Thursday, 20 June 2013

Do You 'Think Before You Speak'?

I went to Balwearie High School in Kirkcaldy, Fife in the 1970s and to get there from my home six miles away in Burntisland I got a school bus. 

This journey took me past the King Alexander III (r1249 – 1286) monument which, to be honest, I never really paid much attention to. 

I knew it was in memory to a King of Scots and did wonder why it was never mentioned at History lessons at school. So, I guess you could say in more ways than one I had no more than a 'passing' interest...

 Alexander III Monument

History bored me at school; it seemed to be simply about writing down dates and never seemed to be remotely relevant to life then as it was. 

Of course, perhaps another reason was that History consisted of the Tudors, Sir Francis Drake, Battle of Trafalgar, Henry VIII, the Elizabethans with some World War I and World War II thrown in. 

I don’t remember ever getting any Scottish history; we got ‘British’ history which inevitably was ‘English’ history. 

As I say, it bored me. It is something I would love to be able to go back in time to remedy; I didn’t know it then but there was a tiny ‘history flame’ struggling to ignite into something more powerful and my even noticing the Alexander III monument was possibly the start.

British History

Many moons later I looked more into King Alexander III and was amazed this important king had escaped the history agenda almost completely. There are two occasions in his life which particularly impressed me. 

Perhaps I am impressed because as a youngster I was often prone to ‘speaking first and thinking later’.

Alexander  was seven years old when he was inaugurated as King of Scots on 13th July 1249; his father had died a week earlier.

Magnus Magnusson Book - Highly Recommended

According to Magnus Magnusson in his book Scotland: The Story of a Nation – 

In December 1251, at the age of ten, the boy-king was taken by his court to York to be knighted by Henry III before being married to Henry’s daughter Margaret. It gave the English king an immediate opportunity to raise the dormant question of Scotland’s subjugation to England: according to the contemporary St Albans Chronicle, Alexander was then asked to do homage for the kingdom of Scotland…the boy replied gravely that he had come to marry, not to answer so difficult a question.

Alexander III  King of Scots

At age 36 I was still unable to always ‘think things through’; I could still be impetuous; I would still react rather than respond. King Alexander III seemed to have no such problem.


In October 1278 Alexander III was again careful with his reply when Edward I pressed for homage. According to Marion Campbell in her superb book Alexander III: King of Scots – 

‘I become your man for lands which I hold of you in the realm of England for which I owe you homage, reserving my kingdom’. Then the Bishop of Norwich said, ‘And let it be reserved to the King of England, if he should have right to your homage for the kingdom’. The King answered him publicly at once, saying, ‘Nobody but God Himself has the right to homage for my realm of Scotland, and I hold it of nobody but God Himself’.  

Marion Campbell's Book on Alexander III - Highly Recommended

King Alexander III grasped the basics of diplomacy and assertiveness from an early age and displayed courage in his dealings with other rulers and kings throughout his reign.

I'm happy to say that nowadays I have managed to overcome the 'feet first' approach. I am now able to think, think, think and then respond. However, I’m afraid I would never have managed to reign in such a mature way as Alexander III even with a plethora of advisors. How about you?

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