Scotland

: 5/13

By the 11th century there was only one king of Scots, and he ruled over all the south and east of Scotland. In Ireland and Wales Norman knights were strong enough to fight local chiefs on their own. But only the English king with a large army could hope to defeat the Scots. Most English kings did not even try, but Edward I was different.

The Scottish kings were closely connected with England. Since Saxon times marriages had frequently taken place between the Scottish and English royal families. At the same time the Scottish kings wanted to establish strong government and so they offered land to Norman knights from England in return for their loyalty.

In 1290 a crises took place over the succession to the Scottish throne. On a stormy night in 1286 King Alexander of Scotland was riding home along a path by the sea in the dark. His horse took a false step, and the king was thrown from the top of a cliff.

Disputes arose at once among all those who had any claim at all to the Scottish throne. Finally two of the claimants, John de Balliol and Robert Bruce, were left. Scottish nobles wanted to avoid civil war and invited Edward I to settle the matter. Edward had already shown interest in joining Scotland to his kingdom. He wanted his son to marry Margaret, the heir to the Scottish throne, but she had died in a shipwreck. Now he had another chance. He told both men that they must do homage to him, and so accept his overlordship, before he would help settle the question. He then invaded Scotland and put one of them, John de Balliol, on the Scottish throne.

De Balliols four years as a king were not a success. First Edward made him provide money and troops for the English army and the Scottish nobles rebelled. They felt that Edward was ruining their country.

Then Edward invaded Scotland again, and captured all the main Scottish castles. During this invasion he stole the sacred Stone of Destiny from Scone Abbey. The legend said that all Scottish kings must sit on it. Edward believed that without the Stone, any Scottish coronation would be meaningless, and that his own possession of the Stone would persuade the Scots to accept him as king. However, neither he nor his successors became kings of Scots, and the Scottish kings managed perfectly well without the stone.

All this led to the creation a popular resistance movement. At first it was led by William Wallace, a Norman-Scottish knight. But after one victory against English army, Wallaces peoples army was itself destroyed by Edward in 1297.

It seemed that Edward had won after all. Wallace was captured and executed. His head was put on a pole on London Bridge. Edward tried to make Scotland a part of England as he had already done with Wales. Some Scottish nobles accepted him, but the people refused to be ruled by the English king. Scottish nationalism was born on the day Wallace died.

A new leader took up the struggle. This was Robert Bruce, who had competed with John de Balliol for the throne. He was able to raise an army and defeat the English army in Scotland. Edward the I gathered another great army and marched against Robert Bruce, but he died on the way north in 1327. On Edwards grave were written the words Edward, the Hammer of the Scots. He had intended to hammer them into the ground and destroy them, but in fact he had hammered them into a nation.

After Edwards death Bruce had enough time to defeat his Scottish enemies, and make himself accepted as king of the Scots. He then began to win back the castles still held by the English. When the son of his old enemy Edward II invaded Scotland in 1314 Bruce destroyed his army at Bannockburn, near Stirling. Six years later, in 1320, the Scots clergy meeting in Arbroath wrote to the Pope in Rome to tell him that they would never accept English authority: for as long as even one hundred of us remain alive, we will never consent to subject ourselves to the dominion of the English.

: 29/08/2008