Chapter V; Robert II., 1370-1390, 20 years, pp.39-45.

[History of Scotland Contents]

Truce for two years adjusted,                                1383 
Sir John De Vienne’s expedition to Scotland,      1385 
Battle of Otterburn,                                                1388 
Death of Robert II.,                                                 1390 


   1.  David II. having left no children, his nephew Robert, the High Steward of Scotland, in terms of a solemn Act of Settlement made by Robert Bruce and his Parliament in 1318, succeeded to the throne. He was the only son of King Robert I.’s daughter, Marjory Bruce, who had married Walter, the High Steward of Scotland. At the time of his succession he was fifty-five years of age. He was the first of the Stuart line of sovereigns. He had been twice married. By his first wife, Elizabeth Mure, he had four sons and six daughters, and by his second wife, Euphemia Ross, he had two sons and four daughters. By an act passed in 1371 it was provided that his eldest son John should succeed him. 

   2.  The troubles that afflicted the latter years of the reign of Edward III. of England, made the early part of Robert II.’s reign comparatively peaceful and uneventful. Edward III. died in 1377, but Richard II., his successor, having Wat Tyler’s insurrection and other matters to deal with, left Scotland for a time unmolested. There was, however, a continual petty warfare on the Borders, and the Scots were gradually winning back the territory north of the Tweed which the English had occupied after the battle of Neville’s Cross. 

   3.  The English were anxious or a renewal of the truce, which had continued since 1369, and in 1383 a truce for two years was adjusted between France and England, in which Scotland was to be included; but before the ambassadors could communicate with the government of Scotland, the Earls of Northumberland and Nottingham crossed the Border with 2000 men-at-arms and 6000 bowmen, and slaughtered and burned as far as Edinburgh. Scarcely had they departed when a body of thirty French knights, who knew that the truce had not been communicated to Scotland, landed at Montrose and found their way to Perth, whence they sent two of their number to Edinburgh to inform the government that they wanted employment in fighting against the English. At the very same time the ambassadors sent with the terms of truce came to Edinburgh. The truce was agreed to by the king, but the Estates, embittered by the English raid, would not accept of it. They would have their revenge, and the French visitors were delighted to know that, though the King of Scots forbade, they should enjoy a raid into England. 

   4.  With the keen enjoyment of knights fond of war, the Frenchmen soon saw 15,000 Scots mounted on their small horse ride across the Border. They entered Northumberland and pillaged and burned the lands of Lord Percy. They advanced further and returned through the estates of the Earl of Nottingham, doing much damage, and driving before them a valuable booty of cattle and prisoners. With these they reached home in safety. An ambassador was sent to London to make excuse for the raid, and to express the desire of the government of Scotland to be included in the truce. The invasions by the earls was pleaded in extenuation, and the English government being anxious for peace sent back a peaceful answer. 

   5.  When the thirty Frenchmen went home and told their countrymen what they had seen, and how easily Scotland might be made available for aiding them against England, the French government, instead of seeking a renewal of the truce on its expiry in 1385, fitted out an expedition to Scotland of 1000 horsemen and 1000 footmen, and sent with them as a present to the Scots 1000 stand of arms and armour, 50,000 gold pieces. The command of the expedition was given to John de Vienne, admiral of France. 

   6.  The arms and armour were very acceptable to the Scots, but they scarcely knew what to do with so many knights, accustomed to luxurious living and fine lodging. Edinburgh, which had then about 4000 houses, could not afford accommodation for them all, and they were scattered as far north as Fife and as far south as Kelso. England was resolved at this time to make a great effort to annex Scotland. The young king, Richard II., marched northward with an army of 70,000 men. The Scots were able to muster 30,000. The French were eager for battle, but Douglas took Vienne to the top of a hill, showed him the whole English army, and convinced him that in a contest with such a mighty host, victory was hopeless. The French expected that they would have to surrender, but Douglas let them understand that the Scots could defeat their enemies otherwise than in a pitched battle. He said the English might do their worst in Scotland, while he and they invaded England. They accordingly laid waste Cumberland and Westmoreland. The French said among themselves that they burned more in the bishoprics of Durham and Carlisle than the value of all the towns in Scotland. The English army had meanwhile marched to the Forth, finding little to destroy except the religious houses. Being in danger of starvation, the invaders had to go back to their own country. The Scots returned from England laden with booty. When the English army was gone, the inhabitants came back from the hills and glens with their cattle and effects, restored their houses with turf and a few beams of wood, and resumed their ordinary way of life. 

   7.  The French were surprised at the sturdy independence of the common Scottish people, who would not allow themselves to be plundered and imposed upon like the French peasants. If the Frenchmen meddled with the Scotsmen’s cows or crops, the Scots attacked and punished them. If they would not keep on the paths, but trampled down the corn, they were sued for damages. The Frenchmen were disgusted to find that in such a poor, beggarly country, the meanest inhabitants had civil rights which it was not safe to trample on. The Scots were glad when their troublesome allies left. They told them that they could defend their country themselves, and that they did not want them. 

   8.  When the Scots got rid of their allies they resolved on a second raid into England. The expedition was planned at Aberdeen, and forces to the number of 50,000 were mustered at Southdean on the Jed, about 10 miles south of Jedburgh. The Scottish leaders concealed the project from the king, who was in favour of peace. From a spy captured at the place of muster, the Scots learned that the English intended to pass north by one side of the Border when the Scots passed south by the other. This information made the Scots determine to invade England both on the eastern and the western side of the Cheviot Hills. The main army accordingly entered England by Carlisle and doubtless plundered at its pleasure, but its doings were cast into the shade by the brilliant exploits of the 300 men-at-arms and the 2000 footmen whom Douglas led across the Tweed, and as far as the gates at Durham. 

   9.  The Scots were returning laden with plunder when Sir Henry Percy, nicknamed Hotspur, and his brother Sir Ralph met them at Newcastle. In a skirmish which took place there, Douglas took Percy’s pennon and triumphantly cried out that he would raise it on his castle of Dalkeith. Percy retorted with a vow that he should not take it out of Northumberland. Douglas said it would be found that night in front of his tent, and challenged Percy to come and take it. The Scots drew off by Rede Water and attacked without success the tower of Otterburn. There was a general desire among them to go home as fast as possible, but Douglas thought he was in honour bound to give Percy a chance of recovering his pennon. His authority prevailed, and the Scots intrenched themselves and undid their armour for rest. 

   10.  When Percy heard where the Scots were, and that they numbered less than 3000, he sped on to Otterburn with 800 horsemen and 8000 footmen, and in the moonlight of August 19th, 1388, attacked the Scottish camp. The Scots were taken by surprise, but the camp-followers and a few spearmen kept the enemy at bay till the men-at-arms were harnessed. Going quietly out by the rear, the Scots swept round and attacked the English in flank. The English by sheer force of numbers drove back the Scots at first, but Douglas, taking an axe in both hands, entered the press and made a way for himself in such a manner, that for a time none durst approach him. At length he was borne down and mortally wounded. He told his immediate followers to conceal his fall, to display his banner, and raise his battle-cry. This was done so heartily that the Scots broke the English ranks and gained a complete victory. Douglas breathed his last on the battle-field. Of the Scots, about one hundred were slain and two hundred made prisoners. Earl Percy was taken captive. The English lost 1040 in the battle-field. In the pursuit, 840 more well killed, and more than a thousand wounded. It was a chivalrous battle for the capture of a pennon; but for the practical ends of war it was useless bloodshed. This battle has been commemorated in the well-known ballad of Chevy Chase

   11.  The Scots were in danger of being attacked after the battle by the Bishop of Durham, who came up with 10,000 men; but he, after inspecting the Scottish position, which had been further strengthened before his arrival, withdrew and allowed the Scots to retire unmolested. In 1389 a truce was made between England and France in which Scotland was included. It continued by renewals till 1399. This truce cheered the last days of the aged king, who died at his castle of Dundonald, near Irvine, in 1390

   Summary. – David II. died childless, and Robert Stewart, the only son of Walter the High Steward and Robert Bruce’s daughter Marjory, ascended the throne at the age of fifty-five. The English left Scotland unmolested during the early part of this king’s reign, and allowed the Scots to win back those parts between the Forth and the Tweed which their enemies had occupied after the battle of Neville’s Cross. Though Scotland was included in a truce between France and England in 1383, the truce was concealed from the Scots until the Earls of Northumberland and Nottingham had invaded Scotland and wasted the country as far as Edinburgh. The truce was then made known and accepted by the king; but the Estates would not agree to it till they had their revenge. They led 15,000 men across the Border, pillaged the lands of the Lords Percy and Nottingham, and then accepted the truce. John de Vienne came from France in 1385 with arms and men to aid the Scots against Richard II., who had determined to annex Scotland. The Scots, to the surprise of the French admiral, avoided a battle, but defeated their enemies by first clearing the country before them, and then invading England. They found their French allies troublesome, and were glad when they left the country. The Scots then invaded England by both the eastern and western marches Douglas led the army on the eastern side, and defeated the English at Otterburn. but was himself slain (1388). Robert II. died in 1390.

   Questions:- By what rights did Robert the High Steward succeed David Bruce? What troubles in England enabled the Scots to win back the territories they had lost after the battle of Neville’s Cross? Describe the hostilities which followed the truce of 1383. What report did thirty Frenchmen who took part in them take back to France? What did the French government do? Relate the manner in which the Scots repelled the English invasion by Richard II. in 1385. What was there in the condition of the Scots that surprised their French allies? Describe the manner in which the invasion of England by the Scots in 1388 was planned and carried out. Give a brief account of the invasion of England by Douglas, and of the battle of Otterburn. When and where did Robert II. die?
sol’-emn, sacred.  en-joy’-ment, pleasure. 
set’-tlement, fixing, arranging.  pil’-laged, plundered, spoiled. 
par’-liament, representative council of the nation.  boot’-y, spoil taken in war. 
mar’-ried, wedded.  ex-ten-u-a’-tion, making to seem less wrong. 
suc-ces’-sion, following after as heir.  a-vail’-a-ble, capable of being used. 
sov’-er-eign, king.  ac-cept’-a-ble, agreeable. 
af-flict’-ed, vexed.  ac-cus’-tomed, used to. 
com-par’-a-tively, by comparison.  lux-u’-ri-ous, extravagant in diet or dress. 
in-sur-rec’-tion, rising against, rebellion.  ac-com-mo-da’-tion, lodging. 
un-mo-lest’-ed, untroubled.  scat’-tered, dispersed. 
pet’-ty, little, on a small scale.  re-solved’, determined. 
oc’-cu-pied, taken possession of.  con-vinced’, satisfied. 
anx’-ious, desirous.  re-sumed, began again. 
ad-just’-ed, fixed, settled.  in-de-pen’-dence, self-reliance. 
in-clud’-ed, taken into.  im-posed’ upon, cheated. 
am-bass’-a-dors, messengers of a king or nation.  dam’-ages, compensation for loss or injury. 
com-mu’-ni-cate, make known.  dis-gust’-ed, displeased, filled with dislike. 
gov’-ern-ment, persons in a state who administer the laws.  raid, hostile inroad. 
slaugh’-tered, killed, slew.  mus’-tered, collected, got together. 
em-bit’-tered, made angry, annoyed.  cap’-tured, taken. 
re-venge, injury done in return.  bril’-liant, splendid. 
com-mem’-or-at-ed, kept in mind, recorded.  pen’-non, small flag. 
har’-nessed, armed for fight.  im-me’-diate, close by, near. 
Montrose, a seaport town in Forfarshire, at the mouth of the South Esk. 
Perth, county town of Perthshire, on the Tay. 
Kelso, a town in Roxburghshire, on the Tweed. 
Dalkeith, a town in Edinburghshire. 
Irvine, a town on the coast of Ayrshire. 
Aberdeen, county town of Aberdeenshire, at the mouth of the Dee.