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English Domination

1292-96 - John Balliol
Following the death of
Margaret in 1290 no one person held the undisputed claim to be King of the Scots. No fewer than 13 'competitors', or claimants eventually emerged. They agreed to recognise Edward I's overlordship and to abide by his arbitration. Edward decided in favour of Balliol, who did have a strong claim with links back to William the Lion. Edward's obvious manipulation of Balliol led the Scottish nobles to set up a Council of 12 in July 1295, as well as agreeing to an alliance with the King of France. Edward invaded, and after defeating Balliol at the Battle of Dunbar imprisoned him in the Tower of London. Balliol was eventually released into Papal custody and ended his life in France.

The town, however, had made but little progress in commerce; though, as a sea-port, it had obtained a reputation for the curing of fish, of which its Rivers and the sea afforded ample supplies for the use of the inhabitants, and also for exportation.  Aberdeen, after it had recovered from the devastation it had suffered from fire, was defended by a strong Castle, and by Gates at the entrances of the Principal streets; and the inhabitants, who in every time of danger were distinguished by their undaunted courage in resisting the attacks of its enemies, in all cases of assault were headed by their chief magistrate, who invariably acted as their captain. In the wars which, after the death of Alexander III., arose from the disputed succession to the throne, the City had its full share of vicissitude and of the troubles of that distracted period. Edward, King of England, to whom the arbitration of the contest had been referred, though he appointed John Balliol to the Scottish throne, yet considered himself entitled to the Sovereignty, and taking advantage of the internal hostilities which prevailed, invaded Scotland with a powerful army, and made himself master of the southern portion of the kingdom. Having dethroned Balliol, he advanced with his forces to Aberdeen, and, securing possession of the castle, placed in it an English garrison, which held the town and neighbourhood in subjection. On the approach of William Wallace to the relief of the citizens, the English reinforced the garrison, plundered and set fire to the town, and embarked on board their ships.  Wallace, after besieging the Castle without success, retreated to Angus, and having sustained various reverses, was betrayed into the hands of Edward, and conveyed prisoner to London, where he suffered death as a traitor; and his body being quartered, one of his mangled quarters was exposed on the gate of the Castle here, to intimidate his followers in this part of the country.

Edward I of England in 1296 at the head of a large army paid these northern parts a visit. He entered the county by the road leading from Glenbervie to Durris, whence he proceeded to Aberdeen, exacting homage from the burghers during his 5 days' stay. From Aberdeen he went to Kintore and Fyvie and on to Speyside, returning by the Cabrach, Kildrummy, Kincardine O'Neil and the Cairn-o-Mounth. 1296 -1306 annexed to England.

In 1297 William Wallace, in his patriotic efforts to clear the country from English domination, surprised Edward's garrison at Aberdeen, but unable to effect anything, hastily withdrew from the neighbourhood.

Edward was back in Aberdeen in 1303 and paid another visit to Kildrummy Castle, then in the possession of Bruce. Then Bruce, having fled from the English court and assassinated the Red Comyn at Dumfries, was crowned at Scone and the long struggle for national independence began in earnest.


House of Bruce

1306 - Robert I the Bruce. In 1306 at Greyfriars Church Dumfries, he murdered his only possible rival for the throne, John Comyn. He was excommunicated for this sacrilege, but was still crowned King of the Scots just a few months later.  Robert was defeated in his 1st 2 battles against the English and became a fugitive, hunted by both Comyn's friends and the English.  Whilst hiding in a room he is said to have watched a spider swing from one rafter to another, in an attempt to anchor it's web.  It failed 6 times, but at the 7th attempt, succeeded.  Bruce took this to be an omen and resolved to struggle on.

In 1307 he came to Aberdeen, which was favourable to his cause. At Barra, not far from Inverurie and Old Meldrum, his forces met those of the Earl of Buchan (John Comyn) and defeated them (1308). It was not a great battle in itself, but its consequences were important.  It marked the turn of the tide in the national cause. The Buchan district, in which the battle took place, had long been identified with the powerful family of the Comyns; and after his victory at Barra, Bruce devastated the district with relentless fury. This "harrying of Buchan," as it has been called, is referred to by Barbour as an event bemoaned for more than 50 years. The family of the Comyns was crushed, and their influence, which had been liberal and considerate to the native race of Celts, came to an end. The whole of the north-east turned to Bruce's support, and in a short time all Edward's garrisons disappeared. This upheaval created a fresh partition of the lands of Aberdeenshire. New families such as the Hays, the Frasers, the Gordons and the Irvines, were rewarded for faithful service by grants of land.  The re-settlement of the county from non-Celtic sources accentuated the Teutonic element in the county. 

His decisive victory over Edward II's army at Bannockburn in 1314 finally won the freedom he had struggled for. After Bannockburn, Bruce rewarded Aberdeen itself for its support by granting to the burgesses the burgh as well as the forest of Stocket.

Robert Bruce, in asserting his right to the Scottish throne, experienced many privations, and was reduced to the necessity of taking refuge, with his wife and children, among the mountains of Aberdeenshire; but having mustered a considerable force, which was augmented by the citizens of Aberdeen, who embraced his cause, he gave Battle near the Hill of Barra, and obtained a victory over the English, who were under the command of Comyn, Earl of Buchan, and Mowbray, the English leader. According to Boece, the citizens, flushed with this success, returned to the Town, assaulted the Castle, which they took by storm, and put the garrison to the sword; and to prevent its falling again into the hands of the enemy, they demolished the fortifications. The English in the vicinity assembled their forces, and assaulted the City; but the townsmen, led on by Fraser, their Provost, repulsed them with considerable slaughter. In reward of their patriotism and valour on this occasion, the King granted the City new armorial-bearings, with the motto Bon Accord, their watchword on that memorable occasion; and after the Battle of Bannockburn, being firmly seated on the throne, he gave the citizens several Charters, some ample donations of lands, and the Forest of Stocket, with all the privileges attached to it, reserving to himself only the growing timber, with the right of hunting. In 1319 he honoured the Town with a visit. 

1329 - David II
The only surviving legitimate son of
Robert Bruce, he succeeded his father when only 5 years of age. He was the first Scottish King to be crowned and anointed. Whether he would be able to keep the Crown was another matter, faced with the combined hostilities of John Balliol and the 'Disinherited', those Scottish landowners that Robert Bruce had disinherited following his victory at Bannockburn David was for a while even sent to France for his own safe keeping.  In support of his allegiance with France he invaded England in 1346, whilst Edward III was otherwise occupied with the siege of Calais.  His army was intercepted by forces raised by the Archbishop of York. David was wounded and captured. He was later released after agreeing to pay a ransom of 1,000,000 marks. David died unexpectedly and without an heir, while trying to divorce his 2nd wife in order to marry his latest mistress.

Subsequently to the death of Robert Bruce, and during the minority of his son David II., a Civil War broke out in the country; and Edward III. of England, who, with the exception of Aberdeen, had all the Scottish fortresses in his possession, invaded the Kingdom to assert his right to the Sovereignty. While triumphant in the southern districts of the Kingdom, Sir Thomas Roscelyn, one of his Knights, landed a body of forces at Dunnottar, with which he advanced to Aberdeen: the citizens, taking arms, met the invaders on the Green, but were defeated with considerable loss, though Roscelyn fell in the encounter; and the town was given up to plunder, and set on fire by the English.   David ll., who during these troubles had remained in France, returned with his Queen, and having regained his Kingdom, held his first Parliament in Aberdeen, which he occasionally made his residence.   He confirmed to the citizens all the Grants which his father had conferred, and gave them every assistance in rebuilding their town, which thence took the appellation of New Aberdeen, though of much greater antiquity than the Kirktown of Seaton, since that period called Old Aberdeen. After the expulsion of the English from Scotland, Aberdeen began to flourish as a place of commerce, and was represented in Parliament. In a Parliament held at Edinburgh, in 1357, to concert measures for the Ransom of the Scottish King, David II., who since the battle of Neville's Cross had been detained prisoner in England, the City ranked as the 4th in the Kingdom, and became joint guarantee for the payment of the stipulated surety. The King, on his return to Scotland, took up his residence in the Town, which he frequently afterwards visited, and which, in a subsequent Parliament, appeared as the first City on the Roll, after Edinburgh.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013