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Reign of Edward II. Part 1 page 4

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Meanwhile, the van of the English army approached the front of the Scottish host; and they beheld King Robert mounted on a small palfrey instead of his great war-horse, for he did not expect the battle that evening. He was riding up and down the ranks of his men, putting them in order, with a steel battle-axe in his hand, ami a helmet on his head surmounted with a crown of gold Some of the bravest knights of the English army role out in front, to see what the Scots were doing; and Bruce also advanced a little before his own men to take a nearer view of them. Sir Henry Bohun, an English knight mounted on a heavy war-horse, armed at all points thought this an excellent opportunity to earn great renown, and put an end to the war at a stroke, by killing Robert Bruce. He therefore charged furiously upon him. trusting with his lance to bear him to the ground, poorly mounted as he was. King Robert awaited him with tie most profound composure; and, as he drew near, suddenly turned his pony aside, so that Bohun missed him with the point of his lance, and was in the act of being carried past him by his horse. Robert Bruce, rising in his stirrups as the knight was passing, dealt him such a blow on the head with his battle-axe, that it broke to pieces his iron helmet as if it had been a nutshell, and hurled him dead to the ground. The English knights, astonished at the act, retired to the main body; and King Robert's friends blamed him for exposing himself and the safety of the army to such risks: but he himself only continued to look at his weapon, saying, "I have broken my good battle-axe."

The next morning the battle began in terrible earnest. The English, as they approached, saw the Abbot of Inchaffray walking barefoot through the Scottish ranks, and exhorting the soldiers to fight bravery for their freedom. As he passed they knelt and prayed for victory. King Edward, seeing this, cried out, '' See! they kneel down; they are asking forgiveness!" "Yes," replied the bold Baron Ingelram de Umphraville; "but they ask it of God, not of us; these men will conquer or die upon the field."

The main body of the army, under the conduct of the king himself, advanced in a long, dense column upon the Scottish line; but they failed to break it by the shock, and repeated renewals of the charge told more sensibly on the assailants than on the assailed. The English were broken at every fresh collision; the Scots stood like a range of rocks. Every part of the Scottish army was brought into play, while the majority of the English never came in contact with the enemy. The brave Randolph, led up the left wing to the support of the assaulted centre, till he appeared surrounded and lost in an ocean of foes. On the other hand, the Earls of Hereford and Gloucester made a fierce charge of cavalry on the right wing, commanded by Edward Bruce, but were received by those treacherous pitfalls, in which their horses were overthrown in confusion, and the riders, falling in their heavy armour, were unable to extricate themselves. Dreadful then was the slaughter; and amongst the rest Gloucester, the king's nephew, not wearing his armorial bearings, and not, therefore, being recognised, was cut to pieces in the melee.

The English archers poured their arrows thick as hail upon the main body, and might, as at Falkirk, have decided the clay; but Bruce, having calculated on this, sent Sir Robert Keith, the mareschal, with a small body of horse, to take them in flank; and as the archers had no weapons for close quarters, the Scottish horsemen, dashing headlong among them, cut them down in great numbers, and threw them into total confusion.

Meanwhile Douglas and the Steward encouraged their lien in the centre by their valiant deeds and the confidence in their great fame, and the battle became general along the whole Scottish line. The moment in which Bruce saw that his detachment of horse had disordered the archers, he advanced with his reserve, and the whole Scotch front pressed upon the already hesitating English. At this critical moment an event occurred which decided the victory. Bruce had posted the servants and attendants of tie Scottish camp behind a hill in the rear of the army. Some writers give him credit for planning what took place, and assert that he had furnished them for that purpose with banners, to represent a second army. Others, and amongst them Sir Walter Scott, attribute the appearance of these men simply to observing that their army was evidently gaining on the foe, and were therefore eager to have their share of the victory and the booty. Be this as it may, suddenly the English saw a body of men coming rapidly over the hill, ever since called the Gillies', or Servants' Hill, from this circumstance. Supposing this to be a fresh army, they at once lost heart and broke, while Bruce, raising his war-cry, rushed with new fury against the failing ranks. The king was the first to put spurs to his horse and fly. A valiant knight, Sir Giles de Argentine, who had won great renown in Palestine, assisted the king out of the press; but he then turned, saying, "It is not my custom to fly" - a keen reproof to the cowardly monarch, if he could have felt anything but fear - and dashing, with the cry of "Argentine! Argentine!" into the thickest of the Scottish ranks, was killed. The fugitive king fled to the gates of Stirling Castle, and entreated admittance; but the brave Sir Philip Mow-bray reminding him that he was pledged to surrender the castle if it were not relieved that very day, Edward was obliged to fly through the Torwood. Douglas was already pressing hotly after him; and meeting with Sir Lawrence Abernethy - a Scottish knight hitherto in the English interest, and even now on his way to the English army - he carried the not unwilling knight and his twenty horsemen along with him. Douglas and Abernethy pursued the king at full gallop, and never ceased the chase till they reached Dunbar, sixty miles off, where Edward narrowly escaped into the castle, still held by an English ally, Patrick, Earl of March. Thence the king escaped by a small fishing skiff to England, leaving his splendid army, a great part of it to utter destruction. 50,000 of the English were said to have been killed or taken prisoners, and the remnant of the army was pursued as far as Berwick, ninety miles distant. Of those who fell there have been said to be twenty-seven barons and bannerets, including Gloucester, a prince of the blood, 200 knights, 700 esquires, and 30,000 of inferior rank. Twenty-two barons and bannerets were taken, and sixty knights; and an English historian has asserted, that if the chariots, baggage wagons, &c., that were taken, loaded with military stores and booty, had been drawn out in single line, they would have reached sixty leagues. Besides this, the ransom of so many distinguished men was a grand source of wealth to the victorious army. The losses of the Scotch were comparatively trivial, Sir William Vipont and Sir William Ross being the only persons of note slain.

Such was the decisive battle of Bannockburn, which has ever since been celebrated in song and story as one of the proudest triumphs in Scottish history. It at once established the independence of Scotland. "The English," says Sir Walter Scott, "never before or afterwards, whether in France or Scotland, lost so dreadful a battle as that of Bannockburn, nor did the Scots ever gain one of the same importance." Bruce was at once elevated from the condition of an exile, hunted by his enemies with bloodhounds like a beast of the chase, and placed firmly on the throne of his native land - one of the wisest and bravest kings who ever sat there. The moral effect of this battle was almost magical. Stirling Castle was at once surrendered, according to stipulation. Bothwell Castle, in which the Earl of Hereford had shut himself up, soon after yielded to Edward Bruce, and Hereford was exchanged for the wife, sister, and daughter of the King of Scots, who had been detained eight years in England, as well as for the Bishop of Glasgow and the Earl of Mar. The triumphant Scots inarched into England, ravaged Northumberland, levied tribute on Durham, wasted the country to the very gates of York, and going westward, reached Appleby in Westmoreland, whence they returned home laden with spoil. The English were become thoroughly demoralised by their great overthrow, and numbers fled at the approach of the merest handful of Scots. "O day of vengeance and of misfortune!" says the monk of Malmesbury; ''day of disgrace and perdition! unworthy to be included in the circle of the year, which tarnished the fame of England, and enriched the Scots with the plunder of the precious stuffs of our nation to the extent of 200,000" - nearly three millions of our money.

Encouraged by this panic, the Scots made fresh incursions that autumn and the following summer, but received, ultimately, some checks at Carlisle and Berwick. But, perhaps, more than from this, the security of England was purchased by the ill-fortune of Ireland; for in May, 1315, the Irish, taking also advantage of the reverses of England, invited Edward Bruce to come over, drive out the English, and become their king. Edward Bruce caught at the offer with avidity, for he was fond of battle and adventure, and ambitious of fame and power. He was brave but rash. He took over 6,000 men, and was joined by several of the Irish chiefs on landing at Carrick-fergus. The Scots fought with various success, and penetrated far into Ireland. In the following spring, Edward Bruce was crowned King of Ireland in Ulster, and Robert Bruce also went over to support his claim with fresh forces, making the Scottish army about 20,000 men. For another year the two brothers continued their adventure, marching on Dublin, to which the citizens set fire, and laid waste the suburbs, so that they were obliged to move on. They marched south in hope of receiving co-operation from the Irish of Munster and Connaught, but were disappointed, and involved in imminent danger from an English army of 30,000 men at Kilkenny.

The English, meantime, seized the opportunity of the absence of the King of Scots, and made fresh inroads into Scotland. This compelled his speedy return, when, in March, 1318, he made himself master of Berwick, and revenged himself on the English by again marching into their northern counties, taking the castles of Wark, Harbottle, and Mitford in Northumberland; and in a second raid in Yorkshire burning Northallerton, Boroughbridge, Scarborough, and Skipton, besides levying 1,000 marks on Ripon, and carrying off much booty. But ill-fortune soon overtook his brother Edward in Ireland, where he had left him. He engaged Sir Piers de Birmingham at Fagher, near Dundalk, and was left dead on the field, with 2,000 of his soldiers. The efforts of the Scots for three years to erect a kingdom in Ireland thus vanished for ever, leaving scarcely a trace. Sir Piers de Birmingham presented the head of Edward Bruce to the King of England, who made him, in -recompense, Earl of Louth.

These reverses of the Scots excited Edward of Caernarvon to one more effort for the recovery of Scotland. He assembled a numerous force, and besieged Berwick on the 7th of September, 1319, both by sea and land. It made a vigorous resistance; and Randolph and Douglas, to create a diversion, invaded the western marches with a force of 15,000 men. They made a push for York, to secure tho queen, but failed. They then committed dreadful ravages in Yorkshire, and were encountered by an undisciplined mob led on by the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Ely. This rude assemblage they routed at Mitton, on the Swale. and slew about 4,000, chiefly peasants, but amongst them 300 churchmen with surplices over their armour; whence this battle, in allusion to so many shaven crowns in it. was called the Chapter of Mitton. Edward at length raised the siege of Berwick, and marched to intercept the Scots, but not before they had burnt and destroyed eighty-four towns and villages, and done incredible damage. On the approach, of the king they warily withdrew, and finished their successful raid by a truce for two years.

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