Melrose Abbey (Ruins) – Pencil/Ink in a Moleskine Sketchbook

The original abbey dates back to the year 660 and the building, in this scene, was completed in 1146 the monks having moved, a few miles, to obtain better farming land.

Just before King Robert the Bruce died in 1329, he asked that his heart be taken to the Holy Lands as part of a crusade. It never made it and during a battle in 1330, in Spain against the Moors, his friend, Sir James Douglas; as he was about to be overpowered and killed, hurled the casket, containing Bruce’s heart, towards the enemy. It was later recovered, brought home to Scotland and buried in this abbey. In 1996 a casket was unearthed from a vault beneath the Abbey’s Charter House and, although it is impossible to prove that the remains inside were Bruce’s heart it is reasonable to assume that they are as no other documentation exists connected with such burials in the Abbey. A new casket was created with the words
“A noble hart may hae nae ease, gif freedom failye” – “A noble heart may have no ease if freedom fail”. This casket was buried under a new stone.

In 1385, following a raid by Scottish troops over the English border, Richard 11 sent troops which destroyed many buildings in the Scottish Borders. These included Melrose Abbey as well as Newbattle and Dryburgh Monasteries. Much work was done to restore the damage but, in 1544 Henry V111 destroyed much of the place. This was in retaliation as the Scots had sent the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, to France when Henry had tried to enforce a marriage betrothal to his son – this has been known ever since as the “Rough Wooin’”. (Rough courtship/Forced courtship). Much of what you see today is the result of Henry’s action.

The surrounds of this magnificent ruin were still used until fairly recent times, as a graveyard for local folk. If you look at my sketch and imagine you are standing at the extreme right there is a gravestone, which is rather poignant. Here, a lady is laid to rest and, a month later, is joined by her sister. The date is not that old so I will not write the names but I have looked at this many times and find a great sadness in what I see.