The Battle of Bannockburn

The Battle of Bannockburn was fought on June 24, 1314 near Stirling Castle, Scotland. Scots under Robert the Bruce defeated a larger English force under Edward II. The battle established Scotland's independence from England, an independence that wasn't lost until Queen Elizabeth I died and the Scottish King James VI became the English King James I. It is possible that some of our Beaton (MacBeth) ancestors fought under Angus "Og" MacDonald for Robert the Bruce in the battle. There is a record of a Patrick MacBeth serving as a personal physician to Robert the Bruce.

Robert the Bruce won the battle through careful selection of the field and skillful use of his forces. This was matched by incompetence on the part of Edward who allowed his heavy cavalry, the heart of his medieval army, to charge the Scots across a narrow front, hemmed in by marshy ground, and prepared by the Scots with hidden pits. When the English finally did reach the Scots' positions, they found the Scots formed into schilltrons, circles of infantry carrying long spears. This was a predecessor to the Napoleonic era infantry square and served the same purpose. The cavalry was unable to penetrate the spears. When the cavalry charge was broken, the schilltrons advanced. The English were hemmed in tighter and tighter.

The English bowmen, the key to so many English victories over the Scots, were poorly deployed behind their cavalry. They could not fire on the Scots without also hitting their own side. When the English archers finally were moved out to fire on the Scots' left flank, the Scottish light cavalry, rarely a factor, dispersed them.

Finally, when the English were hemmed in and unable to attack or retreat, Bruce released the highlanders under Angus "Og" MacDonald. Bruce had retained the MacDonalds under his personal command as a reserve. They were not trained in the schilltron formation and, so, could not have withstood the charge of the English heavy cavalry, but their own attack was devastating. They turned the English defeat into a rout.

As Scotland's great victory over the English, the Battle of Bannockburn has long been celebrated in song and story. Two notable examples are Robert Bruce's March to Bannockburn (also known as Scots Wha Hae) by Robert Burns, and The Flower of Scotland, written in the 1960's by the late Roy Williamson of The Corries. The latter has become something of an unofficial Scottish National Anthem. It cannot be an official anthem because the only official national anthem in the United Kindom is God Save the Queen. Apparently, the song has become associated with Scottish sports teams and is the official song for the national soccer team. I have placed both poems below. The background music is The Flower of Scotland.

The Flower of Scotland

O flower of Scotland
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again.

The hills are bare now
And autumn leaves lie
Thick and still
O'er land that is lost now
Which those so dearly held
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again.

Those days are passed now
And in the past
They must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again.

Please e-mail me with any additions, corrections, and comments.

This site created by Harry E. Connors III

Music is Flower of Scotland
written by Roy Williamson and
sequenced by Barry Taylor

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victorie!

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour;
See approach proud Edward's power -- Chains and slaverie!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

Wha, for Scotland's King and Law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Free-man stand, or Free-man fa',
Let him on wi' me!

By Oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We sill drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud Usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do or die!

Robert Bruce's March to Bannockburn

There are several excellent sites about Bannockburn and the Stirling area. Some that I have found useful are:

Bannockburn A military history site with a detailed account of the battle.

Bannockburn Another military history site.

The MacDonald Crest

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This page last modified on Sunday, November 25, 2007

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