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Scottish Independence (1100-1329) - Source Extract Question

Ewan J. Innes, MA(Hons Scot. Hist.) FSA Scot


Synopsis:  This essay takes a source extract and explains the significance of the extract and the history behind it.

Please see my copyright policy if you wish to cite any part of this essay.

This extract is taken from a report sent to the English constable of Roxburgh castle by an English spy who was serving with the Scots army under the guardians -the spy being one of the commoners-.

The quarrel, (which had begun when Malcolm Wallace protested against Sir David Graham's demands for the lands of William Wallace [Malcolm's brother] who had left the Country without the leave of the guardians). The quarrel took place in Selkirk forest where the Scots were in shelter preparing for raids into Northumberland and Lothian. The extract shows that only a year after their election as guardians, and soon after the return of Bishop Lamberton from France where he had been trying to raise some support for the Scots, Bruce, Earl of Carrick was falling out with 'the red' Comyn. The dispute, as well as bad news from the north where John Comyn's brother was burning lands, led to Lamberton being appointed as principal guardian.

This extract from the original report is written in a factual and unbiased manner, in order to give all the facts in as short a period as is possible.The reason for this being that the letter, being secret, could not be of any great length as this would attract suspicion on the spy.

The significant fact which should be noted at this point is that in the document the disputants i.e. Wallace and Graham are referred to as belonging to a particular party within the Scots leadership e.g. "Sir John Comyn's following" or "of the Earl of Carrick's following". This I feel gives further emphasis of the split which was beginning to occur within the Scots leadership between the Northerners who were Balliol men and the South Westerners who included Bruce and the Stewart among their number. This was the group to which Wallace naturally belonged.

Sir James Stewart had been one of the leaders of the resistance from 1296 and had been one of the guardians. As one of the small band of nobles which included the dukes of Atholl and Mar he contributed to the Scots army at Falkirk where his brother John was killed in command of the Scots archers. His role was that of the high ranking members of the Royal entourage, his proper surname was Steward which has been altered over the years to Stewart.

The appointment of Lamberton, whose career was linked to the South West but whose family ties and his Bishopric bound him to the North, had the effect of closing the split -at least for a time- enabling Bruce and Comyn to work together in the place of a king whom only one of them actually supported.

Ewan Innes, September 12 1989