But this week here on the exclusive, secretive and slightly nerdy members podcasts, is not about England it is about Scotland. Or well, is it ladies and gentlemen, is it? Listen sweet ears that never heard a lie, listen on. Because we stand on the doorstep of the wars of Independence, a tempestuous period of about 70 years in Scotland’s history which will lead, amongst other things, to a film strewn with bad haircuts. This is one of the more important periods in Scottish history, and we will have a full 7 episodes on it, rather more in depth than you have been used to in the HoS for a while but it is a story which has everything you could wish for – intrigue, drama, love, politics betrayal, ambition and those small things you sprinkle on top of cakes
Last time we left Scotland pretty well fettled, in fact, I would go so far as to say extremely well fettled, as well fettled as a country can get, bring on the fettle. Alexander III’s reign was peaceful and prosperous, with an impressively unified political nation. In 1280, the continuation of the Canmore dynasty seemed assured, since Alexander, though currently between relationships, had three children, Margaret born in 1261, Alexander in 1264 and David 1272. The political nation had its squabbles between the great men, but the crown was fully accepted as the rightful arbiter of such full and frank exchange of views as did occur, and they were generally amicably settled over beer and sandwiches. Alexander himself was a competent ruler who could look back at 19 years of successful personal rule, and he was still a young man of 39, with an heir of 16 years old.
You will guess off course, if you don’t already know, that I am building this up into a golden story of joy and laughter, light and justice, just to make what follows even more tragic; I am guilty, gentle listener, of trying to build the sense of tension and drama. So sorry.
The tragedy started in 1275, I suppose, with the death of Alexander’s wife Margaret, but it was the death of his youngest David in 1280 when the sound of pebbles rattling down from high on the hillside, began to become apparent. The death of daughter Margaret in 1283 had the rocks clattering and bouncing over the royal heads and when Alexander Junior died in 1284 the whole blessed scree was sliding into the valley and taking Scotland with it.
One of the people that wrote to Alexander to express their support and sympathy was Edward I of England. We don’t have the letter, but we do have Alexander’s reply.
You have offered much solace for our grief by saying that although death has…borne away your kindred in these parts, we are united together perpetually, by the tie of indissoluble affection
It’s interesting – remember Henry III, Edward’s dad had been a friend to Scotland in the main, and Edward had started in the same vein. OK.
But anyway look, let’s make like Buzz not Woody, this is not the perfect to panic. There were two fall back positions. Firstly, his daughter Margaret had been married to King Eric of Norway and she’d been in the family way, and in 1283 before she died they’d had a girl – Margaret, to be known to history as the Maid of Norway. Almost as soon as Alexander junior was in the grave, Alexander started buffing, as in buffing the back up plans, by asking his magnates to accept the Maid of Norway as his heir. Then, as we have said, even in 1284 he was a young man, well, you know 42, so next he found himself a suitable new wife, Yolanda of Dreux. Yolanda arrived in Scotland in February 1285, and in October that same year she and Alexander were married within the red stone walls of Jedburgh Abbey. Presumably they immediately set to the job in hand, namely the production of heirs, and we just have to hope they managed to combine business with pleasure, usually a mistake I am told but in this instance we can maybe make an exception. And anyway, according to the English Lanercost chronicler Alexander never held back anyway when he was between relationships
he used never to forbear on account of season nor storm, nor for perils of flood or rocky cliffs, but would visit none too creditably nuns or matrons, virgins or widows as the fancy seized him, sometimes in disguise
I think we can put that down to English propaganda – there’ll be plenty of that to come, as well as plenty of the Scottish variety. Anyway, in March the next year, 19th March 1286 to be precise, Alexander spent the day with his council at Edinburgh. It was, in the words of Snoopy and Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a Dark and stormy night, and it was late, blowing a gale, but Alexander was a martyr for his work, and real workaholic, and Yolande was across the Forth at Kingshorn in Fife, and Alexander had, well, you know, work to do with her. As I say, a martyr. So despite pleadings from all around not to go out into the teeth of the gale, Alexander set out with love in his heart and possibly passion in his loins, if I am not getting inebriated with the exhuberance of my own verbosity, as Dizzy might have said. Well, Alexander did just fine, and found his way with his companions to the ferry across the River forth at Queensferry, the ferry established by his ancestor Queen Margaret – the saintly one, you remember. The ferryman tore a strip off his king telling him that 2 miles across choppy waters in a gale was not a good idea, but Alexander was determined, work to do remember, and they managed to cross without mishap. And away Alexander rode with his two companions towards Kingshorn. In the dark and the rain and the wind his companions were separated from him, but never mind they continued on to Kinghorn and waited for Alexander to come in so they could get him dry and warm and off to bed.
Alexander of course never turned up. When the weather had cleared enough to go out and look for him, they found his broken body lying on the sand at the bottom of a steep hill now called kings crag. He’d broken his neck. If there is anyone out there intending to invent time travel, going back in time and stopping Alexander setting out from Edinburgh would be a good one to prioritise, because this was a death that would have the most unpleasant consequences. 10 days later at his funeral the magnates of the land met with furrowed brows, but it took many meetings for them to come up with a plan. They’d wait to see if Yolande was pregnant first, and in the meantime they’d appoint 6 Guardians to head the government. These Guardians were elected on the authority of the ‘community of the Realm’. We should take a few minutes to go through these men, without going potty of course.
Two were from the church. William Fraser had been Alexander’s Chancellor for many years, Oxford university education and a man well used to government administration and diplomacy. He had been rewarded with the Bishopric of St Andrews in 1279, the largest and richest of the Scottish Bishoprics. His fellow Bishop and Guardian, Robert Wishart, had been bishop of Glasgow for longer and might well have been the son of the previous Bishop of St Andrews. Robert Wishart might well have disappeared into the obscurity of history without the following crisis; he appears to have been no great scholar, and spent much of his time filling all his available appointments with various Wishart family members. But he was also a man of firm purpose and courage, and in his way would prove a man of principle, and be a major player in the coming struggle. I give you Bishop Robert Wishart ladies and Gentleman, to be known simply as Wishart from now on since there’s no way I can keep saying Bishop Wishart, just remember that he’s a Bishop, that’s important.
There were then two earls – Alexander Comyn of Buchan, and Duncan MacDuff, the earl of Fife. Duncan was relatively young, in his 20’s, and his inclusion in the Guardians was probably a sign of the age and precedence of his title – the earls of Fife had always been the premier Earl, with the right to crown the new monarch at Scone. Alexander Comyn was at the other end of the scale; probably close to 70 years old, he was head of the Comyn family, quite possibly the largest and most powerful of the magnate families, with their power base mainly north of the Mounth north of Aberdeen.
So, two Bishops, two Earls – there were then two representatives of the Barons – John Comyn of Badenoch and James Steward. John Comyn, Red Comyn, was related to Alexander’s, and was a man of wealth and wide and powerful connections in his own right – he was married to the sister of John Balliol, and brother in law of Alexander Macdougall, lord of Argyle. James Steward was part of the family that had become hereditary holders of the title of Steward of Scotland’, and held land west of the River Clyde.
So there we are the six Guardians – Bishops Robert Wishart and William Fraser, Earls Alexander Comyn of Badenoch and Duncan MacDuff of Fife, and barons John Comyn and James Steward.
You may know something about Scottish history, and if you do you will probably know the name Robert Bruce, quite conceivably the most famous Scotsman after Adam Smith and Jocky Wilson. If so you may note that the Bruce’s name is not among that list of Guardians. If you know even more you might know the Balliol name, and give little moue of surprise that a family so powerful should not be represented. What can they be thinking? you might say to yourself as you adjust your slippers and pour yourself another liberal helping of Gin, or wiskey maybe. Well, the political classes of Scotland were not idiots; they knew that the future hung like a thread – it might be that the future king of Scotland quickened within Yolande’s womb, if you don’t mind me being biblical, or that the Maid of Norway would have a long and happy life to be followed by a long list of little Norways, or little maids in a row. But if not, it was the Balliols and the Bruces that had the best claim to the throne. So for the moment, just to be prudent, best keep them both away from the centre of power. In this, the influence of Wishart and Fraser was probably most strong. Their prudence was justified.
Now in the meantime it seemed pretty obvious who should help support the Guardians, pretty clear who should guard the guardians. Edward I of course. The English kings were a friendly lot, accepted by all as a reasonable Umpire, and big and hairy enough to make any agreement stick. Off went envoys to speak to Edward who was campaigning in Gascony in the Saintonge, but unfortunately Edward was too distracted to offer any specific guarantees. And then, poor Yolande had a miscarriage, and the political nation looked nervously ceilingwards with a couple more twangs from the wires holding their own personal sword of Damocles.
Now then, the story of the wars of Scottish independence are a wonderful story, and by and large your average Scot is able to wallow happily in a story of the righteous fight against imperial tyranny, and cry Freedom! As they pull their intestines from their stomachs, just prior to dividing themselves into 4 quarters. But there are a few rules and a few tweaks to remember. The first thing is that we must remember at all places and at all times that we are in times medieval. Patriotism there might be, an appreciation of shared history and different peoples across a kingdom of Scotland, but the operating force of the day was not nationalism, but lordship and custom. There is no particular reason why, if the right was established, that Scottish lords should not owe allegiance to a different lord not a Canmore – a Plantagenet such as Edward even; as long, of course, that Edward promised to respect and continue to govern under the law and customs of the Scottish realm. So if you read Neil Oliver’s thoroughly excellent and personally highly recommended book the History of Scotland, there’s talk constantly of failures of patriotism, betrayal, treason and so on – which really aren’t fair, once homage was given to a lord that was the priority, not loyalty to some theoretical concept of a nation. We’ll come back to this a few times.
The second point is that while the period from the 1290s to 1350s is rightly named as a struggle for Scottish independence, it was also an internal struggle for power between the competing great families, and between different factions of Scottish magnates that change with bewildering speed.
Just to demonstrate the latter point, it is at this point that a man called Robert Bruce first made a dash for power. Despite the oath of 1284 when every magnate had sworn to accept the maid of Norway as Alexander’s heir, Bruce figured that there must be a good deal of reluctance to have a woman on the throne, and a lot of nervousness about the fact that she was only 3 years old. So Bruce went on a bid for power.
We need to talk a bit more about the Bruce family then do we not. We have heard their name before – they’d been established by David I in the South West of Scotland, near the border with England and nestled next to Galloway. There estates were centred in a place called Annandale, this being a strath, or large river valley, carved by the River Annan. Critically though, like most magnates, they help land in England too, held from Edward I. That’s important in in1286 holding land from both the Canmores and Plantagenets was very common indeed. Lordship not nation states remember.
Now, there have been many Robert Bruces by the time 1286 came around, so the current leader of the family was Robert Bruce V, a man of maybe 66 at this time. I will call him Robert V because in our story there will be a Robert VI and a Robert VII. The one you may be thinking of, if you are thinking of one, the one with a statue, will be Robert VII. Nudge nudge wink wink no plot spoilers. Robert V, the current head of the Bruce is sometimes called Robert the Competitor, because he will be a competitor for the Crown in the Great Cause, since he was descended from King David I. However, royal blood in his veins there might be, but Robert V knew in his heart of hearts, in his bones, in his water, that his claim was not quite as good as one John Balliol. He’d never admit it of course, but deep down he knew, or at least was aware his claim was far from a shoo-in, or a gimme.
So Robert V went to war. There are signs that he’d already squared up some powerful families and expected that they might come out for him. He’d met with some families at his Turnberry Castle on the coast of Galloway; James Stewart, the Guardian; the earls of Dunbar and Mentieth, and Angus Og Macdonald, head of the powerful MacDonalds that controlled much of the western Islands. Now officially they’d been talking about Ireland but these would be traditional Bruce supporters on and off.
And when Robert Bruce V raised his banners he headed for his rival’s white exposed throat – the Balliols because of their claim to the throne, and the Comyns because they were super powerful and likely to support the Balliols. But Bruce had miscalculated. It was too early. No one joined him, the Guardians including James Stewart stood shoulder to shoulder. So Bruce drew back, and Bruce negotiated; Robert Bruce V was quite a character – not for nothing was he called the competitor, he was determined, aggressive, acquisitive. There is very little of the disinterested hero in Robert V. Now he realised he’d messed up – and he gratefully accepted a deal which basically made him give back that which he’d grabbed, but did not hang him up by his ankles with his head in a bucket of poo.
There passed a weary time. Each throat Was parched, and glazed each eye. A weary time! a weary time! How glazed each weary eye.
Without the intervention of Edward, it was a difficult time, a time without an Umpire. The problem was that the Guardians were both supposed to be acting the part of the king – impartial, disinterested – while at the same time they were part of the game itself. Just to give you one example, let us take John of Strathbogie, the Earl of Atholl. Atholl had a series of disputes with the Comyns, that stretched back to before the latest trouble. How could he seriously expect to have his complaints resolved by the Guardians when there were two Comyns among the 6 of them? You see the problem. This hadn’t been beyond the wit of Alexander III, in fact he’d managed it quite sweetly, but now the king was a 3 year old, not noted for their interest in matters political if my personal experience is anything to go by. Also, the Maid was still outside the kingdom, still with her Dad in Norway, so she couldn’t even be presented to people to give them something to look forward to and remind them what it was all about.
So it was with some relief that finally the Guardians managed to get Edward to take some interest, and in 1289, there was a flurry of diplomatic activity. The reason for Edward’s interest seems to have been that from somewhere came the idea that his son Edward of Carnarvon should marry the Maid of Norway, and thereby bring the crowns of Scotland and England together in the one Plantagent family; it’s quite possible that this was a plan cooked up between Eric of Norway and Edward. And you might also think that eek, the Scots would be up in rms, William Wallace would cry freedom and demand to have his genitals removed and burned in front of him, Robert Bruce would retire to the nearest cave to watch spiders. But not a bit of it. The Guardians and the community of the Realm were not necessarily opposed to the idea – lordship you see, not nation state. The Magnates and ecclesiastical lords of Scotland showed their essential solidarity and sense of community in discussing this idea, and sending the Guardians to agree the plan with Edward, and agree it they did, and the results were written up in a treaty and sealed at a place called Birgham in the Scottish Borders.
At this stage essentially, Edward was playing relatively nice. Now obviously the Treaty of Birgham in 1289 gave Edward an absolutely banzai deal – his son would be king of both Scotland and England, and you can bet your sweet bottom that dad would have a say in the running of things in the meantime. But the reason it wasn’t odious to the community of the Scottish realm was this line in the treaty. Scotland would be:
separate and divided from England according to its rightful boundaries, free in itself and without subjection
That was the rule – Scotland would remain Scotland and England would remain England even though ruled by the same monarch, just as today you can be an English patriot and yet be part of a united states of Europe. Jus’ sayin’. Now this is the battleline that would be drawn through the wars of the independence. What the community of the Scottish realm wanted – and at this stage by that word community we are talking Magnates, barons, lord and the Church – what they wanted was to have their distinctiveness, their liberties and rights, laws, and language recognised and maintained. The magnates and barons wanted their control of the people and land to remain as it was now, and to a degree this means their negotiation now, and indeed in the future as things head pearwards, were essentially self-interested. But it remains true to say that in arguing for their interests they argued at the same time for the rights of the whole community of Scotland – any alteration of the laws and customs or removal of justice to another country would have affected everyone in society. No one in Scotland wanted that, so while the magnates fought for their personal interests, they fought for their community’s interest too – and Edward agreed with them – fine, go on then, done he said.
Note that the deal with the church is very similar to the interests of the barons. The role of the church is critical in what follows, and they are rock solid behind independence, rock solid, and Wishart, Fraser, and his successor as Bishop of St Andrews, William Lamberton come under much pressure not just from Edward but from the Pope to fall in behind Edward. But look, they, their successors in the Scottish church and their Scottish kings have spent centuries fighting off English claims to primacy through the ABY, and the Scots have no interest in that changing now. The church was more wary of the laws and customs of Scotland than even the magnates for it affected their independence just as much.
There were some signs that Edward found it very difficult to accept this position – he gets involved in things he really shouldn’t, but either they are not too serious or the Guardians push back. And so if things had continued like this, and the Maid had succeeded and all, the history of Scotland would have been quite different. And Edward kept his side of the bargain to boot, which was essentially to persuade Eric to allow his little girl to travel to Scotland – and this Eric did because he was confident Edward would and could protect her interests. And so off the little maid of Norway set, in 1290, now 7 years old, to journey to her new country.
Meanwhile, the Scottish nobles were meeting at Perth in October 1290 – we don’t quite know who that exactly was, but certainly the 6 Guardians, but not Robert Bruce as it happens. They were met there by Edward’s envoys, including the Earl Warenne, a name you will hear again. The envoys were coming to confirm Edward’s acceptance of the terms of the treaty of Birgham.
But into that meeting came terrible news. The wee Maid of Norway had died on her way on the isle of Orkney poor little poppet. All was confusion – except one man who knew exactly what to do. Robert Bruce V gathered his men and headed for Perth, and gathered his allies when there – the earls Mar and Atholl in particular – and arrived probably to force the assembled notables to make him, Robert Bruce, King of Scotland. But once again he’d gone too soon – the presence of the English envoys threatened Edward’s overwhelming intervention, and William Fraser and John Comyn remained firm. In fact, by 7th October 1290 William Fraser had written to Edward to say that John Baliol was the most likely new king of Scotland by rights; John Baliol was on his estates in England.
So, this is an interesting one. In response Bruce, unwilling or unable to take physical action sends his own counter claims and accusations to Edward. This is called the appeal of the seven earls, though we know not who the 7 earls are; it accuses Fraser and Comyn of unfairly favouring Baliol. There’s something of a historical bun fight around this; Traditionally the story has been of a set of Guardians acting very much in the interest of the whole realm, and that although sure, he’s raising objections, emphasises that Bruce stays within that community. Other historians point to a Comyn dominated group of Guardians, and that it is this that drives Bruce and his allies, that the appeal is basically confrontational. You pays your money and all that. What’s clear, is that with the death of the Maid, Scotland’s political community has significant faultlines in it, that these faultlines are now on the surface, and these are faultlines which probably only Edward can put right by making decisions and being the arbiter. And Edward sends messages north essentially saying sit tight, don’t make any decision until we have a king on Scotland. And that’s fine, that’s what the Guardians essentially want as well.
So, there’s an air maybe of hopeful expectation when in April 1291 Edward came north, and came to stay at Norham castle on the River Tweed. The Scottish nobles all came to gather in May in preparation of meeting their friend and neighbour, the logical and only guy really who could help them settle this without bloodshed. On May 10th they came into Norham castle for a parliament of the two kingdoms; there may have a few among the Scottish contingent who mentioned that Norham was on English territory, how was that part of the deal, but in the main it would have been with an air of optimistic expectation.
So what they heard would have hit them hard, very hard indeed. Edward announced that he would indeed adjudicate on their issue. And he would do so, of course, because he was their sovereign lord. Everyone knew didn’t they, that the kings of England held supremacy over the whole of Britain, because Brutus had landed in Totnes and helped himself to an icecream, and Brutus was the founder of all Britain.
It was Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow who spoke for the stunned Guardians. He reached for his Hitch Hikers guide, stared sightlessly at the helpful words Don’t Panic, and quite rightly discarded it as unhelpful. And panicked, with some justification. Don’t do this he said, essentially; adjudicate as our friend, not our overlord. This is unacceptable.
Go, said Edward; you have until June to discuss it with your fellows but if you refuse to accept my overlordship I will enforce my rights by force.
Well, good golly miss molly, that’s a bit mean. Now there are various views as regards Edward I should tell you. Very famous historians whose sandals I am not worthy to fit over their M&S socks argue that Edward behaved with perfect right at Norham, and indeed throughout the following Great Cause as it is known, the Great Cause essentially being the search for the right candidate. Fair enough.
Even as a patriotic Englishman I can’t buy it. I have to agree with those that argue Edward saw an opportunity now that he had not seen before and changed his story; the Scots were kingless, there were factional rivalries. They needed him to avoid civil war, they simply could not make the decision without him. Throughout, even in the Treaty of Birgham, he had reserved his rights – this was a formula repeated throughout his dad, Henry III’s interactions with the Scots as well – he also used the formula that he ‘reserved his rights’. Edward had not been prepared to go through the pain of trying to enforce these ancient dodgy rights while he knew he would face both the combined opposition of the Scottish community, but would also quite clearly trample all over the accepted rightful monarch, the Maid of Norway. But now things were different – he could enforce his dodgy rights with a minimum of pain and trouble. I am prepared to accept that Edward genuinely thought he could legally lay claim to these rights, he wasn’t inventing them. But this was the exercise of naked power. Up to this point Edward had been helpful, right up to the death of Margaret – because he recognised the strength of the political community in Scotland, and their allegiance to the Canmore dynasty. Now that dynasty was gone, and he made a conscious decision to make a power grab. His behaviour is now frankly threatening.
Well, we come then to the Great Cause. The Scots really did have no choice, Edward was right. He thought it was simple, but in fact of course he was preparing for himself a bed of pain. Maybe he was thinking it would be like Wales, where just recently he had established direct rule. But Wales was the smallest and most divided of all the regions of the British Isles – Scotland was much bigger, already had a clear sense of its own identity, and through the reigns of Alexanders II and III had been united across its potential Anglo French and Gaelic faultlines.
However, if might is right, Edward was right at this point at Norham; he recognised that the absence of a Scottish king made him stronger and he exploited the divisions within the Scottish community like a master lutenist. Those divisions were not about to which kingdom the community owed its allegiance – but it was about which family and faction should rule it. Edward played that. He also played the fact that many of these greatest lords – Bruce and Baliol in particular – held lands in England from him that they’d really rather not lose.
The Scots sat on the other side of the river from Norham, on the Scottish side, as long as they could. Edward cranked up the pressure, by encouraging the entry of other candidates. What had started with 2 credible candidates ended with, well, 2 credible candidates but 9 other supposedly credible candidates. We should detail at least the 2 most credible claims.
As you know, David I of Scotland, 1124-1153, had but one son, Henry, Earl of Northumbria, who had died before Dad, and so it was his, Henry’s children who had inherited from David. The Eldest two, Malcolm and then William the Lion had inherited, and William the lion’s was the line that had run into the sand with little Margaret’s death. And so we come to Henry of Northumbria’s third son, David, Earl of Huntingdon, who had 3 daughters – the credible claims came from there.
John Baliol, who Wishart as we said had already identified as the best claimant, was the Lord of Galloway. He was descended from the 1st Daughter, and he was her grandson. That’s important – John Baliol is from the most senior surviving line, but he’s 3 generations from David of Huntingdon. Robert Bruce V, Lord of Annandale, is descended from the 2nd daughter – but he is her son, so he is only 2 generations from David – and so he can claim proximity in degree of kinship – he’s fewer generations removed. He makes lots of other claims, around the old laws of tanistry, the Gaelic practice, claiming to have been nominated by Alexander III. The rules of feudal descent were not yet fully sorted – Bruce did have a legitimate claim.
The others had claims which rated between fig leaf level to frankly wildly ludicrous. John Hastings was descended from the 3rd daughter. Floris V, Count of Holland was descended from David of Huntingdon’s younger sister. So neither had any hope really of being chosen ahead of Baliol; but they were not so simple of course, they came at the opportunity from other angles. Hastings for example, said that look, Scotland is now a fief of the English Crown, and therefore should be treated like other fiefs, and divided between co-heirs when the male line failed. Floris threw in as many spurious claims as he could think of, the big one being such that David had renounced his claims to the throne, and had passed them to his sister Ada. Oddly, Robert Bruce was possibly the most unscrupulous of all; he entered into an agreement with Hastings and Floris, a sort of side bet. They drew up and sealed contracts between them which said that if any one of them won, they would divide a third of the royal demesne. It is something of an irony that the grandfather of the man who did more than anyone to preserve Scottish independence should be such a ruthless wheeler dealer. John Comyn, on the other hand was a competitor, but he specifically stated that his claim should not prejudice the claim of Baliol. Already Comyn and Baliol were allied.
Other claimants in the ludicrous category were descended from illegitimate children. The streets of Norham were lined with lords on their uppers claiming that they’d once met somebody who thought they might have a Scottish grandmother could they apply please? I exaggerate for effect, of course.
You might I guess, claim that Edward was just being thorough; others might argue that you’d therefore clearly been on the sauce, and that he did it simply to complicate and increase the pressure; but who knows. But increase the pressure it did. The fields around the Scottish camp were lined with a carpet of finger nails as the candidates chewed and wondered if they should give it, and looked nervously around to see if any of their competitors had moved. Whole fingers began to join the nails when Edward calmly announced that to be a candidate would require the placing of their hands in his, with an oath of fealty to accompany it of course; the candidate must accept Edward as their lord for all their possessions, including Scotland.
It was Robert Bruce V who cracked first. He, John Hastings and Count Floris, on 5th June 1291, accepted Edward’s claim to over lordship, knelt and placed their hands in his. Baliol held his nerve the longest of the claimants, because he knew he had the best claim – but on 11th June he finally cracked as well. The Guardians now had no choice – on the 12th they all, including Robert Wishart, swore their oath to Edward accepting his right.
Edward set up a mightily complicated set of judges – 104 of them – who set to work. The waters of the pool of state boiled with feeding lawyers. As a result of course, the decision was delayed to August 1292, and until that time, the Guardians continued – with all this talk of Guardians I’m finding it almost impossible not to say I am Groot, so there we go, now I have said it.
Over the following 12 months, Edward managed to broadly leave the Guardians to it. But on 17th November, 1292, Edward finally gave judgement – in favour of John Baliol, so, no last minute shocks then. It is worth noting that at least the judgement preserved Scotland as a complete, unified kingdom, despite the efforts of Bruce, Hastings and Floris to divide it between them. 2 weeks later, on St Andrews Day 1292, John Baliol was inaugurated King John through the traditional ceremony at Scone, and six and a half years after the death of Alexander III, Scotland finally had a new reigning monarch. It was something of a hospital ball.