The Scottish Wars of Independence

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Edward III invades Scotland Nevilles Cross 

 


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Scotland and England are two nations divided by their experience of history. That divide was never wider than during the Wars of Independence in the 13th and 14th centuries when a chance event brought an era of relative friendship to an end in violent conflict.

Douglas and the wars of independence.
There has always been conflict between the peoples of modern day Scotland and England but, when Alexander III became King of Scots he reigned over a long period of peace and stability and Scotland was prosperous. When he died, in a freak riding accident at Kinghorn in Fife 1286, his granddaughter, the seven year old maid of Norway died in Orkney on her way to take the throne 1290.

Edward Longshanks was asked to preside over the selection of a rightful successor to the Scottish throne. Edward, seeing an opportunity, chose John Balliol as King in 1292 but, he had to pledge fealty to the English King. Balliol later renounce this subjugation and entered into a treaty with France (The Auld Alliance). Edward enraged, invaded Scotland, deposed Balliol and stole the Stone of Destiny.

In the absence of a crowned King of Scots, William Wallace took the fight for independence to the English oppressors. William `le Hardi` Douglas, having fallen foul of King Edward on several occasions, was the first noble to side with Wallace. Robert the Bruce changed sides when in Douglas Castle to arrest Douglas on Edwards orders. Douglas was captured by the English at a later date and imprisoned in the Tower of London where he later died 1298. His son, the Good Sir James Douglas (the Black Douglas to the oppressors) was to become the `Hammer of the English`.


The Anglo-Scottish Wars (or Wars of Scottish Independence) Timeline

1286 The death of King Alexander III of Scotland left his granddaughter Margaret, aged just 4 (the Maid of Norway), heir to the Scottish throne.

1290 On the way to her new kingdom and shortly after landing on the Orkney Islands, Margaret died creating a succession crisis.
With 13 potential rivals for the throne and fearing civil war, the Guardians of Scotland (leading men of the time) invited King Edward I of England to select the new ruler.

1292 On 17th November at Berwick-on-Tweed, John Balliol was named as the new king of Scots. He was crowned some days later at Scone Abbey, and on 26th December at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, King John of Scotland swore homage to King Edward of England.

1294 Opposed to Balliol’s deference to Edward, a Scottish Council of War was convened to advise King John. The twelve member council, comprising four bishops, four earls and four barons, sent a delegation to negotiate terms with King Philip IV of France.

1295 In what would later be known as the Auld Alliance, a treaty was agreed that the Scots would invade England if the English invaded France, and in return the French would support the Scots.

1296 Learning of the secret Franco-Scottish treaty, Edward invaded Scotland and defeated the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar on 27th April. John Balliol abdicated in July. After relocating the Stone of Destiny to London on 28th August, Edward convened a parliament at Berwick, where Scottish nobles paid homage to him as King of England.

1297 Following the killing of an English sheriff by William Wallace, revolts broke out in Scotland and on 11th September at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Wallace defeated English forces led by John de Warenne. The following month the Scots raided northern England.

1298 Wallace was appointed Guardian of Scotland in March; however in July Edward invaded again and defeated the Scottish army, led by Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. Following the battle Wallace went into hiding.

1302 Further campaigns by Edward in 1300 and 1301, led to a truce between the Scots and English.

1304 In February the last major Scottish held stronghold of Stirling Castle fell to the English; most Scottish nobles now paid homage to Edward.

1305 Wallace evaded capture until 5th August, when John de Mentieth, a Scottish knight, turned him over to the English. Following his trial, he was dragged naked through the streets of London behind a horse, before being hanged, drawn and quartered.

1306 On the 10th February before the high altar of Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, the two surviving claimants for the Scottish throne quarrelled; it ended with Robert the Bruce killing John Comyn. Five weeks later Bruce was crowned Robert I, King of Scots at Scone.
To avenge Comyn’s murder, Edward dispatched an army to destroy Bruce. On 19th June at the Battle of Methven Park, Bruce and his army were taken by surprise and routed by the English. Bruce barely escaped with his life and went into hiding as an outlaw.

1307 On Palm Sunday, the 19th of March 1307, with barbarities excessive even in those days, in an event known as the” Douglas Larder.” Douglas routed Sir John de Mowbray at Ederford Bridge, near Kilmarnock, and was entrusted with the conduct of the war in the south, while Bruce turned to the Highlands.
Bruce returned from hiding and on the 10th May defeated English forces at the Battle of Loudon Hill. On 7th July, Edward I, ‘The Hammer of the Scots’, died aged 68 whilst making his way north to deal with the Scots yet again. Encouraged by the news of Edwards death, Scottish forces grew ever stronger behind Bruce.

1307-08 Bruce established rule in north and west Scotland.

1308  Bruce and Douglas sprang the trap defeating the Macdougals at the Pass of Brander, before turning south to successfully assault the castle of Rutherglen near Glasgow, and then going on to a further campaign in Galloway.

1308-14 Bruce captured many English-held towns and castles in Scotland. 

1312  The Scots, under Sir James Douglas, (as a pay-back) penetrated to Hartlepool carrying off much spoil, and many prisoners of both sexes...” Two years later they again ravaged the county plundering and destroying villages. The frightened inhabitants of Hartlepool took to the sea in ships for safety.

1314 Through the capture of Roxburgh Castle in 1314 by stratagem, the assailants being disguised as black oxen, James Douglas secured Teviotdale
The Scots inflicted a heavy defeat on the English army, led by Edward II, as they were attempting to relieve besieged forces at Stirling Castle, at the tles/Bannockburn.htm">Battle of Bannockburn on 24th June.

1320 Scottish nobles sent the Declaration of Arbroath to Pope John XXII, affirming Scottish independence from England.

1322 An English army led by Edward II raided the Scottish lowlands. At the Battle of Byland the English were routed by the Scots.

1323 Edward II agreed a 13-year truce.

1327 The incompetent and much despised Edward II was deposed and killed at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire. He was succeeded by his fourteen year old son Edward III.
On the night of 3–4 August, Douglas led a night attack on the English camp. Douglas reached Edward III's tent which was collapsed with him inside and nearly captured the English king.

1328 A peace agreement known as the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton was signed; this recognised the independence of Scotland with Robert the Bruce as king. The treaty brought an end to the First War of Scottish Independence.

1329 Following the death of Robert the Bruce on 7th June, he is succeeded by his son King David II, aged 4.

1332 On 12th August, Edward Balliol, son of the former King John Balliol and leading a group of Scottish nobles, known as the ‘Disinherited’, invaded Scotland by sea, landing in Fife.
At the Battle of Dupplin Moor, Edward Balliol’s army defeated a much larger Scottish force; Balliol was crowned king at Scone on 24th September.

Scots loyal to King David II attacked Balliol at Annan; most of Balliol’s troops were killed, Balliol himself escaped and fled naked on a horse to England.

1333 In April, Edward III and Balliol, together with a large English army laid siege to Berwick.

On the 19th July, Scottish forces attempting to relieve the town were defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill; the English captured Berwick. Much of Scotland was now under English occupation.

1334 Philip VI of France offered David II and his court asylum; they arrived in Normandy in May.

1337 Edward III made a formal claim to the French Throne, starting the Hundred Years’ War with France.

1338 With Edward III distracted with his new war in France, the Scots started to regain control of their own lands, with the likes of Black Agnes hurling abuse and defiance down on the besieging English from the walls of her castle at Dunbar.


1341 After years of fighting during which many of Scotland’s finest nobles had perished, King David II returned home to once again take charge of his kingdom. Edward Balliol moved to England. True to his ally Philip VI, David led raids into England, forcing Edward III to reinforce his borders.

1346 At the request of Philip VI, King David invaded England and led his army southwards to capture Durham. On 17th October, at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, David’s forces are defeated by an English army which had been hastily organised by the Archbishop of York. The Scots suffered heavy losses and King David was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. In command of a small force, Edward Balliol returned in an attempt to recover Scotland.

1356 Having enjoyed very little success in his endeavours, Balliol finally relinquished his claim to the Scottish throne; he died childless nine years later.

1357 The General Council of Scotland ratified the Treaty of Berwick, agreeing to pay a ransom of 100,000 merks (approx. £16 million today) for the release of King David II. Heavy taxation was imposed on the country in order to pay the first instalment of the ransom. Scotland’s economy, already reeling with the costs of the wars as well as the devastation caused by the arrival of the Black Death, was now in tatters.

1363 On a visit to London to re-negotiate the terms of his ransom, David agreed that should he die childless, the Scottish Crown would pass to Edward III. The Scottish parliament rejected such an arrangement, preferring to continue to pay the ransom.

1371 Having lost much of his popularity and the respect of his nobles, David died on 22nd February. David was succeeded by his cousin Robert II, grandson of Robert the Bruce and the first Stewart (Stuart) ruler of Scotland. Scotland would retain its independence until 1707, when the Treaty of Union would create the single Kingdom of Great Britain.

1377 When Edward III died on 21st June, there were still 24,000 merks outstanding on the ransom payment for King David; the debt appears to have been buried with Edward.





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Sources for this article include:
  • Historic UK


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