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

Regent Murdoch—The Scots in France

As soon as Regent Albany was dead, his son Murdoch began to rule, instead of sending to the King of England and asking him to allow Prince James to come back to his kingdom. Murdoch was not so crafty and treacherous as his father, but he was weak and simple, and the barons became more powerful than ever, and more unwilling to submit to rule and order.

Regent Albany had always tried to be friends with the English King, because he wanted him to keep Prince James a prisoner. But many of the Scottish nobles did not care for the friendship of England, and some of them would have been glad to see their Prince free. So these now sailed across the sea to help the French against the English. For Henry of England had claimed the crown of France, and as the French King would not give it up there was war between them. The first battle of the Scots in France was at a village called Baugé.

The English were led by the Duke of Clarence, brother of the King of England. He was just sitting down to dinner when news was brought to him that the Scots army was near. "On them, gentlemen," cried the Duke, springing up, "let the men mount and follow me at once." And leaping upon his horse, he rode to meet the enemy.

The Scots were not thinking of battle, because there was a three days' truce at the time. They were amusing themselves playing football when they heard that the English were advancing. Quickly they left their play and prepared to fight.

Between the Scots and the English there flowed a river which was crossed only by a narrow bridge. Clarence pressed eagerly on and some of his soldiers passed over the bridge. But the Scottish knights charged down upon them before they could form again, and won the battle much as Wallace had won Stirling Bridge.

The Duke, riding first and cheering on his men, was easily known by his splendid armour and by the glittering band of gold and jewels, which he wore over his helmet. As he rode, one of the Scottish knights dashed upon him with his lance. So great was the shock that the Duke was thrown to the ground. There another noble killed him with his battle-axe.

Many a brave English knight fell upon the field; many more were taken prisoner. Of the Scots and French very few were killed or even wounded.

The King of France was so pleased when he heard of this victory that he made the Scottish leader High Constable, which was one of the highest titles of France. Many of the knights he rewarded with French lands.

After this, still more Scots joined the French, among them the Douglas. But this Douglas was an unlucky man. He was called "Tine-man," which means Lose-man, because he always lost the battles in which he fought. When he joined the Scots in France they seemed to become unlucky too, and they lost battles instead of winning them.

The English King now took Prince James with him to France, hoping that the Scots would not help the French any more when they knew that their own Prince was in the English camp. Henry even asked James to command the Scots to go home. But James would not. "Set me free," he said, "then they will obey me. How could they acknowledge as their King one who is in the power of another man?"

Henry was very angry at this answer, and once when he took some Scots prisoner, he hanged them all, saying that they deserved no better fate, for they had fought against their own King. This was not true, for James was only in the English camp because he was forced to be there.

At last, in a battle against John of the Leaden Sword, as Douglas called the Duke of Bedford, who now ruled France for the English King, the Douglas and nearly all of the Scots were killed.

The King of France made the few Scots who remained into a Royal Guard, and for many years the French King's Scots Guard was famous. But some people say that the French Scots Guard had been formed hundreds of years before, in the days of King Achaius the friend of Charlemagne.

No more Scottish soldiers went to fight in France. They had now a reason for staying at home. Their King had been set free, and he had promised not to help the French.

Regent Murdoch had proved to be so weak a ruler that far from being able to govern the country, he was not even able to govern his own sons. They were wild and wicked. They set their father at defiance, and would obey neither the laws of God nor of man. At last they became so insolent that Murdoch cried out one day in passion, "Since you will not obey me, I will fetch one home whom we must all obey."

From that day, he began to pray the English to release Prince James, and in May 1424 a.d. , after having been eighteen years in prison, he returned home.

Murdoch's rule had lasted only five years.

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