On This Day

William Wallace

On This Day: England Defeats Scotland at Battle of Methven

June 19, 2009 02:00 AM
by Anne Szustek
On June 19, 1306, English forces defeated new Scottish King Robert the Bruce, who went into exile but ultimately won the 28-year Scottish Wars of Independence.

A Troubled Period in Scottish History

The Battle of Methven stemmed from struggles over the Scottish throne that began in 1286. With John Balliol, the Scottish king, imprisoned in England, Edward I of England undertook the destruction of Scotland "and its total incorporation into his kingdom," the BBC reports.

William Wallace, a Scottish landowner, fought back with his own guerilla army but was eventually defeated and killed. Robert the Bruce, a grandson of the Robert Bruce who had lost the Scottish throne to Balliol, assassinated Edward's ally, John Comyn, in 1306, and was crowned King of Scotland.

Wanting revenge against the Bruce clan, Edward sent Aymer de Valence, one of his most highly regarded generals, to the Battle of Methven. Valence’s English troops soundly defeated the newly crowned King Robert. Methven 700, a site dedicated to the battle, writes that "Bruce barely escaped with his life and fled with a few followers to the Scottish highlands."

Historical Context: The Wars of Independence

An “era of relative friendship” between England and Scotland came to an end in 1286 when Scottish King Alexander III fell from his horse, broke his neck and died, according to the BBC. Following his death, a group of nobles, known as the Guardians of Scotland, collectively ruled in his stead. Alexander's heir to the throne, Margaret, died in 1290, putting the country on the verge of civil war as "two claimants emerged for the vacant throne": John Balliol and Robert Bruce, reports the BBC. Out of frustration, the Guardians turned to Edward I, King of England, for help in resolving the matter.

Edward sought to install a Scottish king who would abdicate national sovereignty to England. In 1292, Balliol was crowned King of Scots, and "Edward began active interference in Scottish affairs," according to the BBC. He began to demand taxes, influence Scottish legal proceedings and send Scottish troops to battle in France.

The Scots soon realized that they would have to fight Edward to regain their independence. They made their intentions known to Edward and formed an alliance with France, England's enemy. In reponse, Edward stormed the Scottish town of Berwick and forced Balliol to surrender.

Scottish landowner William Wallace wasn't ready to give up the fight. Assembling his own guerilla army, he defeated English forces in 1297 at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Over the years, however, Wallace was defeated and "outlawed, betrayed and executed," according to the BBC. It would be up to Robert the Bruce to carry on the fight.

Later Developments: The Battle of Bannockburn

After Bruce killed Comyn and was crowned king, he fled to the west and began to launch a guerilla campaign against his enemies. In 1307, Edward I died and Edward II, his son, was made the new king. "By 1313," the BBC reports, "Bruce had taken back most of Scotland by force."

In response, Edward II launched an invasion into Scotland, meeting Bruce's army at the Battle of Bannockburn. Bruce led the Scottish forces to victory, finally ending the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Key Players: Robert the Bruce; William Wallace

Two major players during the Wars of Independence were Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. Robert I, King of Scotland, often called Robert the Bruce, sided with the Scots after the Battle of Stirling Bridge, part of the First War of Scottish Independence. He was crowned King of Scots in 1306, and is credited with winning Scottish independence, reports NNDB.

William Wallace, a name many know from the film "Braveheart," gathered an insurrectionary army against English forces, defeating them at a critical moment. Wallace was taken to London in 1305 and given a mock trial at Westminster, where he was found guilty of treason and hanged, according to the BBC.

Related Topic: "Braveheart"

Reference: World history


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