William Wallace Essays

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Henry Percy and Robert Clifford, using the county posse of Cumberland and Westmorland (and perhaps of Lancashire), advanced into Scotland to Ayr.9 After some hesitation, the rebels, based at Irvine, decided to surrender.10 Wallace, however, is reported as having gathered a large company in Selkirk Forest by 17 July; and although Edward’s Treasurer of Scotland, Hugh Cressingham, had negotiated with nobles of Northumberland and mustered a force from that county, news of the surrender at Irvine postponed this expedition.11 Wallace was able to move north to besiege the castle of Dundee in August, and to link up with Murray’s successful northern rising.

It was this combined army that the Earl of Warenne and Cressingham encountered at Stirling Bridge on 11 September, when the English sustained a humiliating defeat.

Yet Guisborough’s more detailed narrative does not contradict this summary; and when collated with independent sources it becomes the only possible itinerary.

Wallace, then, was at Haddington on 11 October, though not yet on his way into Northumberland.

Historians of England have tended to concentrate on the prolonged phase of Scottish raiding which lasted from 1311 to 1322, historians of Scotland to focus on the importance of the Wallace invasion in the interpretation of the critical situation north of the border.2 This paper takes a closer look at the invasion of 1297, and the findings have significance both for our understanding of the state of affairs in contemporary Scotland, and for the parallels drawn between Wallace’s invasion and the raids of Robert Bruce and his supporters in the early fourteenth century.

[smartads] The evidence which allows a reconstruction of the Wallace invasion falls into three main categories. The Song is given in full in The Political Songs of England ed. Wright, Camden Society, old series, vi (1839), 160-79. The hated Cressingham was killed and flayed by the Scots. Prominent northern magnates who met their deaths included Robert le Vavasour and his eldest son, and Robert Delaval. In the Guisborough text two letters which Wallace awarded to the canons are given in full. One, bearing this date, is a letter of protection for the Priory. Fortunately, a relatively large number of properties were in this condition at the time of the invasion, most of them recently escheated from cross-Border landowners who sided with the Scots in 1296. These accounts contain details of damage inflicted by the Scots and, occasionally, the dates when it occurred.6 The invasion of his own realm marked the nadir of Edward I’s attempts to control Scotland; attempts which until then had met with remarkable success.7 In 1296 Edward had overrun Scotland in a matter of months. In the winter of 1297 William Wallace, fresh from his victory over the English at Stirling Bridge, presided over a ferocious and prolonged devastation of northern England. There had been raiding in the previous year when the Anglo-Scottish war had first opened, but nothing on this scale. Marmaduke de Thweng was captured when Stirling Castle surrendered shortly afterwards, and the Earl of Warenne fled precipitately to Berwick. On the side of the Scots, Andrew Murray was fatally wounded; but nevertheless this resounding victory was the signal for all of Scotland to throw off English lordship.12 News of the defeat travelled rapidly.

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