obviously had laid great stress on the alleged risks of the unsettled condition of the country; his solicitude, from a family point of view, was not at all unreasonable; probably enough he had impressed Eric with anxiety on the same ground; and the Guardians seem to have had no serious anticipation that their Queen's grand-uncle would infringe the international friendship of a century. The Guardians' letter to Eric was followed by one from Edward in the same sense, on April 17. Already the King's butler was down at Yarmouth, preparing and victualling 'a great ship' to carry Edward's plenipotentiary, Antony Bek, the astute and magnificent Bishop of Durham, with an imposing retinue, to Norway. The preparations took forty days; and at length Bek sailed from Hartlepool on the 9th of May. Bek was an adept in smoothing the diplomatic path; he distributed judicious annuities to Norwegian friends to the extent of £400 a year till the Queen should attain the age of fifteen. Presumably the grand outfitting of the ship implies that the Queen was expected to come over in it; but it returned without her in June. It was not till September that Eric set out with his daughter. In the beginning of September, accordingly, Edward again despatched Bek, this time to Orkney, to meet the Maid. He was also attentive enough to send an ample variety of jewels for the Queen's use. At almost every step in the proceedings, the records betray his eager haste. The Guardians exhibited no such fervour; it was not till October 3 that they accredited their envoys, and already they had been urged to action by Edward.
Meantime the Guardians had been taking thought for the security of the kingdom. The negotiations with Edward issued in the treaty of Brigham on July 18, 1290. By this treaty it was provided that the laws, liberties, and customs of Scotland should remain inviolate for ever, and that the realm should remain separate from, and entirely independent of, England. No parchment terms could have done more to secure independence. There was, indeed, an insidious saving clause, steadily recurrent, which reserved such rights as Edward or others might have; but whether intended to neutralise the specific provisions or not, it must be regarded as purely formal.
The ardent development of Edward's care for his grand-niece and his son ought to have been at least suggestive. There remain two striking documents, dated August 28. In one of them, the Guardians agree to deliver the castles of Scotland under certain conditions to their Queen and Prince Edward; and in the other, Edward notifies the Guardians of his appointment of Bishop Bek to act in concert with them as lieutenant of the royal couple. For it was incumbent upon him to respect his oath to maintain the laws of Scotland. He even appears to have gone so far as to demand the surrender of the castles to himself, but this demand the Guardians refused.
The whole of the laborious structure was levelled to the ground on October 7, when the Bishop of St. Andrews reported to Edward the rumour of the Queen's death at Orkney. The Queen had died on the passage from 'Norrowa' o'er the faem.' The details are unknown. The very fact, indeed, has been questioned; for a young woman claiming to be Margaret, and telling a circumstantial story of her being kidnapped at Orkney on the voyage to Scotland, was burnt at the stake at Bergen in 1301 as an impostor. Be this as it may, the luckless Margaret now passes out of the history of Scotland, leaving a divided kingdom face to face with the aroused cupidity of a determined, astute, and unscrupulous neighbour.
THE ASSERTION OF OVER-LORDSHIP.
Who should now succeed Margaret on the Scottish throne? Fordun relates that Malcolm, the first 'rex Scotiae,' decreed a change in the principle of succession. This enactment is said to have provided that thenceforth each king should be succeeded by whoever was, at the time being, the next descendant; that is, a son or a daughter, a nephew or a niece, the nearest then living. It is not at all unlikely that the disturbance of the balance of the kingdom by the acquisition of Lothian may have rendered the substitution of the Teutonic for the Keltic law of succession expedient, or even necessary. The claims of Balliol and Bruce alone need to be considered; and if this law was formally established, the letter of it would be a strong support to Bruce's candidature, whatever the spirit of its intention. For the present purpose, however, we are not concerned with the validity of the claims of either competitor, but mainly with the process whereby the final decision was reached. The essential point is to discern the real spirit governing the evolution of events.
The death of Margaret at once urged the competitors to fresh activity. The Guardians were divided in their sympathies, and the division no doubt ran deep into the community. The first overt movement, so far as existing documents indicate, was made by Bruce. It was an indirect, tentative operation. Towards the end of the year (1290), an appeal was preferred to Edward by 'the seven earls' and the community of the realm of Scotland against the Bishop of St. Andrews and Sir John Comyn in respect of their action as Guardians. The appellants asserted their privilege of placing the King of Scotland on the throne, complained of acts of oppression exercised by the Guardians on Donald Earl of Mar and the freemen of Moray, narrated the recognition of Robert Bruce of Annandale as next heir to the throne by Alexander II., and alleged some minor grievances. At this time there were only four Guardians, the Earl of Fife having been murdered and the Earl of Buchan having died; and the two not inculpated, the Steward of Scotland and the Bishop of Glasgow, were fast friends of Bruce. Mar and Moray also leant to Bruce's faction. Evidently the appeal was promoted in the interests of Bruce, and with his knowledge, if not positively at his instigation. There is no record of any answer.
There is a glimpse of still earlier action by Bruce in the letter of the Bishop of St. Andrews to Edward, reporting the rumour of the Queen's death. The rumour arrived when the Estates were sitting to receive Edward's answer to the refusal to surrender the castles to him. Bruce, the Bishop says, had not intended to be present, but, on hearing the rumour, had appeared with a strong following. His ultimate intentions the Bishop could not tell. Then follows a significant point. Should it unhappily prove true that the Queen is dead, the Bishop urges Edward to come to the marches without delay, with the view of preventing bloodshed, and of aiding the faithful of the land to place on the throne the man that possesses the proper title—meaning, of course, Balliol. To interpret the Bishop as merely currying favour with the King is probably a large stretch of charity. He certainly stood in a small minority in desiring Edward's intervention. The chroniclers, indeed, relate how the community of the realm, impressed by the ancient friendship between the two kingdoms and the particular cordiality of Alexander III. and Edward, invited the English King to arbitrate on the claims of the competitors. But no such invitation is traceable in the records, and, on that ground alone, apart from the strong probabilities, it may safely be believed that such an invitation was never sent. There was not the least occasion for it, on either side. It certainly would not have represented the true feeling of the community of Scotland; and no doubt Edward was fully aware of the fact, for, in the whole transaction, he studiously treated that body with very scant regard.
The Waverley Annalist states that in March 1291, on the day after Ascension, Edward declared to his nobles, in the presence of nine of the competitors, who at the same time submitted their claims to him,