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Edward I, Lord Paramount

The Estates of Scotland met at Scone (April 11, 1286) and swore loyalty to their child queen, “the Maid of Norway,” granddaughter of Alexander III. Six guardians of the kingdom were appointed on April 11, 1286. They were the Bishops of St Andrews and Glasgow, two Comyns (Buchan and Badenoch), the Earl of Fife, and Lord James, the Steward of Scotland. No Bruce or Baliol was among the Custodians. Instantly a “band,” or covenant, was made by the Bruces, Earls of Annandale and Carrick, to support their claims (failing the Maid) to the throne; and there were acts of war on their part against another probable candidate, John Balliol. Edward (like Henry VIII. in the case of Mary Stuart) moved for the marriage of the infant queen to his son. A Treaty safeguarding all Scottish liberties as against England was made by clerical influences at Birgham (July 18, 1290), but by October 7 news of the death of the young queen reached Scotland: she had perished during her voyage from Norway. Private war now broke out between the Bruces and Balliols; and the party of Balliol appealed to Edward, through Fraser, Bishop of St Andrews, asking the English king to prevent civil war, and recommending Balliol as a person to be carefully treated. Next the Seven Earls, alleging some dim elective right, recommended Bruce, and appealed to Edward as their legal superior.

Edward came to Norham-on-Tweed in May 1291, proclaimed himself Lord Paramount, and was accepted as such by the twelve candidates for the Crown (June 3). The great nobles thus, to serve their ambitions, betrayed their country: the communitas, whatever that term may here meant, made a futile protest.

As lord among his vassals, Edward heard the pleadings and evidence in autumn 1292; and out of the descendants, in the female line, of David Earl of Huntingdon, youngest son of David I., he finally (November 17, 1292) preferred John Balliol (great-grandson of the earl through his eldest daughter) to Bruce the Old, grandfather of the famous Robert Bruce, and grandson of Earl David’s second daughter. The decision, according to our ideas, was just; no modern court could set it aside. But Balliol was an unpopular weakling, “an empty tabard,” the people said, and Edward at once subjected him, king as he was, to all the humiliations of a petty vassal. He was summoned into his Lord’s Court on the score of the bills of tradesmen. If Edward’s deliberate policy was to goad Balliol into resistance and then conquer Scotland absolutely, in the first of these aims he succeeded.

In 1294 Balliol was summoned, with his Peers, to attend Edward in Gascony. Balliol, by advice of a council (1295), sought a French alliance and a French marriage for his son, named Edward; he gave the Annandale lands of his enemy Robert Bruce (father of the king to be) to Comyn, Earl of Buchan. He besieged Carlisle, while Edward took Berwick, massacred the people, and captured Sir William Douglas, father of the good Lord James.

In the war which followed, Edward broke down resistance by a sanguinary victory at Dunbar, captured John Comyn of Badenoch (the Red Comyn), received from Balliol (July 7, 1296) the surrender of his royal claims, and took the oaths of the Steward of Scotland and the Bruces, father and son. He carried to Westminster the Black Rood of St Margaret and the famous stone of Scone, a relic of the early Irish dynasty of the Scots; as far north as Elgin he rode, receiving the oaths of all persons of note and influence, except William Wallace. His name does not appear in the list of submissions called “The Ragman’s Roll.” Between April and October 1296 the country was subjugated; the castles were garrisoned by Englishmen. But by January 1297, Edward’s governor, Warenne, Earl of Surrey, and Ormsby, his Chief Justice, found the country in an uproar, and at midsummer 1297 the levies of the northern counties of England were ordered to put down the disorders.

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