The Battle of Bannockburn, 1314, 23-24 JuneThe significance of this battle on a field near Stirling is undisputed: Scottish forces under King Robert I the Bruce defeated English King Edward II, in the pivotal event of the wars of Scottish independence. Exactly how the battle was won is not completely clear, since nobody wrote down a detailed account until much later.
The most common view was set forth about 1375 in the poem The Brus, by John Barbour. It was echoed by Robert Burns in ``Scots Wha Hae,'' a song known to every descendant of Scotland. And even more recently, in 1995, the movie Braveheart gave yet another version. Powerful stuff. This battle, along with those of Wallace before it and the Declaration of Arbroath after it, were the inspiration not only for Scotland's independence, but were also powerful influences on the American and French revolutions, and thus on the shape of the world that we know today.
Yet there is some dispute as to whether ``the small people'' of Scotland, no matter how well motivated, could have won the day against proud Edward's battle-hardened professional army. Barbour's work has been called ``A poets view not History,'' and that's certainly even more true of Robert Burns or Mel Gibson. There is a school of thought that says that the battle was turned at the crucial moment by a charge of the Knights Templar, who had taken refuge in Scotland after they had been expelled from France in 1307. As one version has it:
From: "Privateers" <email@example.com>
However it happened, it is clear that Sinclairs had a role in it. The Bruce had made William Sinclair (of the Rosslyn Branch) Bishop of Dunkeld. His brother Henry Sinclair, eighth Baron of Roslin, great-grandfather of Prince Henry Sinclair, fought for the Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314, just as he had fought with Wallace at the Battle of Rosslyn in 1304, and just as he signed the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.
It has also been asserted recently in Scotland on Sunday that John Barbour's father was a barber, and specifically barber to William Sinclair, Bishop of Dunkeld. It is known that John Barbour's first job was at the Cathedral of Dunkeld. It is known that the Bruce's grandson, King Robert II, gave Barbour a pension. Many Sinclairs believe that it was Bishop William who commissioned John Barbour to write the poem.
Small Folk Saved the Day at Bannockburn?From: "Privateers" <Privateers@privateers.org>
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 1999 18:09:15 +0100
Bannockburn was not a site of King Robert's choosing. Robert's brother Edward Bruce had agreed with Sir Philip Mowbray (a Scot in command of English occupying Stirling) that a year's truce would be had and the English would either reinforce the garrison or it would be surrendered to the Scots. Edward Bruce made this agreement after besieging Stirling from Lent to midsummer. This agreement forced Robert to the one thing he had sought throughout the long campaign to avoid, a test of strength. The battle like the site was forced upon the King. Like William Wallace at Falkirk the Bruce carefully placed himself in a position the restricted English cavalry. Scots were outnumbered three or four to one. Scottish morale was high. Thomas Randolph the best of Bruce's lieutenants had taken Edinburgh in March of 1314. Bruce had one great advantage Wallace lacked at Falkirk, a force of 500 light cavalry and the Knights Templar. Sir Robert Keith commanded the light cavalry whilst the Knights Templar were led by Sir William Sinclair.
On the 23rd of June 1314 AD shortly before the battled joined the King mounted on a highland pony rode in inspection of his battle line. One young and ambitious English knight, Henry de Bohun, charged the King. Robert, the greatest Knight in spite his age, held firm. At the last moment Robert moved his horse to the right turning the thrusting lance away with his target. The king rose in his saddle and with a blow so forceful that it split his axe handle he despatched de Bohun. Bruce's only recorded remark was ``You've ruined my good axe.''
The feat electrified the Scots Army. The English despite repeated attacks were unable to break the ``Little peoples:'' Bruce's schiltroms. The English bowmen, who numbered over 5000, were crushed by the combined Sinclair/Keith assault. The horsemen remained orderly in the face of onslaught of English heavy Horse.
This iron resolve held for almost two days and drove the English from the field! The weak ineffectual King of the English Edward in his finest moment fought to the end.
Last changed: 00/05/28 15:53:50