Archive for the ‘Robert the Bruce’ Category

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Elsewhere, I have mentioned that I planned my trip to Scotland carefully in order to visit all the locations in Blue Bells of Scotland. But I made several unplanned stops. It was our first full day in Scotland, after sleeping off the jet lag, and the battlefield of Bannockburn was on the itinerary. However, on the drive from our hotel in Edinburgh to Bannockburn, we saw the sign for Linlithgow. It had such a pleasant sound, who could resist? So we went. I think sometimes the unplanned and unexpected turn out to be the highlights. Linlithgow was certainly one of them, and as I later learned that it plays a part in Bruce’s story, I was especially glad I took a detour from my careful itinerary!

Of course, what I walked through is not what Bruce walked through. The present Linlithgow Palace was begun by James I in 1492, and took roughly a century to complete–giving a whole new meaning to ‘they don’t build ‘em like they used to!’ What stood there before had been destroyed by fire sweeping through the town that same year.

Previously, David I (1124-53) built a royal residence in this location. In 1296, Edward I (Longshanks, or Hammer of the Scots) invaded Scotland and in 1302 began the building of a defense around the royal residence. Bruce himself, following his habit, had much of the palace destroyed after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, so that it couldn’t be used by the English against Scotland.

Today, Linlithgow is ‘a ruin,’ but a very complete one. It lacks a roof. It is not refurbished or full of displays or re-creations of past life, like some other castles. It is a large quadrangle, with a tower at each corner. You can walk the halls, much like you see here, and go through the chambers and ante-chambers, empty, but full of sunlight from large windows. You can go up to the walk along the rooftop and go into a stone gazebo at the top, where medieval graffitti can still be seen, suggesting Margaret sat in the bower by the hour, carving where she probably should not have been. (At least when my boys used to write on the walls with crayon, it scrubbed off!)

The palace stands on the shores of a loch, with beautiful stretches of green grass and parkland–a perfect place for a picnic!

What I found most interesting about Linlithgow was the way voices echoed and could be heard from quite a distance. As I wandered the halls at my own pace, I became separated from my party. I would turn a corner and suddenly hear them talking–but they were nowhere to be seen! And it was difficult to tell from which directions the voices came, or how near they might be.

The scale of the whole place is awe-inspiring. In our current houses, our ceilings are fairly low. It is an experience to walk through halls and stand in rooms with ceilings soaring 15 or 20 feet above your head, and hearths big enough to walk into!

We also went deep into the bowels of Linlithgow, to the kitchens down a long, dank flight of stairs. In one chamber was not only a hearth, but a great circular stone brazier in the center of the room. Windows high above let in light, although not enough that I’d want to be the cooks who worked there all day. I suppose the fires would have brightened the place quite a bit. Going further down from the kitchens, I found the dungeons. I use something very like this layout for the castle of the thieving MacDougall’s son in book 2 of the trilogy, The Minstrel Boy, when someone–we won’t say who–goes where he’s told not to! (However, I found Linlithgow to be a very light and airy place, whereas the home of MacDougall’s son is not!)

I definitely hope to visit Linlithgow on my next trip to Scotland. In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed a little bit of a virtual tour, and if you ever get a chance, go!

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It was not Adam Newton’s day.  He must have wondered, when he heard that he would be the next messenger to Robert the Bruce, what he had done to anger the clerics above him. 

The previous messengers, sent by the cardinals Luke and Jocelin, probably in early September 1317, had been pleasantly but firmly sent packing by Bruce and his barons.  While Bruce camped near the town of Berwick, preparing to besiege it and take it back from the English, they had arrived with a letter addressed to Robert Bruce governing Scotland.  Bruce smilingly told them that there were many men in his realm by the name of Robert Bruce, some of whom were indeed involved in governing the realm.  He himself, was Robert Bruce King of Scots, he told them, and would gladly accept a letter addressed to himself as such, so as to be sure he wasn’t opening another man’s mail.

Bruce was a man known for his mercy.  Yet he was also quite capable of being firm when the occasion warranted.  The English town of Hartlepool, for instance, felt Bruce’s wrath, watching from the safety of their boats at sea as James Douglas sacked their town, rather than allow them to pay for peace, as Bruce allowed so many other English towns.  Different reasons are put forth as to why Hartlepool was treated so harshly, but ultimately, what mattered to Adam Newton was the lesson of Hartlepool: Bruce was not a man with whom to tangle.  And Adam must certainly have known of his predecessors and Bruce’s gentle warning to them: 

“Had you presumed to present letters with such an address to any other sovereign Prince, you might perhaps have been answered in a harsher style. But I reverence you as the messengers of the Holy See.”

 

It is easy to believe that the unfortunate Adam Newton hoped Bruce would continue to have reverence for messengers of the Holy See.  Adam was the guardian of the Friars Minorite at Berwick, held by the English since Edward I’s infamous sacking and murdering of its inhabitants in 1296.  He would have been well aware of the background of his mission. Edward II, having failed militarily to deal with Bruce and the Scots, yet unwillingly to accede to Bruce’s very mild terms for peace, called in the big guns: Holy Mother Church. 

Pope John XXII issued a bull demanding a two year truce.  Lacking facebook or e-mail in 1317, the Pope entrusted the delivery of this message, along with personal, sealed messages, to Edward and Bruce, the respective kings of England and Scotland.  Arriving in England, the cardinals Jocelin and Luke, sent two nuncios to do their work.  One was the bishop of Corbeil, and the other was a priest named Aumori.  In a side story that must have added to Adam Newton’s fears, the two nuncios traveled north with Lewis de Beaumont, the Bishop-elect of Durham, and were, on the course of their journey, attacked by bandits who allowed them to continue to Scotland (after taking their money of course), but took the bishop-elect hostage.

The bishop of Corbeil and Father Aumori made their way to Bruce probably in early September of 1317.  He was at the time preparing for his latest siege on Berwick.  He listened respectfully as they read the open letters, but refused to open the letter improperly addressed to Robert Bruce governing Scotland.

The cardinals, being told of the nuncios’ failure, corralled Adam Newton into the second attempt. 

Father Newton, anticipating a less than warm welcome, left his Very Important Papers at Berwick for safe-keeping before heading off in search of Bruce.  It was the middle of December when he found the king of Scots camping in the woods of Old Cambus, some twelve miles from Berwick, in the thick of building siege equipment.  Lord Alexander Seton, seneschal of the king, granted Newton safe-conduct, and the man made the 24 mile round trip trek back to Berwick for those papers, and back to Old Cambus to deliver them to Bruce.

I can guarantee that a 24 mile journey in Scotland in December was not a pleasant one.  On his return to Old Cambus, Seton informed him he would not be admitted to the king’s presence, but that he must hand over the papers to be taken to Bruce for his inspection.

Bruce’s patience, by this time, had been strained.  He repeated, with less tolerance than on the previous attempt, one infers from reports, his stance that he would not accept improperly any communication which withheld his royal title, and that, furthermore, he would take Berwick back for Scotland.

Adam Newton, being either a man of courage and duty, or completely foolhardy, determined to deliver his message, anyway, and publicly announced the Pope’s two-year truce between England and Scotland, to the gathered barons and spectators.  Tytler’s History of Scotland tells us the result:

…his pro­clamation was treated with such open marks of insolence and contempt, that he began to tremble for the safety of his person, and earnestly implored them to permit him to pass forward into Scotland to the presence of those prelates with whom he was com­manded to confer, or, at least, to have a safe-conduct back again to Berwick.

Bruce sent Father Newton away, refusing to give him safe conduct papers for his return trip.  One can imagine how Father Newton might have felt, traveling through what was essentially enemy territory, with the displeasure of the king at his back.

So it is not surprising, given both Bruce’s displeasure and his merciful nature, that Father Newton was accosted by four bandits, stripped of his documents, and, according to some sources, all his clothing, but left essentially unhurt and allowed to go his way.  (And we’ll hope that in December he found himself clothes rather quickly!)

Newton later sent a letter to the two cardinals stating: “It is rumoured that the Lord Robert and his accomplices, who instigated this out­rage, are now in possession of the letters intrusted to me.”

No doubt they were.

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