For a hundred years after the abrogation of the treaty of Falaise Scotland prospered, and had no serious collision with her southern neighbour. English kings had from time to time formally claimed the fealty of which the three Scottish kings carefully evaded any formal acknowledgment. After the accession of Edward I, Alexander III in 1274, on the occasion of the coronation, very definitely rendered homage only for his English lordships.

Four years later Edward again required Alexander to do homage, and in respect of the details the contemporary English and Scottish chroniclers are not in precise agreement. It is clear, however, that homage for the Scottish Crown was not explicitly included in the form of the oath which was taken by Alexander's proxy, Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick; while the Scottish chronicler affirms that it was explicitly excluded.

Edward, on the other hand, explicitly accepted the homage, reserving the right to claim homage for Scotland. Evidently, therefore, the whole question still stood precisely where it had stood at all times except during the fifteen years while the treaty of Falaise was in force.

The Maid of Norway
Alexander lived and the kingdom prospered until 1286, when the king was killed by a fall from his horse. The sole surviving heir of his body was his very youthful granddaughter, Margaret, the Maid of Norway, the child of his daughter who had married King Eric and had died herself when little Margaret was born. She had been formally acknowledged as heir, and a regency was appointed to carry on the government until the child should be brought from Norway.

Such a state of affairs was eminently conducive to the formation of parties among the nobility, since at any moment the succession to the throne might become an open question. Edward saw his opportunity, and suggested a judicious and peaceful union of the Crowns by the marriage of Margaret to his own youthful heir, Edward of Carnarvon, an arrangement which promised to be satisfactory.

The Treaty of Brigham
The treaty of Brigham was signed in 1290, by which it was agreed that if the marriage took place the laws and liberties of Scotland should be maintained. If heirs failed, the kingdom was to go to its 'natural heir' and was to remain free and separate, saving the rights of the King of England.

The little queen was despatched from Norway, but was landed in the Orkneys only to die. The law of inheritance was exceedingly vague. In England itself a hundred years before, and in Normandy, it had been held that Richard's youngest brother stood nearer to the throne than the child of an intervening brother.

Claimants to the throne
In Scotland it was possible to hark back to Celtic custom, and argue that even the vague feudal rules of succession did not apply to the Crown. No fewer than thirteen claimants now came forward, each asserting some sort of title to the succession. Of these only four counted: Robert Bruce, Earl of Annandale, John Balliol, Hastings, and Comyn of Badenoch. All these were descended in the female line from David of Huntingdon, brother of William the Lion; and all were of Norman families holding lordships in England as well as in Scotland. Balliol claimed as the grandson of David's eldest daughter. Comyn's claim through the same grandmother could not stand against Balliol's, but he also had a claim as descending from Donalbain, the brother of Malcolm Canmore. He, however, withdrew from the competition. Bruce claimed as the son of David's second daughter, and therefore as standing nearer to the throne than the grandson of the eldest daughter. Hastings claimed through the third daughter, but could only maintain that the kingdom should be divided among the descendants of the three sisters instead of going to the representative of one of them.

Edward as arbitrator
The magnates appealed to the King of England to act as arbitrator. Edward agreed, but on condition, as he was master of the situation, that all parties should acknowledge his overlordship. The magnates, faced with a prospect not only of civil war, but of a forcible assertion of his own claims by Edward in the event of their refusal, accepted the situation. While the arbitration was proceeding Edward was to hold certain castles, and was to remain in possession until the award settled who the new king was to be.

A strong committee of investigation, mainly Scottish in its composition, was appointed, and in course of time arrived at what seems the most obvious conclusion, that Balliol's claim was the strongest. He was accordingly crowned, and did homage for the Scottish kingdom.

The Scots had probably assumed that Edward would be content with the formal acknowledgment of the suzerainty which all his predecessors had claimed and none had attempted to enforce. Neither the magnates in general nor the competitors in particular can be greatly blamed for yielding to Edward's demand; and most of the Norman barons in Scotland, being in any case feudatories of Edward in respect of estates in England, had no inherent objection to recognising him as supreme overlord in Scotland as well.

But when Edward made it evident that the overlordship was not to be a mere formality at all, the situation was changed. Appeals were carried from Scotland to be decided by the overlord in England, and Edward sum­moned feudal levies from Scotland to aid in his projected wars in France. Balliol was a feeble person, with no capacity for asserting himself. Two years after he became king the Scots virtually deposed him, and set up a Council of government, something after the fashion of the Provisions of Oxford; while they repudiated Edward's claims, forced Balliol to the same course, and entered upon negotiations with Philip IV.

Edward invades Scotland
Edward summoned Balliol to appear before him as a recalcitrant vassal; and early in 1296, just after the Model Parliament, he appeared in arms on the Scottish border. Then, since Balliol did not present himself in answer to his summons, he fell upon Berwick and subjected its inhabitants to a massacre. Balliol renounced his allegiance, and Edward marched through Scotland, meeting with little resistance. In the summer Balliol surrendered, and was adjudged to have forfeited the kingdom, which by feudal law reverted to the overlord; exactly as a short time before Philip IV had declared Gascony to be forfeited to the French Crown.

Edward proclaimed king
There should be no new King of Scotland; a hint from Bruce, that his own title might now be recognised, was waved aside. Edward himself was to be king, and would govern through his own officers. He appointed Earl Warenne his Lieutenant, and Hugh Cressingham Treasurer. Nearly every prominent person in Scotland took the oath of fealty, and Edward withdrew to England to devote his whole attention to the Flanders expedition.

This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's point of view may not be currently accepted by modern historians, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.

Prehistory - Roman Britain - Dark Ages - Medieval Britain - The Tudor Era - The Stuarts - Georgian Britain - The Victorian Age