The First Scottish War of Independence began in 1296. England won initial victories, lost to William Wallace at Stirling, and then smashed the Scots at Falkirk. It seemed Edward I had conquered the Scots and eliminated the resistance. Then, Robert the Bruce seized power and the war began anew. By 1307, the incompetent Edward II had assumed the English throne. The Scots began to roll back the English forcing a reticent Edward to strike. The two forces met at Bannockburn in 1314. The battle ended in a decisive Scottish victory.
Edward II made peace with his nobles after the Gaveston controversy. Scottish aggression made conflict inevitable. The English sent warnings to their forces to Scotland to prepare for an attack. Then, Edward marched with his army into battle at Bannockburn. The English outnumbered Robert the Bruce’s forces two or three to one. However, the English king was no warrior while Bruce knew how to lead.
The Battle of Bannockburn lasted two days. Generally, medieval conflagrations lasted hours not days. The event began with an English advance into the heart of the Scottish forces. Robert the Bruce himself fought alongside his men and engaged in single combat against the nephew of the Earl of Hereford. Bruce split the man’s skull in two and the battle continued. The first day ended with an English withdrawal as the Scots proved too tough to break. The English slipped across a stream that evening in an attempt to surprise the Scots the next morning.
English morale sagged after failing to rout the Scots. A deserter slipped into Bruce’s camp and advised the king to strike. Bruce followed the advice and hit the English at first light. A shocked English army counterattacked, but not in force. The doomed assault ended in disaster, error compounded error, and the English found themselves trapped. The army broke and Edward II fled. Stirling fell in short order. Casualty numbers are unreliable, but it appears the English were decimated compared to the light Scottish losses.
Edward II’s incompetence and cowardice opened Northern England to Scottish raiding parties. The Scots even invaded Ireland. Scotland and England would continue to fight for decades before Scotland earned its independence in 1328. Meanwhile, Edward II suffered other setbacks which diminished his power. He abdicated in 1327 and was likely murdered.
Bannockburn changed the course of Edward II’s reign. His power waned leading to his abdication and death. The decisive Scottish victory did not win official independence from England as intimated by the movie Braveheart. However, the decisive victory placed Scotland on the road to eventual independence in 1328.