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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."

Next 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.

Stanhope Park is in Country Durham, England.







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Last modified: Tuesday, 01 February 2022