Edward I.—The Hammer of the Scots
WHEN Edward had joined Wales to England, he longed more than ever to gain possession of Scotland. It seemed, too, as if he might succeed in doing this, for the King of Scotland died, and the heir to the throne was a little princess called the Maid of Norway.
Edward I. arranged with the people of Scotland that this princess should marry his son Edward, Prince of Wales, and in that way England and Scotland would be peaceably joined together. But unfortunately, on her way from Norway to claim the crown of Scotland, the princess died. So Edward's hopes of joining the two countries together in that way were at an end.
After the death of the Maid of Norway, twelve Scottish nobles claimed the crown, and, as they could not agree as to who had really the best right to it, they asked Edward, who was known to be a wise and just man, to settle the question.
Edward said that a man called John Balliol had the best right to the crown of Scotland, and John was accordingly crowned at Scone, the town where all the kings of Scotland were crowned.
But before Edward said that John was the real heir, he made him promise to own the King of England as over-lord.
Edward had no right to demand this homage, and John Balliol had no right to give it. But John did give it. Perhaps he thought, if he did not, Edward would choose some one else.
The Scots had always been a warlike people, and, ever since the days of the Romans, they had fought with the people in the south part of the island, and had tried to take away part of their land. At last it had been agreed between the kings of England and Scotland that the Scots should be allowed to keep part of the north of England, on condition that they did homage for that part, just as the Norman kings of England did homage to the King of France for Normandy and their other French possessions. But the King of England had no more right over Scotland than the King of France had over England.
The people of Scotland were very far from agreeing to John Balliol's bargain with Edward, and in less than a year quarrels began, and war followed. Edward marched into Scotland with a great army, and although the Scots were in the right and fighting for their freedom, Edward was the stronger, and the Scots were defeated.
Edward, thinking he had conquered the Scots, went back to England, taking with him the crown and sceptre of Scotland, and also the "Stone of Destiny" on which the Scottish kings sat when they were crowned. This stone was supposed to be the very stone which Jacob used as a pillow when he slept in the wilderness and saw the vision of the ladder up to heaven, with the angels going up and down upon it. The Scots prized this stone very highly, and it had been prophesied that wherever it was, there the kings of Scotland would be crowned.
Edward took the Stone of Destiny to Westminster, and there it remains to this day, and it is always used when the kings of Britain are crowned.
Besides taking these treasures away, Edward caused many of the old Scottish records to be destroyed, hoping in that way to make the people forget their freedom. But all this only made the Scots more determined not to submit to the King of England. Their weak king, John Balliol, had been driven from the throne, but other brave leaders arose, and wars between England and Scotland continued until Edward died in 1307 A.D.
Edward died while on his way to fight once more against Scotland. He was within sight of its blue mountains, and he died knowing that its people were still free, and that his dearest wish was not fulfilled. The disappointed king begged his son to go on with the war, to carry his bones with the army, and bury his heart in Scotland.
But Edward II. did not do as his father wished. He turned back to London, and Edward I. lies buried in Westminster, where you may still see his grave with these lines upon it in Latin: "Here lies Edward I., the Hammer of the Scots, 1308. Keep troth."
Edward I. has many names: Edward of Westminster, because he was born there; Edward Longshanks, because he was very tall and his legs were long and thin; Edward, the Hammer of the Scots, because of the many battles he fought with them; but the name by which it is best to remember him is Edward, the Lawgiver. He earned this name by the many wise laws which he made. Although his people were not always pleased with these laws at first, they generally came to see that they were just and good.
Edward was a great soldier and a valiant knight, but it was because he loved England and made good laws, because he was a true man and kept his word, that his people loved him, and mourned for him when he died.