Lasting for two days, Battle of Bannockburn was one of the most important battles in the First War of Scottish Independence. It remains a popular and significant event in Scotland’s history. Here are 10 interesting facts about this historic battle.
#1 Battle of Bannockburn was fought for Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most famous castles in Scotland. It was one of the most strategically important locations during the Scottish Wars of Independence as it commanded the route north to the Scottish Highlands. Possession of Stirling Castle switched several times between England and Scotland during the war and in 1314 it was the last English stronghold in Scotland.
#2 It was caused due to Scotland’s siege of Stirling Castle
King of Scots, Robert the Bruce knew the importance of occupying Stirling Castle. In 1314, his brother Edward Bruce led a force which surrounded the castle cutting off the supplies. Stirling Castle was held by Sir Philip Mowbray who proposed that he would hand over the castle to the Scots on June 24, 1314 unless an English force arrived to relieve him by then. Edward Bruce agreed and withdrew.
#3 The English army outnumbered the Scots by at least 2:1
Edward II of England created a massive force to invade Scotland consisting of 2000 heavily armoured knights and 16,000 infantry. Compared to this Robert the Bruce had only 500 horsemen and 6000 foot soldiers. Although the exact difference between the two forces is unknown it is estimated that it was about 2:1. Edward’s army was by far the largest English army ever to invade Scotland. They arrived for battle a day before the deadline of June 24.
#4 The Scottish army famously used schiltron formation in battle
To counter the 2,000 heavily armoured English horsemen, Bruce ordered hundreds of holes to be dug which were capable of snapping horse’s legs. Also he used schiltrons which were strong defensive circles of men wielding long pikes. When fully formed the tightly formed group would deploy their pikes on three levels thus forming a wall of death against a charging cavalry. It was essential for Bruce to use clever tactics as his army was less advanced than the English army, which was perhaps the finest of the medieval world.
#5 The battle opened with one of the most celebrated single combat in Scottish history
On the first day of battle an English cavalry spotted and charged towards a Scottish group. The Scottish king was present there and an English knight, Sir Henry de Bohun charged across the field on his war-horse to strike him. Robert Bruce stood his ground, dodged the lance and struck Bohun with his axe to split his head in two. The spirited Scots then forced the English cavalry to withdraw. Later that day, another English cavalry charged the Scots, were unable to break the schiltron and withdrew in confusion.
#6 A knight in English ranks defected to Bruce after the first day
Alexander Seton was a Scottish knight in the service of Edward II. He deserted the English camp and gave Bruce intelligence of Edward’s army, told him that the English were low on morale and encouraged Bruce to attack them. Second day of the battle took place on Bannockburn, the long, snaking waterway after which the battle is named. The Scots knelt in prayer before the battle which Edward famously mistook for surrender.
#7 Edward II had to flee from the battlefield after the English were annihilated
On second day, the Scottish schiltron took the offensive pushing back Edward’s forces to the steep-sided Bannockburn. The heavily armoured English forces found it impossible to cross back over the waterway. Penned between the enemy spikes and the stream, the English were forced to break their formation effectively ending the battle. King Edward II fled the field, was chased by the Scots till he reached Dunbar where he took a ship back to England.
#8 After his victory at Bannockburn, Bruce was able to release his family from captivity
English casualties in the battle were heavy with thousands dead in the infantry and hundreds in the cavalry. The Scottish losses were comparatively less. The Battle of Bannockburn was a resounding victory for Scotland and enabled Bruce to transfer his campaign to the north of England. In exchange of English nobles which were captured, Bruce was able to force the release of his wife and daughter, both of whom had been held captive in England since 1306.
#9 The exact site of the battle is not known
The exact site of the Battle of Bannockburn is not known with certainty. Most historians agree that it is definitely not the traditional site where a visitor centre and statue have been erected. National Trust for Scotland considers the Carse of Balquhiderock, which is about a mile and a half north-east of the traditional site, as the most likely place where the battle was held.
#10 Battle of Bannockburn is referred to in Scotland’s unofficial national anthem
The Battle of Bannockburn was a significant victory for Scotland in the Wars of Independence. It remains a landmark in Scottish history and their unofficial national anthem Flower of Scotland refers to their victory at Bannockburn. A monument has been built on the supposed location where the two armies camped on the night before the battle. It consists of a statue of Robert the Bruce and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.