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The Battle of Falkirk, July 1298

The Battle of Falkirk, July 1298. The Battle of Falkirk. In July, 1298, Edward returned with yet another English army to quell Scotland. These armies were becoming very expensive, but Edward needed to crush Wallace.

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The Battle of Falkirk, July 1298

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  1. The Battle of Falkirk, July 1298

  2. The Battle of Falkirk • In July, 1298, Edward returned with yet another English army to quell Scotland. • These armies were becoming very expensive, but Edward needed to crush Wallace. • Wallace knew that the English army would be very difficult to defeat in an open, pitched battle. • Why, then, did he choose to face the English army at Falkirk?

  3. Why did Wallace choose to fight a pitched battle at Falkirk? • The decision to face the English army in battle may seem like a strange one; however, when we consider the circumstances Wallace’s actions become more understandable. • Keeping a large army supplied with food was a huge task. • Edward’s army, too large to live off the land, depended on supplies brought by sea. When these were delayed, discipline in the army began to break down. • The Scots would have been encouraged by news of the problems facing the English army. Perhaps this was a factor in Wallace’s decision to stand and fight. • An alternative view argues that Wallace needed a victory to hold his army together and keep the nobles of Scotland satisfied. • It is also possible that the nobles of Scotland felt that it was unchivalrous not to face the English in open battle, and that this influenced Wallace.

  4. The English army • Edward was able to muster an impressive army to march into Scotland. Why do you think this was? • It can be argued that defeat at the hands of the Scots at the Battle of Stirling Bridge united the English nobility behind Edward. • It has been estimated that the English army was made up of 2000 knights and almost 15,000 footmen. • Large levies of Welsh troops had been summoned, many armed with longbows. • Edward himself chose to lead the army. His determination to dominate Scotland combined with his abilities as a military leader made him a formidable opponent.

  5. The Scots army • Although the Scots army also had knights on horseback they were greatly outnumbered by the English. • The army was organised into three schiltrons of approximately 2000 pikemen. In between each formation were large numbers of Scottish archers. • Many of the Scots archers were armed with longbows and were skilled in the use of their weapon. However, they were outnumbered by the English and Welsh archers.

  6. Scottish tactics • Wallace was determined to withstand the English cavalry charge. • He used a tactic called the schiltron (wall of thickets). Schiltrons were heavily armoured circles. Wallace’s tactics were heavily defensive. • According to some, he placed this formation behind sharpened stakes in the ground to provide even more protection from horses. • The schiltrons were interspersed with archers. The Scottish cavalry were positioned behind the schiltrons.

  7. The battle • Edward’s charging cavalry forced the Scottish knights to flee the battle, leaving the Scottish archers vulnerable. • The English knights attacked the Scottish bowmen and effectively brought them down. • This left the schiltrons isolated. • Edward then used his superior archers to massacre the schiltron formations. • Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Scots were slaughtered on the battlefield.

  8. Why were the Scots defeated?Points for discussion • Should they have avoided facing the English at Falkirk? • What were the strengths of the English army? • What were the weaknesses of the Scottish army? • Why didn’t the Scots’ tactics work?

  9. Aftermath • Wallace escaped the carnage and took full responsibility for the defeat. • He resigned as Guardian of Scotland. • Wallace spent some time travelling Europe trying to gain support for Scotland. Evidence shows that he spent time at the French court and possibly even travelled to Rome to request the support of the Pope.

  10. The end of rebellion?The impact of victory on England • Edward followed up his success at Falkirk by taking Stirling Castle. • However, the king’s supply problems continued, forcing him to send his foot soldiers south to wait for him at Carlisle while the king and the cavalry rode through Clydesdale to Ayr. • Edward arrived at Ayr to find the castle burned (by Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick), denying him a base. • By September Edward and his knights had rejoined the rest of his army at Carlisle. • Between 1298 and 1305 there were campaigns in Scotland every year except 1299, 1302 and 1305.

  11. The end of rebellion? The impact of defeat on Scotland • Falkirk did not mark the end of resistance to Edward. • Falkirk would teach the Scots to avoid pitched battle. • It also brought a change of leadership. • The Scots chose two new guardians, John ‘The Red’ Comyn and Robert the Bruce. • However, these two men hated each other. • As a result, rather than fight for Comyn, Bruce surrendered to Edward in 1302. • John surrendered with the rest of the nobles in 1304.

  12. Wallace betrayed • By 1305 Scottish resistance appeared to be over, as most of the leading nobles had accepted terms from Edward. • William Wallace remained outside of Edward’s peace and was to be punished for his role in the conflict. • Wallace was eventually captured in 1305, betrayed by a Scottish knight, Sir John Menteith. • Wallace was taken to England and put on trial for treason; Wallace claimed he could not be guilty of treason as he had never sworn an oath of fealty to Edward. • However, he was eventually found guilty and sentenced to death. • Wallace was brutally executed at Smithfield, London in August 1305.

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