Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
A Brief History of Scotland

Presented by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.

Chapter 3: An Independent Scotland

The aging Edward decided to come to Scotland at the head of a large army to punish the Scots' impudence; but the now weak and sick king was ineffectual as a military leader. He could only wish that after his death his bones would be carried at the head of his army until Scotland had been crushed. It was left to his son Edward II to try to carry out his father's dying wish. He was no man for the task.

Edward II, born at Caernarfon Castle in 1284 and who had been given the title Prince of Wales in 1301 was crowned King of England in 1307. Faced by too many problems at home, and completely lacking the ruthlessness and resourcefulness of his father, the young Edward had no wish to get embroiled in the affairs of Scotland. Bruce was left alone to consolidate his gains and to punish those who opposed him. A series of successful campaigns against the Comyns and their allies left him in control of most of Scotland. In 1309 he was recognized as sole ruler by the French King, and despite his earlier excommunication, he even received the support of the Scottish Church. In 1311, Bruce drove out the English garrisons in all their Scotland strongholds except Stirling and invaded northern England. King Edward bestirred himself from his dalliances at Court to respond and took a large army north.

On Mid-Summer's Day, the 24th of June, 1314 one of the most momentous battles in British history occurred. The armies of Robert Bruce, heavily outnumbered by their English rivals, employed tactics that prevented the English army from effectively employing its strength, and won a decisive victory at Bannockburn. Scotland was wrenched from English control, its armies free to invade and harass northern England. Such was Bruce's military successes that he was able to invade Ireland, where his brother Edward had been crowned King by the exuberant Irish. A second expedition carried out by Edward II north of the border was driven back. Edward was forced to seek peace.

Robert Bruce followed up his outstanding military success with equally successful diplomatic overtures. After an appeal from the Scottish nobility, the new Pope at Rome lifted Bruce's excommunication. May, 1328 brought about a peace treaty signed at Northampton by the weary, helpless English king that recognized Scotland as an independent kingdom and Robert Bruce as king. The Declaration of Independence signed at Arbroath was the culmination of Bruce's career. All his dreams fulfilled, he died one year later. One who for years had been an Anglo-Norman vassal of the King of England had made himself into a truly national Scottish hero.

Scotland had become the first nation state in Europe, the first to have territorial unity under a single king. The Declaration of Arbroath, 1320, was a letter to the Pope, who had excommunicated everyone in Scotland unless they swore allegiance to Edward II (such were the ways of medieval popes). In the letter, signed by representatives from all classes of Scottish society, it was stated that since ancient times the Scots had been free to choose their own kings, a freedom that was a gift from God.

Under the Declaration, if Robert Bruce were to prove weak enough to acknowledge Edward as overlord, then he would be dismissed in favor of someone else. Although English kings still continued to call themselves rulers of Scotland, just as they called themselves rulers of France for centuries after being booted out of the continent, Scotland remained fully independent until 1603 (when James Stuart succeeded Elizabeth I).

Chapter 4: Turmoil After The Bruce