The Battle of Bannockburn has been named as the most decisive battle fought in the British Isles, according to a recent poll by BBC News.
The clash between King Edward II of England and Robert the Bruce amassed nearly 60,000 votes, with 33% of participants voting in its favour. Bannockburn trounced conflicts like the Battle of Britain and the Battle of Hastings (which received 23% and 19% of the votes respectively) to claim the top spot as the most conclusive English battle.
Professor Michael Brown from the University of St Andrews’ School of History was among those to vote for the Battle of Bannockburn. He justified his choice, saying: “Robert’s victory meant not just the continuation of the Scottish kingdom but that Scotland would develop separately from the rest of the island for the next 400 years, maintaining and pursuing its own course in terms of government, law, religion and relations with the peoples of Europe.”
The Battle of Bannockburn was fought in 1314 and proved to be a turning point in the First War of Scottish Independence. Robert the Bruce’s victory over the English King helped to preserve the Scottish throne and is still considered a landmark in the history of Scotland.
The war between England and Scotland had begun during the reign of King Edward I. In the final decade of the 13th century, Edward led his army to victory against the Scots a number of times, including the Battles of Dunbar and Falkirk. However, although Scotland was nearly completely captured by the English, in 1306 Robert the Bruce seized the throne, thereby reopening the war.
The following year, King Edward died and was succeeded by his son. Unlike his father, who was a strong leader and a fierce fighter, the new King Edward II preferred less violent pursuits. His military skills would prove to be no match for those of Robert the Bruce, Scotland’s warrior King. In 1314, the Scottish army captured Stirling Castle, an English stronghold in the north, and, led by their King, the English army set off on a military campaign to relieve the castle. The English army was made up of 2,000 cavalrymen and 15,000 infantrymen, whereas the Scottish army at the time comprised of only 500 horsemen and somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000-foot soldiers. The two armies met in a royal hunting park near Stirling, which would go down in history as the site of the Battle of Bannockburn.
The battle lasted two days, during which the English army was repeatedly thwarted by the Scots, whose formations they were unable to break. Men who charged at the Scottish lines were quickly surrounded and killed, and slowly the English army were pushed back. As the Scottish army advanced on his men, forcing them to break rank, King Edward fled the battle with his personal bodyguard. Seeing their King flee the site of the battle caused panic to spread among the English men, many of whom were killed by the Scots as they tried to escape. The battle ended with the rout of Edward II’s army and was a decisive Scottish victory.
“It is fantastic that after 700 years this event is still commemorated and remembered,” said Scott McMaster, manager of the Bannockburn Experience for the National Trust for Scotland. “It is the classic tale of the underdog, the smaller army defeating the elite force, and this result clearly shows the mark it has left on the Scottish psyche.”