The Battle of Bannockburn Experience

The Battle of Bannockburn Experience Enjoy a guided tour through a series of films and exhibits and witness the sights and sounds of medieval battle first hand. The experience also explores the stories of some of the people who fought, as well as debunking common myths and misconceptions.

Operating as usual

❗️ Important update❗️Following the government announcement yesterday, our centre will be closed from Friday 20th Novembe...

❗️ Important update❗️

Following the government announcement yesterday, our centre will be closed from Friday 20th November at 5pm.

We look forward to being able to welcome you to the Battle of Bannockburn again soon! 😀⚔️🛡️

On this day in 1292, King Edward I of England passed judgement in what became known as the Great Cause, ruling that John...

On this day in 1292, King Edward I of England passed judgement in what became known as the Great Cause, ruling that John Balliol (pictured, from the sixteenth-century Forman Armorial) was the rightful King of Scots. This was the culmination of six years of exhausting political wrangling over the question of the proper succession to the Scottish crown, and it marked a key point in the build-up to the First War of Scottish Independence.

The tragic and unexpected deaths of King Alexander III of Scotland in 1286 and his granddaughter Margaret in 1290 raised serious questions over the future of the Scottish monarchy. With Margaret leaving no direct heir, the Scots had to go all the way back to the time of Alexander's grandfather King William 'the Lion' to work out who should inherit the kingdom. William's had a younger brother - Henry, earl of Huntingdon - and several younger sisters, and Henry had had three daughters. The eldest of these daughters, Margaret, was the grandmother of John Balliol, lord of Galloway in Scotland and lord of Barnard Castle in England. By the standard laws of 'feudal' succession, this gave Balliol the strongest claim to be king. However, Henry's second daughter Isabel had been the mother of Robert Bruce, lord of Annandale (King Robert's grandfather), and Bruce determined to seek power himself. Powerful factions began to form around these two men, and with the threat of civil war looming the Guardians of Scotland (a council established to govern the realm until a new king could be found) invited Edward I to mediate the dispute. With hindsight, this may seem like a curious decision, but Edward had been the late Alexander's brother-in-law and had a formidable reputation as a lawgiver.

Aside from Balliol and Bruce, a further twelve claimants had crawled out of the woodwork by the time the hearings for the Great Cause got underway in May 1291. King Erik II of Norway made a rather frivolous claim based on the fact that he was the late Margaret's father, and Edward I himself registered a claim (though he did not press it) through his descent from Mathilda, a daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland and St Margaret. John Comyn, lord of Badenoch and one of the guardians, claimed descent from Domnall Bán (King Donald III, Malcolm III's brother), but like Edward did not press this strongly, since he was Balliol's brother-in-law and stood to gain significantly from Balliol's rights being acknowledged. Robert de Pinkeny made a claim based on his descent from an illegitimate sister of William the Lion; Patrick Galightly, William de Ros, Patrick Dunbar, earl of March, William de Vesci, and Roger de Mandeville all claimed descent from William's illegitimate children; and Nicholas de Soules claimed descend from King Alexander II's illegitimate daughter Marjory (his grandmother). John Hastings, grandson of Ada, another of Henry, earl of Huntingdon's daughters, made the astonishing claim that since the kingdom was to be inherited through the female line it should be divided between himself, Bruce and Balliol. He was informed that while this was the practice with most landed estates, that practice would not fly where a kingdom was concerned. Probably the most dubious claim was that of Florence, Count of Holland, who was descended from another Ada, a younger sister of William the Lion. Florence's claim rested on a probably fictitious resignation that he insisted Henry, earl of Huntingdon, had made in Ada's favour. Though he was given a lengthy recess to locate the resignation, in the end he could not produce the document and thus his claim was dismissed.

It is worth clarifying that most of these individuals did not harbour serious hopes of having their claims recognised, but rather sought to register their interest so that if another similar crisis threatened the Scottish monarchy in the future their descendants might have a better chance of claiming the kingdom. In the long-run, it was only the competing claims of Balliol and Bruce that mattered, and as Prof. G.W.S. Barrow has argued that the Bruce cause was doomed from the start is demonstrated by how wide-ranging and varied their arguments were in trying to secure recognition for their supposed rights. From the start, Bruce's lawyers alternately argued for nearness of blood (i.e. that you had to go through fewer people on the family tree to connect Bruce to Alexander III than for Balliol to Alexander III), that Alexander III's father Alexander II had chosen Bruce as his heir before Alexander III had been born, and eventually even started supporting Hastings's claim that the kingdom should be divided into three! Ultimately, Edward I found in favour of Balliol, who was duly inaugurated as King of Scots at Scone on 30th November (St Andrew's Day) 1292. Frustrated, Bruce resigned his claim to the kingdom to his son - also Robert - while his son resigned his claim to the earldom of Carrick onto his own son, the future king. This assured that, for the time being at least, the man in whom the Bruce claim to the kingdom was invested would not have to pledge his allegiance to King John for his estates and titles, signifying that the Bruces had not given up their ambitions for kingship.

This might well have been the end of the story, but by late December 1292 Edward I was still passing judgement in Scottish legal cases, effectively undermining the independent Scottish system of justice. Apparently, Edward had seized upon this opportunity to assert his authority over Scotland and for the next four years he continued to interfere in Scottish affairs. Balliol proved unable to resist this pressure, although there is no reason to suppose that the Bruces would have fared any better. The situation was intolerable for the Scottish political community, who in 1295 removed Balliol from effective power and entered into an alliance with Edward's rival King Philippe IV of France. This set the kingdoms of England and Scotland on the path to war, igniting a long and bitter conflict that would drag on for several decades and eventually lead to the Battle of Bannockburn.

Happy St Margaret's Day everyone! Although she died more than two centuries before the Battle of Bannockburn, in 1314 sh...

Happy St Margaret's Day everyone! Although she died more than two centuries before the Battle of Bannockburn, in 1314 she remained a hugely influential figure of devotion for fourteenth-century Scots, Bruce included.

Margaret's grandfather Edmund Ironside had briefly been King of England in 1016, but his death before the end of the year allowed King Cnut of Denmark to assume control of the whole of the kingdom for himself. Edmund's infant sons - Edward Ætheling and Edmund - were taken into exile, first to Sweden but then to Kiev (in modern-day Ukraine). Here, as a young man Edward Ætheling joined a war to put a fellow exile named Andrew on the Hungarian throne, and it is likely that he was persuaded to do so by the promise of a marriage to a Hungarian noblewoman named Agatha. Margaret was Edward and Agatha's daughter, and in 1057 the family returned to England to live at the court of King Edward the Confessor. Her father died in that same year, and although Margaret and her family survived the crisis that followed Edward the Confessor's death in 1066 she, her mother, her brother Edgar Ætheling and her sister Christina were implicated in a plot against the Norman king William the Conqueror in 1068 and were forced to flee to Scotland. It was here in 1069 or 1070 that she married the Scottish king Malcolm III.

We are fortunate to have a detailed, if sometimes dubious, account of Margaret's life in Scotland written by her friend and confidante Turgot, an English-born cleric who seems to have befriended Margaret during his time living at Dunfermline Priory (as it was at the time). Turgot claims that Margaret was less than thrilled by the prospect of marriage to Malcolm, explaining that she would rather have joined an order of nuns. However, Turgot intended his work to serve as an illustration of her piety and saintliness, so he may have been exaggerating to make Margaret seem as holy as possible. Certainly, Margaret and Malcolm's marriage was a productive one. They had eight children who survived into adulthood: Edward, Edmund, Ethelred, Edgar, Alexander, Mathilda (baptised Edith), Mary, and David. Of these children, three - Edgar, Alexander and David - would becomes Kings of Scots - while Mathilda married Henry I (William the Conqueror's son) in 1100 and became Queen of England. It was Mathilda who commissioned Turgot to write his saintly biography to Margaret.

Naturally, thanks to Turgot's particular interests, we know a considerable amount about Margaret's efforts to influence religious practices in Scotland. She elevated the Church of the Holy Trinity in Dunfermline (where she and Malcolm had been married) into a Benedictine priory and invited monks from Canterbury to work and pray there. She was also devoted to the religious community at St Andrews, and she persuaded her husband to remove the tolls on the ferry route across the River Forth for pilgrims who wished to visit the shrine there. It is for this reason that the village of Queensferry got its name. Turgot also insists that Margaret was generous to children and the poor, and that she played a significant role in 'modernising' the Scottish church in line with the rest of Christian Europe. Turgot also includes rather sweet stories of how King Malcolm assisted his wife in this, even acting as translator between the English-speaking Margaret and his Gaelic-speaking subjects.

Margaret died on 16th November 1093, shortly after learning that her husband and eldest son had both been killed in an ambush near Alnwick during a raid into northern England. She was buried near the high altar at Dunfermline Priory, which in 1128 her son David erected into an abbey. Margaret was celebrated by both Scottish and English writers alike, particularly for her piety, and her tomb quickly became a major centre for pilgrimage. In 1249-50, after an intense campaign by the Scottish clergy and her descendants in the Scottish monarchy, Margaret was canonised - becoming St Margaret. The timing suggested that the Scots were at this time eager to have their own royal saint after her relative Edward the Confessor had been canonised with the sponsorship of the English crown). After this, Margaret came to be seen as having provided the Scottish monarchy with divine sanction, and she continued to have an impact on Scottish affairs even during the First War of Scottish Independence. In the winter of 1303-4, King Edward I of England stayed at Dunfermline, seemingly seeking Margaret's support for his efforts in taking control of the kingdom (if she was listening, she cannot have been impressed that he had the abbey burned down after he left!). As early as November 1314, shortly after the Battle of Bannockburn, King Robert expressed a desire to be buried at Dunfermline with ‘our royal predecessors’, clearly seeking to associate himself with (among others) St Margaret. Many of Bruce's relatives - his sister Christina, his nephew Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray (who played a leading role at Bannockburn), and his brother-in-law Andrew Murray of Bothwell - were also buried at Dunfermline. Margaret's shrine continued to be a centre for pilgrimage long after Bruce's death, but sadly it was destroyed during the Reformation. Her remains were reputedly taken to a chapel in the Escorial in Madrid by King Philip II of Spain, with only a single bone believed to be hers remaining in a local church in Dunfermline.

It's #BookWeekScotland and we are giving away these free books from Scottish Book Trust!Future, is a selection of true s...

It's #BookWeekScotland and we are giving away these free books from Scottish Book Trust!

Future, is a selection of true stories written by people all over Scotland. Make sure to pick up a copy if you are in the area!

Wishing a happy 708th birthday to King Edward III of England, born on this day in 1312. Though obviously he had no direc...

Wishing a happy 708th birthday to King Edward III of England, born on this day in 1312. Though obviously he had no direct impact on the Battle of Bannockburn - being not even two years old at the time - he nonetheless played a small but significant role in shaping the course of the First War of Scottish Independence (and an enormous part in starting and prosecuting the Second!)

Edward's birth in 1312 was a major boost to his father King Edward II. Throughout his reign, the elder Edward had suffered serious challenges to his authority from the English nobility, but the birth of a son and heir raised the hope that his dynasty would at least survive for another generation. But until the younger Edward was old enough to govern for himself, there remained a risk of future instability in the royal administration. Had the Scots managed to capture or kill Edward II here at Bannockburn, as was almost certainly their aim, his son would not have been able to govern England in his place. Edward II's senior male relative at the time was his cousin Thomas, earl of Lancaster, who opposed the war with Scotland and might well seek a peace settlement with King Robert. Of course, in the event Edward II successfully escaped from Bannockburn.

The younger Edward also played a prominent role in his father's downfall. As his mother Isabella grew alienated from her husband in the 1320s, thanks mostly to the influence of the Despenser family at court, she looked to her son as a better protector of her interests. She conspired to have the teenaged Edward brought to France, where she married him off to Philippa, the Count of Hainault's daughter, raiswd a mercenary army with Philippa's dowry payment, and returned to England to depose her husband. The image below is an illustration of the fourteen year old Edward being crowned King of England on 1st February 1327. On the same day, the Scots poured over the border, using Edward II's deposition as an excuse to breach a truce the two sides had agreed in 1323. King Robert recognised that the instability that Edward III's dubious rise to power had caused offered the Scots an ideal opportunity to force the English to accept a more lasting peace. That summer, Edward III accompanied an army north to confront the Scots in Weardale, but the Scots led him a merry dance. Having come close to capturing the young king in his own camp one evening, the Scots escaped without offering battle, a setback so upsetting that Edward reportedly wept bitterly at this humiliation. The following year, the English agreed to a formal end to the First War of Scottish Independence.

This was not the end of Edward's dealings with Scotland however. In 1333, he launched a major invasion of Scotland, crushed a Scottish army at the Battle of Halidon Hill, and occupied huge swathes of the kingdom. This was in effect the opening act of the Second War of Scottish Independence. In the years that followed, Edward found it just as difficult to maintain control of Scotland however, thanks in part to his own distraction with conflict in France and also to the effective military strategy that the Scots had learned from Robert Bruce. In 1356, Edward III personally campaigned in Scotland for the final time, causing considerable damage to the south of the kingdom but failing to bring the Scots to battle as he had hoped. A year later, Edward III agreed to another peace deal with the Scots, exchanging Ronert Bruce’s son David II (who had been captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346) for a hefty ransom and Scottish acceptance of the English occupation of large areas of southern Scotland. By the 1370s, when Edward was old and increasingly infirm, even this had been picked apart, and by the time of his death in 1377 the Scots had reoccupied most of the areas that they had conceded to Edward in 1357.

On this day in 1298 Sir William Douglas ‘the Hardy’ died in captivity at the Tower of London. He had been imprisoned for...

On this day in 1298 Sir William Douglas ‘the Hardy’ died in captivity at the Tower of London. He had been imprisoned for having supported William Wallace’s rebellion against the English, though more specifically for having submitted to the English king in 1296 and then abandoning English service once the rebellion began. Popular histories of the period have often made Sir William out to be something of a patriotic hero, but the truth is somewhat more complex than this, as we will explore below.

Douglas was a minor nobleman from Lanarkshire who also held a claim to the manor of Fawdon in Northumberland. The year of his birth is uncertain. He was still considered a minor in 1256, but was old enough in 1267 to have been badly wounded fighting to defend his father’s estates in Northumberland from a local rival. Although he had an older brother named Hugh, William inherited the family lands following the deaths of both his father and brother around 1274. He married Elizabeth Stewart, sister of the influential James, 5th High Steward of Scotland, and had a son named James with her. However, by 1288 Elizabeth had died, and in early 1289 Douglas abducted a wealthy English widow named Eleanor de Lorain and forced her to marry him. Douglas apparently hoped to take control of her lands, but he also eventually had two more sons – Archibald and Hugh – with her as well. His outrageous act in capturing and marrying Eleanor brought him into conflict with King Edward I of England, who imprisoned Douglas and fined him £100 (which Douglas never paid).

While this might seem to support the interpretation of Douglas as a staunch patriot and a fierce enemy of the English, he also caused the Scottish authorities no end of trouble as well. The monks at Melrose Abbey repeatedly complained that Douglas would harass them whenever they travelled through Douglasdale, apparently demanding unlawful payments to let them pass. Sometime before 1292, Douglas had imprisoned three servants of John Balliol (the future King of Scots) at Douglas Castle, beheading one, letting another die in the dungeon, and forcing the third to escape in fear of his life. When Balliol became king, Douglas was fined for failed to attend the first parliament of the reign at Scone in February 1293. Around the same time, Douglas had been sued by his mother for withholding revenues that were due to her as a widow. When Balliol send royal officers to collect the payments Douglas owed to her, William imprisoned them as well!

Despite his history of disobedience and his reputation for lawlessness, Douglas was placed in command of the garrison at Berwick-upon-Tweed when King Edward I invaded Scotland in March 1296. Possibly this was because, while the Scots had had trouble keeping Douglas in line before, they felt in these circumstances they could use his talent for violence. When the garrison surrendered to the English, Douglas was required to remain with King Edward’s household with the king was on campaign, possibly because the English king did not trust Douglas after the incident with Eleanor. By June, Douglas was at liberty again with his lands and rights restored. However, when rebellion broke out against the English in 1297, Douglas joined William Wallace in attacking the English justiciar at Scone in May, and possibly also joined in Wallace’s earlier attack on Lanark. By July, Douglas had joined forces with his brother-in-law James the Steward, Bishop Robert Wishart of Glasgow, and Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick (the future King Robert I). However, when these men were confronted by an English army near Irvine, they quickly made a deal which included the proviso that Douglas was to surrender himself into English custody.

After years of unruly, violent and unpredictable behaviour, it would seem that the English no longer trusted Douglas and that the Scots too saw him more as a liability than an assess. Douglas, described by his gaoler as ‘very wild and very abusive’ was taken first to Berwick Castle, and then transferred to the Tower of London following the Battle of Stirling Bridge. He probably lived fairly comfortably, with four pence a day being spent on his upkeep until his death in November 1298. His lordship of Douglas was granted to Sir Robert Clifford, an increasingly prominent northern English knight who had played a part in taking him prisoner at Irvine, while the manor of Fawdon in Northumberland was given to Gilbert Umfraville, earl of Angus (whose son Robert was later captured after fighting for the English at the Battle of Bannockburn).

This was not quite the end of Douglas’s story. His son James – who was only a child at the time of his father’s death – eventually rose to become one of Robert Bruce’s most prominent supporters. Like his father, James had a remarkable talent for violence and brutality, but he also seems to have been a shrewd and calculating politician as well. James recognised that Bruce represented his best chance to regain his family’s lost estates, and realised that Bruce would need as many capable fighters as he could get his hands on in order to secure his recognition as King of Scots. Thus, by offering King Robert faithful and effective service in war, James was rewarded not only with the lands that his father had lost, but also with additional estates across southern Scotland and a prominent position at Bruce’s court. As a result of this, many of William the Hardy’s descendants became powerful and influential figures in Scottish politics and society during the fourteenth- and fifteenth-centuries. This gave subsequent Scottish writers a good reason to recast William the Hardy from a brutish thug into a patriotic warrior. John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, for example claimed that Douglas had died as a ‘martyr’. At the time Barbour was writing, two of Douglas’s grandsons – Archibald ‘the Grim’, Lord of Galloway, and William, 1st earl of Douglas – were among the most important figures in Scotland, so Barbour was hardly likely to portray their grandad as a law-breaking bully!


Glasgow Road, Whins Of Milton

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