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On 23 and 24 June 1314, Robert the Bruce faced King Edward II at Bannockburn, near Stirling.The Scots army was outnumbered almost three to one. Where was the battle of Bannockburn?A video clip from BBC Learning Zone, which shows the various sites where historians have believed the battle took place. BBC Scotland's History - The Battle of BannockburnLearn about Bannockburn, one of the most significant battles in Scottish history, through videos and sources showing the military strategies and the strength of the Bruce's army. BBC Scotland's History - Independence, Robert the Bruce and Scotland's Strategy of Guerrilla WarfareWatch video clips about the battle, hear extracts of John Barbour's famous book and read Bruce's address to his troops to learn more about the importance of Bannockburn. National Trust Scotland - BannockburnExplore the site of Robert the Bruce's historic victory with National Trust Scotland. National Trust Scotland - Bannockburn PicturesDiscover more about the English and Scottish armies and what they looked like by viewing and downloading these pictures related to Bannockburn. National Trust Scotland - Learning PackThe National Trust for Scotland's Learning Pack outlines activities for Schools at National Trust sites including Bannockburn. National Trust Scotland - Transport SubsidyDownload a travel subsidy form from the National Trust and save up to 75% on a school visit to Bannockburn. UK Battlefields Resource Centre - Battlefields Trust - Battle of BannockburnSee location maps charting the two days of action and learn how the battle progressed to Scottish victory. Education Scotland is the national body in Scotland for supporting quality and improvement in learning and teaching. After the capitulation of the Scots in 1296, King Edward I must have thought that the Scottish question had been answered once and for all. Mostly Medieval - Blind Harry's Wallace Introduction and IndexDiscover Blind Harry's Wallace, the source and inspiration for Hollywood's portrayal of the legendary character in 'Braveheart'. The English army was led by Edward’s Lieutenant of Scotland, Warenne, the Earl of Surrey and his aide, Hugh Cressingham, the Treasurer of Scotland. By July 1298 Edward had recovered enough from the baronial opposition in England to muster a sizable host (army) to march into Scotland once again. The Trial of William WallaceListen to this audio recreation of the trial of William Wallace.
The death of Alexander III’s son and heir in 1284 had caused considerable uncertainty throughout the kingdom of Scotland. British Civil Wars - The Scottish National CovenantLearn about the signing of the Covenant which propelled Scottish Presbyterians into the Bishops Wars of 1639 and 1640. National Library of Scotland - Signing of the National CovenantRead an account of the signing of the Covenant by Sir Archibald Johnston who helped to draft the document itself. National Library of Scotland - The National CovenantView the Covenant signed by adult males in Scotland affirming their commitment to maintaining the purity of the Kirk.
When Alexander III and Margaret, the Maid of Norway, died, 13 nobles came forward to claim the throne. BBC Scotland Education - Scottish Wars of Independence - online gameCan you tell the facts from the fairy tales? BBC Scotland's History - The Wars of IndependenceScotland and England are two nations divided by their experience of history. The British Monarchy - The CompetitorsFollowing the death of 'The Maid', there was no obvious heir to the Scottish throne.
Wikipedia - James Douglas, Lord of DouglasRead about the life of James Douglas, Scottish soldier and knight.
BBC Scotland's History - Scottish Wars of IndependenceLearn how Robert the Bruce had the satisfaction of seeing peace in Scotland, brief as it was, before he died.
Scottish Archives for Schools - Declaration of Arbroath 1320 part 3Read an extract from the treaty and learn how an arranged marriage between the English and Scottish royal families brought a brief lull to their disputes. Alexander’s early careerAlexander III became king at the age of 8, after the death of his father. This rebellion did not last long, however, and the nobles eventually surrendered at Irvine on 7 July 1297. The Earl of Surrey was an able tactician, and had been responsible for the crushing defeat of the Scots at Dunbar, but his health was poor and he had not spent much time in Scotland. The force that he took with him was significant, perhaps 2000 knights and men–at-arms and almost 15,000 footmen.
It was the desire to acquire a new heir that led the King of Scots to remarry.It was while travelling to visit his new wife on a stormy night that tragedy struck. Child mortality was high, even among noble born children; many did not reach their fifth birthday.
There, he astonished the Guardians by demanding that they accept him as their feudal overlord.
Explore places, documents and objects to create your own tour of the Scottish Wars of Independence, a fun game suitable for all ages. Discover the long and violent struggle for Scottish independence and the key men involved with BBC History video links and accompanying text.
Read more about the competitors as they argued their rightful claims courtesy of The British Monarchy website. He became a skilled and battle-hardened knight, known for his courage and his ferocity.James Douglas was born in 1286. His early years as king were overshadowed by the powerful regent (a noble who helps run the country until the king is old enough) Alan Durward. In 1263, the Viking king, Haakon IV of Norway, sailed for the Western Isles with a fleet of warships. A mere 6000 Scots foot soldiers faced Edward’s force of 16,000 infantry.It was the first time since Falkirk that an English king had led his army in battle in Scotland. Wallace, on the other hand, had no intention of surrendering and he used the distraction of the nobles’ lengthy surrender negotiations at Irvine to gather more men to his cause.The Rebellion in the NorthWhile Wallace was terrorising the English garrisons in the south, a second significant rebellion had began in the north. He had hastily returned to lead the army against the rebels, but was tired and unwell on the morning of the battle.Hugh Cressingham was no military commander, and was more interested in saving money than leading the men.
Wallace had at first not intended to meet the English in battle, and indeed it would appear he outmanoeuvred Edward.
This was a condition he demanded before making his judgement on who would be king of Scots.Edward’s army, with him at Norham, was an intimidating sight for the Scots. They were all descended from the daughters of David the Earl of Huntingdon and could trace their lineage to King David I of Scotland. James Douglas and a handful of Scots knights took Bruce’s heart to Spain where Douglas died fighting the Moors at Teba. The Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton would finally seal the peace.Edward II had refused to give up his claim to overlordship of Scotland but he was no longer in control.
Durward was unpopular with many of the Scottish nobles and Alexander was able to get rid of him by enlisting the aid of his future father-in-law.In summer 1251 Alexander married Margaret, Henry III of England’s daughter, creating close ties with his southern neighbour.
Sir Andrew Murray had been fighting with his father at the Battle of Dunbar, and had been captured at the end and taken to England as a prisoner.However, he managed to escape and return to his father’s lands around Inverness, undiscovered.



In fact he had already sent some of the English soldiers home, in order to save paying their wages. Instead of fighting him he sent most of his men to attack Carlisle.However, by 22 July Edward had succeeded in confronting Wallace on the field of battle.
He announced that it was his intention to travel on to Kinghorn, where his wife was waiting for him.
As Robert de Brus and John Balliol jostled for power, the threat of civil war loomed.The Scots nobles and Guardians could not decide who would be king. His father, Sir William Douglas the Hardy, was a supporter of Wallace who died a prisoner in the Tower of London when his son was 12 years old. His bones and heart were returned to Scotland and buried at St Bride's Kirk, at Douglas, Lanarkshire.
The English king had been deposed by his wife Isabella of France and her lover, Roger Mortimer.Bruce saw his chance and sent James Douglas to attack the north of England. Henry awarded Alexander a lot of lands in England as a wedding gift, and the Scottish king agreed to Henry III being his overlord for his English land. This small skirmish had ended the Norwegian stranglehold of the Western Isles and left Alexander the king of all Scotland, and in 1264 he also invaded and seized the Isle of Man.The treaty of Perth in 1266 saw the ownership of the Western Isles officially transferred to that of the King of Scots, a remarkable achievement for Alexander III.
According to Blind Harry the rebellion began in Lanark, where the Sheriff killed the wife, or perhaps mistress, of William Wallace. There he found that many of the castles had English garrisons occupying them, including his father’s castle.
Both men were supremely confident that they could defeat the Scots, and had no fear of Wallace or Murray.At sunrise on the morning of the battle, the English army began crossing the narrow Bridge of Stirling. It is possible that Wallace was persuaded to attack the English because they were exhausted from the marching and were short of food. His retainers and guards cautioned against travelling in such a storm.However, Alexander ignored their pleas and duly set off into the night, with only a small escort.
The English feared that the Scots would take Northumbria and sought terms.The terms of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton were agreed. However, the young king was able to prevent Henry III extracting a similar oath about Scotland. William, according to tradition, was the third son of a minor noble by the name of Sir Malcolm Wallace of Elderslie.
Murray raised his family standard in his own lands, and soon found himself with a strong following. Equally it is possible he had been goaded into attacking by the nobles of Scotland, who felt it was unchivalrous not to fight the English.At first glance the battlefield looked like a positive position for Wallace. Somewhere in the dark, Alexander was separated from his escort and was never seen alive again.
The fear of civil war surrounded the discussion and was a very real threat.Finally, who would she be married to?
All three were descendents of the daughters of David, Earl of Huntingdon, a descendant of David I of Scotland.
The English finally recognised King Robert I as King of Scots and acknowledged the independence of Scotland.
Thus Alexander was able to sidestep the English king’s desire to be overlord of the Scots.English supportThe English king’s assistance was vital in the following years.
Bruce had lost friends, allies and family during his campaign – his brothers, Neil, Thomas and Alexander, had been hanged, drawn and quartered. However, the Earl of Surrey had slept in and the men were ordered back across the bridge to wait his arrival.When Surrey eventually woke he gave the order for the army to cross again, but when the Scottish Earl of Lennox arrived with messages from William Wallace he again recalled his men back across the river. In order to ensure he would be overlord of Scotland, Edward demanded that all claimants accepted this before he would pass judgement on them. When Lamberton took Douglas to the English court in 1306 to petition for the return of his birthright Edward I reacted angrily and Douglas was forced to return to Scotland empty handed.The 20-year-old Douglas met Robert the Bruce on the road near Moffat. Edward II’s daughter Joan of the Tower would marry the Bruce’s son, David.In July 1328, the six-year-old Joan was married to the four-year-old David II.
Now, finally, the Bruce was face-to-face with the English King.The Scots carefully chose their ground at Bannockburn. It was only with the help of his wife (or mistress), Marion Braidfute, that Wallace was able to escape capture, and when she was caught her punishment was death.In revenge Wallace returned with some loyal followers and attacked Lanark.
By July 1297 he had driven the English out of Scotland north of the Tay.By August he had moved south to threaten Angus and towns of Dundee and Perth. Surrey had no doubt hoped Wallace was going to surrender, but the messages were in fact the opposite and Surrey ordered the troops to cross for a third time.Some of the English commanders, including the Scot Richard Lundie, objected, claiming it was mad to try and cross again.
His archers were positioned in between the schiltrons to protect them from English archers, and his cavalry were on each flank, to protect his archers from being swept away by an English charge. Alexander III, King of Scots was dead, and Scotland was without a king.For a few weeks after his death there was some hope that Alexander’s widow might be pregnant. All agreed, as none wished to be left out of the competition to be king.Edward’s decisionEdward announced his decision on 17 November 1292, after 13 months of arguments and debate. However, by 1258, Henry III had more than enough problems at home, and Alexander was forced to rely upon himself. If all went badly, the Scots could melt back into the woods behind and disappear.There was a lot of confidence in the Scots army. However, a Scottish husband would almost certainly have to come from one of the competing noble families. In the end, John Balliol clearly had the better legal claim and was thus duly chosen to become King John of Scots. He summoned a parliament at Stirling and was able to unite the different factions of nobles behind his rule.Alexander takes controlBy 1260, Alexander was in full control of Scotland.
This incident is supposed to have sparked off a larger rebellion in the south west of Scotland, with Wallace leading the men of Strathclyde. They had been training throughout the winter months; they knew their positions and what to do in the attack. They fought a guerrilla war against Edward’s men and their own Scots enemies.In 1307 Douglas harried the English forces in Douglasdale. He was able to make a successful visit to England, where he met his father-in-law as an equal, successfully chastising Henry III for his failure to pay him the money he had been promised at his wedding.
It is important to remember, however, that much of what we know about William Wallace comes from Blind Harry’s poem. Surrey was not sure the crossing would be any better than the bridge, and Cressingham did not want to make the Scots so concerned they would run away and not give battle.
The Scots bowmen, despite suggestions to the contrary, were every bit as good as their English counterparts, many of them armed with longbows. Subsequent Scottish kings put forward the idea that Bruce had the better claim, and that Edward chose Balliol only because he thought he would be easier to manipulate.


His attack on the English garrison in his family seat, Douglas Castle, had become legendary.Douglas and his men hid with the help of a local farmer until Palm Sunday.
If they retreated then the army would have to be kept together longer to hunt them down, and that would mean more money spent on wages and food.William Wallace and Andrew Murray meanwhile had spent the entire morning on the top of the Abbey Craig watching the comings and goings of the English troops.
They were just outnumbered.Similarly, the Scots knights and men-at-arms were considerably outnumbered by their opponents, but they were well positioned.
Who could they trust to maintain the rights and responsibilities of the kingdom?Despite these problems, the nobles gathered at a hastily called parliament at Scone in April 1286.
The Bruce stood his ground and waited till the English knight was almost upon him then stood up in his stirrups and brought his battle-axe crashing down on Henry, splitting his helm and his skull in two.The next morning the Scots rose and prepared for battle. Wallace’s men, although outnumbered, held the defensive position: they were dug in and protected by stakes driven into the ground, and a boggy morass in front of them. When roughly one third of the English troops had crossed they ordered their spearmen, walking close together in a formation called a schiltron, to charge the English forces and try to capture the end of the bridge.As the English continued crossing, the Scots charged. This was a remarkable show of maturity for the kingdom of Scots and its nobility.The six elected men were given the title Guardians of Scotland, and set out looking for a suitable husband for Margaret.
They quickly managed to cut them off from the rest of the English army on the other side of the bridge. The Scots cavalry were unable to stand against the superior numbers, and they were defeated so quickly it gave rise to stories that they simply fled the battlefield. However, Fiona Watson suggests that the nobles fled so quickly in order to be able to fight at a later date.
There was a fear that the Guardians would be sidelined by Edward I and Eric, the King of Norway.
Sir Marmaduke Tweng and a small troop of horsemen managed to escape, but the rest of the English on the Scots side of the river were wiped out, including Hugh Cressingham, a man who was so hated in Scotland that his body was skinned and parts of him made into souvenirs.The Earl of Surrey immediately ordered a retreat, and he led the rest of his men back to Berwick.
The English knights then attacked the schiltrons but were unable to penetrate the thick wall of Scots spears.
The schiltrons formed and the Scots spearmen took their toll of the English cavalry.Bruce ordered the Scots to push forward and a forest of spears sent Edward’s army crashing back upon itself. Some managed to find a hiding spot at Stirling Castle, but eventually, without help, the castle was forced to surrender to the Scots.Wallace as Guardian of ScotlandAfter the stunning victory at Stirling Bridge, Wallace and Murray were made joint Guardians of Scotland by the nobility. However, the Scots archers didn’t have any protection and were quickly killed or scattered.Unable to actually break the Scots formations, the English knights withdrew a little, waiting for their foot soldiers to catch up. The nobility may have been using the commanders of Scotland’s army to fight for independence without putting themselves at risk, or perhaps were simply frightened of them and their army. With no archers of their own to counter the English longbowmen, the schiltrons were forced to weather a barrage of missile fire.
The document is very detailed and shows the safeguards that were put in place to preserve Scotland’s independence.
They crept up to the castle under cover of night and scaled the walls with rope ladders on hooks. Whatever the reason, Wallace and Murray were now effectively in control of the Scottish government.Murray’s actual involvement in the running of the kingdom must have been slight as he died weeks after the battle of Stirling Bridge, presumably of the wounds that he suffered at the battle. The stakes they had dug into the ground made manoeuvring impossible.As the numbers of dead and dying Scots increased, the survivors couldn’t maintain their schiltron formation. The captured castle was ‘slighted’ so it could not be used in future by Edward’s men.James Douglas fought alongside Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn. They fail!’ Bruce’s camp followers - the small folk of the baggage train - took up arms and charged to join the battle. However, other historians point out that at the same time as agreeing the treaty, Edward also chose to seize the Isle of Man from Scotland and he insisted the Bishop of Durham help run Scotland in the name of Margaret.Death of MargaretIn September 1290, tragedy again befell Scotland.
Bruce made Douglas a ‘knight banneret’ (a knight who could lead men in battle under his own banner) on the morning of 24 June. The English took this as a new Scots force and panicked.The weight of numbers of the massed ranks of English knights, infantry and Welsh longbow men proved fatal as mounted knights struggled to escape back across the river and fallen men were trampled underfoot. After Bannockburn, Douglas cut a bloody swathe across the English border – burning crops and villages, and terrorising the local population. The Scots pushed Edward’s army back to the steep-sided Bannockburn until the river was filled with bodies.King Edward II fled the field. The most important is a letter written in October 1297 to the merchants of Lubeck and Hamburg, informing them that Scotland was no longer under the dominance of England and was now open for business. Thousands of Scots died, but Wallace managed to flee north into the woods with most of his commanders. The exact cause of her death is not known, although it is likely that she caught pneumonia on the sea voyage and failed to recover.Once again the threat of civil war materialised. Fearful of the ambitions of Bruce, Bishop Fraser of St Andrews, one of the six Guardians, wrote to Edward I, begging him to intercede. His reputation in ruins, Wallace resigned as Guardian of Scotland.Continuing Scottish resistanceWith the resignation of William Wallace after the Battle of Falkirk, Scottish resistance to Edward I continued under the guidance of the Guardians of Scotland.
A further letter, from seven Scottish earls, written during the winter of 1290 and 1291, called for Edward’s help.Edward agreed to judge between the 13 claimants for the vacant Scottish crown. After his victory at Bannockburn the Bruce was able to negotiate the freedom of his wife Elizabeth, daughter Marjory, and sister Mary.At the end of two bloody days of fighting thousands lay dead or dying on the battlefield.
John Comyn and Robert Bruce assumed joint leadership, although they had no particular love for each other.In 1299 a Scottish delegation successfully lobbied Pope Boniface VIII to take their side against Edward I and secure the release of King John to papal authority. For the most part the Guardians were happy with this: both Balliol and Bruce believed they had the best argument, and that Edward would favour them.
There was a lot of talk of King John returning to Scotland with a French army and this gave the Scots the incentive to fight on.Robert Bruce was not so keen to see King John return to Scotland.
However, John Comyn and the new Guardian, John Soules, refused to give battle to the English king, retiring the army north, until the English were forced to retreat for the winter.The only pitched battle in 1303 was actually a victory for Comyn. Joined again by William Wallace, although no longer as a leader of the resistance, they sent diplomatic missions in the hope of King John’s return and Edward’s acknowledgement of Scottish independence.However, Edward’s final invasion in 1303–04 saw the English forces cross the Forth for the first time and take the war into the heart of the Comyn lands. Edward wintered in Fife, to maintain the pressure on the Scots.The final blow actually came from France, when the king of France was forced to sign a treaty with Edward, one that did not include Scotland. By then Comyn and the other leaders, apart from Wallace and Soules, had already accepted the inevitable and accepted terms from Edward. With the failure of the French initiative it appeared now that King John would not return.William Wallace was not included in the peace terms, and he was not allowed to surrender.
He went on the run, continuing the fight but was eventually betrayed by Sir John Mentieth in 1305.



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