Tag Archives: scotland


Hadrian’s Wall

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Hadrian’s Wall “was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in 122 AD in the reign of the emperor Hadrian. It ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea, and was the northern limit of the Roman Empire.

It had a stone base and a stone wall. There were milecastles with two turrets in between. There was a fort about every five Roman miles. From north to south, the wall comprised a ditch, wall, military way and vallum, another ditch with adjoining mounds. It is thought that the milecastles were staffed with static garrisons, whereas the forts had fighting garrisons of infantry and cavalry. In addition to the wall’s defensive military role, its gates may have been used as customs posts.[1]

A significant portion of the wall still stands and can be followed on foot along the adjoining Hadrian’s Wall Path. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern England and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadrian%27s_Wall

To visit the wall or for more information, maps, etc, see: http://hadrianswallcountry.co.uk/hadrians-wall/hadrian%E2%80%99s-wall-facts


Wales and Scotland: War, Rebellion, and Edward I


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Footsteps in TimeEdward had his eyes on Wales for thirty years, ever since Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s forces had swept through his lands (held custodially by Edward’s parents and guardians) in 1256.   (see my post:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-rising-of-1256/)  Llywelyn’s army marched all the way to Deheubarth that summer and fall, and set the stage of Llywelyn’s twenty year supremacy in Wales.  However, it wasn’t until 1267 that Edward’s father, Henry III, acknowledged Llywelyn as the Prince of Wales, a title he inherited from his grandfather–and another ten years after that before things fell apart for the Welsh prince.  http://www.castlewales.com/llywel2.html

Edward participated in the Ninth Crusade (see my post: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-ninth-crusade/) and despite the fact that his father died in 1272, he didn’t return to England until 1274, at which point he immediately turned a covetous eye on Wales.  Why Wales instead of Scotland?  It seems likely that Wales looked the easier target.  Scotland had always been a separate kingdom, whereas Wales had fallen under the jurisdiction of England as a principality since the turn of the 13th century.  Thus, invading Scotland meant attacking the rule of a reigning monarch; attacking Wales meant reining in a rebellious prince–a different matter entirely.  In addition, in the winter of 1274, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn’s brother, conspired to assassinate Llywelyn and only a sudden snowstorm averted the attack.  Dafydd, a long time friend of Edward from childhood, fled to England, and to Edward.  Perhaps Edward believed if he unseated Llywelyn, he’d have a malleable prince in Dafydd.

For Scotland’s part, when King Alexander III of Scotland married Margaret of England in 1251 (Henry III’s daughter), Henry had tried to insist that Alexander give homage to him.  Alexander refused.  By 1261, at the age of 21, Alexander was well on his way to having as grand a plans for Scotland as Llywelyn had for Wales. He maintained a firm grip on power until his death in 1286.  http://www.rampantscotland.com/famous/blfamalexander3.htm

By then, Llywelyn had been murdered (in 1282) and Wales had fallen finally, and permanently, to Edward.   Subsequently, in 1283, Edward hanged, drew, and quartered Dafydd, the first man of standing to die such a heinous death.  Edward inflicted the same death on William Wallace in 1305.

Exiles in TimeWith King Alexander’s death, Edward saw Scotland as ripe for picking.  With no obvious heir (all of Alexander’s children had died by 1284), only a granddaughter, Margaret, remained.   When she died in 1290, upwards of fourteen different magnates claimed the throne, and they turned to Edward to arbitrate the dispute.  He, of course, wanted whoever was crowned to swear allegiance to him.  They all refused and eventually John Balloil was appointed king.  Still, Edward maintained that he was the rightful overlord–and when he demanded the Scots join him in a war against France, the Scots instead allied with France.  Unfortunately, this gave Edward the excuse he needed to invade Scotland, which he did in 1296.    (see my post: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-succession-of-1290-scotland/)

http://www.castlewales.com/edward.html  This led to William Wallace’s rebellion in 1297.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wallace


The Succession of 1290 (Scotland)

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Exiles in TimeWhen Alexander III of Scotland died in 1286 by falling off a cliff (which is another whole story–what king dies falling off a cliff when riding from one castle to another alone in the fog? Whatever.), he left Scotland without a king. He had one living grandchild, Margaret, otherwise known as the ‘Maid of Norway’. She was the child of Alexander’s daughter, who’d died at her birth, and Erik, the King of Norway.

The succession was already in trouble after King Alexander’s only son died, two years earlier:  “When Prince Alexander died on 28 January 1284, leaving only the king’s granddaughter Margaret living out of his descendants, Alexander III summoned all thirteen Earls of Scotland, twenty-four barons and the heads of the three main Gaelic kindreds of the West, Alexander of ArgyllAonghas Mór of Islay and Alan MacRuari of Garmoran. At Scone on 5 February 1284, the signatories agreed to recognise Margaret as “domina and right heir” if neither Alexander had left a posthumous child and the king had left no children at the time of his death. However, it is unlikely that this was intended to allow Margaret to rule alone as queen regnant, but rather jointly with her future spouse, whoever he might be.[5] While unexceptional in the circumstances, this would appear to show that Alexander III had decided on remarriage. He did remarry, to Yolande de Dreux, but died on 19 March 1286.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret,_Maid_of_Norway

Upon his death, Guardians were appointed by Parliament.  “After King Alexander III was buried at Dunfermline Abbey on 29 March 1286, the magnates and clerics of the realm assembled at Scone in parliament to select the Guardians of Scotland who would keep the kingdom for the right heir …

This, according to the oaths taken, made Margaret the heir at three years of age, but within weeks John Balliol tried to take the crown with the aid of John Comyn, the Red Comyn. The Bruce family captured strongholds in Galloway, and fighting in the name of the Maid of Norway (Margaret), suppressed the rebellion with many important families like the Stewarts supporting them. In 1289 the Guardians maintained the peace in Scotland between the competing claims of Margaret, Robert Bruce and John Balliol. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret,_Maid_of_Norway

“In Scotland, six Guardians were named to rule the kingdom until an heir could be sorted out. Queen Yolande was insisting she was pregnant. The records are uncertain as to what happened to this child. Accounts say she miscarried, had a stillborn child, a false pregnancy and yet another says she was faking her pregnancy. By November of 1286, it was clear King Alexander had no heir. Scotland was on the brink of civil war with Robert the Bruce and John Balliol contending for the throne. By 1289, the Guardians had gained some stability between the three claimants.

In 1289, Margaret’s father King Eric sent ambassadors to King Edward I of England with documents proclaiming Margaret as Queen. From this point on Edward and Eric worked on a settlement and excluded the Scots until there was a meeting with Edward, Robert the Bruce and some of the Guardians at Salisbury in October of 1289. Edward was pressing for a marriage to his own son, the future Edward II. The Treaty of Birgham was signed in July of 1290, agreeing Margaret would be sent to Scotland before November 1, 1290 and she would marry Prince Edward of England. The treaty called for Scotland to be separate from England but had clauses allowing King Edward I to interfere in Scottish affairs if he saw fit.”  http://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2013/01/11/margaret-maid-of-norway/

“Guardians were appointed to govern the Kingdom during the young Margaret’s minority. There were many among the unruly Scots nobility who considered they had plausible claims to the throne themselves, and disquieted at the thought of sending his young daughter to a land rent by dissension, King Eric of Norway solicited the protection of Scotland’s neighbour and his daughter’s great-uncle, the powerful and covetous Edward I of England.” http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/dunkeld_12.htm

“The Guardians of Scotland negotiated a marriage between Margaret and Prince Edward of Caernarvon, son of King Edward I of England. The Treaty of Birgham stated that the children of Margaret and Prince Edward would rule both England and Scotland.

Margaret fell ill during the sea voyage from Norway to Scotland. Her ship, bound for Leith, was sent off course by a storm. It landed on Orkney at St Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay.

In September or October 1290, Margaret died in Orkney. Her body was returned to Norway where she was laid to rest beside her mother in Christ’s Kirk, Bergen.

With the death of the Maid of Norway the Scots had lost the rightful heir to the throne. Rivals claimants from Scotland’s noble families came forward to vie for the crown.” http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/warsofindependence/maidofnorway/index.asp





Scots, Scottish, and Gaelic … what’s the difference?

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What language were people speaking in 13th century Scotland?

Undoubtedly, that is a question that keeps most people up at night.

In a nutshell, in 1288, in Scotland, people spoke three local languages regularly.  At the time, they called them:  French, English, and Scottish.

What is confusing is that those are not the names used to refer to these languages NOW.  French, was Norman French. Robert the Bruce, a great King of Scotland, descended from the Gaelic Earls of Carrick, and on his father’s side from “ancestors in Brix, in Flanders. In 1124, King David I granted the massive estates of Annandale to his follower, Robert de Brus, in order to secure the border. The name, Robert, was very common in the family.

Brought up at Turnberry Castle, Bruce was a product of his lineage, speaking Gaelic, Scots and Norman French.”  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/independence/features_independence_bruce.shtml

This article makes a mistake, however, which I have highlighted–or rather, not a mistake because Bruce really did speak those languages, but it isn’t clear to the layman that Bruce would not have called them that.

The transition is as follows:

Old term         New term

French            Norman French

Scottish          Gaelic

English           Scots

Norman French:  “When Norse invaders arrived in the then-province of Neustria and settled the land that became known as Normandy, they gradually adopted the Gallo-Romance speech of the existing populations – much as Norman rulers in England later adopted the speech of the administered people. However, in both cases, the élites contributed elements of their own language to the newly enriched languages that developed in the territories.

In some cases, Norse words adopted in Norman have been borrowed into French – and more recently some of the English words used in French can be traced back to Norman origins. Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, the Norman language spoken by the new rulers of England left traces of specifically Norman words that can be distinguished from the equivalent lexical items in French.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_language

Scots:  What we know today as ‘Scots’ was not called that in 1288.  It was called ‘English’. Scots is a dialect of English spoken by the lowland people of Scotland. “Scots is a Germanic language closely related to English and spoken by about 1.5 million people in Scotland. Scots is descended from the language of the Angles who settled in northern Britain, in an area now known as Northumbria and southern Scotland, in the 5th century AD. The language was originally know as ‘Inglis’ and has been influenced by Gaelic, Norse, Latin, Dutch, Norman French, Standard French and English.

By the 14th century Scots was the main language of Scotland and was used in literature, education, government and in legal documents.”  http://www.omniglot.com/writing/scots.htm

Gaelic: Gaelic was called “Scottish” in 1288 Scotland (thus, the three languages as understood by the people at the time: French, English, and Scottish).

“The Scottish people originated with Gaelic-speaking incomers from North Eastern Ulster who settled in the North Western coastlands and islands of Caledonia in the later fifth century, and subsequently relocated their kingdom of Dal Riata from Ulster to Argyll, ‘the coastland of the Gael’. This subsequently grew by absorption of the Picts in the east, and conquest of the Britons and Angles in the south, into what came to be called Scotland by the 11th century. Viking settlements in the Northern Highlands and Northern Isles from the end of the 8th century established the Norn language which survived in Caithness, Orkney and Shetland until the eighteenth century.

Under the kingship of Malcolm III “Ceannmòr” (1054-96) Gaelic began to lose its preeminence at court and amongst the aristocracy to Norman French, and in the Lowland area to the Anglian speech of the burghs, which were established first in eastern Scotland by David I (1124 – 53). This speech was known firstly as Inglis, and later as Scots, and it rapidly became the predominant language of the Scottish Lowlands, meaning that by the later middle ages Gaelic had retreated to the Highlands and Hebrides, which maintained some degree of independence within the Scottish state.”  http://www.bbc.co.uk/voices/multilingual/scots_gaelic_history.shtml

Gaelic is the traditional language of the Scotti or Gaels, and the historical language of the majority of Scotland. It is not clear how long Gaelic has been spoken in what is now Scotland; it has lately been proposed that it was spoken in Argyll before the Roman period, but no consensus has been reached on this question. However, the consolidation of the kingdom of Dál Riata around the 4th century, linking the ancient province of Ulster in the north of Ireland and western Scotland, accelerated the expansion of Gaelic, as did the success of the Gaelic-speaking church establishment. Placename evidence shows that Gaelic was spoken in the Rhinns of Galloway by the 5th or 6th century.

The Gaelic language eventually displaced Pictish north of the Forth, and until the late 15th century it was known in Inglis as Scottis. Gaelic began to decline in Scotland by the beginning of the 13th century, and with this went a decline in its status as a national language. By the beginning of the 15th century, the highland-lowland line was beginning to emerge.

By the early 16th century, the Gaelic language had acquired the name Erse, meaning Irish, and thereafter it was invariably the collection of Middle English dialects spoken within the Kingdom of the Scots that came to be referred to as Scottis (whence Scots).”  http://www.savegaelic.org/gaelic/scottish-gaelic-history.php


Archaeology news in the UK–exciting update!


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I am always on the lookout for interesting archaeological finds or digs in the UK.  I have three today:

The first is the ongoing quest for the grave of Richard III: http://www.northwalesweeklynews.co.uk/conwy-county-news/uk-world-news/2012/08/24/archaeologists-in-richard-iii-dig-55243-31688154/

“King Richard III, the last Plantagenet, ruled England from 1483 until he was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. It is believed his body was stripped and despoiled and brought to Leicester, where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as Greyfriars.”

Richard III is the king defeated by Henry Tudur, the descendent of Ednyfed Fychan, the seneschel to Llywelyn the Great. Henry became Henry VII.  The interesting problem in this case, and it has happened all over the UK, is that they lost the location of the original church where they think he is buried!  You wonder how that could have happened but over time, people forget, or lose interest, or the church is burned to the ground and not rebuilt.

And then it turns out the dig was successful and they think they’ve found his body!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-19561018  or here http://www.hinckleytimes.net/news-in-hinckley/local-news/hinckley-news/2012/09/20/skeleton-discovery-of-king-killed-at-battle-of-bosworth-is-vital-to-country-s-past-105367-31868296/  Thanks to Ian in the comments for pointing me to the news!  I have to say to find anything at all–not to mention something this momentous–in a three week archaeological dig is nearly unheard of!

A second story is about the continuing excavation at the Pillar of Eliseg (where I visited in May!  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-pillar-of-eliseg/):  http://www.denbighshirefreepress.co.uk/news/115663/archaeologists-in-quest-to-unearth-mysteries-of-past.aspx

“The Pillar of Eliseg was originally a tall stone cross but only part of a round shaft survives set within its original base.

It once bore a long Latin inscription saying that the cross was raised by Concenn, ruler of the kingdom of Powys, who died in AD 854, in memory of his great-grandfather, Eliseg.

Phase one of the project, in 2010, focused on the mound, which was identified as an early Bronze Age cairn.

The archaeologists completed the second phase in September 2011, by revealing for the first time details of the cairn’s composition and evidence of many stages in its history.

The experts found possible cremated remains and bone fragments dating back to the Bronze Age and diggers found pieces of Roman pottery as well as shards of post medieval pottery and a spindle whorl at the top of the mound on which the pillar stands.

The undisturbed mound in this trench was then partially excavated revealing a likely early medieval long-cist grave in the section as well as evidence suggesting the interment of cremations during the Bronze Age.

This is now the focus of the third phase.”

And to make our round-up of UK countries complete, Archaeologists are on a quest to uncover the site of the battle of Bannockburn (also lost to time):  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/archaeology/9552291/Archaeologists-dig-to-find-site-of-Battle-of-Bannockburn.html

“Archaeologists launched a bid to uncover the site one of the most famous battles in Scottish history — in the grounds of a police headquarters.

Central Scotland Police’s headquarters at Randolphfield, Stirling, is named after Sir Thomas Randolph, one of the commanders of Robert the Bruce’s army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The first major skirmish of the two-day battle occurred on Sunday 23 June when Randolph routed around 300 English cavalry, who were attempting to relieve Stirling Castle.

A pair of small standing stones near the entrance to the current police headquarters is believed to mark the site of the fighting, but until now there has been no other physical evidence.

Stirling Council archaeologist Murray Cook said ground-penetrating radar would be used to locate the Roman road on which King Edward II’s army marched on Stirling and the famous spike-filled pits that played a crucial role in the outcome.”


The Quest for Welsh Independence


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When the Romans conquered Britain, the people they defeated were the Britons, the ancestors of the Welsh, a Celtic people who themselves had come to the island hundreds of years before. After the Romans marched away in 410 AD, the Saxon invaders overwhelmed the British in successive waves, pushing them west and resulting in a Saxon England and British Wales. When the next conquerors—the Normans—came in 1066 AD, they conquered England but they did not conquer Wales. Not yet.

For the next two hundred years, power in Wales ebbed and flowed, split among Welsh kings and princes, Marcher barons (Norman lords who carved out mini-kingdoms for themselves on the border between England and Wales), and the English kings.

Through it all, the Welsh maintained their right to independence—to be governed by their own laws and their own kings.

The ending came on December 11th, 1282, when Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales, was killed on a snowy hillside, the end of a thirty year conflict with Edward I, King of England. Less than a year later, his brother, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, was hung, drawn, and quartered and dragged through he streets of Shrewsbury, the first man of standing to die that particular death—practice for the murder of Scot patriot William Wallace in similar fashion twenty years later (along with hundreds of other Scots, including three brothers of Robert the Bruce).

In further retribution, Edward took all the signs of the Welsh principality—the true cross, the scepter, the crown—for himself. And he made sure that his son, Edward II, was born at Caernarfon Castle (in 1284), so that Edward could name him the Prince of Wales. The heir to throne of England has been called the Prince of Wales ever since.

It has been 729 years since 1282. Is that too long a time to remember? A 2007 BBC poll reported that 20% of the people of Wales backed independence, while 70% did not; this is in comparison to Scotland, where 32% of the population supported independence from England.

This brutal history prompted me to write, my After Cilmeri series which follow the adventures of two teenagers who travel back in time to the thirteenth century and save Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s life. In my books, the Welsh people maintain their independence and never succumb to Edward I, nor fall under the heel of the English boot.

The practical side of Welsh independence, after all this time, would be very different from the idea of it, no matter how appealing.  Could Wales be self-sufficient?  England has exploited its natural resources for over 700 years.  How much is left?  And if Wales isn’t going to rely on exports, than what … tourism?  On March 3, 2011, Wales voted for more powers for their assembly.

The Welsh Assembly, according its web page, has three tasks:  “The Assembly has three key roles: representing Wales and its people; making laws for Wales; and holding the Welsh Government to account.”  http://www.assemblywales.org/abthome/role-of-assembly-how-it-works.htm  To see what aspects of government for which the Assembly is responsible:  http://www.assemblywales.org/abthome/role-of-assembly-how-it-works/governance-of-wales.htm


Scotland and Its War for Existence

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Today I have a guest post on a parallel subject to my interest in Wales:  JR Tomlin on the Scottish quest for independence.  Her book,  Freedom’s Sword, is available from Amazon or Smashwords:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46734.  Welcome!


Because I write about Scotland, I felt it would be a good idea to briefly discuss Scotland’s history, and in particular, its invasion by England, as well as the eventual loss of its independence. I won’t do so with an emphasis on academics. For that, I suggest reading the work of G. W. S. Barrow, Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh and probably the pre-eminent medievalist of the last century. In particular, I recommend reading both his Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland and his Kingship and Unity: Scotland, 1000–1306, that is if you have a deep interest in the subject.

 Otherwise, just read my rather lighter, if somewhat educated, ramblings on the topic.

Most people begin their interest in the topic with what is generally referred to as the Scottish War of Independence. More properly, it is the First Scottish War of Independence.

Many people have the impression from Mel Gibson’s un-researched and historically inaccurate movie, Braveheart, that Scotland had long been conquered by England. This is not true. In fact, it is an outright lie–as is most of “that movie”, except for the fact that William Wallace was brutally and unjustly executed in 1305.

So what did happen?

In the year 1286, Scotland had been at peace since defeating a Norwegian incursion at the Battle of Largs twenty-five years earlier. This occurred under Scotland’s strong and able King Alexander III. However, King Alexander’s untimely death from a fall while riding up a steep cliff on his way to visit his bride in 1286 left only his 4-year-old granddaughter, Margaret, as his heir.

Margaret was the daughter of the King Alexander’s daughter and King Eric II of Norway and is generally referred to as the Maid of Norway. Scotland would be ruled by Guardians of the Realm during her minority. Disastrously, the Maid of Norway died on her way to her kingdom in 1290.

There was now no clear heir to the throne of Scotland. However, there were two men with very strong claims through the female line. They were Robert the Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale, grandfather of the future King Robert the Bruce, and John Balliol, Lord of Galloway. Both families were powerful, noble and had a strong following. Scotland was on the brink of a civil war.

In order to prevent civil war, the Guardians of the Realm made a mistake. It was a mistake that would lead to untold suffering and bloodshed.

They asked Edward I of England, as ruler of a supposedly friendly realm, to arbitrate between the contenders. They believed his oath not to interfere in the affairs of Scotland after the arbitration. They thought this would avoid a war. Instead, this dreadful mistake cost decades of years of warfare. [Sarah’s note . . . after what happened in Wales, you’d think they would have known better!]

After several years of dispute, Edward I decided in the favor of John Balliol. Later Scots were convinced he did so because he believed that Balliol would be the easier to manipulate. There is no doubt he was the less capable of the two men.

There is also no doubt that once Balliol was crowned, Edward I broke every oath he had made to the Scots. He began to interfere in the affairs of Scotland, even demanding that the King of the Scots come to England to appear before an English court and demanding that major castles bordering England be given over to him, thus leaving Scotland vulnerable to invasion.

Balliol at first caved in to the English king; however, at the insistence of the Scottish nobility, he eventually refused to accede to King Edward’s demands for power over Scotland. They insisted that King John Balliol summon all able-bodied Scotsmen to arms. An English army sat on their border.

Edward I had spent his life at war, especially the terrible war of conquest of Wales and long wars in France. He was a powerful and skilled warrior-king. Now he thought to conquer Scotland.

Thus, in 1296, began a bloody war in which Scotland would lose her independence only to regain it under her own warrior-king, Robert the Bruce.