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Death at Greyfriars – Robert the Bruce and John Comyn.
On 10 February 1306 Robert the Bruce and John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, met at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries. There was no love lost between them, their respective families had become the bitterest of rivals for the Scottish crown following the death of King Alexander. Bruce had called the meeting and the two men left their swords outside as they entered the church. A fight broke out before the high altar and John Comyn ended up dead.
It is impossible to know what really happened in Greyfriars Kirk that day. For hundreds of years historians have argued about what took place and why. Had Bruce planned to murder Comyn all along? Did Red Comyn draw his dagger first?
A letter from the English court to the Pope said that ‘Bruce rose against King Edward as a traitor, and murdered Sir John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, in the church of the Friars Minor in the town of Dumfries, at the high altar, because John would not assent to the treason which Bruce planned… to resume war.. and make himself king of Scotland.’
As usual, the story is not as simple as it first seems.
The Bruce’s ancestors were of the noblest chivalry of France. De Brus, a Norman baron, who took his name from the lands of Breaux, in Normandy and who came over with the Conqueror. Bruce’s mother, daughter of the Earl of Carrick, was descended from the fighting Celtic chiefs of Galloway. The Bruce boys, Robert, Edward, Thomas, Alexander, and Nigel, were brought up in England, and educated as English knights. They must have grown up to hate John Balliol, who had been granted the vacant Scottish crown by the English king, Edward. The Bruces had been promised this crown by King Alexander himself, should he die without a male heir. Still more must they have hated Balliol when he seized their father’s lands in Annandale, and gave them to John Comyn.
Like most other Scottish nobles at the time, Bruce fought for Edward of England and, sometimes, against him, changing sides to whatever suited the Bruce cause best. This unpredictable behaviour unsettled the English king. Edward did all he could to bind Robert to him, praising and rewarding him for his services. In 1296 he spoke of “the great esteem he had for the good service of Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick.” Yet, the very next year, he “feared for the faithlessness and inconstancy of Sir Robert de Bruys” who joined, briefly, the side of Wallace. In 1298, when Edward came to Scotland to overthrow Wallace, Bruce burned down the castle of Ayr, lest Edward should take it, and retreated into the wilds of Carrick. For this, Edward punished him by marching through Annandale, taking the Bruces’ castle of Lochmaben, and wasting their estates. A few weeks later, Robert the Bruce was again fighting under the English banner. But in 1299 he tried to drive out the English garrison placed by Edward in the castle of Lochmaben. Once more, in 1304, he changed sides where he was in charge of the English force besieging Stirling Castle.
John Comyn, was the nephew of King John Balliol and grandson of Dervorguilla, lady of Galloway, and thus was a leading member of the senior Scottish royal line. It is argued that, after the collapse of John Balliol’s kingship, John Comyn would never have accepted Robert Bruce as king. Consequently, political compromise between the two men was absolutely out of the question. Called, “the Red Comyn” from his red hair, he had more than once defied King Edward, and he was always ready to pick a quarrel with Bruce.
In 1299 in Peebles, an election was held to select guardians for Scotland. The guardians chosen were Robert the Bruce, Bishop Lamberton, and the Red Comyn. During the meeting an argument erupted between Bruce and the Red Comyn. Comyn “leaped on Robert Bruce and took him by the throat,” and the Earl of Buchan (Sir John’s uncle), leaped on William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, “and they held them fast until the Steward and others went and stopped the scuffle.” There was certainly no love lost between the two men.
In January 1306 Robert the Bruce was at Edward’s court in London when news came from Scotland. The Red Comyn had written to Edward and confessed that he and Robert the Bruce had been plotting together. His letter claimed that Bruce had offered a deal to Comyn: “Give me your lands, and I will help you to win the crown for yourself; or take my lands, and help to make me king.” Comyn had agreed to take Bruce’s estates, and to help him to win the crown, and had solemnly sworn to tell no one of their compact. But the Comyn saw a fine chance of avenging himself on his old enemy, and told Edward the whole tale.
Edward promised to reward Comyn, and, in a great rage, sent for Bruce. Bruce answered the allegations so wisely that the king decided to wait until he got more news from Scotland. He decided to do nothing in the meantime, but forbade Bruce to leave the court without his leave.
One night, as the king and some of his lords sat over their wine, king Edward told the lords that he did not mean to delay any longer, but was going to have Robert the Bruce put to death on the morrow. The Earl of Gloucester, a cousin of the Bruce, heard this and he sent a trusty messenger with twelve silver pennies and a pair of spurs to warn the Bruce. Bruce guessed that his cousin’s message meant that he must fly immediately. He gave the money to the messenger, sent his thanks to the earl, and got ready to start for the north.
It was bitter winter weather. The ground was white with snow and legend says that Bruce had his horse, and the horses of his secretary and groom who rode with him, shod backwards to trick his pursuers. In fifteen days they were safely over the Border. In the wild moorland country of the Western Marches they met a man plodding along on foot. From his dress, and from the way he walked, they took him to be a Scot.
The Bruce found him to be extremely evasive upon questioning and subsequently had him searched. Letters from Comyn to the king, advising that Robert the Bruce should at once be put to death, were found upon him. Without more ado the messenger’s head was struck off, and the Bruce and his men galloped onwards.
The Bruce arranged a meeting at the church of the Greyfriars at Dumfries on February 10th, 1306. We do not know who struck the first blow at Peebles, but daggers were drawn, and the Red Comyn fell, stabbed, before the altar. As Bruce hurried out, his face showing the horror of what he had done, two of his companions, Lindsay and Kirkpatrick asked how it was with him.
“Ill,” said the Bruce, “for I doubt I have slain the Comyn.”
“You doubt!” cried Kirkpatrick, “then I’ll mak siccar!” (I’ll make sure.)
Rushing into the church, Kirkpatrick and Lindsay plunged their daggers into the wounded man’s body, and also slew his uncle, Sir Robert Comyn, who tried to save him. The church of the Greyfriars was desecrated. There was blood on the altar steps, the blood of a murdered man.
Apart from these bare facts, nothing certain can be gathered from contemporary accounts. Later Scottish sources all try to justify the crime by amplifying earlier accusations of treachery against Comyn, who certainly was no traitor to Scotland. The English sources portray Robert as a villain who lured Comyn into a church — where he should have been safe — with the intention of committing premeditated murder.
Robert Bruce had now not merely the English king for an enemy, but also all the powerful friends of the man he had slain (through time, Bruce would have to carry out a particularly brutal and murderous campaign against the people and the lands of the north east of Scotland to negate this threat to his authority). The Pope in Rome and all the priests of the Catholic Church would turn against a man who had committed what was to them so horrible and unpardonable a sin.
There was no going back for the Bruce now. Not only had he to fight for a crown and a country—he had to fight for his own life.
The rest is history.
Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries is now Greyfriars St. Marys Kirk
To buy prints or simply to see more of my paintings, please visit www.andrewhillhouseprints.co.uk
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St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle
If someone had asked me what was the oldest building in Edinburgh, I would have thought vaguely of the Old Town, the dark houses along the Royal Mile, or Holyrood Abbey.
As for Edinburgh Castle, most of the visible structure dates from the 16th Century, since it was largely destroyed following the ‘Lang Siege’ in 1573, which culminated in a massive cannon bombardment by English troops.
St Margaret’s Chapel, a tiny rectangular building perched on a lump of black volcanic rock within the castle walls, is actually the oldest building in Edinburgh.
St Margaret’s Chapel
Traditionally, it was believed that St Margaret – formerly Queen Margaret, the wife of Malcolm III of Scotland, and mother of David I – worshipped at the chapel. However, recent research has shown that the chapel was probably built by David I in 1130 and dedicated to his mother, who died at Edinburgh Castle in 1093. David had granted the land all around this area to the Carruthers, and over saw the building of Holyrood Abbey, and at some battle/siege in the late 1200 the land was lost, and thought to have been lost to the Normans.
Margaret was a very interesting and strong-minded lady. She was born in 1046 in Hungary, where the English royal family was living in exile after the Danes, headed by King Canute, had overrun much of England. As an English princess, she was sister to the uncrowned Edgar Atheling and traced her ancestry back through Edmund Ironside and King Alfred.
Royal lineage didn’t do Margaret much good, however; in 1066 England was again under attack, this time from the Normans. To escape them, Margaret and her family boarded a boat from Northumberland and set sail for the continent, but strong winds took them north to Scotland, where they made landfall in the south of Fife.
The royal party was met by Malcolm III of Scotland, who offered them protection and immediately fell in love with the beautiful and devout Margaret. They were married in Dunfermline in 1069.
As Neil Oliver says in his recent book, ‘A History of Scotland’, “Malcolm and Margaret together became a legend – a legend that is in truth much more about her than him.” Margaret soon became known for her kindness and for her devotion to her faith. Although Malcolm never learned to read or write, Margaret would apparently read to him from the scriptures, and she helped to soften his warlike nature.
Inside St Margaret’s Chapel but Margaret’s influence extended way beyond her husband. She reformed the church in Scotland and brought it more in line with Rome; she replaced the native Gaelic with Latin for the celebration of Mass (which didn’t go down too well with many of her subjects); she promoted the sanctity of the Sabbath, allowing a rest day for ordinary people; and she founded a number of churches and monasteries.
Keen to attract more interest in the shrine of St Andrew, Margaret also established a ferry over the Forth estuary, making the journey a much easier one for pilgrims. The towns of North and South Queensferry are named in her honour.
Margaret bore Malcolm eight children, including six sons. Three of them, Edgar, Alexander and David, would become kings of Scotland in their time. But tragedy struck Margaret’s blessed existence in 1093 when Malcolm was killed in a raid on Northumbria, a territory which he had long believed was the rightful property of the Scots. Their eldest son, Edward, was also killed. Heartbroken, Margaret took to her bed and died within a month.
In 1124 David became the last of Margaret’s sons to succeed to the throne of Scotland. In her honour, he founded the little chapel on top of the castle rock in Edinburgh. With echoes of early Christian chapels elsewhere in Scotland, its walls are two feet thick, and it has an internal width of only ten feet, with a 16-foot nave. Originally, the chapel may have been incorporated into a larger part of the castle that has since been demolished.
Despite the fact that Edinburgh Castle suffered repeated attacks and, in 1314, almost complete destruction by forces acting under Robert the Bruce, St Margaret’s Chapel has somehow survived. In fact, on his death bed in 1329, Robert the Bruce paid tribute to Queen Margaret (who was canonised by Pope Innocent IV in 1250), and issued instructions for the upkeep of her chapel.
There are records of the chapel being used regularly as a place of worship in the 1300s, but from the 17th century until about 1845 it fell into disrepair and was used as a store for gunpowder. Restoration work was carried out in 1853, and in 1922 the small round-headed windows were adorned with beautiful stained glass by Douglas Strachan, illustrating St Andrew, St Margaret, St Columba and William Wallace.
St Margaret, depicted in a window of St Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh Castle
St Andrew’s window
St Columba’s window
William Wallace’s window
Looking out onto the ramparts , the great cannon of James II
In 1942, the St Margaret’s Chapel Guild was established, with the purpose of upholding the teachings and principles of St Margaret, and encouraging the use of the chapel for worship. In accordance with tradition, those members of the Guild who bear the name of Margaret place flowers in the chapel every week, to welcome tourists and other worshippers.
In contrast to the dark, oak-paneled walls of the Royal Apartments, this simple sanctuary has a light, restful feeling, and it still enjoys wonderful views across the Firth of Forth.
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Holding the Forts at Caerlaverock
The barnacle geese and whooper swans can see them as they fly in from the northlands: the patterns of mud, merse and channel where the fertile lands of Caerlaverock meet the waters of the Nith and the salt of the Solway. And more: the way a mark in the fields by Wardlaw shows a rectangular outline in darker soil, like a giant’s playing card tossed aside. It’s all that now survives of a Roman fort that once looked out across the estuary to the hills beyond.
On the mound of that same hill, those wildfowl newly arriving can see how trees sprout on encircling ditches and ramparts of older earthworks. This boundary place was important to the warlords of the Iron Age Britons who dug those defenses, as it would be to later garrisons fighting for the territorial rights of emperors, kings and nobles.
Caerlaverock sits at the southern edge of the Britons’ Kingdom of Strathclyde, looking south to the Kingdom of Rheged. Their Cumbric speech, which would sound like a strange form of Welsh to modern ears, gave this place the name that has held down millennia of human changes. It’s the ‘Caer’ that’s the give-away, meaning ‘fort’ to both ancient Briton and contemporary Welsh speaker. The last part is trickier. Some reckon it means ‘lark’ (a pleasing image in a National Nature Reserve); others that it signifies ‘Llywarch’ (pronounced ‘KL-UWaaRK’) a king of Rheged.
Whatever the original meaning, the outline of the castle building that sits between the old forts at Wardlaw and the sea is clear enough. Seen from swan’s-eye overview, its triangular shape combines elegance of geometry with an undoubted impression of power.
When it was built for the Maxwell family in the late 1200s, no other castle in Britain had its distinctive shield shape, designed to be defended by even a modest force of soldiers. This feature was put the test soon after the castle was completed.
Long legs, short fuse
It was the summer of 1300. Edward 1 of England – known as ‘Longshanks’ for his height and notorious for his fierce temper – had brought his army north. The previous year, soldiers from Caerlaverock had attacked the English garrison at nearby Lochmaben. Now Edward was determined to re-assert his authority as feudal overlord.
His army was 3,000 strong, including 87 knights. It must have been a fearsome sight, as men, warhorses, pack animals and wagons carrying tents and provisions moved across the flatlands to take up position across the moat from the newly built castle. The king’s 16-year-old son, later to be crowned Edward II and suffer defeat by the Scots under Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, was part of the English force. He was on his first military expedition, in command of the rearguard.
Amazingly, an account of the English army’s preparations and the attack that followed survives. It’s one of the most detailed descriptions of its kind from anywhere in medieval Europe, further adding to Caerlaverock’s historic importance.
Composed around 1300 and written in French verse (but possibly by an English Franciscan friar), ‘Le Siege de Karlavreock’ tells how Edward I besieged the castle: ‘Caerlaverock was so strong a castle that it did not fear a siege,’ writes the poet-monk.
‘Therefore, the king came himself, because it would not consent to surrender. But it was always furnished for its defence, whenever it was required, with men, engines and provisions.
‘Its shape was like a shield, for it had but three sides round it, with a tower at each corner; but one of them was a double one, so high, so long and so large that under it was the gate, with a drawbridge well-made and strong.
‘…And I think you will never see a more finely situated castle,’ he adds.
But even Caerlaverock’s clever design couldn’t protect it from the missiles flung from huge wooden ‘siege engines’ over the castle walls. These damaged masonry, shattered shields and crushed the helmets of defenders. When the garrison surrendered after bombardment, the assailants realised that a mere 60 soldiers had withstood their army’s might of thousands.
That in itself is the stuff of heroic tales. But it’s the detail in the verse account that is breathtaking. Each knight is given a thumbnail word portrait, including a description of his coat of arms.
There was Roger de Montaigne, for example, ‘who bore yellow with six blue lions’ and William de Conqueror who ‘has at all times lived in honour’. He had a red shield with an alternating pattern on it, ‘with three fleur de lis of gold issuing from leopard’s heads.’
The list runs and runs, ending with an account of the fighting and surrender. As I look at the castle walls, on a day of bright sun, my mind’s eye fills with colours. Even at ground level, this place, and the history of the fields and mounds and hollows beyond it, is breathtaking.
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Historic Scotland: K Taylor
Clan Carruthers LLC
Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int LLC
At the very top of a Coat of Arms sits the Crest. When we updated the Coat of Arms I learned a lot about each and every piece of art word on a Coat of Arms. Each and every piece had to be of historical significance to the Carruthers family. I hope to send out information about each part of the Coat of Arms for you.
If you did not see it, there are three Fleur de Lis’ on the shield and a blog was sent out about that already.
If you live in Scotland, you might be presented with an individual Coat of Arms, that can only be used for the person it is given too. The last individual Coat of Arms of a Carruthers was in the Holmain line, and many people have seen it. It was not the first Coat of Arms issued to a Carruthers. This Coat of Arms by the Holmains can only be used by the man it was given to, not for use by all Carruthers.
Through out time there has been an artistic license taken with the Crest, and its description. The description most people see today is “Seraphim Volant”. This was the Crest description on an individuals Coat of Arms. It is believed that there were changes made to either the drawings or the descriptions. We had to look at this quite carefully.
Seraphim means: An order or group of Divine Beings distinguished for fervent zeal, unconquerable will, and religious ardour and vivacity. Yet on this individual Coat of Arms, it is a single angel, not a group of angels.
Volant means: In flight
There are not a group of angels, or Divine Beings in flight on the Crest.
On one of the older Crests, the upright angel has their right arm raised in the air. This might represent being in flight to some.
Lets look at the word Seraph, or Saraph.
It is said the word Seraph comes from the Hebrew verb saraph (fiery or to burn), or Hebrew noun saraph (a fiery, flying serpent).
Seraph as a Verb
The word Seraph appears three times in the Torah (Numbers 21:6–8, Deuteronomy 8:15) and four times in the Book of Isaiah (6:2–6, 14:29, 30:6). In Isaiah 6:2-6 the term is used to describe a type of celestial being or angel.
The vision in Isaiah Chapter 6 of seraphim in an idealised Jerusalem First Temple represents the sole instance in the Hebrew Bible of this word being used to describe celestial beings. “… I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the Hekhal (sanctuary). Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” (Isaiah 6:1–3)
In Jewish, Christian and Islamic literature, they use it in the verbial sense as a celestial being with two or three pairs of wings who guards the throne of God. They are described as very tall, with six wings and four heads, one for of the cardinal directions. One pair of wings are for flying, one for covering their eyes (for even they may not look directly at God), and one for covering their feet (which is almost certainly a euphemism for genitals).
Seraph as a Noun
As a Herbrew noun, the term appears several times with reference to the serpents encountered in the wilderness (Num. 21.8, Deut. 8.15; Isa. 14.29; 30.6), it has often been understood to refer to “fiery serpents”. From this it has also often been proposed that the seraphim were serpentine in form and in some sense “fiery” creatures or associated with fire.
The text describes the “seraphim” as winged celestial beings with a fiery passion for doing God’s good work. Notwithstanding the wording of the text itself, at least one Hebrew scholar claims that in the Hebrew Bible the seraphim do not have the status of angels, and that it is only in later sources (like De Coelesti Hierarchia or Summa Theologiae that they are considered to be a division of the divine messengers.
So, a Seraph may not be an angelic being at all, but a fiery flying serpent. Either noun or verb, it is said that whoever lays eyes on a Seraph, he would instantly be incinerated due to the immense brightness or fire.
Are we using the right symbol?
The ancient symbol of a Seraph is the six wings. If you do a quick search you will see how this ancient symbol has been used for thousands of years. Eastern Orthodox religions, Buddhist, Japanese, Egyptian, and such all have used this symbol for a Seraph.
There is one more twist to this.
Our relatives The Gotlanders may have something to do with all of this too.
flammende flyvende slange : This is a term used to describe our relatives in Gotland. The ship builders, the men of the Ash Tree, the adventurers who sailed the seas, and the warriors who dangerously sailed at night.
fiery flying serpent is the translation: Men who were rich from making ships that sailed so fast. Men who were the ones they hired to sail at night, with a fire on board their boats. Men who had the symbol of a serpent on their sails.
The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.
The Jewish Encyclopaedia states: “The seraphim are frequently mentioned in the Book of Enoch (xx. 7, lxi. 10, lxxi. 7), where they are designated as δράκονες (‘serpents’), and are always mentioned, in conjunction with the cherubim, as the heavenly creatures standing nearest to God. …Some authorities hold that the seraphim had their origin in the Egyptian ‘seref,’ a composite, winged creature…” (Hirsch and Benzinger, 2002, p. 201). Since the Israelites had lived with Egyptians for so many years, it is not surprising that they would have adopted their word.
Is Seraph/Saraph a noun, a verb, a sailing ship or even a pterosaur?
Anyway you want to look at it, it is ours!
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The History of the Border Reivers
If your surname is Armstrong ,Beattie, Carruthers, Maxwell, Johnston, Graham, Bell, Scott, Nixon, Kerr, Crozier or Robson then your family history, just like the astronaut Neil Armstrong’s, may very well be intertwined with the Border Reivers. And, if you do share one of these surnames, you may be advised not to read on…
The story of the Reivers dates from the 14th century and continued through into the late 17th century. It concerns the border between the two sovereign countries of England and Scotland. In those days, this Border displayed all of the characteristics of a frontier, lacking law and order. Cattle rustling, feuding, murder, arson and pillaging were all common occurrences.
It was a time when people owed their tribal or clan loyalty to their blood relatives or families. And it was common for these families to straddle the Border.
The Reivers were the product of the constant English-Scottish wars that would often reduce the Border area to a wasteland. The continuing threat of renewed conflict offered little incentive to arable farming. Why bother planting crops if they may be burned before they could be harvested?
The reiving (raiding or plundering) of livestock was however a totally different matter, and so it became the principal business of the Border families.
The Reiver came from every social class from laborer to peer of the realm. He was a skilled horseman and fine guerrilla soldier, practiced in the fine arts of arson, kidnapping and extortion. There was no social stigma attached to reiving, it was simply an accepted way of life.
It is said that the wife of one famous Border Reiver demonstrated that her larder was empty by serving her husband his spurs on a plate instead of his dinner. The message was clear either mount up and go reiving, or go hungry.
Reiving was simply a way of earning a living. Scottish Reivers were just as likely to raid other Scots as to raid across the English Border. Scots and English would even join forces to raid on either side of the Border. The victims of reiving could be anyone from outside the immediate family.
Raids were planned like military operations and could involve gangs of armed men and last for days. More modest raids might involve no more than a short moonlit ride, a quick plunder from a small farm followed by a dash home for breakfast.
“Few fought fiercer than family hands. When fathers and sons, brothers and cousins rode side by side, none turned aside and many found courage when the names of their blood needed them at their back. Astute commanders understood these bonds, and in battles or skirmishes they always set the older and more experienced men in front, believing that honour and valour flowed down through the generations to the younger men behind. (Fm The Reivers)
The Reiver rode a small sturdy pony known as a hobbler, which was noted for its ability to cover great distances over difficult ground at high speed. On his head the Reiver would typically wear a steel bonnet and a quilted jacket of stout leather sewn with plates of metal or horn to protect his body, called a Jack of Plate. Although the Reiver carried a variety of weapons including sword, dagger and axe, his preferred weapon was the ‘lang spear’ or Border lance.
The central governments of both England and Scotland attempted in vain to establish law and order across the Border, however a borderer would owe allegiance to England or Scotland only when it suited him or his family.
When England and Scotland were at war, it could become very much a Border affair with Reivers providing large numbers of cavalry. The battles of Otterburn (1388), Flodden Field (1513) and Solway Moss (1542) are all linked with the Reivers.
With the exception of the Scottish Highlands, the Borders were the last part of Britain to be brought under the rule of law.
It was only following the Union between England and Scotland in 1603 that a concerted effort was made by James I (VI of Scotland) to rid the Border of Reivers. However, between the death of Elizabeth I and the crowning of James I in March, several Scottish families launched massive raids into Cumbria, claiming to believe that when a monarch died the laws of the land were automatically suspended until the new king was proclaimed!
James I, who now ruled over a new kingdom called Great Britain, was furious with his Scottish subjects for relieving his new English subjects in Cumbria of some 1,280 cattle and 3,840 sheep and goats. James issued a proclamation against ‘all rebels and disorderly persons’.
James decreed that the Borders should be renamed ‘the Middle Shires’ and in 1605 he established a commission to bring law and order to the region. In the first year of the commission’s existence it executed 79 individuals and in the years which followed, scores more were hanged.
Other Reivers were encouraged to leave and serve as mercenaries in the armies of continental Europe. The Armstrongs, Beatties, Carruthers and the Grahams were singled out for special treatment and were taken to Fermanagh Ireland, by Lord Atchison and his brother. Some continued as outlaws and became known as ‘Mosstroopers’.
By the early 1620’s peace had arrived in the Borders, possibly for the first time ever.
Some view the Border Reivers as loveable rogues, while others have compared them to the Mafia. Whatever your opinion their legacy remains in the fortified dwellings called pele towers, their ballads and their words now common in the English language such as “bereave” and “blackmail”: greenmail was the proper rent you paid, blackmail was “protection money”!
The rescue of Kinmont Willie Armstrong
Three of the most celebrated Reivers of all time were Kinmont Willie Armstrong, Wat Scott of Harden and Geordie Burn. The night before he was hanged in 1596, Geordie Burn admitted that ‘he had lain with above forty men’s wives… and that he had killed seven Englishmen with his own hand, cruelly murdering them; that he had spent his whole time in whoring, drinking, stealing and taking deep revenge for slight offences’.’
Kinmont Willie prided himself on his large-scale raids, targeting whole areas rather than individual farms or villages. He would ride at the head of some 300 Reivers, known as ‘Kinmont’s bairns’. One of the most famous incidents in Border history involves the rescue of Kinmont Willie from Carlisle Castle on 13 April 1596.
On 17 March 1596, a truce-day was held in the Borders, so that Scots and English could meet to negotiate deals and treaties. On the Scottish side was one William Armstrong of Kinmont or ‘Kinmont Willie’ – perhaps the most notorious of all the Border Reivers.
As Willie was riding home to his tower at Morton Rigg, just north of Carlisle, a band of Englishmen broke the truce and apprehended him. Kinmont Willie was escorted to Carlisle in chains.
Willie had been a prisoner of the English for almost a month when the Keeper of Liddesdale, Scott of Buccleuch, decided to launch a rescue attempt. ‘Bold Buccleugh’ and his party of about eighty men entered the castle on Sunday 13 April and rescued Willie from the English, who were under the command of Sir Thomas Scrope, 10th Lord Scrope of Bolton Knight of the Garter (pictured left). Buccleugh had bribed a member of the garrison to leave a door unbarred.
Together Buccleugh and Willie made good their escape with Scrope in hot pursuit. Scrope was so angered by the audacity of the rescue that he vented his anger by burning the towns of Annan and Dumfries to the ground, capturing two hundred prisoners whom he marched home ‘naked, chained together on leashes’. This caused a major diplomatic incident, Queen Elizabeth was furious with Scrope.
It was also said that north of the Border, James VI of Scotland was so terrified that Buccleugh had ruined his chances of succeeding Elizabeth on the throne of England that he ordered Buccleugh to hand himself over to the English.
And as for wiley Willie, he was never apprehended again and is said to have died of old age in his bed. The tale of his escape recorded forever in the Ballad of Kinmont Willie:
Ballad of Kinmont Willie
O hae ye no heard o’ the fause Sakelde?
O hae ye no heard o’ the keen Lord Scroope?
How they hae ta’en bauld Kinmont Willie,
On Haribee to hang him up?
Had Willie had but twenty men,
But twenty men as stout as he,
Fause Sakelde would never the Kinmont ta’en,
Wi’ eight score in his company.
They band his legs beneath the steed,
They tied his hands behind his back.
They guarded him, fivesome on either side,
And they led him through the Liddel-rack.
They led him through the Liddel-rack,
And also through the Carlisle sands;
They took him tae Carlisle Castle,
To be at my Lord Scroope’s commands.
“My hands are tied, but my tongue is free,
And whae will dare this deed avow?
Or answer by the Border law?
Or answer tae the bauld Buccleuch?”
“Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver.
There’s never a Scot shall set thee free:
Before ye cross my castle gate,
I trow ye shall take farewell of me.”
Now word has gane tae the bauld keeper,
In Branksome Ha’, where that he lay,
That Lord Scroope has ta’en the Kinmont Willie,
Between the hours of night and day.
And here detained him, Kinmont Willie,
Against the truce of Border tide.
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
Is keeper on the Scottish side?
“Had there been war between the lands,
As well I wot that there is nane,
I would slight Carlisle Castle high,
Though it were built of marble stane.”
“I would set that castle in a lowe,
And sloken it wi’ English blood.
There’s never a man in Cumberland,
What kent where Carlisle castle stood.”
“But since nae war’s between the lands,
And here is peace, and peace should be;
I will neither harm English lad or lass,
And yet the Kinmont shall be free.”
And as we crossed the Debatable land,
And tae the English side we held,
The first of men that we met wi’,
Whae should it be but fause Sakelde?
“Where ye be gaun, ye broken men?”
Quo’ fause Sakelde; “Come tell to me?”
Now Dickie o’ Dryhope led that band,
And there never a word of lear has he.
And as we left the Staneshaw-bank,
The wind began full loud tae blaw;
But ’twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet,
When we came beneath the castle wa’.
They thought King James and a’ his men
Had won the house wi’ bow and spear;
It was but twenty Scots and ten,
That put a thousand in sic a steir!
And as we reached the lower prison,
Where Kinmont Willie he did lie,
“O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmont Willie,
Upon the morn that thou’s to die?”
Then shoulder high, with shout and cry,
We bore him doon the ladder lang;
At every stride Red Rowan made,
I wot the Kinmont’s airns play’d clang!
He turn’d him on the other side,
And at Lord Scroope his glove flung he.
“If ye na like my visit in merry England,
In fair Scotland come and visit me!”
All sair astonished stood Lord Scroope,
He stood as still as rock of stane;
He scarcely dared tae trew his eyes,
When through the water they had gane.
“He is either himsel’ a devil frae hell,
Or else his mother a witch maun be;
I wadna hae ridden that wan water,
For a’ the gowd in Christendie.”
Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int LLC
Clan Carruthers LLC
Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int. LLC.
Ancient Symbol Fleur-de-lis: It’s Meaning And History Explained
You will look at the Carruthers Coat of Arms, and see a shield with three Fleur De Lis on it. Many have asked why do we have that on our shield. This may help you get some answers.
Fleur-de-lis, ( French: “lily flower”) is an ancient symbol that has long been associated with French royalty. Depicting a stylized lily or lotus flower we encounter the emblem as in many places across the world.
What makes the Fleur-de-lis symbol is how it has been used in different contexts. Is has represented peace, war, religion, politics, royalty and more.
For example, Joan of Arc carried a white banner that showed God blessing the French royal emblem, the fleur-de-lis, when she led French troops to victory over the English. Joan of Arc was of noble birth. The Catholic Church has used the Fleur-de-lis emblem for many years. The lily flower was a symbol of the Holy Trinity as well as an emblem of the Virgin Mary. Many of the Catholic Popes were of noble birth, and in some cases that helped them get to be Pope. The birth rights of nobility traveled throughout many areas of the world.
A number of military units use the symbol’s resemblance to a spearhead to identify martial power and strength. Always when a ranking officer was of noble birth, the whole unit would have the fleur-de-lis emblem to display on their uniforms and even flags.
Fleur-de-lis should not be confussed with the Flower of Life, which is an ancient sacred geomerty symbol and blueprint of the universe.
The fleur-de-lis symbol was sporadically used in Babylonian, Indian, Egyptian and Roman architecture, but it is most associated with French royalty and the Church.
The fleur-de-lis’ symbolic origins with French monarchs may stem from the baptismal lily used in the crowning of King Clovis I.
An ancient legend tell, a golden lily flower given at his baptism to Clovis, king of the Franks (466–511), by an angel or even the Virgin Mary. The lily was said to have sprung from the tears shed by Eve as she left Eden. The lily flower was a symbol of his purification upon his conversion to Christianity.
According to another legend, Clovis adopted the symbol when water lilies showed him how to safely cross a river and thus succeed in battle.
The symbol has been regarded as a sign of purity ever since antiquity. The Roman Catholic Church adopted the Fleur-de-lis symbol to represent Virgin Mary. When Pope Leo III in 800 crowned Charlemagne as emperor, he is reported to have presented him with a blue banner covered (semé) with golden fleurs-de-lis.
The symbol was later adopted by many European noble families, most notably the French monarchy, to establish an association with the Church.
In the twelfth century, either King Louis VI or King Louis VII became the first French monarch to use the fleur-de-lis on his shield.
In the 14th century, the fleur-de-lis was often incorporated into the family insignia that was sewn on the knight’s surcoat, which was worn over their coat of mail, thus the term, “coat of arms.” The original purpose of identification in battle developed into a system of social status designations after 1483 when King Edmund IV established the Heralds’ College to supervise the granting of armor insignia.
Knowledge of Fleur-de-lis crossed the Atlantic when French nobility reached the New World. Their presence on North American flags and coats of arms usually recalls the involvement of French nobility in the history of the town or region concerned, and in some cases the persisting presence there of a population descended from such nobels.
The fleur-de-lis symbol also appears on the Canadian coat of arms, the flag of Quebec.
Knowing history is very important when exploring the fleur-de-lis. Many French royalty and nobles came and settled in Canada, thus the use of the fleur-de-lis is permitted by birth rights.
The Carruthers are very proud of this symbol that was given to us to use on our Crest.