This page was last updated on 22 August 2015

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

U

V

W

X

Y

Z

 

 

Index of first names

battle of Dunbar, 1296

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle of Dunbar was the only significant field action in the campaign of 1296. King Edward I of England had invaded Scotland in 1296 to punish King John Balliol for his refusal to support English military action in France.The battlefield is currently under research to be inventoried and protected by Historic Scotland under the Scottish Historical Environment Policy of 2009.

After the sack of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Edward rushed to complete the conquest of Scotland, remained in the town for a month, supervising the strengthening of its defences. On 5 April, he received a message from King John renouncing his homage, to which he remarked, more in contempt than anger, "O' foolish knave! What folly he commits. If he will not come to us we will go to him."

The next objective in the campaign was the Earl of March's castle at Dunbar, a few miles up the coast from Berwick. March was with the English, but his wife, Marjory Comyn, sister of the Earl of Buchan, did not share her husband's political loyalties and allowed her fellow Scots to occupy the castle. Edward sent one of his chief lieutenants, John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, John Balliol's own father-in-law, northwards with a strong force of knights to invest the stronghold. The defenders sent messages to King John, bivouacked with the main body of his army at nearby Haddington, asking for urgent assistance. In response the army, or a large part of it, advanced to the rescue of Dunbar. John, who was showing even less skill as a commander than he had as a king, did not accompany it. The campaign of 1296 was now to enter its final phase.

There is little evidence to suggest that Dunbar was anything other than an action between two bodies of mounted men-at-arms (armoured cavalry). Surrey's force seems to have comprised one formation (out of four) of the English cavalry; the Scots force lead in part by Comyns probably represented the greater part of their cavalry element. The two forces came in sight of each other on 27 April. The Scots occupied a strong position on some high ground to the west. To meet them, Surrey's cavalry had to cross a gully intersected by the Spot Burn. As they did so their ranks broke up, and the Scots, deluded into thinking the English were leaving the field, abandoned their position in a disorderly downhill charge, only to find that Surrey's forces had reformed on Spottsmuir and were advancing in perfect order. The English routed the disorganised Scots in a single charge. The action was brief and probably not very bloody, since the only casualty of any note was a minor Lothian knight, Sir Patrick Graham, though about 100 Scottish lords, knights and men-at-arms were taken prisoner. According to one English source over ten thousand Scots died at the battle of Dunbar, however this is probably a confusion with the casualties incurred at the storming of Berwick. The survivors fled westwards to the safety of Selkirk Forest. The following day King Edward appeared in person and Dunbar castle surrendered. Some important prisoners were taken: John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, and the earls of Atholl, Ross and Menteith, together with 130 knights and esquires. All were sent into captivity in England.

The battle of Dunbar effectively ended the war of 1296 with the English winning. The remainder of the campaign was little more than a grand mopping-up operation. James, the hereditary High Steward of Scotland, surrendered the important fortress at Roxburgh without attempting a defence, and others were quick to follow his example. Only Edinburgh Castle held out for a week against Edward's siege engines. A Scottish garrison sent out to help King John, who had fled north to Forfar, were told to provide for their own safety. Edward himself, true to his word, advanced into central and northern Scotland in pursuit of King John. Stirling Castle, which guarded the vital passage across the River Forth was deserted save for a janitor who stayed behind to hand the keys to the English. John reached Perth on 21 June, where he received messages from Edward asking for peace.

John Balliol, in surrendering, submitted himself to a protracted abasement. At Kincardine Castle on 2 July he confessed to rebellion and prayed for forgiveness. Five days later in the kirkyard of Stracathro he abandoned the treaty with the French. The final humiliation came at Montrose on 8 July. Dressed for the occasion John was ceremoniously stripped of the vestments of royalty. Antony Bek, the Bishop of Durham, ripped the red and gold arms of Scotland from his surcoat, thus bequeathing to history the nickname Toom Tabard (empty coat) by which John has been known to generations of Scottish schoolchildren. He and his son Edward were sent south into captivity. Soon after, the English king followed, carrying in his train the Stone of Scone and other relics of Scottish nationhood. 

 

See also:

  • Battle of Dunbar, 1650
  •  

    Any contributions will be gratefully accepted



     

     

    Errors and Omissions

    The Forum

    What's new?

    We are looking for your help to improve the accuracy of The Douglas Archives.

    If you spot errors, or omissions, then please do let us know

    Contributions

    Many articles could benefit from re-writing. Can you help?


     

    If you have met a brick wall with your research, then posting a notice in the Douglas Archives Forum may be the answer. Or, it may help you find the answer!

    You may also be able to help others answer their queries.

    Visit the Douglas Archives Forum.

     

    We try to keep everyone up to date with new entries, via our What's New section on the home page.

    We also use the Community Network to keep researchers abreast of developments in the Douglas Archives.

     
     
     


    Back to top

    The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

    The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

    As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

    Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

    Contact Us

    Last modified: Saturday, 18 March 2017