Needless to say in the case of Berwick and 'The Outlaw King' I was not the only one tempted to reach for my soapbox to set the matter straight before a new visual history becomes 'lore', but as local historian Jim Herbert of Berwick Time Lines is far better versed in the subject than I, here is his recent article which explains all.
Watch out Bruce - He's Comyn For You
Edward moved north yet again. He defeated Bruce on 19th June 1306 at the Battle of Methven. Bruce’s wife and other ladies of the court were sent to his brother’s castle at Kildrummy for protection. Bruce and his few followers fled. Alas, there was no safety to be had at Kildrummy. Bruce’s wife Elizabeth, his sisters Christina and Mary, and Isabella MacDuff were captured; his brother, like Wallace before, was hanged, drawn and quartered. It was for her part in the crowning of Bruce that Isabella was held prisoner at Berwick Castle. Bruce was declared an outlaw.
The Bruce Comes to Berwick
“In the night, coming unexpectedly to the castle, he placed ladders against the wall and began to ascend. Unless the loud barking of a dog had made known the arrival of the Scots, he would quickly have taken the castle as well as the town. The ladders, curiously made for the purpose of scaling, were left here, and our men have hung them over the pillory as a public show. So this dog saved Berwick as formerly the cackling of the geese saved Rome.”
“Within the octaves of the Epiphany, 15th January, 1316, the King of Scotland, with a great army, came secretly to Berwick, and under brilliant moonlight made an attack by land and by sea in skiffs, hoping to have entered the town on the river side between the Bridge House and the Castle, where the walls were not yet built. But by means of watchmen and others through the noise of those attacking they were repulsed, and a certain Scotch soldier, Sir J. de Landels, was killed, and Sir James Douglas with difficulty escaped in a small skiff. And thus the whole army was put to confusion…”
“Tells [Sir William Ingge] no town was ever in such distress as Berwick short of being taken or surrendered. The garrison are deserting daily, and there are none left in the town, save only such of the garrison of the castle as are not slain or dead of hunger. If the town is lost, the blame will rest on him as one of the King’s chief councillors. Whenever a horse dies in the town the men-at-arms carry off the flesh and boil and eat it, not letting the foot touch it till they have had what they will. Pity to see Christians leading such a life. If he would save the town, prays him to send assistance quickly.”
18 February 1316.
“The burghers are deep in debt, and his men are dying of hunger on the walls. He has supplied them out of his own means while he had any. The town was never in such a state, as he has often told the King; but he sees clearly that no order of the latter is obeyed. Whatever his ministers may say to the contrary, there has not come to Berwick, either in money or provisions, since he arrived there, more than £4000, and there are ten weeks short of the year. Of the 300 men-at-arms enrolled, only 50 can be mustered mounted and armed, the rest of the horses being dead, and the arms at pledge for the owners sustenance. He has not had a penny of his own pay since Michaelmas. Begs him to take thought for them and the town, for if he loses it, he will lose all the north, and they their lives. Begs another warden may be appointed, as his term expires a month after Easter, and he will remain no longer. Thinks no attention has been paid to his former letters.”
2 March 1316
The mayor, bailiffs and community of Berwick to the King. Tell him that the town is in great danger, as there are only provisions for one month… Sir Robert de Bruys will be at Melrose before Ascension Day with all his force, and do his utmost, they fear, to annoy them by treason or otherwise…”
10 May 1316
“…was annoyed at the Governor’s ill-will to the Scotch in the town, and covenanted with Bruce through Marshal Keith to deliver up the town to him if he drew to it during night, and at the Cowgate when it was his turn to watch.”
Anyway, I join everyone’s pleasure in the entertainment (and money) we have been given by the cast and crew and look forward to seeing the film before posting why comments on the “goofs” section of the IMDb!
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