Walter of Exeter, Siege of Carlaverock


This poem, written in French, is thought to be authored by Walter of Exeter, a Franciscan friar.  The story details the siege of the Scottish castle of Carlaverock in July 1300 by Edward I.  The first portion of the poem gives a long list of heraldic banners and shields carried by English nobles, while the latter parts give a detailed description of the fighting that took place during the siege.  The Chronicle of Lanercost has its own description of events, and it notes that many of the prisoners who surrendered to Edward were hung.   


In the year of Grace one thousand three hundred, on the day of Saint John, Edward held a great council at Carlisle, and commanded that in a short time all his men should prepare, to go together with him against the Scots.

On the appointed day the whole host was ready, and the good King with his household, then set forward against the Scots, not in coats and surcoats, but on powerful and costly chargers; and that they might not be taken by surprise, well and securely armed.

There were many rich caparisons embroidered on silks and satins; many a beautiful pennon fixed to a lance; and many a banner displayed.

And afar off was the noise heard of the neighing horses: mountains and vallies were everywhere covered with sumpter horses and wagons with provisions, and sacks of tents and pavilions.

And the days were long and fine.  They proceeded by easy journeys, arranged in four squadrons; the which I will describe to you, that not one should be passed over.  But first I will tell you of the names and arms of the companions, especially of the banners, if you will listen how.

Henry the good Earl of Lincoln, burning with valour, and which is the chief feeling of his heart, leading the first squadron, had a banner of yellow silk with a purple lion rampart.

With him Robert le Fitz Walter, who well knew the use of arms, and so used them when required.  In a yellow banner he had a fess between two red chevrons.

And William le Marshall, who in Ireland had chief command.  He bore a gold bend engrailed in a red banner.

Hugh Bardolf, a man of great appearance, rich, valiant, and courteous.  He bore, azure, three cinquefoils of pure gold.

A great lord, much honoured, may I well name the fifth, Philip the Lord of Kyme, who bore red, with a chevron of gold surrounded by crosslets.

I saw Henry de Grey there, who well and nobly attended with his good Lord the Earl.  He had a banner, and reckoned rightly you would find it barry of six pieces of silver and blue.

Robert de Montalt was there, who highly endeavored to acquire high honor.  He had a banner of blue colour, with a lion rampant of silver.

In company with these was Thomas de Multon, who had a banner and shield of silver with three red bars.

These arms were not single, for such, or much resembling them, were in the hands of John de Lancaster; but who, in place of a bar less, bore a red quarter with a yellow leopard.

And of this same division was William le Vavasour, who in arms is neither deaf nor dumb.  He had a very distinguishable banner of fine gold with a sable dauncet.

Also John de Holdeston, who at all times appears well and prompt in arms.  He was with the Count, which makes it proper that he should be named among his followers.  He bore gules fretty of silver.

I saw the good Robert fitz Roger’s banner ranged with that of the Earl in the march: it was quarterly of gold and red with a black bend.

That of John his son and heir, who has the surname of Clavering, was not at all different, excepting only a gold label.

All those whom I have named to you were the retinue of the good and well-beloved Earl.  His companion was the Constable, who was Earl of Hereford, a rich and elegant young man.  He had a banner of deep blue silk, with a white bend between two cotises of fine gold, on the outside of which he had six lioncels rampant.

With him was Nicholas de Segrave, who nature had adorned in body and enriched in heart.  He had a valiant father, who wholly abandoned the garbs, and assumed the lion; and who taught his children to imitate the brave, and to associate with the nobles.  Nicholas used his father’s banner with a red label; by his brother John, who was the eldest, it was borne entire.  The father had by his wife five sons, who were valiant, bold, and courageous knights.  The banner of the eldest, who the Earl Marshal had sent to execute his duties because he could not come, was sable with a silver lion rampart, crowned with fine gold.  I cannot recollect what other Bannerets were there, but you shall see in the conclusion that he had one hundred good bachelors there, not one of whom would go into lodgings or tent until they had examined all the suspected passes, in which they rode every day.  The Marshal, the harbirnger, assigned lodgings to those who were entitled to them.  Thus far I have spoken of those who are in and form the vanguard.

John the good Earl of Warren held the reins to regulate and govern the second squadron, as he who well knew how to lead noble and honorable men.  His banner was handsomely checkered with gold and azure.

He had in his company Henri de Percy his nephew, who seemed to have made a vow to humble the Scots.  His banner was very conspicuous, a blue lion rampart on yellow.

Robert le Fitzpayne followed them; he had his red banner, side by side, with three white lions passant, surcharged with a blue baton.

Add to these Walter de Moncy, who was in this company because they were all of one household.  He had his banner checkered of silver and red.

The valiant Aymer de Valence bore a beautiful banner there of silver and azure stuff, surrounded by a border of red martlets.

With him Nicholas de Carew, a valiant man of great fame, which had often been displayed both in cover and on the plains against the rebellious people of Ireland.  He had handsome yellow banner with three lions passant sable.

With them was Roger de la Ware, a wise and valiant knight, who arms were red, with white lion and crosslets.

Guy Earl of Warwick, who of all that are mentioned in my rhyme had not a better neighbour than himself, bore a red banner with a fess of gold and crusilly.

John de Mohun bore there, yellow, with a black cross engrailed.

Tateshal, for valour which he had displayed with them, has one of gold and red checkered, with a chief ermine.

Ralph le Fitwilliam bore differently from him of valence, for instead of martlets he had three chaplets of red roses, which became him marvelously.

That which William de Ros displayed there, was red with three white bougets.

And the banner of Hugh Pointz was barry of eight pieces of gold and red.

John de Beauchamp bore handsomely, in a graceful manner, and with inspiring ardour, a banner vair.

The ventailed were soon lowered, and the battalions proceeded on their march.  Of two of them you have already been told, and of the third you shall hear.

Edward King of England and Scotland, Lord of Ireland, Prince of Wales, and Duke of Aquitaine, conducted the third squadron at a little distance, and brought up the rear so closely and ably that none of the others were left behind.  In his banner were three leopards courant of fine gold, set on red, fierce, haughty, and cruel; thus placed to signify that, like them, the King is dreadful, fierce, and proud to his enemies, for his bite is slight to none who inflame his anger; not but his kindness is soon rekindled towards such as seek his friendship or submit to his power.  Such a Prince was well suited to be the chieftain of noble personages.

I must next mention his nephew John of Brittany, because he is nearest to him; and this preference he has well deserved, having assiduously served his uncle from his infancy, and left his father and other relations to dwell in his household when the King had occasion for his followers.  He was handsome and amiable, and had beautiful and ornamented banner, checkered gold and azure, with a red border and yellow leopards, and a quarter of ermine.

John de Bar was likewise there, who, in a blue banner, crusilly, bore two barbells of gold, with a red border engrailed.

William de Grandison bore paly silver and azure, surcharged with a red bend, and thereon three beautiful eaglets of fine gold.

Well ought I to state in my lay, that the courteous Elias de Aubigny had a red banner, on which appeared a white fess engrailed.

But Eurmenions de la Brette had a banner entirely red.

After these I find in my account Hugh of Vere, son of the Earl of Oxford, and brother to his heir.  He had a long and narrow banner, not of silk but of good cloth, and quartered with red and gold, with a black indented border, and in the upper part a white star.

John de Rivers had his caparisons mascally of gold and vermillion; and they were therefore similar to those of the good Maurice de Croun.

Robert, the Lord of Clifford, to whom reason gives consolation, who always remembers to overcome his enemies.  He may call Scotland to near witness of his noble lineage, that originated well and nobly, as he is of the race of the noble Earl Marshal, who at Constantinople fought with an unicorn, and struck him dead beneath him; from whom he is descended through his mother. The good Roger, his father’s father was considered equal to him, but he had no merit which does not appear to be revived in his grandson; for I well know there is no degree of praise of which he is not worthy, as he exhibits as many proofs of wisdom and prudence as any of those who accompany his good Lord the King.  His much honoured banner was checkered with gold and azure, with vermillion fess.  If I were a young maiden, I would give him my heart and person, so great is his fame.

The good Hugh le Descpencer, who loyally on his courser knows how to disperse an enemy, had a banner quarterly, with black baton on white, and the gules fretty yellow.

I have not forgotten the banner of the good Hugh de Courtenay, of fine gold with three red roundlets and a blue label.

And that of Aumary de Saint Amand, who advances, displaying his prowess, of gold and black fretty, on a chief three roundlets, also of gold.

John de Engiagne had a handsome one of red, crusilly, with a dancette of gold.

Next, Walter de Beauchamp bore there, six martlets of gold in a red field, with a fess instead of a dancette.  A Knight, according to my opinion, one of the best of the world, if he had not been too rash and daring; but you will never hear any one speak of the Seneschal that has not a but.

He, who with a light heart, doing good to all, bore a yellow banner and pennon with a black saltire engrailed, was called John Botetourte.

The banner of Eustace de Hache was well ornamented: it was yellow with a red cross engrailed.

Adam de Welles bore there, gold, a black lion rampant, whose tail spread itself two.

The handsome and amiable Robert de Scales bore red with shells of silver.

[Emlam] Touches, a knight of good fame, bore red, with yellow martlets.

That of the Count of Laonis was known as red with a white lion, and a white border with roses like the field.

Patrick of Dunbar, son of the Count, bore in no way different from his father, excepting a blue label.

Richard Suwart, who was in company with them, had a black banner painted with a white cross, flowered at the ends.

Simon de Fresel, of that company, bore black with roses of silver.

The handsome Brian Fitz Alan, full of courtesy and honour, I saw with his well-adorned banner, barry of gold and red; which was the subject of dispute between him and Hugh Pointz, who bore the same, neither more nor less, at which many and many marveled.

Then there was Roger de Mortaigne, who strives that he may acquire honour; he bore yellow with six blue lions, the tails of which we call double.

And of the handsome Huntercombe, ermine with red gemelles.

Also, I know John de Grey was there, who I saw had his banner barry of silver and blue, with a red bend engrailed.

And William de Cantilupe, whom I for this reason praise, that he has at all times lived in honour.  He had on a red shield a fess vaire, with three fluers de lis of bright gold issuing from leopard’s heads.

And then Hugh de Mortimer, who well knew how to make himself loved; he bore a red banner with two fesses vair.

But by Simon de Montagu, who had a blue banner and shield with a griffin rampant of fine gold, the third squadron was brought to a close.

The fourth squadron, with its train, was led by Edward the King’s son, a youth of seventeen years of age, and bearing arms for the first time.  He was of a well proportioned and handsome person, of a courteous disposition, and intelligent; and desirous of finding an occasion to display his prowess.  He managed his steed wonderfully well, and bore with a blue label the arms of the good King his father.  Now God give him grace that he be as valiant and no less so than his father; then may those fall into his hands who from henceforward do not act properly.

The brave John de Saint John was every where with him, who on all his white caparisons had upon a red chief two gold mullets.

A white surcoat and white alettes, a white shield and a white banner, were borne with a red manuch by Robert de Tony, who well evinces that his a knight of the Swan.

Henry of Tyes had a banner whiter than a smooth lily, with a red chevron in the middle.

Prowess had made a friend of William le Latimer, who bore on this occasion a well-proportioned banner, with a gold cross patee, portayed on red.

Also William de Leyburne, a valiant man, without but and without if, had there a banner and a large pennon, of blue, with six white lions rampant.

And then Roger de Mortimer, who on both sides the sea had borne, wherever he went, a shield barry, with a chief paly and the corners gyronny, emblazoned with gold and with blue, with the escutcheon voided of ermine.  He proceeded with the others, for he and the before named were appointed to conduct and guard the King’s son.  But how can I place them?  The St. Johns, the Latimers, were leaders from the first, who ought to have been in the rear of the squadron, as those who best understood such matters, for it would not be wise to seek elsewhere two more valiant or two more prudent men.

Their friends and neighbours were two brothers, cousin’s to the King’s son, named Thomas and henry, who were the sons of Monsieur Edmond, the well-beloved, who was formerly so called.

Thomas was Earl of Lancaster: this is the description of his arms; those of England with a label of France, and he did not wish to display any others.

Those of Henry I do not repeat to you, whose whole daily study was to resemble his good father, for he bore the arms of his brother, with a blue baton, without the label.

William de Ferres was finely and nobly accoutred and well armed, in red, with gold mascles voided of the field.

He by whom they were well supported, acquired, after great doubts and fears until it pleased God he should be delivered, the love of the Countess of Gloucester, for who he a long time endured great sufferings.  He had only a banner of fine gold with three red chevrons.  He made no bad appearance when attired in his own arms, which were yellow with a green eagle.  His name was Ralph de Monthermer.

After him, I saw first of all the valiant Robert de la Warde, who guards his banner well, which is vaire of white and black.

The heir of John de St. John was there a companion; he bore the name of his father, and also his arms with a blue label.

Richard the Earl of Arundel, a handsome and well-beloved Knight, I saw there, richly armed in red, with a gold lion rampant.

Alan de la Zouche, to show that riches were perishable, bore bezants on his red banner; for I know well that he has spent more treasure than is suspended in his purse.

With them were joined both in company and affection, the followers of the noble Bishop of Durham, the most vigilant clerk in the kingdom, a true mirror of Christianity; so, that I may tell you the truth, I would be understood that he was wise, eloquent, temperate, just, and chaste.  Never was there a great man, nor like person, who regulated his life better.  He was entirely free from pride, covetousness, and envy; not, however, that he wanted spirited to defend his rights, if he could not work upon his enemies by gentle measures, for so strongly was he influenced by a just conscience, that it was the astonishment of everyone.  In all the King’s wars he appeared in noble array, with a great and expensive retinue.  He was detained in England in consequence of a treaty which was just entered into, but I know not about what wrong, so that he did not come into Scotland; notwithstanding, being well informed of the King’s expedition, he sent him of his people one hundred and sixty men at arms.  Arthur, in former times, with all his spells, had not so fine a present from Merlin.  He sent there his ensign, which was gules with a fer de moulin or ermine.

He who all honour displays, John de Hastings, was to conduct it in his name; for it was entrusted to him, as being the most intimate and best beloved of any one he had there.  And assuredly he well deserved to be so; for he was known by all to be in deeds of arms daring and reckless, but in the hostel mild and gracious; nor was there ever a Judge in Eyre more willing to judge rightly.  He had a light and strong shield, and a banner of similar work of fine gold with a red maunch.

Edmond, his valiant brother, chose there the black label.  He could not fail of those honours which he took so much pains to acquire.

They had a handsome and accomplished bachelor, well versed in love and arms, named John Paignel, as a companion, who in a green banner bore a maunch of fine gold.

And, as the good Edmond Deincourt could not attend himself, he sent his two brave sons in his stead, and with them his banner of a blue colour, billete of gold with a dancette over all.

Of John de Fitz Marmaduke, whom all esteemed, Prince and Duke and others who knew him, the banner was adorned with a fess and three popinjays, which were painted white on a red field.

And Maurice de Berkeley, who was a companion in this expedition, had a banner red as blood, crusilly with a white chevron, and a blue label because his father was alive.

But Alexander de Balliol, who had his eye on doing every good, bore a banner with a yellow ground and red escutcheon voided of the field.

To those last named, without reckoning double, were eighty-seven banners, which quite filled the roads to the castle of Carlaverock, which was not taken like a chess rook, but it will have thrusts of lances, and engines raised and poised, as shall inform you when we describe the attack.

Carlaverock was so strong a castle, that it did not fear a siege, therefore the King came himself, because it would not consent to surrender.  But it was always furnished for its defence, whenever it was required, with men, engines, and provisions.  Its shape was like that of a shield, for it had only three sides all around, with a tower on each angle; but one of them was a double one, so high, so long, and so large, that under it was the gate with a drawbridge, well made and strong, and a sufficiency of other defences.  It had good walls, and good ditches filled to the edge with water; and I believe there never was seen a castle more beautifully situated, for at once could be seen the Irish sea towards the west, and to the north a fine country, surrounded by an arm of the sea, so that no creature born could approach it on two sides, without putting himself in danger of the sea.

Towards the south it was not easy, because there were numerous dangerous defiles of wood, and marshes, and ditches, where the sea is on each side of it, and where the river reaches it; and therefore it was necessary for the host to approach it towards the east, where the hill slopes.

And in that place by the King’s commands his battalions were formed into three, as they were to be quartered; then were the banners arranged, when one might observe many a warrior there exercising his horse; and there appeared three thousand brave men-at-arms; then might be seen gold and silver, and the noblest and best of all rich colours, so as entirely to illuminate the valley; consequently, those of the castle, on seeing us arrive, might, as well I believe, deem that they were in greater peril than they could ever before remember.  And as soon as we were thus drawn up, we were quartered by the Marshal, and then might be seen houses built without carpenters or masons, of many different fashions, and many a cord stretched, with white and coloured cloth, with many pins driven into the ground, many a large tree cut down to make huts; and leaves, herbs, and flowers gathered in the woods, which were strewed within; and then our people took up their quarters.

Soon afterwards it fortunately happened that the navy arrived with the engines and provisions, and then the foot-men began to march against the castle; then might be seen stones, arrows, and quarrels to fly among them; but so effectually did those within exchange their tokens with those without, that in one short hour there were many persons wounded and maimed, and I know not how many killed.

When the men-at-arms saw that the foot-men had sustained such losses who had begun the attack, many ran there, many leaped there, and many used such haste to go, that they did not deign to speak to any one.  Then might there be seen such kind of stones thrown as if they would beat hats and helmets to powder, and break shields and targets in pieces; for to kill and wound was the game at which they played.  Great shouts arose among them, when they perceived that any mischief occurred.

There, first of all, I saw come the good Bertram de Montbouchier, on whose shining silver shield were three red pitchers, with besants in a black border.

With him Gerard de Gondronville, an active and handsome bachelor.  He had a shield neither more nor less than vaire.   These were not resting idle, for they threw up many a stone, and suffered many a heavy blow.

The first body was composed of Bretons, and the second were of Lorraine, of which none found the other tardy; so that they afforded encouragement and emulation to others to resemble them.  Then came to assail the castle, Fitz-Marmaduke, with a banner and a great and full troop of good and selected bachelors.

Robert de Willoughby, I saw, bore gold fretty azure.

Robert de Hamsart I saw arrive, fully prepared, with fine followers, holding a red shield by the straps, containing three silver stars.

Henry de Graham had his arms red as blood, with a white saltire and chief, on which he had three red escalop shells.

Thomas de Richmont, who a second time collected some lances, had red armour, with a chief and two gemells of gold.  These did not act like discreet people, nor as persons enlightened by understanding; but as if they had been inflamed and blinded with pride and despair, for they made their way right forwards to the very brink of the ditch.

And those of Richmont passed at this moment quite to the bridge, and demanded entry; they were answered with ponderous stones and cornues.  Willoughby in his advances received a stone in the middle of his breast, which ought to have been protected by his shield, if he had deigned to use it.

Fitz Marmaduke had undertaken to endure as much in that affair as the others could bear, for he was like a post; but his banner received many stains, and many a rent difficult to mend.

Hamsart bore himself so nobly, that from his shield fragments might often be seen to fly in the air; for he, and those of Richmont, drove the stones upward as if it were rotten, whilst those within defended themselves by loading their heads and necks with the weight of heavy blows.

Those led by Graham did not escape, for there were not above two who returned unhurt or brought back their shields entire.

Then you might hear the tumult begin.  With them were intermixed a great body of the King’s followers, all of whose names if I were to repeat, and recount their brave actions, the labour would be too heavy, so many were there, and so well did they behave.  Nor would this suffice without those of the retinue of the King’s son, great numbers of whom came there in noble array; for many a shield newly painted and splendidly adorned, many a helmet and many a burnished hat, many a rich gambezon garnished with silk, tow, and cotton, were there to be seen of divers forms and fashions.

There I saw Ralph de Gorges, a newly dubbed Knight, fall more than once to the ground from stones and the crowd, for he was of so haughty a spirit that he would not deign to retire.  He had all his harness and attire mascally of gold and azure.

Those who were on the wall Robert de Tony severely harassed; for he had in his company the good Richard de Rokeley, who so well plied those within that he frequently obliged them to retreat.  He had his shield painted mascally of red and ermine.

Adam de la Forde mined the walls as well as he could, for his stones flew in and out as thick as rain, by which many were disabled.  He bore, in clear blue, three gold lioncels rampant crowned.

The good Baron de Wigtown received such blows that it was the astonishment of all that he was stunned; for, without excepting any lord present, none showed a more resolute or unembarrassed countenance.  He bore within a bordure indented, three gold stars on sable.

Many a heavy and crushing stone did he of Kirkbride receive, but he placed before him a white shield with a green cross engrailed. So stoutly was the gate of the castle assailed by him, that never did smith with his hammer strike his iron as he and his did there.  Notwithstanding, there were showered upon them such huge stones, quarrels, and arrows, that with wounds and bruises they were so hurt and exhausted, that it was with very great difficulty they were able to retire.

But as soon as they had retreated, he of Clifford, being advised of it, and like one who had no intention that those within should have repose, sent his banner there, and as many as could properly escort it, with Bartolomew de Badlesmere, and John de Cromwell, as those who could best perform his wishes; for whilst their breath lasted, none of them neglected to stoop and pick up the stones, to throw them, and to attack.

But the people of the castle would not permit them to remain there long.  Badlesmere, who all that day behaved himself well and bravely, bore on white with a blue label a red fess between two gemelles.  Cromwell, the brave and handsome, who went gliding between the stones, bore on blue a white lion rampant double-tailed, and crowned with gold; but think not that he brought it away, or that it was not bruised, so much was it battered and defaced by stones before he retreated.

After these two, La Warde and John de Gray returned there, and renewed the attack.  Those within, who were fully expecting it, bent their bows and crossbows, and prepared their espringalls, and kept themselves quite ready both to throw and to hurl.

Then the followers of my Lord of Brittany recommended the assault, fierce and daring as lions of the mountains, and every day improving in both practice and use of arms.  Their party soon covered the entrance of the castle, for none could have attacked it more furiously.  Not, however, that it was so subdued that those who came after them would not have a share in their labours; but they left more than enough for them also.

After these, the people of my Lord of Hastings assembled there, where I saw John de Cretinques in danger of losing a horse.  When upon it, one came beneath pricking it with as arrow; but he did seem to be dissembling, he used such haste to strike him.  On his shield he had caused to be depicted a red chevron with three mullets.

He bore a dancette and billets of gold on blue, John Deincourt by name, rushed to assault, and there extremely well performed his duty.

It was also a fine sight to see the good brothers of Berkeley receiving numerous blows; and the brothers Basset likewise, of whom the eldest bore thus, ermine, a red chief indented, charged with three gold mullets; the other, with three shells; found the passages straightened.  Those within continually relieved one another, for always as one became fatigued, another returned fresh and stout; and notwithstanding such assaults made upon them, they would not surrender, but so defended themselves, that they resisted those who attacked, all that day and night, and the next day until tierce.  But their courage was considerably depressed during the attack by the brother Robert, who sent numerous stones from the robinet, without cessation from the dawn of the preceding day until the evening.  Moreover, on the other side he was erecting three other engines, very large, of great power and very destructive, which cut down and cleave whatever they strike.  Fortified town, citadel, nor barrier – nothing is protected from their strokes.  Yet those within did not flinch until some of them were slain, but then each began to repent his obstinacy, and to be dismayed.  The pieces fell in such manner, wherever the stones entered, that when they struck either of them, neither iron cap nor wooden target could save him from a wound.

And when they saw that they could not hold out any longer or endure more, the companions begged for peace, and put out a pennon, but he that displayed it was shot with an arrow, by some archer, through the hand into the face.  Then he begged that they would do no more to him, for they will give up the castle to the King, and throw themselves upon his mercy.  And the marshal and constable, who always remained on the spot, at that notice forbade the assault, and these surrendered the castle to them.

And this is the number of those who came out of it; or persons of different sorts and ranks sixty men, who were beheld with much astonishment, but they were all kept and guarded till the King commanded that life and limb should be given them, and ordered to each of them a new garment.  Then was the whole host rejoiced at the news of the conquest of the castle, which was so noble a prize.

Then the King caused them to bring up his banner, and that of St. Edmond, St. George, and St. Edward, and with them, by established right, those of Seagrave and Hereford, and the of the Lord of Clifford, to whom the castle was entrusted.

And then the King, who is well skilled in war, directed in what way his army should proceed.

Here ends the Siege of Carlaverock.


This poem is from: The Siege of Carlaverock, edited and translated by Nicholas Harris Nicolas (London, 1828).  Some minor alterations were made to Nicolas’ English translation.


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