Friday, September 20, 2013

The Significance of a Battle Lost and Won...

Sir Henry de Bohun slain by King Robert the the Battle of Bannockburn.
The king wore light or very basic armour and was armed only with an axe.
Sir  Henry de Bohun saw the King riding slightly ahead of his troops and
charged him with his lance. The king maneuvered his Palfrey or riding horse nimbly out of the way.
As Sir Henry de Bohun's missed in his pass, the King struck him with his axe. cleaving the knight's head in two
and breaking the handle of his axe.  

     On 24 June 1314 at a place called Bannockburn in Scotland a battle was fought. One side lost and one side won. Next summer it will mark the 700th anniversary of that battle. How is this in any way relevant to this Modern World we find ourselves in?  In a moment I will explain. The players involved in this historic drama are, King Robert the Bruce of Scotland, and King Edward II of England, and the outcome of the battle would determine one countries continued dominance over another, or freedom.-I will provide a Wikipedia link at the end of this article for those who wish to read about the specific particulars of the battle.

     The English had roughly 16,000 foot (infantry) and an estimate of 2,000 to 3,000 horse (cavalrymen). Although the records of the time are vague it is estimated the Scots were outnumbered by at least 45 to 50%.

     What is significant about the Scottish Army was that it was was made up of everyone who could or did have arms and armour-regardless of station. Most were equipped as infantry and a few were equipped as archers. The one thing they had was the one thing the English did not, and that was motivation. The Scots were fighting for their homes, their families and their way of life.

     The difference in the battle was not numbers, it was leadership. The Scots used cover and concealment and the natural terrain features to their advantage. Edward II was overconfident in the size of his force and the martial ability of his troops. -Most of whom were actually miserable about being drafted into the conflict in the first place.

     After a day and half of hard fighting, the English lost the battle resoundingly. Edward II barely escaped with his life and it is estimated only 6,000 troops managed to make it back to England. This did not mean Robert the Bruce was instantly recognized as being the true and legitimate King of Scotland by the English. It took another ten years of fighting. It did however mark a turning point in Scottish history. It was on that particular day when Scotland and its monarchs could and did make their will known to a people they thought of as their oppressors.

    Which brings us to the 21st Century and the 700th Anniversary of the battle. While this battle is both culturally and historically significant, what is being made much about, is its timing in current events. Scotland is due on September 18th 2014 to vote on a national referendum about Scottish independence from England. There are parties who see the possibility of the Scottish Nationalist Party or SNP, who are in favor of separation,  potentially hijacking the planned proceedings at the Battlefield and use it as a platform for their assertion that Scotland should be independent.

     I personally have as they say in Texas, "No dog in this fight."  But what I do want to know are the answers to several questions that are dependent on the outcome of the vote.

    If Scotland votes for independence, what then will happen to the funding of institutions like Scottish Health? Will there be a continuity of service? How long will it take for this transition to happen? Will England retain control over the monies generated from the North Sea Oil Reserves or will they be inherited by Scotland? In matters of Defense will Scotland inherit what is left of the Highland Regiments or military bases like Scapa Flow? Or will things look like India did in 1947? With long caravans of people streaming across the border into England?-I know this might sound facetious, but there are a great deal of considerations which will have to happen if Scotland is to chart her own course. I am also reasonably assured there would be numerous committees, parties, and organizational administration to make a smooth transition from one form of governance to another.

     Since this is a Medievalist page, what about lands and titles granted by monarchs that may or may not be part of a future Scotland? If the Crown is dissolved would then Balmoral and all the other crown property be returned to the people of Scotland? As I am not British, I don't know if the Queen or the Royal Family posses Crown property held specifically for Her Majesty, in any other location outside of the United Kingdom. Would Prince Philip retain his title as the Duke of Edinburgh? What of Scottish Life Peers serving in the House of Lords. Would their titles and political positions within government be dissolved?

     Will Scotland join the European Union? What of its money? Will it use the British Pound Stirling or will it form a new currency, and if so, what will they back it with? I wonder how many living in Scotland today think of themselves as British first and then Scottish second. Or how many in Wales think the same way.

     If Scotland goes, how long will it be before Wales thinks of leaving or Ireland once again makes overtures to absorb Northern Ireland? I hope to follow up on several of the questions I have asked here in the blog. I will also continue to post interesting and diverse topics as I am not leaving the medieval world behind. However I think this will be one of the more interesting life changing events, in the history of the United Kingdom and one which will have a deep and lasting impact on British and Scottish Medieval Traditions and Institutions. I do know next year will be a wild bumpy ride the closer the historic battle's anniversary approaches, followed shortly by an even more important historic vote.

     This subject as I am told, is growing day by day, and it is becoming increasingly bi-partisan and divisive.-Which in my mind is the very nature of the question being asked: Are there more who want to leave than there is who want to stay? I have no opinion in either decision. These are just my observations.

Here is the Wikipedia Link to the Battle of Bannockburn:

Thank you.

-DS Baker.

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