A Means To An End
April, 1286 Stirling Castle
King David II of Scotland
The ride from Scone to Stirling had been a quiet one. There had been nothing of note on the ride, and that had been a blessing for David, for it had allowed him to think through some things that he had been meaning to do for some time. Chief amongst them was his disliking of how Norman his court and his country was becoming. The impeding of the Gaelic traditions was something he had often wondered about. Since English help had been given to one of his ancestors in putting them on the throne, there had been a slow eroding of Gaelic culture in his home, and that was something that angered him. The Normans had their values, but they were not the true ones of his kingdom and his people. The ways of the sword and the ways of the mountains, they were the things he cherished and knew his people did as well. The tradition of music and language was being eroded by the corrupt influence of England that angered him. He was determined to deal with that and reduce it to nothingness. Though he knew there were somethings he would need to keep the same.
That was why upon returning to Stirling, he had asked for some time to be given and then when the time had passed he had called for a meeting with Walter Stewart the High Steward of the Kingdom and someone his father had trusted, and Alexander Comyn Earl of Buchan. They were the two people who he would lay his plan out for. They were both sat in front of him waiting to hear what he had to say, and so clearing his throat he began. “We thank you for joining us my lords. It has been a long and hard journey and the events of the recent few days has been taxing, and yet there is still a kingdom to run. A kingdom that has many varying concerns to us. Our uncle King Edward sits in the south no doubt looking to extend his influence, and we sit here uncertain of the course he will take. But that is not the issue we have asked you here for. We wish to speak of the French influence in our kingdom.”
Stewart looks somewhat uncertain at this. “Forgive me Your Majesty but I am not sure I understand what you mean.”
David looks at the man a moment and then replies. “There is too much growing French influence in the kingdom. It is something that has come to our attention and does increasingly worry us. We are not a kingdom of France, we are a Kingdom of Scots, of the people of the Dal Riata. We do not know the French and they do not know us. There is no place for more French customs that stand ground in England. We are a people who know our heritage, and we must fight to put it back into place.”
A moment’s silence and then Stewart speaks. “A move to bring about the end of possible English influence? A sound move Your Majesty, but then how would we go about doing this?”
“The lords of our realm speak French, something our predecessors brought with them from England. That is not something we like or abide by. French is too flowery a language for the people of the Riata. We must speak that language that we know to be a true language of the people. There is also music. This Norman penchant for the dramatization of love and its many supposed virtues is not something that can be espoused into a court of warriors. The traditional ways of music that our ancestors and our forefathers indulged in would make us more happy and content.” David says.
“There is a singer named Cináed, Your Majesty, who specialises in the old epics. Tales of the Conqueror and of the Riata. A man who knows his heritage as well as your holiness does. If we were to use him as a tool for spreading the message then more lords would follow.” Comyn says.
“That man is a barbarian Your Majesty,” Stewart protests. “He does not know the difference between a courtly song and a song for a tavern. Bringing him to court would lower the image of Your Majesty’s court. And would make the lords wonder what had become of your sensibilities.”
David looks at the High Steward and says simply. “We do not care for the difference only that the man use the traditional instruments of the Riata and that our culture does not get lost. There may be a time when the English look to establish themselves on us, we cannot and will not allow that to happen. The English have for too long held some hold over us. Music is one way to remove that stain from our pathway.”
“Then at least Your Majesty, bid me leave to find a singer who will be more willing to allow for some courtly songs. For they do play a role in shaping the lords opinion of their monarch. And the commons, they will look to the singer and his songs for their own impression for Your Majesty.” Stewart says.
David looks at the man a moment and then says. “You both are given leave to find singers who match our wants and needs. You will have until the end of this month to find the appropriate singer. Should you fail though, we shall chose this Cináed to sing our songs. I will not allow for the further rot of Norman influence into my kingdom.” Both men nod and then David speaks once more. “There are other issues that have been brought to my attention. Speak as to their purpose and meaning Lord Steward.”
The Lord Steward is silent a moment as he brings his notes to the forefront. “The Macleods of Sutherland and the Mackays of Sutherland are petitioning Your Majesty to rule in their favour against the Sinclairs regarding a part of land that is supposedly part of the border between their lands.”
David nods and says. “They present evidence to their claims, and their rightfulness?”
Stewart nods. “They do Your Majesty. Donald Mackay states that the land belonged to his family in time past. And his son by marriage Tormod through marriage of Mackay’s daughter has claims on those significant parts of land. As Donald promised Leod those lands as his daughter’s dowry he feels that this is something that must needs be addressed by Your Majesty, the highest and most just of the lords of the land.”
“Mackay presents written proof of this assertion, for if he does not these claims will not be considered.” David says.
Stewart is silent a moment and then responds. “Alas he does not Your Majesty. Written accounts do not yet exist for the exchange of lands in the mountains as they do for the lowlands. It is mere petition and word of mouth that brings the Mackays calling for justice.”
David considers this a moment then asks. “And what proof does Sinclair offer that his claim on those lands is just and proven?”
Stewart is silent as he reads through the correspondence and then hands the letter over to David. “A letter signed by his grandfather and Your Majesty’s forbearer William the Lion, which grants the land in question to Sinclair’s grandfather.”
David reads the letter and its attached document, and from his lessons easily recognises the signature and handwriting of his forbearer William the Lion. There is another signature there, one he does not recognise. “What did your readers tell you of this second signature? Is it for definite, the Sinclair’s mark?”
Stewart nods. “It is Your Majesty. My readers have checked and checked once more. It matches the official records that we possess of that time. There is no mistaking this.”
David looks at Comyn then who had remained silent. “Tell me Alexander, what do you make of this? It is an interesting case would you not say?”
Comyn a silent and grim man by nature takes his time to respond but when he does his response is to the point. “If the documents match the official records that Your Majesty possess then there is no doubt in my mind that Sinclair is the rightful man to hold those lands. Mackay cannot hold them and expect the people there to do anything but fight him.”
David takes this into consideration before he looks at the letter once more and then says. “The Sinclairs have always been fiercely loyal to our family, and the crown knows when its debts must be repaid. The Mackays, they are a family who play games and dance round tracts for nothing. Perhaps the wise decision would be to give to the Sinclairs.”
“The Sinclairs would be wise Your Majesty, they are a family steeped in loyalty to the crown and the throne. They would not seek to hinder the development of the traditions Your Majesty wishes to establish. The Mackays though have connections with the Isles, and might play a role there, if Your Majesty wishes to pursue your father’s course of action.” Steward says.
David looks at the High Steward for a long time looking at the man and assessing his goals. When he is convinced that there is nothing of sinister incentive there he speaks. “The Sinclairs are the ones who came to fight when our father rode to fight Norway. They are the ones who have stood with us through everything. They will keep the land that is rightfully theirs. The Mackays shall gain something in this, they will gain the knowledge of where to probe the Sinclairs when the matter comes to a head.” There is a silence then, as David allows the information to settle, then looking toward Stewart, David says. “Our mother by marriage has been asking what is to come of her once my brother or sister is born. I believe another marriage for a powerful alliance would be best. But should the Mackays prove themselves loyal it might be worth considering other options.”
Stewart seems to be mulling over what he has said, whilst Comyn speaks after gaining David’s approval. “Mackay could be a good option Your Majesty. One hurt replaced by one gain. But keeping the child within the walls of Stirling would be for the very best, otherwise there would be opposition to Your Royal Person in the Highlands. Though of course with the plans being put forward it is likely the clans will not look too disfavourably on any move Your Majesty makes.”
“And what of you Lord Steward, your opinion on this matter is most pressing.” David says.
Stewart is silent a moment seemingly pondering his response. Eventually he replies. “I believe it would make sense to look abroad for Your Majesty’s step mother. Her Highness the Queen Dowager is someone who is smart and capable and can be used for good effect. Brittany has long been looking for another wife to ensure a smooth succession. And considering the tensions there are between the Kings of France and England, having one finger there would not harm Your Majesty’s own plans.”
David considers this a moment and then says. “We wish for this Arthur of Brittany to be looked into further. We want to know how much of his reputation is true and how much is mere falsehoods. Our uncle will not look too kindly on this plan, but if it means keeping his eyes on the French then so be it. Brittany might well go toward our brother or sister should something so happen during the wars being fought between France and England.”
“Your Majesty would be smart to keep the King of France as an ally, for the man has power that King Edward might only dream of for a time.” The High Stewart says.
“King Philip has a reliance on various outside sources for power. He is a strong king, but he is not truly one that might severely threaten us for a time.” David replies. “Our uncle on the other hand, he is someone who must be turned toward the French and his old lands there.”
“What do you wish to do Your Majesty?” Stewart asks.
David mulls over his options. “Invite both Mackay and Brittany to court, we would speak with them both to see which would be preferable. And when that is done, we shall begin making our plans for the reclaiming of our rightful lands.” There is a moment’s silence as both men take note, then David speaks. “Furthermore, we wish to hold our wedding to Lady Bruce in three weeks’ time. The need for an heir is most pressing for us. Ensure that all the necessary preparations are made, and invite the Bruce family to court as well. We shall speak with them all.”
“Of course Your Majesty, shall they be invited now then?” Stewart asks.
“Yes, bring them to court now. Bruce and his son and grandchildren, bring them here and let us remind them of whom it is they serve.” David says.