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[albanach] The Spider (was: Bruce vs. Balliol)

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  • Sharon L. Krossa
    ... According to my Ph.D. supervisor (retired), there is absolutely no contemporary or even near contemporary evidence for the story. I do not know precisely
    Message 1 of 12 , Apr 12, 1999
      At 5:09 PM -0400 4/11/99, Bob & Diana Cosby wrote:
      > Also, are you aware of anywhere in print that backs up/verifies the
      >story of
      >how Robert the Bruce, while watching a spider
      >try to build a web across the mouth of the cave, came up with the
      >expression, "If
      >at first, you don't succeed, try, try again." The spider inspired him to
      >leave
      >the cave and make another attempt at Scotland's Independence, which he won, at
      >the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314? Thank you very much in advance.

      According to my Ph.D. supervisor (retired), there is absolutely no
      contemporary or even near contemporary evidence for the story. I do not
      know precisely when the myth arose, but it would appear to be long after
      Bruce's generation was dead and buried. Consider that Barbour, in his epic
      poem about the Bruce written about 50 years after Bruce's death, makes no
      mention of the spider story, and you can be sure the if Barbour had known
      about it he would have made use of such a wonderful literary device!

      Eafric neyn Ken3e
      Sharon L. Krossa, krossa@...

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    • Sharon L. Krossa
      ... I must urge caution when describing anything as feudal . I won t go into the feudalism controversy here (except to say I highly recommend Susan Reynold s
      Message 2 of 12 , Apr 12, 1999
        At 11:09 PM -0400 4/10/99, EoganOg@... wrote:
        >Balliol won out over Bruce the Competior becuase of a more direct line of
        >Royal descent under fuedal law, plain and simple (please note that "fuedal
        >law" was still, at this time, a relatively new concept in Scottish Royal
        >successions. Under the older Gaelic system, it was done quite differently,
        >which I'm sure someone on this list could explain better than I can (although
        >I can try). BTW if you are that someone, please consider this an invitation.
        >;-)

        I must urge caution when describing anything as "feudal". I won't go into
        the feudalism controversy here (except to say I highly recommend Susan
        Reynold's books "Fiefs and Vassals" to those who would like to learn more
        about why many historians, including myself, are arguing against using the
        modern construct of "feudalism"/"the feudal system" to define the Middle
        Ages) but I will mention that no particular theory/law of inheritance (for
        any lands, let alone kingdoms) is inevitible just because of the existence
        of feus and/or feudal land tenure (especially considering that the workings
        of feudal land tenure was different just about everywhere there was
        anything that could be called feudal land tenure). There were many and
        complex probable reasons why Balliol was chosen over Bruce and the
        straightforward application of any principals of law was unlikely to be
        among the formost. Further, if the standard Scottish laws of land
        inheritance of the time had been followed in the Great Cause, Balliol would
        not have been made king of the whole of Scotland but rather would have been
        awarded the title King of Scots and the kingdom divided up among the heirs
        of the daughters of David, Earl of Huntingdon (grandson of King David I)
        through whom both Bruce and Balliol were descended. (In Scottish land law
        of the time, if a person had no sons, their daughters equally divided the
        estate, with the eldest daughter inheriting the title, if any.) Indeed, at
        one stage Bruce (the competitor) argued for this result.

        What prevailed was treating a kingdom as unpartiable and male primogeniture
        with inheritance permitted through female primogeniture in generations
        where sons failed -- and male primogeniture had essentially been the custom
        in Scotland since 1097 -- in other words, for nearly 200 years by the time
        of the Great Cause in 1290-2. (Although the inheritance permitted through
        women had not been an issue and perhaps thus not even a concept for much
        that time. But that women could inherit was clearly established with the
        Maid of Norway in 1286.)

        >Regardless, Balliol's regin was but short, and he did very little to secure
        >Scotland'd independance. From the documents we have, he seemed to be willing
        >to make certain concessions to Edward, but later when he tried to exert any
        >measure of independance, simply could not stand up to Edward's intimidating
        >use of fuedal law.

        The problem was not any use of "feudal law", the problem was Edward I of
        England trying to actually act (in ways unacceptable to enough of the Scots
        who counted) on his claim of overlordship -- a claim (alternately accepted
        and denied by past Scottish kings) that went back centuries and thus long
        predates any (credible) modern historian's claim for when feudal anything
        came to Scotland.

        Scotland did not go to war because Edward I was a mean cruel guy who
        persecuted the poor Scots. They initially went to war (when John Balliol
        was still king) because Edward insisted on hearing appeals of Scottish
        court cases in England and because the Scottish nobles feared they'd be
        drafted to fight in Edward's foreign wars.** And when William Wallace rose
        up after Ballioll abdicated, and when he governed as Guardian of Scotland,
        he did so in the name of King John Balliol. What motivated Wallace and the
        others after the removal of Balliol? It's hard to know for sure, but it
        does not seem to have been because of any unusually cruel treatment of the
        Scots by Edward I -- Edward's harshness seems to have been prompted by the
        Scots' traitorous rebellion (as he saw it), rather than the rebellion being
        prompted by Edward's harshness.

        >For transcripts of said documents (along with translations), see Stones, E.
        >L. G., ed., _Anglo-Scottish Relations, 1174-1328; Some Selected Documents_.
        >Translated by E. L. G. Stone. 1965; reprint ed.; Oxford: Clarendon Press,
        >1970.

        I do recommend this book for those who want to get a flavour of what
        sources historians are working from, but I suggest reading G.W.S. Barrow's
        "Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland" for actually
        getting to grips with the events of the time (beyond what can be gained
        from reading a good general Scottish medieval history book).

        >Balliol was stripped of his title in a fairly humiliating proceedure, and
        >some time passed from when Edward tore off the Royal Arms from King John's
        >surcoat, assuming the title himself, and when Bruce the Competitor's
        >grandson, Robert the Bruce, was crowned King Robert in 1306. However, it
        >owuld not surprise me to find out that there were those, even at the height
        >of Robert's success and strength, than favoured a King from the Balliol line.
        > Who would have been the next chosen in that line after John? Anyone know
        >more about this?

        His son, Edward Balliol, who indeed did try to win the crown and did have
        supporters.

        The key to understanding this period of history is to drop kick our modern
        images of Scotland, throw out our after-the-fact knowledge of who
        eventually prevailed, read with scepticism the propaganda produced by those
        14th century Scots, ignore completely the claims motivated by modern
        Scottish nationalism, and understand that at the time it was not clear what
        the right and just choice was (indeed, can it even be said it is clear
        now?!?!). Here you had Edward I claiming he was overlord of Scotland, a
        claim acknowledged by every single competitor, including Bruce. Was it
        right to rise up against him if he was acknowledged overlord? Did not an
        overlord have the right to strip a rebellous vassal of the lands held of
        him? Even if it was right to rise up against Edward in favor of an
        independent Scotland, what right had Bruce to the crown when all had
        acknowledged Balliol king? It seems clear now that Bruce was the guy to
        follow, but that's only because we know he won. Heck, even Bruce switched
        sides several times. (And Bruce was by no means unique in this -- and there
        were often more than two sides!)

        Don't view the wars with England as a black and white issue, with clear
        good guys and bad guys or obvious lines drawn between the patriots and the
        evil empire. The real history is much more interesting than that!

        Affrick niin Ken3ocht

        ** I am, of course, over-simplifying, but this is the essence of it.
        Sharon Krossa, krossa@...
        Medieval Scotland Web Page (including information on names & clothing):
        http://www.stanford.edu/~skrossa/medievalscotland/

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      • EoganOg@aol.com
        In a message dated 4/12/99 5:40:36 PM Eastern Daylight Time, ... This reminds me of a quote by Dave Barry. . . Of course this is broad generalization, but,
        Message 3 of 12 , Apr 12, 1999
          In a message dated 4/12/99 5:40:36 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
          krossa@... writes:

          > Don't view the wars with England as a black and white issue, with clear
          > good guys and bad guys or obvious lines drawn between the patriots and the
          > evil empire. The real history is much more interesting than that!
          >
          > Affrick niin Ken3ocht
          >
          > ** I am, of course, over-simplifying, but this is the essence of it.

          This reminds me of a quote by Dave Barry. . . "Of course this is broad
          generalization, but, as if ofen the case when I make broad generalizations, I
          don't care." ;-)

          This is all very interesting. I highly reccomend Barrow as one of the
          greatest Bruce historians that we have available to us. Also interesting to
          note that the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath effectively denied that Balliol
          was a legitimate king (even if they all thought he was at the time--it did
          not serve their purpose to beleive he was in 1320), and this, in turn, made
          all agreements between him an Edward I moot and void. Ah, they rewrote
          history even then....
          Aye,
          Eo

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        • JBRMM266@aol.com
          Wasn t Balliol called Toom Tabard , ie, empty jacket, because he was so intimidated by Edward? ... eGroup home: http://www.eGroups.com/list/albanach Free
          Message 4 of 12 , Apr 17, 1999
            Wasn't Balliol called "Toom Tabard", ie, empty jacket, because he was so
            intimidated by Edward?

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          • JBRMM266@aol.com
            In a message dated 99-04-11 17:07:50 EDT, you write:
            Message 5 of 12 , Apr 17, 1999
              In a message dated 99-04-11 17:07:50 EDT, you write:

              << Also, are you aware of anywhere in print that backs up/verifies the
              story of
              how Robert the Bruce, while watching a spider try to build a web across the
              mouth of the cave, came up with the expression, "If at first, you don't
              succeed, try, try again." >>

              I've not heard the saying attributed to teh Bruce, but I have read of the
              legend of the spider, who made many attempts to spin her web thus before
              succeeding and so inspired him. One version has it that the spider saved his
              life, because some foes searching for him saw the web and concluded that
              there was no one in the cave ...

              ~Donal

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            • Sharon L. Krossa
              ... No, it was because his arms were stripped from his tabard by Edward I when he was forced to abdicate. He was never called Toom Tabard until he was no
              Message 6 of 12 , Apr 20, 1999
                At 9:06 PM -0400 4/17/99, JBRMM266@... wrote:
                >Wasn't Balliol called "Toom Tabard", ie, empty jacket, because he was so
                >intimidated by Edward?

                No, it was because his arms were stripped from his tabard by Edward I when
                he was forced to abdicate. He was never called Toom Tabard until he was no
                longer king. Barrow (in "Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of
                Scotland") relates it thus:

                "... finally at the burgh of Montrose (July 8th), he solemnly resgined his
                kingdom and royal dignity to the king of England. No detail of humiliation
                was spared. His surcoat or tabard was embroidered with a blazon of the
                royal arms. This blazon was stripped off, so that he should suffer a total
                loss of face. The act gave the Scots a merciless nickname for their
                wretched sovereign -- Toom Tabard, the empty surcoat which denoted King
                Nobody." (p. 104)

                Barrow quotes Wyntoun in a footnote 'the pelure thai tuk off hys tabart
                (Twme-Tabart he wes callyt efftyrwart').

                So the nickname was not purely metaphoric -- it was literal. (And you guys
                thought heraldry didn't matter to anyone but heralds ;-)

                Effrick
                Sharon Krossa, krossa@...
                Medieval Scotland Web Page (including information on names & clothing):
                http://www.stanford.edu/~skrossa/medievalscotland/

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