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Scottish Wars of Independence 1296 ~ 1357

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Post #1 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 05:53 AM

I'm opening a new topic here on the Scottish Wars of Independence -- a subject that I'm rather familiar with; and which I've been lobbying First Legion for years to do as one of their high-level 54mm/60mm ranges.


The intention is to interlace a series of essays, pictures and extracts from books and other various sources, with suggestions for further reading -- both Factual and Historical Fiction.


As with so much of Scottish history prior to around the 16th Century, it's difficult to separate truth from legend. So much of our records were destroyed due to successive waves of invasions by Irish Freebooters, Norse Vikings, the early Plantagenet Kings of England - even the French forces commanded by Mary of Guise (mother of Mary Queen of Scots) got in the act during the early 1500's, and of course many, many, Church records were sadly destroyed during the Reformation. So you have to rely on ballads, verse and works from the likes of John Barbour and an obscure poet called Blind Harry, plus the old oral traditions handed down by word of mouth. All of which are open to embellishment of course.
These are wiki entries and are open to all that suggests in the way of accuracy, but they do lead on to other and better links.
This is a particulary good overview;


I'll follow this up with another couple of posts later today.




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Post #2 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 07:04 AM

Black Agnes of Dunbar


Lady Agnes Randolph was called "Black Agnes" because of her dusky complexion and dark hair.

Her fierce defense against a determined foe added considerable luster to the nickname. Her story has been long celebrated in song and verse by those who know the history behind the legend.


Although not of Royal Scottish blood herself, she did have royal connections. Her mother was Isabel Stewart, a cousin of the High Steward of Scotland, Walter. This Walter Stewart had married Marjorie Bruce, whose son became Robert II, the first of the Stewart monarchs of Scotland. Sir Thomas Randolph, her father, was the 1st Earl of Moray, a nephew of Robert the Bruce, and one of the famous heroic figures from the Wars of Independence.
When she came of age in 1320, Lady Agnes married Patrick Dunbar, 9th Earl of Dunbar and March.
Dunbar castle was the formidable fortress of the Earls of March, and considered to be the key to Scotland on the southeast border. Built on rock stacks that projected out into the sea, the place was reckoned nearly impregnable and what's left of the ruins are still an imposing sight today.




On January 13, 1338, an English army commanded by William Montague, the Earl of Salisbury, arrived outside the gates of Dunbar castle. Patrick Dunbar was with the main Scottish army to the west, and his wife Lady Agnes had been left behind as chatelaine. No doubt Salisbury thought this would be an easy victory. He was considered one of the best and ablest commanders of his day. Now the story begins to take shape - a moment in history - and a woman of which the writer Sir Walter Scott, declared;
"From the record of Scottish heroes, none can presume to erase her."

The lady simply refused to hand over the castle, and has been attributed as saying in response to the Earl's request to surrender;
"Of Scotland's King I haud my hoose, he pays me food and fee,”
“And I will keep my guid auld hoose, while my hoose will keep me."



She had only a handful of men left by her husband, but Lady Agnes shut the castle gates. Whatever the cost, she was determined to stick it out rather than meekly acquiesce to the English enemy.
And so the Earl of Salisbury began his engagement with catapults, which hurled great rocks and lead shot at the walls. When this phase of the campaign was over, Lady Agnes had her maids dress in their Sunday best. Led by their mistress to the ramparts, the women boldly dusted the marks of battle from the walls.




Lady Agnes would not only thwart Salisbury's plans, but she intended to do so with as much insult toward the Earl as possible.

But Salisbury had an ace up his sleeve. He summoned his secret weapon - a mighty battering ram on wheels nicknamed “The Sow” and roofed over to protect the soldiers who rolled it right up to the gate. But Lady Agnes had something up her sleeve as well, and it wasn't a silk lace hanky. She had previously ordered a great big massive boulder (one of those which Salisbury had used against the castle) to be saved for just such a contingency. At her signal, the boulder was dropped over the walls. It struck the roof of the battering ram, smashing it into smithereens, and causing the enemy to flee for their lives. As they ran, Black Agnes jeered at them from high atop the castle walls.



Twice burned, the Earl was nevertheless determined to do whatever it took to bring the castle and its formidable lady to their knees - metaphorically speaking. He changed his plans, thinking that perhaps intrigue might suit his purposes better than brute force.
Salisbury attempted to bribe the guard who watched the main gate, offering the man a substantial fortune if he would either leave the gate unlocked, or somehow ensure his army could enter without complication. The guard appeared to accept the loot but what the Earl didn't know was that he and Lady Agnes were in cahoots.
The plot called for Salisbury and a small group of English soldiers to enter the castle at a certain time. At the fateful hour, observing that the gate had been opened, the Earl led his forces onward. Upon reaching the gate, Salisbury was overtaken by one of his men, named Copeland. As soon as Copeland (who had been mistaken for the Earl), got inside the gate, the portcullis clanged shut, trapping him in the castle....

Black Agnes observed all this from the ramparts. As the roundly defeated Salisbury went back to his encampment, she sneered and mocked him;
"Fare thee well, Montague, I meant that you should have supped with us tonight, and support us in upholding the castle from the English!"

Winter passed into spring and the siege continued.



One day, when the Earl was riding around the castle with his second-in-command, he was spotted by Lady Agnes, who saw a chance to end matters there and then. She called upon one of her archers. The arrow barely missed Salisbury, who clapped heels to his horse's sides and rode hell-for-leather out of range. His second was not so lucky. The missile went straight into his chest, penetrating three layers of mail and a thick leather gambeson, killing him stone dead. The Earl was heard to comment sarcastically, “ Love-shafts from Black Agnes go straight to the heart!"

Having completely surrounded Castle Dunbar with his forces, Salisbury thought he might just starve out the defenders. Their supplies were running low. The Earl began to sniff victory in the air. However, help for the defenders finally came from the sea when the heroic Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie arrived with men and supplies in two boats and entered the castle via a half-submerged concealed doorway.




It's said that the following morning Agnes sent a freshly baked loaf and some fine wine to the English commander with her compliments, and loudly proclaimed the gift to all within earshot. Another victory for Black Agnes..!!



In desperation Salisbury sent for her brother John Randolph, the Earl of Moray who had previously been captured and was a prisoner of the English. He was brought to within sight of the castle and forced by Salisbury to call to Agnes to surrender the castle or he would be hanged.
Undaunted, she simply pointed out that should her brother be killed, a brother who had no children or heirs - then she, herself, would inherit his lands and titles. Salisbury, believing Black Agnes' greed was greater than her love for a sibling, was foiled once more and in complete frustration he sent Moray back to his prison cell.



As a side note, the Earl of Moray died in 1347 without issue, leaving all his wealth and title to his sister - the heroic Black Agnes!

The siege continued for five months more, with Agnes holding the upper hand and mocking the English at every turn. Finally, Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie got into the castle again – this time with reinforcements of men-at-arms.
Once within the walls, he mustered the lady's forces and joined them with his own. Ramsay, with Agnes riding alongside, then led a surprise attack through the main gate, which sent the English scattering in all directions.




Disheartened by this bold maneuver, and probably tired of having to listen to Black Agnes' mocking commentary, the weary Earl accepted a truce. On June 10, 1338, he ordered his forces to withdraw, leaving Lady Agnes once more in sole possession of her castle. As he marched away, Salisbury supposedly composed a song about the lady who had defeated him;
"She kept a stir in the tower and trench, that brawling, boisterous Scottish wench,”
“Came I early, came I late I found Black Agnes at the gate."



With fortitude, courage and iron determination, Agnes of Dunbar had kept one of Scotland’s key defenses out of English hands. Outnumbered, outgunned, facing starvation and worse, she never considered that surrender was an option. She held out to the bitter end, (bitter for the Earl of Salisbury, anyway), with admirable panache.


Lady Agnes died in 1369, leaving behind two sons - George, 10th Earl of Dunbar and March, and John, 3rd Earl of Moray.
Both these gents shall feature in a "Battle of Otterburn 1388" diorama that I’ve been considering for some time now.

Meanwhile, I might just have a "Black Agnes" vignette completed later this year.
Time will tell, as usual.


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Post #3 Guest_Spitfrnd_*

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 10:17 AM

I love this story Harry.  I think it would make a great range and I hope you get your wish.  Of course we both know how well our appeals work with Matt but who can say.  In any case, I very much look forward to that diorama.  Do you have your Agnes picked yet?

Post #4 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 10:52 AM

I love this story Harry.  I think it would make a great range and I hope you get your wish.  Of course we both know how well our appeals work with Matt but who can say.  In any case, I very much look forward to that diorama.  Do you have your Agnes picked yet?

Oh yes - I have Agnes of Dunbar picked out all right Bill. Just need some time to paint her and her companions.


Post #5 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 11:20 AM

With slight changes -- this post is almost entirely based on


written by Nigel Tranter.




It's late 1306. The Bruce and his remaining handful of loyal companions had been hiding out in the Hebridean Islands after the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Methven and are now returned to the Scottish Mainland. Holed up in the wild Galloway country, they've just been joined by a force of 40 men-at-arms granted by the King's cousin Christina of Carrick -- the most support she can raise from her small lands.




The King's favorite brother, Nigel Bruce, was taken prisoner at Kildrummy Castle some weeks ago, dragged all the way south to Berwick and then hung, drawn and quartered on Longshank's orders. Sir Robert Boyd, one of Wallace's Veteran Guerrilla Captains has just told the King of the capture and execution of two more of his brothers -- Thomas and Alexander Bruce -- and now he has even more dire news.


“Sire,” Boyd said at length, his normally strong voice uncertain. “I have still more to tell.”

Bruce strode on, set-faced. He might not have heard.

“Sire, it concerns your ladies. Her Grace, Elizabeth the Queen. The Princess Marjory. Your sisters Mary and Christian. All the women of your household.

The King stopped in his tracks.

“They, they are not … not slain,” Boyd went on hurriedly, almost gabbling for so slow and deliberate a speaker. “The Queen is sent, a prisoner, to Holderness Castle on the Humber. To be held close. Alone. The child taken from her …”


“Edward does that! To Elizabeth? His own god-daughter, whom he claims to love?”


“Yet that is the best of it, Sire. Hear me. Marjory, the child — she is sent to London. Alone. To the Tower. Not to be spoken to by anyone. There to be hung in a cage. On the outer walls of the Tower. For all to gaze at. Like an animal. In the open. A cage, of timber and iron.”




“What …!!??” That was a strangled cry.


“The Lady Mary, your sister , also. She to be hung in a similar cage. On the walls of Roxburgh Castle. Day and night. In cold and heat.

Isabel the Countess of Buchan likewise, she who crowned you at Scone .... 




.... she is to be hung in a cage on the walls of Berwick ....” The knight’s voice tailed away.




Bruce was staring at the other unseeing, his features working strangely. Then he turned to stride on, at something near to a run; and when Boyd would have hurried with him, flung round and pushed him away, violently. He stalked on alone up that twisting climbing path, not a word spoken.

“The Lady Christian, Countess of Mar,” Sir Robert called after him desperately, as though he must at all costs be quit of the last of his terrible news. “Your other sister. To be confined to a nunnery, forever …”


There was no sign from the King. Boyd turned and held the others back, his awful duty done at last. But presently they caught up with Bruce, at the edge of the wide and deep stream guarding their refuge.

Expressionless the King turned to Boyd, Sir Gilbert Hay and the Lady Christina of Carrick, as they came up.




“Cousin — let me carry you across this stream,” he said levelly. “The rest, follow exactly where I tread. A foot wrong, and you will be swept away. Lead each horse with great care. It is like a causeway, smooth rock, and slippery. And it is not straight.”

That sounded almost like a child’s learned lesson repeated. He picked up the young woman in his arms, and now she found nothing to say to him, in the face of that granite-like sternness of expression.


He stepped into the swirling water with her, and waded across with steady deliberate pacing, counting the steps until making a dog’s-leg bend two-thirds of the way over. Setting his burden down wordlessly, at the far bank, he paused, to watch the progress of the others.

Lady Christina exchanged glances with Sir Gilbert Hay.




Eyeing the Bruce, Hay thought that he had never seen a face so abruptly and direly changed. It was as though the living flesh had been overlaid and cast in hard, unyielding bronze, the once lively eyes hooded and dull-glazed. No man there sought to catch those eyes.





When all were across the hazard of the torrent, Bruce led on slantwise uphill, away from the water, to skirt the foot of the crags, amongst the rock-falls and screes. For perhaps a quarter mile more they climbed , until they came to a single Highlandman standing guard beside a great boulder. Beyond was a sort of re-entrant in the cliffs, with a scooped dip before it and at the foot, the yawning mouth of a cave. There was no room here for the horses, and Hay took them, and the men-at-arms, down to a hidden green hollow nearby, amongst gorse-bushes and scattered hawthorns.


Bruce ushered his principal guests into the cave. Behind the lady, he paused, turning to Boyd.

“Cages, you said? In the open air? On walls? In winter? For a 12-year-old child! And women!” He spoke as though he used a foreign language, carefully, without intonation. “I did not mishear?”




“Cages, Sire. High on the outer walls of London Tower, Roxburgh and Berwick Castles.”

Sir Robert Boyd, hard-bitten ruthless soldier, raised his eyes to his monarch’s face .... and quickly dropped them again.

They went inside.



To be continued....

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Post #6 Guest_Spitfrnd_*

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 11:37 AM

What a royal bastard, no pun intended, Edward was.

Post #7 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 12:09 PM

What a royal bastard, no pun intended, Edward was.

And yet at one time, Edward I of England was held to be the epitome of chivalry. He'd been on Crusade to the Holy Land, taking his first wife Queen Eleanor, with him, and had saved his father's throne at the Battle of Lewes.


Okay, this thread isn't intended to be in chronological order and I'm going to jump around from story to story, book to book, source to source.


From Wiki;


Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan (probably died 1313–14) was a significant figure in the Wars of Scottish Independence.


She was the daughter of Donnchadh III, Earl of Fife, and Johanna de Clare, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford. She was married to John Comyn, Earl of Buchan and thus was the Countess of Buchan. [HARRY] The Earl of Buchan was the uncle of John, the Red Comym.

After Robert the Bruce killed the Red Comyn, Lord of Badenoch at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, the Earl of Buchan joined the English side in the Scottish Wars of Independence. Isabella took the contrary view.


According to tradition, the ceremony of crowning the monarch was performed by a representative of Clan MacDuff, but Isabella arrived in Scone the day after the coronation of Robert the Bruce in March 1306. However, the Bruce agreed to be crowned for a second time the day after, as otherwise some would see the ceremony as irregular, not being performed by a MacDuff.



Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven in June 1306, so he sent Isabella and his female relatives north, but they were betrayed to the English by the Earl of Ross. Edward I of England ordered her sent to Berwick-upon-Tweed with these instructions:



"Let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of doors in the open air at Berwick, that both in life and after her death, she may be a spectacle and eternal reproach to travellers."



She was imprisoned in this cage for four years, then moved to the Carmelite friary at Berwick. This was not necessarily a humanitarian move; it is suggested that by this stage Bruce was gaining support, his female relatives were potentially valuable hostages, and the English did not want them to die of ill-treatment. The last clear mention of her is being transferred again in 1313, her eventual fate is uncertain. Most of Bruce's female relatives returned to Scotland when they were exchanged for English nobleman captured after the Battle of Bannockburn, but there is no mention of her in the records, so she had probably died by then.

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Post #8 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 09 May 2014 - 07:55 AM

Historical fiction written as something along the lines of a “bodice ripper”.

Not absolutely atrocious, but not all that great either. Possibly a reasonable introduction to the wider events though.







In 1290, Scotland is without a king. Two families - the Bruces and the Balliols - vie for the throne.

Robert the Bruce is in love with Elizabeth de Burgh, the daughter of the Earl of Ulster and adherent of the ruthless Longshanks, King of England. In order to marry her and not give up his chances of someday becoming King of Scots, Robert must abandon his rebel ways and bide his time as Longshanks' vassal.

But Edward Prince of Wales, Longshanks' heir, doesn't trust the opportunistic Scotsman and vows to one day destroy him. While quietly plotting his rebellion, Robert is betrayed by one of his own and must flee Longshanks' vengeance.

Aided by the unlikely brilliance of the soft-spoken young nobleman, James Douglas, Robert battles for his throne. Victory, though, is never certain and Robert soon learns that keeping his crown may mean giving up that which he loves most - his beloved Elizabeth.








One day. One battle. Bannockburn, 1314.

The rise of Robert the Bruce. The vengefulness of James Douglas. And the ruin of Edward II.

Robert the Bruce has known nothing but hardship since seizing Scotland's crown. Parted from his wife and daughter and forced to flee through the Highland wilderness, he struggles to unite a kingdom divided by centuries old blood feuds. The price, however, must be paid in lives and honor.

Falling to temptation, Robert's only means of redemption ― and to one day win his wife Elizabeth back ― is to forgive those who have wronged him. One by one, Robert must win back Scotland's clans and castles. The one man who can help him purge the land of English tyranny is the cunning young nobleman, James 'the Black' Douglas, who seeks vengeance on those who took both his inheritance and his father's life.

With the death of Longshanks, Edward II ascends to the throne of England. His first act as king is to recall the banished Piers Gaveston. Too soon, Edward learns that he cannot protect the one he loves most and still preserve his own life and crown. To those who demand the ultimate sacrifice, he must relinquish all power. To have his revenge, he must do what his father never believed him capable of ― defeat Robert the Bruce on the field of battle.








In the dawn of a kingdom, loyalties and lies collide. The truth will change England and Scotland forever.

In the triumphant aftermath of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce faces unfamiliar battles. His wife Elizabeth, held captive in England for eight long years, has finally returned home to Scotland. With his marriage in ruin and hopes for an heir quickly fading, Robert vows to fulfill an oath from long ago - one which will not only bind his daughter to a man she does not love, but challenge the honor of his most trusted knight, James Douglas.

While Ireland falls to the Scots, King Edward II of England must contend with quarrelsome barons. Hugh Despenser is the one man who can give him both the loyalty and love he so desperately craves. War with France looms and Edward's only chance at peace rests with his queen, Isabella - a woman who has every reason to seek her own revenge.

Tormented by his past, James returns to a solitary, ruthless life of raiding into the north of England. When a bewitching spy promises him the ultimate victory, James must weigh whether to unveil the truth and risk losing her love - or guard his secrets and forever preserve Robert's faith in him.


Ooh-err .... all the excitement kept me awake for months....  :unsure:  :unsure:     :huh:  :huh: 


Like I said, it's not absolutely awful; just not the best series of historical fiction that's ever been written, IMO.

And extremely funny in places -- for all the wrong reasons of course.



Post #9 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 09 May 2014 - 10:22 AM

Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, married Ulsterwoman Elizabeth de Burgh at Writtle, near Chelmsford in Essex in 1302. Bruce was a widower with a young daughter. He had first married Isabella of Mar who died in 1296 a short time after giving birth to Marjory Bruce.




Robert was inaugurated as King of Scots at Scone on 27 March 1306. Elizabeth is said to have later remarked, “Alas Robert, we are but king and queen of the May” – meaning they were nothing more than players in the May revels.




In England they had a different name for Bruce; they called him “King Hobb” - the fool. Edward I sent a force north to hunt Bruce down. After defeat at the Battle of Methven, Bruce headed west to the Hebridean Isles. He sent Elizabeth, Marjory, his sisters Christina and Mary Bruce, and Isobel Countess of Buchan to Kildrummy Castle in Aberdeenshire, where he hoped his brother Nigel could protect them.

The royal ladies were soon forced to flee. Kildrummy was besieged and Nigel Bruce was captured. He was taken to Berwick to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The royal ladies were probably heading to Orkney but only made it as far as the sanctuary of St Duthac at Tain in Easter Ross (see the map below). There they were captured by a Balliol supporter, Earl William of Ross, who handed them over to Edward I’s men.




Countess Isobel was held captive in an iron cage at Berwick Castle. Robert’s younger sister, Mary Bruce, was locked into an iron cage at Roxburgh Castle. She was just 24 years old. Mary spent the next four years caged and humiliated. Her older sister Christian Bruce was shown more compassion and was imprisoned in a Gilbertine nunnery in Lincolnshire. Christian’s husband, an English Bruce supporter, Sir Christopher Seton, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Dumfries.

Elizabeth de Burgh, Bruce’s wife, was held prisoner in England. It is thought that she was better treated because her father Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, was a close friend of King Edward I. Elizabeth spent the next eight years in captivity in Burstwick, Bisham Manor, Windsor Castle, Shaftesbury Abbey, Barking Abbey and Rochester Castle.

Marjory Bruce, Robert’s daughter, was only 12 years old when she was captured at Tain. At first King Edward decided that she would be locked into an iron cage and hung for all to see from the walls of the Tower of London. On hearing of this monstrous plan, his second wife Margaret of France whom he’d married in 1299 prevailed upon Edward to relent and Marjory was held in a Gilbertine nunnery in Yorkshire.


After the Battle of Bannockburn the Bruce was able to trade captured English nobles for his family in late 1314.




Mary Bruce went on to be twice married and had a son, Iain. Christian Bruce married Sir Andrew Murray who later became Guardian of Scotland. Christian later led the defence of Kildrummy Castle besieged by supporters of Edward Balliol at the age of 62 and lived to 84.

Elizabeth de Burgh and Robert the Bruce were reunited and went on to have four children - Matilda, Margaret, John and David, who would become David II, King of Scots. Elizabeth died on 27 October 1327 and was buried in Dunfermline Abbey.




Marjory Bruce returned to Scotland and married Sir Walter Stewart. She fell from a horse while pregnant and died as she gave birth to a baby boy. Marjory was buried in Paisley Abbey. On the death of David II, her son Robert would become King Robert II, the first of the Stewart King of Scots.


More on the desecration of St Duthacs Sanctuary at Tain coming up.... 

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Post #10 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 12:25 AM

This post is heavily based on


written by Nigel Tranter.



Hiding with a handful of loyal followers in the wilderness of the Carrick hills, the Bruce has received news of the execution of his two youngest brothers and the fate of the group of female relatives, including Queen Elizabeth de Burgh, desperately trying to escape to the Orkney Isles and betrayed into the blood-stained hands of Edward I by the traitor Earl of Ross. It's at this point the story enters THE REALMS OF LEGEND.



Bruce crouched at the back of the cave, where it bent and lowered to form almost a separate little chamber. He sat hunched, staring with unseeing eyes at the spluttering, smoking makeshift lamp, contrived from melted fat and a wick of cord. Alone he had sat there, for how long he knew not, facing the beetling dark walls and the hell of his own lot.

He had been low before, all but crushed by the hammer-blows of fate, of treachery, of Edward Plantagenet. But he had never been so low as this.




Before his tortured mind’s eye had passed the long appalling procession of his friends and kin and supporters, those whom he or his cause had brought to ruin, shame, agony and death. Sir William Wallace, barbarously butchered. Sir Andrew Moray, slain at Stirling Bridge. Sir John the Graham, slain at Falkirk. Gartnait of Mar, his brother-in-law, assassinated. Simon Fraser, tortured and hanged — like his brother Alexander, like Gilbert Hay’s brother Hugh. Somerville of Carnwath, Barclay of Cairns, David de Inchmartin, Scrymgeour the Standard-Bearer dying the same death as Wallace. Bishop William Lamberton, his closest friend and ally, chained a prisoner. As was old Bishop Wishart of Glasgow. His brother Nigel, hanged, drawn and quartered. And now his other brothers, Alexander and Thomas hideously executed also. Sir Christopher Seton the same. The Earl of Atholl hung on a 50 foot high gibbet in London.

His Elizabeth in solitary confinement. His little daughter like a caged beast on the walls of London Tower for all to mock. His sister Mary and Isabel of Buchan likewise. Another sister, Christian, walled in a convent. Sir Thomas Randolph, his nephew, in prison. Others, countless others, suffering or past suffering. All because he had presumed to defy the usurper and put on the fatal crown.




Or because he had stabbed John Comyn at God’s own altar …

He had been King a year. And what of his kingdom did he hold? This cave, in his own lost earldom of Carrick. His strength? One remaining brother, Edward Bruce, the least loved, and a small handful of knightly friends. Less than 400 men. Nearly all wild Highlandmen, with him not for him or his cause but for love of their chieftainess, Christina MacRourie of Gamoran and the Isles. His subjects, the folk of his realm? They turned from him, stayed at home — as who would blame them! The invader was everywhere supreme, buttressed by unlimited power and numbers, sustained by traitors, egged on to consistent atrocity by the burning hatred of their lord, Edward Plantagenet.




Edward, who would never relent, never for a moment relax the pressure. Edward the scourge of God on Scotland and on Robert Bruce. There it was, the scourge of God! God had raised His hand against the presumptuous man who, a murderer, had dared to claim the Crown.

Robert Bruce, the Lord’s Anointed!




Heaven help Scotland, with such for monarch! A King whom Holy Church had put away as anathema. To whom no priest dare offer the sacraments. The Bruce, outcast of God and man.

Today a hunted, haunted fugitive. Tomorrow …? Tomorrow — what betterment could be looked for tomorrow, in the name of truth? None. No least likelihood of improvement. If forty men was all the response of Scotland to the return of the King — and these the gift of a kinswoman who had ever foolishly doted upon him — what hope of the future? A fool, he had said that she gave him hope and faith. For there was no hope, no faintest gleam of hope, in all the grim scene. And faith was not for such as Robert Bruce.




What, then? What remained for him? He was not yet old — though he felt ages old. He was but thirty-three. He was unlikely to die yet awhile, save by violence. He could seek that violent end, and find it no doubt, with little difficulty, many aiding. But would that not almost certainly involve the end of these last few who still trusted in him, his handful of loyal friends? James Douglas, Gilbert Hay, Neil Campbell, Robert Boyd. And Edward, his headstrong brother? Would he have their blood also on his soul? Not that.

Should they go back to the Isles, where they could sell their swords to Angus Og for his Irish wars? A sad descent for knights such as these — but it would save them from the Plantagenet. He himself could go on, alone, and lose himself in the greater world, beyond. Put all behind him, and go. Go where? Was there anywhere for him in all that world? Would he not be better to end it all. The king without a kingdom, the earl without an earldom, the knight without honour , the friend whose friendship spelt death.




The knight without honour ? He had vowed those vows of knighthood once — madness that it was Edward Plantagenet himself who had conferred that knighthood, heard those vows! Edward! Those vows he had taken before another altar. Amongst them, to take up his sword in the cause of the true faith, against the Infidel. Not to rest while the savage Unbeliever occupied Christ’s holy places.

His father and grandfather before him had both fulfilled that knightly vow and gone on Crusade. Was that at least not left to him? Was that not a better way to die? A single, simple knight again, to throw himself against the Saracen, and so make an end to it. Might there not just possibly, conceivably, be some small, faint glimmer of credit for him there? One drop of redemption in the ocean of his guilt?


To be continued.....

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Post #11 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 07:47 AM

..... Continued from previous post .....


Thus far the Bruce had sunk, in that dark cave and thereafter lapsed into a state of almost mindless depression and stupor, when out of it, he perceived that though his wits had sunk into dull vacancy, his eyes had not. He had, in fact, been heavily watching a spider which was striving assiduously to attach its slender thread to a point on the sheer rock wall of the cave. He realized that he had watched as four times it went through the difficult and involved process, without success. Its thread hung from the cave roof some three feet above Bruce’s head, and the point on the vertical wall to which the creature wished to link its web was roughly the same distance lower and two feet to the left.




The spider’s method was to race down its line from the ceiling at such speed as to generate a strong pendulum swing, in the hope that this would carry it sufficiently far to the left to reach the other wall. In this it was successful twice out of the four attempts; but each time the contact with the comparatively smooth surface was too brief to gain a footing. The spider then had to swing back to the perpendicular again and then scramble up its long thread once more all the way to the roof to repeat the process. The man’s lethargic watching grew to interest and a sort of actual concern as the fifth attempt again ended in failure, and after a momentary hold on the wall the creature was dragged back once more, again to recommence its laborious upward climbing.




The sixth effort showed intelligence as well as determination. This time the spider swung itself at a slightly different angle, to reach a spot a couple of inches to one side and fractionally higher. It looked as though this might work, possibly giving a slightly better foothold — but no, gravity was again too great, and once more thread and spider fell backwards, frustrated.


“It is of no avail,” the King muttered, shaking his head. “Can you not see it? Too hard a task …” But the spider would not admit defeat. Undeterred, before even its line stopped swinging it was clawing up again to the roof to launch itself downwards with unabated resolve. And this time, when its pendulum swing brought it to the wall it managed to hang on.

Almost breathlessly the man watched it, willing the creature success. It remained on the vertical rock, its thread pulsing gently in the smoky, flickering lamplight.




“Now, by the saints — here is a wonder!” Bruce exclaimed aloud. “A sign, if ever there was one! If this creeping mite in a hole in the ground can so set its will to conquer, can Robert Bruce, crowned King of this realm, do less? Six defeats did not deter it. Shall I despair more easily?”


He stood up, “Here is my lesson — from heaven or from hell! I shall not give in yet awhile. Nor yet to seek my death amongst the Saracens! That can wait. Yet, I do swear to God, if He will hear me this once, out of this pit, that my battle here in Scotland won, I will go to His holy places, and draw sword for His name. By all that is holy! But .... first .... first, my realm’s freedom!




Filled now with a sudden excess of restless strength and the need for action, or at least movement, Bruce strode out past the sleeping ranks of his men in the outer cave, out into the starlit night. A half-moon was rising to the south-east, washing the crowding hillsides in wan pewter and inky shadow. With a brief word to the two watchful sentinels, the King paced away along the track they had made at the foot of the crags. It was not long before he realized that he was being followed, at a distance.

He turned. “Who is that? I would be alone,” he jerked.

“It is but Gilbert Hay, Sire,” the Lord of Erroll called. “In case you need aught.”

“Aye, Gibbie, take no heed of me. Go back and sleep.”


He moved on until he came to the burnside, where earlier he had brought the others across. And there, with the moonlight glittering quicksilver on the dancing waters, he sat himself on a boulder, to stare out into the night, unseeing.




But now his mind dwelt no longer on the past, on his sorrows, even on his wife and daughter in their extremity. He counted and assessed and planned.

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 11:11 AM

Anyone who's interested in a more historical book concerning Robert the Bruce could do a lot worse than this one;






From the blurb on Amazon:-


Robert the Bruce is one of the great heroic figures of history. When after years of struggle Scotland was reduced to a vassal state by Edward I of England it was Bruce who, supported by the Scottish Church and a group of devoted followers, had himself crowned as King of Scots and renewed the fight for freedom. Ronald McNair Scott has used the accounts of contemporary chronicles, particularly those of John Barbour, to reconstruct the story of one of the most remarkable of medieval kings. It is a story with episodes quite as romantic as those of King Arthur, but one which belongs to the authentic history of the Scottish nation.

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 11:18 AM

Leading on from my previous post, this is another factual history book that I like a lot as well.






Again, the blurb is from Amazon:-


Commemorating the seven hundredth anniversary of the enthronement of Robert I of Scotland, this book is intended as an everyman's guide to Scotland's famous hero king. The life of Bruce is one of the greatest comeback stories in history. Heir and magnate, shrewd politician, briefly 'king of summer' and then a desperate fugitive who nevertheless returned from exile to recover the kingdom he claimed, Bruce became a gifted military leader and a wise statesman, a leader with vision and energy. Colm McNamee combines the most up to date scholarship on this crucial figure in the history of the British Isles with lucid explanation of the medieval context, so that readers of all backgrounds can appreciate Bruce's enormous contribution to the historical impact not just on Scotland, but on England and Ireland too. It is designed to encourage popular reassessment of Bruce as politician, warrior, monarch and savior of Scottish identity from extinction at the hands of the Edwardian superstate. Peeling back the layers of misconception and propaganda, the author paints an accurate, sympathetic but balanced portrait of a much beloved national hero who has fallen out of fashion of late for no good reason.

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Post #14 Larry_B


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Posted 12 May 2014 - 05:12 PM

Great stuff Harry!


Three weeks and I will be in Skye!

 to live in truth to have faith to choose service to others to give proof of humility 
 - to love justice to be merciful to be sincere and wholehearted to stand for principles of love and service
Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta
(a.k.a. - Knights Hospitaller)

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 02:24 AM

Historical fiction this time.

I haven't read these yet, but they look like they could be an interesting new take on events.




http://www.amazon.co...william wallace


From the Amazon blurb:-


In the pre-dawn hours of August 24th, 1305, in London’s Smithfield Prison, the outlaw William Wallace—hero of all the Scots and deadly enemy of King Edward of England—sits awaiting the dawn, when he is to be hanged and then drawn and quartered. This brutal sundering of his body is the revenge of the English. Wallace is visited by a Scottish priest who has come to hear his last confession, a priest who knows Wallace like a brother. Wallace's confession—the tale that follows—is all the more remarkable because it comes from real life. 

We follow Wallace through his many lives—as outlaw and fugitive, hero and patriot, rebel and kingmaker. His exploits and escapades, desperate struggles and victorious campaigns are all here, as are the high ideals and fierce patriotism that drove him to abandon the people he loved to save his country. 

William Wallace is the first heroic figure from the Scottish Wars of Independence, a man whose fame has reached far beyond his homeland. Wallace served as a subject for the Academy Award–winning film Braveheart. In The Forest Laird, Jack Whyte’s masterful storytelling breathes life into Wallace's tale, giving readers an amazing character study of the man who helped shape Scotland’s future.


And the follow up;






From Amazon:-


From author Jack Whyte comes the true story of Robert the Bruce: a passionate man. An incredible warrior. And one of Scotland’s finest. 

Robert I, or as he is known to a grateful Scottish nation, Robert the Bruce, was one of Scotland’s greatest kings, as well as one of the most famous warriors of his generation.  He spearheaded the valiant Scots in their quest for freedom, leading his people during the Wars of Scottish Independence against the Kingdom of England during the middle ages. His reign saw the recognition of Scotland as an independent nation, and today Bruce is remembered in Scotland as a national hero.

It was by no means a fair and easy road for this indomitable fighter. As a young man he saw the English king Edward I award the vacant Crown of Scotland to John Balliol. The nation quickly splintered into factions and this spurred Robert and his father to at first side with Edward and then against John, whom many of the nobles did not feel was the correct person to guide the nation. Thus began a decades-long path for Scottish freedom. To achieve this goal, Robert sometimes had to delicately balance the power of the nobles against the might of the English. He was a tireless campaigner and after a full life of battle and diplomacy, in May 1328, King Edward III signed the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, which recognized Scotland as an independent kingdom and Bruce as its king.


Apparently, the 3rd in the series, not released yet, is to feature Sir James, The Black Douglas. It'll certainly be a must-get!!




Post #16 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 02:33 AM

Great stuff Harry!


Three weeks and I will be in Skye!

I think you'll have the trip of a lifetime Larry. I sincerely hope you and your wife get good weather during your vacation so you can enjoy the breath taking Hebridean scenery in all its glory.


If you manage to pick up the two books in my previous post, then I'd be extremely eager to see your review of them.

Glad you're enjoying this thread though. I'm trying to include a bit of interest for everyone -- and also hope that Mr Pavone is looking in. It's a fascinating period of history that's just screaming out to be done by First Legion. And it's not just a plain old Good Scots vs Evil English either. History isn't like that. There's good, bad and every shade in between from both sides in this story, with many side-stories as well.




Post #17 Larry_B


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Posted 13 May 2014 - 06:44 AM

I think you'll have the trip of a lifetime Larry. I sincerely hope you and your wife get good weather during your vacation so you can enjoy the breath taking Hebridean scenery in all its glory.


If you manage to pick up the two books in my previous post, then I'd be extremely eager to see your review of them.

Glad you're enjoying this thread though. I'm trying to include a bit of interest for everyone -- and also hope that Mr Pavone is looking in. It's a fascinating period of history that's just screaming out to be done by First Legion. And it's not just a plain old Good Scots vs Evil English either. History isn't like that. There's good, bad and every shade in between from both sides in this story, with many side-stories as well.




I quite agree. I think that FL could really capitalize on their Crusader line and create a wonderful line of Scots v English. Just as long as William Wallace is not running around in a kilt. If understand it correctly, he would not have been caught dead in one!


Also, as your posts show there are some great female characters that could really add another dimension to the lines.


Matt, we may have to go from "arm twisting" to thumb screws and the rack! ;-)


See you in Valhalla!



 to live in truth to have faith to choose service to others to give proof of humility 
 - to love justice to be merciful to be sincere and wholehearted to stand for principles of love and service
Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta
(a.k.a. - Knights Hospitaller)

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 08:53 AM

I quite agree. I think that FL could really capitalize on their Crusader line and create a wonderful line of Scots v English. Just as long as William Wallace is not running around in a kilt. If understand it correctly, he would not have been caught dead in one!


Also, as your posts show there are some great female characters that could really add another dimension to the lines.


Matt, we may have to go from "arm twisting" to thumb screws and the rack! ;-)


See you in Valhalla!



Hi Larry,


Yes, it would take very little tweaking to convert the Crusaders into late 13th / early 14th century Scots & English knights and men-at arms. Even the Azincourt range wouldn't be too difficult to convert -- just a change of head and weapon here or there.


I've been bugging FL for years, so a bit of support from you and our "Alex the Viking" colleague would probably help. Not to mention Curahee Chris, who I know would also be all over a Wars of Independence range. I'd have bought the Aeroart offerings years ago, but unfortunately, they only have around 4 basic sculpts which are just repainted over and over again. They're nice figures but not enough variation for a decent size diorama.


Oh, and I've also been considering an Otterburn 1388 scenario using the Azincourt 1415 figures. There's so little a time gap between each battle that the figures would really only need a heraldry repaint to depict the opposing Douglas and Percy forces involved in this somewhat bloody Border stramash.






The night before Otterburn, the 2nd Earl of Douglas was purported to have said;


But I have seen a dreary dream, beyond the Isle of Skye,

I saw a dead man win the fight, and I think that man was I


Unfortunately, he was right. He did win the battle, but he succumbed to his wounds before the final outcome; his body being held upright by a group of Squires and Pages so that the Scots wouldn't know he was actually dead and loose heart.




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Posted 13 May 2014 - 11:53 AM

I think you'll have the trip of a lifetime Larry. I sincerely hope you and your wife get good weather during your vacation so you can enjoy the breath taking Hebridean scenery in all its glory.


If you manage to pick up the two books in my previous post, then I'd be extremely eager to see your review of them.

Glad you're enjoying this thread though. I'm trying to include a bit of interest for everyone -- and also hope that Mr Pavone is looking in. It's a fascinating period of history that's just screaming out to be done by First Legion. And it's not just a plain old Good Scots vs Evil English either. History isn't like that. There's good, bad and every shade in between from both sides in this story, with many side-stories as well.




Forgot to mention Larry -- I hope we're going to be treated to a few holiday snaps on your return home..!!

:)  B)

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 12:21 AM

Here's some more info on The Battle of Otterburn 1388.



Although it isn't regarded as a battle from the Wars of Independence era, the Feud between the Douglas's and the Percy's that resulted in Otterburn, or The Battle of Chevvy Chase as the Percy's called it, was more in the style of a massive cross border raid.

This is going to be the focus of my next really large scale diorama featuring converted figures from First Legion's "Azincourt" range - unless they give in to my constant pestering for a "Bannockburn" line.



The second half of the 14th century was a period of political instability both within England and Scotland -- and between the two countries. An uneasy truce still existed but as factions within the ruling elites in both countries sought political advancement, raids across the border increased. In 1383 both sides prepared for a renewal of hostilities: the English king, Richard II, demanded the return of "English" land in Scotland; the Scottish king, Robert II, began to fortify his castles and entered into an agreement with France that would provide troops and equipment in the event of war.

Shortly after the expiry of the treaty the border raids increased and in 1385 the Scots were joined by a small French force which raided into England storming Wark Castle and advancing as far as Carlisle in the western March. The English retaliated by invading as far as Edinburgh burning the Abbey’s of Melrose, Dryburgh and Newbattle before retreating back to England. The advantages the French troops brought to the Scots were outweighed by the deep resentment engendered by their plundering of the Scottish countryside and deep divisions concerning tactics and they soon returned to France.


No further major border raiding ensued until 1388 when the Scots sought to take advantage of the fragile political situation in England, where the King was beset by the political machinations of the major baronial families and invasion from France remained a threat. In the summer of 1388 the Scots launched a three-pronged attack against the English; in Ireland, the West March and the East March. The attack in the east was led by the 2nd Earl Douglas with a force of some 6,000 troops which advanced as far as Durham, burning as they came. The son of the Earl of Northumberland, Henry "Hotspur" Percy (so called due to his volatile temperament and impetuous nature) was dispatched by his father to Newcastle to intercept the Scots’ route home.


In the skirmishing around the walls of Newcastle the silk pennon on Percy’s lance was captured by Douglas.




Tradition states that Percy vowed to recapture the pennon and Douglas in true chivalric mode agreed to allow him the chance to do so. It's supposedly for this reason that Percy pursued the retreating Scots as they headed north-west from the inconclusive encounter at Newcastle, and why Douglas halted at Otterburn to await him.




By evening, the Scots reached the Rebe near the village of Otterburn. Placing his men astride the road with his flanks anchored on the river and high ground, Douglas decided to attack nearby Otterburn Tower the next day. After several hours of unsuccessful fighting and following a council of war Douglas decided, against the wishes of many who counseled a continued swift withdrawal, to remain on the field; possibly to await his enemy and offer him the chance of chivalric redress, or possibly to make a further attempt on the castle the following day. The arrival of Percy’s forces in the early evening took the Douglas by surprise and rather than pausing for the night, Hotspur elected to immediately form for battle and attack.

Despite being caught with their pants down – literally as many of the Scottish nobles had donned loose gowns for comfort – the Scots were swift to respond to the surprise attack.





Rallying his men, Douglas led his forces in a desperate counterattack.
Moving along a wooded hillside, Douglas was able to use a ravine to cover their approach before falling upon the English right. With the sun set, the battle became a confused affair and was fought by moonlight. Due to the darkness, Percy was unable to deploy his archers and the fighting remained hand-to-hand. The battle continued for several hours, pausing only when clouds obscured the moon throwing the combatants into darkness. During the fighting, Douglas was wounded in the neck and killed.




With dawn breaking the English ranks began to waver. As his army began to disintegrate, Percy was captured by Sir John Montgomery. The battle lost, the English fled the field and retreated towards Ponteland. Recovering the body of their slain commander, the Scots resumed their march home.

The battle of Otterburn was considered a Scottish victory, though not a resounding one. In addition to James Douglas, the battle cost the Scots around 500 dead and wounded as well as 200 captured. English losses numbered between 1,000 and 1,500. In addition, 21 knights were captured. The body of James Douglas was taken back to Scotland and interred at Melrose Abbey after a state funeral. 

Despite being captured Henry Hotspur’s reputation as a heroic leader was secured. Held a prisoner in Scotland, Percy was ultimately ransomed -- with King Richard II and Parliament both contributing funds.

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