Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/103

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1296 A.D.]

The Reign of John de Balliol.


notice, so deeply has it stained the reputation of Edward I. In the whole course of the War of Independence there was enacted nothing to approach the horror of it.

The King of England crossed the Tweed below Coldstream on March 28th; the Bishop of Durham crossing with another contingent lower down, at Norham. An attack by the English fleet had, some days previous, been repulsed by the people of Berwick with a loss, says Fordun, of no fewer than eighteen ships burnt, and their crews slain.

The combined English forces having been drawn up under the walls of Berwick, the town was summoned to surrender. Edward waited twenty-four hours for an answer; when it came, it was a proud refusal. He then withdrew towards Coldstream, where he encamped. As was customary before an important engagement, a grand parade was held for the creation of knights. Henry de Percy was the most distinguished of those so honoured on this occasion. The Admiral of the English fleet, which was lying off Berwick, seeing the army in battle array, concluded that an immediate assault had been ordered, and prepared to co-operate. Entering the river, his foremost vessel went aground, as did three others. All were burnt by the Scots, and the crews were killed.

This was followed by the storming of the town by the English. It is said that the assailants were greatly infuriated by derisive verses shouted at them from the ramparts. Of these the various versions preserved seem, if anything, deficient in salt, but