The Battle of Bannockburn
WHEN the two first
divisions of the Scots had joined battle, as I have said, Walter the
Steward and the good Lord of Douglas, seeing the Earl with his company
so stoutly, without doubt or fear, attack the whole host, set forth with
their division in brave array to help him, and joined battle so boldly a
little way from the Earl that the enemy were made well aware of their
coming; for they drove at them with strong weapons of steel and with all
Their enemies received
them well, I promise, with swords, maces, and spears. The battle there
was most fierce, and so mighty was the spilling of blood that it stood
in pools on the ground. The Scots bore themselves so well, and made so
great a slaughter, and reft the lives from so many, that all the field
was left bloody. At that time the three Scottish divisions were fighting
well-nigh side by side. There one might hear right many a stroke, and
weapons striking on armour, and see knights and steeds go down, and many
a rich and splendid garment fouled roughly under foot. Some kept their
feet, some lost their lives.
A long while thus they
fought without shout or cry being heard. No sounds came forth but those
of groans and blows that struck fire like steel on flint. So keenly they
fought, each one, that they made neither noise nor cry, but drove at
each other with all their might with their bright burnished weapons. The
arrows, too, flew so thick that those who saw them have said they in
truth made a dreadful shower; for where they fell I warrant they left
after them tokens that called for the leech.
The English archers shot
so fast that had their shower lasted it had gone hard with the Scots.
But King Robert, who knew well that the archers were dangerous, and
their shooting right grievous and hard, had, before the battle, ordained
his marshal, with a great host—five hundred well armed in steel, and
well mounted on light horses —to charge among the archers, and attack
them with spears, so that they should have no leisure to shoot.
This marshal, Sir Robert
of Keith, when he saw the hosts come together, and join battle, and saw
the archers shooting stoutly, forthwith rode at them with all his
company, and took them in the flank. He charged fiercely among them,
striking them mercilessly, and bearing down and slaying numbers of them
without ransom. And they every one scattered, and from that time forth
none came together to make such shooting.
When the Scottish bowmen
saw the English archers thus overwhelmed they waxed bold, and shot
quickly with all their might among the charging horsemen, and made great
wounds among them, and slew of them a right great number. These bowmen
bore themselves boldly and well; for now that their archer foes, who
were far more than they in number, were scattered, and they had nothing
to fear from their shooting, it seemed to them they should set all their
enemies at nought.
Meanwhile, among the
English archers, the Marshal and his company, wherever they rode, made
room with their spears, and slew all whom they could overtake. Right
easily could they do this, having neither to stop a stroke nor withstand
a blow; for unarmed men are little able to fight against men in armour.
In such fashion Sir Robert scattered these archers that some withdrew
with the utmost speed to their great battles, and some fled altogether.
But the English who had
been behind the archers, and who had had no room by reason of their own
host to come yet to the encounter, dashed quickly into the battle. The
archers whom they met fleeing were by that time become altogether
cowards. They had clean lost heart, and I trow were not likely to hurt
the Scots greatly with their shooting that day.
And when the good King
Robert, who was ever full of the greatest nobleness, saw how boldly his
three battles made encounter, and how well they bore themselves in the
strife, and how hard and undauntedly they drove at their foes, and how
the English archers were scattered, he was right blithe, and said to his
men, "Sirs, look now that ye be valiant and bold and of good guidance at
this encounter, and join battle so stoutly that nothing shall stand
before you. So freshly are our men fighting, and so greatly have they
harassed their foes, that I warrant, if the enemy be pressed a little
harder, ye shall see them presently discomfited. Let us now drive at
them so boldly, and so doughtily lay on our strokes, that they may feel
at our coming that we hate them to the uttermost. Great cause have they
given us to hate them. Our broad lands they seized, and brought all to
subjection. Your whole goods they made their own. Our kin and friends,
for defending their own possessions, they have mercilessly hanged and
drawn. And they would destroy us if they could. But God in his foresight
has this day, I trow, granted us his grace to wreak our wrongs upon
At these words the
Bruce's men set forward and joined battle so stoutly on the enemies'
flank that at their coming their foes were driven back a great way.
There men could be seen fighting freshly, and valiant and active knights
doing many a noble deed of prowess. They fought as if mad. At
these places especially where the Scots saw their enemies most stubborn
against them, they laid on with all their might and main, like men out
of their minds. Where their blows fell full and straight no armour could
stop the strokes. They charged against all they could reach, and with
their axes gave blows that cave helmets and heads.
Their enemies met them
right boldly, and dealt blows doughtily with strong weapons of steel.
Well was the battle stricken in that place. Mighty was the din of blows,
as weapons struck upon armour, and great was the crashing of spears,
with turning and thrusting, grunting and groaning and mighty noise, as
they laid on each other. They called their battle-cries on every side as
they gave and took wide wounds, and the uproar was horrid to hear, as
the four strong battles fought all together in one front.
God Almighty! most
doughtily Sir Edward the Bruce and his men bore themselves there among
their foes. They were so bold and stout, and fought so skilfully and to
such purpose, that the vanguard of the enemy was overthrown, and,
despite its leaders, left the ground. The English made for refuge to
their great host. But that host itself had weighty business in hand and
was itself dismayed. For the Scots now all in a single body assailed it
He who chanced to fall in
that fight never, I trow, rose again. There men might see brave deeds of
many kinds doughtily achieved, and many men who had been active and bold
lying all dead under foot, and the field all red with blood. Their
badges and coats of arms were so defiled with blood that they could not
Ah, mighty God! if one
could have seen Walter the Steward, and his rout, and Douglas the stout
and brave, as they fought in the strong battle, he must have declared
them worthy of all honour. So hard in that fight did they press upon the
strength of their foes that they overthrew them wherever they went. Many
a steed was to be seen there fleeing astray without a rider.
Ah, Lord! it was a sight
to see how the brave Earl of Moray and his men dealt great blows, and
fought in that hard strife. They underwent such labour and toil, and did
such battle, that wherever they came they made themselves a way. There
could be heard the shouting of battle-cries, and the Scots calling
boldly, "On them! on them! on them! they fail!"
With that they made a
most bold attack, and slew all they could come at, and the Scottish
archers also shot boldly among the enemy, and harassed them greatly.
Then, what with their adversaries dealing them mighty blows and pressing
them eagerly, and what with the arrows making many great and cruel
wounds and slaying their horses, the English host gave way a little
space, and came so greatly into fear of death that their condition grew
ever worse. For the Scots fighting with them set hardihood and strength
and will, as well as heart and courage, and all their might and main, to
put them to foul flight.
At this moment, when the
battle was in this fashion being fought, and either side was struggling
right manfully, the yeomen, swains, and camp-followers who had been left
in the Park to mind the victual, knowing for certain that their lords
had joined battle and were in dire conflict with their foes, made one of
themselves captain, and fastened broad sheets for banners upon long
poles and spears, and said they would see the fight, and help their
lords to their utmost. When all were agreed to this, and were come
together in a body, they were fifteen thousand and more. Then they
hastened forward all in a rout with their banners, like men strong and
stout. They came with their whole host to a place where they could see
the battle. Then all at once they gave a shout, "Upon them! on them
boldly!" and therewith they all came on.
But they were yet a long
way off when the English, who were being driven back by force of battle
as I have said, saw coming towards them with a shout a company which
seemed full as great as the host they were fighting, and which they had
not seen before. Then, be assured, they were vastly dismayed, and
without doubt the best and boldest in the host that day would, had
honour allowed, have been away.
By their reeling King Robert saw they were near discomfiture. He shouted
loudly his battle-cry, then with his company pressed his foes so hard
that they were thrown into great affright, and ever more and more left
the ground. Then all the Scots, when they saw them avoid the fight,
drove at them with all their strength, so that they scattered in
separate troops, and were near defeat, and some of them openly fled.
Still some who were active and bold, whom shame kept from taking flight,
at great cost maintained the battle, and stood firm in the storm.
When the King of England
saw his men in sundry places flee, and saw the host of his foes become
strong and bold, and the English array altogether defeated and without
strength to withstand its enemies, he was so vastly dismayed that, with
all his company, five hundred armed cap-a-pie, in utter disorder, he
took to flight, and made for the castle. Some say, however, that Sir
Aymer De Valence, when he saw the field nigh lost, took the king's rein
and led him away from the fighting against his will.
And when Sir Giles De
Argentine saw Edward and his host thus make so speedily to flee, he came
forthwith close to the king, and said, "Sir, since so be that thus ye go
your way, farewell, for I will again to the battle. Never yet, of a
surety, have I fled, and I choose rather here to abide and die than to
flee shamefully and live."
Forthwith then he turned
his steed, and rode against the foe. And, as if he had no whit of fear,
crying "De Argentine!" he pricked on the strong and bold Sir Edward
Bruce's host. They met him with their spears, and so many set upon him
that he and his steed were overborne, and both went to the earth, and in
that place he was slain. There was right great sorrow for his death. He
was the third best knight, of a truth, known to be living in his time.
[The others, according to Lord Hailes, were the Emperor Henry and King
Robert the Bruce.] Many a fair feat of arms he achieved. Thrice had he
done battle on the Saracen, and in each attack had vanquished two of his
foes. But his great valour came hero to an end.
After Sir Aymer had fled
with the king, there durst none remain; but all fled, scattering on
every side. Their foes pressed them hard, and they were all, to speak
truth, terrified. In such great terror they fled that a very great body
of them, fleeing towards the Forth, were most part drowned. The
Bannockburn between its banks was so filled with men and horses that men
could pass over dryshod upon the drowned bodies. Lads, hinds, and
camp-followers, when they saw the battle won, ran among the fallen, and
slew those who could make no defence, in fashion that was piteous to
see. Nowhere have I heard in any land of folk so grievously bested. On
one side were their foes, who slew them without mercy, and on the other
side was the Bannockburn, deep and full of mud, so that none could ride
across it. Against their will they behoved to abide, and some were
slain, some drowned, and none escaped that came there.
Nevertheless, many who
fled elsewhere got away. King Edward and those with him rode in a body
to the castle, and sought to be taken in, for they knew not where to
escape. But Philip the Mowbray said to him, "The castle, sir, is at your
will, but should ye come into it ye should presently see yourself
besieged, and there shall none in all England undertake to bring you
succour. Without succour can no castle be long held, as well ye know;
therefore take courage, and rally your men right straitly about you, and
take the way round the Park. Keep as close array as ye can, and I trow
that none who follow shall have force enough to fight so many."
They did as he
counselled. Beneath the castle forthwith they held their way, close by
the Round Table, [This curious relic, now known as the King's Knot,
under the walls on the south side of Stirling Castle, is believed by
many to be the actual Round Table of Arthurian times, and to date from
the reign of that famous British monarch, who had his chief stronghold
at Stirling in the sixth century. See Nennius, Historia Brittonum, and
Skene's Celtic Scotland.] then compassed the Park, and held in haste
towards Linlithgow. But I trow they were speedily to have convoy of a
kind they could have suffered away. For Sir James, Lord of Douglas, came
to the Bruce and asked leave to chase, and he gave him leave forthwith.
Douglas's horse were all too few; he had no more than sixty in his rout;
nevertheless he sped hastily after the English king. Now leave we him on
his way, and afterwards we shall tell fully what befell in the pursuit.
In the great battle thus
decided there were thirty thousand slain or drowned, while some were
taken prisoner, and others fled.
The Earl of Hereford left
the strife, with a great host, and made his way straight to Bothwell,
which was then in the English fealty, and held as a place of war. Sir
Walter Gilbertston was captain there, and had it in keeping. Thitherward
sped the Earl, and was taken in over the wall, with fifty of his men,
and separately housed in such fashion that they had no mastery of the
place. The rest went towards England. Of that rout I warrant
three-fourths were taken or slain, and the others reached home with
Sir Maurice De Barclay
set forth from the great battle with a great host of Welshmen. Wherever
they went they could be known by reason that they were well-nigh wholly
naked, or had only linen clothes. They marched with the greatest speed,
but ere they were come to England many of their company were taken and
The English fled also by
many other ways. But to the castle of Stirling at hand fled such a host
as was a marvel to behold. The crags about the castle were all covered
here and there with those who, because of the strength of that place,
fled thitherward for refuge. And because the number thus fled under the
castle was so great, King Robert prudently kept his good men ever near
him, out of fear that the English should rise again. It was by reason of
this, indeed, that the King of England escaped to his own country.
When the field was so
cleared of the English that none remained, the Scots forthwith took
possession of all spoils of the enemy that they could find, such as
silver, gold, clothing, and armour, with plate, and all things else that
they could lay hands upon. Such vast riches they found there that many a
man was made great by the wealth he got.
When this was done the
king sent a strong company up to the crag to attack those that were fled
from the great battle, and these yielded themselves without struggle,
and were speedily seized and carried to the king.
The Scots, after an end
was made of the fighting, spent that whole day in spoiling and taking
gear; and when all who had been slain in the battle had been spoiled of
their arms it was of a truth a wondrous sight to see so many lying dead
together. Seven hundred pairs of red spurs were taken from dead knights.
There among the dead lay the Earl of Gloucester, whom men called Sir
Gilbert of Clare, also Sir Giles d'Argentine and Sir Payn Tybetot, with
others beside whose names I cannot recount.
And on the side of the
Scots were slain two worthy knights, Sir William Vipont and Sir Walter
the Ross, whom Sir Edward, the king's brother, loved as himself, and
held in high esteem. When Sir Edward knew that this knight was dead he
was so sorrowful and distressed that he said, making full evil cheer, he
had rather the day had been lost than that Sir Walter were slain.
Besides him it was not seen that Sir Edward made moan for any man. The
reason of this affection was that he loved the sister of Ross as a
paramour, and held his own wife, Dame Isobel, in great dislike. For this
cause a great distance had fallen betwixt him and the Earl David of
Atholl, brother of this lady; and upon Sir John's Eve, when the two
kings were ready to fight, the Earl seized the Bruce's victual at
Cambuskenneth, and heavily attacked and slew Sir William of Airth and
many with him. Wherefore afterwards he was banished to England, and all
his land was seized and forfeited to the king, who did therewith at his
When the field was
spoiled and left all bare, as I have said, the Bruce and all his
company, joyful and blithe and merry over the grace that had befallen
them, betook them to their quarters to rest, for they were weary. But
the king grieved somewhat for the Earl Gilbert of Clare slain in the
battle, for he was near kin [It was the Earl of Gloucester who sent
Bruce a pair of spurs at the court of Edward I, and by this hint to
flee saved his life.] to himself. He caused him to be carried to a
church, and guarded all that night.
And on the morrow, when
it was light, the king rose as his custom was. Then it happened that an
English knight went hither and thither, no man laying hands on him. He
had hid his armour in a coppice, and waited till, early in the morning,
he saw the king come forth. Then he hastened to him. Sir Marmaduke de
Twenge he was called, and he reached the near presence of the king, and
greeted him upon his knee.
"Welcome, Sir Marmaduke,"
said the Bruce, "to what man art thou prisoner?";
"To none," he said, "but
here to you I yield, to be at your pleasure."
"And I receive thee,
sir," said the king. Then he caused him to be courteously treated, and
Sir Marmaduke dwelt long in his company, and afterwards the king sent
him to England arrayed well and ransom free and with great gifts beside.
A worthy man who should do thus might make himself greatly praised.
When Sir Marmaduke in
this wise had yielded himself, Sir Philip the Mowbray came and yielded
the castle to the king. He had kept his covenant well, and the king so
dealt with him that he became of his household, and kept his faith
loyally to the last day of his life.
Now shall we tell of the
Lord Douglas, how he followed the chase. He had few in his company, but
he sped with right great haste, and as he fared by the Torwood he met,
riding on the moor, Sir Laurence of Abernethy, who with fourscore in his
company was come to help the English, for he was still English then.
But when he heard how the day stood, he left the English peace and swore
to the Lord Douglas right there to be loyal and true. Then they both
followed the chase.
And ere the King of
England had passed Linlithgow the Scots came so near with all their
followers that they could well nigh have charged among them. But they
deemed themselves too few to fight with the great rout of the English,
for these were five hundred armed men. The English rode together in
close order with drawn bridle, and were right shrewdly managed,
appearing ever ready to defend themselves to the utmost if they were
attacked. The Lord Douglas judged he should not then attempt to fight
openly with them. But he convoyed them so narrowly that constantly he
took the hindmost. None could be behind his fellows a stone-cast but at
once he was either taken or slain, and none could bring him succour
though he loved him ever so much.
In this fashion he
convoyed them till King Edward and his host were come to Winchburgh.
There the English all lighted down to bait their weary horses; and
Douglas and his company baited also close beside them. They were so
many, and so fully armed, and so constantly arrayed for battle, and he
so few, and without support, that he would not attack them in open
fight, but rode ever by them, constantly waiting his chance.
They baited there a
little while, then mounted and fared forward, and he was always close by
them. He let them have not so much leisure as to relieve themselves; and
if any were so bested, and were left any space behind, forthwith he was
In this fashion Douglas
convoyed them till the king and his rout were come to the Castle of
Dunbar. There he and some of his men were right well received; for still
at that time the Earl Patrick was an Englishman. [The Earls of March
claimed direct descent from the ancient Kings of Northumbria. They are
represented to-day by the Dunbars of Mochrum.] He caused them to be well
refreshed with meat and drink, and afterwards procured a boat, and sent
the king by sea to Bamborough in his own country. Their horses they left
to go astray, but I trow they were taken possession of soon enough.
The rest, who were left
without the castle, arrayed themselves in a body, and made straight
towards Berwick. To say truth, they lost part of their rout ere they
came thither. Nevertheless they came at last to Berwick, and were there
received into the town, else mischance had befallen them. And when the
Lord Douglas saw that he had lost his pains he went again to the Bruce.
Thus King Edward escaped.
Lo! what changes there are in fortune! Now she will smile upon a man,
and another time will thrust a knife into him. At no time does she stand
stable. This mighty King of England she had set high on her wheel when
with so marvellous a host of men-at-arms and archers, and men on foot
and men on horse-back, he came riding out of his country, as I have
already described. And afterwards, in a night and a day, she set him in
so hard a strait that with seventeen in a boat he was fain to make his
But King Robert had no
need to make lament of the turning of this same wheel, for by the turn
of the wheel his side vanquished its foes, and was made great in might.
Two opposites ye may well
perceive set against each other on a wheel. When one is high the other
is low; and if it befall that fortune turn the wheel about, that which
was erst above is perforce downmost sped, while that which erst was
wondrous low must leap aloft. So fared it with these two kings; when
King Robert was bested in his time of evil fortune, the other was in
royal estate; and when King Edward's might was brought low, King
Robert's leapt on high; and now it was his fortune to be exalted and
achieve his desire.
While he still lay at
Stirling he caused the great lords whom he found dead in the field to be
buried honourably in holy ground. The other dead were buried afterwards
in great pits. Then he caused the castle and towers to be mined and
thrown down. Next he sent Sir Edward with a great host to Bothwell, for
word reached him from that place that the rich Earl of Hereford and
other mighty men were there. Sir Edward soon made treaty with Sir Walter
Gilbertston, so that he gave the Earl and castle, and all else, into his
hand. Sir Edward sent the Earl to the king, and he caused him to be
warded right well, till at last they made treaty that he should return
to England ransom free, and that for him there should be exchanged
Bishop Robert, [Bishop Wishart of Glasgow, who absolved the Bruce and
robed him for his coronation, had become blind in prison. Several of his
letters in Rymer's Foedera refer to this fact.] who had become blind,
with the queen, and her daughter the Lady Marjory, whom the English held
in prison. The Earl was exchanged for these three.
And when they were come
home, the king's daughter, a fair maid, who was his apparent heir, was
wedded with Walter Stewart, and they presently, by our Lord's grace,
begat a boy child, who was called Robert after his brave grandfather,
and later, after his worthy uncle David, who reigned two and forty
years, he became king, and had the land in government.
At the time of the
compiling of this book this Robert was king, and five years of his reign
were past. It was the year of grace 1375, and the sixtieth of his age,
and six and forty winters after the good King Robert's life was brought
to an end. God grant that they who are come of his offspring shall
uphold the land, and keep the people in all safety, and maintain right
and loyalty as well as the Bruce did in his time!
King Robert was now full
at his fortune's height, for each day his strength grew greater. His
people were rich, and his country abounded greatly in corn and cattle,
and all other kinds of wealth. Mirth, comfort, and gladness were
everywhere in the land, for each man was blithe and festive.
After the great day of
battle the king, by advice of his privy council, caused it to be
publicly proclaimed in different towns that whoso claimed the right to
hold land or fee in Scotland should, within a twelvemonth, come and
claim it, and do therefor the service pertaining to the king. And they
must take note that, if they came not within the year, of a certainty
none should thereafter be heard.
Soon after this was done,
the king, being of great valour and activity, caused a host to be
summoned, and went into England, and over-rode all Northumberland, and
burnt and plundered, and then came home again. I pass this shortly by,
for in that riding was done no deed of approved chivalry that need be
narrated here. The king went often in this manner into England to enrich
his men, for that country abounded then in wealth.