In such days of harsh brutality and constant warfare, it was expedient for many churchmen – bishops, priests, friars and monks alike, to be attached to the warring armies.
Many monks, like this one from a North of England Lanercost Abbey, were enlisted into the armies of both Edward I and Edward II as they made their way northwards in their all too frequent sojourns against the Scots.
Lanercost’s proximity to Scotland made it an easy target of Scots attacks in retaliation for English raids, thus enflaming the conflicting desire in men of the cloth to take arms in retaliation.
In 1296 the Scottish army encamped at Lanercost after burning Hexham priory and Lambley nunnery and there were similar occupations under Wallace. As much in response, Edward I made several visits to the Priory. On his visit in 1306, Edward was already terminally weak and a failing shadow of his notorious self. It was on that final visit that he ordered his bed to be carried to the shores of the Solway Firth so that he could curse Scotland one last time, from across that water.
Eight years later, when his successor, Edward II made his last stop at Lanercost on his way to Bannockburn, it is perhaps not surprising that many of the monks armed themselves and joined his ranks in a rare opportunity to wreak retribution. How many, if any returned from that adventure is not recorded.