The Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland were established in the Medieval period. However, as is wont to happen when two powerful groups occupy one small piece of land, tensions will arise.
The Wars of Scottish Independence were a series of military campaigns waged between these two kingdoms in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
The Capture of Berwick on 30 March 1296 was the first significant skirmish of the First War of Scottish Independence. Berwick-upon-Tweed was Scotland’s most important trading port. Its garrison was commanded by William the Hardy, Lord of Douglas (my 21st great-grandfather). The English attacked the garrison and prevailed. Although the soldiers were freed and were permitted to march out of the castle with their arms, William “The Hardy” Douglas was imprisoned in Berwick Castle, and his Essex estates were forfeited.
The next major battle of the First War of Scottish Independence was the Battle of Dunbar, 27 April 1296. Three of my kin (both direct and distant) participated in that battle:
- Sir Patrick Graham of Kincardine (my 23rd great-grandfather), who was the only Scot not to retreat and instead fought to the death;
- Sir William Sinclair of Roslin (my 24th great-grandfather), was captured by the English and died imprisoned in the Tower of London;
- John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey (my 1st cousin, 25x removed), who commanded the English side.
After being released from imprisonment, my 21st great-grandfather, William the Hardy joined forces with Scottish leader William Wallace at the Raid of Scone in June 1297. Although Wallace escaped, Douglas was not so fortunate and was taken prisoner once again.
The next major battle in the First War of Scottish Independence in which a family member was involved was the Battle of Stirling Bridge on 11 Sep 1297. John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, was the English commander. James Stewart, 5th High Stewart of Scotland (my 21st great-grandfather), fought for the Scots. The Battle of Stirling Bridge was a shattering defeat for the English.
Three of my kin fought at the Battle of Falkirk on 22 July 1298:
- Sir John de Graeme (my 20th great-grandfather), who fought alongside Sir William Wallace and was killed in action;
- Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl (my 21st great-grandfather), who commanded the Scottish archers and was killed in action;
- John de Warenne, who helped lead the English to victory.
On 24 February 1303, Scottish forces, under the leadership of Sir Henry Sinclair of Roslin (my 23rd great-grandfather), defeated the English at the Battle of Roslin. This battle was the bloodiest ever fought in the British Isles—35,000 people perished.
The Battle of Methven took place on 19 June 1306. By this time, Robert the Bruce had switched allegiances and was now an ardent supporter of the Scottish cause. He led the Scots against the forces of England. However, the Scottish were thoroughly trounced in this battle. According to legend, Bruce was unhorsed and was nearly captured by Philip de Mowbray. Legend continues that Sir Christopher Seton (my 24th great-grandfather) and Bruce’s brother-in-law, felled de Mowbray and got Bruce back on his horse, thus saving Bruce’s life. Together, along with a small group of supporters—including Sir Gilbert de la Hay (my 23rd great-grandfather), the commander of Bruce’s bodyguard—they escaped. Bruce and many of the others fled to the Highlands; however, Seton sought refuge in the castle at Loch Doon.
The Battle of Dalrigh was fought in the Summer 1306 between the army of Robert the Bruce against the Clan MacDougall of Argyll, allies of Clan Comyn and the English. Beside Robert the Bruce, two other family members participated in this battle: Sir James Douglas, Lord of Douglas (my 20th great-grandfather) and Sir Gilbert de la Hay. Again, the English prevailed.
The Battle of Glen Trool was a minor engagement fought in April 1307. Again, Robert the Bruce commanded the Scots, and the English were led by John de Mowbray, 2nd Baron Mowbray, (my 22nd great-grandfather). Although little more of a skirmish than a battle, this was a decisive Scottish victory and a great morale booster for the Scots. Robert the Bruce had finally acquired an ability to change and adapt to circumstances, using ambushes and surprise attacks, and advancing and retreating as the occasion demanded.
On 10 May 1307, the forces of Robert the Bruce and Sir Henry Sinclair defeated the English at the Battle of Loudoun Hill.
The Battle of Inverurie was fought in May 1308. It was a victory for Robert the Bruce’s forces over his chief domestic enemy, John Comyn, 3rd Earl of Buchan. Immediately following the battle, Bruce ordered his men to kill those loyal to the Comyns—destroying their homes, farms, and crops and slaughtering their cattle. This was a ruthless act was regarded as unprecedentedly savage and became known as the Harrying of Buchan.
In 1308, Robert the Bruce prevailed over the MacDougalls of Argyll, allies of Clan Comyn and the English, at the Battle of the Pass of Brander.
On 23–24 June 1314, Henry Sinclair fought alongside Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn. Also fighting on the Scots side were Sir James Douglas, Lord of Douglas, one of the chief commanders of the War for Scottish Independence; Sir Malcolm Drummond, 10th Thane of Lennox (my 21st great-grandfather); Sir Robert Boyd, 1st of Kilmarnock (my 22nd great-grandfather); Sir Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray (my 22nd great-grandfather), who commanded one of the schiltrons of the Scottish infantry; and Sir Gilbert de la Hay. They were pitted against Edward II of England (my 21st great-grandfather.) The Battle of Bannockburn was a decisive Scottish victory, ultimately turning the tide in Scotland’s quest for independence.
The Battle of Skaithmuir was a skirmish that took place in February 1316. A small English raiding party advanced on Berwick-upon-Tweed to steal supplies. Sir James Douglas and his men cut the party off, killing their leader, Edmond de Caillou. Douglas later called this skirmish the most difficult fight of his long career.
The Capture of Berwick (the second time around) took place in April 1318. Sir James Douglas wrested the town and castle of Berwick-upon-Tweed from the English, who had controlled the town since 1296. Following their decisive victory at the Battle of Bannockburn, the Kingdom of Scotland had recovered all their strongholds, with the exception of Berwick; therefore, the retaking of this town was a significant and symbolic victory for the Scots. With the English expelled, Robert the Bruce reestablished Berwick as a Scottish trading port, installing his son-in-law Walter Stewart (my 20th great-grandfather) as keeper.
On 20 September 1319, the Battle of Myton, a major engagement, was fought. It was a decisive Scottish victory. Two family members took part in this battle: Sir James Douglas and Walter Stewart, High Stewart of Scotland.
In 6 April 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath was drawn up to get the Pope to recognize Scotland’s right of independence, which had not been accepted by the English. These family members—Robert the Bruce; Sir Thomas Randolph; Sir Henry Sinclair; Malise IV, Earl of Strathearn (my 22nd great-grandfather); Walter Stewart; Sir James Douglas, Lord of Douglas; John de Menteith (my 21st great-grandfather); Sir Gilbert de la Hay, Lord High Constable of Scotland; and John Graham (my 19th great-grandfather)—were some of the signatories upon the document, which was approved by Pope John XXII.
The Battle of Old Byland was a significant encounter between the English and Scottish in October 1322 It was a victory for the Scots, the most significant since Bannockburn, though on a much smaller scale. Three family members commanded the Scottish troops: Robert the Bruce, Sir James Douglas, and Walter Stewart.
During the night of 3–4 August 1327, the Battle of Stanhope Park took place. The Scots were led by Sir James Douglas, while the English were under the direction of Edward III (my 20th great-grandfather.) In the end, the Scots prevailed and nearly captured Edward III.
Although the First War of Scottish Independence officially ended in 1328 with the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, tensions between England and Scotland again surfaced, and, in 1332, the Second War for Scottish Independence commenced.
On 19 July 1333, the Battle of Halidon Hill was fought. Hugh, 4th Earl of Ross (father-in-law of Robert II Stewart—my 19th great-grandfather, as well as my 20th great-uncle and my 2nd cousin, 25x removed) fought for Scotland and was killed in action. Several direct family members also fought at Halidon Hill. Sir Alan Stewart of Dreghorn (my 21st great-grandfather) fought for the Scots, as did his brother, Sir James Stewart of Pearston (my 20th great-grandfather). Both died in battle. My 22nd great-grandfather, Malcolm II, 5th Earl of Lennox, was also killed in action. Sir Robert Boyd, 1st of Kilmarnock, who fought for the Scottish, was captured by the English. Alexander de Gordun (my 22nd great-grandfather) fought for the Scots and escaped capture.
Then, at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, 17 October 1346, multiple family members were present:
- Maurice de Moravia, Earl of Strathearn (my 20th great-grandfather), fought on the Scottish side;
- Sir David de la Hay (my 21st great-grandfather), was the Lord High Constable of Scotland and fought on the Scottish side;
- Sir Malcolm Drummond, 10th Thane of Lennox, fought on the Scottish side and was killed in action;
- Ralph Neville, 2nd Baron Neville de Raby, (my 20th great-grandfather) led the English forces to victory;
- John Graham, Earl of Monteith, (my 19th great-grandfather) fought for the Scots, was taken prisoner and executed;
- John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby, (my 19th great-grandfather) fought on the English side, as a captain under his father;
- Sir Thomas Boyd, 2nd of Kilmarnock (my 21st great-grandfather) fought on the Scottish side and was captured by the English;
- Sir Patrick Dunbar (my 21st great-grandfather) commanded the right of the Scottish army;
- Alexander de Gordun (my 22nd great-grandfather) was slain during the battle.
Nearly a decade later, the Second War of Scottish Independence ended in 1357 with the signing of the Treaty of Berwick.
Of course, the end of the Second War of Scottish Independence did not result in cessation of hostilities between England and Scotland. From the 14th through the 16th centuries, the two kingdoms continued combating in the Anglo-Scottish Wars.
One of the skirmishes of the Anglo-Scottish Wars was the Battle of Nesbit Moor on 22 June 1402, where Patrick Hepburn, The Younger of Hailes (my 19th great-grandfather), fought for the Scots and was killed in action.
As if waging their own wars against England were not enough, Scotland allied with France in the Hundred Years’ War, an ongoing conflict between England and France that took place from 1337 to 1453.
In one of these clashes, the Battle of Verneuil on 17 August 1424, William Seton (my 18th great-grandfather), Archibald Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas (my 18th great-grandfather), and Archibald’s son-in-law John Stewart, Earl of Buchan (my 18th great-uncle) were all killed in action.
Hostilities between the two kingdoms continued for another two hundred years. Eventually, England and Scotland were united under one monarch, and open warfare ceased. The thistle and the rose finally had taken root together on common ground, despite their thorny past.