Margaret, commonly called by historians the Maiden of Norway, died at Orkney, on her way to Britain, where she was to have been crowned successor to her grandfather Alexander III. of scotland. Upon her death there was much agitation in the kingdom, and many competitors sprang up for the Crown. But of all those who laid in their claims, the rights of Robert Bruce and John Balliol1 appeared to be the most worthy of investigation and support. On the side of one or other of these opponents were the people of Scotland generally arranged. As the contest was violent, and not likely to brought to a speedy issue, it was resolved to submit the whole business to the decision of Edward I., of England. He accepted of the offer with much pleasure, and took that opportunity of confusion, uncertainty, and terror, to have himself proclaimed Lord Paramount of Scotland; and finding Balliol not unwilling to acknowledge this su premacy, he decided the contest in his favour. But Edward soon hurled him from the throne, under the pretence that he had only put the septre into his hands to be swayed in trust. The troops of the English monarch soon over-ran many of the most important districts of this kingdom; and in triumph carried to Westminster the stone of Scone, which was made somewhat in the form of a chair, in which the Kings of Scotland had been in use to be seated at the time of their coronation.
In this season of national dejection and dismay, appeared William Wallace, of an ancient but at that time an obscure family.2 He lifted up the standard of liberty, and many flocked around the signal. But still there not a few, who through envy or fear would notjoin the patriots. But Wallace and his adherents prevailed. They fought and were successful. They drove the English beyond the borders, and entered the countries in the north of Edward's kingdom.
When the King of England was informed of these events, he returned from the continent where he had been with an army; and marching into Scotland he advanced with victorious bands through the country, meeting with little resistance till he came to Falkirk.
Having come within view of the Scotch army, they saw them drawn up in battle array, somewhat more than half a mile north from Falkirk. Before this time many persons of eminence and power had joined the party of Wallace. Of those who were present with him on the occasion now under review, the following names are the chief of those which have been preserved on record; John Comyn, or Cuming, df Badenoch, the younger; Sir John Stewart of Bonkill, and not of Bute, as tradition has handed it down. This gentleman was brother to the Steward of Scotland, from whom the sirname of Stewart, or Stuart, was taken. To these we must add Sir John Graham3 of Abercorn or Dundas; and Macduff, the uncle of the Earl of Fife4.
Wallace had arranged his infantry in four bodies, of a circular form, with the convex side towards the enemy; the archers formed a line between the circles; and the cavalry were placed a little distance in the rear. The strength of Edward's army consisted of cavalry, which were drawn up in three lines; and the third which was intended to be kept as acorps of reserve, was commanded by the King himself. Nothing being said of the manner in which the English infantry were disposed, we are naturally led to believe, that they were not numerous.
A morass,which was in front of the Scotch army, but is now drained by the canal, prevented the troops of Edward from attacking the Scotch in front; but wheeling to the right and left, they flanked them on both sides, and the carnage was dreadful. Stuck with a panic by the fall of Graham, Stewart and Macduffl and pressed by the well appointed cavalry of England, they were compelled, after a brave resistance, to abandon the conflict, and leave the victory in the hands of Edward.
Sir John Graham and Sir John Stewart were both buried in the churchyard of Falkirk. The stone which was laid on the grave of Sir John Graham had some sculpture upon it, which the hand of time was fast obl iterating. At length another stone was erected with decorations, and an epitaph, the whole being supported by pillars. When the letters of the inscription were nearly defaced, another of similar kind was put over it; and when it also had suffered considerably by the lapse of time, the late William Graliam of Ainh, Esq., erected a third, after the same manner as the two former. The inscriptions are as follows:-
Mente manuque potens, Vallae fidus Achates, Conditur hic Gramus, hello intersectus ab Anglis.
Heir lyes Sir John the Grame, baith wight and wise,
Ane of the chiefs who rescewit Scotland thrise,
Ane better knight not to the world was lent,
Nor was gude Grame of truth and hardiment.
Not far from the tomb of Sir John Graham lie the ashes of Sir John Stewart. The place of rest is but a few feet from the east end of the church, and near the south comer of it. Though Sir John was nearly allied to the progenitors of the house of Stewart, whose kindred blood flows in the veins of many illustrious families of Great Britain, and also in not few of the princes and potentates of the eartli, yet his grave is not marked out, except by a stone without a name, and is the segment of an octagon.
Much has been said with respect to discontents, which are reoresented as having subsisted among the leaders of the Scotch army on the eve of the battle. The peevish departure of the well-tried patriots, Wallace and Cuming, cannot be received but upon the most authentic documents. Jarrings might have prevailed among a number of leaders, where the subordination of regular government was not observed; but from the character of the men, and the circumstances of the case, no fault seems to have been committed which was either disgraceful to themselves or hurtful to the issue ofthe day5
In the reign of Charles I., the Earl of Lanark, who was afterwards the 2nd Duke ofRamilton, together with aperson of the name of Munro, being friendly to the King, attacked with their troops, near Stirling, the army which had been raise by the Marquis ofArgyle, and the Earls ofCassilis, Eglintoun, and Loudon. The former were repulsed, and fled to Falkirk; but a temporary accommodation stopt for a time the effusion of human blood.
In the battle of Dunbar, Cromwell was successful, and he marched forward to give Charles II battle, who was encamped with his army at the Torwood in this neighbourhood, and had then been proclaimed King of Scotland. On his route, Cromwell stormed and took Callendar House, where Charles had a garrison.
The Earl of Arran, when Governor of Scotland, did with the consent of his party, agree to give Mary, the young Queen of Scots, in marriage to Prince Edward, the heir to the English throne. But having at Callendar house met with Cardinal Beaton and the Earl of Murray, leaders of the opposite party, a negociation was entered into, which broke the matrimonial treaty.
It appears, that Mary Queen of Scots visited Lord Livingston at Callendar house, anno 15656.
In the year 1745, when the troops of Great Britain were in Flanders supporting the house of Austria against the arms of France, the grandson of James II, who at the nevolution in this country had taken refuge at the Court of Versailles, asserted his father's pretensions to the throne of these kingdoms. This measure was, without doubt, agreeable to the French Court, as it would evidently be the means of withdrawing our forces from the continent. Perhaps it was even suggested by them; and we know they gave a small supply of money and arms.
Charles, flushed with the hopes of power, eminence, and royalty sailed from a port in Brittany on the 15th of July and in a short time landed in the Highlands of Scotland. Ther he instantly drew together a considerable number of partizans, and marched directly to Edinburgh. He got possession of the town of Edinburgh, lodged in the palace of Holyrood house and soon afterwards engaged at Preston, near Musselburgh, a few of the King's troops who were under the command of Sir John Cope. Here he was victorious; and in the anxious expectation of future success, marched into England, as far south as Derby by way of Carlisle. Though he had many friends near the road by which he went, yet prudence permitted but a few of them to follow his fortune. Disappointed in his views he returned by Glasgow marched to Stirling, and laid siege to the castle. By this time a considerable number of the King's troops were assembled near Edinburgh, commande by Lieutenant- General Hawley. He marched for the relief of Stirling; and having stopped to refresh the troops at Falkirk, he camped with them between the glebe and the field where Sir John Graham fell in defence of liberty and his country.
On the 17th of January, 1746, the alarm was given that the Prince's followers were advancing by the Torwood. By different means they attempted to deceive the army of the King. They left a standard at the place where they had halted on their way from Bannockburn, which, being seen at Falkirk, would they supposed, hush their opponents into a temporary security. They also sent a small detachment by the north side of the river Carron that it might appear, if there was any alarm, that they intended to attack the King's camp on the left; but, in the mean time, the principal body of their forces were led straight forward, and crossed the ford of Carron, at Dunipace, about the distance of three miles to the westward.
No sooner was this discovered than the drums at Falkirk camp beat to battle.
But the General not being present, they were detained so long before his arrival, that the enemy had gained an eminence, which is about a mile south-west of the town. The way thither being rugged, the cannon could not be dragged up time enough for the action; swampy ground rendered the cavalry almost useless, and a tremendous storm of wind and rain blowing directly against the face of the national troops, added to the unfortunate circumstances of the day. Notwithstanding the bravery of Major-General Husk and other officers the King's forces were worsted; many were killed, several taken prisoners, and the rest fled to Linlithgow.
Among the persons of rank who were left dead on the field were Sir Robert Munro of Foulis, Bart., and his brother Duncan, a physician, Sir Robert, in the retreat was surrounded by the enemy, and after a desperate resistanceyielded to the stroke of death. The physician, from the affection which he had for his brother left the peace and sweets of retired life and followed him through the din of arms and the dangers of battle. In the discharge ofthis amiable office he fell a victim to kindness and brotherly attachment. They were buried beside each other in the Churchyard of Falkirk; a superb monument was erected to their memory, and the circumstances of their death are recorded by suitable inscriptions. The number of force which were led to action that day was about 6000 of the royal party and somewhat more of those in the interest of the Prince; but the true amount of his troops has not been exactly ascertained.
Hawley found means to vindicate himself to his Sovereign but the impressions of his conduct which remain here are by no means favourable to his character as a General entrusted with an important cornmand. if we credit report, he was dining that day at Callemdar House, with Lady Kilmarnock, whose Lord had then declared himself infavour of the young adventurer, and was at that time actually engaged in his services somewhere in the island.
The action began about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and by the evening the Prince's army were in possession of the town of Falkirk. One of the sons of Macdonell of Glengary, when walking in the principal street, soon after he had arrived from the field of battle, was shot from a window by a musket ball. He did not instantly die but having languished a few days, he expired. His death was accidental, for it was occasioned by one of his own men, whose gun had missed fire during the engagement, and not being apprised of this circumstance, while he was cleaning his piece, the shot went off at the expense of a life, which he would have done much to save. But such was the violence, zeal and distrust which prevailed, that he was found guilty, and shot in the neighbourhood. Soon after the battle of Falkirk, the Prince's troops were vanquished and dispersed at Culloden. Thus tranquility was restored to the nation; and trust that the horrors of civil war will never again prevail in the land
1 Formerly called Robert de Brus, and John de Balliol.
2. Of Elderslie, in the county of Renfrew, which was probably at that time a part of Lanarkshire- Dalrymple's Annals, vol.1., p.286
3. Generally called in old records Sir John de Graham.
4. Dalrymple's Annals of Scotland.
5. Datrymple's Annals of Scotland, Vol.1., pages 262 and 263.
6. Stuart's History of Scotland, Vol.1., p98.