Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the Lion: Hence also, the chief of the heralds in Scotland is termed Lion King at Arms.

}

A.D. ALEXANDER the SECOND.-Alexander succeeded his fa1214. ther, and was crowned at Scone, in the seventeenth year of his age. An insurrection in Moray, headed by Donald Macwilliam, was quickly suppressed. According to the savage practice of a barbarous age, the rebel's head was triumphantly brought to the young monarch. A civil war between John and his barons distracted the English nation. The malecontents solicited the assistance of Alexander, and promised him the surrender of Carlisle and the investiture of Northumberland.

The Scots advanced to Norham Castle; which they besieged without success. Eager to wreak his vengeance on the disaffected barons and their Scottish allies, John desolated Yorkshire and Northumberland. His soldiers tortured the inhabitants, to extort a discovery of their concealed wealth. They then penetrated into Scotland; burned Dunbar and Haddington; but they were obliged to retrace their steps, for want of sustenance. In their retreat, A.D. Į they burned the priory of Coldingham and town of Ber1216. wick. Alexander imitated this fury of devastation, and wasted the Western marches with fire and sword.

A body of Gallowaymen, having burned the monastery of Holmculhun in Cumberland, were swallowed up by the river Eden on their return. The accident was represented as a judgment for their sacrilege, and the rest of those ferocious plunderers were dismissed from the army.

Lewis, the son of the King of France, landed a body of troops in England, for the purpose of cooperating with the discontented English, and the Scots who had engaged to support them. The confederates had pledged themselves not to make a separate peace; but the French having suffered a defeat at Lincoln, judged it pru dent to save themselves, and deserted their allies. The Scots were consequently compelled to make a precipitate retreat, and to seek reconciliation with the See of Rome, to avert the hor rors of excommunication. The Papal legate was appointed arbiter of the differences between the Scots and English. The King of Scots married Joan, Henry's sister; and Henry undertook A.D. to provide suitable matches for the two sisters of Alex1221. ander.

An insurrection in Argyll led the King thither with an army. The rebels purchased forgiveness, and gave hostages. Several of their leaders, despairing of pardon, fled from the King's resentment. Their lands were divided among his followers.

About the same time, Adam Bishop of Caithness was murdered and burnt by the men of his diocese, for rigorously exacting his tithes. The punishment of the delinquents was rigorous and cruel. The King instantly repaired to Caithness, and executed four hundred of the suspected murderers. The sequel was an outrage upon justice and humanity: The sufferers' children were emasculated, that the race of such miscreants might be utterly extinguished. The Earl of Caithness, who was implicated in the A.D. transaction, was murdered by his servants. Moray became 1229. again the scene of tumult. One Gillespie burned some wooden castles and fired Inverness. He at first successfully resisted the King; but he was afterwards defeated and slain by Buchan, the Justiciary of Scotland.

The Gallowaymen, irritated by domestic strife, burst into Scot land with merciless fury. In leading an army against them, the King had nearly perished in a morass. The insurgents were reduced, and peace was restored. Alexander's Queen having died, A.D. he married Mary, the daughter of a great lord in Picardy. 1239. She bore him a son, who was named Alexander. A war was nearly kindled between the Scots and English. Alexander A.D. marched to the Borders with an army of a hundred thou1244. sand men. This unanswerable argument quickly restored

peace.

A.D.

1249.

The King died in one of the Western islands, in the fifty-first year of his age and the thirty-fifth of his reign. He was interred in the abbey of Melrose. Alexander was one of the wisest princes that ever reigned in Scotland. His government displayed magnanimity and an ardent love of justice, as it was then understood; and he was revered after death, as" the friend of the poor, the shield of the church, and the restorer of his coun try's liberty."

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER VI.

Alexander the Third. Alliance and transactions with England. A regency. The Norwegians invade Scotland—are defeated-cede the Hebrides to the Scots. Spirit of the Scottish clergy. Misfortunes and death of Alexander. His character. Margaret. A regency. Queen's death.

A. D.

ALEXANDER the THIRD.-Alexander was

only eight 1249. S years of age when he succeeded his father. Some of the Scottish counsellors objected against his coronation: "The day appointed for that ceremony was," they said, "unlucky;" and the prince had not been knighted,-which in that age was deemed indispensable. William Comyn, Earl of Menteith, had the address to supersede the prejudices of superstition, and to maintain an appearance of reverence for the usages of chivalry. He represented the danger of a delay, as the King of England had solicited a mandate from the Pope, declaring, that Alexander being his liegeman, ought not to be anointed or crowned without his permission. Comyn therefore proposed that the Bishop of St Andrew's should perform the ceremonies of knighthood and inauguration. To this artful proposition all assented. The coronation-oath was read in Latin, and expounded in French. On this occasion, a Highland bard, dressed in a scarlet robe, repeated, on his knees, and in the Gaelic language, the genealogy of Alexander, from Fergus the first king of Scotland.

With Alexander commenced a series of royal minorities which occasioned much misery to Scotland during several centuries. The King had been betrothed, when an infant, to the princess MarA. D. Įgaret of England. Their nuptials were now celebrated at 1251. S York. The princess's portion was five thousand merks. On this occasion, Alexander did homage to Henry for his English possessions. The latter insidiously demanded homage for the kingdom of Scotland; but the King, with prudence and resolution superior to his years, replied, " That he had been invited to York to marry the Princess of England, not to treat of affairs of state; and that he could not take so important a step without the concurrence of the national council."

During the King's minority, the intrigues of interest and the effervescence of ambition blasted the national prosperity. The Comyns, a potent family, had held the chief sway in Scotland for some years. By Henry's influence, they were supplanted by another fac

tion, devoted to his interest. An instrument was drawn up, vesting the government of the kingdom in fifteen persons during the King's minority. The crown rents, wards, and escheats, were to be at their disposal; but the royal castles were to remain in the power of the present possessors.

A. D.

Alexander and his Queen visited London; where Hen1256. Śry renewed to his son-in-law the grant of the honour of Huntingdon. Another change of the regency took place. The Comyns, aided by a faction of ecclesiastics, seized the persons of the King and Queen, and dispersed the partisans of England. They concluded an alliance offensive and defensive with the Welsh, who were then in arms against Henry.

}

The political convulsions in an ignorant and barbarous age are sudden and violent. A new regency, comprehending a mixture of the contending factions, was formed; which restored tranquilA.D.lity. The King and Queen of Scots again visited London. 1260. To calm the apprehensions of their jealous subjects, Henry made oath that he would not, contrary to their inclination, detain either the King, the Queen, or their children, should they have issue during their stay. The young Queen soon after bore Alexander a daughter; who was named Margaret.

A.D. Haco King of Norway threatened Scotland with an inva1262.sion;-to prevent which, the King of England interposed his good offices. In the succeeding year, the Norwegians landed at Largs in Cunningham. The Scots attacked and defeated them. Their fleet was dispersed and shattered by a storm. Haco, disgraced and dispirited, retreated to Orkney, to deplore his misfortunes and die.

A. D.

}

This decisive victory brought to a close a very tedious 1266. negotiation for the purchase of the Western Islands. Magnus, the successor of Haco, consented to relinquish them, with all his rights and claims, in consideration of four thousand merks and a yearly tribute of one hundred. As many of the Scandinavian inhabitants as chose, were allowed to leave the islands, with their effects. The Orkney and Shetland islands remained to Norway. The cession of the Hebrides proved a valuable acquisition to the Scots: It tended to exclude foreign invasion and to prevent domestic troubles.*

The following historical sketch of the Western Islands may not be unacceptable. When the Romans circumnavigated Britain, they

A civil war arose in England. John Comyn, John de Baliol, and Robert Bruce, led a numerous body of Scotsmen to Henry's aid. They were involved in his defeat, at Lewes; but they regained their liberty after the battle of Evesham. From this period, Alexander was employed for several years in maintaining the indepen

saw rather than explored the Hebrides. The Roman historians give very imperfect descriptions of them, Ptolemy's information was derived from the Roman officers who visited them.. Their original name was Ebudæ or Hebudæ. The modern name is supposed to be a slight deviation from the ancient, from the carelessness of a transcriber changing the u into ri. The Hebrides must have been colonized from the opposite shores. At the period when the Romans abdicated Britain, the inhabitants of those isles must have been very few, owing to the barrenness of the soil, the humidity of the climate, and the want of commerce. They were orginally governed, like Caledonia, by many chieftains, connected only by the slight ties of a common language and religion, and of similar customs and habits.. Unable to resist a foreign enemy, they be came a prey, during the early ages, to piratical invaders. The Hebrides seem to have been under the dominion of the Scots or Picts at an early period. Brudens, the Pictish king-or, as some say, Conal the King of Scots-made Columba the saint a present of the island of Iona, where he could instruct, and whence he could send out his missionaries to propagate the Christian faith through the wide extent of the neighbouring islands. In the end of the ninth century, a number of freebooters, expelled from Norway, took shelter in the Hebrides; whence they made descents upon their native country. To punish their temerity, Harold the Light-haired pursued them to their retreat, and made a rapid conquest of the Hebrides. Ketil, one of his generals, whom he had left as viceroy, rebelled, and erected the standard of independence. The kings of Nor way, exempted from their piratical visitations, disregarded those nominal subjects. The Scots and Picts were not sufficiently incorporated to have leisure for distant conquests..

For some centuries, the Hebrides were governed by a chief who resided in Man, and assumed the title of king. In the end of the eleventh century, during the usurpation of Donald Bane, the King of Norway resumed his ancient claim as superior of those isles, and appointed a viceroy. Upon assuming his office, that officer paid ten merks of gold; but made no other pecuniary acknowledgment during life; and that nominal subjection continued until they were permanently ceded to the Scots.

These new allies were, however, for a long time rather turbulent neighbours, and were the scourge of the Northern part of the kingdom. Their descents were like the devastations of a tempest, and gave the Scottish monarchs full employment. Even until the act of 1748, which abolished heritable jurisdictions, the great Macdonald, Lord of the Isles, often kept the neighbouring country in a state of alarm.

« PreviousContinue »