the Battle of Bannockburn
"Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled Scots, wham Bruce has aften led Welcome to your gory bed. Or to victory!" ~"Bannockburn", Robert Burns (1759-1796)
The Battle of Bannockburn was fought for control of Stirling Castle which commanded the route north to the Scottish Highlands. In 1314, it was the last English stronghold in Scotland. Edward Bruce (Robert's brother) had surrounded the castle, held by Sir Philip Mowbray, and cut off supplies. Mowbray proposed to hand over the castle to the Scots on June 24th unless an English force arrived to relieve him. Edward II of England had created a massive force to invade Scotland consisting of 2000 heavily armoured knights and 16,000 infantry. Compared to this Robert the Bruce had only 500 horsemen and 6000 foot soldiers. By the time Edward's army arrived a day earlier than the deadline, Robert the Bruce had set up special traps and tactical plans (including the schiltron formation - defensive circles of men wielding long pikes) to counter what was considered the finest army in the medieval world. The first blow struck was against Sir Henry de Bohun, nephew of the Earl of Hereford. Bohun recognised King Robert the Bruce and galloped against him at full speed with his lance. Bruce, mounted on a small grey horse stepped aside and swung his axe so hard that it split de Bohun’s helmet and ‘clove skull and brain’ before the shaft broke. This began the start of the two-day battle which secured Scotland’s independence after a war with England lasting nearly 20 years. In exchange of English nobles who were captured, Bruce was able to force the release of his wife and daughter, both of whom had been held captive in England since 1306.
The Battle of Bannockburn (Blàr Allt nam Bànag) on 24 June 1314 was a significant Scottish victory in the First War of Scottish Independence and a landmark in Scottish history.
Stirling Castle, a Scots royal fortress, occupied by the English, was under siege by the Scottish army. The English king, Edward II, had assembled a formidable force to relieve it. This attempt failed, and his army was defeated in a pitched battle by a smaller army commanded by the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce.
The Battle of Bannockburn tartan has been designed on behalf of the National Trust for Scotland by Christine MacLeod, property manager of Weaver’s Cottage in Kilbarchan. Colours: red represents the sacrifice and the feeling between the opposing armies; caramel in fine crossed lines for the colour and texture of old leather, wood, pikes and arrows; sage green for the carse at Stirling where the battle took place; deep blue to represent the very centre of the battle; red and gold for the clash of the two armies for the prize of the red and gold of the royal standard of Scotland.
The first blow struck at the Battle of Bannockburn was against Sir Henry de Bohun (pronounced “Boon”) nephew of the Earl of Hereford. Bohun recognised King Robert the Bruce and galloped against him at full speed with his lance. Bruce, mounted on a small grey horse stepped aside and swung his axe so hard that it split de Bohun’s helmet and ‘clove skull and brain’ before the shaft broke.
This began the start of the two-day battle which secured Scotland’s independence after a war with England lasting nearly 20 years.
For more on this historic battle, click the painting of this exchange by the artist John Duncan (1914).