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The Great Historic Families of Scotland 

Search for all reference to Carrick


page 23

In consequence of the advanced age of his father, Robert II., and the physical infirmity of his brother, the Earl of Carrick, afterwards Robert III., the Estates deemed it necessary in 1388 to appoint the Earl of Fife and Menteith Guardian of the Kingdom, and he was virtually its ruler thenceforth to the end of his life. In the year 1398 he was created Duke of Albany, at the same time that the King's eldest son, the Earl of Carrick and Athole, was made Duke of Rothesay. Albany was crafty and ambitious, but he was possessed of great administrative ability, and his pacific policy secured for Scotland under his sway a happy exemption from those wars which  for many years had exhausted the resources of the country and retarded all social improvement. His administration was undoubtedly popular; the people regarded him as their friend, the nobles were friendly to him, and his liberality to the Church procured for him the grateful eulogies of the clergy. Wyntoun, the Prior of St. Serf's, in his 'Metrical Chronicle,' descants in glowing terms on the Regent's goodly person and lofty stature; his strength, wisdom, chastity, sobriety, and affability; his piety, hatred of Lollards and heretics, and liberality to the Church. He has, however, in various ways received scant justice at the hands of the later historians of Scotland, and has long lain under the evil repute of having been accessory to the murder of his nephew, the dissolute and ill-fated Duke of Rothesay. Sir Walter Scott's romance of the 'Fair Maid of Perth' has contributed not a little to deepen the unfavourable impression formed of Albany's conduct in this matter. Lord Hailes, after quoting the remission drawn up under the royal seal granted to Robert, Duke of Albany, and Archibald, Earl of Douglas, for the part they took in the apprehension of the prince, saysó

page 38

At the encounter between the small body of men accompanying the King and the MacDougals of Lorn, at Dalry in Strathfillan, Douglas was wounded, and Bruce freed himself only by his great personal strength and skill in the use of his weapons from a simultaneous attack made upon him by three of the followers of the Lord of Lorn. It was Douglas who discovered the small leaky boat in which the remnant of Bruce's followers were ferried, two at a time, over Loch Lomond. He spent the subsequent winter with the King on the island of Rachrin. On the approach of spring he made a successful descent on the island of Arran, and succeeded in capturing a large quantity of provisions, clothing, and arms. Shortly after, while Bruce was engaged in an effort to wrest his patrimonial domains in Carrick from the English, Sir James repaired secretly into Douglasdale, which was held by Lord Clifford, surprised the English garrison on Palm Sunday (1306-7), took possession of Douglas Castle, destroyed all the provisions, staved the casks of wine and other liquors, put his prisoners to the sword, flung their dead bodies on the stores which he had heaped up in a huge pile, and then set fire to the castle. This shocking deed, which we may hope has been exaggerated by tradition, was no doubt intended to revenge the atrocious cruelties which Edward had perpetrated on Bruce's brothers and adherents, and especially the death of Douglas's faithful follower, Dickson, who was killed in a conflict in the church. It was long commemorated in the traditions of the country by the name of the 'Douglas larder.' Sir James continued for some time after this exploit to lurk among the fastnesses of Douglasdale, for 'he loved better,' he said, 'to hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak.'

page 63

Although the Earl had now been deprived of the office of Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom, James, unwilling to come to an open rupture with his too-powerful subject, appointed him Warden of the West and Middle Marches, and confirmed to him and his descendants, by deed of entail, the earldoms of Wigton and Douglas. But these acts of kindness, which he probably regarded as indications of weakness and fear, only emboldened the Earl to set at defiance both the restraints of law and the authority of his sovereign. He attempted to assassinate his old enemy Crichton, who had been restored to the Chancellorship; he hanged Sir John Herries of Terregles, who had refused to become his ally, in contempt of a positive order of the King requiring his release; and he beheaded Maclellan of Bomby, in circumstances shockingly cruel and aggravating.With an evident view to an open insurrection against the royal authority, 'he sought and persuaded all men under his opinion and servitude, and in special the gentlemen of Galloway, with Coile, Carrick, and Cunninghame, and all other parties that were near adjacent unto him, desyreing them daylie to ride and goe with him as his own household and servantis, and to assist him in all thingis whatsomevir he had to doe, whether it was ryght or wrong, with the King or against him.'


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