Royal Edinburgh - Her Saints, Kings, Prophets and Poets
by Margaret Oliphant
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'Mine own romantic town.' MARMION





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First Edition (Medium 8vo) 1890 Second Edition (Crown 8vo) 1891

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It is strange yet scarcely difficult to the imagination to realise the first embodiment of what is now Edinburgh in the far distance of the early ages. Neither Pict nor Scot has left any record of what was going on so far south in the days when the king's daughters, primitive princesses with their rude surroundings, were placed for safety in the castrum puellarum, the maiden castle, a title in after days proudly (but perhaps not very justly) adapted to the supposed invulnerability of the fortress perched upon its rock. Very nearly invulnerable, however, it must have been in the days before artillery; too much so at least for one shut-up princess, who complained of her lofty prison as a place without verdure. If we may believe, notwithstanding the protest of that much-deceived antiquary the Laird of Monkbarns, that these fair and forlorn ladies were the first royal inhabitants of the Castle of Edinburgh, we may imagine that they watched from their battlements more wistfully than fearfully, over all the wide plain, what dust might rise or spears might gleam, or whether any galley might be visible of reiver or rescuer from the north. A little collection of huts or rude forts here and there would be all that broke the sweeping line of Lothian to the east or west, and all that width of landscape would lie under the eyes of the watchers, giving long notice of the approach of any enemies. "Out over the Forth I look to the north," the maidens might sing, looking across to Dunfermline, where already there was some royal state, or towards the faint lines of mountains in the distance, over the soft swelling heights of the Lomonds. No doubt Edinburgh, Edwinesburgh, or whatever the antiquaries imagine it to have been, must have been sadly dull if safe, suspended high upon the rock, nearer heaven than earth. It is curious to hear that it was "without verdure"; but perhaps the young ladies took no account of the trees that clothed the precipices below them, or the greenness that edged the Nor' Loch deep at their feet, but sighed for the gardens and luxuriance of Dunfermline, where all was green about their windows and the winding pathways of the dell of Pittendreich would be pleasant to wander in. This first romantic aspect of the Castle of Edinburgh is, however, merely traditional, and the first real and authentic appearance of the old fortress and city in history is in the record, at once a sacred legend and a valuable historical chronicle, of the life of Margaret the Atheling, the first of several Queen Margarets, the woman saint and blessed patroness of Scotland, who has bequeathed not only many benefits and foundations of after good to her adopted country, but her name—perhaps among Scotswomen still the most common of all Christian names.

No more moving and delightful story was ever written or invented than the history of this saint and Queen. She was the daughter of Edward, called the Outlaw, and of his wife a princess of Hungary, of the race which afterwards produced St. Elizabeth: and the sister of Edgar Atheling, the feeble but rightful heir of the Saxon line, and consequently of the English throne. The family, however, was more foreign than English, having been brought up at the Court of their grandfather, the King of Hungary, one of the most pious and one of the richest Courts in Christendom; and it was not unnatural that when convinced of the fact that the most legitimate of aspirants had no chance against the force of William, they should prefer to return to the country of their education and birth. It was no doubt a somewhat forlorn party that set out upon this journey, for to lose a throne is seldom a misfortune accepted with equanimity, and several of the beaten and despondent Saxons had joined the royal exiles. Their voyage, however, was an unprosperous one, and after much beating about by winds and storms they were at last driven up the Firth of Forth, where their ship found shelter in the little bay at the narrowing of the Firth, which has since borne the name of St. Margaret's Hope.

Lying here in shelter from all the winds behind the protecting promontory, with perhaps already some humble shrine or hermit's cell upon Inchgarvie or Inchcolm to give them promise of Christian kindness, with the lonely rock of Edinburgh in the distance on one side, and the soft slopes of the Fife coast rising towards the King's palace at Dunfermline on the other, the travellers must have awaited with some anxiety, yet probably much hope, the notice of the barbaric people who came to the beach to stare at their weather-beaten ships, and hurried off to carry the news inland of such unwonted visitors. It is the very spot which is now disturbed and changed by the monstrous cobwebs of iron which bear the weight of the Forth Bridge and make an end for ever of the Queen's Ferry, which Margaret must have crossed so often, and by which a personage more familiar, Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck, once, as we all know, made his way to the North; but these are modern reflections such as have nothing to do with that primitive morning, fresh no doubt as to-day with sun and dew, when Malcolm's messengers came hurrying down to see what were these intruders, and what their purpose, and whether anything was to be apprehended from a visit apparently so unusual. The eager and curious emissaries had apparently no warrant to board the strangers, but gazed and wondered at the big ship and all its equipments, so unlike their own rude galleys; then hastened back again with an excited and exciting description of the greatness of the passengers on board and all their splendid array. Malcolm, cautious yet excited too, sent forth, as we are told in the Scotichronicon, "his wisest councillors" to make further inquiries. They too were astonished by the splendour of all they saw, and especially by the mien of a certain lady among these strangers, "whom, by her incomparable beauty, and the pleasantness of her jocund speech, I imagined to be the chief of the family," said the spokesman; "nor was it wonderful," adds the chronicler, "that they should believe her to be the chief who was destined to be Queen of Scotland and also heir of England." Perhaps it was the after light of these events that conveyed that high appreciation of Margaret's qualities into the story, for she must have been quite young, and it is very unlikely that in presence of her mother, and the brother whom they all considered as the King of England, a young girl, however gifted, would have taken upon her the chief place.

The report he received, however, had so much effect upon King Malcolm that he went himself to visit the strangers in their ship. He was not a mere barbaric prince, to be dazzled by the sight of these great persons, but no doubt had many a lingering recollection in his mind of Siward's great house in Northumberland, where he had taken refuge after his father's murder. It is curious and bewildering to go back in that dawn of national life to familiar Shaksperian regions, and to think that this primitive King who had so much in him of the savage, along with all his love and gentleness, was the son of that gracious Duncan who addressed his hostess like a kingly gentleman though her hospitality was to be so fatal. King Malcolm came down, no doubt with such state as he could muster, to see the wandering foreign princes. He was not unlearned, but knew Latin and the English tongue, though he could not read, as we are afterwards told. He had already reigned for fourteen years, after about as long a period of exile, so that he could not now be in his first youth, although he was still unmarried. He came down with his suite to the shore amid all the stir of the inquiring country folk, gathered about to see this strange thing—the ship with its unusual equipments, and the group of noble persons in their fine clothes who were to be seen upon the deck. The Athelings were carrying back with them to Hungary all the gifts with which the Emperor, Henry III, had loaded their father when he went to England, and had jewels and vessels of gold and many fine things unknown to the Scots. And Margaret, even though not so prominent as the chroniclers say, was evidently by the consent of all a most gracious and courteous young lady, with unusual grace and vivacity of speech. The grave middle-aged King, with his recollections of a society more advanced than his own, which probably had made him long for something better than his rude courtiers could supply, would seem at once to have fallen under the spell of the wandering princess. She was such a mate as a poor Scots King, badgered by turbulent clans, could scarcely have hoped to find—rich and fair and young, and of the best blood in Christendom. Whether the wooing was as short as the record we have no means of knowing, but in the same year, 1070, Margaret was brought with great rejoicing to Dunfermline, and there married to her King, amid the general joy.

The royal house at Dunfermline, according to the chronicle, was surrounded by a dense forest and guarded by immense cliffs. The latter particular, however, it is difficult to accept, for the dell in which the ruins of the mediaeval palace (a building much more recent, it is needless to say, than that of Malcolm) still stand, though picturesque in its acclivities and precipices, is as far as possible from including any cliffs that could be called immense. The young Queen made a great change in the internal arrangements of what was no doubt a grim stronghold enough, soft as was the country around. Probably the absence of decoration and ornament struck her painfully, accustomed as she was to palaces of a very different kind—for almost the first thing we hear in the contemporary history written by her confessor Theodoric, afterwards a monk at Durham, is of the workshops and rooms for embroidery and all the arts which were established in Dunfermline, presumably in the palace itself under Margaret's own eye, for the beautifying of the great church which she founded there, and also no doubt for her own house. Certain women of good birth were judged worthy to share the Queen's work, and lived with her, it would seem, in a kind of seclusion, seeing only such chosen visitors as Margaret brought with her to cheer their labours, and forswearing all idle talk and frivolity. The Queen had such austerity mingled with her graciousness and such grace with her severity, says her monkish biographer, loving an antithesis, that all feared and respected her presence. "Her life was full of moderation and gentleness, her speech contained the very salt of wisdom; even her silence was full of good thoughts."

This biographer—according to the conscientious and painstaking investigations of the Bollandist Fathers, who examine in their careful way all the guarantees and traditions of the manuscript with a jealousy worthy of the most enlightened historians—is not Turgot, who is usually credited with it, but Theodoric, a monk of Durham, who must have shared with Turgot, at some period of his life, the office of spiritual director and confidant to the Queen. It is curious that both these writers should have passed from the northern Court to the community at Durham, of which Turgot was prior and Theodoric a simple brother; yet not so strange either, for Durham was largely patronised and enriched by Margaret and her husband, their kingdom at this period reaching as far south. Of Turgot's Life, which was presumably written in the vernacular, there seems nothing existing; but that of Theodoric is very full, and contains many details which set before us the life of the simple Court, with its many labours and charities: the King full of reverence and tender surprise and admiration of all his wife's perfections; the young saint herself, sweet and bright in modest gravity amid a tumultuous world little respectful of women, full of the excessive charity of the age and of her race, and of those impulses of decoration and embellishment which were slow to develop among the ruder difficulties of the north. Theodoric himself must have been more or less of an artist, for in speaking of the "golden vases" and ornaments for the altars of her new church which Margaret devised, "I myself carried out the work," he says. These must have been busy days in Malcolm's primitive palace while the workmen were busy with the great cathedral close by, the mason with his mallet, the homely sculptor with his chisel, carving those interlaced and embossed arches which still stand, worn and gray, but little injured, in the wonderful permanency of stone, in the nave of the old Abbey of Dunfermline: while the Queen's rooms opened into the hall where her ladies sat over their embroidery, among all the primitive dyes that art had caught from herbs and traditional mixtures, on one hand—and on the other into noisier workshops, where workmen with skilful delicate hammers were beating out the shining gold and silver into sacred vessels and symbols of piety. Margaret along with her stores of more vulgar wealth, and the ingots which were consecrated to the manufacture of crucifix and chalice, had brought many holy relics: and no doubt the cases and shrines in which these were enclosed afforded models for the new, over which Father Theodoric, with his monkish cape and cowl laid aside, and his shaven crown shining in the glow of the furnace, was so busy. What a pleasant stir of occupation and progress, the best and most trustworthy evidences of growing civilisation, must have arisen within the shelter of the woods which framed that centre of development and new life: the new abbey rising day by day, a white and splendid reality in the clearing among the trees; the bells, symbols of peace and pleasantness, sounding out over the half-savage country; the chants and songs of divine worship swelling upward to the skies. Margaret's royal manufactory of beautiful things, her tapestries and metal work, her adaptation of all the possibilities of ornament latent in every primitive community, with the conviction, always ennobling to art, that by these means of sacred adornment she and her assistants and coadjutors were serving and pleasing God, no doubt consoled her ardent and active spirit for the loss of many comforts and graces with which she must have been familiar. At the same time her new sphere of influence was boundless, and the means in her hand of leavening and moulding her new country almost unlimited—a thing above all others delightful to a woman, to whom the noiseless and gradual operation of influence is the chief weapon in the world.

There is nothing, however, in this history more charming than the description of the relations between the royal pair. King Malcolm had probably known few graces in life except those, a step or two in advance of his own, which were to be found in Northumberland in the house of Earl Siward; and after the long practical struggle of his reign between the Scots and Celts, who had already so far settled down together as to constitute something which could be called a kingdom, he had no doubt fallen even from that higher plane of civilisation. Such rude state as the presence of a queen even in those primitive days might have procured had been wanting, and all his faculties were probably absorbed in keeping peace between the unruly chieftains, and fostering perhaps here and there the first rising of a little community of burghers, strong enough by union to defend themselves. Uneasy, there can be little doubt, was often the head which bore the circlet of troubled supremacy among all those half-subdued tribes; and his dwelling in the heart of the "dense forest," amid all the noisy retainers in the hall and jealous nobles in the council chamber, would leave little room for beauty or sweetness of any kind. When the stranger princess suddenly came in like an enchantment, with her lovely looks and "jocund eloquence"—full of smiles and pleasant speech, yet with a dignity which overawed every rude beholder—into these rude and noisy halls, with so many graceful ways and beautiful garments and sparkling jewels, transforming the very chambers with embroidered hangings and all the rare embellishments of a lady's bower, with which no doubt the ship had been provided, and which mediaeval princesses, like modern fine ladies, carried about with them—the middle-aged man of war was evidently altogether subdued and enraptured. To see her absorbed in prayer—an exercise which Malcolm had perhaps felt to be the occupation of monks and hermits only—to see her bending over her beautiful book with all its pictures, reading the sacred story there, filled him with awe and a kind of adoration. He could not himself read, which made the wonder all the more; but though incapable of mastering what was within, he loved to handle and turn over the book from which his beautiful wife derived her wisdom, touching it with his rude hands with caressing touches, and kissing the pages she loved. When he found one manuscript which she particularly esteemed, he "sent for his goldsmith" and had the vellum encased in gold and ornamented with jewels; then carried it back to her with such fond pleasure as may be easily imagined. Margaret on her part did what she could to secure to her King some of the punctilios of reverential respect due in her knowledge to a monarch. She suggested the formation of a royal guard to protect the King's person and surround him with honour and observance. She filled the palace with her wealth, adorning it in every way, providing fine clothes for the retainers and so enriching the house that the table was served with dishes of gold and silver. And it would seem that the reputation of a new and splendid Court thus suddenly evolved among the northern mists got abroad, and brought merchants with their wares up the Firth, and quickened, if it did not altogether originate, the first feeble current of trade which was the precursor and origin of all our after wealth in Scotland.

This was not all, however, that Margaret did for the commonwealth. If we may trust her biographer, it was she who established that great principle of reform so important in all states, and generally one of the later fruits of civilisation, that the soldiers should be prevented from exacting or putting under requisition the peaceful people about, and that all they had should be honestly paid for, which was the last thing likely to be thought of by a mediaeval prince. Altogether Margaret's influence was exerted for the best purposes to induce her husband "to relinquish his barbarous manners and live honestly and civilly," as the chronicler says. It was perhaps not so good an exercise of her power when she opened arguments, apparently through Malcolm as interpreter, with the native clergy of Scotland, the hermits and ecclesiastics of Columba's strain, and the mysterious Culdees of whom we know so little. The one certain fact fully established concerning them being, that they kept Easter at a different date from that appointed by Rome. The King, though no scholar, would seem to have been a linguist in his way, since he spoke both languages, that is the Saxon, and the Celtic or Pictish, again a most difficult question to determine—with a smattering of Latin; and was thus able to act as Margaret's mouthpiece in her arguments. She found fault with the Celts not only for the date of their Easter, but for their habit of not communicating at that festival. It is very curious to note in their answer the very same reason which has prevailed in later days among all the changes of faith and ceremonial, and is still put forth in Highland parishes as an excuse for the small number of communicants. The Celtic priests and bishops defended their flocks by producing the words of St. Paul, in which that Apostle says that those who eat and drink unworthily eat and drink condemnation to themselves. So, according to Theodoric, the Celtic party in the Church answered Margaret, and so would their descendants, the "Men" of the Highlands, answer at this day. The integrity of the tradition is very remarkable. On the other hand, they offended the devout Queen by their neglect of Sunday, a reproach which cannot be addressed to their descendants.

These theological discussions between the fair and learned Queen and the Highland ecclesiastics and anchorites, carried on by means of her chief convert the warrior King, whom love for her had taught to respect and share in her devotion, must have afforded many picturesque and striking scenes, though unfortunately there was no modern observer there to be interested and amused, but only Theodoric standing by, himself very hot upon the atrocity of a miscalculated Easter, and perhaps helping his royal mistress here and there with an argument. Naturally his story is especially full upon the religious side of Margaret's life—her much prayer, her humility and reverence during the services of the Church, an intent and silent listener to all teachings, only a little disposed to rebel now and then when her confessor passed too lightly over her faults. As for her charities, they were boundless. It was not for nothing that the blood of St. Ursula, and that which was to give life to still another saint, Elizabeth of Hungary, was in her veins. It is needless to say that nobody in those days had discovered the evil of indiscriminate almsgiving, which was, on the contrary, considered one of the first of Christian virtues. Margaret was the providence of all the poor around her. Her biographer tells us naively, with no sense that the result was not one to be proud of, that the fame of her bounty and kindness brought the poor in crowds to every place where she was. When she went out they crowded round her like children round their mother. When she had distributed everything she had of her own she took garments and other things from her courtiers and attendants to give away, a spoliation to which they consented willingly, knowing that the value of everything thus appropriated would be returned to them—an excellent reason for acquiescence. This "rapine of piety" was so strong in her that she sometimes even appropriated to her poor certain of the gold pieces which it was the King's custom to offer at Easter to the Church—a pious robbery which Malcolm pretended not to perceive until he caught her in the act, when he accused her with a laugh of tender amusement for her rapacity. In all the touches by which the sympathetic priest delineates the union of this pair there is something at once humorous and pathetic in the figure of the King, the rough old warrior, always following with his eyes the angelic saintly figure by his side, all believing, half adoring, and yet not without that gleam of amusement at the woman's absolute unhesitating enthusiasm—an amusement mingled with admiration and respect, but still a smile—a delighted surprise at all her amazing ways, and wonder what she will do next, though everything in his eyes was perfect that she did—such as may still be seen in the eyes of many a world-worn husband looking on at the movements of that directer, more simple, yet more subtle being, and the quick absolutism and certainty of the bright spirit at his side. The grey-bearded old soldier, leader of many a raid and victor in many a struggle, with this new revelation of beauty and purity bursting upon his later life, becomes to us a recognisable and friendly human soul in these glimpses we have of him, unintentional and by the way. Theodoric himself must have liked Malcolm, half-barbarian as he was, and even admired the look of ardent supplication which would come into the King's face, "a great intentness and emotion," such as seemed to him extraordinary in a secular person, and which his wife's beautiful example and the contagion of her piety alone could have developed.

Among Margaret's many duties there was one which throws a very strange light upon the time. Just before her arrival in Scotland, King Malcolm had been carrying fire and sword through Northumberland in one of the many raids over the Border which were the commonplace of the time—if indeed we may speak of the Border at such an unsettled and shifting period when the limits of the kingdoms were so little certain. The issue of this raid was that Scotland, probably meaning for the most part Lothian, the southern portion of the country, was filled with English captives, apportioned as slaves, or servants at least, through the entire population, so that scarcely a house was without one, either male or female. The Queen interested herself particularly in these captives, as was natural; sometimes paying the ransom exacted for them, and in all cases defending and protecting them. Her emissaries went about among them inquiring into their condition and how they were treated, visiting them from house to house: and all that Margaret could do to mitigate the evils of their captivity was done. Nothing can be more strange than to realise a time when Northumbrian prisoners of war could be house slaves in Lothian. No doubt what was true on one side was true on the other, and Scotch captives had their turn of similar bondage.

In those days the ancient county which her children love to call the Kingdom of Fife was far more than Edinburgh, then a mere fortress standing up on an invulnerable rock in the middle of a fertile plain, the centre of the national life. Not only was the King's residence at Dunfermline, but the great Cathedral of St. Andrews was the ecclesiastical capital, gradually working out that development of Roman supremacy and regularity which soon swept away all that was individual in the apostleship of St. Columba and the faith of his followers. That the King and Queen were frequently at Edinburgh is evident from the fact that Margaret had her oratory and chapel on the very apex of the rock, and had there established a centre of worship and spiritual life. St. Andrews, however, was the centre of influence, the shrine to which pilgrims flowed, and the pious Queen, in her care for every office of religion and eagerness to facilitate every exercise of piety, gave special thought to the task of making the way easy and safe towards that holy metropolis. The Canterbury of the north was divided from the other half of Malcolm's kingdom by that sea which in these later days, at much cost of beauty, money, and life, has been bridged over and shortened—"the sea which divides Lothian from Scotland" according to the chronicler, "the Scottish Sea" as it is called by others, the mighty Firth, which to the rude galleys of the little trading villages along its shores must have been a sea dangerous and troubled, full of risks and perils. The Queen, we are told, erected houses of shelter on either side of this angry strait, and established what we should call a line of passenger boats to take the pilgrims over at the expense of the State. One wonders how much or how little of State policy might mingle in this pious act, for no doubt the establishment of an easy and constant means of communication between the wealthy Lothians and the then centre of national life must have been of unspeakable use in consolidating a kingdom still so imperfectly knit together and divided by the formidable line of the great estuary. It is one drawback of a religious chronicler that no such motive, large and noble as it might be, is thought of, since even national advantage counted so much less than the cultivation of piety. And it is very likely that Margaret thought of nothing else, and reckoned a prayer at the shrine of the patron saint as far more important than the intercommunications thus established and the knowledge of each other thus acquired by the different parts of a kingdom which still retained the differences of separate nationalities. A mingled aim, a practical motive, might not have accomplished half so much; but no doubt among Malcolm's men, his greybeards pondering in council, or perhaps himself thinking of many things as he protected all his wife's schemes, there was a dawning perception, along with the undoubted advantages of piety, of a national use in the quickened intercourse and securely established communications. If so he would probably blame himself for a mixed motive by the side of Margaret's pure and absolute heavenly-mindedness, yet take pleasure in the secondary unacknowledged good all the same.

Thus their life went on for nearly a quarter of a century in a course of national development to which everything contributed, even the love of splendour which Margaret brought with her, and her artistic tastes, and the rage for decoration and beautiful surroundings which had then begun to be so strong an element in national progress. She had many children in the midst of all these labours and public interests, seven sons and two daughters, whom she brought up most carefully in all the perfection of her own faith. Three of these sons succeeded one after the other to the Scottish throne, and proved the efficacy of her teaching by piety as strong and as liberal as her own. It was in the year 1093 that Margaret's beautiful and touching life came to an end, in great sorrow yet triumph and pious victory over trouble. Before this time, but at a date not indicated in the narrative, she had parted with her friend and biographer Theodoric, probably not very long before her own death, as we are told that she was oppressed by forebodings, or rather premonitions of death and sorrow, of which she spoke to him with tears. When the moment of separation came both penitent and confessor so long united in the closest bonds of sympathy wept sore. "Farewell," said the Queen; "I shall not live long, but you will live long after me. Remember my soul in your prayers, and take care of my children; cease not to teach and admonish them, especially when they are raised to great estate." He made the promise with tears, not daring to contradict her by happier auguries, and in this way took his last farewell of the Queen, and never saw her more. He continues his story, however, taking it from the lips of a priest who remained with her during the rest of her life, probably also a Saxon, since he became a monk of St. Cuthbert's on Margaret's death.

The narrative goes on with an account of the declining health of the Queen. For more than six months she had been unable to mount a horse, or sometimes to rise from her bed, and in the midst of this illness the King set forth upon one of his raids into England, on what provocation or with what motive it is difficult to tell, except that the provocation was perpetual and the motive persistent the leading rule of life. His two elder sons accompanied him on this expedition, which for some reason Margaret had opposed, "much dissuading" him from going; but this time, unfortunately, had not been hearkened to. Probably she set out along with him, on her way to Edinburgh to pass the time of his absence there, which was a place where news could be had more readily than beyond the sea in Fife. The solitary castle, high perched upon its hill, whence messengers could be seen approaching, or, better still, the King's banners coming back, was a fitter home for an anxious wife than the palace over the Firth among its woods. How long she remained there we are not told, and there are now unhappily no articulate remains at all of the old stronghold which must have risen upon that height, with its low massive walls and rude buildings. The oldest relic in Edinburgh is that little sanctuary, plain and bare as a shed, deprived of all external appearance of sanctity, and employed for vulgar uses for many centuries, which has been at length discovered by its construction, the small dark chancel arch and rude ornament, to have been a chapel, and which there seems no doubt is at least built upon the site consecrated for Margaret's oratory, if not the very building itself. It is small enough and primitive enough, with its little line of toothed ornament, and its minute windows sending in a subdued light even in the very flush of day, to be of any antiquity. I believe that even the fortunate antiquary who had the happiness of discovering it does not claim for this little chapel the distinction of being the very building itself which Margaret erected. Yet it must have been one very similar, identical in form and ornament, so that the interested spectator may well permit himself to picture the sick and anxious Queen, worn out with illness and weighed down by sore forebodings, kneeling there in the faint light before the shadowed altar, trying to derive such comfort as was possible from the ministrations of the priests, and following with her prayers her husband and her boys, so young still and not hardened to war, who might be falling by the hands perhaps of her own kindred, in the country which was hers, yet which she scarcely knew. In the intervals of these anxious prayers, when her failing strength permitted, how wistfully the Queen and her ladies must have gazed from the walls far around on every side to watch for the first appearance of any messenger or herald of return. From the woods of Dunfermline and its soft rural landscape, and the new abbey with its sweet singing and all its magnificence, it must have been a change indeed to dwell imprisoned so near the sky, within the low, stern rugged walls of the primitive fort, with a few rude houses clinging about it, and the little chapel on the rock, small and dark, as the only representative of the stately arches and ornate services which she loved. But the little chapel is deeply involved in all the later history of Margaret's life.

One day her attendants remarked that she was even more sad than her wont, and questioning her received a reply which must have made them tremble. "Perhaps to-day," she said, "a great evil has fallen upon the Scots, such as has not happened to them for years." Her hearers, however it alarmed them, made as light as they could of this prophetic foreboding, which might be but a deepened impression of the prevailing despondency in her heart. No doubt it was a melancholy night in the fortress, where the women who had husbands or sons or brothers in the distant army would cluster together in the antechamber and watch for the attendants who came and went behind the curtain into the sick chamber where the Queen, visibly sinking day by day, lay sleepless and sad, listening for every sound. Terrors surrounded the castle for the personal safety of its occupants as well as for their brethren in the wars; and no doubt there would be whispers of the King's brother, Donald Bane, and of the watchful jealous Celtic chiefs all ready to rise with him, should an opportunity occur, and dash the stranger brood from the throne. All these sad prognostications were quickly realised. Next morning brought messengers in fear and distress from the army to say that the King had fallen at Alnwick in Northumberland, and to prove that Margaret's prophecy had been fulfilled at the very time it was spoken. It was November, dark and cheerless both within and without, and the Queen would seem to have been prostrated for a day or two by the sad news: but on the fourth day she rose from her bed and tottered to the little chapel on the rock to hear mass for the last time, and receive the Holy Sacrament in preparation for death. She then returned to her rooms with the pallor of death already on her face, and bidding all around—"me," says the priest, "and the others who stood by"—to recommend her to Christ, asked that the black rood should be brought to her. This was the most holy of all the relics which she had brought with her to Scotland. It was a case of pure gold in the form of a cross, ornamented with marvellous work, bearing the image of the Saviour curiously carved in ivory, and enclosing a portion of the true cross (proved to be so by many miracles). The Queen took it in her hands, pressed it to her dying breast, and touched with it her eyes and face. While thus devoutly employed, with her thoughts diverted from all earthly things, Margaret was brought back to her sorrow by the sudden entrance of her son Ethelred, who had returned from the defeated army to carry to his mother the dreadful news of the death not only of his father but of his elder brother. The sight of his mother in extremity, almost gone, no doubt confused the poor boy, still little more than a stripling, and with that weight of disaster on his head—and he answered to her faltering inquiry at first that all was well. Margaret adjured him by the holy cross in her arms to tell her the truth: then when she heard of the double blow, burst out in an impassioned cry. "I thank Thee, Lord," she said, "that givest me this agony to bear in my death hour." Her life had been much blessed; she had known few sorrows; it was as a crown to that pure and lovelit existence that she had this moment of bitterest anguish before God gave to His beloved sleep.

While this sad scene was enacting within, the country was full of tumult and conspiracy without. Donald Bane, the brother of Malcolm, had no doubt chafed at the Saxon regime under which the King had fallen, for years, and struggled against the influences brought in from abroad in the retinue of the foreigner, as has been done in every commonwealth in history at one time or another. He represented the old world, the Celtic rule, the traditions of the past. Some of the chroniclers indeed assert that Malcolm was illegitimate and Donald Bane the rightful heir to the crown. He was, at all events, a pretender kept in subjection while Malcolm's strong hand held the sceptre, but ready to seize the first opportunity of revolution. No doubt the news of the King's death, and of that of his heir, would run like wildfire through the country; but it would seem that the attempt of Donald must have been already organised, since his siege of Edinburgh, where most of his brother's children were with their mother, placed there for safety in the King's absence, had already begun. Upon the death of the Queen, Donald was not likely to have treated the royal children who stood in his way with much mercy; and the state of affairs was desperate when young Ethelred, the third of her sons, not yet arrived at man's estate, closed his mother's eyes, and found himself at the head of the weeping family shut up within the castle, surrounded by precipices on every side except that upon which his angry uncle lay with all the forces of the discontented in Scotland at his back, all the lovers of the old regime and enemies of the stranger, and with a fierce contingent from Norway to support his Celtic horde. In the simplicity of the narrative we hear not a word of the troubled councils which must have been held while the boy prince in his sorrow and the sudden dreadful responsibility laid on his young shoulders turned to such wise advisers as might have followed Margaret into the stronghold, and took thought how to save the children and carry off the precious remains of the Queen. The expedient to which they had recourse was one which their assailants evidently thought impossible. That the rock upon which Edinburgh Castle stands should have been considered inaccessible by practical mountaineers like the followers of Donald Bane seems curious: but in those days the art of climbing for pleasure had not been discovered, and it had no place in the methods of warfare. It seemed enough to the assailants to hold the gates and the summit of the eastern slopes, where probably there must already have been some clusters of huts or rough half-fortified dwellings descending from the Castle Hill, foreshadowing a Lawnmarket at least if not yet a Canongate. No one would seem to have thought of the possibility of any descent on the other side from that perpendicular rock.

But despair sharpens the wits, and no doubt after many miserable consultations a desperate expedient was found. Even now nothing but a goat, or a schoolboy, or perhaps a young private fearful of punishment, could find a way down the wonderful curtain of rock which forms the west side of Edinburgh Castle; and to guide the children and their attendants, a sorrowful little group of mourners, distracted with grief and fear, and Margaret's body in its litter, down those rocks where there was scarcely footing for an alert and experienced climber, must have been one of the most difficult as it was one of the boldest of undertakings. While the rebel host raged on the other side, and any traitor might have brought the enemy round to intercept that slow and painful descent, it was accomplished safely under cover of "a great myst," Heaven, as all thought, helping the forlorn fugitives by that natural shield. Mists are no rare things, as everybody knows, on these heights. Perhaps it was the well-known easterly haar, the veil of salt sea fog which Edinburgh so often wraps round her still, which, blowing up from the mouth of the Firth, enveloped the travellers and hid them in its folds of whiteness, impenetrable by the closest watcher, till they had safely reached the level ground, and stealing down to the Queen's Ferry escaped to loyal Fife and their home in Dunfermline. Needless to say that this mist was a miraculous agency to all the family and servants of the Queen. To us it adds a touch of local colour, the well-known symbol of a familiar scene. Edinburgh was then nothing but a castle upon a rock, and now is one of the fairest and most celebrated of historical cities; but still its perpendicular crags rise inaccessible against the setting sun, and still the white mist comes sweeping up from the sea.

It is to the credit of the priests that this is the only miracle that is connected with the name of Margaret, if we except the pretty legend which tells how a hundred years later, when her descendants removed the remains of the saint from the place where they had been deposited to lay them before the high altar in Dunfermline, the coffin in which they were placed could not be carried past the humble spot in which lay, brought back from Northumberland, the bones of her King. The cortege stopped perforce, the ceremonial had to be interrupted, for all the force of all the bearers could not carry even in death the faithful wife from her husband; and the only thing it was found that could be done was to transport Malcolm along with the partner of his life to the place of honour, to which on his own account that rude soldier had but little claim. Many saints have had whims as to the place of their interment, and showed them in a similar way, but this is all sweetness and tender fidelity and worthy to be true. The royal pair were carried off afterwards, stolen away like so much gold or silver, by Philip of Spain to enrich his gloomy mausoleum-palace, and can be traced for a long time in one place or another receiving that strange worship which attaches to the most painful relics of humanity. But where they now lie, if in the bosom of the kindly earth or among other dreadful remains in some sanctuary filled with relics, no one knows.

Margaret had done in her lifetime great things for Scotland. She had introduced comforts and luxuries of every kind, and the decorative arts, and a great deal of actual wealth, into a very poor and distracted country. The earliest charter which is found in the Scottish archives is one of Malcolm and Margaret, showing how the time of settlement and established order began in their reign. She had helped to give the distracted and divided kingdom, made up of warring sects, that consolidation and steadiness which enabled it to take its place among recognised nations. She turned the wavering balance between Celt and Saxon to what has proved to be the winning side, the side of progress and advancement. The Donalds and Duncans were swept away after a brief and bloody interval and were no more possible in Scotland after her, and the reign of the Anglo-Saxon was assured. She was apparently the instrument too, though there is little information on this subject, of drawing the Church of Scotland into that close union with Rome which had been already accomplished in England; a step which, if it lost some doubtful freedom and independence in ecclesiastical matters, secured still more completely a recognised place in Catholic Christendom to the northern kingdom. "The pure Culdee" of whom we know so little did not survive, any more than did the Celtic kings, her influence and the transformation she effected. Her life and legend formed the stepping-stone for Scotland into authentic history as into a consolidated and independent existence. The veil of fable and uncertainty cleared away before the mild shining of her name and story. Like Edinburgh coming suddenly into sight, as in some old and primitive picture, high upon its rock, with the slope of the Castle Hill on one side and the precipices round, and the white mist sweeping up from the sea, Scotland itself becomes recognisable and grows into form and order by the light of her peaceful and gracious presence.

And it is something worth noting that this image of purity and excellence was no monkish vision of the purity of the cloister, but that more complete and at the same time more humble ideal of the true wife, mother, and mistress, whose work was in and for the world and the people, not withdrawn to any exceptional refuge or shelter—which has always been most dear to the Anglo-Saxon race. The influence of such an example in a country where manners and morals were equally rudimentary, where the cloister proved often the only refuge for women, and even that not always a safe one—was incalculable, and the protection of a virtuous Court something altogether novel and admirable. The gentlewomen who worked at their tapestry under Margaret's eye, and learned the gentler manners of other Courts and countries of old civilisation by her side, and did their wooing modestly with the sanction of her approval, must have changed the atmosphere of the north in the most wonderful way and quickened every current of national development though the influence was remote and the revolution unperceived. The chroniclers go back with a fond persistence to the story of Margaret and her sons, and the number of her family and the circumstances of her marriage and of her death. Before her there is little but fable; after her the stream of history flows clear. The story of Macbeth, which is, yet is not, the Shakspearian drama, and accordingly takes quite a curious distinct flow of its own, like a new and imperfect version of something already familiarly known, is the only episode of secular history that has any reality before we come, in the next generation, to herself and her King. The earlier annals of Adamnan, the life of Columba and the records of his sacred isle, belong to those ever-living ever-continuing legends of the saints in which the story of the nations counts for little. But Margaret was fortunately secular, and though a saint, a great and influential personage in the front of everything, and also a woman in the fullest tide of life to whom all human events were happening; who lived by love and died of grief, and reigned and rejoiced and triumphed as well as suffered and prayed.

There followed, however, a terrible moment for that new Scottish-Saxon royal family, when both their parents were thus taken from them. Donald Bane set up a brief authority, restoring the old kingdom and banishing, after the familiar use and wont of such revolutions, his brother's children from Scotland. Of these children, however, but three sons are mentioned: Edgar, Alexander, and David, who must all have been under age at the time. Ethelred, who had the dangerous office of conveying his brothers and sisters along with his mother's body to Dunfermline, died or was killed immediately after this feat, and was laid with the King and Queen before the rood altar in Dunfermline; and of Edmund, an elder son, we have but a confused account, Wynton and Fordun both describing him as "a man of gret wertu," who died in religion, having taken the cowl of a monk of Cluny; whereas William of Malmesbury accuses him of treachery and complicity in the murder of his base-born brother Duncan. However this might be, he was at least swept from the succession, in which there is no mention of him. Malcolm's lawful heirs were thus reduced to the three boys whom their uncle, Edgar Atheling, had received in England. But Donald Bane was not long permitted to enjoy his conquest in peace. Duncan, the illegitimate son (but this counted for little in those days) of Malcolm, who was a hostage in England, after his uncle had held the sovereign power for six months, made a rush upon Scotland with the help of an English army, and overcame and displaced Donald; but in his turn was overcome after a reign of a year and a half, Donald Bane again resuming the power, which he held for three years more. By this time young Edgar, Margaret's son, had come to man's estate, and with the help of the faithful Saxons who still adhered to his uncle, Edgar Atheling, and encouraged by dreams and revelations that the crown was to be his, came back to Scotland and succeeded finally in overcoming Donald and securing his inheritance. The period of anarchy and trouble lasted for five years, and no doubt the civilisation and good order which Malcolm and Margaret had toiled to establish were for the moment much disturbed. But after Edgar's succession the interrupted progress was resumed. "He was a man of faire havyng," says old Wynton, and in his time the Saxon race came again to great honour and promotion, at once by his own firm establishment upon the Scottish throne, and by the marriage of his sister Maud to the new King of England, Henry I., which restored the Saxon succession and united right to might in England. Thus after a moment of darkness and downfall the seed of the righteous took root again and prospered, and the children of St. Margaret occupied both thrones. Edgar, like so many of his race, died childless; but he was peacefully succeeded by his brother Alexander, who, though as much devoted to church-building and good works as the rest of his family, was apparently a more warlike personage, since he was called Alexander the Fierce, an alarming title, and was apparently most prompt and thoroughgoing in crushing rebellion and other little incidents of the age. He was succeeded in his turn by the youngest of Margaret's sons, David, that "sair sanct for the crown," who covered Scotland with ecclesiastical foundations.

"He illumynyd in his dayes His landys wyth kirkis and abbayis; Bishoprychs he fand bot foure or three, Bot or he deyd nyne left he."

Among the many other foundations made by King David was the house of the Holy Rood which has been so familiar a name in Scottish history—built low in the valley at the foot of the surrounding hills and that castle in which the Queen died pressing the black rood—most precious possession—to her dying breast. Whether a recollection of that scene, which might well have impressed itself even on the memory of a child, and of the strange wild funeral procession, with all its associations of grief and terror, which had stumbled down the dangerous rocks in the mist thirty-five years before, was in David's mind, it would be vain to inquire. The black rood of itself, besides these touching and sacred associations, was a relic of almost unequalled sanctity, and well warranted the erection of a holy house for its guardianship and preservation. How far the street, which would be little more than a collection of huts, had crept down the Castle Hill towards the new monastery in the valley there is no evidence to show, but no doubt both the castle and the religious house were soon surrounded by those humble scattered dwellings, and David's charter itself makes it plain that already the borough of Edinburgh was of some importance. Part of the revenues of the monastery were to be derived from the dues and taxes of the town, and it was also endowed with "one half of the tallow, lard, and hides of the beasts slain in Edinburgh," an unsavoury but no doubt valuable gift. The canons of the Abbey of Holyrood, or Holyrood House as it is called from the beginning with a curious particularity, had also permission to build another town between themselves and Edinburgh, which would naturally cluster round the Canon's Gate—the road that led to St. Cuthbert's, at the farther end of the North Loch, where every man could say his mass; or more directly still to the dark little chapel upon the castle rock, made sacred by all its memorials of the blessed Margaret. The nucleus of the future capital is thus plainly apparent between the two great forces of that age, the Church, the great instrument of congregation and civilisation, and the Stronghold, in which at any moment of danger refuge could be taken. It is curious to realise the wild solitude of this historical ridge, with its rude houses coming into being one by one, the low thatched roofs and wattled walls which in the course of time were to give place to buildings so stately. The Canongate would be but a country road leading up towards the strong and gloomy gate which gave entrance to the enceinte of the castle—itself like some eagle's nest perched high among the clouds.

The line of Margaret went on till her sons held their Courts and dated their charters from Holyrood House, and Parliaments were held and laws made in the Castle of Edinburgh, and the scattered huts upon the Castle Hill had grown into a metropolis. They were a pious and in many respects an enlightened race, and they came to great honour and renown on both sides of the house. Maud, Margaret's daughter, became Queen of England, and her grand-daughter Empress, while Scotland developed and flourished in the hands of the saintly Queen's sons and their descendants. There are unfortunate individuals in the most prosperous races, and Scotland never sustained greater humiliation than in her attempts to rescue William called the Lion, a sorry lion for his kingdom, when he allowed himself to be caught in a trap and made the prisoner of the English king. But the children of Malcolm and Margaret retained their character through many generations, and were a Godfearing house, full of faith and devotion, careful of their people's interests, and dear to their hearts. They prospered as the virtuous and excellent so often do even in this world, and covered Scotland with endowments—endowments which indeed proved a snare to the church on after occasions, but which at that period were probably the best means in which money could be invested for the benefit of the people, since alms and succour and help and teaching in every way came from the monks in the primitive circumstances of all nations. They were not only the guardians of learning; they were examples in husbandry, in building, in every necessary craft; nursing the sick, receiving the stranger, and, as the very title-deed of their existence, feeding the poor. In those uncomplicated times there was no such fear of pauperising the natives of the soil as holds our hands now, and everything had to be taught to the primitive labourer, who might have to leave the plough in the middle of the furrow and be off and away on his lord's commands at any moment, leaving his wife and children to struggle on with the help of the good fathers who taught the boys, or the gentle sisters who trained the girls to more delicate work, feeding the widow and her brood. David and his brothers, and the devout kings who immediately followed, probably did what was best for their agitated kingdom in establishing so many centres of assured and quiet living, succour and peace, even if what was salvation for their age became the danger of another time. Those foundations continued through the whole of the period during which the lineal descendants of Margaret held the throne. Her lineage, it is true, has never died out: but the strain changed with the death of the last Alexander, and another change came over Scotland not so profound as that which attended the coming of the Saxon princess, yet great and remarkable—the end of an age of construction, of establishment, of knitting together; the beginning of a time disturbed with other questions, with complications of advancing civilisation, nobles and burghers, trade and war.





The growth of Edinburgh is difficult to trace through the mists and the tumults of the ages. The perpetual fighting which envelops the Scotland of those days as in the "great stour" or dust, which was Sir Walter Scott's conception of a battle, with gleams of swords and flashes of fire breaking through, offers few breaks through which we can see anything like the tranquil growth of that civic life which requires something of a steady and settled order and authority to give it being. The revolutions which took place in the country brought perpetual vicissitude to the Castle of Edinburgh, and no doubt destroyed and drove from their nests upon the eastern slopes of the rock the settlers who again and again essayed to keep their footing there. When the family of St. Margaret came to a conclusion, and the great historical struggle which succeeded ended in the establishment of Robert Bruce upon the throne, that great victor and statesman destroyed the Castle of Edinburgh with other strongholds, that it might not afford a point of vantage to the English invader or other enemies of the country's peace—a step which would seem to have been premature, though probably, in the great triumph and ascendency in Scotland which his noble character and work had gained, he might have hoped that at least the unanimity of the nation and its internal peace were secured, and that only an enemy would attempt to dominate the reconciled and united country. The Castle was, however, built up again and again, re-established and destroyed, a centre of endless fighting during the tumultuous reigns that followed, though it is only on the accession of a new race, a family so deeply connected with the modern history of Great Britain that no reader can be indifferent to its early appearances, that Edinburgh begins to become visible as the centre of government, the royal residence from whence laws were issued, and where the business of the nation was carried on. Following what seems to be one of the most wonderful rules of heredity—a peculiarity considerably opposed to the views which have been recently current on that subject—Robert Bruce was too great a man to have a son worthy of him: and after the trifling and treacherous David the inheritance of his kingdom came through his daughter to a family already holding a high place—the Stewards of Scotland, great hereditary officials, though scarcely so distinguished in character as in position. The tradition that their ancestor Banquo was the companion of Macbeth when the prophecy was made to him which had so great an effect upon that chieftain's career, and that to Banquo's descendants was adjudged the crown which Macbeth had no child to inherit, is far better known, thanks to Shakspeare, than any fact of their early history. It is probably another instance of that inventive ingenuity of the original chroniclers, which so cleverly imagined a whole line of fabulous kings, to give dignity and importance to the "ancient kingdom" thus carried back to inarticulate prehistoric ages. In this way the Stewarts, actually a branch of a well-known Norman family, were linked to a poetic and visionary past by their supposed identification with the children of Banquo, with all the circumstantial details of an elaborate pedigree. According to the legend, the dignity of Grand Steward of Scotland was conferred by Malcolm Canmore upon a descendant of the ancient thane, and the lineage of the family is traced through all the dim intervening ages with scrupulous minuteness. The title of Steward of Scotland was enough, it would seem, to make other lordships unnecessary, and gradually developed into that family surname with which we are now so familiar, which has wrought both Scotland and England so much woe, yet added so intense an interest to many chapters of national history. The early Stewards are present by name in all the great national events: but have left little characteristic trace upon the records, as of remarkable individuals. They took the cross in repeated crusades, carrying their official coat with its chequers, the brand of the Chief Servitor of the Scottish Court, through the wars of the Holy Land, till they came finally into the highest favour and splendour in the days of Bruce, whose cause, which was also the cause of the independence of Scotland, they maintained. Walter, who then held the office of Steward, was knighted on the field of Bannockburn. He was afterwards, as the story goes, sent to receive on the Border, after peace had been made, various prisoners who had been detained in England during the war, and among them Marjory Bruce, the daughter of the patriot-king. It would be easy to imagine the romance that followed: the young knight reverently escorting the young princess across the devastated country, which had not yet had time to recover its cruel wounds, but yet was all astir with satisfaction and hope: and how his account of what had happened in Scotland, and, above all, of that memorable field where he had won from the Bruce's own famous sword the touch of knighthood, would stir the maiden's heart. A brave young soldier with great hereditary possessions, and holding so illustrious an office, there was no reason why he should despair, however high-placed his affections might be. It takes a little from the romance to be obliged to acknowledge that he was already a widower; but marriages were early and oft-repeated in those days, and when Marjory Bruce died her husband was still only about twenty-three. It was thus that the crown came to the family of the Stewards of Scotland, the Stewarts of modern times: coming with a "lass" as her descendant said long afterwards, and likely to "go with a lass" when it was left to the infant Mary: though this last, with all her misfortunes, was the instrument not of destruction but transformation, and transferred that crown to a more splendid and enlarged dominion.

It was in the reign of Marjory's son, the grandson and namesake of the Bruce, and of his successors, that Edinburgh began to be of importance in the country, slowly becoming visible by means of charters and privileges, and soon by records of Parliaments, laws made, and public acts proceeding from the growing city. Robert Bruce, though he had destroyed the castle, granted certain liberties and aids to the burghers, both in repression and in favour pursuing the same idea, with an evident desire to substitute the peaceful progress of the town for the dangerous domination of the fortress. Between that period and the reign of the second Stewart, King Robert III, the castle had already been re-erected and re-destroyed more than once. Its occupation by the English seemed the chief thing dreaded by the Scots, and it was again and again by English hands that the fortifications were restored—such a stronghold and point of defence being evidently of the first importance to invaders, while much less valuable as a means of defence. In the year 1385 the walls must have encircled a large area upon the summit of the rock, the enceinte probably widening, as the arts of architecture and fortification progressed, from the strong and grim eyrie on the edge of the precipice to the wide and noble enclosure, with room for a palace as well as a fortress, into which the great castles of England were growing. The last erection of these often-cast-down walls was made by Edward III on his raid into Scotland, and probably the royal founder of Windsor Castle had given to the enclosure an amplitude unknown before. The Scots king most likely had neither the money nor the habits which made a great royal residence desirable, especially in a spot so easily isolated and so open to attack; but he gave a charter to his burghers of Edinburgh authorising them to build houses within the castle walls, and to pass in and out freely without toll or due—a curious privilege, which must have made the castle a sort of imperium in imperio, a town within a town. The little closets of rooms which in a much later and more luxurious age must have sufficed for the royal personages whom fate drove into Edinburgh Castle as a residence, are enough to show how limited were the requirements in point of space of the royal Scots. The room in which James VI of Scotland was born would scarcely be occupied, save under protest, by a housemaid in our days. But indeed the Castle of Edinburgh was neither adapted nor intended for a royal residence. The abbey in the valley, from which the King could retire on receipt of evil tidings, where the winds were hushed and the air less keen, and gardens and pleasant hillsides accessible, and all the splendour of religious ceremonies within reach, afforded more fit and secure surroundings even for a primitive court. The Parliament met, however, within the fortress, and the courts of justice would seem to have been held within reach of its shelter. And thither the burghers carried their wealth, and built among the remains of the low huts of an earlier age their straight steep houses, with high pitched roofs tiled with slabs of stone, rising gray and strong within the enceinte, almost as strong and apt to resist whatever missiles were possible as the walls themselves, standing out with straight defiant gables against the northern blue.

King Robert III was a feeble, sickly, and poor-spirited king, and he had a prodigal son of that gay, brilliant, attractive, and impracticable kind which is so well known in fiction and romance, and, alas! also so familiar in common life. David, Duke of Rothesay, was the first in the Scotch records who was ever raised to that rank—nothing above the degree of Earl having been known in the north before the son and brother of the King, the latter by the fatal title of Albany, brought a new degree into the roll of nobility. Young David, all unknowing of the tragic fate before him, was then a daring and reckless youth, held within bounds, as would appear, by the influence of a good and wise mother, and if an anxiety and trouble, at least as yet no disgrace to the throne. He was the contemporary of another madcap prince, far better known to us, of whose pranks we are all more than indulgent, and whose name has the attraction of youth and wit and freedom and boundless humour to the reader still. David of Scotland has had no one to celebrate his youthful adventures like him whose large and splendid touch has made Prince Hal[1] so fine a representative of all that is careless and gay in prodigal youth, with its noble qualities but half in abeyance, and abounding spirit and humour and reckless fancy making its course of wild adventure comprehensible even to the gravest. Perhaps the licence of the Stewart blood carried the hapless northern prince into more dangerous adventures than the wild fun of Gadshill and Eastcheap. And Prince David's future had already been compromised by certain sordid treacheries about his marriage when he first appears in history, without the force of character which changed Prince Hal into a conquering leader and strong sovereign, but with all the chivalrous instincts of a young knight. He had been appointed at a very early age Lieutenant of the Kingdom to replace his father, it being "well seen and kenned that our lorde the Kyng for sickness of his person may not travail to govern the realm," with full provision of counsellors for his help and guidance; which argues a certain confidence in his powers. But the cares of internal government were at this point interrupted by the more urgent necessity of repelling an invasion, a danger not unusual, yet naturally of an exciting kind.

[1] We here take Shakspeare's Prince Hal for granted, as we feel disposed at all times to take the poet's word in defiance of history; though no doubt the historical argument is calculated to throw a chill of doubt upon that gay and brilliant image.

On this occasion the invader was Henry IV of England, the father of the other prodigal, whose object is somewhat perplexing, and differs much from the usual raid to which the Scots were so well accustomed. So far as appears from all the authorities, his invasion was a sort of promenade of defiance or bravado, though it seems unlike the character of that astute prince to have undertaken so gratuitous a demonstration. He penetrated as far as Leith, and lay there for some time threatening, or appearing to threaten, Edinburgh Castle; but all that he seems to have done was to make proclamation by his knights and heralds in every town they passed through, of the old, always renewed, claim of allegiance to the English crown which every generation of Scots had so strenuously and passionately resisted. The fact that he was allowed to penetrate so far unmolested is as remarkable as that the invasion was an entirely peaceful one and harmed nobody. When Henry pitched his camp at Leith, Albany was within reach with what is called a great army, but did not advance a step to meet the invader—in face of whom, however, young David of Rothesay, and with him many potent personages, retired into Edinburgh Castle with every appearance of expecting a siege there. But when no sign of any such intention appeared or warlike movement of any kind, nothing but the gleam of Henry's spears, stationary day by day in the same place, and a strange tranquillity, which must have encouraged every kind of wondering rumour and alarm, the young Prince launched forth a challenge to the English king and host to meet him in person with two or three hundred knights on each side, and so to settle the question between them and save the spilling of Christian blood. Henry, it is said, replied with something of the sarcasm of a grave and middle-aged man to the hasty youth, regretting that Prince David should consider noble blood as less than Christian since he desired the effusion of one and not the other. The position of the young man shut up within the walls of the fortress in enforced inactivity while the hated Leopards of England fluttered in the fresh breezes from the Firth, and Henry's multitudinous tents shone in the northern sun—an army too great to be encountered by his garrison and noble attendants alone—while dark treason and evil intent in the person of Albany kept the army of Scotland inactive though within reach, was one to justify any such outbreak of impatience. David must have felt that should the invader press, there was little help to be expected from his uncle, and that he and his faction would look on not without pleasure to see the castle fall and the heir of Scotland taken or slain. But King Henry's object or meaning is more difficult to divine. Save for his proclamations, and the quite futile summons to King Robert to do homage, he seems to have attempted nothing against the country through which he was thus permitted to march unmolested. The little party of knights with their attendant squires and heralds riding to every market-cross upon the way, proclaiming to the astonished burghers or angry village folk the invader's manifesto, scarcely staying long enough to hear the fierce murmurs that arose—a passing pageant, a momentary excitement and no more—was a sort of defiant embassage which might have pleased the fancy of a young adventurer, but scarcely of a king so wary and experienced; and his own stay in the midst of the startled country is still more inexplicable. When the monks of Holyrood sent a mission to him to beg his protection, lying undefended as they did in the plain, his answer to them was curiously apologetic. "Far be it from me," he said, "to be so inhuman as to harm any holy house, especially Holyrood in which my father found a safe refuge.... I am myself half Scotch by the blood of the Comyns," added the invader. The account which Boece gives of the expedition altogether is amusing, and strictly in accord with all that is said by other historians, though they may not take the same amiable view. I quote from the quaint translation of Bellenden.

"A schort time efter King Harry came in Scotland with an army. Howbeit he did small injury to the people thairof, for he desirit nowt but his banner to be erected on their walls. Alwayis he was ane plesand enneme, and did gret humaniteis to the people in all places of Scotland where he was lodgit. Finally he showed to the lords of Scotland that he come in their rialm more by counsel of his nobles than ony hatred that he bore to Scottes. Soon efter he returnit without any further injure in England."

It is very seldom that a Scotch historian is able to designate an English invader as "a pleasant enemy," and whether there was some scheme which came to nothing under this remarkable and harmless raid, or whether it was only the carrying out of Henry's own policy "to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels"

"Lest rest and lying still might make them look Too near unto my state,"

it is difficult to say. The nobles pent up in Edinburgh Castle with the hot-headed young Prince at their head did not know what to make of the pleasant enemy. The alarm he had caused, compelling their own withdrawal into the stronghold, wrath at the mere sight of him there in the heart of Scotland, the humiliating inaction in which they were kept by a foe which neither attacked nor withdrew, must have so chafed the Prince and his companions that the challenge thrown forth like a bugle from the heights to break this oppressive silence and bring about the lingering crisis one way or another must have been a relief to their excitement if nothing else. One of the bewildered reasons alleged for the invasion is that young David had written letters to France in which he called Bolingbroke a traitor—letters which had fallen into Henry's hands; but this is as unlikely to have brought about the invasion as any other frivolous cause, though no doubt it might make the young Prince still more eager to take upon himself the settling of the quarrel. We have no reason to suppose that any foreboding of his fate had crossed the mind of the youth at this period of his career, yet to watch the army of England lying below, and to know his uncle Albany close at hand, and to feel himself incapable—with nothing but a limited garrison at his command and no doubt the wise Douglas and the other great noblemen holding him back—of meeting the invader except by some such fantastic chivalrous expedient, must have been hard enough.

And how strange is the scene, little in accordance with the habits and traditions of either country: the English camp all quiet below, as if on a holiday expedition, the Scots looking on in uneasy expectation, not knowing what the next moment might bring. The excitement must have grown greater from day to day within and without, while all the inhabitants, both citizens and garrison, kept anxious watch to detect the first sign of the enemy's advance. Henry, we are told, was called away to oppose a rising in Wales; not indeed that rising which we all know so well in which Prince Hal, more fortunate than his brother prodigal, had the means of showing what was in him; but even the suggestion approaches once more strangely and suggestively the names of the two heirs whose fate was so different—the one almost within sight of a miserable ending, the other with glory and empire before him. Prince Henry did not apparently come with his father to Scotland, or there might perhaps have been a different ending to the tale, and it would not have needed Harry Hotspur to rouse his namesake from his folly. There was, alas! no such noble rival to excite David of Scotland to emulation, and no such happy turning-point before him. No one, not even a minstrel or romancer, has remembered it in his favour that he once defied the English host for the love of his country and the old never-abandoned cause of Scottish independence. Already it would seem a prodigal who was a Stewart had less chance than other men. Whether some feeble fibre in the race had already developed in this early representative of the name, or whether it was the persistent ill-fortune which has always pursued them, making life a continual struggle and death a violent ending, the fatal thread which has run through their history for so many generations comes here into the most tragic prominence, the beginning of a long series of tragedies. It adds a softening touch to the record of David's unhappy fate that the death of his mother is recorded as one of the great misfortunes of his life. In the same year in which these public incidents occurred the Queen died, carrying with her the chief influence which had restrained her unfortunate son. She was Annabella Drummond, a woman of character and note, much lamented by the people. And to add to this misfortune she was followed to the grave within a year by the great Earl of Angus, David's father-in-law, and the Bishop of St. Andrews, to whom, as the Primate of Scotland, the young Prince's early instruction had probably been committed, as his loss is noted along with the others as a special disaster.

Thus the rash and foolish youth was left to face the world and all its temptations with no longer any one whom he feared to grieve or whom he felt himself bound to obey. His father, a fretful invalid, had little claim upon his reverence, and his uncle Albany, the strong man of the family, was his most dangerous enemy, ever on the watch to clear out of his path those who stood between him and the throne: or such at least was the impression which he left upon the mind of his time. Thus deprived of all the guides who had power over him, and of the only parent whom he could respect, the young Duke of Rothesay, only twenty-three at most, plunged into all those indulgences which are so fatally easy to a prince. It is supposed that the marriage into which a false policy had driven him was not the marriage he desired. But this was a small particular in those days, as it has proved even in other times less rude. He ran into every kind of riot and dissipation, which the councillors appointed to aid him could not check. After no doubt many remonstrances and appeals this band of serious men relinquished the attempt, declaring themselves unable to persuade the Prince even to any regard for decency: and the ill-advised and feeble King committed to Albany, who had been standing by waiting for some such piece of good fortune, the reformation of his son. The catastrophe was not slow to follow. Rothesay was seized near St. Andrews on the pretence of stopping a mad enterprise in which he was engaged, and conveyed to Falkland, where he died in strict confinement, "of dysentery or others say of hunger" is the brief and terrible record—blaming no one—of the chroniclers, on Easter Eve 1401. It would be vain to attempt to add anything to the picture of the young unfortunate and his end which Sir Walter Scott has given. We can but rescue out of obscurity the brief moment in which that young life was at the turning-point and might have changed into something noble. Had his challenge been accepted, and had he died sword in hand outside the castle gates for Scotland and her independence, how touching and inspiring would have been the story! But fortune never favoured the Stewarts; they have had no luck, to use a more homely expression, such as falls to the lot of other races, and what might have been a legend of chivalry, the record of a young hero, drops to the horror of a miserable murder done upon a victim who foils even the pity he excites—a young debauchee almost as miserable and wretched as the means by which he died.

There was this relic of generosity and honour about the unfortunate Prince, even in his fallen state, that he refused to consent to the assassination of the uncle, who found no difficulty, it would appear, in assassinating him; thus showing that wayward strain of nobleness among many defects and miseries which through all their tragic career was to be found even in the least defensible of his race.

King Robert, who had for some time been retired from the troubles of the throne, a poor man, infirm in health and in purpose, virtually deposed in favour of the son who was Lieutenant or the brother who was Regent of the kingdom, and from whom all his domestic comfort had been taken as well as his power, was driven to desperation by this blow. He had lost his wife and his best counsellors; he had never been strong enough to restrain his son, nor resist his brother. David, his first-born and heir, the gay and handsome youth who was dazzling and delightful to his father's eyes even in his worst follies, had been, as no doubt he felt, delivered over to his worst enemy by that father's own tremulous hand; and the heart-broken old man in his bereavement and terror could only think of getting the one boy who remained to him safe and out of harm's way, perhaps with the feeling that Albany might once again persuade him to deliver over this last hope into his hands if he did not take a decisive step at once. The boy-prince was at St. Andrews, pursuing his studies, under the care of the bishop, when his brother was murdered; and from thence he was sent, when the preparations were complete, across the Firth to the Bass, there to await a ship which should take him to France. It was a forlorn beginning for the Prince of Scotland to be thus hastily taken from his books and the calm of a semi-monastic life and hurried off to that wild rock in the middle of the waves, probably with his brother's awful story thrilling in his ears and his terrible uncle within reach, pushing forward a mock inquiry in Parliament into the causes of Rothesay's death. How easy it would have been for that uncle with the supreme power in his hands to seize the boy who now stood alone between him and the throne; and with what burning at the heart, of impotent rage and fierce indignation, the little Prince, old enough to know and feel his father's helplessness, his own abandonment, and his brother's terrible end, must have been conveyed away to the sea stronghold among the bitter eastern blasts. James, the first of the name, was not one of the feeble ones of the family. With all the romance and poetry of his race he conjoined a great spirit and a noble intelligence, and even at twelve, in the precocious development of that age of blood, when even a royal stripling had to learn to defend himself and hold his own, he must have had some knowledge why it was that he had to be sent thus clandestinely out of his native country: he, the hope of Scotland, in terror for his life.

The little garrison on the rock and the governor to whom the Prince's safety was confided must have watched with many an anxious vigil among the trading vessels stumbling heavily down the Firth from Leith, for that sail which was to carry their charge, into safety as they thought. Whether there was any navy belonging to the Crown at this period, or whether the King himself possessed some galley that could venture on the voyage to France, we are not told. But no doubt the ship when it arrived bore some sign by which the Prince's guardians, and unfortunately others besides, could recognise it. It could not be in any way a cheerful embarkation. It was in the dark days of Lent, in March, when the north is most severe: and the grey skies and blighting wind would be appropriate to the feelings of the exiles as they put forth from their rock amid the wild beating of the surf, anxiously watched by the defenders of the place, who no doubt had at the same time to keep up a vigilant inspection landward, lest any band of spearmen from Albany should arrive upon the adjacent shore in time to stop the flight. The grey rock, the greyer leaden sea, the whirling flight of wild sea birds white against the dark horizon, the little boat, kept with difficulty from dashing against the cliffs and rocky boulders, the attendant ship, driven up and down by the waves, and distant Fife, with its low hills in tones of neutral tint upon the horizon—would all increase the sadness of the parting: but no doubt there was a long breath of relief breathed by everybody about when the vessel continued its course, and slowly disappeared down the Firth. Whatever might happen elsewhere, at least the heir was safe.

But this hope soon proved futile. Whether it was some traitorous indication from Albany, or information from another source, or pure hazard, which directed the English ships to this one vessel with its royal freight, it had but rounded the headland of Flamborough when it fell into the hands of the enemy. Palm Sunday 1405 was the date of this event, but it was not till the end of Lent 1423, almost exactly eighteen years after, that James came back. The calamity seemed overwhelming to the nation and to all who were not pledged to Albany throughout Scotland. It was the death-warrant of poor old King Robert in his retirement. He lingered out a weary year in sickness and sorrow, and when the anniversary of his son's loss came round again, died at Rothesay, in Bute, amid the lovely lakes and islets of western Scotland—a scene of natural peace and tranquillity, which, let us hope, shed some little balm upon the heart of the helpless superseded sovereign. Perhaps he loved the place because it had given his title to his murdered boy, the hapless David, so gallant and so gay. There is something more than ordinarily pathetic and touching in the misfortunes of the feeble in an age of iron. As civilisation advances they have means of protecting themselves, but not in a time which is all for the strongest. One son buried, like any peasant's son, ignobly in the Abbey of Lindores: the other in an English prison, at the mercy of the "auld enemy," whom Scotland had again and again resisted to the death: and his kingdom entirely gone from him, in the hands of his arrogant and imperious brother; there was nothing left for poor King Robert but to die.

Thus James became at thirteen, and in an English castle, the King of Scotland. His prison, however, proved a noble school instead of an ignoble confinement to his fine and elevated spirit. The name of Stewart has never been so splendidly illustrated as by this patriotic and chivalrous Prince. No doubt it is infinitely to the credit of the English kings, both Henrys, IV and V, that he received from them all the advantages of education that could have been given to a prince of their own blood—advantages by which he profited nobly, acquiring every art and cultivation that belonged to his rank, besides that divine art which no education can communicate, and which is bestowed by what would seem a caprice, were it not divine, upon prince or ploughman as it pleases God. For above all his knightly and kingly qualities, his studies in chivalry and statesmanship, which prepared him to fill the throne of Scotland as no man save his great ancestor Bruce had yet filled it, James Stewart was a poet of no mean rank, not unworthy to be named even in the presence of Chaucer, and well worthy of the place which he has kept in literature. We need not enter here into that part of his history which concerns another locality full of great and princely associations—the noble Castle of Windsor, where the royal youth first saw and sang the lady of his love, "the fairest and the sweeteste yonge flour," of whom he has left one of the most tender and beautiful descriptions that is to be found in all the course of poetry. It is more to our present purpose to tell how, amid all the charms of that courtly residence, so far superior to anything which primitive Scotland could offer in the way of dignity or luxury, the boy-king remained faithful to his country, and maintained the independence for which she had so long struggled. It is said that the one advantage taken of his captivity and youth was to press the old oft-repeated arguments concerning the supposed supremacy of England, and the homage due from the kings of Scotland, upon the boy who bore that title sadly amid the luxury and splendour of what was still a prison, however gracious and kind his jailers might be. No circumstances could have been better suited to impress upon James's mind the conviction that submission was inevitable: and it would have been almost more than mortal virtue on the part of his captors had they not attempted to bring about so advantageous a conviction. King Henry V, under whom it is said the attempt was made, had been most generously liberal to and careful of the boy. He was a man so brilliant in reputation and success that a generous youth might well have been led by enthusiasm into any homage that was suggested, too happy to feel himself thus linked to so great a king; and James was very young, distant from his own country and all native advisers, his very life as well as his liberty in the power of those who asked this submission from him, and the force of circumstances so great that even his own people might have forgiven, and Holy Church could scarcely have hesitated to dispense him from keeping, an obligation entered into under such pressure. But the royal youth stood fast, and was not to be moved by any argument. Boece, whose authority is unfortunately not much to be depended upon, has a still more distinct and graphic story of judgment and firmness on the part of the young captive. He had been, according to this account, taken to France in the train of King Henry, who after the defeat the English had sustained near Orleans, chiefly through the valour of the Scots who had joined the French army, sent for James, and desired him "to pass to the Scots, and to command them to return to Scotland. King Harry promised, gif the said James brought this matter to good effect, not only to remit his ransom but to send him to Scotland with great riches and honour." James answered courteously, with expressions of goodwill and gratitude for the humanity shown towards him, but "I marvel not little," he said, "that thou considerest not how I have no power above the Scots so long as I am ane private man and holden in captivity." The chronicler adds: "Then said King Henry, 'Maist happy people shall they be that happens to get yon noble man to their prince.'" It is a pity that we have no more trustworthy proof of this charming story.

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