Edward I and Robert the Bruce
From 'A History of the British Nation' by AD Innes, 1912
The capture of [William] Wallace seemed to have removed the last obstacle to the establishment of Edward's supremacy. Balliol was forgotten; Bruce and Comyn of Badenoch, the only possible pretenders, had both come into the king's peace. At last, then, in 1305, Edward, at peace with France, reconciled with his own subjects, victor in his contest with the archbishop, was able to set about the organisation of the Scottish government. A constitution was prepared something after the Welsh precedent. Evidently it was Edward's intention to leave Scottish law and custom unaltered so far as was compatible with the establishment of a strong central government under his own royal control. There was to be no general substitution of English for Scottish authorities after the manner of the Norman Conquest.
An administrative system was to be set up which would probably have proved excellent if it could only have won acceptance from the Scottish people; if also the English who were planted in Scotland, forming necessary garrisons, should endeavour to make themselves acceptable to the natives. While revolt was leaderless Scotland might have time to accustom itself to the new order, to recognise its merits, and to settle down into a peaceable union with the southern kingdom. But these things were not to be.
Robert the Bruce
If a leader appeared it was still probable that the hatred of the English burnt into the Scots by recent events would rouse them to another effort to fling off the foreign supremacy. And the leader appeared immediately in the person of Robert Bruce. In 1306 the startling intelligence was brought to Edward that Bruce had met, in the church of the Grey Friars of Dumfries, John Comyn, who was temporarily acting for Edward as Lieutenant of Scotland, had quarrelled with him, and slain him before the high altar.
Apart even from the sacrilege, the deed would have been unpardonable; and Bruce had left himself no alternative save to make a desperate bid for the crown of an independent Scotland or to die ignominiously as a traitor. Probably he had already made up his mind to the former course before he slew Comyn, with whom he had sought the meeting in order to bring him over to his own cause. At any rate the deed was done, and Robert, the vacillating turncoat of the past, perforce transformed into the champion of Scottish independence, redeemed the sins and faults of his youth as the indomitable and magnanimous hero who fought and won against enormous odds the victory of Scottish freedom.
Comyn was hardly dead when Bruce got himself crowned by a few uncompromising supporters, declared himself King of Scotland, and proclaimed a war of liberation. It began unpromisingly enough, for the king was promptly placed under the ban of the Church, and the whole of the Comyn kin was roused against him.
The few bold adherents who at once collected were routed by a superior force at Methven. He himself became a fugitive; two of his brothers were captured and beheaded, and his wife and daughter also fell into the hands of the English. Bruce passed the winter in hiding, but with the spring he reappeared in his own earldom of Carrick, where he began an energetic system of raiding diversified by hairbreadth escapes; while Edward was collecting a large army in the north of England to crush Scottish resistance once and for all. A victory in the open field at Loudon Hill over an English force under Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, brought new adherents to the adventurer. But Edward's own army of conquest was on the point of crossing the Border when the great king died at Burgh-on-Sands. His bones were carried back to Westminster, and his tomb bears the significant inscription, Malleus Scotorum," The Hammer of the Scots."
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 views may be controversial by modern standards, particularly his attitudes towards other cultures and races, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.