Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Death of King Robert the Bruce
By Sir John Bourchier, Lord Berners (c. 14671533)
IT fortuned that King Robert of Scotland was right sore aged, and feeble; for he was greatly charged with the great sickness, so that there was no way with him but death; and when he felt that his end drew near, he sent for such barons and lords of his realm as he trusted best, and showed them how there was no remedy with him, but he must needs leave this transitory life; commanding them on the faith and truth that they owed him, truly to keep the realm, and aid the young prince David, his son, and that when he were of age, they should obey him, and crown him king, and to marry him in such a place as was convenient for his estate. Then he called to him the gentle knight, Sir James Douglas, and said before all the lords, Sir James, my dear friend, ye know well that I have had much ado in my days, to uphold and sustain the right of this realm, and when I had most ado, I made a solemn vow, the which as yet I have not accomplished, whereof I am right sorry; the which was, if I might achieve and make an end of all my wars, so that I might once have brought this realm in rest and peace, then I promised in my mind to have gone and warred on Christs enemies, adversaries to our holy Christian faith. To this purpose mine heart hath ever intended, but our Lord would not consent thereto; for I have had so much ado in my days, and now in my last enterprise, I have taken such a malady, that I can not escape. And sith it is so that my body can not go, nor achieve that my heart desireth, I will send the heart in stead of the body, to accomplish mine avow. And because I know not in all my realm, no knight more valiant than ye be, nor of body so well furnished to accomplish mine avow in stead of myself, therefore I require you, mine own dear especial friend that ye will take on you this voyage, for the love of me, and to acquit my soul against my Lord God; for I trust so much in your nobleness and truth, that an ye will take on you, I doubt not, but that ye shall achieve it, and then shall I die in more ease and quiet, so that it be done in such manner as I shall declare unto you. I will, that as soon as I am trespassed out of this world, that ye take my heart out of my body, and embalm it, and take of my treasure, as ye shall think sufficient for that enterprise, both for yourself, and such company as ye will take with you, and present my heart to the holy sepulchre, where as our Lord lay, seeing my body can not come there; and take with you such company and purveyance as shall be appertaining to your estate. And wheresoever ye come, let it be known, how ye carry with you the heart of King Robert of Scotland, at his instance and desire to be presented to the holy sepulchre. Then all the lords that heard these words, wept for pity. And when this knight, Sir James Douglas, might speak for weeping, he said, Ah, gentle and noble king, a hundred times I thank your grace of the great honour that ye do to me, sith of so noble and great treasure ye give me in charge; and sir, I shall do with a glad heart all that ye have commanded me, to the best of my true power; how be it, I am not worthy nor sufficient to achieve such a noble enterprise. Then the king said, Ah, gentle knight, I thank you, so that ye will promise to do it. Sir, said the knight, I shall do it undoubtedly, by the faith that I owe to God, and to the order of knighthood. Then I thank you, said the king, for now shall I die in more ease of my mind, sith that I know that the most worthy and sufficient knight of my realm shall achieve for me, the which I could never attain unto. And thus soon after this, noble Robert de Bruce, King of Scotland, trespassed out of this uncertain world, and his heart was taken out of his body, and embalmed, and honourably he was interred in the Abbey of Dunfermline, in the year of our Lord God, 1327, the seventh day of the month of November.