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Scottish Independence (1100-1329) - Source Extract Question

Ewan J. Innes, MA(Hons Scot. Hist.) FSA Scot


Synopsis:  This essay takes a source extract and explains the significance of the extract and the history behind it.

Please see my copyright policy if you wish to cite any part of this essay.

This extract is taken from a letter sent by the earl of March and Sir Adam Gordon, two of Edward II's staunchest supporters in Scotland, to the king of England informing him of the situation in Scotland as they saw it. The extract which purports to be from "the people of Scotland" was probably written on behalf of the people of the earldom of Dunbar and surrounding districts.

The figure of 20,000 which is mentioned with respect to blackmail by Bruce, is probably an exaggeration but it is still interesting to note that the lands of the earl of March are being raided by both the English and the Scots alike. This demonstrates the result of Edward II's policy of allowing those castles which could not be supported by sea to fend for themselves. The garrisons of Berwick and Edinburgh were clearly unable to support themselves and could not expect sufficient English help and so resorted to raiding the neighbouring populace.

The reply which came from Edward was addressed to 'archbishops' (amongst others); this despite the fact that Scotland did not have any. The reply promised the few remaining supporters in Scotland that he would come North by the summer of 1314 with a large army in order to invade Scotland and put down the rebellion of Robert Bruce - NOT TO RELIEVE STIRLING CASTLE , (this was to come afterwards). He was then left with only three months to get to Stirling, although he had already set the wheels in motion for his subsequent invasion1.

The extract also gives a small insight into the growing power which Bruce had by 1313, in that he could extract blackmail from one of Edward II's staunchest supporters without retribution for his actions. It is also an indication that the policy of 'scorched earth' which Bruce had practised during Edward's unsuccessful invasion of Scotland in 1310/11 was still affecting Southern Scotland's agricultural output. It is unclear whether Bruce required the grain and livestock to feed the ravaged populace and his army, or whether it was used to trade for much needed arms and armour from abroad.

1. The traditional story is that a year long truce was agreed between Edward Bruce and Sir Phillip Moubray. This story however, is found only in Barbour and it is significant that at the Cambuskenneth Parliament, after the Battle of Bannockburn, reference is made to an announcement made a year previously, which stated that all those who did not come to the king's peace within a year would have their lands forfeited. It is my opinion that Barbour is confusing this years grace with the truce over Stirling castle. I draw my evidence from the fact that Edward had promised to come North in 1314 but set no date for the invasion. My supposition is that in March 1314, after the fall of both Edinburgh and Roxburgh castles, a truce was agreed by Stirling castle. The terms of which were that the castle would be surrendered on the 24th of June, unless an English army got within 3 leagues of the castle. This explains why Edward arrived just in time, when, as many claim, he had a year to prepare.

Ewan Innes, November 17 1989