As I discussed in my previous post, it is important to keep your mind active just as much as your body and as learning something new is a fantastic way to do that, I thought I could make this weeks blog an educational read. Specifically on Scottish history, a topic I am particularly passionate about.
There is no doubt that Scotland is rich with fascinating historic events, figures and inventions, from the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, to William Wallace and Alexander Graham Bell, there is a vast number of things I could write about. However, I wish to take this weeks blog to tell you about the Battle of Bannockburn, near the historic city of Stirling.
The Events Leading to the Battle of Bannockburn
The battle of Bannockburn (1314), South-East of Stirling Castle, was one of the most decisive confrontations between the Scots and the English, notably ending the first war of Scottish independence. The Scottish forces were led by Robert the Bruce, who had been crowned King of the Scots some short years before in 1306 at Scone. Shortly after his coronation, Robert the Bruce was decisively defeated at Methven by the Franco-English nobleman, Aymer de Valence. With Roberts military capabilities crippled, he retreated to Rathlin Island. It is on Rathlin Island that you can find ‘Bruce’s Cave‘, where the determination of a small spider inspired his return to Scotland. (read more on Bruce’s Cave through the link attached). With his family imprisoned and many of his brothers executed, Robert’s actions had to be swift and decisive. A victory was secured against Aymer de Valence at Louden Hill in 1307, (Shown in the recent Netflix adaption ‘Outlaw King’) which allowed Robert to establish himself once more in central Scotland. It was this same year that Edward the 1st, who had defeated William Wallace, passed away, leaving his son Edward 2nd to rule. The transitional period allowed Robert the Bruce to further strengthen his position as King, challenging Scottish nobles who did not swear fealty to his rule. With many of Scotland’s nobles now by his side, Robert’s eyes were now set on removing the last of the English occupation.
Over the next six years Robert the Bruce had seen the English presence whittled down to only two remaining castles, Bothwell and Stirling. To Robert, the latter was the only remaining threat. The siege was left to his brother, Edward Bruce who agreed with the English governor that if reinforcements did not come before June 24th of 1314 then the castle would be surrendered. Forced to act, the English King Edward the 2nd amassed an army at Berwick and prepared to relieve the besieged Stirling castle. Knowing that the upper hand was at stake, Robert the Bruce would be forced to meet the English King on the battlefield. On the 23rd of June 1314, South of Stirling at Bannockburn, Robert and his forces waited for the English army.
Robert the Bruce, who had already positioned himself along the outskirts of the New Park forest, had around 7000 infantry, arranged into anti-cavalry pike formations called Schiltrons. Meanwhile, the English army, consisting of around 3000 mounted knights and 13,000 infantry, approach Robert’s position from two sides. The main approach initially converged on the Bannockburn stream. An English Knight Sir Henry de Bohun, sighted Robert at the head of his infantry. In an attempt to heroically end the war, Henry de Bohen charged at Robert the Bruce. Instead of seeking refuge behind his infantry, Robert rode out to meet the Knight, defeating him with a single blow. Shortly after, the English cavalry at the stream converged on Roberts forward position. However, Robert had pits dug across between his forces and the English, causing the English cavalry to fall into disarray, which allow Roberts Schiltrons to inflict heavy casualties. On the Scottish left flank, a similar encounter was taking place. Sir Thomas Randolph sallied out to meet an English flanking force, adopting the same pike formation he similarly drove the English cavalry back. After suffering significant mounted losses, the English withdrew to re-establish their forces, concluding the first day of fighting.
On the morning of the 24th, the English had moved their forces directly across from the Scottish main line. Planning to overwhelm the Scottish defensive position with superior numbers, Robert the Bruce surprisingly ordered his infantry to advance on the English. Underestimating the strength and mobility of the Schiltron, the English cavalry charged head on. After many hours of hard fighting, the Scots slowly pushed the English back towards the Bannockburn streams. Sensing defeat, Edward the 2nd withdrew along with 500 horsemen, destroying any remaining morale and causing a mass route within the English army, Bringing an end to the battle and a victory to Robert the Bruce. The Scottish army suffered around 500 losses while the English lost upwards of 5000 men and horses.
The Scottish victory at Bannockburn allowed Robert secure Scotland’s independence through the treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328 and the release of his imprisoned family.
To learn more about the battle of Bannockburn take a look at a fantastic video by HistoryMarche which I will link to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlcZWz0qykQ
Visiting the Historic Sites
If you ever find yourself in Stirling or simply want to make the trip to learn more about Scottish history then why not stay at our Penthouse apartment in Stirling. Find out more about this fantastic property here: https://coopercottages.com/how-to-spend-the-day-stirlings-penthouse-apartment/
While here, you can visit the Bannockburn Heritage Centre where you can experience history through detailed tours of the battlefields map, a first hand look at medieval armour and weaponry. In addition, you can see the battle played out before your eyes with their 3D experience. Be sure to stay up to date with the latest government guidelines and check their availability here: https://www.stirling.gov.uk/tourism-visitors/places-to-visit/bannockburn-heritage-centre/