The Battle of Bannockburn took place on 23 and 24 June 1314. This battle is extremely significant in Scottish history as the Scots won over the English, paving the way to Scotland's independence.
Bannockburn was a part of the First War of Scottish Independence, or at least that’s what it’s called in modern times. These were a series of battles between 1296 and 1328 between the Scots and the English. The war started with the English invading Scotland in 1296 and officially ended in 1328 with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton.
A catalyst for these battles were in part due to the death of King Alexander III. Alexander fell from his horse and died on March 19, 1286, leaving his young granddaughter as heir to the throne. This is how the Guardians of Scotland came about – regents who governed Scotland beginning in 1286 with their rule ending in 1306. His granddaughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway, died enroute to Scotland on September 26, 1290.
Without a clear heir to the throne, King Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks, was asked to intervene to help decide. Edward decided upon John Balliol as the chief contender, who by all accounts was weak king.
Edward exploited on this weakness and invaded Scotland, sacking Berwick-upon-Tweed in March 1296. For Edward, imposing English rule caused disorder throughout Scotland and local English appointed officials were the initial targets. While there are many patriots of Scotland, it was Sir William Wallace who rose to great importance. Wallace killed the sheriff, Sir William Haselrig, as well as some of the English garrison at Lanark in May 1297.
Several more battles occurred leading up to Bannockburn, including Sterling and Falkirk. During this time, William Wallace was captured and executed in 1305, Robert the Bruce became King of Scots in 1306, and King Edward I of England dies in 1307. Between 1307 and 1314, the support Robert the Bruce gained was strengthening. By the morning of June 23, the English army, led by Edward II and the Scots, led by the Bruce were still several miles apart. With the Scots numbering 8000 – 10000 men and the English near doubling that, the two forces met.
The first day of battle was highlighted by Robert the Bruce killing the nephew of an English Earl, Henry de Bohun in single combat. A result of this act was that some of the English ended up retreating. As the sun set, the Scots crossed a stream known as Bannockburn and surprised the English at daybreak. The English, caught off-guard, continued to be pushed back until they ultimately retreated. They first went to Stirling Castle and King Edward was not allowed in as those at the castle would be turning it over to the Scots.
Stirling Castle was handed over to Robert the Bruce, positioned Scottish invasions into England and Ireland, and Scotland was granted de-facto independence. These events led to the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328, granting the full independence of Scotland, acknowledged by the English crown and Robert the Bruce as rightful king with his successors as the rulers of Scotland.
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