Eochaid ab Rhun
Eochaid ab Rhun was King of the Picts between 878 and 889 and apparently ruled jointly with the mysterious character Giric mac Dúngail. He was the grandson of Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín), and, along with Giric, succeeded his uncle Áed mac Cináeda. According to the national myth, his grandfather was the first King of Scotland, and so alongside Giric, Eochaid is Scotland’s fifth king according to most modern regal lists.
Eochaid descended from Kenneth through his mother, who was married to Rhun ab Arthgal, King of Strathclyde. The people of the kingdom were predominantly neither Picts nor Gaels, but Britons, and would have spoken a Brythonic language closely related to Old Welsh, and in modern terms, Welsh, Cornish and Breton. While Brythonic and the Goidelic language of the Gaels form two different branches of the Insular Celtic tree, the relationship between it and Pictish is less certain, with most modern theories on the latter suggesting that Pictish and its variants, was also a form of Brythonic.
It's uncertain when Rhun's reign and life ended, but one possibility is that it happened in 876, at the same time as his brother-in-law Constantine I, who according to various sources was slain by Vikings in Fife. It's also uncertain who assumed the kingship of Strathclyde after Rhun, but Eochaid is a likely candidate. In Pictland Constantine was succeeded by his brother Áed, who reigned for just one year and may have been killed by Eochaid’s possible co-ruler, Giric.
Giric and Eochaid's relationship is uncertain, but they appear to have ruled the Kingdom either jointly over a unified area or separately over different areas for 11 years. While it is possible that they held the Pictish kingship concurrently as allies, it is also conceivable that they ruled successively as opponents. Another possibility is that, whilst Giric reigned as King of the Picts, Eochaid reigned as King of Strathclyde.
The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba records that Eochaid and Giric’s reigns came to an end when they were both expelled from the Pictish Kingdom. Other sources however suggest that Giric was slain at Dundurn. If the accounts of Giric's downfall are to be believed, and if both he and Eochaid were allied together at the time, it is conceivable that both Eochaid and Giric fell together. Alternately, Giric's killing could have contributed to Eochaid's ejection from the kingship. Although it is unknown who was responsible for Giric's reported demise, one candidate is the succeeding Donald II, who would rule between 889 and 900.
If Eochaid had any children, there is no official record. In Strathclyde there is no further record of kingship until the turn of the tenth century, when the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba notes the passing of a certain King Dyfnwal in 908 or 915. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dyfnwal's parentage is uncertain. On one hand, he could have been Eochaid’s brother and on the other, he could have been his son or grandson. Alternately, Dyfnwal could have represented a more distant branch of the same dynasty. Eochaid may have had a daughter called Lann, as according to the Great Book of Lecan a maternal grandson of Eochaid was Lann's son, Muirchertach mac Néill, King of Ailech, who died in 943.
Assuming he was King of the Picts, Eochaid was succeeded by his cousin, and son of Constantine I, Donald II.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
The First Battle of Dunbar
On this day in 1296 the first Battle of Dunbar was fought between the Scottish forces of King John Balliol and the invading English army of Edward I. The battle was a crushing defeat for the Scots and left the field open for Edward to brush all further opposition aside and advance into central Scotland where he was able to force John’s surrender.
Edward launched his invasion of Scotland in early 1296 in response to the Scottish forming an alliance with France, who were at war with England at the time. The Scots also launched a raid on Carlisle, though this was easily repulsed. Edward had placed John on the Scottish throne in 1292, following the succession crisis caused by Margaret, Maid of Norway’s death in 1290. A condition of Edward’s arbitration was to establish himself as overlord of Scotland and so he treated the country like a feudal vassal. John’s actions were therefore not only seen as an act of war but an act of treachery too.
The opening salvo of what would become known as the First War of Scottish Independence occurred when Edward sacked and captured Berwick-upon-Tweed in March. The English then moved north along the east coast to their next objective, Dunbar Castle. Edward sent one of his chief lieutenants, John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, John Balliol's own father-in-law, northwards with a strong force of knights to invest the stronghold. The castle, whose garrison was small and no match for the English sent out a call for help, finding John and his army camped at nearby Haddington. In response the army, or a large part of it, advanced to the rescue of Dunbar. John, who was a weak king and an even weaker commander did not accompany it. Instead he placed John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch (Red Comyn) in charge.
The Scottish forces arrived on the morning of April 27th and formed up on Spottismuir - a ridge of high ground overlooking Dunbar. Seeing this, Surrey left his infantry to maintain the siege and moved his mounted forces to engage the Scots. To meet them, Surrey's cavalry had to cross a gully intersected by the Spott Burn. As they did so their ranks broke up, and the Scots, deluded into thinking the English were leaving the field, abandoned their position in a disorderly downhill charge, only to find that Surrey's forces had reformed on Spottsmuir and were advancing in perfect order.
The English quickly routed the disorganised Scots in a single charge. The action was brief and probably not very bloody, since the only casualty of any note was a minor Lothian knight, Sir Patrick Graham, though about 100 Scottish lords, knights and men-at-arms were taken prisoner. The survivors fled westwards to the safety of the Ettrick Forest. The following day King Edward appeared in person and Dunbar castle surrendered.
The remainder of the English campaign was little more than a grand mopping-up operation. Key castles - most notably Roxburgh and Stirling - being handed over without a fight. John fled north to Perth but, perhaps influenced by the fate of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in the earlier Wars of Welsh Independence, King John capitulated confessing to rebellion and prayed for forgiveness on July 2nd. The final humiliation came at Montrose on July 8th. Dressed for the occasion John was ceremoniously stripped of the vestments of royalty. Antony Bek, the Bishop of Durham, ripped the red and gold arms of Scotland from his surcoat, thus bequeathing to history the nickname Toom Tabard (empty coat). He and his son Edward were sent south into captivity. Soon after, the English king followed, carrying in his train the Stone of Scone and other relics of Scottish nationhood.
This year we are building and, Corona Virus notwithstanding, hoping to display a huge model to commemorating the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflwower. Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of blogs about the events that paved the way for her voyage and the reasons for those on board, who have been called the Pilgrim Fathers, for making the risky voyage across the Atlantic and establishing an English colony at Plymouth (or Plimoth) Colony, Massachusetts, America. In this blog we look back the 14 and 15th centuries and the Lollards, a movement to reform the church that preceded the Reformation of the 16th century.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries life in Europe was heavily influenced, even controlled in some aspects, by the Church. Unlike today, where there are many denominations within the worldwide Church, there were two main bodies of faith; the (Roman) Catholic Church in the west and the Orthodox Church in the east. The Catholic Church was the dominant of the two and its power went so far as to influence both international and national politics. This raised various issues as monarchs did not always appreciate the Church's input into their kingdoms.
The power and wealth held by the Church had such a strong influence in society that some people challenged its position and its basis of authority. A key aspect of the Catholic Church was the beliefs it held and taught. After Jesus had lived on earth his teachings were passed on by those close to him, the Apostles, and this formed Christian belief. These teachings were written down in what is now the New Testament of the Bible. The Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, was believed to point to Jesus being the Messiah.
It was the relationship between the beliefs being taught by the Roman Church and those in the Bible which laid the way for reformation. It was hard for the ordinary person to check whether the two parties taught the same things as they depended on their clergy to teach them. This put the Church in a strong position and was seen to be open to deviation from the Bible without the ability to question.
In the late 14th century, the English philosopher, theologian and priest John Wycliffe observed these deviations and openly questioned the Roman Church’s practices (we wrote about Wycliffe in this blog). His followers were known as Lollards. The origin of their name is uncertain, but may have come from the Dutch word 'lollaerd,' meaning 'mumbler, perhaps from their practice of praying or reading the Bible together.'
In the beginning the Lollards had the support of individuals within the nobility such as John of Gaunt, son of Edward III and uncle to the then King, Richard II. Additionally, there was a group of gentry who followed Wycliffe's and the Lollards’ teachings. They were known as the “Lollard Knights”. This group included Thomas Latimer, John Trussell, Lewis Clifford, Sir John Peche, Richard Storey, Reginald Hilton, William Nevil and John Clanvowe.
This support would however disappear following the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 as one of its leaders, a radical preacher named John Ball, had preached beliefs held by the Lollards. The revolt had various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions generated by the Black Death earlier in the century, the high taxes resulting from the conflict with France during the Hundred Years' War, and instability within the local leadership of London. The rebels sought a reduction in taxation, an end to the system of unfree labour known as serfdom, and the removal of the King's senior officials and law courts.
Inspired by Ball’s sermons and led by Wat Tyler, a contingent of Kentish rebels advanced on London. On June 13th, the rebels entered the city and, joined by many local townsfolk, attacked the jails, destroyed the Savoy Palace, set fire to law books and buildings in the Temple, and killed anyone associated with the royal government. The following day, the young king Richard II, who as just fourteen at the time, met the rebels and acceded to most of their demands, including the abolition of serfdom. Meanwhile, rebels entered the Tower of London, killing the Lord Chancellor and the Lord High Treasurer, whom they found inside.
However, on June 15th, Richard left the city to meet Tyler and the rebels at Smithfield. Violence broke out, and Richard's party killed Tyler. Richard defused the tense situation long enough for London's mayor, William Walworth, to gather a militia from the city and disperse the rebel forces. Richard immediately began to re-establish order in London and rescinded his previous grants to the rebels. Rebel forces were still active elsewhere in England and so Richard mobilised 4,000 soldiers to restore order. Most of the rebel leaders were tracked down and executed; by November, at least 1,500 rebels had been killed and the revolt was effectively over.
The Lollard element within the revolt led to the them losing the support and protection of their noble and royal sympathisers. Wycliffe and his associates would however continue his work, translating the Bible into English and challenging the various doctrines taught by the Roman Church. Wycliffe died in 1384, but his followers continued to promote his ideas.
King Richard and those who succeeded him, had strong Catholic faiths and sided with the Roman Church, accepting its view that Wycliffe’s teachings were heretical. Indeed, by the mid-1400s, the word Lollard had essentially become synonymous with 'heretic.' In face of ongoing persecution the Lollards produced their Twelve Conclusions in 1395. These were presented to Parliament, as well as being nailed to the doors of both Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral, as was customary when inviting academic debate. The conclusions covered a range of matters including transubstantiation, clerical celibacy, exorcisms and hallowings, confession, pilgrimage, crusades and arts and crafts.
In 1414 John Oldcastle, who held Lollard beliefs, led another rebellion. The plan was to seize the King Henry V and his brothers during a Twelfth-night mumming at Eltham and establish some sort of commonwealth. Oldcastle was to be Regent, the king, nobility and clergy placed under restraint, and the abbeys dissolved and their riches shared out. Henry was however forewarned of their intention by a spy, and when the Lollards assembled in force in St Giles's Fields on January 10th they were easily dispersed by the king and his forces. Oldcastle escaped and in 1417 he was captured and beheaded.
Oldcastle's revolt made Lollardy seem even more threatening to the state, and persecution of Lollards became more severe. A variety of other martyrs for the Lollard cause were executed during the next century, including the Amersham Martyrs in the early 1500s and Thomas Harding in 1532, one of the last Lollards to be made victim. A gruesome reminder of this persecution is the 'Lollards Pit' in Thorpe Wood, now Thorpe Hamlet, Norwich, where Lollards were burnt.
Lollards were effectively absorbed into Protestantism during the English Reformation, in which Lollardy played a role. Since Lollards had been underground for more than a hundred years, the extent of Lollardy and its ideas at the time of the Reformation is uncertain and a point of debate. However, the similarity between Lollards and later English Protestant groups such as the Baptists, Puritans and Quakers suggests some continuation of Lollard ideas through the Reformation.
In our next blog in this series we will tell the story of the English Reformation of the 16th century. These scenes were built by James Pegrum; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Giric mac Dúngail
Giric mac Dúngail (Modern Gaelic: Griogair mac Dhunghail), known in English simply as Giric, and nicknamed Mac Rath ("Son of Fortune"), was King of the Picts between 878 and 889. Giric is a mysterious character, who is not found within the Irish Annals or any Anglo-Saxon chronicle and what information is available is often contradictory. Nevertheless, he appears to have been regarded in some importance by Scottish writers in the High and Late Middle Ages and so he finds himself on most modern regal lists.
Giric's ancestry and how he came to be king are deeply obscure. There is a tendency to refer to him as the cousin or ‘first cousin once removed’ of Eochaid, who was the grandson of Kenneth MacAlpine, first king of Scotland, however this is nothing more than speculation. Nothing of any certainty is known of his father Dúngail and so it is possible that Giric was not of the MacAlpin line. However, it has been speculated that ‘Dúngail’ may be a misspelling of ‘Domnall’ and that Giric was in fact the son of Kenneth’s brother, Donald I. The fact that Áed succeeded Constantine could indicate that Giric had been denied the kingship and such a possibility could account for the claim in Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland that Giric succeeded to the throne having killed Áed.
To add to the complexity, the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba has Áed’s nephew Eochaid ab Rhun succeeding to the throne at the same time. The relationship between the two kings is uncertain and various theories have been put forward to explain it. The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, which was written in Latin, used the phrase alumnus ordinatorque to describe Giric’s relationship to Eochaid. Translator T.H. Weeks chose to translate that phrase into English as “teacher and prime minister," yet in the same section offered “foster-son” for alumnus, translating “Eochodius, cum alum(p)no suo, expulsus est nunc de regno” as “Eochaid with his ‘foster-son,’ was then thrown out of the kingdom.” Another theory is that ‘Dúngail’ is actually a misspelling of the early form of the Welsh Dyfnwal, and that Giric was not a Gael but the Briton uncle of Eochaid’s father, and therefore of a different royal line. Such a situation could support the view of Giric being Eochaid’s ‘teacher and prime minister’. Alternatively, if Giric was not of royal blood or indeed different royal blood, it is possible, as several historians have speculated, that he was using Eochaid as a puppet.
Whatever the truth, Giric and Eochaid appear to have ruled either jointly over a unified area or separately over different areas for 11 years. Whilst it is possible that they held the Pictish kingship concurrently as allies, it is also conceivable that they ruled successively as opponents. Another possibility is that, while Giric reigned as King of the Picts, Eochaid reigned as King of Strathclyde.
By the 12th century, Giric had acquired legendary status as liberator of the Scottish church from Pictish oppression and, fantastically, as conqueror of Ireland and most of England. As a result, Giric was known as Gregory the Great. What the truth is and to what extent of Giric carried out any of these activities is however unknown. For example, it seems highly unlikely that Giric conquered Ireland; in fact these conquests appear as Bernicia, which was part of Northumbria, rather than Ireland (Hibernia), in some sources.
The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba records that Giric and Eochaid’s reigns came to an end when they were both expelled from the Pictish Kingdom. Other sources however suggest that Giric was slain at Dundurn. If the accounts of Giric's downfall are to be believed, and if both he and Eochaid were allied together at the time, it is conceivable that both Eochaid and Giric fell together. Alternately, Giric's killing could have contributed to Eochaid's ejection from the kingship. Although it is unknown who was responsible for Giric's reported demise, one candidate is the succeeding Donald II, who would rule briefly between 889 and 900.
This scene was built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
The Black Death
The Black Death, also known as the Plague, was the most devastating pandemic recorded in human history, resulting in the deaths of up to 75-125 million people globally, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. The plague created religious, social, and economic upheavals, with profound effects on the course of European history.
It is believed that the Black Death originated in Central Asia or East Asia from where it traveled along the Silk Road, reaching Crimea by 1347. From there, it was most likely carried by fleas living on the black rats that traveled on Genoese merchant ships, spreading throughout the Mediterranean Basin, reaching the rest of Europe via the Italian Peninsula.
In England, the first outbreak of plague swept across the country in 1348-49. It seems to have traveled across the south in bubonic form during the summer months of 1348, before mutating into the even more frightening pneumonic form with the onset of winter. It hit London in September 1348, and spread into East Anglia all along the coast early during the New Year. By spring 1349, it was ravaging Wales and the Midlands, and by late summer, it had made the leap across the Irish Sea and had penetrated the north. The Scots were quick to take advantage of their English neighbours' discomfort, raiding Durham in 1349. Whether they caught the plague by this action, or whether it found its way north via other means, it had reached Scotland by 1350.
At the time it was believed that the plague was caused by the presence in the air of a miasma, a poisonous vapour in which were suspended particles of decaying matter that was characterised by its foul smell. The most authoritative contemporary account is found in a report from the medical faculty in Paris to Philip VI of France. It blamed the heavens, in the form of a conjunction of three planets in 1345 that caused a "great pestilence in the air". We now know that it was most likely the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which results in several forms of plague (septicemic, pneumonic and, the most common, bubonic), that was cause.
The onset of the plague created panic the length and breadth of Europe. One graphic testimony can be found at St Mary's, Ashwell, Hertfordshire, where an anonymous hand has carved a harrowing inscription for the year 1349:
‘Wretched, terrible, destructive year, the remnants of the people alone remain.'
Of course the doctors of the time had no way of knowing how to cure the plague. For those who believed in the Greek humours there were a range of cures available. ‘Blood-letting’ – deliberately bleeding a vein – was a way of reducing ‘hot’ blood, whilst blowing your nose or clearing your throat was a way of getting rid of too much ‘cold’ phlegm. Mustard, mint sauce, apple sauce and horseradish were used to balance wet, dry, hot and cold in diets. Other ‘cures’ included:
The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population and in total, it may have reduced the world population from an estimated 475 million to 350–375 million in the 14th century. It took 200 years for Europe's population to recover to its previous level, and some regions (such as Florence) did not recover until the 19th century.
The precise effects of the Black Death are difficult to assess given the huge loss of life and subsequent inconsistent records. In some places there was even no-one left to bury the dead let alone record the effects. However, historians have suggested the Black Death had significant consequences.
The Black Death was likely to have had a huge influence on the way people thought about life. Some lived wild, immoral lives, others fell into deep despair, whilst many chose to accept their fate. Many people were angry and bitter, and blamed the Church – some historians think this helped the growth of the new 'Lollard' religion in the 15th century. Having faced and survived the plague, people at the bottom of society were more prepared to question their position in society. Indeed it has been argued that the Black Death encouraged the poor to hate their poverty and their 'betters' and that the resultant civil unrest, such as the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, helped end the feudal system in England.
Outbreaks of the plague would continue to occur until the early 20th century, including the Great Plague of London, which lasted from 1665 to 1666 and was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in England. Today, an estimate of the case fatality rate for the modern bubonic plague, following the introduction of antibiotics, is 11%, although it may be higher in underdeveloped regions.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Donald MacAlpin, or rather Domnall mac Ailpín in the Gaelic of the time (Modern Gaelic: Dòmhnall mac Ailpein), was a king of the Picts who reigned between 13th February 858 and 13th April 862. The brother of Kenneth MacAlpin, who according to the national myth was the first King of Scotland, he is known in most modern regal lists as Donald I.
The Chronicle of Melrose says of Donald, "…in war he was a vigorous soldier...." and while little is known about his military activity it is probable that he would have had to use some force to consolidate the MacAlpin’s dynasty as kings of the Pics. He is best known for overseeing the introduction of laws known as the laws of Aedh (or Aed). These included the law of tanistry, under which the successor of the king was elected during his lifetime from members of his family. This meant that brothers or cousins of the king could be next in line for succession rather than sons.
The events surrounding Donald’s death are uncertain. According to the Chronicle of Melrose he was murdered, but there are no other sources that support this. The location of his death is also unknown, either being at the palace of Cinnbelachoir, which is thought to have been near Scone, or at Rathinveralmond, the location of which is again unknown, but could in fact be the same place. He was buried on Iona.
Although Donald is generally supposed to have been childless, it has been suggested that Giric, who was king between 878 and 889, was his son. He was succeeded by Constantine, his nephew and son of Kenneth MacAlpine.
This scene was built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Margaret Maid of Norway
Margaret, Maid of Norway (Norwegian: Margrete or Margareta) was a Norwegian princess who was recognised as Queen of Scots between March 29th 1286 and September 26th 1290. She succeeded at the age of seven and her early death four years later heralded a succession crisis in the Scottish kingdom, eventually leading to the Fist War of Scottish Independence.
Margaret was the granddaughter of Alexander III (Alaxandair mac Alaxandair), who had three children Margaret, Alexander and David. Margaret’s mother, also called Margaret, was Alexander’s daughter and was married to Eric King of Norway. She died during childbirth and by 1284 Alexander’s two sons were also dead, without children of their own. Consequently, Margaret became the king’s only living descendant and so on the February 5th 1281 the thirteen earls and twenty-four barons of Scotland met Alexander to agree to recognise her as heir. Alexander did remarry, to Yolande de Dreux, but he died in an accident on March 19th 1286.
Following Alexander’s death the magnates and clerics of the realm assembled on the 29th March to select the Guardians of Scotland who would keep the kingdom for the rightful heir. At this time it was thought that Queen Yolande was pregnant, so that Margaret was not yet the obvious successor. However the unborn child was lost, probably by miscarriage and so at the age of three, Margaret was recognised as Queen of Scots.
The first sign of future troubles occurred shortly afterwards when Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale rebelled with the aid of his son the Earl of Carrick. The Bruces captured strongholds in Galloway, as well as bolstering their position in the south-west where their rivals the Balliols also had influence. This may have been a bid for the Crown, but further support was not forthcoming and the rebellion quickly dissipated.
Because Margaret was a princess in a foreign court, the position of Scotland at this point was perilous as Margaret’s father, Eric was able to marry his daughter to whoever he wanted, with the Guardians of Scotland having no say in the negotiations. There was the risk therefore that a match with another royal family could lead to the disappearance of Scotland as an independent kingdom. The not so subtle elephant in the room was of course Edward I of England, whose son Edward, Prince of Wales, was a potential husband, indeed it is clear that Edward had this in mind.
Any such plans would however come to nothing as her voyage to Scotland would end in the Orkney Islands, where she died on September 26th 1290, apparently from the effects of sea sickness. Her remains were taken to Bergen and interred beside her mother in the wall on the north side of the choir in Christ Church, Bergen.
Her death left no obvious heir to the Scottish throne and the matter of succession would be resolved, albeit temporarily, in the Great Cause of 1291–2. John Balliol would be chosen as king, beginning his reign on November 30th 1292. It would not be a popular one and Edward I would use his influence over the new monarch to place himself as Lord paramount of Scotland and so the bitter struggle of the 1st Scottish War of Independence would follow.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
The Declaration of Arbroath
"As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself"
On this day in 1320 The Declaration of Arbroath was made. The document represented Scotland’s declaration of independence and was sent to Pope John XXII with the purpose of confirming Scotland's status as an independent, sovereign state and defending Scotland's right to use military action when unjustly attacked.
The Declaration made a number of points: that Scotland had always been independent, indeed for longer than England; that Edward I of England had unjustly attacked Scotland and perpetrated atrocities; that Robert the Bruce had delivered the Scottish nation from this peril; and, most controversially, that the independence of Scotland was the prerogative of the Scottish people, rather than the King of Scots. (However this should be taken in the context of the time - ‘Scottish People’ refers to the Scottish nobility, rather than commoners). In fact it stated that the nobility would choose someone else to be king if Bruce proved to be unfit in maintaining Scotland's independence.
It is generally believed that the Declaration was written in Arbroath Abbey by Bernard of Kilwinning, then Chancellor of Scotland and Abbot of Arbroath, and sealed by fifty-one magnates and nobles, the letter is the sole survivor of three created at the time. The others were a letter from the King of Scots, Robert I, also known as Robert the Bruce, and a letter from four Scottish bishops which all made similar points.
The Declaration was part of a broader diplomatic campaign, which sought to assert Scotland's position as an independent kingdom, rather than its being a feudal land controlled by England's Norman kings, as well as lift the excommunication of Robert the Bruce. The pope had recognised Edward I of England's claim to overlordship of Scotland in 1305 and Bruce was excommunicated by the Pope for murdering John Comyn before the altar in Greyfriars Church in Dumfries in 1306.
There are 39 names—eight earls and thirty one barons—at the start of the document, all of whom may have had their seals appended, probably over the space of several weeks or months, with nobles sending in their seals to be used. On the extant copy of the Declaration there are only 19 seals, and of those 19 people only 12 are named within the document. It is thought likely that at least 11 more seals than the original 39 might have been appended. The Declaration was then taken to the papal court at Avignon by Bishop Kininmund, Sir Adam Gordon and Sir Odard de Maubuisson.
The Pope heeded the arguments contained in the Declaration, influenced by the offer of support from the Scots for his long-desired crusade if they no longer had to fear English invasion. He exhorted Edward II in a letter to make peace with the Scots, but the following year was again persuaded by the English to take their side and issued six bulls to that effect. It was not until eight years later, on March 1st 1328, that the new English king, Edward III signed a peace treaty between Scotland and England, the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton. In this treaty, which was in effect for five years until 1333, Edward renounced all English claims to Scotland. Eight months later, in October 1328, the interdict on Scotland and the excommunication of its king were removed by the Pope.
The Declaration has been interpreted in a number of ways, including as an early expression of ‘popular sovereignty’, as evidence of the long-term persistence of the Scots as a distinct national community and as a statement of royal propaganda supporting Bruce's faction.
Later, Scotland would of course join England in an act of Union of 1707. However, the Declaration of Arbroath would continue to have influence further afield. US Senate Resolution 155 of November 10th 1997 states that the the American Declaration of Independence was modeled on the document. However, although this influence is accepted by some historians, it is disputed by others. In 2016 the Declaration of Arbroath was placed on UNESCO's Memory of the World register.
This scene was built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On Saturday April 1st 1820 members of the Radical Committee for organising a Provisional Government posted a proclamation demanding the reform in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. So began the Radical Rising, also known as the Radical War or Scottish Insurrection of 1820. It would see some 60,000 workers go on strike across central Scotland, but would eventually end in failure and the execution or deportation of its leaders.
In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain had entered a period of economic depression. Industrialisation had squeezed the earnings of skilled weavers, who between 1800 and 1808 had seen their incomes halved. On top of this, the punitive effects of the Corn Law artificially inflated the price of bread affecting the lives of all workers. Parliamentary reform had failed to keep pace with demographic change and so the desire for reform, or even revolution, was in the air.
In August of the previous year, the Peterloo Massacre saw a crowd of 60-80,000 protesters attacked by members of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, resulting in the deaths of 18 with hundreds more injured. The event resulted in demonstrations across Britain. In Scotland, a memorial rally in Paisley on September 11th led to a week of rioting and cavalry were used to control around 5,000 ‘Radicals’. Protest meetings were also held in Stirling, Airdrie, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and Fife, mainly in weaving areas. Shortly after saw the formation of a 28-man Radical Committee for organising a Provisional Government, which was elected by delegates of local "unions". The Committee decided to arrange military training for its supporters, giving some responsibility for the training programme to a Condorrat weaver with army experience, named John Baird.
The French Revolution was still fresh in the mind of the government who feared that similar events might unfold in Britain. As a consequence the Government sought to suppress calls for reform through spies and agent provocateurs. In Scotland, these agents infiltrated the Radical Committee and so when they met in a Tavern in Glasgow March 21st 1820 they were raided and arrested. It was reported a few days later that those arrested had confessed to a plot to split Scotland from England and restore the Scottish Parliament.
At a meeting on March 22nd the weaver John King addressed a crowd of around 20, which included another weaver called John Craig, the tin-smith Duncan Turner, and "an Englishman" called Lees. There King told them that a rising was imminent and all present should hold themselves in enthusiastic readiness for the call to arms. The next day Turner revealed plans to establish a Provisional Government and sent a draft proclamation to print. Lees, King and Turner went round encouraging supporters to make pikes for the battles and on April 1st the pamphlets were distributed throughout Glasgow.
The Proclamation, which was signed "By order of the Committee of Organisation for forming a Provisional Government. Glasgow April 1st. 1820." Stated:
"Friends and Countrymen! Rouse from that torpid state in which we have sunk for so many years, we are at length compelled from the extremity of our sufferings, and the contempt heaped upon our petitions for redress, to assert our rights at the hazard of our lives." by "taking up arms for the redress of our common grievances". "Equality of rights (not of property)... Liberty or Death is our motto, and we have sworn to return home in triumph - or return no more.... we earnestly request all to desist from their labour from and after this day, the first of April [until] in possession of those rights..." It called for a rising "To show the world that we are not that lawless, sanguinary rabble which our oppressors would persuade the higher circles we are but a brave and generous people determined to be free."
On Monday April 3rd a strike took force across a wide area of Scotland including Stirlingshire, Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, with an estimated total of around 60,000 stopping work.
Reports were made of men carrying out military drill in Glasgow while foundries and forges had been raided, and iron files and dyer's poles taken to make pikes. In Kilbarchan soldiers found men making pikes, in Stewarton around 60 strikers was dispersed, in Balfron around 200 men had assembled for some sort of action. Pikes, gunpowder and weapons called "wasps" (a sort of javelin) and "clegs" (a barbed shuttlecock to throw at horses) were offered for sale.
In Glasgow John Craig led around 30 men to make for the Carron Company ironworks in Falkirk, telling them that weapons would be there for the taking, but the group were scattered when intercepted by a police patrol. Craig was caught, brought before a magistrate and fined, but the magistrate paid his fine for him.
Rumours spread that England was in arms for the cause of reform and that an army was mustering at Campsie commanded by Marshal MacDonald, a Marshal of France and son of a Jacobite refugee family, to join forces with 50,000 French soldiers at Cathkin Braes under Kinloch, the fugitive "Radical laird" from Dundee.
Government troops were ready in Glasgow, including the Rifle Brigade, the 83rd Regiment of Foot, the 7th and 10th Hussars and Samuel Hunter's Glasgow Sharpshooters. In the evening 300 radicals briefly skirmished with a party "of cavalry", but no one came to harm.
The Battle of Bonnymuir
The next day, Tuesday April 4th, Duncan Turner assembled around 60 men to march to Carron, while he carried out organising work elsewhere. Half the group dropped out, however the remaining twenty five, persuaded that they would pick up support along the way, set out under the leadership of Andrew Hardie. They arrived in Condorrat, which was on the way to Carron, at 5am on April 5th. Waiting for them was John Baird who had expected a small army, not this bedraggled and soaking wet group. He was persuaded to continue the March to Carron by John King, who would himself go ahead and gather supporters. King would go to find supporters at Camelon while Baird and Hardie were to leave the road and wait at Bonnymuir.
The authorities at Kilsyth and Stirling Castle had however been alerted and Sixteen Hussars and sixteen Yeomanry troopers had been ordered on 4 April to leave Perth and go to protect Carron. They left the road at Bonnybridge early on April 5th and made straight for the slopes of Bonnymuir. As the newspapers subsequently reported:
"On observing this force the radicals cheered and advanced to a wall over which they commenced firing at the military. Some shots were then fired by the soldiers in return, and after some time the cavalry got through an opening in the wall and attacked the party who resisted till overpowered by the troops who succeeded in taking nineteen of them prisoners, who are lodged in Stirling Castle. Four of the radicals were wounded".
The Glasgow Herald mocked the small number of radicals encountered, but worried that "the conspiracy appears to be more extensive than almost anyone imagined... radical principles are too widely spread and too deeply rooted to vanish without some explosion and the sooner it takes place the better."
The end of the Rising
On the afternoon of April 5th, before news of the Bonnymuir fighting got out, Lees sent a message asking the radicals of Strathaven to meet up with the "Radical laird" Kinloch's large force at Cathkin. The next morning a small force of 25 men followed the instructions and left at 7 a.m. to march there. Among them was the experienced elderly Radical James Wilson who is claimed to have had a banner reading "Scotland Free or a Desart" [sic]. At East Kilbride they were warned of an army ambush, and Wilson, suspecting treachery, returned to Strathaven. The others bypassed the ambush and reached Cathkin, but as there was no sign of the promised army they dispersed. Ten of them were identified and caught, and by nightfall on April 7th; they were jailed at Hamilton.
Large numbers of those arrested were imprisoned in various jails across central Scotland. On April 8th The Port Glasgow Volunteers, who had served in Paisley during the strike, returned to Glasgow as an escort for five prisoners to be taken on to Greenock jail. They met minor hostility while marching through the town of Crawfurdsdyke, but as they approached the jail the situation escalated.
While handing over the prisoners stones were thrown at them from higher ground to the south of the jail, forcing them to seek shelter A hostile crowd gathered, and shots fired in the air failed to calm the situation. The Volunteers continued to be assaulted as they returned along Cathcart Street, as stones and bottles were thrown at them from an ever increasing crowd. As they approached Rue End Street they fired sporadically into the crowd, killing and wounding several of them. The mob pursued the Volunteers into Crawfurdsdyke, then returned to break open the jail. A magistrate urged the crowd to desist, but with no forces to resist them, agreed to release the prisoners who then escaped. A large group set off to burn down Port Glasgow, but were halted at that town's boundary by armed townsfolk who had barricaded the Devol's Glen Bridge. Greenock magistrates arrived, and dispersed the crowd.
The rising by this point was now over and by the end of April hundreds of Radicals fled to Canada. 88 men were charged with treason. James Wilson, Andrew Hardie and John Baird were convicted and sentenced to death. Wilson was hanged and beheaded on August 30th, watched by some 20,000 people, first remarking to the executioner "Did you ever see such a crowd, Thomas?". Hardie and Baird were executed on September 8th, also by hanging and beheading, which would be the last beheading in the UK. May hundreds more were transported to penal colonies in New South Wales or Tasmania.
The effect of the crushing of Rising was to effectively discourage serious Radical unrest in Scotland for some time. However, the cause of electoral reform continued, and with the Scottish Reform Act 1832 Glasgow was given its own Member of Parliament for the first time.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on people and protest. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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