King John of Scotland
John King of Scotland was born 1240 and married Isabel De Warren. John Balliol, the family originated from Bailleul in Normandy. They came to Scotland in the reign of David I. John was selected by Edward I of England from among the thirteen 'competitors' or claimants for the Scottish throne in 1292. By 1296 he had found the courage to resist Edward's authority but was defeated at the Battle of Dunbar. He gave up the kingship and was ridiculed in Scotland as 'Toom Tabard' (empty coat) thereafter. First imprisoned in England, he was subsequently permitted to retire to his estates in France.
There were 13 claimants to the throne, but only two were worthy of serious consideration. The two rivals were John Balliol and Robert Bruce, and most of the countries support was divided between these two. In an effort to avoid civil war, Edward was asked to arbitrate between the claimants. It must be remembered that at this time Edward was still considered to be a friend of Scotland, and had not yet earned the title 'Hammer of the Scots'. Edward set out for Scotland in November of 1290 and disaster immediately struck. On the journey, Eleanor, his wife of thirty-five years died from a fever. Edward immediately returned to London to bury his wife. Her death brought about an evil change in Edwards nature. As a child he had been prone to acts of cruelty but had been tamed over the years by her gentleness. Now without her restraining influence, his earlier temperament was to reassert itself against any who thwarted his plans. After her funeral he immediately set back north. Things would not be the same.
Edward brought with him a small force and many barons and nobles. He also left quiet instructions for an army to be gathered and brought north to meet him. He asked the claimant's to meet with him on May 30th, 1291. Once gathered, he insisted that the claimants recognize him as their feudal lord. This was unexpected and took the claimants aback. They asked for time to consider their response and they were granted three weeks, by which time Edward knew that his army would be at his side. At the end of the three weeks, the claimants were in a very awkward position. Edward lay at their border with a formidable army, Scotland was unprepared for war after 100 years of peace and none of the claimants could really deny him for fear of weakening their case. In fact, several of the claimants already owed him fealty for their lands in England, Balliol and Bruce included. So in June of 1291 each of the claimants publicly swore to Edward. The two strongest claims were held by John Balliol and Robert Bruce. Both were descended from David, brother of King William 'the Lion' of Scotland. Balliol was grandson of Davids eldest daughter, Bruce was son of his second Daughter. So Balliol had the elder lineage, but Bruce the closest. Unfortunately, the rules of succession in Europe varied widely and both were perfectly valid claims. Edward initially favored Bruce's claim, until the Bishop of Durham reminded him of the personalities of the two men. Bruce was an independently minded man who had the loyalty of half of Scotland's Nobles, lands and armies. Balliol, on the other hand, was rather weak willed, and barely Scottish. Most of his lands were in France and England, and his real claim to Scotland was being related to John Comyn, mortal enemy of the Bruces. Edward chose in favor of Balliol. On November 6th, having been informed of the Kings decision, Robert Bruce, delegated his claim to the throne to his son, Robert Bruce, the Earl of Carrick. Two days later, this Robert Bruce delegated his claim to his own son and heir, then eighteen year old Robert Bruce.
On November 17, 1292 the kings official judgment was read aloud. Of the thirteen competitors, seven had withdrawn and three had been dismissed. Of the remaining three, Edward proclaimed that the senior branch held precedence and that John Balliol was heir to the throne. Upon hearing this, the young Robert Bruce left the room, refusing to pay homage or swear fealty to John Balliol. Bruce felt that a great injustice had been done and that his Grandfather was rightful King of Scotland.
On November 30, John Balliol was crowned King of Scotland and again swore fealty to Edward, firmly establishing himself as a vassal king. Over the next year, Edward went out of his way to crush the already weak willed King John. The climax came when John was called to London to answer charges placed against him by a minor noble. Normally this would have been unheard of, but John meekly submitted. Once in London, John tried to stand firm and refused to answer the charges. The English Parliament found him in contempt and he was ordered to surrender the three largest castles in Scotland as a result. At this, his will failed him and he gave in.
In the meantime, Edward got into a dispute with Philip of France and war was soon declared. This gave everyone the chance they had been looking for. In September of 1294, just as Edward was about to sail to France, the Welsh rose in revolt. This forced Edward to turn from France to deal with the Welsh. By May 1295 he had crushed the revolt but now the Scots, who had lost all confidence in King John, had elected four bishops, four earls, and four barons to manage the government. After subduing the Welsh, Edward decided he had to deal with Scotland before he could worry about France, so he summoned his feudal host to meet him in Newcastle. Meanwhile the Scottish council, in the name of King John, summoned all free Scots to rendezvous north of Selkirk. The Bruces, having never swore fealty to Balliol, and feeling cheated of the throne, refused the call, as did many of their followers. In consequence, they were deprived of their lands which were immediately handed by Balliol to his kinsman, John Comyn, now even more hated by the Bruces. The armies were forming when a love affair touched off the conflict. A young English noble had fallen in love with a Scottish girl and changed sides. He promised to turn over the castle he was in charge of. His brother, upon hearing of this, sent word to Edward asking for help. Edward sent a detachment to help but the Scots discovered them and cut them to pieces. Upon hearing of this, Edward declared, 'By God's blessing, as the Scots have begun, So shall I make an end'.
Ruins of Berwick Castle--Meanwhile, the Scots army rather uselessly raided and burned small towns a villages in northern England. Militarily it was useless. Edward, on the other hand, laid siege to the town of Berwick. Edward led his armored knights and crashed through the defenders, with his foot soldiers following. Under orders from the king that no one should be spared, men, women and children were put to the sword. The stench from bodies grew so great that giant pits had to be dug to dispose of the bodies. The carnage continued for two days until Edward, riding amongst his troops, saw a woman in the very act of childbirth being put to the sword, finally Edward put an end to the slaughter. Edward then ordered his army to meet the Scots army near Dunbar. The Scottish army was easily destroyed and most of the nobility that had supported king John was either captured or killed. From there, Edward swept through the rest of Scotland capturing all of its major cities. Finally in July, John Balliol surrendered to Edward in person. He was stripped of his royal accoutrements and was sent to the tower of London. Edward then commanded that the hallowed 'Stone of Destiny' be removed from Scone and taken to Westminster Abbey. Edward had accomplished what he had always dreamed of, bringing England, Scotland and Wales together as one kingdom.
At this point, all Scottish castles were garrisoned by English troops, its churches were filled with English priests and its day-to-day business governed by English bureaucrats. In the Autumn of 1296 Edward returned to England, fully convinced that Scotland was totally subdued. But nothing could be further from the truth. A growing number of outraged Scots were taking refuge in the mountains and forests of their native land. And by May of 1297, the whole of Scotland, outside of Lothian was in revolt led by two men, Andrew Moray and William Wallace. Andrew Moray had been captured at Dunbar but escaped north to his family's land where he raised rebellion. He so harried the English that they soon pleaded to Edward for help. Meanwhile down in the forests near Selkirk, William Wallace, the second son of a knight, had been an outlaw all along because he had never sworn fealty to Edward at Berwick. He and his brother, Sir Malcolm, now led the rebels in the forest. Wallace was described as tall, with a great mane of brown hair and piercing eyes. He had recently married a young woman from Lanark. Visiting her by stealth, as he was a marked man, he clashed with an English patrol. Fighting his way clear, he retreated to her house and as his pursuers hammered on the front door, he escaped out the back. Enraged at his failure to capture Wallace, Sir William Heselrig, Sheriff of Lanark, ordered the house to be burned and all within it be put to the sword. From that day forward, Wallace vowed undying vengeance against the English. Gathering his men together, they fell upon the sheriff and his men and Wallace hacked the sheriff into small pieces. For the first time, one of the high officials of the hated English had been killed and a ripple of jubilation spread across Scotland. Men immediately flocked to Wallace's banner, including Sir William Douglas, the late commander of the Castle at Berwick. This adherence of a nobleman immediately gave Wallace's band of rebels respectability.
Edward did not take the defection of William Douglas very seriously, all he did was dispatch the Governor of Carlisle, the elder Bruce, to instruct his son to seize Douglas Castle. So young Robert Bruce, the Earl of Carrick, summoned the men from his Earldom and rode to Douglas castle. On the way he had much to think about. His father had always supported Edward, and neither of them had supported Balliol. But the young Bruce was Scottish born and bred. His enemies, the Comyns and Balliols, were now prisoners of Edward and the men he was being sent against were the very men who had supported his grandfathers claim to the throne. At this time Bruce was only 22. When Bruce reached the castle, he made his decision. He offered his men the choice of returning home or following him as he joined the rebels. It was at this point, Edward decided to take the rebellion a little more seriously, and dispatched two of his knights to gather a strong force and put it down.
Unfortunately for the Scots, they were once more divided. Andrew Morray and William Wallace were both fighting in the name of John Balliol, whom they still regarded as king, and may well have been skeptical of the young Bruce's sudden conversion. Others felt that Balliol had abdicated his right to the kingship and that Bruce's father was the rightful king. William Douglas was on nobody's side. Moray and Wallace both preferred to fight on their own terms and on their own ground, and departed immediately. The rest of the force was not strong enough to confront the English. The Scottish army was comprised mainly of foot soldiers and the English force was mostly armored knights. News had also reached the Scots of trouble in England. Edward was having a dispute between himself, the church and his barons, placing England on the brink of civil war. Knowing that this was the only armed English force in the field, the Scottish commanders decided to keep them occupied in negotiations so Wallace and Moray could continue their activities unhindered. The English commanders were also aware of the uncertain events in England and had no desire to risk troops that they might need at home. So talks began. A few days later, the Scottish leaders agreed to surrender to Edward and produce hostages in good faith. Robert Bruce was required to hand over his young daughter Marjorie, which he refused to do. William Douglas failed to produce his hostages so he was imprisoned. In the end, Robert Bruce and James Stewart never surrendered or produced hostages so they remained at large, deprived of their lands. Bruces father was relieved of his post as Governor of Carlisle and retired to his estates where he died in 1304. After the surrender of the nobles at Irvine, this left the resistance entirely in the hands of Wallace and Moray. With many of his Barons hostile, Edward was desperately trying to raise an army to use against France. This situation left him with no troops to send north against the Scots. He therefore decided to release several of the Scottish nobles he had been keeping prisoner since Dunbar. Among them were Alexander Comyn and the Earl of Buchan, who were released on the condition that they quell the disturbances. \line\tab When the nobles arrived north, they found the situation far worse then they had been told. They sent various letters to King Edward expressing their loyalty and hopes of success. In the meantime they actually did nothing and waited to see how matters turned out. They also made no effort to prevent their retainers from joining the rebels.
Wallace and Moray had not been idle. By the end of August they had captured Inverness, Elgin, Nabff, Aberdeen, Irvine, Fife and Dundee. The entire country of Scotland, north of the Firth of Forth, was in Scottish hands. Finally, the Earl of Surray, Edwards Viceroy in Scotland, decided he should do something. He was an elderly soldier who had learned over the years that hundreds of foot soldiers could be scattered by just a few mounted knights. He was convinced that with most of the Scottish nobility and therefore their knights either on the sidelines, in prison, or in the service of Edward, that he could wipe out the commoners of Wallace and Moray with ease. Gathering a large host of heavy horse and foot soldiers, he marched towards Sterling, which was they key to crossing the Forth, and therefore, the key to the North. On hearing of this approach, Moray and Wallace joined forces and moved south to meet him and defend Sterling. Overlooking a loop in the Forth river, which was crossed only by a single bridge, was an abrupt rock called Abbey Craig, from which a small neck of ground led back to give safe retreat. Below the northern end of the bridge was an area of boggey ground almost entirely encircled by the forth. The Scots deployed their men upon the crag. The English were camped on the south side of the river. As no army of foot soldiers had ever prevailed against a large force of heavy cavalry, they were extremely self confident.
James Stewart and the Earl of Lennox were hovering on the outskirts with a troop of cavalry, uncertain weather to join Moray and Wallace. They didn't feel the Scots had much of a chance and were hesitant to risk their force. In an effort to prevent the annihilation of the countrymen, they approached the the Earl of Surray with the suggestion that they initiate a parlay. The earl agreed but Wallace and Moray refused. Two Dominican friars were then dispatched to Moray and Wallace with offers of generous treatment if they would yield. "Tell your commander", Wallace replied, "that we are not here to make peace but to do battle to defend ourselves and liberate out kingdom. Let them come and we shall prove this in their very beards."
At dawn on September 11, a party of English foot soldiers were sent over the narrow bridge but were recalled because the Earl had overslept. Hugh de Cressingham was fuming with impatience. He urged that no more time be wasted and the earl gave him the order to cross. He arrogantly led his cavalry across the bridge two by two. When approximately half of his force had crossed the bridge, Wallace and Moray gave the signal to attack. The main force of the Scots fell upon the leading ranks on the causeway that lead from the bridge to the more solid ground some distance from the bridge. A hand picked detachment seized the bridgehead and began to cut away its timbers. Jostled from the causeway, the heavy horses of the armored knights plunged into the deep mire on either side, unable to move or charge, throwing their riders to the ground. Behind them the rest of the English army was powerless to help as the bridge was now destroyed. A massacre now took place. Hugh de Cressingham was flayed and pieces of his skin were sent throughout the country as tokens of defiance. Legend has it that Wallace had a baldrick made from a large piece of it. The Earl of Surray had not crossed the bridge, aghast at the carnage, he fled straight to the border. The foot soldiers and the baggage trains were not as fortunate. As they retreated, James Stewart and the Earl of Lennox, who were lurking in the woods on either side until they saw the outcome, fell upon the fleeing groups. The effect was immediate, for the first time, commoners had defeated mounted knights. The dissenting barons were so shocked that immediately patched up their disagreements with the King. Unfortunately, Scotland paid a price for the victory, Moray was mortally wounded at the battle and died within the month.
In March of 1298, in the Abbey at Selkirk, William Wallace was dubbed knight by Robert Bruce and proclaimed Guardian of the Realm. Southern Scotland was suffering from a famine, so Wallace used his army to raid Northern England to in an effort to supply food to the starving people. In March of 1298, Edward finally made peace with the French and returned to England. Unfortunately for the Scots, this left him free to turn his attention northward. Edward mustered his army in June. It comprised of some 2500 heavy cavalry and 12000 foot soldiers. The army marched north, but only found empty farms and villages. Hearing the English were coming, the inhabitants had driven their cattle into the forests and burned their crops. Edwards army was running out of supplies and facing starvation, his resupply ships had been delayed by bad winds and the whole expedition was on the verge of collapse. Edward had already decided to turn around when word was received that the Scots army was only 13 miles away and that the food ships had just recent docked nearby. Edward immediately broke camp and marched to meet the Scots. An accident with his horse in the middle of the night left Edward with two broken ribs but he still had himself hoisted into his saddle in the morning.
The two armies met the following morning. Wallace was concerned about the number of the English heavy cavalry and formed his men into four schiltrons. Immediately to his front was a boggey marsh, to his right scattered woodlands and to his left a deepening valley. His meager amount of cavalry he placed behind him as they were too few to be effective in attack. It is believed Wallace wished to retreat, destroying the land as he went and let hunger defeat the English, but he was overruled by his troops who were impatient for battle. Edward divided his heavy horse onto four groups of 600 each. Two of these groups then charged, one moving left around the bog, the other to the right. They came upon the rear of Wallace's army and scattered the light Scottish cavalry into the woods. Turning inwards, they then overwhelmed the Scottish bowmen whose short bows were not powerful enough to penetrate the English armor. This left the Schiltrons exposed. Again and again they were charged, but the schiltrons held. It was then that Edward ordered up his bowmen and a deadly rain of arrows and bolts rained down upon the Scots. This left gaps too wide to be filled and the heavy cavalry charged again. Once the Schiltrons were breached, it was all over. Hundreds of the Scottish foot were slaughtered and Wallace was driven into the woods with a handful of followers.
With the Scots army dispersed or destroyed, Edward took time to rest and for his ribs to heal. In the meantime, he sent forces to burn Perth and St. Andrews. He then turned his attention to capturing Robert Bruce, who had been raiding the southwest from his base in Ayr. But Bruce was warned of Edwards approach and disappeared into the woods after burning and destroying the town and castle. When Edward arrived, all he found was an empty shell. \line Faced by winter and a lack of supplies, Edward was forced to disperse his army until the following summer. For the next seven years, Wallace remained in obscurity, carrying out raids against the English wherever he could, sometimes acting as messenger to the King of France or to the Pope. \line\tab In the intervening time, Edward was not idle. He made several invasions of Scotland and although castles were taken, not much was gained militarily. By 1302 there were strong rumors that Philip of France was going to restore John Balliol to the throne at the head of a powerful French army. Edward was also under attack from the Pope, to cease in his attempt to subdue Scotland. This was intolerable to Edward, and, to Robert Bruce as well. The restoration of Balliol would put the country firmly in the control of John Comyn, and thus remove Bruce's chance for the throne. So, in February of 1302, Bruce made peace with Edward. Having eliminated one of the bastions of Scottish resistance, not through warfare, but by politics, Edward could now concentrate upon the rest of Scotland.
Then events in Europe changed things dramatically. The pope and Philip of France quarreled, which resulted in the capture and death of Pope Bontiface VIII and placement of puppet popes by Philip of France. But not all was well with Philip, three of his provinces were in revolt and his army was destroyed in attempting to subdue Flanders. He now pressed for peace with England which Edward eagerly accepted. In 1303 the treaty of peace was signed, and it was agreed that Edwards son, Edward, would marry Philips daughter, Isabel. Now Edward could once again turn his attention towards Scotland. He moved north with three large armies. He met little resistance and the now scattered Scots finally surrendered. Edward was fairly generous with the surrender, with two exceptions. He refused to allow Stirling castle to surrender until he had a chance to test his new siege engine against it. For three months he battered the castle which tried vainly to surrender.
The other involved William Wallace. Edward had never forgotten that it was Wallace who had dealt him a decisive defeat in all his campaigns. One of his conditions of peace to John Comyn was that Wallace be turned over. For over seven years, Wallace had been quiet. Now, when the Scottish nobles were bending over for Edward, Wallace re-emerged, still defiant. He clashed with the English near Peebles in 1304 and again at Earn in September. On August 3, 1305 Wallace was betrayed and captured in Glasgow, at the house of Robert Rae, a servant of Sir John Mentieth. Wallace was immediately brought to London and tried for treason, which he steadfastly denied as he had never sworn fealty to Edward. This was ignored and Wallace was sentenced to death. He was dragged by horse for four miles over cobblestones around London. He was then hung but cut down while he was still alive. Then he was castrated and disemboweled. His genitals and entrails were burned before his eyes. Finally, it was ended by the headsman's axe. His heart was cut out and placed on the fire, his head placed upon a pike. His body was quartered and sent to the four corners of the kingdom as an sample of Edwards might. King Edward had tried to make an example out of Wallace. He made a martyr instead.