A LUCKY SCULLION
In the days when knights were bold, war was as much a business as anything else. While life was frequently brutish and short for the average soldier, captured nobles were often cash machines worth a fortune in ransom. So, the noble knights were often spared in times of defeat while their followers were slaughtered.
Lord Archibald Douglas, better known as Archibald the Grim and an illegitimate son of Robert the Bruce’s henchman Sir James Douglas, was amongst the Scots nobles captured by the English after they defeated the French at Poitiers in 1356.
The English knew from the quality of Douglas’s armour that he was a nobleman who would fetch a high ransom. Some also reckoned the armour itself would bring in a good price and they were stripping the wounded Douglas when a Scot fighting for the English intervened.
The Scot, Sir William Ramsay of Clouthie, began berating the prisoner. “You cursed damnable murderer,” he blustered. “How comes it in the name of mischief that you are proudly decked out in your master’s armour? Come hither and pull off my boots.”
No sooner was Ramsay’s boot off than he used it to beat Douglas about the head and shoulders. What the English did not know was that Douglas was Ramsay’s cousin. The stunned English protested at the way Ramsay was treating their noble and high-value prisoner.
“What lord?” Ramsay declared when challenged by the Englishmen. “He is a scullion and a base knave and, as I suppose, has killed his master.” Ramsay then ordered the prisoner to find the body of the real Lord Douglas. The English protested and Ramsay had to pay them a ransom of 40 shillings before they would release “the scullion” to carry out the search. Ramsay couldn’t resist giving his cousin a belt on the ear before sending him on the futile search for his own body. Needless to say, Douglas did not return from the search.