Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/353

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1326 A.D.]

the le Despensers, father and son, with ten colleagues. But no progress was made towards a settlement, owing to the obstinacy with which the English clung to their old claim of suzerainty, and the refusal of the Scots to entertain it. Equally impracticable was the English demand for the surrender of Berwick, on the ground that the Scots had seized it illegally, in violation of the papal truce. At King Edward's instance, the Pope withheld absolution from Robert and his subjects, until these points should be conceded; but this did not affect the resolution of the Scots in the smallest degree, for they had long since learnt to discount the terrors of excommunication.

But of all the acts of Edward II. pending these negotiations, the most ambiguous was his command to Edward de Balliol, son of the late King of Scots, to return to England. Living as de Balliol had done for more than a quarter of a century in harmless obscurity on his paternal lands in Normandy, he had fallen out of memory with the existing generation of Scots. No explanation is forthcoming of the King of England's intentions in bringing him over the sea at this critical time, and each one must be left to put his own interpretation on the matter.

In spite of the prohibition against the natives of either kingdom entering the territory of the other during the truce, trade between England and Scotland began to revive by slow degrees. Coal continued to be sent from Newcastle in payment for the ransom of prisoners in Scotland.[1] Ships carried

  1. Bain, iii., 150.