I am reaching far back for today’s event from history because of a recent experience that has a loose connection (very loose) and by no means as bloody as the story from history that I write about today.

First a few photographs from the loosely connected event.  This cast of characters are from the New Jersey Renaissance Faire which was held in early June 2013.  For this year’s faire, the story of William Wallace, Robert du Bruce and King Edward I Longshanks was the theme.  Here is our William Wallace and some of his clan.  My daughter (on the far left) portrayed a great, great, great, great granddaughter of William Wallace.

(I know he probably didn’t have any children.  It’s make believe.  Work with me here :).)

William Wallace and his clan.  You can partially see King Edward Longshanks and Queen Margaret in the background

William Wallace and his clan.
(New Jersey Renaissance Faire 2013)

This is the faire’s Royalty, King Edward Longshanks of the House of Plantagenet and his Queen Margaret

Queen Margaret and King Edward from the New Jersey Renaissance Faire

Queen Margaret and King Edward
(New Jersey Renaissance Faire 2013)

The Battle of Falkirk, which took place on July 22, 1298, was one of the major battles in the First War of Scottish Independence. Led by King Edward I of England (Edward Longshanks), the English army defeated the Scots, led by William Wallace. Shortly after the battle Wallace resigned as Guardian of Scotland.

This is a portrait of King Edward I

Portrait of King Edward I

This is from the film, Braveheart.   King Edward I  portrayed by Actor Patrick McGoohan

This is from the film, Braveheart.
King Edward I
portrayed by Actor Patrick McGoohan

William Wallace. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Portrait of Sir William Wallace.
Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

This is from the film, Braveheart William Wallace portrayed by actor Mel Gibson

This is from the film, Braveheart
William Wallace portrayed by actor Mel Gibson

King Edward I was campaigning against the French in Flanders when he learned of the defeat of his northern army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. After concluding a truce with Philip the Fair, he returned to England in March 1298 and immediately began organizing an army for his second invasion of Scotland. As a preliminary step he moved the center of government to York, where it was to remain for the next six years.

York Castle

York Castle

A council-of-war was held in the city in April to finalize the details of the invasion. The Scots magnates were all summoned to attend, and when none appeared they were all declared to be traitors. Edward then ordered his army to assemble at Roxburgh on 25 June.

Roxburgh Castle, River Tweed and Floors Castle

Roxburgh Castle, River Tweed and Floors Castle

The force he gathered was impressive: over 2,000 men-at-arms (armoured cavalry) and 12,000 infantry receiving wages, though, after the manner of medieval armies there would have been many more serving without pay either as a statement of personal independence, forgiveness of debts to the crown, criminal pardons or just for adventure, including a huge force of Welshmen armed with the longbow.

The Bowmen of England by Peter Jackson

The Bowmen of England by Peter Jackson

Edward advanced into central Scotland and Wallace’s army shadowed the English, intending to avoid battle until shortages of supplies and money forced Edward to withdraw, at which point the Scots would harass his retreat. Edward’s own supply fleet was delayed by bad weather, and when the army reached central Scotland it was both tired and hungry. The Welsh infantry in particular were badly demoralised. While the army was encamped at Temple Liston, near Edinburgh, they erupted in a drunken riot that was broken up by the English cavalry, who killed 80 Welshmen. Edward faced the prospect of the kind of ignominious retreat that became a regular feature of his son’s campaigns in the succeeding reign. As he was on the point of falling back on Edinburgh he received intelligence that Wallace had taken up position in the wood of Callendar near Falkirk, only thirteen miles away, ready to pursue the retreating English. Edward was delighted: As God lives… they need not pursue me, for I will meet them this day.

Callendar Wood, near Falkirk Scotland

Callendar Wood, near Falkirk Scotland

The Scots army, again made up chiefly of spearmen as at Stirling, was arranged in four great armored ‘hedgehogs’ known as schiltrons. The long spears pointed outwards at various heights gave these formations a formidable and impenetrable appearance. The gaps between the schiltrons were filled with archers and to the rear there was a small troop of men-at-arms, provided by the Comynes and other magnates.

Battle of Falkirk

Battle of Falkirk

On Tuesday 22 July, the English cavalry, divided into four battalions, finally caught sight of their elusive enemy. The left was commanded by the Earls of Norfolk, Hereford and Lincoln. The right was under the command of Antony Bek, Bishop of Durham, while the King commanded the centre, still a little distance to the rear of the vanguard.

Defeat at the Battle of Falkirk effectively ended William Wallace's rebellion, although he did continue some guerrilla actions for time

Defeat at the Battle of Falkirk effectively ended William Wallace’s rebellion, although he did continue some guerrilla actions for time

Once in sight of the enemy, Norfolk and his colleagues began an immediate attack, but on encountering a small marsh to the front of the Scots position, made a long detour to the west before being able to make contact with the right of Wallace’s army. Bek tried to hold back his own battalion to give the King time to get into position but he was overruled by his impatient knights anxious to join their comrades on the left in an immediate attack. In a disorganized pell-mell the cavalry finally closed on the Scots, on the right and left. The party of men-at-arms under John Comyn, outnumbered about 30 to one, left the field immediately.

John Comyn

John Comyn

The Scots bowmen commanded by Sir John Stewart of Bonkill, the younger brother of the High Steward of Scotland, stood their ground and were quickly destroyed. But the schiltrons held firm, absorbing the shock of the impact.

Scottish Schiltron

Scottish Schiltron

The knights made little impression on the dense forest of long spears and were soon threatened with impalement. A small number of riders were killed under their horses. King Edward arrived in time to witness the discomfiture of his cavalry and quickly restored discipline. The knights were ordered to withdraw and Edward prepared to employ the tactics that the Earl of Warwick had used to defeat the Welsh spearmen at the Battle of Maes Moydog in 1295. The Scottish cavalry having charged at the English cavalry, seeing the vast numbers that were formed against them, wisely fled the field, abandoning their fellow Scottish comrades to the slaughter.

350px-Falkirk1298(1)

Edward’s archers were brought into place and went to work with their deadly longbows, and quickly overcame the inexperienced force of badly armed Scottish archers. Their hail of arrows was supplemented by crossbow and slingshot. The schiltrons were an easy target; they had no defence and nowhere to hide. Unable to retreat or attack, the battle was lost for the Scots almost as soon as the first arrows began to fall. The cavalry waited, this time observing the King’s command, until the Scots ranks were thin enough to allow them to enter and finish the job. A great many Scots were killed, including Macduff, son of the Earl of Fife. The survivors, Wallace included, escaped as best they could, mostly into the nearby forest of Torwood where their pursuers could not safely follow.

350px-Falkirk1298(2)

F1

For Edward, Falkirk was a badly needed victory. Previous defeats by Wallace and his ongoing wars in France, which were costly to maintain, began to suggest that he was an ineffective and weak king. Casualties among the Scottish leaders were not particularly heavy, but did include Wallace’s second-in-command Sir John de Graham, Sir John Stewart of Bonkill (no art found), Macduff of Fife and Andrew Moray.

Sir John Graham of Dundaff

Sir John Graham of Dundaff

Macduff of Fife

Macduff of Fife

Andrew de Moray

Andrew de Moray

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2 responses

  1. max says:

    I had to refresh the page times to watch this page for some reason, however, the information here had been worth the wait.

    Like