Archive for the ‘Churches’ Category

Once again, we have a winner!  An e-mail has been sent out to the winner of the Freedom Hop.

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July 10 is a date that was to have great impact on the Scottish Wars of Independence.  Before Robert the Bruce became one of Scotland’s greatest kings, there was John Balliol, king of Scots.  In the wake of Alexander III dying without a clear heir, the Scottish lords, fearing bloody disputes among the 13 competitors for the throne, called in Edward I of England to settle the matter.  The strongest claims to the throne came from John Balliol and Robert the Bruce, grandfather of the later king of Scots who fought at Bannockburn.

 

Edward chose John Balliol.  Even today, historians discuss who had the stronger claim, and many do say that he did.  However, Edward’s motives were not so pure.  He had declared himself overlord, or Lord Paramount of Scotland, and believed Balliol would be a suitable puppet king.

 

Almost immediately upon the new king’s coronation on November 30, 1292, Edward I began a series of actions designed to undermine and humiliate Balliol.  In 1294, Edward demanded that Scotland send troops to help fight England’s war against France.  King John refused.  Rather, his council of twelve made a treaty with France known as the Auld Alliance.

 

Edward, on finding out, took a break from fighting the French to march north and sack the town of Berwick on March 30, 1296, killing thousands of men, women, and children over the course of three days.

 

Very shortly after his men finished their bloody massacre, Edward received a message from King John, renouncing his homage to the English king.  Edward is reported to have said, O foolish knave!  What folly he commits!  If he will not come to us, we will go to him.

 

And so Edward turned his army on the Earl of March’s castle at Dunbar, just north of Berwick.  The Earl of March sided with Edward, but his wife, Marjory Comyn, sister to the Earl of Buchan, felt otherwise, and allowed the Scots to use the castle.

 

On April 27, the English defeated the Scots at Dunbar.  In the following months, more castles fell to England, and finally, on July 10, John Balliol was captured by the English in a churchyard in Strathaco.  There, Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, tore Scotland’s red and gold arms from Balliol’s surcoat, and Balliol was forced to abdicate the throne of Scotland and sign documents admitting to allying with Edward’s enemies, and giving the kingdom of Scotland to Edward.

 

It was a dark day for Scotland.

 

But it was not the end.

 

Perhaps Edward would have done better to allow John Balliol some nominal kingship, for from this void rose the great heroes of Scotland’s Wars of Independence: William Wallace, Andrew de Moray, James Douglas, Robert the Bruce, and many more.

With Midsummer’s Day and the Midsummer blog hop on us, it seems a particularly good day to tell the story of St. Bee’s.
St. Bee’s is actually a church in northern England, but it was visited by James Douglas and his raiders in the years following Bannockburn, in the course of trying to force Edward II to accept a peace treaty. With this connection to the Scottish Wars of Independence, it makes an appearance in The Minstrel Boy, book two of The Blue Bells Trilogy. So as to avoid spoilers for those who have not read Blue Bells of Scotland, I won’t say who goes there or why. Or even in which century, for that matter. But somebody does visit it, and it has an interesting story.
Hundreds of years ago (and all the best stories seem to start with some variation of that line), there was a princess (oh, this is getting better and better, or more cliched, depending how you look at it!) No, really, there was a genuine, real-life princess from Ireland, named Bega. Now the thing about princesses is that, while it’s easy to think they must have had it made, they really did not. Arranged marriages were among the possibly less-pleasant aspects of the life of a princess. Bega was promised in marriage to a Viking prince, a son of the king of Norway, a medieval manuscript says.
I would guess that most pre-medieval princesses, unlike their modern fictional renditions, did what they were told. But in a story that would play well to twenty-first century movie-goers, this particular princess ran away, crossing the Irish sea to what is now northern England. Her desire was to start a convent.
Convents need land. So she asked a local landowner to grant her some, on which to build her convent. It is easy to imagine the landowner thinking he was quite funny, as he told Bega, who was most certainly a fairly young woman at most, that he would give her all the land covered by snow the next morning.
Late June. Snow. Right.
If I were writing the story, I would show the landowner, in the very next scene, chortling it up with his friends at the local tavern about his promise. I suspect the next scene of Bega would be that she spent the night praying.
When the landowner awoke the next morning, did he maybe think he’d drunk too much while bragging to his friends about his clever promise?
For three miles of his land was covered in snow.
On that land, Bega built her convent, and it is today the parish of St. Bee’s.
This is one version of the story. For some interesting reading, and a very different version, take a look at the official St. Bee’s site. For more information on St. Bega herself, they have this page.
Happy Midsummer’s Day, and may it not involve three miles of snow! Unless, of course, you’re an avid downhill skier!