Scottish Chivalry

At the court of the Scottish Kings, Knighthood was always regarded as a distinction worthy of the highest ambition.
Its objects were the same as in other countries, the defence of church, protection of the helpless, generosity to women.
The form of the chivalric oath has been preserved especially within the Order The Autonomous Grand Priory of Scotland.

  1. I shall fortify and defend the Christian religion to the uttermost of my power

  2. I shall be loyal and true to my sovereign lord the King, to all orders of Chivalry

  3. I shall fortify and defend justice at my power, and that without favour or enmity.

  4. I shall never flee from my sovereign lord the King, nor from his lieutenants, in time of affray or battle.

  5. I shall defend my native land from all aliens and strangers.

  6. I shall defend the just action and quarrel of all ladies of honour, of all true and friendless widows, of orphans, and of maidens of good fame.

  7. I shall do diligence, wheresoever I hear that there are any murderers, traitors, or masterful robbers, who oppress the Kings lieges and poor people, to bring them to the law at my power.

  8. I shall maintain and uphold the noble state of chivalry, with horse, armour, and other Knightly habiliments, and shall help and succour those of the same order, at my power, if they have need.

  9. I shall enquire and seek to have the knowledge and understanding of all articles of chivalry. All these promises to observe, keep, and fulfil, I oblige myself so help me God by my own hand. and by God himself.

Chivalric honours formed sometimes a bond of connection between the Scottish and the English sovereigns. When Prince Henry (afterwards King Henry II.) arrived at the age of sixteen years, his father Geoffry sent him through England with a numerous and splendid retinue into Scotland, to receive the honour of knighthood from his mother’s uncle, King David. The ceremony was performed with great pomp, in the midst of a prodigious concourse of the English, Scottish, and Norman nobility; and the Prince spent about eight months in the court of Scotland, perfecting himself in military exercises.

A few years afterwards chivalric honors were conferred by Henry II. of England upon Malcolm II. But the granting of knighthood was not regarded as a matter of mere courtesy. When the kings met at Carlisle, in 1158, the previous cession of the northern provinces by Malcolm to Henry gave rise to such heats and feuds, that the Scottish monarch departed without receiving the honour he desired. In the next year, however, Henry, by excellent address, persuaded Malcolm to accompany him to France for the recovery of Tholouse, which he claimed as part of the inheritance of Eleanor his queen; and the honor which Henry had refused in the last year to give him at Carlisle, he now conferred upon him at Tours in France, in the course of his return from the Tholouse expedition.

In 1249 when King Alexander III. repaired from Scotland to York to be married to the Princess Margaret, daughter of Henry III. of England, the ceremonies of chivalry preceded those of marriage. Alexander received the ensigns of knighthood from the King of England on Christmas day, and the hand of his bride on the following morning.Tournaments were occasionally held at the Scottish court, and strangers were courteously received. Knights from Scotland are frequently mentioned in the old chronicles as having won the prize in the chivalric festivals in France and England. In the wars of the Scots with Edward III. no circumstances of a character peculiarly knightly can be selected; and in the intervals of truce chivalry could not, as in the wars between England and France, give the guise of friendship to occasional intercourse. In the year 1341, a time of peace, Edward passed some time in Scotland. Tournaments and jousts formed the occupation of the strangers and the natives; but neither party regarded the gentle rules of the tourney, and two Scottish knights and one English knight were killed.

French knights’ opinions of Scottish chivalry.

Nothing could contribute more powerfully to the advancement of chivalry in the north than the frequent intercourse between the Scots and the French. The latter people, however, would not always acknowledge the chivalric character of their allies. In the year 1385, a troop of French knights joined the Scottish king; and they soon were grieved that they had ever left their own country. They complained to their leader Sir John of Vienne of their unhappy lot. They had no tapestried halls and goodly castles as in France; and instead of soft beds their couches were as hard as the ground.

Sir John was a true son of chivalry; and he said to them, “Sirs, it behoves us to suffer a little, and to speak fair since we are in the perils of war. Let us take in cheerfulness that which we find. We cannot always be at Paris, Dijon, Beaune, or at Chalons. It behoveth them that live in the world thinking to have honour, to suffer poverty as well as to enjoy wealth.”

Scotland v England

The wars between England and Scotland, though fierce and sanguinary, admitted the display of the liberal feelings of chivalry. “Englishmen on the one party, and Scots on the other,” are good men of war; for when they meet there is a hard fight without sparing. There is no pause between them as long as spears, swords, axes, or daggers will endure. When one party hath obtained the victory, they then glorify so in their deeds of arms and are so joyful, that such as are taken are ransomed ere they go out of the field; so that shortly each of them is so content with the other, that at their departing they will say courteously, God thank you.”

Among the circumstances connected with the battle, none is more interesting than this:—When the fate of the night was decided, Sir Matthew Redman, an Englishman, and governor of Berwick, spurred his horse from the field, but was hotly pursued by the Scottish knight, Sir James Lindsay, and he could not escape, for his panting charger fell under him. Lindsay dismounted, and the two knights fought well and chivalrously, the Scotsman with his axe ( the favorite weapon of the nation ), and the English knight with his sword. The axe prevailed, and Redman surrendered himself, rescue or no rescue. He wished to go to Newcastle, and his master  permitted him to depart, on his pledging his word of chivalry, that within three weeks he would meet him at Edinburgh. The knights then separated; but as Lindsay was returning to the Scottish host, priding himself on his success, he was surrounded by the Bishop of Durham and a numerous troop. Some hours before, they had marched purposely to the succour of Percy; but the clangour of the mêlée had terrified them into a retreat. They possessed sufficient bravery, however, to take a single and battle-worn knight. He was led to Newcastle, where he met Sir Matthew Redman; and these two gallant cavaliers dined right merrily together, and, after quaffing many a cup of rich wine, to the honour and health of their mistresses, they arranged with the bishop the conditions of each other’s liberation.


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