Scotland's Story - H. E. Marshall

John Baliol—The Siege of Berwick

John Baliol was made king in 1292 A.D., two years after the death of the Maid of Norway. The crown of Scotland had indeed been placed upon his head, but in order to win that crown he had been obliged to own himself to be the King of England's subject. Perhaps he thought that to do homage to Edward was only a form, and that once he was safe upon the throne he would be able to defy the King of England. But Edward very soon showed him that he was mistaken. Edward was a great king, and to his own subjects at least, a just one. But he loved power. He believed, perhaps, that he had really the right to be Scotland's over-lord, and he meant to insist on that right, not in name only, but in deed.

Whenever King Baliol tried to act as any free king would, Edward would send for him and scold him, and ask him how he dared act without leave from his over-lord. If Baliol punished a rebellious noble, the noble would go to Edward and complain. Then Edward would take the side of the noble and be angry with Baliol, not perhaps because he cared whether the noble had been justly or unjustly punished, but because he wanted to make Baliol feel that he was under the King of England, and must do what he was told.

No man, however unworthy of the name of king, could long suffer such tyranny, and soon Baliol, weak though he was, rebelled.

Edward was at war with France, and as he wanted more soldiers he sent to Baliol, ordering him to come with some of his best men to fight for England against France.

But the Scottish people were tired of the insolence and tyranny of the English King. They had never agreed to Baliol's bargain, so now they refused to send a single man to fight against the French. Instead, they drove all the English from the Scottish court, and agreed to help the French to fight them.

Edward was very angry at this, and gathering an army, he marched into Scotland. The Scots too gathered an army. Their Parliament declared, in the name of their King, that they no longer considered Edward as over-lord. and, in case Baliol should be weak enough to yield again, they shut him up in a strong castle, and went to war without him.

But, unfortunately, all the Scottish people were not united. As many of the great lords owned lands in both countries, they owed obedience both to the King of Scotland and to the King of England. In times of peace that did not matter much, but in times of war it caused great difficulties, for as you know, they only held their lands on condition of fighting for their over-lord in battle. So, as their two over-lords were fighting against each other, many of them, as was natural, sided with the stronger, which was Edward.

Besides this, many of the Scottish lords were angry because Baliol was kept a prisoner, so they would not join in fighting Edward.

Among those who fought for Edward was Robert Bruce, the husband of Lady Marjorie. Bruce joined Edward, because he was an English as well as a Scottish lord, because he hated Baliol, and because he hoped Baliol would be driven from the throne, and that then Edward would help him to become King.

Edward marched north as far as Newcastle-upon-Tyne. From there he sent a message to the King of Scotland, ordering him to come to him. But, after waiting a few days, and finding that Baliol did not come, he marched on again, and crossing the Tweed, laid siege to the town of Berwick. Berwick was at this time the most important seaport in Scotland.

To lay siege to a town means to surround it on all sides, so that the people in the town cannot come out, and so that no one can go in carrying help and food. Sometimes, if a siege lasts a long time, the people within a town suffer terribly from hunger.

As the English lay before Berwick, the Scots taunted King Edward, and made a song about him.

"What turns the King Edward

With his long shanks,

For to win Berwick

And our unthanks?

Go pike it him,

And when he have it won,

Go dike it him."

This was considered very scornful and very funny, and, although it is difficult now to understand why, it is said to have made King Edward very angry. Perhaps he did not like being called 'Long Shanks.' He got that name because he was tall, and had long, thin legs.

The siege of Berwick did not last long, for although the town was protected by the sea on one side, on land there was only a low mud wall to keep the enemy back. Edward attacked it both by land and sea. The Scots set the English ships on fire, and drove them back. But on land, the English army broke down the walls, and entered the town.

The King himself, mounted upon his great horse Bayard, was the first to leap over the wall. After him swarmed his soldiers, eager to kill.

There was terrible bloodshed and slaughter. Such was the fury of the English, that none were saved, and the streets ran red with blood.

In the town was a place called the Red House. It belonged to Flemish merchants, who had come to live in Berwick, and who had helped to make the town rich and prosperous. It was a very strong place, and when the rest of the town had been taken, the merchants of the Red House still held out and fought bravely. These gallant men, although they were not Scotsmen, had made up their minds to die for the land in which they had found a home.

When the English saw that they could not take the Red House, they set it on fire. Still, these brave Flemish merchants would not yield to the English King, and they died, every man of them, amid the roaring flames, and were buried beneath the ruins of their Red House.

Then King Edward, lest the Scots should take their town again, dug a ditch, and built a wall round it to make it strong. King although he was, he wheeled a barrow and used a spade himself, so eager was he to encourage the men, and help on the work. The remains of these fortifications can be seen to this day. Fortification comes from a Latin word which means 'strong,' so, to fortify means to make strong.


Front Matter

The Story of Prince Gathelus
A Fight with the Romans
The March of the Romans
The Story of Saint Columba
French and Scot Allies
The Last of the Picts
A Ploughman Wins a Battle
Macbeth and Three Sisters
The Murder of Banquo
Thane of Fife went to England
Birnam Wood at Dunsinane
Malcolm Canmore
Saint Margaret of Scotland
The Story of Pierce-Eye
Donald Bane and Duncan
Alexander I—The Fierce
Battle of the Standard
William I—the Lion
Alexander II
Alexander III is Crowned
The Taming of the Ravens
A Lady and a Brave Knight
How the King Rode Home
The Maid of Norway
The Siege of Berwick
The Last of Toom Tabard
Adventures of William Wallace
The Black Parliament of Ayr
The Battle of Stirling Bridge
The Battle of Falkirk
The Turning of a Loaf
How the Bruce Struck a Blow
How the King was Crowned
If at First you don't Succeed
The King Tries Again
The Fight at the Ford
The Bruce Escapes
The Taking of Perth
How Two Castles Were Won
Castle of Edinburgh is Taken
How de Bohun Met his Death
The Battle of Bannockburn
How the Scots Carried the War
The Heart of the King
The Story of Black Agnes
Battle of Neville's Cross
French/Scots War with England
The Battle of Otterburn
A Fearful Highland Tournament
The Duke of Rothesay
The Battle of Harlaw
The Scots in France
Beautiful Lady of the Garden
The Poet King
The Black Dinner
Fall of the Black Douglases
The Story of the Boyds
How a Mason Became an Earl
The Battle of Sauchieburn
A Great Sea Fight
The Thistle and Rose
Flodden Field
Fall of the Red Douglases
Story of Johnnie Armstrong
The Goodman of Ballengiech
King of the Commons
Mary Queen of Scots
Darnley and Rizzio
Mary and Bothwell
The Queen Made Prisoner
King's Men and Queen's Men
Death of Two Queens
New Scotland
The King and the Covenant
The Soldier Poet
How the Soldier Poet Died
For the Crown
How the King was Restored
The Church among the Hills
A Forlorn Hope
The Battle of Killiecrankie
Glen of Weeping
Fortune's Gilded Sails
How the Union Jack was Made
For the King over the Water
Story of Smugglers
Prince Charles Came Home
Wanderings of Prince Charles
A Greater Conqueror
God Save the King