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

John Baliol—The Last of Toom Tabard

Berwick was taken, but instead of yielding, the people made Baliol send a letter to Edward saying he would not come to do homage, as he was ordered to do.

"Ah, the foolish traitor," cried Edward when he read the letter, "what folly is this? Since he will not come to us, we will go to him."

And so he went, fighting battles and taking towns all the way. Town after town, castle after castle, fell before Edward and his victorious army. The great lords and barons knelt to him as their master. There seemed no help for it. They must yield, or die.

At last, at Montrose, Edward and Baliol met again. And there Baliol, forgetting his proud words, came to Edward, begging for pardon. With no crown upon his head, with no royal robes about his shoulders, with neither sword nor sceptre, but clad in a plain dark dress like a penitent, and carrying a white wand in his hand, he came. Standing before his master he confessed that he had been led away by evil counsels, he gave up his right to the throne of Scotland, and put himself into the hands of Edward.

Edward, strong and stern, and filled with contempt for so weak a man, sent both Baliol and his son prisoner to England. A few years later Baliol was allowed to go to France. There, on his own lands, he lived quietly till he died. In Scotland's story we have no more to do with this weak-spirited King. His own people called him Toom Tabard, which means empty coat, because he looked rather fine in his splendid robes, but there was neither courage nor manhood in him. And for many years to come Scotland suffered for his weakness and folly.

Now that Baliol was no longer king, Robert Bruce thought that the time for which he had hoped had come. He thought that he should now be king. But Edward had no mind to give up what he had won. "Have we nothing, think you, to do, but to conquer kingdoms and give them to you?" he asked scornfully, and Robert Bruce went back to his own lands sad and angry.

Edward placed English governors over Scotland, filled the Scottish castles with English soldiers; then, thinking that he had subdued the people, he went home.

He took with him many things which were dear and sacred to the hearts of Scotsmen. Among these was the Stone of Destiny, which has remained in England ever since. It is now in Westminster, and it is used whenever a British King is crowned. It is said too that Edward caused to be taken away and destroyed many old books and records of Scotland. He did this so that the people might be made the more easily to forget their ancient freedom and become his willing subjects.

But all these things he did in vain.

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