Carlisle Castle and the Edwards
After some time of peace, Carlisle came back into the focus of politics and war during the reign of the three Edwards. Edward I - who ranks high on the Top Ten list of most unpopular persons in Scotland - used the succession quarrels after the death of Alexander III to claim the hegemony over Scotland. Of course, the Scots, or at least a number of important Scottish nobles with claims of their own, told him to slink off.
Edward I did the opposite and declared war upon Scotland. As answer, the Scots launched a surprise attack on Carlisle in May 1296. They didn't succeed to conquer the place, though, and neither did they in the second attempt after the Scottish victory at Stirling Bridge. But it brought the importance of Carlisle for the English back to attention.
Edward I used the castle as assembling point and storage stronghold, locked prisoners up in the keep, and spent some time in the castle himself. Around the time parliament met at Carlisle in 1306, Edward had a great hall for the king's household built in the inner bailey. He also added additional fortifications, re-cut the moats (not himself, of course, and I don't think he let his son do it much as Edward II loved digging ditches) and placed some springalds, giant crossbows, on the keep and western postern. The remains of the great hall and the king's appartements have been replaced by some smaller buildings in the 19th century.
Western postern on the battlements, facing the tower of the inner gate
Thus, Edward I left his son a well fortified castle, and Edward II used it as base for his Scottish war as well. But he lost the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and returned to England, defeated and without even a shoulder to cry on since Piers was already dead and Hugh Despenser not yet his favourite.
Robert the Bruce lost no time to try and get his hands on Carlisle. The town held a garrison of 500 men commanded by Andrew de Harclay. Harclay seemed to have been a skilled commander, but it was the weather that caused the final result. It was a British summer like the one last year, rain, and rain, and more rain. When the Scots tried to dig mines under the castle walls, they filled with water, the assault towers got stuck in the mud, any material to fill the ditches swam away, and so even the Scots, as used to rainy summers as the English, had enough and retreated in early August 1315.View from the battlements into the inner bailey
With the bad press Ed II had at that time, the unsuccessful siege of Carlisle was proclaimed a victory, and Harclay earned some very wet laurels. *grin* He started a military career and was created Earl of Carlisle after he defeated the rebel Thomas of Lancaster in the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 (remember the unhappy fate of Roger de Clifford
in that context). But Harclay had not much time to enjoy his new position. He got entangled in border politics with the Scots and less than a year later was summoned to court to answer charges of conspiracy. He failed to appear and King Edward sent a party of knights to arrest him. They caught Harclay in his room in the castle, and though proclaiming his innocence, Andrew de Harclay suffered the same traitor's death as Lancaster; he was hanged, drawn and quatered on Carlisle's Gallows Hill.
Ironically, the very truce de Harclay had conspired for was concluded between Edward II and the Scots only three months later. Quod licet Iovi ....
Edward II was disposed and murdered (or not?
) in 1327, and a few years later his son, Edward III, made it clear to his mother that he'd reign without her and Roger de Mortimer now, thank you very much. Mortimer lost his head, while Isabella was retired with a handsome apanage. Edward III was a better general than is father and won most of his battles, among them Crécy and indirectly, through William la Zouche Archbishop of York, St. Neville's Cross, both in 1346.View across inner bailey towards the battlements on the curtain wall
The king of the Scots at that time was David II. He spent several years in France because his nobles didn't like him (did Scottish nobles ever like their king?). A few years after his return, Philippe IV of France, fearing an English invasion - in fact, he had them already sitting round Calais
- asked David under the conditions of the Auld Alliance to invade England in his turn, to keep them busy in the north.
David had all the military advantages on his side, but he blundered around in the borderlands and finally managed to take up a strategically bad position at St. Neville's Cross. After the English longbowmen lured the Scottish army to attack and thus made it split into smaller groups because of the terrain, the Scots proved an easy deal for the English. Several Scottish leaders fled and David got captured. He was brought to Calais, forced into negotiations with King Edward III and kept prisoner in various English castles until 1357 (Treaty of Berwick). He promised to pay a ransom which he never managed to scrape out of the impoverished land.
Edward III had last been to Carlisle Castle in 1335. After St. Neville's Cross, he and his successors concentrated on their interests in France. That time would later be called the Hundred Years War.