PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Forces of England’s Edward I vs.
forces of Scotland’s Robert Bruce
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Scotland and northern England
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Bruce led a Scottish
rebellion against English rule.
OUTCOME: Partial eviction of the English from Scotland
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Variable, but Bruce was consistently outnumbered; he may have had 10,000 men at most.
Robert Bruce (1274–1329) was the grandson of an earlier claimant to the throne of Scotland. He had fought on the side of the Scots rebel William Wallace (1272?–1305) (see Wallace’s Revolt) but shifted allegiance to England’s Edward I (1239–1307) by 1302. Wallace was executed in 1305, and the following year, although still nominally in the service of Edward I, Bruce defiantly crowned himself king of Scotland at Scone. At this, an enraged Edward invaded Scotland and engaged Bruce’s forces at the Battle of Methven, northwest of Perth, on June 19, 1306. Edward easily routed Bruce’s outnumbered rebels, and Bruce, after a second defeat at Dalry (August 11), fled to remote Rath-lin Island off the coast of Ireland. It is said that during his exile Bruce observed a spider weave its web with infinite patience. Somehow inspired by this example, he returned to Scotland in 1307 and quickly found an eager band of followers. He led them against English cavalry at the Battle of Loudoun Hill at Ayr, southwestern Scotland, in May 1307. With arrogant recklessness, English knights charged Bruce’s pikemen and were duly decimated. The defeat at Loudon Hill outraged the aged and infirm Edward I, who, sick as he was with a wasting disease, personally led a campaign into Scotland. However, on July 7, 1307, he died at Burgh-by-Sands, near the Solway Firth. Edward I’s son, Edward II (1284–1327), made a half-hearted foray into Scotland in 1310 but soon withdrew. Bruce used the interlude of peace to mend fences with enemies and to consolidate his forces for operations to clear the remaining English out of Scotland. Often he ventured into northern England on hit-and-run raids.
In 1311 Bruce attacked Durham and Hartlepool, evicting the English from these places, and by 1314 only Stirling, Dunbar, and Berwick remained under English control. By this time Bruce had secured recognition from France and had the backing of the Scots clergy. At this point most historians mark the conclusion of Bruce’s
Revolt and the commencement of the Scottish War (1314–1328).