The History of Leith

February 25, 2012

Sanctuary

In 1337, about the time that John II. was abbot, sanctuary was given in Holyrood church to a remarkable fugitive from the Castle of Edinburgh, which at that time was held by an English garrison
under Thomas Knyton. In one of the forays made by him in search of supplies, he had been guided to a rich booty near Calder Muir by a soldier named Robert Prendergast, an adherent of Baliol,
who served under the English banner. Upon returning to the castle, instead of being rewarded, as he expected, the Scottish traitor, at dinner in the hall, was placed among the serving-men and
below the salt.
Filled with rage and mortification, he remained silent, and declined to eat. Thomas Knyton observing this, asked the reason in a jesting tone, and on receiving a haughty and sullen reply, passionately struck Prendergast on the head with a weapon that lay near, and so severe was the blow that his blood bespattered the floor. He affected to bear with this new outrage, and nursing his
wrath, quitted the fortress; but next day, when Thomas Knyton rode through the gate into the city with a few attendants. Prendergast rushed from a place of concealment—probably a Close
head—and passing a long sword through his heart, dashed him a corpse on the causeway. He then leaped on Knyton’s horse, and spurring down the street, reached Holyrood, where he sought sanctuary in the chapel of St. Augustine there his English pursuers found him on his knees As they dared not, under pain of excommunication, violate the sanctuary, they set a guard upon the church, resolving to starve him into surrender ; but fortunately for Robert Prendergast, the monks of Holyrood were loyal to their king, and thinking probably an Englishman less in the world mattered little from a Scottish point of view, they conveyed to him provisions every night unseen by the guard. For twelve days and nights he lurked by the altar of St. Augustine, until, disguised in a monk’s cowl and gown, he effected an escape; and more than ever intent on revenge, joined Sir William Douglas the Black Knight of Liddesdale, whose forces lay in the fastnesses of Pentland Muir.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

Some Text