Hammers of the Scots A History of Scotland


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Hammers of the Scots

Neil Oliver charts the 13th century story of the two ruthless men who helped transform the Gaelic kingdom of Alba into the Scotland we recognise today.


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It's mid-winter, 1230.

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A horrific scene is played out in the middle of a busy market square.

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An infant child is held up to the crowds.

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BABY CRIES

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Seconds later, she's dead.

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Not far from the scene sits the man who ordered her murder.

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Meet Alexander II, King of the Scots.

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70 years later, the skin is flayed from the back of a hated English cleric.

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Meet the man who had that skin fashioned into a sword belt -

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William Wallace, rebel, fugitive.

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This is the story of two ruthless men -

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Alexander II, who forged Scotland in blood and violence.

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And William Wallace, whose resistance to the nation-breaking

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King of England, hammered national consciousness into the Scots.

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This is the River Tay, just north of Perth.

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It runs past Scone, the ancient inauguration site of the Kings of Scotland.

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On a cold December morning in 1214, a 16-year-old boy journeyed across this river heading for Scone.

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His elderly father William had died the night before, but there was no time for mourning.

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This quick-tempered teenager was about to become the next King of Scots, Alexander II.

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Alexander is descended from a powerful dynasty of kings, traditionally known as the Canmores.

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A family who, for generations, fought to preserve their bloodline and kingdom.

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Alexander was an only son. From a young age he had been

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destined for greatness, but he wasn't Alexander the Great just yet.

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The kingdom he inherited was smaller than the Scotland we recognise today.

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It rubbed shoulders with a patchwork of other peoples and different languages.

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To the north, the Earldoms of Caithness & Sutherland.

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To the west, the Gaels of the Hebrides and the Isles.

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And in the south, the fiercely independent Lordship of Galloway.

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But England, England was bigger, stronger, richer than them all.

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And for nearly 200 years, the English kings said the Kingdom of Scots belonged to them.

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The English were the overlords.

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It was all a game, in which what you said you owned, mattered every bit as much as what you actually held.

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The early Canmores had played the game, had recognised English superiority,

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but subservience was not Alexander's style.

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As far as Alexander was concerned, he was every bit the equal of an English king.

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Call it brash, call it arrogant,

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he was a on a mission to free his kingship from English overlordship once and for all.

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But Alexander had a problem.

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If he hoped to free Scotland from overlordship,

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he would first have to resolve a bitter dispute with the King of England,

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King John.

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Northumbria, Cumberland and Westmorland were territories

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to which both the Kings of England and the Kings of Scots laid claim.

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To settle the argument, Alexander's father had given both money

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and two of his daughters to King John of England.

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But John had reneged on the deal.

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Now Alexander was determined to take back what was rightfully his.

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Alexander wasn't the only one with a grudge against King John.

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There was a long queue of English barons with similar grievances.

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Their biggest gripe against King John was that he had bled them dry

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with his constant requests for money to fund his war in France.

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In protest, they drew up a list of over 60 demands.

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'All hostages and charters shall...'

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'All cities, boroughs, towns and ports shall enjoy...'

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'Officials will not seize any land...'

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'You shall do this without destruction or damage...'

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The document became known as Magna Carta.

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The barons added Alexander's claim to the disputed northern territories

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to the bottom of the list, in Clause 59.

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A promise to "do right" by Alexander, King of the Scots.

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"Alexander, the King of the Scots,

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"concerning the return of his sisters and hostages, and his liberties and his right,

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"according to the way in which we..."

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King John had no option but to agree to the barons' demands.

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He affixed his seal to the charter.

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But no sooner had he done so, he rejected it, calling it "mere foolishness".

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Enough was enough.

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The barons decided to rid themselves of King John.

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England plunged into civil war.

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This was too good an opportunity to miss.

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A chance to reclaim the border lands he believed were rightfully his.

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So, he invaded northern England.

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He laid siege to Norham Castle.

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He burned Newcastle to the ground, and he took Carlisle.

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This impassioned teenager meant business.

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Alexander was no stranger to the battlefield.

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Despite his tender years, he'd served his military apprenticeship aged only 14,

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when he led his father's army.

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After crushing Gaelic rebels in the north of Scotland, Alexander earned the respect of his men.

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Two years later, Alexander won the respect of the rebellious English barons as he took on their King.

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Now, with King John on the defensive,

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the barons in the north of England decided to switch allegiance and form a pact with Alexander.

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On 11 January 1216, in Melrose Abbey, the northern barons lined up

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to swear fealty to the King for their lands.

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And that king was the King of Scots.

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As far as Alexander was concerned, now that the northern barons

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had paid homage to him, the disputed border lands were his.

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He had avenged his father.

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While Alexander tightened his grip in the north,

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the English barons in the south turned to John's enemy, the French, for help.

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The barons invited Prince Louis to England to take the English crown.

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He accepted. In the spring of 1216, the French prince and his army sailed for England.

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Opportunity knocked again.

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Alexander planned to cut a deal with the French prince.

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In return for his support, Alexander intended to press Louis

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to recognise the disputed northern territories as Scottish.

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In a stroke, the English Crown's claims of overlordship would be swept aside.

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So, he did something no Scottish monarch had done before, or since.

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He marched an army all the way to Dover.

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Meeting little resistance on his way south, he joined forces

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with the French army and together they laid siege to Dover Castle -

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the key to England.

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In all the wars with England, no other Scottish king ever came so far.

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It was an incredible achievement.

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Alexander's head must have swelled with every passing day.

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He was 17 and he was on the brink of achieving his family's longest-held ambition.

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Half of Britain was nearly his.

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But then fate dealt a devastating blow.

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King John died.

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On the face of it, his death should have been good news for Alexander,

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but with John out of the way, the need for the barons' war vanished.

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The barons who had once opposed King John now flocked to his son's side - the new King, Henry III.

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Both Alexander, King of Scots,

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and Louis, the French prince, had out-grown their usefulness.

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The English barons sent them packing.

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There was no deal for Alexander; all of his grand ambitions fizzled out.

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Henry III re-issued Magna Carta and all references to Alexander's claims were omitted - not even a footnote.

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Despite loud protests, the ground was cut from beneath his feet and he was left out in the cold.

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And, it got worse. The Pope gave his backing to Henry III.

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Alexander found himself excommunicated...

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..the powers of the Scottish church suspended.

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Back to square one.

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It stung. The Pope chastised him like a wayward son,

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ordering the truculent teenager to return his English conquests

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and pay homage for them to the King Of England -

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the nine-year-old King of England.

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In Northampton, on 19 December 1217,

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Alexander, bereft of allies, paid homage to the child king, Henry III.

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His ambition of ruling the northern territories of England was over.

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Deflated, Alexander returned to Scotland.

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His ambitions shattered, his morale was at an all-time low.

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He came here, to Arbroath Abbey to pay respects to his father William,

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who had also failed to regain the northern territories.

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If Alexander had learnt anything from the war in England,

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it was that the northern barons had felt English, not Scottish.

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They had chosen Henry as their king, not Alexander.

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The English barons knew instinctively who their king was.

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But could the same be said for the Scottish nobles?

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The Scottish nobles were split between two powerful factions.

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In the south were the descendents of Norman families,

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invited to settle in southern Scotland by the early Canmore kings.

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Helping to build many of the great border abbeys and cathedrals, they changed the face of Scotland,

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transforming it into a more European-looking kingdom.

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In the north were the territories of powerful Gaelic earls,

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whose ancestors had forged the Kingdom of Scots.

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But these were the very Gaelic lords that Alexander's family had rejected in favour of a Norman future.

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The old Gaelic elite became side-lined.

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Once upon a time, they'd helped run the kingdom.

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Now, they were called things like "Divider of the King's Meat",

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while the French-speaking bratpack of Norman lords

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received titles like "Chancellor" and "Constable of Scotland".

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One chronicler of the time wrote, "The modern Kings of Scotland

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"count themselves as Frenchmen in race, manners, language and culture;

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"they keep only Frenchmen in their household and following,

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"and have reduced the Scots to utter servitude".

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Some Gaelic nobles adopted the Norman ways,

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but others returned to their own lands, beyond the reach of the King of Scots.

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The semi-independent Gaelic lands of Galloway, Argyll, Ross, Sutherland

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and Caithness, sometimes subject to the King Of Scots, sometimes not.

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And beyond them, Alexander's rule petered out completely.

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The Hebrides and the Northern Isles -

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all lands claimed by another aspiring and aggressive kingdom...

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Norway.

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It was messy, too messy for Alexander's liking.

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He would never throw off English claims of overlordship

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until all the Scottish nobles acknowledged him as their king.

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It was time for a new approach and a new deal.

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Alexander decided to strike a balance

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between Norman innovation and Gaelic tradition.

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In his new Scotland, both would be allowed to flourish.

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He invited the Gaelic warlords back in from the cold.

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In return for some of the top jobs, they would fight his battles.

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They would help him conquer Scotland, territory by territory.

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His first test came from the north, when the men of Caithness roasted one of Alexander's bishops alive.

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Alexander returned the compliment in spades.

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In Ross, challengers to Alexander's succession rebelled against him.

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In response, Alexander's Gaelic warlords severed the leaders' heads and presented them to him as a gift.

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In the west, Alexander pressed on again,

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down the Great Glen to Lochaber and beyond to the Isles, to attack the lands of the Norwegian king.

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Mercy and compassion were never Alexander's strong points.

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The man who would be King of all Scotland

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proved to be utterly ruthless from the moment he set out to subdue it.

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A symbol of just how far he would go to secure his kingship was in his treatment of a baby girl.

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Alive, she represented a rival claim to his throne.

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In Alexander's eyes,

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she was just as much of a threat as any sword-wielding assassin.

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He took no chances.

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The infant was a distant relative of the Canmore line.

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Her fate was recorded by the Lanercost Chronicle.

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"The daughter, who had not long left her mother's womb,

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"innocent though she was,

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"was put to death in the view of the market place.

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"Her head was struck against the column, and her brains dashed out."

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Alexander now had what he wanted.

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Her elimination killed off the last threat to the Scottish Crown.

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This terrible and shocking act was remembered for generations to come.

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And that was the point.

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Loud and clear, the King of Scots let it be known:

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this is what will happen to anyone who crosses my path,

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however young, however innocent.

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But his actions had delivered results.

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Something new had emerged.

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Alexander's victories had not only brought peace, but something far more enduring.

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One people, one kingdom.

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Now everyone was subject to one king and that made them one people - Scots.

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Alexander had restored the esteem of his Kingdom to such an extent

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that King Henry III of England agreed to a border, established for the first time in 1237.

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Psychologically, that was a big step.

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Now Scots could say,

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"This is Scotland, that is England, and WE are different."

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Alexander's 35-year reign ended when he died on 8 July 1249.

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His kingdom stretched all the way from Caithness in the north, to the Solway Firth in the south.

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That was the legacy of Alexander II.

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MUSIC PLAYS

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# Ex te lux oritur o dulcis Scocia

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# Qua vere noscitur fulgens Norwagia

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# Que cum transvehitur Trahis suspiria... #

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In the years following his death, a stronger, more confident Scotland entered a Golden Age.

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His son, Alexander III, inherited the family firm.

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Times were good. Scotland prospered and culture flowered.

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England now saw Scotland differently.

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Suddenly, the Scots were worth getting into bed with.

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Claims of overlordship were replaced by offers of marriage.

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And so it was that at Christmas 1251,

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Alexander III, King of the Scots,

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married Princess Margaret of England.

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It was an ostentatious display of wealth and power and the message was clear.

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Scotland was determined to be seen as an equal partner, an equal kingdom.

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Eyeing the proceedings was the bride's brother, the young Prince Edward.

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Heir to the throne of England, this long-legged, blue-eyed boy was the epitome of an English prince.

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But more penetrating eyes could see beyond the image.

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This boy's life would be less than saintly.

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Edward had a taste for violence.

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The chronicler Matthew Paris famously recalled

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how the young prince got one of his followers to attack a man,

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cut off an ear and gouge out an eye.

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Paris wondered what kind of king he would make:

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"If he does these things when the wood is green, what can be hoped for when it is seasoned?"

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As time passed, Edward grew into a formidable and skilful warrior.

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He indulged his lust for war by heading off on crusade to the Holy Land.

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On his return, he is every inch the hero, and at last crowned King of England.

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But while Edward's life took on the glow of a medieval Boy's Own Story,

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Alexander III's life turned into Greek Tragedy.

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In the space of nine years, Alexander III lost his wife,

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Edward's sister, and all three of his children.

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The Canmore dynasty was withering on the vine.

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Edward was shocked, and sent a letter of condolence to his brother-in-law.

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Alexander's reply to that letter seems to suggest a genuine warmth between the two kings.

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"You have offered much solace for our grief by saying

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"that although death has borne away your kindred in these parts,

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"we are united together perpetually, God willing,

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"by the tie of indissoluble affection."

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Then, in March 1286, Edward heard about another death, Alexander.

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The King of Scots had finished his business in Edinburgh

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but he was desperate to travel the 20-odd miles to here at Kinghorn

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and the royal palace where his new young wife, Yolande, was waiting for him.

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His advisors begged him not to go, it was a foul night, dark and stormy,

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but the warnings went unheeded and somewhere near here

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Alexander became separated from his guides and was thrown from his horse.

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They found his body on the beach the next morning, the neck broken.

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Edward mourned the death of his brother-in-law.

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Though some would say that he shed crocodile tears.

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He may have been related to Scotland's royal family -

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his father may have recognised Scotland's sovereignty -

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but Edward was descended from a long line of English kings

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who claimed to be her overlord.

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A claim that Edward had not forgotten.

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And now the kingdom's future

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hung by a thread.

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Next in line to the Scottish throne

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was Alexander's three-year-old grand-daughter

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and Edward's grand-niece, Margaret, known as the Maid of Norway.

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The child Margaret was the last direct link with the Canmore dynasty.

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Her marriage to Edward's son was speedily arranged.

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As far as Edward was concerned,

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as soon as the ink on the marriage agreement was dry,

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Scotland would belong to him.

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The logic was simple.

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Medieval women were property.

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What they owned belonged to their husbands.

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What the Maid owned, once she was married, would belong to Edward's son.

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Then in October 1290, the Maid died.

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The house of Canmore was finished.

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Scotland was without a royal family.

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For Edward, this was an act of divine providence.

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The succession was in doubt because there were two leading contenders vying for the Scots throne.

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John Balliol and Robert Bruce the Elder

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were from two of Scotland's most powerful families.

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Both had enough military muscle to back their claim on the field.

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Scotland was divided.

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It fell to the Guardians, men chosen to govern the realm in the absence of a king, to prevent civil war.

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But they needed help. An impartial, friendly arbitrator.

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Someone with experience. Someone who could command respect.

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Who else but King Edward I?

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Internationally respected monarch, and master of the law.

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After all, relations between the two kingdoms were amicable and Edward was family.

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There was no reason to doubt him.

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Edward called for a parliament to be held on 6th May 1291 to decide the future of the Scottish crown,

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and the location he choose was Norham - over there, on the English side of the River Tweed.

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The Scots smelled a rat.

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The future of Scotland to be decided in England? It wasn't right.

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So the Scots stalled on the Scottish side of the river.

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It was a stand-off.

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It didn't take Edward long to reveal his true colours,

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his real intention.

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He sent word to the Scots that the parliament would not start

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until the Guardians and the claimants for the throne of Scotland

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acknowledged his position as superior overlord of Scotland.

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The Scots were stunned.

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60 years of peace and now this.

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They would not give up their hard-won autonomy.

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One of the six Guardians of Scotland was Bishop Wishart of Glasgow.

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A shrewd and powerful figure, Wishart, a bulldog of a man.

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True to style, he delivered Scotland's response in person.

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He told Edward to his face.

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'The Scottish Kingdom is not held in tribute or homage to anyone save God alone.'

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Edward shrugged off Wishart's words of defiance.

0:27:500:27:53

Although Bruce and Balliol had the only serious claims, Edward decided to change the rules...again.

0:27:530:27:59

He produced 11 more claimants from leading noble families and declared

0:28:040:28:09

that if they didn't acknowledge his overlordship, they would be eliminated from the contest.

0:28:090:28:14

The Scots were outmanoeuvred.

0:28:150:28:17

If Bruce and Balliol wanted the job of King of Scots,

0:28:210:28:24

they had no choice but to agree to Edward's terms.

0:28:240:28:28

One by one, the now 13 claimants, along with the Guardians of Scotland,

0:28:300:28:35

swore fealty to Edward, the King of England,

0:28:350:28:37

as "superior and direct overlord of the kingdom of Scotland".

0:28:370:28:42

Edward had what he wanted.

0:28:460:28:48

It made no difference to him who was actually chosen.

0:28:480:28:52

He already had all the claimants' oaths of subservience in the bag.

0:28:520:28:56

In the end, it was John Balliol who emerged as the heir to the throne.

0:28:560:29:00

Edward had it all stitched up.

0:29:040:29:06

He was Scotland's superior overlord and not a drop of blood had been spilt.

0:29:070:29:11

Wishart's deepest fears were being realised before his very eyes.

0:29:130:29:18

He didn't hang around long.

0:29:180:29:20

He'd seen enough.

0:29:200:29:22

No longer a Guardian, Wishart returned to Glasgow.

0:29:220:29:26

The new King of Scots, John Balliol, had to pay homage and swear fealty to Edward for his kingdom...

0:29:260:29:32

a second time.

0:29:320:29:34

Edward's authority was absolute.

0:29:340:29:37

He could do exactly as he wanted...

0:29:370:29:41

and he did.

0:29:410:29:43

In 1294, Edward demanded Scottish troops for his war against France.

0:29:450:29:49

Then he summoned Balliol himself to fight.

0:29:490:29:54

The King of Scots to do military service for the King of England?

0:29:540:29:58

It seemed unthinkable.

0:29:580:30:00

At a stroke, the achievements of the Canmores -

0:30:020:30:05

the forging of Scotland, its status as a separate and distinct entity, was in peril.

0:30:050:30:12

It was time for action.

0:30:120:30:16

Bishop Wishart and the other Scots leaders realised Balliol was no match for Edward.

0:30:160:30:21

At a parliament in Stirling, they debated what to do about Balliol.

0:30:210:30:26

Wishart had no qualms.

0:30:370:30:39

By the end of the meeting, the Bishop's radical view prevailed.

0:30:390:30:43

'A new Guardianship was established. A council of 12 men was selected

0:30:450:30:49

'to run the affairs of the kingdom in Balliol's name.'

0:30:490:30:53

Balliol was to be reduced to a figurehead,

0:30:530:30:56

to be wheeled out to play the role of ruler.

0:30:560:30:59

Now, the real governors of Scotland laid plans to fight Edward.

0:30:590:31:05

As Wishart saw it, the council had two tasks -

0:31:090:31:12

negotiate a treaty with France and prepare the country for war.

0:31:120:31:16

France was Edward's enemy. Military support from them

0:31:200:31:24

would mean the Scots stood a chance against Edward's forces.

0:31:240:31:28

In the late summer 1295, a delegation left Stirling for Paris

0:31:280:31:33

to negotiate a treaty with the French king. The terms were simple.

0:31:330:31:38

Should Edward attack France,

0:31:380:31:40

then the Scots would wage war against the English.

0:31:400:31:43

In return, the French promised support should Scotland be attacked.

0:31:430:31:47

The French agreed.

0:31:470:31:50

When Edward went to war against France in 1296,

0:31:500:31:53

the Scots duly marched into England.

0:31:530:31:55

The fuse was lit.

0:31:550:31:57

Wishart waited for Edward's inevitable onslaught. It came.

0:31:570:32:02

On 30 March 1296, Edward's army crossed into Scotland.

0:32:020:32:08

Edward wasn't a man to do things by halves.

0:32:150:32:19

At around 30,000 strong,

0:32:190:32:20

this was the largest army that had ever been sent north.

0:32:200:32:24

First stop, Berwick-upon-Tweed.

0:32:240:32:27

As the Easter celebrations were drawing to a close,

0:32:320:32:35

Edward crossed the Tweed.

0:32:350:32:36

The feeble, timber fortifications offered no resistance.

0:32:360:32:40

What followed was one of the worst massacres

0:32:400:32:42

in British medieval history.

0:32:420:32:44

For two days, streams of blood flowed from the bodies of the slain.

0:32:500:32:53

For his tyrannous rage,

0:32:530:32:55

he ordered 7,500 souls of both sexes to be massacred.

0:32:550:32:59

Mills could be turned round by the flow of their blood.

0:33:040:33:08

Despite the surrender of the local garrison,

0:33:130:33:15

Edward set about the wholesale slaughter of the town's population.

0:33:150:33:19

The orgy of violence only came to an end

0:33:190:33:21

when the frantic pleading of local clergy

0:33:210:33:24

moved Edward to show at least some pity.

0:33:240:33:27

But Berwick was just a warm-up.

0:33:270:33:30

Edward's reputation would now precede him,

0:33:390:33:42

as he advanced north into the heartlands of Scotland.

0:33:420:33:45

After defeating the large, but inexperienced Scots army at Dunbar,

0:33:450:33:50

resistance to Edward buckled.

0:33:500:33:52

Castle after castle fell.

0:33:520:33:54

Most of the Scots nobility were captured and imprisoned.

0:33:560:33:59

'It was over.

0:33:590:34:02

'Now, Edward wanted the man he believed responsible.

0:34:020:34:05

'Balliol, the lamb caught amongst the wolves.'

0:34:050:34:09

It took Balliol eight days to negotiate his surrender,

0:34:140:34:17

which was hardly surprising, as he had a lot of explaining to do.

0:34:170:34:21

Edward was angry.

0:34:210:34:23

Balliol had acted contemptibly and illegally.

0:34:230:34:26

He was Edward's man, and yet, he had conspired with the French

0:34:260:34:30

and attacked English soil.

0:34:300:34:32

He was a defaulting vassal, who would have to be punished,

0:34:320:34:35

along with the Scots, if they refused to submit.

0:34:350:34:38

But Edward wanted more than a simple surrender.

0:34:380:34:40

He wanted a show.

0:34:400:34:42

Paraded as a penitent before Edward,

0:34:490:34:51

Balliol was stripped of his kingship.

0:34:510:34:53

The royal insignia ripped from his clothing,

0:34:530:34:56

earning him the cruel nickname, Toom Tabard. Empty suit.

0:34:560:35:00

King Nobody.

0:35:000:35:02

Broken and humiliated, Balliol was sent to the Tower of London

0:35:040:35:09

and then to exile in France.

0:35:090:35:12

Not content to humiliate a man, Edward plundered the country.

0:35:120:35:15

'He set about systematically stripping Scotland

0:35:150:35:18

'of all her symbols of sovereignty and independence -

0:35:180:35:22

'the crown jewels, the black rood of St Margaret,

0:35:220:35:25

'the holiest and most venerated relic of Scotland.'

0:35:250:35:29

And the Stone of Destiny,

0:35:290:35:32

the centrepiece of Scottish king-making.

0:35:320:35:35

In the months that followed,

0:35:410:35:43

Edward decided to take a tour of his newly won kingdom.

0:35:430:35:46

But this was no tourist trip.

0:35:470:35:49

City by city, burgh by burgh, castle by castle,

0:35:500:35:55

Edward forced the Scottish nobles to sign up to his new regime -

0:35:550:35:58

to put their names to what became

0:36:000:36:02

the most infamous document in Scottish history.

0:36:020:36:05

The Ragman Roll.

0:36:110:36:12

Well, the Ragman Roll is a list of the Scottish nobles

0:36:140:36:19

who had to give homage to Edward I of England in 1296.

0:36:190:36:24

So, it's got about 1,900 names on it.

0:36:240:36:27

What is contained in all these endless lines of text?

0:36:270:36:31

What exactly are they signing up to?

0:36:310:36:33

Well, basically they had to pay homage to Edward I,

0:36:330:36:36

who had defeated the Scots at the battle of Dunbar,

0:36:360:36:40

and he was essentially the King of Scots now,

0:36:400:36:43

and they had to acknowledge him as their lord and master.

0:36:430:36:47

What are the famous names that would stand out?

0:36:470:36:50

Well, you've got a whole panoply of the Scottish nobility.

0:36:500:36:53

You've got the competitors for the throne,

0:36:530:36:56

the head of the house of Balliol, Bruce, the Stuarts are there,

0:36:560:37:00

there's a complete set of bishops, people like Bishop Wishart,

0:37:000:37:03

and then there's of course lot of knights

0:37:030:37:05

and lesser people who held land in Scotland at that time.

0:37:050:37:11

But it isn't just the names of the nobility and bishops

0:37:140:37:17

that appear on the Ragman Roll.

0:37:170:37:19

Representatives across the Scottish kingdom, religious and political,

0:37:190:37:23

were forced to fix their seals of submission.

0:37:230:37:26

Scotland was without a king.

0:37:280:37:30

Beaten, broken and humiliated.

0:37:310:37:34

The winter of 1296 was one of the country's darkest.

0:37:340:37:38

Edward left Scotland's governance to two trusted lieutenants

0:37:380:37:42

and returned to where he'd left off, fighting the French.

0:37:420:37:45

But in the rush to be rid of Scotland, Edward missed something.

0:37:520:37:56

Scotland had never been directly ruled by an English king,

0:37:560:38:01

so when Edward ordered the Scots to join his war in France,

0:38:010:38:04

the Scots grew resentful.

0:38:040:38:06

And when Edward imposed English taxes to pay for it,

0:38:080:38:11

the Scots grew rebellious.

0:38:110:38:13

Alexander II had given the Scots a united kingdom with a border,

0:38:160:38:21

a sense of who they were.

0:38:210:38:23

But within the space of a decade, all of this was swept away.

0:38:230:38:26

Edward had already absorbed Wales into his kingdom

0:38:260:38:29

and conscripted the Welsh into his armies.

0:38:290:38:32

Now, he proposed to do exactly the same thing to Scotland.

0:38:320:38:35

And it was the prospect of being absorbed by England

0:38:350:38:38

and being forced to fight Edward's battles

0:38:380:38:41

that tipped the Scots over the edge.

0:38:410:38:43

The first spark of resistance was struck in the Gaelic north.

0:38:550:38:59

It was a small act of defiance,

0:38:590:39:01

a single standard raised against Edward,

0:39:010:39:04

but soon, a myriad of flames engulfed the kingdom.

0:39:040:39:07

And among them was one man, William Wallace.

0:39:070:39:10

William Wallace. The Wallace.

0:39:180:39:21

For many, he is the ultimate freedom fighter, for others, a terrorist.

0:39:210:39:26

He is the enigmatic hero who appears from nowhere

0:39:260:39:29

to liberate his people and to shape history.

0:39:290:39:32

The Wallace story is one of the defining legends

0:39:320:39:34

of Scottish identity and the epitome of Scotland's story.

0:39:340:39:38

And yet, with all the mythologizing, we've lost sight of Wallace the man.

0:39:380:39:43

A remarkable man, but a man nonetheless.

0:39:430:39:47

The younger son of an obscure knight,

0:39:530:39:55

Wallace's destiny would be shaped less by himself,

0:39:550:39:58

more by the needs of others. And what Bishop Wishart,

0:39:580:40:03

the self-appointed chief of the Scottish resistance movement

0:40:030:40:07

needed right now, was time.

0:40:070:40:09

Scotland had run out of leaders.

0:40:130:40:16

Most of her nobles were either imprisoned

0:40:160:40:18

or had been forced to fix their seals to the Ragman Rolls.

0:40:180:40:21

Wishart could have been under no illusions

0:40:210:40:24

when the pair met here, at Glasgow Cathedral.

0:40:240:40:26

Wallace was no leader of armies,

0:40:260:40:28

but he was smart and he could fight, and he had the popular touch.

0:40:280:40:32

Most importantly, he could buy time for Wishart,

0:40:320:40:35

while the Bishop tried to raise the Scots nobles in Ayrshire.

0:40:350:40:38

An English chronicler put it simply,

0:40:380:40:40

"Wishart caused a certain bloody man, William Wallace,

0:40:400:40:43

"who had formerly been a chief of brigands in Scotland,

0:40:430:40:46

"to revolt against the King and assemble people in his support."

0:40:460:40:50

And that's exactly what Wallace did.

0:40:500:40:53

After killing the hated English sheriff of Lanark,

0:41:010:41:04

the very symbol of Edward's oppressive regime,

0:41:040:41:08

Wallace's rising swiftly gained momentum.

0:41:080:41:11

But the men who flocked to Wallace's side weren't of noble blood.

0:41:110:41:16

His army were peasants - humble folk, the middling sort.

0:41:200:41:23

The kind of people who had first hand experience

0:41:230:41:26

of Edward's policies of wringing as many men

0:41:260:41:28

and taxes from Scotland as he could.

0:41:280:41:30

If Wallace's army was to stand any chance

0:41:350:41:37

against Edward's mighty war machine, they needed space, open space,

0:41:370:41:42

and time to train.

0:41:420:41:43

Wallace knew this would be no easy task.

0:41:450:41:48

His army was used to the hit and run tactics of guerrilla warfare.

0:41:480:41:52

They had little experience of the battlefield.

0:41:520:41:55

The best he could offer his men was discipline.

0:41:550:42:00

By the late summer of 1297, Wallace's army was ready.

0:42:000:42:06

He joined forces with Andrew Murray, a nobleman's son

0:42:060:42:11

who had led a successful revolt in the north.

0:42:110:42:14

Together, they marched their men to intercept the English at Stirling.

0:42:140:42:19

It was only then, when the English woke up, they realised the handful

0:42:230:42:26

of rebels had swollen into a respectable sized army.

0:42:260:42:29

But the English captain, Warenne, wasn't alarmed.

0:42:290:42:32

His army, with its impressive heavy cavalry,

0:42:320:42:34

could take on any peasant rabble.

0:42:340:42:36

To confront the Scots, the English army had to cross the river Forth.

0:42:360:42:42

Easier said than done.

0:42:420:42:44

Deep and impassable, the Forth rises in the west

0:42:440:42:47

and flows east to meet the North Sea,

0:42:470:42:49

almost cutting the country in half.

0:42:490:42:51

The crossing point - a narrow, wooden bridge at Stirling.

0:42:550:42:59

When the English arrived, Wallace and Murray were waiting.

0:43:030:43:06

They knew the land and they understood the strategic importance

0:43:060:43:11

of the bridge across the Forth as the gateway to the north.

0:43:110:43:14

They positioned their army on the slopes of Abbey Craig,

0:43:140:43:17

about a mile from the bridge.

0:43:170:43:19

On September 11th 1297, both armies faced each other.

0:43:280:43:33

In bald terms, Warenne told the Scots to surrender.

0:43:380:43:42

Wallace told them,

0:43:440:43:45

"Go back and tell your people

0:43:450:43:47

"that we have not come for the benefit of peace,

0:43:470:43:50

"but to do battle to defend ourselves and liberate our kingdom.

0:43:500:43:54

"Let them come to us, and we will prove this in their very beards."

0:43:540:43:58

The English horsemen began to ride across the bridge.

0:44:010:44:05

Warenne suddenly exploded, he hadn't actually given the order to cross.

0:44:050:44:10

So he made his men come back to his side and regroup.

0:44:100:44:13

Then, on his command, they began to cross for a second time.

0:44:130:44:16

Wallace must have been amazed

0:44:160:44:18

by this comic display of arrogance and complacency.

0:44:180:44:21

But Warenne didn't care how it looked.

0:44:210:44:24

He didn't rate Wallace's army. As far as he was concerned,

0:44:240:44:28

this would be little more than a good training exercise for the men.

0:44:280:44:32

What they learned was how to die.

0:44:360:44:38

The English were trapped,

0:44:400:44:44

caught in the loop of the river with nowhere to go.

0:44:440:44:46

As the chronicler Guisborough said,

0:44:550:44:57

"There was indeed no better place in all the land

0:44:570:44:59

"to deliver the English into the hands of the Scots,

0:44:590:45:03

"and so many into the power of the few."

0:45:030:45:05

By nightfall, 5,000 English infantry and 100 knights had perished.

0:45:190:45:24

Among the English dead lay the body of the hated treasurer.

0:45:260:45:29

He'd been flayed alive.

0:45:290:45:31

The treasurer had taken the skin off Scots' backs,

0:45:310:45:34

and now they had done the same to him in return.

0:45:340:45:37

Wallace kept the skin. He had it fashioned into a sword belt,

0:45:370:45:41

a memento of the day's victory.

0:45:410:45:43

The defeat was a huge loss of face for Edward.

0:45:530:45:55

The great English army, the vast, Edwardian war machine

0:45:550:45:59

that had conquered Wales, that was famed throughout Europe,

0:45:590:46:02

had been defeated.

0:46:020:46:03

But hardest of all to swallow was the fact it had been defeated

0:46:030:46:06

by a bunch of peasant amateurs. Scots peasant amateurs, to boot.

0:46:060:46:11

It was at this time

0:46:110:46:12

that Edward first heard the name William Wallace.

0:46:120:46:15

We can be sure of one thing, he'd never forget it.

0:46:150:46:19

'The Scottish nobles were dumbfounded.

0:46:280:46:31

'Now they were forced to rub shoulders with the middling folk

0:46:310:46:34

'to make this man Guardian of Scotland.'

0:46:340:46:37

Murray, the noble who commanded the army with Wallace,

0:46:400:46:43

would have been their preferred choice,

0:46:430:46:45

but his death after Stirling Bridge ruled that out.

0:46:450:46:49

Here at Kirk of the Forest,

0:46:530:46:54

Wallace the outlaw became Sir William Wallace,

0:46:540:46:57

the Guardian of Scotland.

0:46:570:46:59

He was the hero of the hour, for now.

0:46:590:47:01

But despite his victory, there were those who didn't approve

0:47:030:47:06

of a mere commoner being given such a big job.

0:47:060:47:09

After all, what did he know about politics and kings?

0:47:090:47:12

But none of that mattered at the moment.

0:47:120:47:14

What did matter was that he had proved himself in battle

0:47:140:47:17

and his job was only half done.

0:47:170:47:19

Only when John Balliol was restored to the throne

0:47:190:47:23

could Scotland be free.

0:47:230:47:24

Wallace had proved to be Edward's equal in every regard except status.

0:47:320:47:36

He was brutal, he was ruthless, he fought on Edward's terms.

0:47:360:47:41

He played dirty.

0:47:410:47:43

The defeat at Stirling Bridge had angered Edward.

0:47:430:47:46

Now he wanted revenge.

0:47:460:47:48

By July, his vast military machine,

0:47:530:47:55

composed mainly of newly conquered Welsh, crossed into Scotland.

0:47:550:48:00

As Edward advanced north, he encountered a wasted landscape.

0:48:000:48:05

There was no sign of Wallace,

0:48:050:48:07

but he could see his handiwork in every burnt-out farm.

0:48:070:48:09

Weeks passed, there was still no sign of him.

0:48:090:48:13

But then, the logic of Wallace's strategy became obvious.

0:48:130:48:16

Denied food supplies, the English army started to starve,

0:48:160:48:19

and fighting broke out between the English and Welsh infantry.

0:48:190:48:23

Edward's army was close to disintegration

0:48:230:48:27

when it finally arrived at Linlithgow's town walls.

0:48:270:48:32

He realised he might have to abandon the war altogether,

0:48:320:48:36

unless he could find Wallace, and fast.

0:48:360:48:39

'The scouts reported that the Scots army

0:48:410:48:43

'was less than 20 miles away, at Falkirk.

0:48:430:48:46

'Edward force-marched his men until they came upon Wallace.

0:48:460:48:49

'The Scots were dug in - four schiltroms, bristling with spears.'

0:48:490:48:54

Edward's propaganda machine had gone into overdrive.

0:48:540:48:57

The English troops weren't expecting to see Wallace the man,

0:48:570:49:01

rather, Wallace the monster,

0:49:010:49:03

an ogre who would quite literally skin them alive.

0:49:030:49:06

And of course, it was Edward who had unleashed the monster.

0:49:060:49:10

He had unmade Scotland, taking it apart bit by bit,

0:49:100:49:14

and Wallace was the result.

0:49:140:49:17

Edward was unconcerned - it would all be over soon. And it was.

0:49:270:49:31

In a hail of arrows,

0:49:310:49:33

Edward's archers began the slaughter of the infantry.

0:49:330:49:36

It was said the Scots fell

0:49:360:49:38

like blossom in an orchard when the fruit had ripened.

0:49:380:49:42

The cavalry completed the rout.

0:49:420:49:44

'Wallace resigned as Guardian. Scotland descended into five years

0:49:580:50:01

'of exhausting, costly, protracted fighting.'

0:50:010:50:05

Then the Scots lost their ally, the French.

0:50:050:50:08

Alone, they could not defeat Edward.

0:50:080:50:12

It was pointless going on - the Scots sought terms.

0:50:120:50:17

Equally, Edward was tired and old. He was in his 60s,

0:50:170:50:21

and the war was burning a very large hole in his pocket.

0:50:210:50:25

He wanted to draw a line under the whole sorry business.

0:50:250:50:28

But naturally, he wanted that on his own terms.

0:50:280:50:32

He wanted Wallace.

0:50:320:50:34

"As for William Wallace," said Edward,

0:50:410:50:44

"it is agreed that he shall render himself up at the mercy and will

0:50:440:50:48

"of our sovereign lord the King, as it shall seem good to him."

0:50:480:50:52

Wallace's fate was sealed the following month.

0:50:560:50:59

At the St Andrew's Parliament of 1304,

0:50:590:51:01

he was declared an outlaw by the Scots nobles.

0:51:010:51:04

129 landowners took Edward as their liege lord.

0:51:050:51:10

Among their ranks was the man who had helped create Wallace -

0:51:130:51:16

Robert Wishart, the Bishop of Glasgow.

0:51:180:51:23

In truth, the document they signed up to, the Ordinances of 1305,

0:51:270:51:30

marks the completion of the second conquest of Scotland.

0:51:300:51:34

This time, there was no mention

0:51:340:51:36

of a king or a kingdom, merely a land.

0:51:360:51:39

As for Wallace, Edward had singled him out for special treatment.

0:51:560:52:00

No words of peace were offered.

0:52:000:52:02

Wallace must submit to Edward's pleasure.

0:52:020:52:06

Edward played every dirty trick in the book.

0:52:060:52:10

He threatened and blackmailed Wallace's friends,

0:52:100:52:13

forcing them to hunt down the fugitive.

0:52:130:52:15

Finally, Wallace was betrayed.

0:52:220:52:24

On 3rd August 1305, he was seized in a house near Glasgow.

0:52:260:52:30

According to an English source, Wallace was surprised in his bed.

0:52:300:52:34

In the Scots version of what happened,

0:52:370:52:39

Wallace put up a huge fight before he was eventually taken.

0:52:390:52:43

Three weeks later, Wallace stood here, Westminster Hall,

0:52:470:52:51

before Edward's judges.

0:52:510:52:53

The King, ever the master of the law,

0:52:530:52:55

was determined to destroy Wallace's reputation.

0:52:550:52:59

A crown of laurel leaves had been placed on his head,

0:52:590:53:02

to mock, it was said, Wallace's boast

0:53:020:53:04

that one day he would wear a crown.

0:53:040:53:07

As an outlaw, he was already legally condemned -

0:53:070:53:11

no plea, no jury, no witnesses, no defence.

0:53:110:53:15

He was merely presented with the indictment.

0:53:150:53:17

That he had notoriously committed killings, arson,

0:53:190:53:22

destruction of property,

0:53:220:53:24

and sacrilege during the war with England.

0:53:240:53:27

That he had assumed the title of Guardian,

0:53:270:53:30

and seduced the Scots into an alliance with France.

0:53:300:53:33

The charge of treason was an innovation,

0:53:330:53:35

but if it was on the King's Record, then it was law.

0:53:350:53:38

If Edward said he was a traitor, then he was.

0:53:380:53:41

It was only then that Wallace spoke.

0:53:410:53:43

He had never been a traitor. He had never sworn allegiance to Edward.

0:53:430:53:47

Like Scotland, Wallace was trapped by Edward's laws.

0:53:470:53:51

The outcome was a forgone conclusion.

0:53:510:53:54

He suffered a traitor's death.

0:53:560:54:00

There was no Christian burial.

0:54:000:54:02

Wallace's boiled head was spiked on London Bridge

0:54:020:54:06

and his quartered body sent north

0:54:060:54:08

to Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Perth

0:54:080:54:10

as an example of the fate that would befall anyone who challenged Edward.

0:54:100:54:15

What are we to make of Wallace?

0:54:250:54:27

What is important is what he became after his death.

0:54:270:54:32

He became a brand, repackaged and rolled out in the centuries to come

0:54:320:54:36

to suit both nationalist and unionist agendas.

0:54:360:54:40

700 years later, the basic vision of a free, independent Scotland,

0:54:400:54:46

for which William Wallace fought,

0:54:460:54:48

still haunts the collective Scots imagination.

0:54:480:54:51

For many, Wallace remains Scotland's greatest patriot.

0:54:550:55:00

But what had he actually achieved?

0:55:000:55:03

In the end, Wallace had failed.

0:55:040:55:07

Scotland's king remained in exile, her nobles under oath.

0:55:070:55:11

Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots, had conquered Scotland.

0:55:110:55:15

You might even say he had turned it into an English region.

0:55:150:55:18

But in his fixation with the crown and the kingdom,

0:55:180:55:21

he'd underestimated the people.

0:55:210:55:24

Edward's determination to crush them

0:55:240:55:26

had served only to define for the Scots who they really were.

0:55:260:55:30

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Neil Oliver charts the 13th century story of the two ruthless men who helped transform the Gaelic kingdom of Alba into the Scotland we recognise today.

While Alexander II forged Scotland in blood and violence, William Wallace's resistance to the nation-breaking King Edward I of England hammered national consciousness into the Scots.