scotland, william wallace, and the english king -- 6/5/17

Today's selection -- from Edward I by Andy King. For centuries, England attempted to conquer Scotland. That struggle continued until 1707, when Scotland entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain. Even today, that alliance rests uneasy with a narrowly-lost 2014 referendum to separate from Britain, and the current discussion to separate as a consequence of Brexit. One of the early attempts to conquer Scotland was in 1296 under King Edward I. As was often the case, Scotland buttressed its defenses against England by reaching out to European nations, especially France. William Wallace, glamorized by Hollywood in the movie Braveheart, played a minor part:

The site of the battle of Stirling Bridge

"The Scots had allied with the French against the English before, notably during the reigns of Henry II and John; faced with the increasing intrusiveness of Edward's overlordship it was natural that they should do so again. A Franco-Scottish treaty was duly sealed at Paris in October 1295; the 'Auld Alliance' against England (as it came to be known) would be a mainstay of the foreign policies of both countries for the next two hun­dred and fifty or so years.

"By this time, however, Edward was already bent on war with Scotland. ... Edward summoned his magnates to muster at Newcastle upon Tyne the following March (1296), at the beginning of the campaigning season. The composition of his army was a striking demonstration of the power he wielded across the British Isles, including as it did men from England, Wales, Ireland and, indeed, Scotland. Edward marched on Berwick, demanding its inhabitants submit to his authority; and when they refused, he took the town by assault. Contemporary customs of war held that the inhabitants of any town that refused to come to terms with their overlord were rebels and, as such, had no right to quarter. Nor did they get any. A terrible massacre followed, and the surviving inhabitants were expelled. ... Scottish resistance [soon] collapsed. Edward was able to lead his army on a tour of Scotland, receiving the submissions of Scottish nobles as he went. At the beginning of July, King John was forced to admit his rebellion and surrender his kingdom; he was ceremonially deposed and despatched to the Tower of London. ...

"Edward must have been delighted by the apparent ease with which he had conquered Scotland. ... Meanwhile, the English treasurer of Scotland, the ambi­tious and avaricious Hugh Cressingham, had set out to extract as much money as possible for his royal master. By April 1297, his exactions had provoked rebellion across Scotland, led by men of the minor landowning classes, most notably one William Wallace. ... Scottish nobility [soon joined] the revolt, including Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick (the grandson of the claimant, and the future King Robert I).

Stained glass window in the National Wallace Monument, Stirling

"[In March 1298, Edward] now turned his attention to the dire situation in Scotland. ... Edward was determined to bring the Scots to battle; and at Falkirk, on 22 July, Wal­lace obliged him, reputedly telling his men, 'I have brought you to the dance, now hop if you can.' But the English mounted men-at-arms easily drove off their outnumbered Scottish counterparts. ... This victory enabled Edward to re-establish his author­ity in south-east Scotland and the borders. ... Early in 1304, John Comyn, the leader of Edward's Scottish opponents, yielded. Stirling Castle, the last outpost of Scottish resistance, finally surrendered on 20 July. And Edward was, once again, ruler of all the British Isles.

"Having learned the lessons of 1296-7, Edward's settle­ment with the Scots was pragmatic, rather than vindictive, working with the grain of Scottish political society. ... Scots were now allowed greater influence in its government. Although the highest-ranking offices were reserved for Englishmen, many Scots were employed in positions of real authority. ... (The terms of the settlement pointedly excluded William Wallace, [who, the following year, was hunted down, hanged, disembowelled and quartered]). The ordinance also went some way towards meeting Scottish demands that Scottish law be maintained."



Andy King


Edward I: A Second Arthur?


Penguin UK


Copyright Andy King 2016


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