…But in these cases,
We still have judgement here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which being taught, return
To plague th'inventor: this even-handed Justice
Commends th'ingredience of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips.Macbeth, Act 1, Scene VII, lines 2–12.
On 10 February 1306, in the church of the Greyfriars in Dumfries, Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick, and his followers slew John Comyn, lord of Badenoch and a leading member of one of Scotland's most powerful families. A rising against the occupying English immediately followed and, on 25 March, Bruce was inaugurated as king of Scots at Scone abbey. Barely three months later, on 19 June, King Robert marched on Perth to confront Aymer de Valence, Edward I's newly appointed lieutenant in Scotland. Yet according to the chronicler Walter of Guisborough, at the ensuing battle at nearby Methven, on Bruce's orders, ‘all the men at arms on horses had a white coat over their armour, so that they appeared to be in white shirts and you could not see who was who or what arms he bore’. In an age when the bearing of arms on shields and heraldic coat armour was both an essential prerequisite of nobility and a pragmatic measure in battle to ensure capture rather than death, such an act was astonishing. It can be seen either an act of solidarity, symbolically substituting personal recognition for a group identity in the cause of liberation, or as a grim measure of desperation because Bruce and his men now feared for their lives.