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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/129

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Bruce
Bruce
123

Stone (still remaining on this spot), and a good point to survey the field. The camp followers were stationed on the Gillies' Hill, ready at the critical moment to appear as a reinforcement. The plain on the right, over which the cavalry, to avoid the marshy ground, had to pass, was prepared with concealed pits and spikes. But what made the battle famous in the annals of the military art as in those of Scotland was that the Scottish troops, taught by Wallace's tactics, fought on foot — not in single line, but in battalions, apparently of round form, with their weapons pointed outwards to receive on any side the charge of the enemy. A momentary success of the English archers commenced the battle. It was reversed by a well-directed charge on their flank of a small body of light horse under the marshal Sir Robert Keith. The Scottish bowmen followed up this advantage, and the engagement then became general between the English heavy-armed horsemen, crowded into too narrow a space, and the whole Scottish force, Bruce with the reserve uniting with the three divisions and receiving the attack with their spears, which the chronicler describes as a single dense wood. The rear of the English either was unable to come up or was entangled in the broken ranks of the van or first line, and at a critical moment the camp followers, who had been hidden behind the Gillies' Hill, crossed its crest as if a new army. A panic ensued. Edward and his immediate followers sought safety in flight, and the rout became general — one knight. Sir Giles d'Argentine, alone had courage to continue the onset, and fell bravely. The number of the English suffocated or drowned in the Bannock or the Forth was calculated at 30,000. Edward, pursued by Douglas, with difficulty reached Dunbar, and thence by sea Bamborough.

No battle of the miadle ages has been more minutely recorded, but space forbids further detail. A Carmelite friar. Barton, brought to celebrate the victory, was made by his captors to recount the defeat of the English. The Chronicle of Lanercost gives the narrative of an eye-witness. Barbour, who fifty years after enlarged the description, had known some who fought, and subsequent inquiries confirm the accuracy of his plain but vivid verse. It was a day never forgotten by those who took part in it, and to be remembered by distant posterity. It decided the independence of Scotland, and, like Morgarten and Courtray, it was the beginning of the end of feudal warfare. The Knights in armour, whose personal prowess often gained the field, gave place to the common soldiers, disciplined, marshalled, and led by skilful generals, as the arbiters of the destiny of nations. In the career of Bruce it was the turning point. The effects of the victory were permanent, and it was never reversed. Many English kings invaded Scotland, but none after Edward I conquered it.

The most important result as regards Bruce was the settlement of the succession at the parliament of Ayr on 26 April 1315. By a unanimous resolution the crown was settled on Robert and the heirs male of his body, whom failing, his brother Edward and the heirs male of his body, whom failing, on Robert's daughter Marjory and her heirs, upon condition that she married with his consent, or, after his death, with the consent of the estates. Provision was made for a regency in case of a minority by the king's nephew, Randolph, earl of Moray. In the event of a failure in the whole line of the Bruces, Randolph was to act as a guardian of the kingdom until the estates determined the right of succession. The bishops and prelates were declared to have jurisdiction to enforce the Act of Settlement. Soon after it passed Marjory married Walter the hereditary Steward of Scotland. Their son, Robert II, was the first king of the race of Stewart, succeeding after the long reign of his uncle, David II, son of Bruce by his second marriage, who was not yet born. This settlement showed the prudence of Bruce, and the anxiety of the Scottish nation to avoid at all hazards another disputed succession, or the appeal to external authority in case it should occur. Edward Bruce, described in the act as 'vir strenuus et in actis bellicis pro defensione juris et libertatis regni Scotiæ quamplurimum expertus,' had stood by his brother in the stniggle for independence, and deserved the preference which ancient, though not unbroken custom, gave to the nearest male over a nearer female heir. But his active and ambitious spirit was not satisfied with the hope of succeeding to the Scottish crown. The defeat of Edward at Bannockburn, and his incapacity as a leader, encouraged the Irish Celts to attempt to throw off the English yoke. 'All the kings of lesser Scotland (Scotia Minor) have drawn their blood from greater Scotland (Scotia Major, i.e. Ireland), and retain in some degree our language and customs, wrote Donald O'Neil, a Celtic chief of Ulster, to the pope, and it was natural that they should summon to their aid the victor of Bannockburn. Robert declined the offer of the Irish crown for himself, but in May 1315 Edward Bruce landed at Carrickfergus with 6,000 men. The brilliant campaign of this year, which for a