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The Scottish Wars of Independence

Part II

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


Synopsis:  This essay summarizes the history of the Scottish Wars of Independence from 1329 on.

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

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When Robert I died at Cardross on the 7th of June 1329, he left a kingdom stronger than it had been for many years. Regular parliaments were being held, taxation was coming in and the booty taken from England filled the empty exchequer. There was peace with the barons (a plot had been uncovered and the traitors severely dealt with) but the service due to the king from his barons was regularised and ordered - a great improvement on the past.

The heir to the throne was Bruce's own son David, then aged five years old. David was crowned along with his young queen with full honours in 1331 (the first King of Scots to be anointed). Things did not go well for the young king however. The earl of Douglas was killed in Spain in 1330 fighting the Moors while taking Bruce's heart to the Holy Land. Randolph earl of Moray died in 1332 while preparing to meet an invasion from England. So, within just a few years of Bruce's death, two of the most experienced nobles available to the new king were dead. In the south, Edward III while swearing he would keep the peace, allowed Edward Balliol (son of John I) and the 'Disinherited' to sail from the Humber. Balliol sailed round the Scottish defence and landed at Kinghorn in Fife. They marched through Fife and in August met and destroyed at Dupplin the Scottish army under the new guardian, the Earl of Mar, who was left dead on the field.

Balliol was crowned at Scone and shortly after forced from Annan "one leg booted and the other naked". He won Edward's full support by offering up Berwick. In an attempt to relieve the town, Archibald Douglas was beaten and killed at Halidon hill by an English army in July 1333. The next year Balliol gave Homage to Edward and in addition gave up title to most of Southern Scotland. In desperation the Scots sent David to France where Philip VI had offered refuge. He would spend the next seven years in exile.

In David's absence, a series of regents kept up the struggle. Edward personally ravaged much of the north-east in 1336, but in 1338 the tide turned. While Black Agnes, Countess of March, held Dunbar Castle triumphantly for five months (famously wiping the battlements clean when struck by siege weapons) in this year, the big break for Scotland came when Edward claimed the French throne and took his army to Flanders. The Hundred Years War with France had begun.

So, in just nine years, the kingdom so hard won by Bruce had been shattered. Her experienced nobles were dead, and her king was in exile. The economy which had barely begun to recover from the earlier wars was once again in tatters. It was to an impoverished country in need of peace and good government that David returned. Sadly he would give neither.

When David returned, he was determined to live up to the memory of his illustrious father. He didn't keep to the truces with England and was constantly snipping at the border. In 1346, Philip VI appealed for a counter invasion of England in order to relieve the stranglehold on Calais. David gladly accepted and at Nevilles Cross he met and was soundly beaten by an English army. The Scots suffered heavy casualties and David was wounded by two arrows before being captured. He was sufficiently strong however to knock out two teeth from the mouth of his captor. After a period of convalescence, he was imprisoned in the Tower, to be joined later by Philip of France.

David was eventually released in 1357 for a ransom of 100,000 merks (1 merk was 2/3 of a Scottish pound) payable in ten years. The country was in a sorry state when David began levying new taxes (a reassessment of all lands and moveables was also made). She had been ravaged by war and also the Black Death. This actually produced a bit of theological difficulty as its onslaught in England had been regarded as just Heavenly punishment. The first instalment of the ransom was paid punctually. The second was late and after that no more could be paid. There was no money from France and David wasted what was collected.

In 1363, he went to London and agreed that should he die childless, the crown would pass to Edward (his brother-in- law) with the Stone of Destiny being returned for Edward's coronation as King of Scots. The Scot rejected this arrangement and instead offered to continue paying the ransom (now increased to 100,000 pounds). In 1366, a new assessment was made of both lay and clerical lands, and it was discovered that the value had shrunk to a half and two thirds respectively of their value in 1286. A twenty five year truce had been included in the new ransom terms, and in 1369, the treaty of 1365 was cancelled and a new one set up to the Scots benefit (the influence of the war with France again). The new terms saw the 44,000 marks already paid deducted from the original 100,000 with the balance due in instalments of 4,000 for the next fourteen years.

When Edward died in 1377, there were still 24,000 marks owed which was never paid. David himself had lost his popularity and lost the respect of his nobles when he married the widow of a minor laird after the death of his English wife. He himself died in February 1371.

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