Stirling Castle and Robert the Bruce
A bit of a mixed bag with info snippets about Stirling Castle and Robert the Bruce. A more detailed guided tour of the castle will follow.
One evening, I revisted the Bannockburn Heritage Centre in Stirling (built in the late 1960ies) and the Bruce Memorial in a park that may have been the original battlesite, though the subject is still discussed. Like last time, the sky was a mix of sunshine and dramatic clouds which made for some interesting shots.
Robert the Bruce, against the Scottish summer sky
The famous battle of Bannockburn took place on 24 June 1314. I'm not going into details in this post - I should leave that to Kathryn
(aka Alianore), our knowledgeable Edward II blogger. The short version is: the Scots* won that one and sent King Edward II of England packing in a hurry, though I'm sure he'd have liked to stay the night in the spectacular castle below.
* Well, Bruce's allies, to be correct, there were some Scots hanging out at Edward's court because they
could not resist Edward's sex appeal decided to keep their oaths.
Stirling Castle, seen from the west
Stirling Castle did not look like today during Robert's and Edward's time - most of the buildings date from 1496 and 1583 - but it had been an important place in Scottish history since the time of King Alexander I who died at Stirling Castle 1124. The rock, guarding the crossing of the river Forth, probably was fortified much earlier, though any attempt to date occupation back to Roman times and a stronghold of the Votadini tribe has not (yet) been supported by archaeological finds.
Edward would have found the place not very accomodating anyway, since Robert the Bruce destroyed the defenses of the castle so the English could not use it against him. Had he but known that Edward galloped off to Dunbar instead.
Bruce Memorial; the other side
Robert the Bruce, born 1274 as son of Robert Bruce, 8th Lord of Annandale, and Marjorie, Countess of Carrick, became Robert I King of Scotland in March 1306 until his death in 1329.
I'm not going into a detailed biography of Robert the Bruce, but here is some basic information: Edward I ruled Scotland as province of England since 1296. During the rebellion of William Wallace and other strives, Robert seems to have been on and off the English side until neither Edward nor the Scots really trusted him any longer. Clearly a survivor in the game of alliances and allegiances, though. What Robert really wanted was the Crown of Scotland to which his family held a claim. Unfortunately, so did several other powerful families like the Balliol and Comyn. Robert met with John III Comyn (the Red) in February 1306 to discuss matters. Whether planned murder or temper getting he better of Robert - he stabbed John to death, and in a church to boot. So Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland and had a civil war with the Comyn allies on his hand right there.
King Edward I took advantage of that messy situation, of course, supported the Comyns by sending an army (I'm not sure how much they liked that
sort of support), declared Bruce and his followers outlaws, and had the pope excommunicate Robert Bruce for murder. He defeated Bruce in battle and while Robert himself escaped, two of his brothers got captured and executed as traitors (the full hanging, drawing and quartering treatment), one of his sisters and his mistress, Isabella Countess of Buchan, were suspended from English castle walls in open cages. Robert himself fled into hiding and lived in caves. There's no shortage of those on the Scottish coast.
Another take of the Bruce Memorial
But Robert got lucky: Edward died in July 1307, and his son Edward II was too busy keeping the Earl of Lancaster and his merry band of disgruntled nobles from exiling Piers Gaveston, and updating his Facebook account
, to wage war upon Scotland. Bruce started a successful guerilla war against every English and Comyn supporter he could flush out; and by the end of 1309 controlled all Scotland north of the river Tay.
Stirling Castle was one of the few places still held by the English. It was besieged by Robert's brother Edward (I'm going to call him Ned to avoid confusion with the English Edwards) who made a deal with the English constable that if an English relief army had not arrived by June 24, 1314, the garrison would surrender. So King Edward gathered 20,000 men, the largest army to invade Scotland. Now, his father would have made haggis out of Robert and Ned with that force, but Edward II botched the job, picked the wrong terrain (the bogs between the Forth and the Bannockburn) and the wrong tactics (mounted knights against pickets of lances), and lost to 7,000 Scots. Oops. Robert the Bruce took a bunch of nobles prisoner and exchanged them for the members of his family still held captive in England.
In 1324, the pope acknowledged Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland. Edward had been sent into early retirement where he died under questionable circumstances, and his son, another Edward, was rather busy, first trying to cut something off his mother's lover, Roger Mortimer (no, not that
part; the head) and later he was more interested in the English claim to big chunks of France, so he was willing to agree on the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1328. Robert the Bruce died the year thereafter and was succeeded by his son David (kudos for putting an end to the Roberts in that family). Edward III later came back a few times to remind the Scots that England was still there. ;)
Stirling Castle has often been the focus of historical events during history. It was besieged at least 16 times, and three battles have been fought in its vicinity. A number of Scottish kings and queens have been to Stirling Castle for important events like coronations; or died there. To give you a little tidbit just for the time of Robert the Bruce, here's a - somewhat shortened - excerpt of the timeline given on the Undiscovered Scotland website:
1291 - Stirling Castle is placed under the control of Edward I of England. July 1291 - The Scottish nobility swear fealty to the English Crown at Stirling Castle.
1296 - Edward captures the castle. Sept. 1297 - Battle of Stirling Bridge (William Wallace is victor over the English). Stirling Castle which is held by the English, surrenders to the Scots.1298 - The Scots abandon the castle after the lost battle of Falkirk; Edward I again resumes control. 1299 - Robert the Bruce lays siege to the castle and regains it from the English. 1304 - The castle is besieged by the English and surrenders to Edward I. 1314 - The castle is besieged by Robert's brother; a deal is made that the castle will surrender if the English don't relieve it by June 24 (midsummer's day). June 24, 1314- Battle of Bannockburn. The castle surrenders to the Scots and Robert destroys the defenses to prevent it from being used again by the English. 1333 - The English again take control fo Stirling Castle and rebuild its defenses.
Rinse and Repeat.
View from the North Gate into the Nether Bailey
With the above timeline, you don't need to wonder that the castle has been altered a lot during the centuries. The north gate, dating from 1380, is the oldest remaining part of the castle, and the fortifications of the Nether Bailey probably date from the same time though they have been rebuilt later.
This was another case of reliving the past: when I passed through the gate the first time, there were kids rolling down the grass-covered wall, and they did the same this time. I sat on the grass and had a little picnic, just like ten years ago. It's a pretty spot nowadays, and the sun had come out both times as well. I didn't roll down the wall, though; didn't want to get grass stains on my jacket. But it looked like fun.
View from the battlements to the Highlands
Stirling is called the Gate to the Highlands, and on this photo, the sun was so kind to highlight the mountains in the north. Beautiful, isn't it?
Sources: The official Castle guidebook, the Undiscovered Scotland website, a booklet about the Battle of Bannockburn and a short biography of Robert the Bruce I got in the Bannockburn Heritage Centre.