Scotland's Story - H. E. Marshall

Alexander III.—How the King Rode Homeward through the Dark Night

Alexander was a good King, and after he had tamed the Ravens, he spent his time making good laws. He travelled all over his kingdom to see that justice was done even to the very poor. He reigned for thirty-seven years, and towards the end of his reign he had many sorrows. His wife died, his two sons died, and his daughter, who had married the King of Norway, also died. She left a little daughter called Margaret, and this little girl was the heir to the throne.

In those days it was very unusual for a Queen to rule, so, sad as he was, Alexander gathered all his nobles together, and made them swear to receive the little Princess Margaret as their Queen when he died.

Alexander felt it very necessary to do this, for the King of England, now called Edward I., had again tried to make him own him as over-lord. But Alexander had again refused. 'To homage for my kingdom of Scotland no one has any right save God alone, nor do I hold it of any but God,' he said. 'I do homage to you only for the lands which I hold in England.'

So for the time the King of England had to be content, but Alexander felt very sure that when he was gone, and there was only a little girl to withstand him, the King of England would try once again to make himself master of Scotland. So he charged all the knights and barons to be true to their Queen and their country.

Not long after this, Alexander had been to Edinburgh to a great banquet, and after it was over he started to ride back to his castle at Dunfermline. The night was dark, and his lords prayed him not to go, as a wise man called Thomas the Rhymer had foretold that there would be a great storm. But Alexander was determined to go, and he started off in the darkness.

He reached the river Forth in safety, and there the ferryman begged him not to cross, as the night was dark and the water deep. Still Alexander insisted on going. 'Then will I go too,' said the man; 'it would ill become me if I were not willing to die with thy father's son.'

The river was safely crossed. On again through the darkness went the King and his little band of followers. The road led by the river-side. The cliffs were high and steep and the night so dark that they could not see the narrow path, and they had to trust to their horses.

But on they went, the King riding first, quickly and fearlessly. Suddenly his horse stumbled. There was a cry in the darkness; the sound of a heavy fall; then silence.

'My lord King,' cried a frightened attendant, 'what has happened?'

There was no answer, except the sound of the waves, and the cry of wild birds. Far below, on the rocks of the sea-shore, the King lay dead.

Morning dawned clear and calm, and the people laughed at Thomas the Rhymer. 'Where is your storm?' they asked, pointing to the blue sky and bright sunshine. But even as they spoke a messenger came with the news, 'The King is dead.'

'There,' said Thomas, 'that is the storm of which I spoke. Never did tempest bring more ill luck to Scotland.'

There was great sorrow at the death of Alexander, for he had been a good King, and his people loved him.

"Scotland lamented him full sore,

For under him all his people were

In honour, quiet, and in peace.

Therefore called Peaceable King he was.

He lovèd all men that were virtuous,

He loathed and chastisèd all vanities,

Justice he gave and equity

To each man as should be.

"To lords and knights and squires

That were pleasant of manners,

He was leal, liberal, and loving

And all virtuous in governing.

"When Alexander our King was dead,

That Scotland led in love and le,

Away was wealth of ale and bread,

Of wine and wax, of game and glee.

"Our gold was changed into lead—

Christ born into virginity,

Succour Scotland and remedy

Which placèd is in perplexity."

It is more than six hundred years since King Alexander died, but the place is still called the King's Crag, and there is a monument there to mark the spot.


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