Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/421

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1329 A.D.]

Death of Robert de Brus.


modern counterparts, the union of a powerful body with a strong intellect was sure to bring a man to distinction, provided he escaped violent death on the field or the scaffold. Hence the prominence of men like Moray and Douglas, for before the invention of gunpowder, all combats were hand to hand. Brains were useful, no doubt, but they commanded little respect unless their owner could enforce his opinion by personal prowess. Perhaps no act of King Robert's life contributed so much to his ultimate success as the overthrow of Sir Henry de Bohun on the day before the battle of Bannockburn.

Robert de Brus won for himself high rank among famous military commanders. It was owing, no doubt, to want of funds and resources that he came to rely on infantry armed with pikes and on light Border cavalry in encounters with the heavily equipped men-at-arms and famous archers of the English armies. But his repeated success against these, hitherto regarded as indispensable in feudal warfare, brought about a notable reform in tactics. It is true that Bruce was not the first to discover what foot-soldiers could accomplish against heavy cavalry, for, as Sir Thomas Gray reminds us, the example had been set by the Netherlanders at Courtray, when they overthrew on foot the splendid chivalry of France. Moreover, trained as he had been in the knightly school of war, Bruce was ever reluctant to risk a pitched battle against fully equipped and mounted troops, until the lesson of Bannockburn showed him what mighty results might be achieved by good infantry in the hands of a