Lanark's statue of William Wallace

Sir William Wallace

(AD1272 - AD1305)

Wallace coat of arms

"from Outlaw to Guardian of Scotland"

Toom Tabard

              King John Balliol reign over Scotland was a stormy affair, as it was rocked from one crisis to another. Largely due to King Edward I's constant meddling in Scotland's affairs as the self-appointed Lord Paramount, and this had the effect of undermining King John Balliol authority. Before long the nickname of 'Toom Tabard' - 'empty coat' was coined for King John Balliol, as it mocked him for being spineless and nothing more than a mere puppet of the English monarch.

              Satisfied that Scotland had finally succumbed to his rule, King Edward I now turned his attention on France. But his resources were being stretched as he had a rebellion in Wales to deal with. Therefore he summoned King John Balliol to appear before him, and then ordered that he had until 1 September 1294 to provide the troops and funds for his invasion of France.

              On his return to Scotland, King John Balliol held a meeting with his council and after a few days of heated debate plans were made to defy the executive orders of King Edward I. A few weeks later a Scottish parliament was hastily convened and twelve members of a war council (four earls, barons, and bishops respectively) were selected to advise King John Balliol.

              Emissaries were immediately despatched to inform King Philip of France the intentions of King Edward I. The diplomatic mission managed to negotiate a treaty by which the Scots would invade England if the English invaded France, in return the French would support the Scots. The treaty would be sealed by the arranged marriage of Edward Balliol (King John's son) and Jeanne de Valois (King Philip's niece). Another treaty with King Eirik II of Norway was hammered out, in which for the sum of fifty thousand groats he would supply one hundred battleships for four months of the year, so long as hostilities between France and England continued. Then finally on the 22 October 1294 King John Balliol openly came out in defiance of his Lord Paramount, King Edward I.

              It was not until the summer of 1295 that King Edward I was even aware of the secret Franco-Scottish negotiations that resulted in a treaty between the two countries. In early October 1295 King Edward I began to strengthen his northern defences against a possible invasion by a revitalised Scottish army. By 5 October 1295 he promoted the Bishop of Durham, Antony Bek and the Earl of Surrey, John de Warenne (King John Balliol's father-in-law) to custodian of the northern counties. It was also at this point that the 6th Lord of Annandale, Robert Bruce (the father of the future King of Scotland) was appointed the governor of Carlisle Castle. He also ordered King John Balliol to relinquish control of the castles and burghs of Berwick, Jedburgh and Roxburgh.

              16 October 1295, in retaliation for King John Balliol's alliance with the French, the English authorities seized all of his estates south of the border.

              December 1295, more than two hundred of King Edward I's tenants in Newcastle were summoned to form a militia by the deadline of March 1296.

              February 1296, King Edward I upped the ante, and amassed a fleet of ships off the East Anglian coast, which sailed north to rendezvous with his land forces in Newcastle.

              The build up of English forces south of the Anglo-Scottish border didn't go undetected and in a tic for tac action King John Balliol summoned all able-bodied Scottish nationals to bear arms and converge near the border at Caddonlee by 11 March 1296.

              Several of the Scottish nobles choose to ignore the summons, it included the Earl of Carrick, Robert Bruce, who had their Annandale estate seized by the Crown and reassigned to the Earl of Buchan, John Comyn. The Crown also seized the estates of the Earls of Angus and Dundee as they sided with the English.

              By mid-March 1296, there was a stand off between the two armies across the Anglo-Scottish border. It was broken when Lord Wark, Robert de Ros, an Englishman who deserted to the Scottish ranks all for the love of a Scottish girl. He led a contingent of Scots from Roxburgh on an ill-fated attempt to capture the English held Wark Castle. King Edward I immediately moved his forces north to end the siege at Wark Castle, after he heard news of the assault. Then on the 25 March 1296, the 6th Lord of Annandale specifically travelled from Carlisle to pay homage to King Edward I at Wark.

              26 March 1296, the Earl of Buchan, John Comyn, led the Scottish army south, they crossed the river Sark and entered into Cumbria, by nightfall they were at Carlisle. An armed confrontation between John Comyn and the governor of Carlisle, 6th Lord of Annandale was inevitable, as there was an ongoing feud between the two families. But it ended in frustration, due to John Comyn's inability to penetrate the town's defences, as it was ringed by a stout wall and staunchly defended by the Earl and his English soldiers.

              Therefore John Comyn turned his attention on the dwellings that surrounded the town walls. Before long, John Comyn had laid waste to the areas of Carlisle that had not been shielded by the town walls. John Comyn now headed westwards and left a trail of wanton destruction as he burned and looted the villages, monasteries and churches of Corbridge, Hexham and Lanercost. He finally headed north across the Cheviots, and then into Scotland, laden with booty.

              30 March 1296, King Edward I was at the outskirts of Berwick (Scotland's main commercial centre) with an army, consisting of thirty thousand foot soldiers and five thousand cavalry.

              From his camp in Hutton, King Edward I rode up to Berwick's town gates and offered its citizens to unconditionally surrender. Their immediate response was to taut him with obscene remarks concerning his parentage and with rude gestures, then they finally defied him to do his worst. The earthwork defences proved to be woefully inadequate as the English forces quickly overran the earth-and-wood ramparts, throwing Berwick's citizens into a state of panic. The only resistance offered was from the thirty strong Flemish community, who barricaded themselves in the town's Red Hall, as they put up a gallant fight against the odds. But it all ended in tragedy when King Edward torched the Red Hall, burning all its occupants alive, as he avenged the death of his cousin, Richard of Cornwall. Since one of the Flemish archers had managed to fire an arrow which entered through the eyeslit of Richard of Cornwall's helmet, killing him as it pieced his eye and lodged in his brain.

              King Edward I with no hesitation accepted the surrender of Sir William Douglas, the castle's garrison commander, who instantly swore his allegiance to him. But the townsfolk suffered a more sinister fate as King Edward I administered his bitter revenge for their earlier taunts about him. As seventeen thousand to twenty thousand men, women, children and babies were butchered in a three-day orgy of wanton destruction.

              News of the genocide at Berwick sent shock waves across Scotland. By 5 April 1296, King John Balliol sent an envoy, the Abbot of Arbroath, to King Edward I, with a letter formally renouncing his allegiance. 'What folly he commits!' exclaimed Edward grimly. 'If he will not come to us, we will go to him.'

              Reprisals came in the guise of John Comyn, who led a contingent of his army south into Northumberland, attacking Cockermonth, Redesdale, Tynedale, and looting the monastery of Hexham for the second time. But their trail of wanton destruction was curtailed, as they retreated back to Scotland, due to rumours of King Edward I's approached.

              Immediately after capturing Berwick, King Edward I concentrated on its reconstruction especially on its ineffective earthwork defences. He wasn't in too great a hurry to invade Scotland, as he felt that it would be a relatively simple affair. Since the Scottish monarch proved to be spineless and an ineffective commander-in-chief, and the only potential problem were the Scottish nobles, but they were divided into three camps:


Anti-Edward camp: e.g. The Earl of Buchan, John Comyn, was attempting to co-ordinate the Scottish resistance.
Neutral camp: The nobles that were just sitting on the fence waiting to see who gains the upper hand before they would commit themselves.
Pro-Edward camp: e.g. The 6th Lord of Annandale, Robert Bruce.


              23 April 1296, King Edward I was forced to go on the offensive, as he received intelligence reports that the Scots had seized Earl Patrick's castle in Dunbar. He immediately dispatched the Earl of Surrey, John de Warenne to deal with the matter.

              27 April 1296, John de Warenne confronted the Scottish army in the Lammermoor Hills, at Spottsmuir, near Dunbar. But the Scottish army commanded by John Comyn, had the advantage, as they held the higher ground. Yet at the last moment before the battle a minor setback besieged the Scots, as the Earls of Atholl and Mar pulled out and the loss of their men dealt a grievous blow to the Scottish side.

              From their vantage point, the Scots observed the English as they broke formation and formed groups to cross the valley that separated the two sides. John Comyn misinterpreted the manoeuvre, believing that the English were in fact retreating. The Scots were already all fired up and eager not to be done out of a fight, charged down the hill, straight towards one of the English groups. The English forces, battle-harden veterans of campaigns in Flanders and Wales, stayed calm, cool and collective; regrouped, and charged directly at their pursers. It then suddenly dawned on the Scots that they would be outflanked. Before they can even make any evasive manoeuvres the English cavalry had already carved a line out of the Scottish ranks. The Scots were then quickly overpowered as the English engaged them from all flanks.

              At a single stroke the English had captured one hundred and thirty important knights, and resistance in Scotland rapidly crumbled, as it deprived Scotland of her most experience military commanders.

              28 April 1296, Dunbar Castle surrendered to the English; followed by Roxburgh Castle on 8 May 1296, two weeks later it was Jedburgh Castle and then Dumbarton. Edinburgh Castle managed to hold the English at bay for several days before finally yielding. By mid-June 1296 King Edward I had reached Stirling Castle, but found it had been deserted by its garrison. Then the English proceeded northwards through Perth, Montrose, Aberdeen and Banff, routing out any pockets of resistance.

              2 July 1296, King John Balliol knew that his throne was untenable, since those nobles who were not captured or killed were rapidly distancing themselves from him. Therefore from his temporary headquarters at Kincardine he addressed a letter to King Edward I, begging for forgiveness on the errors of his ways and his intention to abdicate from the throne.

              7 July 1296, King John Balliol at Stracathro publicly admitted the errors of his ways and confirmed his reconciliation with King Edward I.

              10 July 1296, at Brechin, King John Balliol donned a white robe, stripped of any royal insignia and carrying the white rod of a penitent, formally abdicated from the Kingdom of Scotland in front of the Bishop of Durham, Antony Bek. The ceremony was repeated again at Montrose, but this time in front of King Edward I.

              Early in August 1296, John Balliol and his son, Edward, were escorted by Thomas of Lancaster to England by sea and incarcerated in the Tower of London for a spell, then he was held under house arrest in Hertford.

the Stone of Destiny               At Scone, King Edward I removed the Stone of Destiny and transported it back to Westminster Abbey, but only after he had himself symbolically crowned on it. At Edinburgh he confiscated the Scottish regalia, including the Black Rood of St. Margaret, and a large cache of official documents.

              28 August 1296, parliament was convened at Berwick, and two thousand prominent Scottish landowners were summoned to appear with a signed and sealed document prescribing their homage to King Edward I, not as their Lord Paramount, but as the King of England. Among the names that appeared on the Ragman Roll, were Robert Bruce, 6th Lord of Annandale, his son, the 2nd Earl of Carrick and William Wallace's uncle, Sir Reginald de Crauford.

              Before leaving Scotland, King Edward I appointed three English officials to govern under his name:

John de Warenne
William Ormsby
Hugh Cressingham
- Governor of Scotland.
- Justiciar of Scotland.
- Treasurer of Scotland.

              King Edward I finally left Scotland on 19 September 1296, but before leaving he made this comment to John de Warenne 'he who rids himself of shit does a good job', this typically illustrates his contempt for the Scots and its nation.

Page 1-Background
Page 2-The Outlaw
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Page 4-Guerrilla Leader
Page 5-Rebel Commander
Page 6-Stirling Bridge

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© 1998 Kyn Wai Chung