On 23rd June 1314, the opening exchanges of the Battle of Bannockburn took place
An enormous English army led by King Edward II had arrived near Bannockburn to save Stirling Castle from a Scottish seige. Up to this point, Bruce had avoided large pitched battles, preferring to hit and run through daring raids.
Edward’s battleplan seems to have been based around the assumption that Bruce would run away. He never believed the Scots would be mad enough to take on an army three times its size. He clearly didn’t know the Scots very well…
Edward II mobilised a massive military machine: summoning 2,000 horse and 25,000 infantry from England, Ireland and Wales. Although probably only half the infantry turned up, it was by far the largest English army ever to invade Scotland.
The Scots common army numbered around 6000, with a small contingent on horseback. It was divided into four “divisions” or schiltroms (massive spear formations), led by King Robert Bruce, his brother, Edward, and his nephew, Sir Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray.
Despite being vastly outnumbered, Robert the Bruce chose his ground well and masterminded a tremendous victory over the English army. Over the two days of battle, Edward’s army was repeatedly thwarted by the Scots’ stubborn resistance, before finally finding themselves trapped by the surrounding terrain, with no room to manoeuvre their huge force. The result was an unprecedented rout of Edward’s army.
However, the victory at Bannockburn did not secure peace and Edward II refused to recognise Robert as king of an independent Scotland. In 1320 Bruce organised for the Scottish nobles to write a letter to the Pope, now known as the Declaration of Arbroath, which made the case for Scottish independence.
„…for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.“