Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/414

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Robert the Bruce.

[1329 A.D.

Earl of Angus, by declaring that the House of Douglas was of such antiquity that its origin was incapable of "an exact and infallible demonstration," and to proceed to deduce it from a great warrior under an apocryphal King Solvathius in the 8th century. Sir James Douglas himself, if he ever bothered himself about a remote pedigree, would probably have been the first to laugh at such a legend. The original nationality of the powerful family of Flemings, Earls of Wigtown, is evident in their surname.

The relations between the feudal and burghal magnates in Scotland during the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries have been aptly compared to those prevailing in the republics of Genoa and Venice. This spirit King Robert fostered by his care for the townspeople.

Unluckily, at the time when peaceful relations between England and Scotland came to an end in the reign of John Balliol, Berwick, the wealthiest and busiest town in the northern kingdom, was precisely the one most exposed to injury from the southern. The chronicler of Lanercost, writing from the comparative seclusion at Carlisle, describes it as so populous and industrious (negotiosa) as to deserve the title of a second Alexandria "whose wealth was the sea, and the waves the walls thereof."[1] Some idea of the extent of the trade of Berwick may be gathered from the fact that, at a time when the whole customs of England amounted to no more than £8411, 19s. 11½d., those of Berwick were accepted by a Gascon merchant in

  1. Lanercost, 185.