Ewan J. Innes, MA(Hons Scot. Hist.) FSA Scot
Synopsis: This essay summarizes the history of the Scottish Wars of Independence up to 1329.
Please see my copyright policy if you wish to cite any part of this essay.
| Part II
| Printer Friendly |
In 1286, Alexander III, King of Scots, died when he fell off a cliff at
Kinghorn in Fife while riding to see his wife on a stormy March night.
The successor to the Scottish throne was his granddaughter Margaret (a
sickly three year old girl, the daughter of the King of Norway and the
late Margaret, Alexander's daughter). All of Alexander's other children
having pre-deceased their father. The earls and other great magnates had
accepted Margaret as the heir to the throne and arrangements were made
to bring her to Scotland. In the meantime several Guardians were
appointed to govern the realm in the Queen's absence. Discussions were
held with Edward I of England to prevent any instability. Edward was
very generous and kind, and after much diplomacy, a treaty was signed
whereby the new queen was to marry Edward's own son, also Edward.
Had this treaty ever taken effect who knows what would have happened to
both England and Scotland. In the event, Margaret died in Orkney, never
seeing her kingdom.
After her death, Edward brought out his claims of overlordship of
Scotland. This was based on a trawl through the records of every
monastic house in England. He used the treaty of Falaise (where William
the Lion had signed away Scotland) despite the fact that it had been
canceled by the Quit-claim of Canterbury. Having been frustrated by the
Guardians on the grounds that whether Scotland was subject to England
was a matter for the king of Scots and not them. Edward therefore got
every claimant to the throne to swear fealty to him for the realm of
Scotland if he chose them.
So, the situation is this. Margaret's death had left 13 claimants to the
throne, although only 3 were worth looking at. Bruce, Balliol and Count
Florence. This last claim was important as he claimed that Alexander had
signed a paper whereby the succession went through him in the event of
Alexander dying leaving no heirs. Unfortunately, he was unable to find
the paper despite a lengthy adjournment. So we are left with the Bruce
and Balliol claims. Bruce claimed through the second daughter of David
earl of Huntingdon, while Balliol claimed through the elder daughter of
the same man. Bruce argued that he was closer in line as he was the son
of the second daughter while Balliol was only the grandson of the elder
daughter. In the event, after much legal argument, the stronger claim won, that of
Balliol. He was undoubtedly the rightful claimant to the throne whether
or not he would make a good king.
So, Balliol was crowned in 1292, and was faced with constant pressure
from Edward to acknowledge him as his overlord. To Balliol's credit he
refused to do so. In 1295, Edward gave the Scots an ultimatum. He wanted
every man of rank to attend him on his forthcoming invasion of France.
This was one step to far and the Scots instead signed a treaty of mutual
aid with France. In consequence, Edward invaded Scotland instead.
The invasion of 1296 saw the beginning of the wars of independence.
Scotland would now be in almost constant conflict with England for the
next 300 years. To put this in perspective it should be understood that
the two nations had been on fairly friendly terms for the preceding
century. Even when there was conflict it was fairly low key.
Edward began his invasion at Berwick. The town was besieged and after a
short struggle, the town was sacked and the inhabitants put to the sword,
literally. A group of Flemish merchants were burnt to death in their
guild hall at the express orders of Edward. The numbers of dead caused
severe problems and they were ordered to be thrown into the sea, or into
deep pits. The English army stayed at Berwick while a probe in force was
sent towards Dunbar. There they routed the main Scottish army, back from
raiding the north of England.
After the defeat of the Scottish army, Edward went on a progress through
Scotland. On the way, he took the Scottish piece of the true cross, the
black rood, the Stone of Destiny (or at least what he was told was the
stone!) and stripped Balliol of his heraldic arms. Having thus secured
Scotland, he went south again.
Why you may ask did the Scots not put up much of a fight? Well the simple
answer to that is they hadn't fought a serious battle since 1235, when
Alexander II subjugated Galloway. The last battle had been at Largs in
1265, but that wasn't really a battle being more of a skirmish on the
shore with the Norwegians. In consequence the Scots were badly equipped
to face Edward, and an English army which had fought many times on the
continent. They were moreover badly equipped to deal with the heavy
chivalric horse and archers which English armies were equipped with.
Having subjugated Scotland, Edward now demanded that all nobles and
landholders swear fealty to him at either Berwick or to their local
justiciar or Sheriff. The names of all those who took this oath were
then put on a list, this list is now known as the Ragman Rolls. One
notable exception to this was the son of a Lanarkshire knight named
Malcolm Wallace and his brother William.
The Wallaces had probably come from Shropshire originally sometime during
the twelfth century and had gained land in the parish of Paisley. There
they were subject to the lordship of the Stewarts.
| Part II
| Printer Friendly |