Randolph, Thomas (d.1332) (DNB00)

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RANDOLPH, Sir THOMAS, first Earl of Moray (d. 1332), companion of Robert Bruce and regent of Scotland, was the only son of Thomas Randolph, lord of Stratnith (Nithsdale), by Lady Isabel Bruce, eldest daughter of Robert, earl of Carrick, and sister of King Robert Bruce. The father was in 1266 sheriff of Roxburgh, and from 1266 to 1278 great chamberlain of Scotland. He played a prominent part in the politics of the time. The son, under the name of Randul de Fyz, was present with his father at Norham in December 1292, when Baliol swore fealty to Edward I of England for the crown of Scotland. After the murder of the Red Comyn by Robert Bruce in February 1305–6, he joined Bruce, and was present at his coronation at Scone in April 1306. He was, however, taken prisoner, when Bruce was surprised and routed at Methven by the Earl of Pembroke in June of the same year. On 24 July an order was sent from Edward of England to keep him in sure ward in the castle of Inverkip until the king himself should arrive at Carlisle or Perth or beyond the mountains (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, vol. ii. No. 1807). It was probably to save his life that he agreed to swear fealty to Edward, and take up arms against his uncle; while, no doubt, his knowledge of Bruce's habits and haunts proved of some service to the English in their efforts to secure the Scottish king. Bruce was hunted through the fastnesses of Carrick by bloodhounds; and on one occasion in 1307, when Bruce was all but captured by the Earl of Pembroke, Randolph succeeded in taking his banner. In 1308, however, Randolph, while on a raiding expedition with a band of Englishmen commanded by him and Adam de Gordon, was surprised and captured by Sir James Douglas in a fortalice on the water of Lynne a little above Peebles. On being brought into the presence of Bruce, Randolph adopted a defiant attitude, and taunted his uncle with his inability to meet the English in fair fight, and with having recourse to cowardly ambuscades. Bruce terminated the interview by ordering him into close imprisonment; but, having subsequently made his submission to Bruce, Randolph was gradually received into high favour, and became the most trusted friend and adviser of the Scottish king, while his fame as a warrior vied with that of his companion in arms, Sir James Douglas. Some time after his submission he was created by Bruce Earl of Moray and Lord of Man and Annandale, receiving at the same time grants of estates corresponding to his dignities. As a consequence, however, of his alliance with Bruce, the estates which he held from the king of England were forfeited in March 1308–9 (vol. iii. No. 76), and in 1314 they were bestowed on Hugh le Despenser (ib. No. 362).

One of the most remarkable feats of Randolph was the capture, on 14 March 1313–1314, of the castle of Edinburgh, which had been in the possession of the English since its surrender to Edward I in 1296. After investing it in vain for six weeks, in the hope of reducing it by famine, Randolph was informed by a soldier, William Frank or Francis, at one time one of the English garrison of the castle, that the castle rock might be scaled by a secret path, which he himself had been accustomed to use while courting a girl of the town. Randolph resolved to accept his offer to lead the ascent, and with thirty followers succeeded, without mishap, in reaching the castle wall, which they scaled with a rope ladder. The sentinels gave the alarm, but were immediately overpowered, and the garrison, panic-stricken and ignorant of the number of their assailants, after a short conflict, in which the governor was killed, either fled or surrendered at discretion. In accordance with the policy of Bruce, the castle was immediately demolished, lest it should again fall into the hands of the English. It was probably this brilliant achievement of Randolph that led Bruce to confer on him the command of one of the main divisions of the Scottish army at Bannockburn in the following June. He was posted by Bruce on high ground at St. Ninian's, with special instructions to guard the approach to Stirling Castle, then held by the English; but on the 23rd, the day before the battle, Sir Robert Clifford, with eight hundred English horse, was seen by Bruce to be making a circuit by the low carse ground to the east so as to outflank the Scottish army, and get between them and the castle. Observing that Randolph made no movement to intercept him, Bruce rode up to him, and pointing to the English force to his left, exclaimed: ‘A rose has fallen from your chaplet.’ Deeply chagrined at his oversight, Randolph, taking with him only five hundred spearmen, hurried if possible to retrieve his error, and succeeded in placing them so as to bar Clifford's approach to the castle. He was immediately charged by Clifford, and a desperate conflict ensued. It seemed impossible that the Scottish square, surrounded on all sides by the English cavalry, could long resist their onset. Sir James Douglas therefore obtained, though with great difficulty, permission from Bruce to go to his assistance; but, by the time he reached the scene of the encounter, the English had begun to waver and fall back; and Douglas, confident that Randolph would now put them to rout, with chivalrous delicacy restrained his men from taking part in the fight, lest by his interference he should diminish the glory of so redoubtable a feat. In the great battle of the following day Randolph commanded in the centre, which bore the main brunt of the English attack.

The high esteem in which Randolph was now held by Bruce was shown by the fact that at the parliament held at Ayr on 26 April 1315 it was provided that if, after the death of Robert Bruce, or of Bruce's brother Edward, or Bruce's daughter Marjory, the heir to the crown should be a minor, Randolph should be guardian of the heir and regent of the kingdom. Shortly after the meeting of parliament, Randolph set out for Ireland along with Edward Bruce, to whom the Irish of Ulster had offered the crown of Ireland. Randolph had the chief command of six thousand troops, sent by King Robert the Bruce to support his brother's claims; and, landing at Carrickfergus on 15 May, stormed Dundalk and other towns, and defeated large combined forces of the English and Irish at Coleraine and Arscoll. Finally, however, the difficulty of obtaining provisions compelled the Scots to retire into Ulster; and in April 1316 Randolph passed over into Scotland for reinforcements. On learning how matters stood, King Robert the Bruce resolved to go in person to his brother's assistance, taking Randolph along with him. During the following campaign Randolph specially distinguished himself, and on its conclusion returned in the end of the year to Scotland with the king. The defeat and death of Edward Bruce in October 1318 put an end to the efforts to wrest Ireland from the English. His death, as well as that of Bruce's daughter, Marjory, also necessitated some new enactments in regard to the succession to the crown; and at a parliament held at Scone in December 1318 it was agreed that, in the event of the succession taking place during the minority of the heir to the kingdom, Randolph should be appointed tutor and guardian of the young prince, and failing him, Sir James Douglas.

In April 1318 Randolph and Sir James Douglas, aided by the secret co-operation of the governor, captured the town of Berwick-on-Tweed by escalade, and with a comparatively small force held it against the governor of the castle until the arrival of Bruce next day with large reinforcements, soon after which the castle also surrendered. When, in the following year, Edward II with a large army was investing Berwick, Randolph and Sir James Douglas, at the head of fifteen thousand men, entered England with the design of achieving the coup of capturing the queen of England, who had taken up her residence at York. Their design was, however, betrayed to the English by a Scottish prisoner, and, on their arrival before the city, they found that the queen and court had fled south. They were thus baffled in their main purpose, but took advantage of the opportunity to devastate all the neighbouring country; and a force of twenty thousand men, consisting largely of monks and their vassals, which had been hastily assembled to oppose them, they completely routed at Milton, near the Swale, no fewer than four thousand of the English being slain, including three hundred ecclesiastics. The news of the disaster so exasperated the English before Berwick that Edward was constrained to raise the siege, and endeavour to intercept the Scots on their return. This, however, he failed to accomplish, the rapid movements of the Scots, and their knowledge of the passes, enabling them to elude pursuit, and they arrived in Scotland laden with booty, having pillaged no fewer than eighty-four towns and villages. In November Randolph and Douglas again invaded England, and devastated Gillesland. Discouraged by his inability to cope with them and their countrymen, Edward came to terms with them, and agreed to a truce for two years. Meanwhile, emboldened by their success, the Scots resolved in 1320 to send a memorial to the pope, asserting—in the face of previous papal denunciations—the independence of Scotland. Randolph's name appeared second in the list of signatures.

It was mainly through the private diplomacy of Randolph that the Earl of Lancaster was induced in 1321 to take up arms against Edward II, it being agreed that the Scots should make a diversion in his favour by an invasion of England; but before the Scots could come to his assistance, Lancaster was defeated and taken prisoner near Pontefract. After an abortive invasion of Scotland in 1322, Edward, having collected the remains of his army, which had been weakened by famine and sorely distressed during its retreat by the attacks of Randolph and Douglas, encamped them at Byland Abbey, Yorkshire. The Scots had, however, been watching their opportunity for revenge, and, suddenly appearing in strong force, succeeded, mainly by the valour of Randolph and Douglas in forcing a narrow pass which permitted access to the enemy's position, in inflicting on the English an overwhelming defeat, Edward with the utmost difficulty making his escape to Bridlington. Thereafter the Scots continued to pursue their ravages in Yorkshire without molestation, and Edward, disheartened by their successes and by the internal dissensions with which he was threatened, agreed to negotiations for peace. Randolph was one of the three ambassadors on the Scottish side, and on 5 May 1323 a truce was concluded with England for fifteen years. Shortly afterwards, Randolph was sent on a special embassy to the pope at Avignon, and was so successful in neutralising the previous representations of the English as to obtain from the pope the acknowledgment of Bruce's independent dignity as king of Scotland. On his return journey he also visited the court of France, and arranged for the renewal of the ancient league between France and Scotland. Subsequently he took part in negotiations for a permanent peace between England and Scotland, but on the renewal of Edward's intrigues at the papal court they were broken off. In 1326 Randolph concluded at Corbeil an alliance offensive and defensive between France and Scotland, which bound each party to help the other against England; Scotland, however, not being required to carry out the engagement until the truce with England expired or was broken by England. After the deposition of Edward II, proposals were made to Scotland for a renewal of the truce, but as in the proposals Bruce's title of king was ostentatiously ignored, Bruce deemed himself absolved from the former agreement with England. Accordingly, in June 1327, Randolph and Sir James Douglas—Bruce being then incapacitated by sickness—entered the northern counties of England by Carlisle, and passed through Northumberland, burning and devastating. With the determination to overwhelm them, Edward III collected a finely equipped force of sixty thousand men; but the elaborate character of his preparations defeated his purpose. Slow and unwieldy in its movements, his formidable army was completely outmanœuvred by the lightly armed Scots, who, according to Froissart, carried no baggage but the iron girdle and bag of oatmeal trussed behind their saddle. If Edward several times succeeded in bringing them to bay, it was always in a position too formidable for attack; and at last, when almost surrounded at a wood near the Wear, called Stanhope Park, the Scots made good their escape at midnight over a morass by means of hurdles, and arrived in Scotland scatheless. So disheartened were the English with the results of the campaign that, on a renewal of hostilities by the Scots, commissioners were sent to the camp of the Scottish king at Norham with proposals for a treaty of peace, and for a marriage between Joanna, princess of England, and David, only son of Robert Bruce. The result was the treaty of peace concluded at Edinburgh on 13 March 1327–8, and ratified at a parliament held at Northampton on 4 July 1328, in which the independent dignity of Robert Bruce as king of Scotland was fully recognised.

By the treaty the chronic warfare between the two countries was for a time suspended, and during Bruce's remaining years of increasing weakness, spent in retirement at Cardross, Randolph was one of his chief companions and counsellors. Much of their time was here occupied in shipbuilding, in which Randolph, as well as Bruce, took a special interest (Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, i. passim). On the death of Bruce, 7 June 1329, Randolph became regent of the kingdom, and guardian of the young king, David II, whom he led to his coronation at Scone on 24 Nov. 1331. He fully justified his choice as regent. The acts passed during his rule testify to his enlightened love of justice; and, while vigorous in checking the feuds of rival nobles, he kept watchful guard against possible attacks from England. While the English were on the march to invade Scotland, Randolph died, 20 July 1332, according to tradition at Musselburgh. Hector Boece states that he had long suffered from the stone, and died of this disease, but this is not corroborated by the earlier chronicles. Barbour affirms that he was poisoned, Wyntoun that he was poisoned at a feast at Wemyss by the sea, and the Brevis Chronica that he was poisoned, also at Wemyss, by the machinations of Edward Balliol. This would seem to indicate that, in any case, his illness was sudden; and if he was taken ill at Wemyss, and died at Musselburgh, he was probably carried in a small vessel across the Firth of Forth to a spot near Musselburgh. The house in Musselburgh in which tradition places his death stood, until 1809, on the south side of the street, near the east port. Randolph was buried at Dunfermline (ib. i. 433).

By his wife, Isabel, only daughter of Sir John Stewart of Bonkle, with whom he obtained the barony of Garlies, Randolph had two sons and a daughter: Thomas, who succeeded him, but was killed at the battle of Dupplin, 12 Aug. 1332; John, third earl [q. v.]; and Agnes, married to Patrick, earl of Dunbar.

[Chronicles of Fordun, Wyntoun, and Froissart; Barbour's Bruce; Cal. State Papers relating to Scotland, vol. iii.; Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol. i.; Acta Parl. Scot. vol. i.; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 250–1.]

T. F. H.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.231
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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275 ii 19 Randolph, Sir Thomas, 1st Earl of Moray: for 1305 read 1305-6