Walter Scott

Part 12 out of 12

tyranny which long before he had conceived. And so, as king of
the country, apprehended the said Mr Allan, and carried him to
the house of Denure, where for a season he was honourably
treated, (gif a prisoner can think any entertainment pleasing;)
but after that certain days were spent, and that the Earl could
not obtain the feus of Crossraguel according to his awin
appetite, he determined to prove gif a collation could work that
which neither dinner nor supper could do for a long time. And so
the said Mr Allan was carried to a secret chamber: with him
passed the honourable Earl, his worshipful brother, and such as
were appointed to be servants at that banquet. In the chamber
there was a grit iron chimlay, under it a fire; other grit
provision was not seen. The first course was,---'My Lord Abbot,'
(said the Earl,) 'it will please you confess here, that with your
own consent you remain in my company, because ye durst not commit
yourself to the hands of others.' The Abbot answered, 'Would
you, my lord, that I should make a manifest lie for your
pleasure? The truth is, my lord, it is against my will that I am
here; neither yet have I any pleasure in your company.' 'But ye
shall remain with me, nevertheless, at this time,' said the Earl.
'l am not able to resist your will and pleasure,' said the Abbot,
'in this place.' 'Ye must then obey me,' said the Earl,---and
with that were presented unto him certain letters to subscribe,
amongst which there was a five years' tack, and a nineteen years'
tack, and a charter of feu of all the lands (of Crossraguel, with
all the clauses necessary for the Earl to haste him to hell. For
gif adultery, sacrilege, oppression, barbarous cruelty, and theft
heaped upon theft, deserve hell, the great King of Carrick can no
more escape hell for ever, than the imprudent Abbot escaped the
fire for a season as follows.

"After that the Earl spied repugnance, and saw that he could not
come to his purpose by fair means, he commanded his cooks to
prepare the banquet: and so first they flayed the sheep, that is,
they took off the Abbot's cloathes even to his skin, and next
they bound him to the chimney---his legs to the one end, and his
arms to the other; and so they began to beet [i.e. feed] the fire
sometimes to his buttocks, sometimes to his legs, sometimes to
his shoulders and arms; and that the roast might not burn, but
that it might rest in soppe, they spared not flambing with oil,
(basting as a cook bastes roasted meat); Lord, look thou to sic
cruelty! And that the crying of the miserable man should not be
heard, they dosed his mouth that the voice might be stopped. It
may be suspected that some partisan of the King's [Darnley's]
murder was there. In that torment they held the poor man, till
that often he cried for God's sake to dispatch him; for he had as
meikle gold in his awin purse as would buy powder enough to
shorten his pain. The famous King of Carrick and his cooks
perceiving the roast to be aneuch, commanded it to be tane fra
the fire, and the Earl himself began the grace in this manner:
---'Benedicite, Jesus Maria, you are the most obstinate man that
ever I saw; gif I had known that ye had been so stubborn, I would
not for a thousand crowns have handled you so; I never did so to
man before you.' And yet he returned to the same practice within
two days, and ceased not till that he obtained his formost
purpose, that is, that he had got all his pieces subscryvit
alsweill as ane half-roasted hand could do it. The Earl thinking
himself sure enough so long as be had the half-roasted Abbot in
his awin keeping, and yet being ashamed of his presence by reason
of his former cruelty, left the place of Denure in the hands of
certain of his servants, and the half-roasted Abbot to be kept
there as prisoner. The Laird of Bargany, out of whose company
the said Abbot had been enticed, understanding, (not the
extremity,) but the retaining of the man, sent to the court, and
raised letters of deliverance of the person of the man according
to the order, which being disobeyed, the said Earl for his
contempt was denounced rebel, and put to the horne. But yet hope
was there none, neither to the afflicted to be delivered, neither
yet to the purchaser [i.e. procurer] of the letters to obtain any
comfort thereby; for in that time God was despised, and the
lawful authority was contemned in Scotland, in hope of the sudden
return and regiment of that cruel murderer of her awin husband,
of whose lords the said Earl was called one; and yet, oftener
than once, he was solemnly sworn to the King and to his Regent."

The Journalist then recites the complaint of the injured Allan
Stewart, Commendator of Crossraguel, to the Regent and Privy
Council, averring his having been carried, partly by flattery,
partly by force, to the black vault of Denure, a strong
fortalice, built on a rock overhanging the Irish channel, where
to execute leases and conveyances of the whole churches and
parsonages belonging to the Abbey of Crossraguel, which he
utterly refused as an unreasonable demand, and the more so that
he had already conveyed them to John Stewart of Cardonah, by
whose interest he had been made Commendator. The complainant
proceeds to state, that he was, after many menaces, stript,
bound, and his limbs exposed to fire in the manner already
described, till, compelled by excess of agony, he subscribed the
charter and leases presented to him, of the contents of which he
was totally ignorant. A few days afterwards, being again
required to execute a ratification of these deeds before a notary
and witnesses, and refusing to do so, he was once more subjected
to the same torture, until his agony was so excessive that he
exclaimed, "Fye on you, why do you not strike your whingers into
me, or blow me up with a barrel of powder, rather than torture me
thus unmercifully?" upon which the Earl commanded Alexander
Richard, one of his attendants, to stop the patient's mouth with
a napkin, which was done accordingly. Thus he was once more
compelled to submit to their tyranny. The petition concluded
with stating, that the Earl, under pretence of the deeds thus
iniquitously obtained, had taken possession of the whole place
and living of Crossraguel, and enjoyed the profits thereof for
three years.

The doom of the Regent and Council shows singularly the total
interruption of justice at this calamitous period, even in the
most clamant cases of oppression. The Council declined
interference with the course of the ordinary justice of the
county, (which was completely under the said Earl of Cassilis'
control,) and only enacted, that he should forbear molestation of
the unfortunate Comendator, under the surety of two thousand
pounds Scots. The Earl was appointed also to keep the peace
towards the celebrated George Buchanan, who had a pension out of
the same Abbacy, to a similar extent, and under the like penalty.

The consequences are thus described by the Journalist already

"The said Laird of Bargany perceiving that the ordiner justice
could neither help the oppressed, nor yet the afflicted, applied
his mind to the next remedy, and in the end, by his servants,
took the house of Denure, where the poor Abbot was kept prisoner.
The bruit flew fra Carrick to Galloway, and so suddenly assembled
herd and hyre-man that pertained to the band of the Kennedies;
and so within a few hours was the house of Denure environed
again. The master of Cassilis was the frackast [i.e. the
readiest or boldest) and would not stay, but in his heat would
lay fire to the dungeon, with no small boasting that all enemies
within the house should die.

"He was required and admonished by those that were within to be
more moderate, and not to hazard himself so foolishly. But no
admonition would help, till that the wind of an hacquebute
blasted his shoulder, and then ceased he from further pursuit in
fury. The Laird of Bargany had before purchest [obtained] of the
authorities, letters, charging all faithfull subjects to the
King's Majesty, to assist him against that cruel tyrant and
mansworn traitor, the Earl of Cassilis; which letters, with his
private writings, he published, and shortly found sic concurrence
of Kyle and Cunynghame with his other friends, that the Carrick
company drew back fra the house: and so the other approached,
furnished the house with more men, delivered the said Mr Allan,
and carried him to Ayr, where, publicly at the market cross of
the said town, he declared how cruelly he was entreated, and how
the murdered King suffered not sic torment as he did, excepting
only he escaped the death: and, therefore, publickly did revoke
all things that were done in that extremity, and especially
revoked the subscription of the three writings, to wit, of a fyve
yeir tack and nineteen year tack, and of a charter of feu. And so
the house remained, and remains (till this day, the 7th of
February, 1571,) in the custody of the said Laird of Bargany and of
his servants. And so cruelty was disappointed of proffeit present,
and shall be eternallie punished, unless he earnestly repent. And
this far for the cruelty committed, to give occasion unto others,
and to such as hate the monstrous dealing of degenerate nobility,
to look more diligently upon their behaviuours, and to paint them
forth unto the world, that they themselves may be ashamed of
their own beastliness, and that the world may be advertised and
admonished to abhor, detest, and avoid the company of all sic
tyrants, who are not worthy of the society of men, but ought to
be sent suddenly to the devil, with whom they must burn without
end, for their contempt of God, and cruelty committed against his
creatures. Let Cassilis and his brother be the first to be the
example unto others. Amen. Amen."*

* Bannatyne's Journal.

This extract has been somewhat amended or modernized in
orthography, to render it more intelligible to the general
reader. I have to add, that the Kennedies of Bargany, who
interfered in behalf of the oppressed Abbot, were themselves a
younger branch of the Cassilis family, but held different
politics, and were powerful enough in this, and other instances,
to bid them defiance.

The ultimate issue of this affair does not appear; but as the
house of Cassilis are still in possession of the greater part of
the feus and leases which belonged to Crossraguel Abbey, it is
probable the talons of the King of Carrick were strong enough,
in those disorderly times, to retain the prey which they had so
mercilessly fixed upon.

I may also add, that it appears by some papers in my possession,
that the officers or Country Keepers on the border, were
accustomed to torment their prisoners by binding them to the
iron bars of their chimneys, to extort confession.


Note F.---Heraldry

The author has been here upbraided with false heraldry, as having
charged metal upon metal. It should be remembered, however, that
heraldry had only its first rude origin during the crusades, and
that all the minutiae of its fantastic science were the work of
time, and introduced at a much later period. Those who think
otherwise must suppose that the Goddess of "Armoirers", like the
Goddess of Arms, sprung into the world completely equipped in all
the gaudy trappings of the department she presides over.

Additional Note

In corroboration of said note, it may be observed, that the arms,
which were assumed by Godfrey of Boulogne himself, after the
conquest of Jerusalem, was a cross counter patent cantoned with
four little crosses or, upon a field azure, displaying thus metal
upon metal. The heralds have tried to explain this undeniable
fact in different modes---but Ferne gallantly contends, that a
prince of Godfrey's qualities should not be bound by the ordinary
rules. The Scottish Nisbet, and the same Ferne, insist that the
chiefs of the Crusade must have assigned to Godfrey this
extraordinary and unwonted coat-of-arms, in order to induce those
who should behold them to make enquiries; and hence give them the
name of "arma inquirenda". But with reverence to these grave
authorities, it seems unlikely that the assembled princes of
Europe should have adjudged to Godfrey a coat armorial so much
contrary to the general rule, if such rule had then existed; at
any rate, it proves that metal upon metal, now accounted a
solecism in heraldry, was admitted in other cases similar to that
in the text. See Ferne's "Blazon of Gentrie" p. 238. Edition
1586. Nisbet's "Heraldry", vol. i. p. 113. Second Edition.


Note G.---Ulrica's Death song.

It will readily occur to the antiquary, that these verses are
intended to imitate the antique poetry of the Scalds---the
minstrels of the old Scandinavians---the race, as the Laureate so
happily terms them,

"Stern to inflict, and stubborn to endure,
Who smiled in death."

The poetry of the Anglo-Saxons, after their civilisation and
conversion, was of a different and softer character; but in the
circumstances of Ulrica, she may be not unnaturally supposed to
return to the wild strains which animated her forefathers during
the time of Paganism and untamed ferocity.


Note H.---Richard Coeur-de-Lion.

The interchange of a cuff with the jolly priest is not entirely
out of character with Richard I., if romances read him aright.
In the very curious romance on the subject of his adventures in
the Holy Land, and his return from thence, it is recorded how he
exchanged a pugilistic favour of this nature, while a prisoner in
Germany. His opponent was the son of his principal warder, and
was so imprudent as to give the challenge to this barter of
buffets. The King stood forth like a true man, and received a
blow which staggered him. In requital, having previously waxed
his hand, a practice unknown, I believe, to the gentlemen of the
modern fancy, he returned the box on the ear with such interest
as to kill his antagonist on the spot.
---See, in Ellis's Specimens of English Romance, that of


Note I.---Hedge-Priests.

It is curious to observe, that in every state of society, some
sort of ghostly consolation is provided for the members of the
community, though assembled for purposes diametrically opposite
to religion. A gang of beggars have their Patrico, and the
banditti of the Apennines have among them persons acting as monks
and priests, by whom they are confessed, and who perform mass
before them. Unquestionably, such reverend persons, in such a
society, must accommodate their manners and their morals to the
community in which they live; and if they can occasionally obtain
a degree of reverence for their supposed spiritual gifts, are, on
most occasions, loaded with unmerciful ridicule, as possessing a
character inconsistent with all around them.

Hence the fighting parson in the old play of Sir John Oldcastle,
and the famous friar of Robin Hood's band. Nor were such
characters ideal. There exists a monition of the Bishop of
Durham against irregular churchmen of this class, who associated
themselves with Border robbers, and desecrated the holiest
offices of the priestly function, by celebrating them for the
benefit of thieves, robbers, and murderers, amongst ruins and in
caverns of the earth, without regard to canonical form, and with
torn and dirty attire, and maimed rites, altogether improper for
the occasion.


Note J.---Castle of Coningsburgh.

When I last saw this interesting ruin of ancient days, one of the
very few remaining examples of Saxon fortification, I was
strongly impressed with the desire of tracing out a sort of
theory on the subject, which, from some recent acquaintance with
the architecture of the ancient Scandinavians, seemed to me
peculiarly interesting. I was, however, obliged by circumstances
to proceed on my journey, without leisure to take more than a
transient view of Coningsburgh. Yet the idea dwells so strongly
in my mind, that I feel considerably tempted to write a page or
two in detailing at least the outline of my hypothesis, leaving
better antiquaries to correct or refute conclusions which are
perhaps too hastily drawn.

Those who have visited the Zetland Islands, are familiar with the
description of castles called by the inhabitants Burghs; and by
the Highlanders---for they are also to be found both in the
Western Isles and on the mainland---Duns. Pennant has engraved a
view of the famous Dun-Dornadilla in Glenelg; and there are many
others, all of them built after a peculiar mode of architecture,
which argues a people in the most primitive state of society.
The most perfect specimen is that upon the island of Mousa, near
to the mainland of Zetland, which is probably in the same state
as when inhabited.

It is a single round tower, the wall curving in slightly, and
then turning outward again in the form of a dice-box, so that the
defenders on the top might the better protect the base. It is
formed of rough stones, selected with care, and laid in courses
or circles, with much compactness, but without cement of any
kind. The tower has never, to appearance, had roofing of any
sort; a fire was made in the centre of the space which it
encloses, and originally the building was probably little more
than a wall drawn as a sort of screen around the great council
fire of the tribe. But, although the means or ingenuity of the
builders did not extend so far as to provide a roof, they
supplied the want by constructing apartments in the interior of
the walls of the tower itself. The circumvallation formed a
double enclosure, the inner side of which was, in fact, two feet
or three feet distant from the other, and connected by a
concentric range of long flat stones, thus forming a series of
concentric rings or stories of various heights, rising to the top
of the tower. Each of these stories or galleries has four
windows, facing directly to the points of the compass, and rising
of course regularly above each other. These four perpendicular
ranges of windows admitted air, and, the fire being kindled,
heat, or smoke at least, to each of the galleries. The access
from gallery to gallery is equally primitive. A path, on the
principle of an inclined plane, turns round and round the
building like a screw, and gives access to the different stories,
intersecting each of them in its turn, and thus gradually rising
to the top of the wall of the tower. On the outside there are no
windows; and I may add, that an enclosure of a square, or
sometimes a round form, gave the inhabitants of the Burgh an
opportunity to secure any sheep or cattle which they might

Such is the general architecture of that very early period when
the Northmen swept the seas, and brought to their rude houses,
such as I have described them, the plunder of polished nations.
In Zetland there are several scores of these Burghs, occupying in
every case, capes, headlands, islets, and similar places of
advantage singularly well chosen. I remember the remains of one
upon an island in a small lake near Lerwick, which at high tide
communicates with the sea, the access to which is very ingenious,
by means of a causeway or dike, about three or four inches under
the surface of the water. This causeway makes a sharp angle in
its approach to the Burgh. The inhabitants, doubtless, were well
acquainted with this, but strangers, who might approach in a
hostile manner, and were ignorant of the curve of the causeway,
would probably plunge into the lake, which is six or seven feet
in depth at the least. This must have been the device of some
Vauban or Cohorn of those early times.

The style of these buildings evinces that the architect possessed
neither the art of using lime or cement of any kind, nor the
skill to throw an arch, construct a roof, or erect a stair; and
yet, with all this ignorance, showed great ingenuity in selecting
the situation of Burghs, and regulating the access to them, as
well as neatness and regularity in the erection, since the
buildings themselves show a style of advance in the arts scarcely
consistent with the ignorance of so many of the principal
branches of architectural knowledge.

I have always thought, that one of the most curious and valuable
objects of antiquaries has been to trace the progress of society,
by the efforts made in early ages to improve the rudeness of
their first expedients, until they either approach excellence,
or, as is more frequently the case, are supplied by new and
fundamental discoveries, which supersede both the earlier and
ruder system, and the improvements which have been ingrafted
upon it. For example, if we conceive the recent discovery of
gas to be so much improved and adapted to domestic use, as to
supersede all other modes of producing domestic light; we can
already suppose, some centuries afterwards, the heads of a whole
Society of Antiquaries half turned by the discovery of a pair of
patent snuffers, and by the learned theories which would be
brought forward to account for the form and purpose of so
singular an implement.

Following some such principle, I am inclined to regard the
singular Castle of Coningsburgh---I mean the Saxon part of it
---as a step in advance from the rude architecture, if it
deserves the name, which must have been common to the Saxons as
to other Northmen. The builders had attained the art of using
cement, and of roofing a building,---great improvements on the
original Burgh. But in the round keep, a shape only seen in the
most ancient castles---the chambers excavated in the thickness of
the walls and buttresses---the difficulty by which access is
gained from one story to those above it, Coningsburgh still
retains the simplicity of its origin, and shows by what slow
degrees man proceeded from occupying such rude and inconvenient
lodgings, as were afforded by the galleries of the Castle of
Mousa, to the more splendid accommodations of the Norman castles,
with all their stern and Gothic graces.

I am ignorant if these remarks are new, or if they will be
confirmed by closer examination; but I think, that, on a hasty
observation, Coningsburgh offers means of curious study to
those who may wish to trace the history of architecture back to
the times preceding the Norman Conquest.

It would be highly desirable that a cork model should be taken of
the Castle of Mousa, as it cannot be well understood by a plan.

The Castle of Coningsburgh is thus described:---

"The castle is large, the outer walls standing on a pleasant
ascent from the river, but much overtopt by a high hill, on which
the town stands, situated at the head of a rich and magnificent
vale, formed by an amphitheatre of woody hills, in which flows
the gentle Don. Near the castle is a barrow, said to be
Hengist's tomb. The entrance is flanked to the left by a round
tower, with a sloping base, and there are several similar in the
outer wall the entrance has piers of a gate, and on the east side
the ditch and bank are double and very steep. On the top of the
churchyard wall is a tombstone, on which are cut in high relief,
two ravens, or such-like birds. On the south side of the
churchyard lies an ancient stone, ridged like a coffin, on which
is carved a man on horseback; and another man with a shield
encountering a vast winged serpent, and a man bearing a shield
behind him. It was probably one of the rude crosses not uncommon
in churchyards in this county. See it engraved on the plate of
crosses for this volume, plate 14. fig. 1. The name of
Coningsburgh, by which this castle goes in the old editions of
the Britannia, would lead one to suppose it the residence of the
Saxon kings. It afterwards belonged to King Harold. The
Conqueror bestowed it on William de Warren, with all its
privileges and jurisdiction, which are said to have extended over
twenty-eight towns. At the corner of the area, which is of an
irregular form, stands the great tower, or keep, placed on a
small hill of its own dimensions, on which lies six vast
projecting buttresses, ascending in a steep direction to prop and
support the building, and continued upwards up the side as
turrets. The tower within forms a complete circle, twenty-one
feet in diameter, the walls fourteen feet thick. The ascent into
the tower is by an exceeding deep flight of steep steps, four
feet and a half wide, on the south side leading to a low doorway,
over which is a circular arch crossed by a great transom stone.
Within this door is the staircase which ascends straight through
the thickness of the wall, not communicating with the room on the
first floor, in whose centre is the opening to the dungeon.
Neither of these lower rooms is lighted except from a hole in the
floor of the third story; the room in which, as well as in that
above it, is finished with compact smooth stonework, both having
chimney-pieces, with an arch resting on triple clustered pillars.
In the third story, or guard-chamber, is a small recess with a
loop-hole, probably a bedchamber, and in that floor above a niche
for a saint or holy-water pot. Mr. King imagines this a Saxon
castle of the first ages of the Heptarchy. Mr. Watson thus
describes it. From the first floor to the second story, (third
from the ground,) is a way by a stair in the wall five feet wide.
The next staircase is approached by a ladder, and ends at the
fourth story from the ground. Two yards from the door, at the
head of this stair, is an opening nearly east, accessible by
treading on the ledge of the wall, which diminishes eight inches
each story ; and this last opening leads into a room or chapel
ten feet by twelve, and fifteen or sixteen high, arched with
free-stone, and supported by small circular columns of the same,
the capitals and arches Saxon. It has an east window, and on
each side in the wall, about four feet from the ground, a stone
basin with a hole and iron pipe to convey the water into or
through the wall. This chapel is one of the buttresses, but no
sign of it without, for even the window, though large within, is
only a long narrow loop-hole, scarcely to be seen without. On
the left side of this chapel is a small oratory, eight by six in
the thickness of the wall, with a niche in the wall, and
enlightened by a like loop-hole. The fourth stair from the
ground, ten feet west from the chapel door, leads to the top of
the tower through the thickness of the wall, which at top is but
three yards. Each story is about fifteen feet high, so that the
tower will be seventy-five feet from the ground. The inside
forms a circle, whose diameter may be about twelve feet. The well
at the bottom of the dungeon is piled with stones."---Gough's
"Edition Of Camden's Britannia". Second Edition, vol. iii. p.

Walter Scott: Ivanhoe


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