Sunday, July 27, 2008

After the Battle

I believe we have had enough of Sir Thomas for the present, but I would like to revisit him later.

What happened after the battle?

Well as mentioned in an earlier post only those with good horses got away, and although we have no direct evidence, the lesser classes, would have suffered the normal fate of the defeated in medieval battles. They had no value for ransom, (although in this very “uncivil” civil war it does not seem that even a potential ransom would have saved you) and they were therefore hunted down and slaughtered by the victors.
The Earl of Buchan fled north into his heartland, after a brief stop at the Grenago stane to lament his fate, (I will have a post on the Grenago Stane later), and may have sheltered briefly at Fyvie Castle, but his flight led ultimately to England. It is not clear who accompanied him, but David de Brechin is said to have fled south to his castle of the same name.

Fyvie Castle
For and accurate location of Fyvie castle follow the attached link
What followed was an exercise in terror, designed to destroy forever the Comyn power, and send a clear message to others that the King of Scots could do as he pleased and the distant and embattled King of England was powerless to help his “friends” in Scotland..
It brings to mind a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Cry "Havoc," and let slip the dogs of war.

We have to remember that Robert, although innovative and flexible in his conduct of the war, was very much a man of his time, and was more than capable of acts of incredible savagery when the situation required it. To modern eyes what followed would be considered an act of “ethnic cleansing” (or maybe more accurately “dynastic cleansing”, which in a feudal system would affect all from top to bottom).
Robert unleashed his brother Edward, who after pursuing the fleeing enemy, brought some of them to bay at Aikey Brae, defeated them, and then proceeded to devastate Buchan from end to end.
The evidence for the rest of the campaign is apocryphal in nature, and has the Earl of Buchan taking refuge at Fyvie castle, but there is no record of any fighting there, so either this was not the case or Edward simply by-passed it on his way north, and the Earl “slipped away” to England.

Next Post – The Herschip of Buchan

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sir Thomas de Longueville (4)

I had decided to take a break from Sir Thomas, and was doing some research for the next post when I came upon a copy of an 1884 “reader” which contained Walter Scott’s tale recounted in the last post. But it also had the illustration below, and although not historically accurate I thought I would include it for interest.

William Wallace captures the Red Reaver

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sir Thomas de Longueville (3)

Apparently Sir Thomas was a noble of France, but having killed a man in front of the King had to flee his justice, where-upon he embarked on a highly successful career as a pirate, becoming known and feared as “The Red Reaver. The tale of how he was won over to the Scottish cause is best left to another celebrated knight, Sir Walter Scott.
Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott, is one of Scotland’s and the world’s literary greats, and although he did not let the facts get in the way of a good story, (He was defiantly a “Print the legend” kind of guy.), I would not presume to do justice to the story, so below is an extract from his “Fair Maid of Perth”, telling how Scotland’s other great hero Sir William Wallace, captured and befriended the Red Reaver.

“The Fair Maid of Perth” (pages 28-29)

During the brief career of the celebrated patriot Sir William Wallace, and when his arms had for a time expelled the English invaders from his native country, he is said to have undertaken a voyage to France, with a small band of trusty friends, to try what his presence (for he was respected through all countries for his prowess) might do to induce the French monarch to send to Scotland a body of auxiliary forces, or other assistance, to aid the Scots in regaining their independence.

The William Wallace Statue in Aberdeen

The Scottish Champion was on board a small vessel, and steering for the port of Dieppe, when a sail appeared in the distance, which the mariners regarded, first with doubt and apprehension, and at last with confusion and dismay. Wallace demanded to know what was the cause of their alarm. The captain of the ship informed him that the tall vessel which was bearing down, with the purpose of boarding that which he commanded, was the ship of a celebrated rover, equally famed for his courage, strength of body, and successful piracies.It was commanded by a gentleman named Thomas de Longueville, a Frenchman by birth, but by practice one of those pirates who called themselves friends to the sea and enemies to all who sailed upon that element. He attacked and plundered vessels of all nations,like one of the ancient Norse sea kings, as they were termed,whose dominion was upon the mountain waves. The master added that no vessel could escape the rover by flight, so speedy was the bark he commanded; and that no crew, however hardy, could hope to resist him, when, as was his usual mode of combat, he threw himself onboard at the head of his followers. Wallace smiled sternly, while the master of the ship, with alarmin his countenance and tears in his eyes, described to him the certainty of their being captured by the Red Rover, a name given to De Longueville, because he usually displayed the blood red flag,which he had now hoisted. "I will clear the narrow seas of this rover," said Wallace. Then calling together some ten or twelve of his own followers, Boyd, Kerlie, Seton, and others, to whom the dust of the most desperate battle was like the breath of life, he commanded them to arm themselves, and lie flat upon the deck, so as to be out of sight. He ordered the mariners below, excepting such as were absolutely necessary to manage the vessel; and he gave the master instructions,upon pain of death, so to steer as that, while the vessel had an appearance of attempting to fly, he should in fact permit the Red Rover to come up with them and do his worst. Wallace himself then lay down on the deck, that nothing might be seen which could intimate any purpose of resistance. In a quarter of an hour De Longueville's vessel ran on board that of the Champion, and the Red Rover, casting out grappling irons to make sure of his prize, jumped on the deck in complete armour, followed by his men, who gave a terrible shout, as if victory had been already secured. But the armed Scots started up at once, and the rover found himself unexpectedly engaged with men accustomed to consider victory as secure when they were only opposed as one to two or three. Wallace himself rushed on the pirate captain, and a dreadful strife began betwixt them with such fury that the others suspended their own battle to look on, and seemed by common consent to refer the issue of the strife to the fate ofthe combat between the two chiefs. The pirate fought as well as man could do; but Wallace's strength was beyond that of ordinary mortals. He dashed the sword from the rover's hand, and placed him in such peril that, to avoid being cut down, he was fain to close with the Scottish Champion in hopes of overpowering him in the grapple. In this also he was foiled. They fell on the deck, locked in each other's arms, but the Frenchman fell undermost; and Wallace, fixing his grasp upon his gorget, compressed it so closely, not withstanding it was made of the finest steel, that the blood gushed from his eyes, nose, and month, and he was only able to ask for quarter by signs. His men threw down their weapons and begged for mercy when they saw their leader thus severely handled. The victor granted them all their lives, but took possession of their vessel, and detained them prisoners. When he came in sight of the French harbour, Wallace alarmed the place by displaying the rover's colours, as if De Longueville was coming to pillage the town. The bells were rung backward, horns were blown, and the citizens were hurrying to arms, when the scene changed. The Scottish Lion on his shield of gold was raised above the piratical flag, and announced that the Champion of Scotland was approaching, like a falcon with his prey in his clutch. He landed with his prisoner, and carried him to the court of France, where, at Wallace's request, the robberies which the pirate had committed were forgiven, and the king even conferred the honour of knighthood on Sir Thomas de Longueville, and offered to take him into his service. But the rover had contracted such a friendship for his generous victor, that he insisted on uniting his fortunes with those of Wallace, with whom he returned to Scotland, and fought by his side in many a bloody battle, where the prowess of Sir Thomas de Longueville was remarked as inferior to that of none, save of his heroic conqueror. His fate also was more fortunate than that of his patron. Being distinguished by the beauty as well as strength of his person, he rendered himself so acceptable to a young lady, heiress of the ancient family of Charteris, that she chose him for her husband, bestowing on him with her hand the fair baronial Castle of Kinfauns, and the domains annexed to it. Their descendants took the name of Charteris, as connecting themselves with their maternal ancestors, the ancient proprietors of the property, though the name of Thomas de Longueville was equally honoured amongst them; and the large two handed sword with which he mowed the ranks of war was, and is still, preserved among the family muniments. Another account is, that the family name of De Longueville himself was Charteris. The estate afterwards passed to a family of Blairs,and is now the property of Lord Gray.

So where does all this leave us?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sir Thomas de Longueville (2)

Sir Thomas appears in a number of histories, but in all but the Barra legend he is said to be a native of France. The name is associated with the lands of Kinfauns in Perthshire, where a Sir Thomas uses the name of Charteris. Some accounts give this as his real family name, but others say he married the heiress to Kinfauns, and took her family name.
If the Barra legend refers to the same Sir Thomas he did in fact survive the battle (if he were actually there), and went on to serve Robert I well. One story has him as the first man to follow Robert into the moat of Perth castle, when they took it by stealth, in 1313. It was for this action that Robert is said to have granted him the lands of Kinfauns.

Barbour describes the events at Perth thus:

And when the king thaim hard nocht ster
He was blyth on gert maner,
And his ledder in hand gan ta
Ensample till his men to ma,
Arayit weill in all his ger
Schot in the dik and with his sper
Taistyt till he it our-woud,
Bot till his throt the watyr stud.
That tyme wes in his company
A knycht off France wycht and hardy,
And quhen he in the watyr sua
Saw the king pas and with him ta
His ledder unabasytly,
He saynyt him for the ferly
And said, ‘A, lord, quaht sall we say
Off our lordie of Fraunce that thai
With gud morsellis fayrcis thar pawnce
And will bot ete and drink and dawnce
Quhen sic a knycht and sa worthy
As this throu his chevalry
Into sic perell has him set
‘To win a wrechyt hamillet.’
With that word to the dik he ran
And our efter the king he wan,
And quhen the king’s menye saw
Thar lord out-our intill a thraw
Thai passyt the dik and but mar let
Ther leddrys to the wall thai set
And to clymb up fast pressyt thai,
Bot the gud king as I herd say
Was the secund man tuk the wall
And bad thar till his mengye all
War cummyn up in full gert hy.


And when the king heard them not stirring
he was extremely pleased,
and took his ladder in his hand,
to show an example to his men.
Well armed in all his gear,
he plunged into the ditch,
and with his spear
tested as he waded over
but the water reached up to his throat.
At that time there was in his company
a knight of France, a strong and bold [man];
and when he saw the king go into the water thus,
and take his ladder with him without hesitation,
he crossed himself in wonder,
and said, ‘Ah, Lord what shall we say
of our French lords,
always stuffing their bellies with good food,
willing only to eat drink and dance,
when such a knight, so noble as this one,
by his chivalry,
has put himself in danger,
to win a wretched hamlet.’
With that he ran to the ditch,
and made it over after the king
and when the kings company saw
their lord cross over,
in a crowd they crossed the ditch,
and without more hindrance set their ladders to the wall,
and hastened to climb up fast.
But the good king, as I heard tell,
was the second manwho took the wall,
and waited there till his company
had come over with all speed

Barbour’s The Brus – Lines 387 – 419
From the Canongate 1997 Edition: Edited by A.A.M. Duncan

So if the French knight was in fact Sir Thomas, he may well have, like Mark Twain commented :

“The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated”

I will conclude the story of Sir Thomas, with the assistance of one of Scotland’s (and arguably, the world’s) literary geniuses, in the next post.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Legion takes the field

In response the post earlier today, on Sir Thomas, I received the picture below from Evelyn.

It shows the Royal British Legion's pageant entry at the Meldrum Sports.
Evelyn was able to tell me that Robert the Bruce was played by the late Donald Kirkpartick, of Ardfork. The date of the picture is not known at the present nor is the identity of Sir Thomas.
Can anyone provide this information? Also if any one remembers participating in that particular pageant, and has any stories, it would be great to include them in the blog.

Some of you may have noted that the date in the picture is 1307, and not 1308. This was not that the participants “got it wrong”, but that up until very recently historians were still divided over the date. Of the medieval sources, Barbour gave the date as Christmas 1307, whilst Fourdon gives it an unspecified 1308 date, and some versions of Bower’s Scotichronicon give Ascension day 1308 (May 23rd).*
The latter date now being the commonly accepted one.

I am looking forward to receiving your responses to the above questions

  • G.W.S. Barrow : Robert Bruce and the community of the realm of Scotland 1988

Sir Thomas de Longueville (1)

Earlier, I promised a post on the legend of Sir Thomas, so here it is. However when I started I found I had a lot more information than expected, so have decided to present it in several posts.
I would first like to express my gratitude to the Rev. Hugh O’ Brien, minister of Meldrum and Bourtie kirks, who took time during one of my visits to show me the church, the two figures, as well as answering my questions, and allowing me to take the photographs in this post.
The legend of Sir Thomas appears in several histories, but the account that follows appears in both, “The New Statistical Account of Scotland” (1845), and “A New History of Aberdeenshire” (1875). There is also a similar account displayed in the present day Bourtie Kirk

A framed account of Sir Thomas' death hanging in the Kirk

The New History of Aberdeenshire gives this introduction:
“There is now lying in the Churchyard, two rather rude images cut in stone, of a knight in armour, and his dame, which occupied a niche in the old church of Bourtie, about which there is the following legend"

The "rude images" now inside Bourtie Kirk

After the battle, the king’s spirits waur noo high, as you may believe; but he was doom’t to get a sair heart afor’ nicht. His busom Comorade, the brave Englishman, Sir Thomas de Longueville, was mortally wounded i’ the battle, but he continued to fecht while it lasted. He raid aff the field till he cam’ to the dykes o’ Fala; but there fell frae his horse.

Picture of the view west toward Dykes of Fala from Barra Hill

Callin’ to the king, “Noo, Robin”, he said till him, “my een will soon be clos’t, and I’ve ae request to mak. Ye maun jist lay my banes wharever this arrow fa’s”.
So drawin’s bow, he sent the arra wi’ a’ his micht through the air, and it fell i’ the kirk yard o’ Bourtie here, twa mile awa. The king’s love o’ Sir Thomas was great, and he caus’t mak the image o’ him, whilk ye see lyin’ yonder, and placet it on’s grave.
The ither image as I’ve heard say, is Sir Thomas Ladye, wha fan the news o’s death reach’t England, gaed oo’t o’ ae dwawm intil anither, and wi her last breath beggit to be laid asid him”.

A composite picture of Bourtie Kirk and Graveyard

It is interesting the similarity between the Sir Thomas story recounted here and an early ballad about the legendary Robin Hood.

Robin Hood and Maid Marion
But give me my bent bow in my hand,
And a broad arrow I’ll let flee;
And where this arrow is taken up,
There shall my grave digged be.

But who was Sir Thomas and did he really die at Barra?
More next post…………….
Note: Bourtie Kirk lies due south of Barra Hill (for location details follow this link ), and the Dykes of Fala are due west.