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

Robert the Bruce—How the King Was Crowned

The murder of Red Comyn was wrong and cruel, and Robert the Bruce suffered for his passionate deed. It made his struggle for the freedom of Scotland more difficult, for now, besides fighting King Edward, he had to fight the friends of Red Comyn too, who were many.

But the deed was done. There was now no turning back. So Robert the Bruce gathered his few friends and followers around him, and boldly marched to Scone to be crowned.

The precious Stone of Destiny, upon which the Kings of Scotland were used to sit, was no longer there. There were no royal robes, no crown, no sceptre. But an old bishop, who in his heart had ever been true to Scotland, although he had seemed to yield to Edward, brought out the ancient royal standard, which for ten years he had carefully kept hidden. He gave his bishop's throne to be used instead of the Stone of Destiny, and his beautiful bishop's dress for a coronation robe. A plain gold band was quickly made to take the place of the crown, glittering with gems. All was ready; but the man who should have placed the crown upon the head of the King was not there.

Long ago, you remember, Malcolm Canmore had given to the Thane of Fife, and his sons and heirs after him, the right of placing the crown upon the head of the King. There was now indeed an Earl of Fife, but he was in the power of the King of England. This was a very real misfortune, for the people would not think that their King was truly their King, if he were not crowned with all the ancient rites and ceremonies.

The Earl of Fife, however, had a sister called the Countess of Buchan. Her husband, the Earl of Buchan, was a follower of King Edward; he was also the near relative of the Red Comyn. But in spite of all that, the Countess loved her country, and when she heard of the difficulty in which Bruce and his friends were, she made up her mind to take her brother's place, and to set the crown upon the King's head.

Calling her knights and gentlemen around her, she mounted upon her horse, and rode southward as quickly as she could. And one day in March, the people of Scone heard the thunder of horses' hoofs, and the clatter and jangle of swords and armour, as the Countess rode up to the Abbey door.

So the King was crowned, and as he knelt at the altar under the ancient royal banner, it was no gallant knight in shining armour who placed the crown upon his head, and led him to the throne; it was a brave and beautiful lady, whose bright eyes shone with love for her country.

But not yet could Robert the Bruce be truly called King of Scots. "Alas!" said his wife sadly, "we are but Queen and King of May, such as boys and girls crown with flowers in their summer games." It was true, for the King's friends and followers were but a very small band. He had to win Scotland to himself, before he could win it from the English.

"To maintain what he had begun

He wist, ere all the land was won,

He should find full hard bargaining

With him that was of England King."

But Bruce was wise as well as brave, and he used every means in his power to force and persuade the people to join him, and his little band soon grew.

Meanwhile, King Edward, who was now an old man, was filled with furious wrath against Bruce. He gathered an army, made many new knights, and at a great feast he swore, that living or dead, he would go to Scotland, there to avenge himself upon Bruce and his friends. He also swore, that when they were conquered, he would never again draw sword to fight Christian men, but would make a journey to the Holy Land, and there die fighting for the Cross.

Then the Prince of Wales, who was also called Edward, set out for Scotland, the King himself following more slowly.

Through the land the English marched, fighting, burning, and destroying. They had reached the town of Perth, and were safely within the walls, when King Robert marched upon them with his army.

The King rode to the walls. "Come out and fight," he called to the English leader, "come out and fight like men, and do not hide behind stone walls."

"The day is too far spent," replied he. "Abide till to-morrow. Then will we fight."

To this King Robert agreed. He believed that the English leader meant what he said, and that he would not fight until the next day. So he marched his men a little way off to the shelter of a wood. There they laid down their weapons, took off their armour, and began to cook their supper, and to rest, so that next day they might be strong to fight, for they had walked far that day.

But suddenly there was a loud cry. The English had stolen out of the town and were upon the weary soldiers. Snatching up their arms and buckling on their armour as quickly as might be, the Scots prepared to defend themselves.

The fight was fierce, and never did king fight as Robert the Bruce fought. Three times his horse was killed under him. Once he was taken prisoner. "I have taken the King of Scots," cried an English knight. But hardly had he uttered the words than a Scottish knight struck him to the ground, and Bruce was once more free. Again he was taken. But this time it was by a Scottish knight, who, although he was fighting for Edward, set his prisoner free as soon as he saw that he was the King.

But no bravery could save the day. Slowly the Scots were beaten back, fighting to the last with their faces to the foe. This was called the Battle of Methven. In it many of King Robert's best friends were taken prisoner, and afterwards cruelly put to death by the English. And the King, so lately crowned, became a hunted man, obliged to hide and to wander among the hills and valleys of his own land.

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