Battle of Bannockburn: What was it all about?

The Battle of Bannockburn, fought on 24 June 1314, was one of the most famous events in the wars of independence.

BBC iWonder

Find out why Stirling Castle is the bloody heart of Scotland.

It saw the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, win a key victory over the English forces of King Edward II, despite being outnumbered two-to-one and facing what was regarded as the finest army in the medieval world.

On the 700th anniversary of the battle, here's some things you might not know about the historic event.

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Where was it?
Robert the Bruce has been immortalised in statue on monument hill

It was one of the most famous battles ever fought, yet nobody's sure exactly where it happened.

The backdrop was Stirling Castle, the last English stronghold in Scotland, which was targeted by Robert the Bruce while on the comeback trail during the wars of independence.

The constable of Stirling agreed to hand over the castle to the Scots unless an English force arrived to relieve him by the 24 June, 1314. They duly pitched up the day before.

Robert the Bruce was thought to have made his stand on what's now known as "monument hill", where his statue sits.

It was the perfect location, on high ground with a good field of vision, but getting up the hill to fight would have been a massive challenge for the English forces.

It seems more likely the main battle was fought on a nearby area of flat, low ground known as the Carse, where the English had camped overnight.

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Medieval minefields
Pit

The main threat to Robert the Bruce's forces was the fearsome English cavalry - 2,000 heavily armoured men on horseback which could easily crush infantry.

Thinking outside the box, Bruce ordered hundreds of holes, measuring just a few feet, to be dug at a crucial point where the English army was advancing.

The small pits, capable of snapping horse's legs, meant the cavalry had to stick to a narrow Roman road and, unable to fan out, were left defensively vulnerable.

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Killer hedgehogs
Soldiers

Robert the Bruce's other great anti-cavalry weapon was the "schiltron" - a body of troops wielding long pikes.

Looking like massive, deadly hedgehogs when fully formed, the tightly packed group would deploy their pikes on three levels, creating a wall of death which was virtually impregnable to a heavy horse charge.

This sort of tactic was vital, since many Scots couldn't even afford swords let alone war horses, and often had to make do with axes and other working tools.

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First blood
Dave Ramsey (left) and Liam Varga from the Clanranald Trust enacting the Battle of Bannockburn

The day before the main battle saw an event which set the tone for what was to come.

Sir Henry De Bohun, a young English knight looking to make a name for himself, arrived with a vanguard and spotted Robert the Bruce addressing some of his men.

The story went that Sir Henry, seeing an opportunity to take down the king of Scots, got tooled up and charged.

Bruce, armed with only an axe, reciprocated - taking out Sir Henry with such force that his head split in two, from the skull to the chest bone and breaking his weapon in the process.

Another much less heroic account, said to be from an English eyewitness, stated that Robert the Bruce clocked Sir Henry and cut him down as he was trying to get away.

Whatever the truth, English cavalry then charged the Scots, only to taste the sharp end of the schiltron. It was a morale dampener.

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For Love
Kind Edward

As King Edward arrived on the battlefield, did he also see the defeat of Robert the Bruce as an opportunity to settle a personal score?

Back when his father, Edward I, was on the throne, he hired an English nobleman called Piers Gaveston to work in his son's household.

Chroniclers at the time suggested Gaveston and the then Prince Edward became lovers, and the noble was sent into exile.

On his elevation to the throne Edward II recalled Gaveston, bestowing on him an earldom and other gifts.

But the other English nobles - enraged at the privileged access he had to the king - banded together to see Gaveston banished once again.

According to the contemporary book Vita Edwardi Secundi (The Life of Edward II) the king, sometime before Bannockburn, promised full recognition for Robert the Bruce as king of Scots, in return for giving Gaveston refuge in Scotland.

Bruce refused, and Gaveston was eventually executed in England as an enemy of the state.

Put simply, King Edward may have seen victory at Bannockburn as an opportunity to avenge Gaveston's death on Robert the Bruce, and force the English nobles to bow to his will.

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Praying for victory
Dave Ramsey from the Clanranald Trust in a Battle of Bannockburn re-enactment

The main battle commenced not long after first light, on 24 June, 1314.

The Scots forces emerged from Balquhidderock Wood, before getting down on their knees to pray.

The tactic was more than spiritual - it allowed the captains an extra crucial few minutes to form up the battle lines.

Nevertheless, across the Carse, King Edward, with his 16,000-strong army, thought the Scots were surrendering.

He got a shock when prayers finished and the Scots got ready to attack.

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Pride before a fall
Spear at Bannockburn battle re-enactment
chain mail

As battle drew near, a row broke out between King Edward and the Earl of Gloucester, one of England's most powerful men, who complained the English forces needed rest after spending a sleepless night in marshland getting eaten alive by dreaded Scottish midges.

When the King accused the 23-year-old earl of cowardice in front of the men, Gloucester - pride fully dented - jumped on his horse and charged towards the Scots.

He was promptly met by - yes, you guessed it - the business end of the schiltron, and carved up in full view of both sides. Another morale dampener.

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Watery grave
Soldiers

The Bannockburn - the long, snaking waterway after which the battle was named - proved to be Kind Edward's nemesis.

As battle commenced, the Scots troops moved across the battlefield, to close the gap.

Penned in between the burn - in reality a large river in some places - and the Scots pikes, the English forces had no choice but to cross back over the waterway, which was almost impossible because of the heavy armour they wore.

As the Scots pushed forward, the English became penned between the water and the enemy pikes, and panic gripped the ranks.

Even the archers, the other feared super-weapon of the English army, ultimately proved useless because the crush left them with no space to shoot arrows.

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The getaway
Stirling Castle

Sensing defeat, King Edward's minders dragged him off the field and fled towards Stirling Castle.

But he wasn't well received by the remainder of the English garrison, who told him it was best if he didn't come in.

Shunned by his own men, the king ended up in the East Lothian coastal town of Dunbar, where he got a lift back to England on a ship.

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What changed?
Plaque

It's arguable whether the Battle of Bannockburn settled all that much.

Despite the outcome, Robert the Bruce had to wait another 14 years for the king's son, Edward III, to recognise him as the rightful king of an independent Scotland.

Bruce died just one year later, in 1329, while the wars of independence rumbled on.

However, if nothing else, Bannockburn did establish Robert the Bruce as someone who was not to be messed with.

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The Quest for Bannockburn, presented by Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard, is being shown on BBC Two at 20:00 on Sunday, 29 June.

Tony Pollard and Neil Oliver

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    Sir Ian Wood believes the oil industry will emerge from its current problems.

    He said: "If we play this correctly, the next 18 months will be tough but by that time we should begin to see some uplift in the oil price.

    "The industry should be leaner and a bit meaner and in better shape with the tax regime and new regulator to try and springboard a good recovery."

     
  49.  
    08:35: All the gossip

    Celtic will reject any "insulting" offer they may receive from Crystal Palace for Kris Commons in the January transfer window.

    kris commons

    New Livingston manager Mark Burchill says he has enlisted the help of former Celtic bosses Martin O'Neill and Kenny Dalglish in his attempt to plot a win over Rangers in the Scottish Championship.

    Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has praised Shay Logan for the manner in which the defender conducted himself during the case against Celtic winger Aleksandar Tonev, who was accused of racially abusing the Englishman.

    It's another day of Scottish football gossip and you can read our full review here.

     
  50.  
    08:30: Court video 'is a gimmick'

    There has been criticism of new proposals for victims and witnesses to pre-record video statements rather than give evidence in court.

    video camera

    Brian McConnachie QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme he was not convinced by the idea, which he described as "a bit of a gimmick".

    He said: "The suggestion is that, somehow or other, witnesses will not have to attend court. I don't see how that works because they will still require, if the evidence is controversial, to be cross-examined."

     
  51.  
    08:24: Oil industry latest

    Sir Ian Wood has said it is very important to "keep a perspective" about the North Sea oil situation, although it is inevitable that jobs will be lost.

    He said: "It's going to be a tough time. There will be a slow-down in investment. It's probable there will be some loss of offshore production, perhaps up to 10% at $60 to $65 a barrel.

    "There will be sadly the loss of a number of jobs because in these circumstances oil companies and supply chains do everything they can to cut back on costs and get some kind of positive cash flow."

     
  52.  
    08:21: Sir Ian Wood: It's over the top

    Oil industry expert Sir Ian Wood has said talk of a North Sea crisis is "well over the top and frankly far too dramatic"

    Sir Ian Wood

    Sir Ian told BBC Radio 5Live: "This is an industry that thinks and invests long term.

    "Investment decisions are made on the anticipated price of oil two to three years down the road.

    "And of course right now there's really significant momentum in the industry, a big investment programme in the last few years, some new fields coming on stream and also some fields recently given the go ahead which will go ahead."

     
  53.  
    08:06: No appeal over spitting ban

    Dundee United will be unable to appeal against Paul Paton's two-match ban for spitting at Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes, the Scottish FA has confirmed.

    Dundee United's Paul Paton and Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes

    That is despite United having vowed to contest Thursday's decision by an independent judicial panel.

    It found the 27-year-old midfielder guilty despite wide-man Hayes having claimed his opponent was innocent.

    The SFA has confirmed there is no route of appeal in their fast-track judicial system for Paton.

     
  54.  
    08:00: Pakistan massacre tribute

    Glasgow City Council will fly the flag of Pakistan at half-mast from the City Chambers today in a show of support following the Peshawar school massacre.

    Jahangir Hanif and school scene

    The attack by the Pakistani Taliban at the Army Public School on Tuesday killed 132 school children and nine staff and injured 125 others.

    Two grand-nephews of Glasgow Southside Central SNP councillor Jahangir Hanif were among the dead.

    The attack was to avenge Pakistan army-led operations against the Taliban.

     
  55.  
    07:56: 'Work together'

    Experts are warning that tumbling oil prices have left the North Sea oil industry "close to collapse".

    James Bream, of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, says the oil industry and government need to work together.

    oil rig

    He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We need to see continued leadership on cost. We also need to see some significant moves on taxation in the North Sea."

     
  56.  
    07:46: Wrap up warm BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    There is a Met Office yellow "be aware" warning for snow showers and ice affecting the Highlands and Grampian as well as highland Perthshire. Expect some difficult driving conditions on the high road routes.

    It will be a cold, windy day with plenty of blustery showers, most frequent across northern and western Scotland.

    The showers will fall as snow over high ground and to lower levels in some areas. They also bring a risk of thunder, especially across the far north.

    Fewer showers and more sunshine across the Borders, Angus and eastern Aberdeenshire and there is widespread ice risk north of the Central Belt.

    It will feel bitterly cold in the strong westerly wind, with gales along western and northern coasts touching severe gale force at times.

     
  57.  
    07:40: North Sea 'crisis'

    Labour's energy spokesman Lewis Macdonald has said he believes there is a crisis in the oil and gas industry.

    Mr Macdonald told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We are facing a critical situation. There are perhaps 1,000 jobs already gone, there are thousands more jobs on the line.

    "Yes, this is a crisis for the industry. It's not a crisis that can be controlled directly by government on its own. Clearly some of this is a consequence of global oil prices and global market shifts.

    "The responsibility of government is to respond urgently, address the issues that are raised and give some sense of confidence to people who are working in the oil and gas industry."

     
  58.  
    07:35: Rangers name Llambias as chief executive BBC Sport Scotland

    Rangers have confirmed to the Stock Exchange the appointment of existing board member Derek Llambias as their new chief executive.

    Derek Llambias arrives at Ibrox for talks
     
  59.  
    07:31: On the ferries BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    Quite a bit of disruption on the ferries today. Best advice is to check ahead before you travel.

    • On Cal Mac's Barra and South Uist service, the 07:40 Barra sailing and the 14:30 out of Oban to the islands are cancelled
    • No sailings to Colonsay
    • Skye, that's Armadale to Mallaig off as well
    • No sailings to the Small Isles from Mallaig
    • The morning sailings to Islay are off
    • Today's Arran sailings are under review and quite a few are on amber alert
    • Orkney ferries has cancelled today's North Ronaldsay sailing, its rescheduled for tomorrow leaving Kirkwall at 09;00
    • On Northlink there is some disruption between Aberdeen and Lerwick, the 17:00 sailing from Aberdeen will sail directly to Kirkwall, but may face delays
    • The 19:00 sailing from Aberdeen to Lerwick is under review and the 17:30 from Lerwick is cancelled
    • And there is possible disruption on Argyll ferries between Gourock and Dunoon
     
  60.  
    07:27: Oil industry crunch

    Experts are suggesting that the oil industry will cope better with the current downturn than expected.

    Total's north sea oil rig

    It comes as some oil and gas companies are cutting staff and investment due to low oil prices and a warning from a senior industry expert that some North Sea projects would not be viable if prices fell below $60 a barrel.

    Prof Gordon Hughes, a former energy adviser at the World Bank, said that the industry is used to dealing with an unpredictable market.

    He said: "The oil price is notoriously volatile, its gone up and down for the past 50 years.

    "We are going through a bad part of the down cycle but most companies have enough money and enough sense to realise that they have to look at the medium or longer term rather than simply where the price is at today."

     
  61.  
    07:18: Court on camera

    Victims and witnesses could pre-record video statements rather than giving evidence in court under radical new proposals being considered by the Scottish Court Service (SCS).

    Courtroom

    The BBC understands the concept is being actively explored by the judiciary and the SCS.

    The aim is to avoid wasting witnesses' time and speed up trials.

    Legal experts have raised concerns and warned it should not be a substitute for cross-examining witnesses in court.

     
  62.  
    07:11: What the papers say

    The Scotsman leads with the Scotland Yard investigation into an alleged paedophile ring involving high profile people and its link to three murders.

    The National says a Westminster civil servant is facing a "referendum 'bias' probe".

    And The Daily Record has the story of a young woman who lost her unborn baby after her partner punched her.

    Composite

    See the rest of today's front pages here.

     
  63.  
    07:05: House prices on the up

    House prices in Scotland will increase by 4% next year, a new report predicts.

    house for sale

    Recent changes to stamp duty legislation are expected to boost the market, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) 2015 housing forecast.

    The report says demand for property continuing to outstrip supply is another reason to expect prices to go up.

    It also predicts a 2.1% increase in rents north of the border.

     
  64.  
    07:00: Paul McLaren BBC Scotland News

    Good morning and welcome to Friday's Scotland Live, where we will bring you all the latest news, sport, travel and weather between now and 19:00.

     

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