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Earl of Moray

  • Born about 1250 - Nithsdales,Scotland
  • Deceased 20 July 1332 - Musselburgh,Scotland , age at death: possibly 82 years old

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Thomas Randolph (Earl of Moray)
? - 1332

Regent to the young King David II, son of Robert the Bruce (1329).Randolph had fought with Bruce against Edward II at Bannockburn.Immediately prior to Bannockburn, Randolph recaptured Edinburgh Castlefrom the English by climbing its walls at night.

Father of Black Agnes, Countess of Dunbar.
RANDOLPH, THOMAS, EARL OF MORAY.�This ancient Scottish paladin, whooccupies so prominent a part in the wars of Robert Bruce, was sister�sson of that great sovereign. He first appears among the adherents of goodKing Robert, when the latter commenced his desperate attempt to win thecrown of Scotland, and make it worth wearing. In this way his name, asThomas Randolph, knight of Strahdon, occurs in the list of that intrepidband who crowned his uncle at Scone; and in the disastrous skirmish soonafter, near Methven, he was one of the prisoners who fell into the handsof the English. As the insurgent Scots were regarded as rebels againsttheir liege lord, Edward I., the usual laws of war were dispensed with;and thus, either with or without trial, the noblest and best of Scotlandwere consigned to the dungeon or the gallows. The worst of thesealternatives would probably have been the fate of Randolph, inconsequence of his near relationship to Bruce, had not the brave Adam DeGordon, who was a favourite with the English king, interceded in hisbehalf. Randolph�s life in consequence was spared, but it was only oncondition that he should swear fealty to Edward; and to this he submittedwith that facility so characteristic of the knightly fidelity of themiddle ages. He swore that he would be Edward�s man, and the deadly enemyof all his enemies (including, of course, his own uncle and kindred), andthus was transformed in a trice from a Scottish patriot into a friend andservant of the oppressor. If anything can apologize for suchtergiversation, it might be the difficulty of deciding at times withwhich party the right remained; and many may have thought, with Sir Rogerde Coverly, that much might be said on both sides�especially when theyhad a gallows in view.


Randolph having thus changed his party, appears to have fought for itwith a courage that did not belie his future renown. He was even amongthat band, headed by Aymer de Valence and John of Lorn, that chasedRobert Bruce among the wilds of Galloway with blood-hounds, and nearlysucceeded in capturing or slaying him. On this occasion, Sir Thomaspursued the chase so eagerly, that he took his uncle�s standard-bearerprisoner, along with the royal banner. But this unworthy alienation wasnot to continue much longer, and an event occurred by which Randolph wasto be recovered to his country and his true fame. At this time Sir JamesDouglas, renowned far and wide by his terrible vengeance upon theEnglish, who had garrisoned the castle of his fathers, was intrenchedamong the depths of Ettrick Forest, and making it good by prowess andstratagem against every assailant. This was a tempting adventure forRandolph, and accordingly, accompanied by Sir Alexander Stewart ofBonkill, and Sir Adam Gordon�Anglicized Scots, like himself�he set offupon the enterprise, and encamped for the night at a solitary house onthe Lyne-water, a tributary stream that falls into the Tweed a littleabove Peebles. Douglas, however, whom no enemy ever caught asleep,happened to be in the neighbourhood; and on approaching the house, heoverheard some one within exclaiming 'the devil!' with true militaryemphasis. Guessing from this token that the building was tenanted bystout soldiers, he made a sudden assault, scattered the surprisedinmates, and captured Stewart and Randolph, whom he conducted to hismaster next morning. The meeting between the king and his renegade nephewwas characteristic of such a party-changing period. 'Nephew,' said Bruce,'you have for a while renounced your faith, but now you must bereconciled to me.' 'You reproach me,' answered the nephew sharply, 'andyet better deserve to be reproached yourself; for since you made waragainst the king of England, you should have vindicated your right in theopen field, and not by cowardly sleights and skirmishes.' 'That mayhereafter fall out, and soon,' replied the king�who had commenced in thisvery fashion, until misfortune taught him a wiser course ofaction�'meantime, since you have spoken so rudely, it is fitting thatyour proud words should receive due chastisement, until you learn to knowthe right, and how to it as you ought.' After this sage rebuke, Randolphwas sent into close and solitary confinement, to digest the lesson atleisure. How wisely such a punishment was inflicted, and how well itwrought, was attested not only in the future life of Randolph, but in thehistory of his country.


On being set at liberty, Randolph was not only restored to the king�sfavour, but invested with the earldom of Moray, which had largeterritories attached to it; and having set these in order, he repaired tothat warfare in which he was to be surpassed by none except Brucehimself. It was now also, perhaps, that the generous rivalry commencedbetween him and his gallant captor, Sir James Douglas, which continued tothe end of their lives. This noble contention was now signalized by the'good Lord James' undertaking the siege of Roxburgh Castle, and Randolphthat of Edinburgh, the two strongest fortresses in the kingdom, and stillin possession of the English. The garrison in Edinburgh Castle wascommanded by Sir Piers Leland, a knight of Gascony, but the soldiershaving suspected him of holding communication with the Scottish king,deposed and imprisoned him, and set one of their own countrymen in hisplace, who was both wight and wise. While Randolph beleaguered thewell-defended castle, tidings reached him that Douglas had succeeded atRoxburgh; and perceiving that force was useless, he resolved, like hisrival in arms, to have recourse to stratagem. A favourable opportunitysoon occurred. One of his soldiers, William Frank, had in his youth beenwont to descend from the apparently inaccessible ramparts by a secret wayin the rock, aided by a ladder of ropes, to visit a woman in the townwith whom he intrigued; and he now offered to be the foremost man inconducting a party up the same path, which he still distinctlyremembered. The proposal was accepted, and Randolph, with thirtyfollowers, and Frank for his guide, commenced at midnight this dangerousescalade. With the aid of a rope-ladder they ascended in file, one man,following another in silence, and by ways where a single false step mighthave precipitated the whole party to the bottom, or roused the sentinelsabove. They could even hear the footsteps of the guards going theirrounds upon the ramparts. At this instant a stone came whizzing overtheir heads, with a cry from above, 'Aha! I see you!' and they thoughtthat all was over. 'Now, help them, God,' exclaims Barbour, at this pointof the narrative, 'for in great peril are they!' But the sentry who hadthrown the stone and uttered the cry, saw and suspected nothing, and wasmerely diverting his companions. After waiting till all was quiet, theyresumed their desperate attempt, but had scarcely reached the top of thewall, Randolph being the third man who ascended, than the alarmedgarrison rushed out upon them, and a desperate fight commenced. It fared,however, with the English as is the wont of such strange surprisals; theywere confounded, driven together in heaps, and unfitted either for safeflight or effectual resistance. The result was, that the governor andseveral of his soldiers were slain, others threw themselves from theramparts, and the rest surrendered.


While the report of this gallant deed was still circulating throughoutthe country, those events occurred that led to the battle of Bannockburn.At this great assize of arms, which seemed to be the last appeal ofScottish liberty previous to the final and decisive sentence, thearrangements which Bruce made for the trial were such a master-piece ofstrategy as has seldom been equalled, even by the science of modernwarfare. Among these dispositions, the command of the left wing wasintrusted to Randolph, with strict charge to prevent the English fromthrowing reinforcements into the castle of Stirling. Here, however, thecunning captor of Edinburgh Castle was about to be out-witted in turn,for 800 horsemen detached from the English army, under the command of SirRobert Clifford, made a circuit by the low grounds to the east, and,unperceived by Randolph, whose post they had thus turned, were in fullprogress to the castle. The quick military eye of Bruce detected themovement, and riding up to the earl, he pointed to the detachment, andsharply exclaimed, 'A rose has fallen from your chaplet!' Impatient toretrieve his lost honour, and recover the important pass, which was thekey of the Scottish position, Randolph, at the head of 500 spearmen,hurried off with such speed, that he soon interposed his force betweenthe enemy and the castle. The English thus interrupted, resolved to reachthe castle by trampling down the little band with a single charge, andfor this purpose came on with loosened rein. This contempt of footsoldiers, which was common to the chivalry of the period, cost them dear,for Randolph causing his men to place themselves in a ring, back to back,with their spears pointing outward, presented an impenetrable hedge tothe enemy, through which they were unable to ride. Still, the appearanceof that charge, as seen from the Scottish army, was so terrible, and thelittle phalanx was so eclipsed by the throng of cavaliers that surroundedand seemed to tread it under foot, that Sir James Douglas could endurethe sight no longer, and cried to the king, 'Ah, sir! the Earl of Morayis in danger unless he is aided: with your leave, therefore, I will speedto his rescue.' 'No,' replied the king, 'you shall not stir a foot forhim: whether he may win or lose, I cannot alter my plan of battle.' ButDouglas was not to be thus silenced. 'I may not stand by,' he impetuouslyexclaimed, 'when I can bring him aid, and therefore, with your leave, Iwill assuredly help him or die with him!' Having extorted from the king areluctant assent, he hastened to the aid of his rival; but before hecould reach the spot, he saw that the Scottish phalanx was stillunbroken, while the English cavalry were reeling in disorder, and hadalready lost some of their bravest. On seeing this, Douglas cried to hisparty, 'Halt! our friends will soon be victorious without our help; letus not therefore lessen their glory by sharing it!' His prediction wasaccomplished, for Randolph and his band so bestirred themselves, that theEnglish were broken and chased off the field, while the earl, with theloss of only one yeoman, returned to his companions.


In the great battle that followed, by which the independence of Scotlandwas secured, the master-mind and towering form of the Bruce are sopre-eminent over every part of the field, that no room is left for meanermen. On this account we cannot discover the gallant Randolph amidst thedust and confusion of the strife, where he no doubt performed the officeof a gallant man-at-arms, as well as a wise and prompt captain. Hefigures, indeed, in Barbour, where, as leader of the left wing, heresisted the shock of the English cavalry, in which the enemy chieflyrested their hopes, and kept his ground so gallantly, although his troopslooked 'as thai war plungyt in the se,' that


'Quha sa had sene thaim that day,
I trow forsuth that thai suld say
That thai suld do thair deiver wele,
Swa that thair fayis suld it felle.'


His name next appears in the parliament held at Ayr on the 26th of April,1315, when an act was passed for the succession to the crown of Scotland.On this occasion it was ordained, that should the king or his brother,Edward Bruce, die during the minority of the heirs male of their bodies,'Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, should be guardian of the heir, and ofthe kingdom, until the major part of the states should hold the heir fitto administer the government in his own person.' In an important eventthat occurred only one month afterwards�the invasion of the Scots intoIreland, for the purpose of driving the English out of that island, andplacing Edward Bruce upon its throne�Randolph was one of the principalleaders of the expedition, and, as such, was repeatedly employed inbringing over reinforcements from Scotland. Three years afterwards(1318), while Bruce was laying siege to Berwick, Spalding, one of thecitizens, who had been harshly treated by the governor of Berwick,offered, by letter written to a Scottish nobleman, to betray upon acertain night the post upon which he was appointed to mount guard. Thislord, unwilling to act in so important a matter upon his ownresponsibility, brought the letter to the king. 'You did well,' saidBruce, 'that you revealed this to me, instead of to Randolph or toDouglas, for you would thus have offended the one whom you did not trust.Both of them, however, shall aid you in this adventure.' The rival pairwere accordingly enlisted for the purpose, and under their joint effortsthe important town of Berwick was taken in a few hours.


The loss of Berwick was so disastrous to the English, as it furnished anopen door to Scottish invasion, that they made every effort to recoverit; and for this purpose they laid siege to it in such force, and with acamp so well fortified, that to assail them would have been a perilousadventure. Bruce, therefore, resolved to withdraw them by an invasion ofEngland, and for this purpose sent Randolph and Douglas, at the head of15,000 soldiers, who penetrated through the West Marches, wastedYorkshire, and attempted to carry off the queen of. Edward II., at thattime residing near York, whom they meant to keep as a hostage for theirretention of Berwick. But, unluckily for these heroes� and more unluckilyby far for her husband, to whom her bondage would have been ablessing�the queen escaped when she was almost within their toils. Abattle followed soon after, in which the English, under the command ofthe Archbishop of York, were routed at Mitton, near Borough-Bridge, inthe North Riding of Yorkshire, with great slaughter; and such was thenumber of priests who accompanied the standard of the archbishop, andfell on this occasion, that the Scots derisively termed it the 'Chapterof Mitten.' This event raised the siege of Berwick, and although theEnglish army on its way homeward endeavoured to intercept the Scots,Randolph and Douglas eluded them, and returned in safety to Scotland.Another expedition into England, in which the pair were engaged under theleading of Bruce himself, occurred in 1322, or three years after thevictory at Mitton. On this occasion the Scots almost succeeded, by aforced march, in capturing Edward II. himself, at the monastery ofBilaud, in Yorkshire; and although he escaped with difficulty to York, itwas after leaving all his baggage and treasure in the hands of thepursuers. During this campaign Bruce resolved to attack the English camp,which was so completely fortified that it could only be reached, as wassupposed, by a narrow pass. This pass Douglas undertook to force, andRandolph generously left his own command to serve as volunteer under him.The English gallantly defended this entrance to the camp; but while theirattention was thus wholly occupied, Bruce, who was skilled in mountainwarfare, turned their position in the rear by a body of Highlanders andIslesmen, who scaled the precipices, and unexpectedly came down upon theEnglish while they were fully occupied with Randolph and Douglas infront.


The Earl of Moray was now to combat the enemy upon a new field of battle,and with very different weapons, in the capacity of envoy to the court ofRome, by which his sovereign had been excommunicated for the murder ofComyn, and where envoys from England were busily employed in stirring upthe pontiff against the Scots. It was a strange match, where anilliterate soldier had to confront a conclave�a blunt straightforwardScot to wage a controversy with Italian cunning and finesse�and it was astill stranger result that the ultramontane, the barbarian, the man ofThule, should have had the best of it. Perhaps the College of Cardinalsthought it impossible that such a person could know anything of the'trick of fence' in a political conflict, and therefore did not think itworth while to 'lie at their old ward.' Be that as it may, Randolphmanaged the negotiation so wisely and dexterously, that in spite of theevil odour under which his master�s reputation suffered at the papalcourt, and in spite of the intervention of wealthy powerfulEngland�compared with which the interests of Scotland were of littleprice at Rome�the pope accorded to Bruce a temporary absolution, byrefusing the request of his enemies to ratify and publish, in due form,the sentence of excommunication�accorded to the Scots the right ofelecting their own bishops, although they had been accused of despisingthe authority of the church, slaughtering ecclesiastics, and subjectingthem to capital trial and punishment, and showing, on not a fewoccasions, a strong leaning towards heresy�and gave Bruce himself thetitle of KING, thus recognizing his right to rule as a legitimatesovereign, notwithstanding his ecclesiastical offences, the claims of thehouse of Comyn to the Scottish throne, and the still more formidablepretensions of Edward II. himself, as lord paramount of Scotland. Afterhaving suffered these concessions to be extracted from him, the popeseems to have been astonished at his own facility; and he wroteaccordingly to the king of England an apologetic letter, in which hefully stated the inducements presented to him by the Scottish envoy. Thismissive is a most incontestable proof of the sagacity of Randolph, andshows that he was as fitted to excel in diplomacy as in war.


After having accomplished the emancipation of Scotland, the great workfor which he had lived, and toiled, and suffered, Robert Bruce,prematurely worn out by his heroic exertions, and languishing under anincurable disease, retired to a castle on the banks of the Clyde, tospend in peace the few days that might be allotted him, and prepare forhis departure. Still it was necessary, for the purpose of securing theadvantages he had already won, to continue the war against England, untilthe independence of his country was fully recognized by the latter. Thiswas the more necessary, as Edward III. had now succeeded to the Englishthrone, and, although only sixteen years old, was already impatient towin his spurs, and giving promise that he might become as formidable afoe to Scotland as his grandfather, Edward I., had been. Bruce,therefore, from his sick-bed, dictated the plan of a formidable invasioninto England, and intrusted the management of it to Randolph and Douglas,upon whose fitness for the under taking he could now confidently rely,for hitherto they had been his right and left arms during the course ofthe eventful war. Seldom, indeed, have two military rivals been socompletely at one in their joint undertakings, so that what the wisdom ofthe one could plan, the daring courage of the other was fully ready toexecute. In this respect Randolph, who was the chief leader of theenterprise, appears to have wonderfully changed from that fiery youngknight of Strahdon, who joined in the hot chase against his uncle in thewilds of Galloway, and afterwards, when taken prisoner, had reproachedhim to his beard for having recourse to delays and stratagems, instead ofhazarding all upon an open field. His wisdom was as conspicuous throughthe whole of this singular campaign, as the daring valour and chivalrousdeeds of the Douglas. Into the particulars of the campaign itself we donot enter, as these have been fully detailed in another part of thiswork. [See Sir James Douglas.] After the pair had wrought fearful havoc,defied the whole chivalry of England, and shifted their ground so rapidlythat they could not be overtaken, or intrenched themselves so skilfullythat they could not be attacked, they returned to Scotland unmolested,and laden with plunder. The blow they had dealt on this occasion was soheavy, that England, wearied with so disastrous a strife, succumbed to atreaty of peace, which was ratified in a parliament held at Northamptonin April, 1328. The conditions were glorious to Scotland, for by thesethe independence of the kingdom was recognized, and all the advantagesthat Edward I. had won with so much toil and expense, were renounced andrelinquished; and, if not honourable, they were absolutely necessary forEngland, whose treasures were exhausted, and her people dispirited bydefeat, while her councils, controlled by a profligate queen and herminion, promised to end in nothing but ruin and shame.


Only a year after this event, by which Bruce�s utmost hopes wererealized, he breathed his last, at Cardross, surrounded by the faithfulwarriors who had partaken of his victories, as well as his trials andcares. His dying testament, which he gave on this occasion, for thefuture protection of the kingdom, as well as the commission which heintrusted to the 'good Lord James,' to carry his heart to the holysepulchre, are matters familiar to every reader of Scottish history. Bythe act of settlement, passed in 1315, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray,became regent of the kingdom during the minority of his young cousin,David II.


On entering upon the duties of the regency, the Earl of Moray showedhimself not only an able but strict and stern justiciary. In such asituation, indeed, severity to the criminal was true clemency to societyat large, in consequence of the wild insecurity which so protracted awarfare had occasioned. The strictness with which he enforced the laws,gives us not only a strange picture of the state of society in general,but the nature of Scottish legislation since the days of Malcolm Canmore.Minstrels and players, who often made their profession a cover for everykind of license, he prohibited from wandering about the country, undersevere penalties. If any one assaulted a traveller, or any public officerwhile in the discharge of his duty, he made it lawful for any man to killthe offender. To prevent robberies, and promote a feeling of securityamong the industrious, he made a law that the countrymen should leavetheir iron tools and plough-gear in the field, and that they should notshut their houses nor stalls at night. If anything was stolen, the losswas to be repaired by the sheriff of the county, and the sheriff was tobe reimbursed by the king; and the king was to be indemnified out of thegoods of the robbers when they were taken. To insure the due execution ofthe laws, he also held justice-aires, travelling for this purpose overthe whole country; and while his sentences were severe, and oftenmeasured by the mere purpose of the criminal, whether it had succeeded ornot, prompt execution was certain to follow. Thus, at a justice-courtwhich he held at Wigton, a man complained at his tribunal that an ambushwas placed in a neighbouring wood for the purpose of murdering him, butthat happily he escaped it, and now claimed protection. Randolphimmediately sent to the place, where the men in ambush were arrested, andhad them forthwith executed, as if they had committed the murder. Onanother occasion, he showed an instance of boldness in vindicating theclaims of natural justice, in defiance of ecclesiastical immunities, uponwhich few in England, or even in Europe, whether magistrate or king,would have dared to venture. A man having slain a priest, hadsubsequently passed over to Rome, where, after confession of his offence,and full performance of penance, he received clerical absolution. Beingthus, as he thought, rectus in curia, he ventured back to Scotland, as ifevery penalty had been liquidated, and, in an evil hour for himself,ventured into the presence of Randolph. while the latter was holding ajustice-court at Inverness. The quick eye of the earl detected theculprit, who was immediately arrested, and placed on trial for themurder. The man pleaded that the person he had slain was a priest, not alayman; and that for this he had received the absolution of the church,whose subject the priest was. But this was not enough for Randolph; thepriest, he said, was a Scottish subject and king�s liege-man,irrespective of his clerical office; and, therefore, as the murderer of aScottish subject, the culprit was adjudged to suffer the full penalty ofthe law.


Although a perpetual peace had been ratified between Scotland andEngland, the injuries each country had received were too recent, and theclaims for compensation were too numerous and unreasonable, to give hopethat it would be lasting. Scarcely, therefore, had Randolph held theregency for three years, when certain English nobles, who weredisappointed in the recovery of their Scottish estates, adopted the causeof Baliol as their pretext for breaking the treaty of Northampton, andmade formidable preparations to invade Scotland by sea. In consequence ofthis intelligence, Randolph assembled an army, and marched toColbrandspath, expecting the invasion would be made by land; but as soonas he learned that the enemy had embarked at Ravenshire in Holderness, heturned his course northwards, to be ready for the assailants at whateverpoint they might land in the Forth. But on reaching Musselburgh, his lastmarch was ended. For some time past he had been afflicted with thatexcruciating disease, the stone, and he suddenly died on the 20th ofJuly, 1332, in the midst of his political anxieties and warlikepreparations. Never, indeed, has Scotland�so often harassed with minorityand interregnum�possessed, either before or afterwards, such adeputy-sovereign, with the single exception of his noble namesake ofafter centuries, that Earl of Moray who was called 'the good regent.'Randolph�s death was the commencement of heavy woes for Scotland. Fromthe suddenness of his departure, and its disastrous consequences, it wassuspected that the invaders, who had no hope of success as long as helived, had caused him to be removed by poison; but the incurable natureof the malady under which he died sufficiently accounts for his decease.
GEDCOM File : David Peter Family6.ged

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Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray ca 1250-1332



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