View Full Version : Falkirk: Site of William Wallace's final defeat

Monday, December 11th, 2006, 03:41 PM
Falkirk: site of William Wallace's final defeat

Up to 80,000 of Edward I's troops faced 30,000 Scots volunteers under William Wallace Scots betrayed by John Comyn, whose cavalry fled the field of battle, handing Edward victory Wallace escaped to the Continent, resigning as Guardian of Scotland 22 July 1298

The Guardian of Scotland, William Wallace, was a key figure in Scotland's fight for survival.
Photo: Neil Hanna

THE battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 was a personal triumph for William Wallace, who was appointed Guardian of Scotland. Edward I, distracted by affairs on the Continent, returned to England to find the Scots campaign continuing with raids on Northumberland.

In June 1298, Edward I gathered an army of perhaps 80,000 English soldiers, Welsh longbow archers and Irish mercenaries at Newcastle. Edward marched north and would face the Scots' force, mostly composed of some 25,000- 30,000 peasant volunteers, at Falkirk, central Scotland.

Before the battle, Wallace had planned a surprise night attack on the enemy. Some accounts hold that Wallace intended to take advantage of mutinies within their ranks. Edward's army was supplied by sea, but poor weather hampered cargo ships at Berwick, causing a famine among his soldiers who could not eat off the already ravaged Lowlands. The brunt of the famine fell on the newly conscripted Welsh bowmen who threatened to join Wallace. But Wallace's plans were betrayed to the English by Scots nobles, the Earls of Angus and Dunbar, jealous of his popularity.

On 22 July, 1298 Wallace placed his men on high ground overlooking a creek with the noble cavalry in reserve. Edward and his men advanced in three columns headed by his knights. The central column became mired in the ground, easy targets for the Scots archers, but the remaining columns wheeled around the bog to strike the Scots' flanks. Many of the Scots archers and light soldiers were slain, but the cavalry could not break the schiltrons, or formations of spearmen.

At this point Wallace was famously betrayed by some Scots nobles, particularly John “the Black” Comyn, whose noblemen fled the battle. Other accounts claim Wallace's plans envisioned a strategically desperate charge by the cavalry.

In any case, Comyn’s retreat sealed victory for the English. Archers of Edward I and Irish mercenaries, without at least some of the Welsh longbowmen, according to some histories, rained arrows down on the confused schiltrons. The formation broke and, fighting amidst hundreds of their dead comrades, the Scots could not hold the next cavalry charge, forcing the remains of an overwhelmed army to flee.

Wallace escaped and, devastated by his defeat, resigned as Guardian of Scotland. He travelled to the Continent to gather support for the Scots before continuing his campaign and was eventually captured in 1305.

Source (http://heritage.scotsman.com/timelines.cfm?cid=1&id=39972005)