Monday, 7 March 2016

Methven : Some Historical Tales including a defeat for Robert the Bruce . Methven the cradle of the Stewart Dynasty







Methven is a Parish and a village lying  due  west of the City of Perth .  The name  is derived from the Gaelic word Meodhan, signifying "middle “ . Perhaps  because of its  location and proximity to Perth , it has  featured  in numerous tales concerning our ancient heritage . Let  me  start off this Blog with reference  to my namesake , Culen who was crowned  King of Scots at Scone in 972 AD. Culen  was  a bit of a high liver and  not exactly the most moral of individuals . To quote  the words of Victorian author  and cleric  , William Marshall : “ He abandoned himself to the grossest of licentiousness and in a few years was such an abhorrence to the Nation that a Parliament was  summoned to meet at Scone  for the purpose of   disposing him “ . Culen was on his way there when he was ambushed ,attacked and killed by the Thane of Methven . The Thane  had saught revenge  for the alleged abuse of his daughter by the monarch . A scribe of the period  recorded : “ Culen , not knowing wherefore this Councell  was was called, as he was going thitherwards , at Methven Castle , being almost in the mid waie of his journey , was murdered  by one Cadhard , the Thane of that place , whose daughter he had ravished  before  time among divers others . This end had Culen together with all his filthie sensualities . But this reproachful infamie thereof remaineth in memory with his posteritie, and is not like to be forgotten whilst the whole World goeth about . He was thus dispatched in the fifth year of his reign , the nobles and great peers of the realm , rejoicing at his death , though they allowed not  the manner of his death “


Just over  two hundred  years after the demise of Culen , Methven once  again featured in another incident . This one featured  Scotland’s  great hero , William Wallace . Wallace had  taken refuge in Methven Wood on  a spying  mission  to ascertain the strength of the English garrison in the Fair City of Perth . Having succeeded in  finding  out the relevant information , he proceeded  to attack  the English  force on their  way  to Kinclaven Castle  to strengthen its garrison 


Shortly after this , Methven Wood again featured in an important chapter in the Wars of Independence . The English under their King Edward 1  or   “ Edward Longshanks “ had  invaded and controlled  most of Scotland including Perth . The “ Fair City “  was  governed  by Aymer de Valence , the Earl of Pembroke . His power  was substantial as the King had  appointed  him “ Guardian of Scotland “ . 

Robert the Bruce 



It was here in 1306, that Robert  Bruce , a Scottish nobleman of Norman  descent , commenced  the fight  back  against the occupation . At the head a of a comparatively small army, Bruce headed  to Perth and in a bold assertion of his standing , challenged Pembroke  to fight him in the open field . The English noble  replied that he would  accept this  challenge on the following day . Bruce  on hearing this  retired with his men  to Methven Wood .In an age when chivalry and honour were rated highly , Bruce and his  men settled down in their  sylvan retreat .Their  body armour  was  taken off and fires  were lit  and cooking of their  meals  commenced . Suddenly ,out of the  darkness appeared the soldiers of Pembroke . Scarce was the time  to raise the alarm as the foe lunched a fierce attack on the unprepared Scots . It was a desperate  resistance  but the odds  were  heavily stacked  against them . A rout was inevitable . Bruce launched an attack directly at Pembroke and killed  his horse under him . The result  was  inevitable . Particular  attention was paid  by the English attackers  to down Bruce . His horse  was targeted and  he was thrice unsaddled . Sir Philip de Mowbray , one of the English officers , shouted  loudly that he had the new – made King! Bruce’s brother  in law , Sir Christopher Seton , responded immediately and with a mighty blow of his battle axe  felled Mowbray to the ground  and rescued the Bruce . The English sword drank that night , the blood of many of our ancestors . Besides the slain that Bruce had to mourn, he  was  faced  with many of his men now  being held captive . Sir Hugh de la Haye , Sir David Inchmartin , Sir John de Somerville , Randolph and  others of his bravest adherents .Longshanks on hearing the tidings of his victory , ordered  the prisoners  to be immediately executed .

Pembroke ventured  to deviate slightly from the letter of the  bloody order . Randolph  was pardoned  , a few were ransomed  but  the majority were hanged and quartered in a spirit of merciless revenge .



Methven Wood



There  have been a number of Methven Castles and the present structure was  built in the late 17th century . What is interesting  however  is not the structure  but the owners and occupants  of the seat. The first  of these upon record was the Mowbrays  ( mentioned above ) . Their common ancestor  was Roger Mowbray , a Norman who came to England  with Norman the Conqueror . His descendant , Sir Philip de Mowbray arrived in Scotland  some 100 years later and married  the daughter of the Earl of Dunbar . The family had  extensive lands  and the Methven part became the  property of Robert  de Mowbray  , a brother of Philip . In the Wars of Independence the Mowbrays  generally sided with the English . In 1314 when the Bruce gained Scottish Independence after Bannockburn , a Mowbray was Governor of Stirling Castle  and duly surrendered  it to Bruce . As a result the lands of the Mowbrays  were confiscated and Methven fell  to Walter , Lord High Steward of Scotland who was the husband of Bruce’s daughter Marjory . Their son became Robert  the Second  and he  was the progenitor of the Stewart dynasty .




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