Battle of Stanhope Park
The Battle of Stanhope Park, part of the First War of Scottish
Independence, took place during the night of 4 August 1327. The
Scots led a raid into Weardale, and the newly crowned Edward III led
an army to drive them back. James
Douglas led, among other ambushes, an attack into Edwards camp.
Regardless of the existing truce, only a few years of which
had expired, Bruce seized the opportunity to try and win from the
young king the renunciation of that superiority which had been
claimed by his father and grandfather. He collected an army of
24,000 men, and marched for the borderland. This force, under the
Earl of Murray and Lord Douglas, ravaged the counties of Cumberland
and Durham. Edward summoned his military tenants, and men of the
north, to meet him at York. He had also, for the sum of £14,000,
purchased the services of John of Hainault and his foreign troops;
but here again troubles arose. The insolence of the Hainaulters
irritated the Lincoln archers; a riot arose in the city between the
two bodies; and many hundreds were killed on both sides before the
revolt was suppressed.
With a force variously stated at
40,000 and 60,000, Edward went in search of the invaders; but the
Scots, lightly armed and mounted on small, but active horses,
accustomed to a hilly country, were able to elude a large army
encumbered with a heavily-laden commissariat. Day after day the
English forces passed through burning villages, which had been
destroyed by the Scots only a day or two before, but they could not
obtain sight of the enemy. Becoming at length impatient, the young
king issued a proclamation, offering the honour of knighthood and an
annuity of one hundred pounds (£1,500 of present money) for life, to
the first man who should bring him intelligence of the enemy. A few
days afterwards a gentleman named Thomas de Rokeby, a Yorkshireman,
came galloping into the camp, and thus addressed the king:- " Sire,
the Scots are at the distance of three leagues, posted on a
mountain, where for the last week they have expected you. I have
seen them myself, having been made prisoner, and released that I
might claim the reward which you have promised."
morning, guided by Rokeby, the English sighted the enemy, whom they
found encamped on a steep hill rising from the opposite bank of the
Wear. The Scottish position was too secure for any attack to be
successfully made. Edward sent a message of defiance to the Scottish
generals, proposing that one of the two nations should retire to a
certain distance, and allow its adversary to cross the water, and
form on the opposite bank. Douglas replied that he had come there
against the will of the king, and would not leave the mountain to
please him. If Edward were not content, he might cross over and
drive him away if he could.
Determined not to lose sight of
the Scots, the English fixed their camp on the opposite side of the
river, but when the morning of the third day broke, the enemy had
disappeared, and in the afternoon they were discovered posted on
another hill, still more difficult to approach than the one they had
first occupied. The king followed, and fixed his camp in Stanhope
Park, opposite the enemy. Here Douglas performed one of those deeds
of daring, which have made his name famous. In the dead of the
night, with a band of 200 chosen men, he silently crossed the river,
entered the rear of the English camp, and, galloping towards the
royal tent, cut the rope, calling out "A Douglas! A Douglas! die, ye
English thieves!" The alarm roused the camp; in the confusion,
Douglas got separated from his followers, and was in great danger of
being slain by an Englishman, who encountered him with a huge club.
The man dealt his blows hard and fast, which Douglas skilfully
parried, and at last succeeded in cutting him down with his sword.
The Scots returned to their camp with very little loss, though
upwards of 300 Englishmen were killed.
The following night,
the English were again foiled. Apprehensive of another nocturnal
attack, Edward placed his troops under arms; the Scots on the other
side lighted great fires, and, says Froissart in his quaint style,
"set up such a blasting and noise from their horns, that it seemed
as if all the great devils from hell had assembled together." Next
morning, before the English were astir, the Scots had crossed the
river, and were miles away, on their march towards the border. This
inglorious campaign was followed by a treaty of peace, signed at
Northampton; and, to cement the friendship of the two nations still
further, Edward's sister, the Princess Johanna, then seven years of
age, was affianced to David, the son of Robert Bruce, who was two
years her junior.
is in Country Durham, England.
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