Last weekend marked the 703rd anniversary since the Battle of Bannockburn. Fought on June 23 and June 24, 1314, it was a significant victory in the First War of Scottish independence, and thus, a landmark in Scottish history.
The English occupied Stirling Castle, a Scots royal fortress, which was under siege by a Scottish army led by Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. Stirling Castle held a vital position, as it commanded the route into the Scottish Highlands. The constable of Stirling agreed to hand over the castle, to the Scots, unless an English force arrived to relieve him by June 24th.
King Edward 11 with what was regarded as the finest army in the medieval world, and with troops that out numbered the Scots two-to-one went to relieve Stirling castle.
Bruce had chosen the perfect position for his army which is now known as “monument hill”. High ground, with a good field of vision. As the English cavalry was a main threat to Bruce, he ordered hundreds of holes dug where the horses would advance. In order to miss them the English were not able to stretch out as they charged, so kept their fighting body to a minimal bunch. Another defense for Bruce was his ” schiltron” – or “hedgehog” – troops in circles wielding long pikes.
Sir Henry De Bohun, an English knight, thought he would end the battle before it started. As he was out scouting he saw Bruce with just a few of his men and he charged. Bruce cut him down as he approached. The battle commenced, the next day, shortly after first light. Before emerging from the woods the Scots all got down, on their knees, to pray. The English thought they were surrendering.
The Earl of Gloucester begged King Edward to wait while their men got more rest, after a terrible night of being eaten alive by the Scottish midges, but the King accused him of cowardice. The Earl jumped on his horse and charged, only to be impregnated by the wall of spears waiting for him.
The English advanced over the Bannockburn via Stirling Bridge. Once a good few were over Bruce moved the Scots forward to engage the enemy. The English still trying to get their large army, over the small bridge, were penned down. Many tried to swim back over the river and were weighed down by their armour and drowned. Even the English archers had no space to attack the Scots. Sensing defeat King Edward’s body guards dragged him off the battleground and away into the mist up to Stirling Castle.
But, the King was denied entrance, by his own men, so slipped off to a coastal town where he gained a ship for England.
It is wondered if this victory settled all that much. The Wars of Scottish Independence raged on for another fourteen years before Scotland was finally recognized, by England, as a country with its own King Robert the Bruce and unfortunately, Robert died just one year after achieving it. However, Bannockburn did establish Robert the Bruce was someone to be reckoned with.
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