The Royal Bridal '“ Andrew finds himself chained for life

Wilson's Tales of the Borders is a collection of almost 500 stories celebrating our history, legends and people. Serialised in the Berwick Advertiser from the 1830s, the Wilson's Tales Project is re-telling the stories for today's readers.

Friday, 9th November 2018, 15:07 pm
The Royal Bridal - illustration by Sheila Vickers.

PREVIOUSLY: At the marriage of England’s Princess Margaret to Scotland’s King James IV, a stranger wins the wrestling and a friendly bout with Eyemouth fisherman Andrew, but they fight over Andrew’s beloved Janet. At a tournament, Andrew wins a gold purse from the King, who turns out to be the stranger. Andrew flees for his life.

About midnight, Janet and her mother Nancy heard a knock at the window and a familiar voice: “Janet! It’s me.”

Once inside, Andrew explained the King’s anger. “Who do you think is the King? You remember the chiel that came here, that I gave a clout in the chops? Yon was the King.”

“Have I really had the King of Scotland in my house, sitting at my fireside?” cried Nancy. “Ah, he’s a bonny man!”

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“Mother!” Janet said. “He’s threatening Andrew’s life. What shall we do?”

Andrew said: “I have to get to the other side of the Tweed. I’m only here to say goodbye. If I can’t get back to marry you, will you come to England?”

“Of course”, she said. But before that she would go to Edinburgh to plead with the King for Andrew’s life.

They talked too long. A dozen armed men pushed into the room and seized Andrew. Janet shouted: “But the Queen shall know everything!”

Within two days Janet and Nancy had joined Andrew as prisoners in Edinburgh Castle. Andrew was hauled before King James, surrounded by men with swords. He expected to die, but showed he was unafraid.

The King said: “Now, traitor. Do you deny that you raised your hand against our royal person?”

Andrew, undaunted, replied: “No”.

“You heard that, kinsmen,” said the King. “A confession of guilt from his own lips. What should the punishment be?

“Death,” said the nobles. “The traitor’s doom.”

The King was inclined to be merciful: “Because he fought bravely at Lamberton, we will spare his life. But the hand raised against our person shall be cut off.”

The block was brought. The executioner stood with sword drawn. But there was an interruption as the young Queen and attendants came into the room.

“What can I do for you, my fair Queen?”

“A favour that you don’t cut off this man’s hand, but that you chain that hand for life,” she said.

Taking the sword, the King touched the kneeling Andrew on the shoulder: “Rise up, Sir Andrew. And now we chain your offending hand.”

The Queen raised an attendant’s veil to reveal Janet. The King took her hand and placed it in Andrew’s.

“Am I dreaming?” said the reprieved man. “Oh, Your Majesty. What can I say?”

“Nothing,” said King James, “but that any stranger might be the King in disguise!”

Retold by Fordyce Maxwell, adapted by Joe Lang and illustrated by Sheila Vickers. Read the full story and historic background in Volume 5 of the Wilson’s Tales Revival Edition, £8.50 from bookshops or