A Battlefield Miracle (or a Tale of Two Soldiers)

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A Battlefield Miracle

As his fingers stilled on the lace, the memory came to him, of Roysia, holding her son up to the Bruce, in the midst of an army, tears streaming down her face. He could not grasp why some prayers were answered and some not; why some children lived despite all odds and some died despite all prayers.
But he could not deny the miracle on the battlefield.
~~The Battle is O'er, Book Five of The Blue Bells Chronicles, coming March 23, 2018 

Through The Blue Bells Chronicles, we see a sharp contrast between two men and between two women in labor.

Simon Beaumont, Lord of Claverock, is known, in the series to both his medieval contemporaries and to those who learn of him in our own time, as The Butcher of Berwick. The moniker comes from his actions at the Sack of Berwick, on March 30, 1296.

To explain the Sack of Berwick (or the Capture of Berwick as Wikipedia politely calls it), we could back up to that dark and stormy night when Alexander III insisted on riding home to his bride. Or only to the death of the Maid of Norway on Orkney. The two incidents left Scotland with no clear heir, and to make a long story short, Edward I of England was called in to choose among the fourteen claimants to the throne (including Robert the Bruce's grandfather, also known as Robert the Bruce.)

Edward chose John Baliol, expecting to have his puppet on the throne. When the Scots did not behave according to Edward's wishes, he stormed north (a favorite hobby of his, storming north) and attacked the port town of Berwick. Although some sources  now say the slaughter was not what we've historically believed, history has come down to us as saying Edward's men slaughtered most of the men, women, and children of the town, that the streets ran red with blood--and that Edward only called off the slaughter when he came across one of his men killing a woman in the very act of giving birth.

I have assigned the deed of this unknown soldier to Simon Beaumont, Lord of Claverock.

laundress, bruce, ireland, 1317, battlefield, edmund butler, miracle on the battlefield, bruces saves a laundress, butcher of berwick
But as much as history is full of horror and brutality, it is also full of miracles and noble deeds. Another such story comes to us from 1317, when Robert the Bruce was in Ireland with his brother, Edward. (Yes, as Brother David explains to Shawn in Blue Bells of Scotland, Book One, there are a lot of Edwards running around--Ed Sr. and Ed Jr. over in England and Edward Bruce up in Scotland.)

The story is told in Walter Scott's Tales of a Grandfather and recounted by Madalen Edgar in Stories from Scottish History (a gift to me from Elaine, my friend in Scotland.) While rising one morning and preparing for yet another hasty retreat from much larger English forces, led by Sir Edmund Butler, the shrieks of a woman-reached the Bruce's ears. Asking what was going on, it was explained to him that one of the laundresses who traveled with the army had just given birth. Being in no shape to travel with her infant, and having no cart or litter on which to carry her, she was to be left behind. She was terrified of the rumored brutality of the oncoming army, and of being left alone, with her infant, to them.

[All previous reports I've read of this incident have said she went into labor that morning--but at the moment I'm unable to find those sites that told the story that way.]

King Robert struggled between the life of one woman and infant...and the life of thousands of his men. He knew they were no match for Butler's army. Then he made his decision:

"Ah gentlemen," he said, "never let it be said that a man who was born of a woman, and nursed by a woman's tenderness, should leave a mother and an infant to the mercy of barbarians! In the name of God, let the odds and the risk be what they will, I will fight Edmund Butler rather than leave these poor creatures behind me. Let the army, therefore, draw up in line of battle, instead of retreating."

Readers of Westering Home will know the remarkable, even miraculous conclusion of this story. Edmund Butler's vast forces gathered, looking down on the small Scots army, waiting for almost certain slaughter.

...and Butler's army turned and left!


A deserter later came to the Scots camp and was asked why. Butler knew, the soldier reported, that the Bruce was far too wise a commander to meet an oncoming army unprepared. So he must certainly have gained numerous troops, somehow, that must be lying in wait beyond Butler's vision.

And so, by a miracle (and part of the tagline of my series is mysteries and miracles), King Robert did the right and virtuous and courageous thing and saved the lives of the laundress and her child.

Two women, giving. Two soldiers.

The Battle is O'er: Coming March 23, 2018

a magnet of misty Glenmirril castle on the shores of Loch Ness
(technically...let's get all historically accurate here...it's really Castle Urquhart. Author's photography.)
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When is The Battle is O'er coming out?  READ HERE.
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Beethoven in Love by Howard Jay Smith
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