Gateway to the Classics: Scotland's Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Scotland's Story by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

Alexander I., The Fierce

Edgar died in 1107 a.d. , and as he had no children, he was succeeded by his brother Alexander.

Alexander i. was called The Fierce, because he punished the robbers and other wicked men, of whom there were many in the country.

Edgar had been more loved for his gentleness and goodness, than feared for his justice and sternness. When Alexander came to the throne, many of the nobles had become little better than robbers. They rode through all the land, burning and destroying, killing and taking prisoner men, women, and children. These wild nobles imagined that Alexander would be gentle, as his brother had been. They thought that he too would be more interested in building churches and monasteries than in ruling his kingdom, and that they might still continue in their wicked ways. But they were mistaken. Alexander was a good man, but he was a stern and just king. He made up his mind to punish these wild nobles. So he gathered his army and went against them. And so fiercely did he hunt and pursue these robbers, that very soon the worst of them were put to death. As Alexander was returning from warring against these wild nobles, he was met by a poor lady. She was pale and weary, her dress was torn and dusty, sobbing she threw herself upon her knees beside the King.

"A boon, my lord King," she cried, "a boon."

"What troubles you, lady?" said the King, looking down at her kindly. "Tell me, and if your cause is just, you shall have my aid."

"Sire," said the lady, "the lord of Mearns has slain my husband and my son. He has robbed me of all that I had. Now I wander about a homeless beggar with none to help me."

As the King listened, his face grew dark with anger, and leaping from his horse he cried, "By the Holy Rood, I will never more bestride a horse till I see justice done upon this man."

Then turning his army, he marched at the head of it, against the lord of Mearns. Nor did he rest, nor again mount upon a horse, till he had taken that proud lord, and hanged him for his wickedness and cruelty to the poor lady.

Thus the wicked nobles began to be in fear and dread of King Alexander, and they made up their minds, as they could not kill him in battle, they must do so by treachery.

They bribed the keeper of the King's bedchamber, and promised him a great sum of money if he would let some soldiers into the palace. And the keeper of the bedchamber, who ought to have guarded the King's life as his own, let these wicked men into the palace, and hid them in a little room near to the King's bedroom.

In the middle of the night, when all was dark, and the King was peacefully sleeping, these bad men crept softly, softly into his room. But as they came near the bed the King awoke suddenly. There was a dim light, and by it he could faintly see the figures crowding round him.

In a moment Alexander sprang up, and seizing his sword, which hung at the head of his bed, he slew the wicked keeper with one blow. Then right and left he struck, defending himself manfully. His sword flashed and fell again and again, till six of the traitors lay dead upon the floor.

Then, seeing how brave and fierce a king they had to deal with, the others fled. By this time, however, the noise of the fight had aroused the King's servants and soldiers. Some poured into his room, others started in pursuit of the traitors. Many of them were killed and the rest were taken prisoner and brought before the King. But Alexander knew that these men had been paid to kill him, and not they, but their masters, were his real enemies. So he questioned them until they told the names of the nobles who had sent them to do this wicked deed.

Then Alexander gathered his army once more, and marched against these rebellious nobles. When they heard of the King's coming, they too gathered their soldiers and made ready to fight.

The two armies came in sight of each other and lay encamped on either side of a river. The rebels thought that they were safe, for it seemed to them impossible for an army to cross the river, which was both deep and wide.

But King Alexander, calling his standard-bearer, commanded him to cross the river with a company of the best soldiers.

This the standard bearer did, and the rebels were so astonished and afraid at the hardihood and bravery of the King's men, that they had no heart to fight, and were utterly defeated.

After this there was peace in the land, and when Alexander had rest from wars he too built monasteries and churches, as his father and brother had done. He died in 1125 a.d. , having reigned seventeen years.

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