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Edward was so confident of success, that he made, before starting, a very liberal distribution of the lands and honours of Scotland among his barons.1 Having first gone on pilgrimage with his Queen to St. Albans, he parted with her, and then set off through Lincolnshire to York and Newcastle, and arrived at Berwick on the nth of June 1314. As had been previously arranged, he there met the troops, amounting to a hundred thousand men, including forty thousand cavalry and fifty thousand archers, three thousand of the picked cavalry being, both men and horse, covered with plates of mail, and ordered to place themselves in the front of the battle. 'That day, accordingly,' confesses an historian of England, 'saw assembled . . . perhaps the most magnificent army that our warlike land had ever yet sent forth.'2 King Robert, too, had been doing his utmost to gather together his troops for the decisive contest. He appointed a general muster in the Torwood, near Stirling, and then he found that he had only between thirty and forty thousand fighting men. As his small body of inferior and ill-armed cavalry must have been overwhelmed by a single rush of the heavy war-horses of England, he at once resolved to fight on foot; and, as the most dangerous strength of the enemy lay in their splendid cavalry, to impede their action by every possible manoeuvre was essentially desirable. In a council of war it was agreed to await the English in a field which had Stirling to the left, and the burn of Bannock on the right, and which was encumbered with trees, and protected by a morass. For the further discomfiture of the horses, any peculiar parts of the ground which were plain and even were dug with pits about knee-deep and a foot wide; over these brushwood was covered, and the green sod was carefully
1 The Brus, pp. 2, 55.
a Pict. Hist. of Engl., edit. Chambers, vol. i. p. 736.
replaced. All being now in readiness, King Robert disposed his troops in order of battle. He gave the command of the centre to Douglas and to Walter, the young Steward of Scotland, of the right wing to his brother Edward, and of the left to his nephew Randolph, the Earl of Moray.
To himself he reserved the five hundred cavalry, his own vassals of Carrick, the men of Argyle, and the wild islanders, but besides this he undertook the personal surveillance of the whole army, and, distinguished by a gold band round his helmet, and mounted on an active little palfrey, seemed to be in every place at once. In a valley to the rear he disposed of the baggage and of the camp retainers, the 'carters, wainmen, and lackeys,' of whom there were several thousands. On Saturday evening, the 22d of June, news was brought that the English army had passed the night at Edinburgh. There was not a moment to be lost, and, after a short sleep, very early on Sunday morning, the soldiers heard mass; there was a solemn silence in the camp, and many made their confessions, as preparing to meet their God. It was the vigil of St. John, and abstinence was kept on bread and water. His prayers being said, the King rode out to make a final examination of the pits, and to see that his minutest order had been literally executed. Having satisfied himself, he commanded his men to arm, and to array themselves in order of battle under their different banners. When they were all drawn up, King Robert declared that all who did not feel resolved to win the field, or die honourably, might freely withdraw. He was answered by a thundering shout, and assurance of fidelity to the death. He then commanded Douglas and Sir Robert Keith to ride on, and reconnoitre the English army, which must be close upon them, having rested the night at Falkirk. We fail to imagine what the feelings of these Scottish knights must have been when they came face to face with that mighty concourse of the grandest chivalry in the world, covering, as it were, the face of the earth, and blazing in the midsummer sun; in the words of the poet of Bannockburn: 'So blooming in the sunshine's beam, that all the land was in a learn.' They galloped back, and told Bruce what they had seen, and perhaps even his heart faltered when he turned to his own little gathering. Whatever he felt, he informed his army that the English, though numerous indeed, were ill armed, miserably marshalled, and in confusion. It was certainly the case, that upon a close examination of the glorious battalions, men and horse were weary and footsore, for they had travelled day and night, and though, as we have seen, plenty of food had been provided, time had often not been given to eat it. Only two miles separated the armies when King Edward sent forward a detachment of eight hundred cavalry, under Sir Robert Clifford, for the relief of Stirling Castle. Bruce, in anticipation of this movement, had commanded Randolph to oppose it strenuously, for were Stirling relieved, the terms in the treaty of surrender would be thereby abrogated, and the English might have declined battle. Clifford, however, made a circuit, and, unperceived by Randolph, advanced towards the castle. Bruce galloped up to his nephew, 'O Randolph,' he cried with terrible rebuke,1 which only a knight could understand,' lightly have you thought of the charge committed to you; a rose has fallen from your chaplet.' He needed to say nothing more; Randolph instantly made haste, with five hundred spearmen, to repair his fault, or to perish in the attempt. They marched into the plain, and drew up in a compact square, their spears pointed directly outwards. A few words commanding and imploring to stand firm, to be resolute, and the furious charge of the cavalry was upon them. In
another moment there was terrific confusion: English men and horses lay scrambling and bleeding together, pierced by the wood of spears ; and the Scottish infantry rose and fell before the ponderous mail of their enemies.
Lord James Douglas asked permission of the King to move with a reinforcement to Randolph's succour. 'You shall not stir from your post,' said his master; 'I will not alter my order of battle, and lose the advantage of my position. Let Randolph extricate himself as he best may.' 'My liege, I cannot stand by and see Randolph perish, and with your leave I must aid him.' Bruce reluctantly consented, and Douglas rushed up to the aid of his friend. But as he drew near it was plain that the impetuous English were falling into disorder before Randolph's steady unflinching valour. 'Halt!' cried Douglas to his detachment; 'those brave men have repulsed the enemy; let us not diminish their glory by sharing it.' The spears of Scotland had proved more than a match for the cavalry of England. And very soon Randolph overcame the English with great slaughter, driving back the remnant to the main army, whilst he returned to his appointed place with the satisfaction of having achieved a commencement that was priceless in the confidence wherewith it inspired his countrymen. The Scots and the English being now close on one another, King Edward called a halt that he might consult with his generals whether to encamp for the night, for the refreshment of his wearied troops, or advance immediately to battle. Meanwhile the English vanguard, the three thousand barbed steeds, who were deemed impregnable, adhering to their primary orders, and ignorant of their new orders to halt, proceeded to commence the attack. King Robert was then riding leisurely along the front of his line, imparting his cheerful hopes to every one. Whereupon an English knight, Henry de Bohun, being armed at all points, bethought himself that he might gain an immortal name by, slaying the King of Scots in single combat. He galloped furiously towards him, and challenged him to fight. Robert accepted the challenge, calmly awaited him, and standing straight up in his stirrups, as Bohun met him, laid him dead at one blow on the head with his battle-axe. On this the vanguard hurriedly returned to the army; and the Scottish barons gathered round their King, both to congratulate him on his victory, and also affectionately to blame him for what had been really an act of serious indiscretion, costing them a moment of terrible suspense. The King being conscious that he had done wrong, tried to turn the conversation. He then addressed his troops. He said they should give God the praise for the fortunate issue of those preliminary affairs, trivial indeed in themselves, but of vast importance in the damp they had already spread amongst the English: for when once the mind was subdued, there would be no great difficulty in overcoming a dispirited and heartless body. On the other hand, with how much hope and confidence should not this success inspire themselves? To test his men, he asked them to give their opinion whether they should fight the English or retreat, and with one voice they declared themselves ready for battle on the morrow. Upon which he commanded them to arm and array, to be in order by daybreak,1 and after mass to begin the fight. He strenuously enjoined them to observe the strictest discipline, and to receive the charge of the English with levelled spears. On unflinching obedience and steady valour depended, he told them, the fate of the coming conflict. He spoke of the cruel treatment their countrymen had recently received from the English, and of what they must expect if Edward conquered them. He