[Clan Sinclair]
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B. Roslin

The Battle of Roslin, 1303

Part 1

From: "Sinclair" <>
Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2002 17:39:12 +0200

Wha for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
--- Free-man stand, or Free-man fa',
Let him follow me!

Scots Wha Hae
— Robert Burns

Under the threat of English invasion, the people of Scotland have learned how to turn adversity to advantage. When 'The Hammer of the Scots' began to beat against the Anvil of Scottish Freedom at the Battle of Roslin, Scottish independence began a gestation that ended momentarily with the Battle of Bannockburn and the Declaration of Arbroath.

It is not over yet!

The battle of Roslin involved a gorgeous woman and a Sinclair. What a cocktail! On 24 February 1303. 8,000 Scots faced an English army 30,000 strong and the dying embers of Scottish patriotism burst into vibrant flame when John Comyn, a guardian of Scotland, routed the English at the Battle of Roslin.

Edward I, also known as Longshanks or 'The Hammer of the Scots', In the absence of an obvious heir to the Scottish throne, the disunited Scottish magnates invited Edward to determine the dispute. In order to gain acceptance of his authority in reaching a verdict, Edward sought and obtained recognition from the rival claimants that he had the 'sovereign lordship of Scotland and the right to determine our several pretensions'. In November 1292, Edward and his 104 assessors gave the whole kingdom to John Balliol or Baliol as the claimant closest to the royal line; Balliol duly swore loyalty to Edward and was crowned at Scone. Edward used the opportunity to assert his feudal superiority over Scotland. Edward's later invasions of Scotland were under the pretext of being Scotland's overlord. Paradoxically, it was Longshanks grandson, Edward III, who started the Hundred Years War with France when the King of France claimed feudal overlordship of England.

The Scots were defeated at Dunbar. King John fled north in the face of the English army. He would later surrender to Edward at Montrose. In the end, King John was disgraced. Edward stripped him of the royal regalia and destroyed the Scottish records, taking the Stone of Destiny to London. There it lay for another 700 years until it was returned to Scotland in 1996. King John was imprisoned in Tower of London. He would become known as the 'Toom Tabard' (empty coat) Edward had released John Balliol, the nominal king of Scotland, the son-in law of Earl of Surrey, John de Warenne from imprisonment in the Tower of London and Balliol promptly retired to Balieul, Picardy, France. Retired? It was more like he slunk away to his ancestral lands. "The reign of this king, begun in humiliation, was continued in disaster, and ended in disgrace." —History of Dumbartonshire" by Joesph Irving

Edward appointed Sir John Segrave governor of the province of Scotland and commander of Edinburgh castle. In this capacity Segrave met the beautiful Lady Margaret Ramsey, sister of Sir Edward Ramsey of Dalhousie. Segrave visited to Dalhousie wooing the fair Margaret. However, the fair maiden looked not at Segrave but set her cap for Sir Henry St. Clair of Rosslyn.

Sir Symon Fraser of Neidpath had knighted the young Henry St. Clair in 1297. William Wallace was present at the ceremony and Lady Margaret was appointed Queen of the Day. The young knight, St. Clair, O Fhlu\ir na h-Albann, and the queen of the day were besotted with each other. During the knighting of Henry St Clair news arrived of an English army marching on Stirling, led by Earl of Surrey, John de Warenne and included the hated Hugh de Cressingham Edward's treasurer for Scotland and the butcher of Berwick. Henry's wooing of Lady Margaret was rudely interrupted by the clarion call of war.

O Flower of Scotland
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again.

Words and music:
Roy Williamson.
(c) The Corries (Music) Ltd.

It was Henry's first battle as a Knight at Stirling Bridge. Wallace called a war council and the Scots met the English on 11 September 1297 at Stirling Bridge. Wallace displayed his ability to exploit terrain decisively. A crucial factor nearly 6 years later at Roslin, when among the issues of the contest would be the favour and the hand of the young Lady Margaret Ramsey.

Late in 1302 Segrave was astonished to receive the intelligence at his base in Carlisle that Lady Margaret Ramsey had consented to marry Sir Henry St. Clair. He flew into a rage and had a letter dispatched to his king Edward asking for permission to invade Scotland. Edward Longshanks, who had planned his final campaign in Scotland for 1303, viewed Seagrave's intervention as useful. The Hammer of the Scots Edward Longshanks, King of England, Duke of Gascony, including parts of Ireland, the Channel Islands and Wales, Crusader and warrior knew now that battle was now inevitable.

That Battle was at Roslin.


Part 2

From: "Sinclair" <>
Date: Tue, 4 Jun 2002 10:17:31 +0200

Segrave snuck across the Scot's border at dead of night at the head of 30,000 men. He avoided detection until reaching Melrose in the middle of February 1303. He had divided his force into three.

One division, led by Sir Robert Neville, was to take Borthwick castle, which was in the hands of Sir Gilbert Hay, a friend and ally of Henry St. Clair. 10,000 men commanded by Sir Ralph Confrey, were to proceed to Dalhousie and protect Lady Margaret's residence. What men will do for a woman? Segrave and the English paymaster Ralph de Manton commanded the 10,000 men that were to advance upon Henry St Clair's seat, Rosslyn.

[Knights Templar] The Cistercian Prior Abernethy of Mount Lothian to the west of Balantradoch, the Templar headquarters in Scotland, close by Rosslyn heard of the English progress. Abernethy, the monk, had been a Templar, a warrior, who had off his armour and lay down his sword to spend the remainder of his life praising God. Now the warrior priest's blood rose again. The life of prayer, compilation of Gregorian chants was abandoned. God had called the Prior to the defence of Scotland. As men prepare for battle each pray to whatever God he knows "let us be victorious." Monks on horseback were sent to raise the alarm and warn the Scots of the danger facing them. Sir John Comyn was found near Glasgow, Sir William Wallace near Paisley, Sir Symon Fraser at Neidpath, and Somerfield of Carnwarth, Simon of the Lee, Flemming of [Rosslyn Forest] Cumbernauld and the Knights of the Hospital at Torphichen were all alerted, along with Sir Henry St. Clair. The Scots mustered hastily at Biggar by the night of 23 February, assembling a force of 8,000 men, not soldiers but tinkers, tailors, farmers all common men who had to face 30,000 well trained English troops, the closest thing that Europe had to a professional army.

Wallace was offered the command. He refused for his failure at the Battle of Falkirk weighed heavy on his confidence. Wallace suggested Sir Symon Fraser. Fraser was selected. The Monk turned warrior Abernethy's knowledge o f the local area and Wallace's tactical ability were called on. Sir John Comyn, Guardian of the Realm assumed overall command. They moved to 16 kilometres north of Roslin Glen to Carlops village. Abernethy said Mass. His monks fed the troops.

Under the cover of night the Prior guided the army closer to the approaching first detachment of Segrave's divided command. 3,000 men under Comyn's command hid themselves in the wood to the west of the English camp while Fraser led the remaining 5,000 around them to close in from the east. In the dark the Scots fell upon the English while they slept.

"Hark where the night is falling
hark hear the pipes a calling
Loudly and proudly calling down thru the glen
There where the hills are sleeping
Now feel the blood a leaping
High as the spirits of the old highland men"

Scotland the Brave

Those English who were not killed were driven into the forest, where they met Comyn's force. Segrave threw himself upon Wallace's mercy to prevent his men's extermination. The pale winter sun rose on the 24th to witness the stench, blood and gore of battle joined scattered across Roslin Glen. The Scots had won this first engagement almost without cost to themselves; the women and servants of Sir Henry St Clair tended the few wounded Scots on the grounds of Roslin castle. Henry emptied his larder to furnish a hasty meal to the troops, determined patriots on the grounds of one of the holiest sites in Scotland. Wallace, Comyn, Fraser and St Clair led from the front.


Part 3

From: "Sinclair" <>
Date: Tue, 4 Jun 2002 16:50:34 +0200

On receiving news of the calamity that had befallen Segrave, de Confrey immediately abandoned his siege of Dalhousie to advance upon the Scots militia, who would now have to face the wrath of a professional English army bitten by the mighty midge but not subdued. The Scots no longer possessed the help of the bolt from the blue, surprise. From the Prior's knowledge of the terrain, Wallace deployed the Scots on a ridge with a crag at its north end and waited for the English progress. The English closed in but their uphill charge was wrecked by volley upon volley of Scottish arrows. They turned northwards unaware of the precipice. The outnumbered Scots closed on their southern flank and drove them towards the rocky face. The slaughter at the rock face was horrendous. De Confrey died embroiled in the battle as news of the advance of the third division of English soldiers reached the Scots. About to be pressed by yet another numerically superior force the Scots spared only those could be ransomed. The rest were systematically and brutally murdered.

The battle weary Scots were exhausted and had misgivings as to whether they could inflict a third defeat on the English that day. They had marched all the night before, battled desperately all day, and were near the point of collapse. The warrior priest, the Prior Abernethy, spoke to the bedraggled army. He spoke of the violence that Edward had committed; he spoke of Berwick, when Edward's army had put the whole population to the sword including children, old women, and animals, to please the English merchants who paid for his campaign. Berwick then in Scots hands was the richest wool port in the British Isles. He spoke of the past of the Scots nation from time immemorial.. He recalled of the vandalism of Scone Abbey by the English. He turned and urged the Scots to gaze at the nearby bleak Pentland [Saltire] hills. A Saltire argent on a field azure had been raised at the point.

The Saltire had been born during another earlier struggle to resist the English. In 834 the English were turned back at Athelstanford by the Picts, led by King Angus, and the Scots, led by King Eochaidh, after Angus and the army saw a St. Andrew's cross formed from clouds against the blue background of the sky.

Now this sign was clearly visible once more, lit by the sun going down behind it to the west. Prior Abernethy had dispatched his monks to erect a enormous Saltire made of canvas and wood after the first engagement with the English that morning. Now as he thundered the command that the Scots turn and look at the Saltire. The Prior declared that it was a sign from the Lord God of Hosts that they were fighting at heaven's command.

The Scots prepared to meet another English onslaught.

Sir Robert Neville's force proceeded from Borthwick ignorant of the destruction of de Confrey's forces. They followed the cart road through Roslin Glen. The Scots waited until the English were between themselves on the higher ground of Mountmarle and the precipices in the glen, and launched volleys of arrows upon them before charging. The fighting was desperate with the English once more pressed hard against a precipice and the carnage was so great that Sir Symon Fraser called on his troops to give quarter. [Rosslyn Glenn]

The annihilation of the English army was almost total.

The English defeat can in part be attributed to the stupidity of the English commander, Sir John Segrave, who was later ransomed. He divided his numerically superior force knowing little about either the terrain or the disposition of his enemy. Scottish victory at Roslin was achieved through tactical genius; splendid utilization of the terrain; by the high morale, tenacity and courage of a people's army. Glory shines not because of the temporary enrichment of the fortune of a men or armies. Men fought what endures, Freedom! Freedom "for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself. "

In response to this victory the Scottish magnates, engaged in diplomatic efforts in Paris, wrote to Comyn to encourage the Scots, on 25 May 1303, saying "Be of good heart.. If the English king harden his heart, like Pharaoh, and refuse a truce, then, by the mercy of Jesus Christ, defend yourselves manfully and stay united, so that by your manful defence and with God's help you will prevail, or at least receive stronger support from us. For God's sake do not despair. If ever you have done brave deeds, do braver ones now. The swiftest runner who fails before the winning-post has run in vain. And it would gladden your hearts if you could know how much your honour has increased in every part of the world as the result of your recent battle with the English."

The Hills are bare now
And Autumn leaves lie thick and still
O'er land that is lost now
Which those so dearly held
That stood against him
Proud Edward's Army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again.

Those days are past now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward's Army
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

O Flower of Scotland
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for
Your wee bit Hill and Glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward
Tae think again.

Written by
Roy MB Williamson 1936-1990,
ŠThe Corries (Music) Ltd

The previous year the Flemish, in their own struggle with the French crown, had all but annihilated the French feudal host at the battle of Courtrai. The battle of Roslin, along with Bannockburn and the Swiss victories against the Hapsburgs, signalled the rise in importance of close infantry formations and the end of heavy cavalry It changed dramatically the balance of power in society from feudal overlords, ruling by hereditary right, to the people, ruling by the declaration of popular sovereignty. These principals were proclaimed by the Declaration of Arbroath whist Scotland lay under the papal indict of a corrupt pope controlled by the dishonest king of France. These principals echo down the corridors of time reaffirmed in the American Declaration of Independence. Kings, Presidents. Leaders and Chiefs serve only by the will and consent of the governed.

Sir William Wallace was betrayed in 1305. Sir Symon Fraser was captured in 1306, taken to London, drawn and hung until he was dead, then was beheaded, his headless corpse then was hung again and his head set on a spike on London Bridge next to Wallace's. The chiefs of the Frasers of Lovat are today called Macshimidh in memory of Symon the Patriot. Sir John Comyn submitted to Edward. He would die on hallowed ground during a quarrel with Robert the Bruce. The Bruce murdered him in a minor vendetta. In a major vendetta you would make sure that a man had committed a mortal sin then murder his so his soul would go straight to hell. In a minor vendetta you would assure a man was in a state of Grace before the murder. Edward Longshanks dying at Burgh-on-Sands before he could head his army into Scotland one last time, he made provision for his flesh to be boiled away from his bones and his bones carried at the head of his army as it invaded Scotland.

Scotland would have to wait for Robert the Bruce to relight the fire of patriotism. At the time of the battle of Roslin the Bruce was in Ireland with his new wife. The fire was kept stoked by the commitment of Comyn, Wallace, Fraser, and Henry St Clair.

After the battle was won and the hurley burley, done where was Sir Henry St. Clair, who fought so well in not one but three battles on a short winter's day in 1303? Sir Henry was a true Sinclair, he spent the night after the battle in a nuptial bed at the old Roslin Castle with Lady Margaret.


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[Clan Sinclair]