Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
N the days of King John, the English had their hands full with
only one king to manage, but a time came in Scotland when
there were thirteen persons who claimed the throne. Finally it
was clear that two of them had stronger claims than the
other eleven. They were John Baliol and Robert
Bruce. Baliol was the
grandson of the eldest daughter of a certain royal David, and
Bruce was a son of the second daughter of this same king.
People in Scotland took sides, some in favour of
Baliol and some in favour of Bruce, and feeling was so strong
that there was danger
of civil war. "King Edward of England is a wise king. Let us
leave the question to him," said the Scottish nobles, and
it was done. This was a fine chance for King Edward. He
declared at once that neither Baliol nor Bruce, but he himself
had the best claim to the Scottish throne. Baliol, however,
might rule under him, he said. But Baliol did not prove
obedient enough to please him,
 so Edward carried him and the
famous Stone of Scone off to London together. The Scots
prized the Stone highly. They had a tradition that
Jacob's head had rested upon it the night that he had
dream of angels ascending and descending between heaven and
earth; and whenever a Scottish king was to be crowned, he
always took his seat upon this stone. Edward had it put
underneath the seat of the chair in Westminster Abbey,
in which English sovereigns sit at their coronation; and
perhaps he thought that Scotland had yielded, and there would
be no more trouble. On the contrary, in a very little
while William Wallace led the Scots against the
English and defeated them in a great
battle. Soon after this, however, he fell into the hands of
Edward and was put to death.
After a few years the Scots found a new leader. This was the
grandson of Robert Bruce, and his name, too, was Robert Bruce.
He was crowned King of Scotland, and the Scots flocked to
his standard. Then came Edward with a large force, and soon
the King of Scotland was hiding first in the Grampian
Hills, then on a little island off the north coast of Ireland.
He was almost in despair, for he had tried six times to get
the better of the English and had failed. One day, it is
said, he lay in a lonely hut on a heap of straw, wondering
if it would not be better to give it up and leave Scotland to
herself. Just then he caught sight of a spider trying to swing
itself from one rafter to another. Six times it tried,
 six times it failed. "Just as many times as I have failed,"
thought Bruce, and he said to himself, "If it tries
again and succeeds, I, too, will try again." The spider tried
again and it succeeded. Bruce tried again, and he, too,
succeeded. Edward died, and before his son Edward II. was ready
to attend to matters in Scotland, Bruce had captured most
of the castles that Edward I. had taken and had brought an army
CORONATION CHAIR WITH STONE OF SCONE
When Edward II was at last ready to march into Scotland, some two
or three years later, he came with a large force as far
as Stirling. Bruce
met him with one only one-third as large, but every man in it
was bent upon doing his best to drive away the English.
Bruce dug deep pits in front of his lines. Many of the English
cavalry plunged into these and were slain, and the rest
were thrown into confusion. Then as the English troops looked at
the hill lying to the right of the Scottish army, they
saw a new army coming over the crest. It was really only the
servants and wagons and camp
followers; but Bruce had given them plenty of banners, and the
English supposed they were fresh troops. Then King Edward
and his men ran away as fast as they could; but the Scots
pursued, and the king barely escaped being taken prisoner.
This was the Battle of Bannockburn, the most bloody
defeat that the English ever met with in Scotland. The victory
of the Scots freed Scotland from all English claims; and a
few years later England acknowledged her independence.
BATTLE OF BANNOCKBURN
It was of this battle that Robert
Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!
Now 's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour;
See approach proud Edward's power—
Chains and slavery!
Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!
Wha for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or Freeman fa',
Let him follow me!
By oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!—
Let us do, or die!
In 1603 James VI. of Scotland became James I. of England, but
although for the next hundred years the kingdoms were ruled
by the same sovereign, the parliaments were not united. This
followed, however, in 1707, England and Scotland were
henceforth one country under the name of Great Britain.