« On Thursday, before noon, shall blow the greatest wind that ever was heard, to the great calamity and trouble of all Scotland. »
Thomas the Rhymer made this prophetic announcement to the Earl of March a few days before the events.
Thomas was the most famous poet and prophet in the history of Scotland. His predictions proved not only to be all true, but far-seeing, as several have lasted through the centuries until our own era. At the time, he was staying in the provincial governor’s enormous fortress on the coast south of Edinburgh.
His words obviously made a profound impression on his hosts, and as Thursday morning arrived, they all looked up apprehensively at the skies. But it was a beautiful summer’s day without a breath of wind. Time passed, and midday approached, and there was still not a cloud. The Earl of March complained that Thomas the Rhymer was talking rubbish, and that he should be severely punished for having unnecessarily startled the castle’s inhabitants.
It was close to midday now, and everyone had climbed to the top of the keep. There was still no storm in sight ; the sky was blue, the sea was calm, and there was not even a slight breeze. The Earl was increasingly angry with Thomas. « Midday has not yet struck », Thomas replied.
The bells of twelve noon struck and the Earl of March was about to go down to the castle when a lone rider galloping towards the castle could be seen in the distance. He bore the official arms of Scotland : he was a royal messenger. The Earl hastened to meet him. The herald haded him a doucument, which contained a brief message.
King Alexander III had died the previous night. He had been in Edinburgh when he had been seized by a whim. He decided to visit his young wife, Yolande, in the castle where she was staying on the other side of the Firth of Forth. Despite his entourage’s entreaties, he set out in a light skiff. He reached the opposite shore, and rode off, leaving his escort behind. A few guards who had been following him lost any trace of him.
The next day, it was discovered that he had not reached the castle. Search parties were sent out. The king was found dead at the bottom of a ditch. His horse had slipped and fallen, and the king had been killed. It was tragic news and a dramatic shock. But where was the storm that would damage the kingdom ?
The death of King Alexander III left behind a vacuum in the circles of power, a weakness that enabled the King of England to invade Scotland, destroy it and subject it to his rule. Thomas the Rhymer had been right. On that Thursday at noon, the Earl of March had seen the rising of the storm that would be fatal for Scotland, but it would take several years to fully comprehend the significance.