom and leader of the army, in the name of the prince, Lord John, king of Scots, by consent of the community’ on 29 March 1298 [ibid., no. xvi]; Wallace and Murray described themselves as ‘leaders of the army of the kingdom of Scotland and the community of the same kingdom’ in the letter to the German towns.

87 Prestwich, Edward I, p. 479; Stevenson, Documents, ii, p. 232; CDS, iv., no. 1835.

88 E101/6/30, m.3; Guisborough, pp. 304–7.

89 E101/6/30, m.1.

90 Lanercost, pp. 193, 192. Lanercost priory is only about twelve miles from Carlisle and twenty from the border.

91 CPR, 1292–1301, p. 314.

92 E101/6/35, mm.11, 4.

93 Prestwich, Edward I, pp. 424, 478–9; Stevenson, Documents, ii, pp. 255–6; Gough, Scotland in 1298, pp. 64–6.

94 E159/71, m.24; Gough, Scotland in 1298, pp. 79, 82.

95 E159/71, m.108.

96 E101/6/35, m.7.

97 E101/6/35, m.9; Guisborough, pp. 313–5; Prestwich, Edward I, p. 479.

98 Prestwich, Edward I, chapter 15; J. Favier, Philippe le Bel (Paris, 1978) chapter 8.

99 Ibid., pp. 421–2, 427; CCR, 1296–1302, p. 77; Parl. Writs, i, p. 306.

100 The regnal year, by which most official documents are dated, begins on the day on which the king in question ascended the throne. In Edward I’s case, this was 20 November 1272. Thus regnal year 26, the one in question here, ran from 20 November 1297 to 19 November 1298.

101 Stevenson, Documents, ii, p. 239; E101/6/35, m.7; Gough, Scotland in 1298, pp. 1–5.

102 E159/71, m.108; E101/6/30, m.3.

103 E159/71, m.108; E101/6/30, m.2.

104 E101/6/33, m.1.

105 E101/6/35, m.17.

106 Ibid., ii, p. 260.

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