Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Hexham Documents

The names of William Wallace and Andrew Moray appear in the 'Hexham documents', which were signed by the ‘Commanders of the army of the Kingdom of Scotland’ on the 7th of November, 1297.

Enough has been written about William Wallace to fill up an entire library, never mind the odd book. However, what is odd is that not over much has been written about his partner in resistance Andrew Moray. Whilst Wallace was wreaking havoc in southern Scotland, resisting the deprecations of the invading English, Moray was doing very much the same in the north. By the time of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, in which both men jointly commanded the victorious Scottish army, Moray had reclaimed all Scotland north of the Forth and recaptured most all of its strongholds, with the exception of Stirling Castle. Stirling Bridge was a great victory for the Scots, but it was to prove a personal tragedy for Moray, for he was wounded in the fighting.

According to Fordun in ‘The Scotichronicon’, Andrew de Moray was found after the Battle of Stirling Bridge “lying amongst the slain, grievously wounded”. He was most probably taken from the battlefield to the nearby Cambuskenneth Abbey for immediate treatment. It is also widely believed and quite probable that Moray recovered sufficiently in order to be present at Haddington on the 11th of October, 1297, for that was when and where he and Wallace ‘signed’ those famous letters, which were dispatched to the Merchants of Lübeck and Hamburg – represented today by the surviving exemplar; the so-called ‘Lübeck Letter’. Signed, in that context, is a slightly misleading word, for what passed as a signature in those days was an individual’s seal, made of wax and showing his heraldic symbol or arms. The seals of both Wallace and Moray were attached to the letters sent to Hamburg and Lübeck.

Exactly a week after sealing and sending the letters to those two Hanseatic League towns, the Scots invaded England. A month later and once again, Wallace and Moray were writing letters. There names and seals were affixed to a protection issued to the Monks of the Monastery of Hexham in Northumberland. According to the ‘Chronicle’ of Walter of Guisborough, their first letter begins with a familiar greeting; “Andreas de Moravia and Willelmus Wallensis, Commanders of the Army of the Kingdom of Scotland, in the name of the Lord John, by God’s grace illustrious King of Scotland, by consent of the Community of that Realm, giving greeting to all of that Realm to whom the present letter shall come.” And it continues with a declaration of protection for the Monks; “we have duly received into the firm peace and protection of the King and of ourselves the Prior and Monastery of Hexham” and a warning to leave the poor Friars be; “Therefore we strictly forbid anyone to presume to inflict on them, in their persons, lands, or belongings, any ill, interference, injury, or hurt, on pain of incurring full forfeiture to the King himself; or to cause the death of them, or of any one of them, on pain of loss of life and limb”. That letter was sealed on the 7th of November, 1297.

The Commanders of the Army of the Kingdom of Scotland wrote a further letter on that same day. The evidence of the seals of both men having been attached to the ‘Hexham Documents’ of the 7th of November is taken to indicate that Moray, as well as Wallace, was present in the English town on that day. It is generally believed that he had to have been physically present at the time in order for his seal to have been applied to the documents. To skeptics or truth seekers, or scoundrels seeking to denigrate the achievements of Wallace and Moray, the evidence is presented as being merely circumstantial. The doubters suggest or even claim that Moray was never present at Hexham, let alone Haddington. They make their assertions, based on contradictory evidence about the death of Moray.

Some of that evidence stems from a formal inquisition into the affairs of Andrew Moray’s uncle, Sir William Moray of Bothwell. Sir William had held extensive lands in Lanarkshire and at Lilleford in Lincolnshire, and he was known as ‘le riche’ due to his extensive personal wealth. However, he had died in poverty in England and the inquest was held in Berwick in November of 1300. In those proceedings, it was determined that Andrew Moray had been “slain at Stirling against the King”. Further evidence in support of that view is claimed from the fact that no recognised chronicle source places Moray at Hexham. Indeed, Walter of Guisborough's chronicle, which contains a detailed account of the Scottish invasion of northern England in late 1297, makes it clear that it was led by Wallace. The final piece of evidence is, in actual fact, simply a lack of evidence, namely that after Hexham (whether or not Moray was present), there is no further extant historical record of any signing and sealing activity by Moray.

Assuming that Moray was wounded, rather than killed, at Stirling Bridge; if it makes sense for him to have accompanied Wallace into England, it stands to reason that his injuries would have prevented him taking part in any fighting. That being the case, it is not surprising that Walter has nothing to say of Moray’s activities and instead exclusively focuses on Wallace, who was causing the damage and destruction. The big debate should be whether or not Moray accompanied Wallace, not whether he was still alive at that time. Moray was undoubtedly in a weakened state from his wounds and it is certain that, by mid-November, he was dead. Facts are scarce, but it is known that his body was taken north to the Cathedral in Fortrose. Let’s say that he was not killed at Stirling Bridge, but was mortally wounded and survived until around the 10th of November, 1297. Does it not make sense for Wallace to have felt entitled to include his co-Commander’s name on all official documents, whether or not he was physically present, but only as long as Moray remained alive?

It has also been suggested that Wallace was compelled to continue to issue documents jointly, because of the Scottish feudal elite, whose political intrigues may otherwise have been directed at regaining their power, which Wallace had ‘usurped’. The reasoning is that, once Wallace was knighted and appointed as Guardian of Scotland, some time prior to in March, 1298, he had no further need of the ‘protection’ of Moray’s name. Make up your own mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment