"The inspiration for "The Flower of Scotland"
The Key Players:

King Edward II of England.

click for bigger image of Edward II & sealUnlike his father Edward I, (or Edward "Longshanks" as he was nicknamed), Edward II was by all accounts considered quite useless as a king and as a warrior or soldier.
Like most weak and ineffectual people put into a position of power, he tried to rule, not with leadership and example, but by fear. His answer to any dissension was the chopping block or the noose. Thirty odd Knights and Barons, plus who knows how many of lesser rank, were put to death for rebelling against his decadent and corrupt reign.
The records that were written at that time are inclined to dwell upon his apparent addiction to rowing, swimming and taking baths and carrying his friendship for his ‘advisers’ beyond dignity and decency. The fact of the matter was that Edward was gay…… and not in the ho-ho sense.

Because of his incompetence and lifestyle, the nobles were running the country. By all accounts, they were running it very ably. While they would abide being ruled by the king they would not put up with the arrogance and extravagance of his personal favourites, the closest being the young, handsome Piers Gaveston. Gaveston was, after a great deal of opposition to him by the aforesaid nobles, in 1311 exiled to Flanders from where he imprudently returned and was subsequently kidnapped by some of the nobles who lopped his head off on Blacklow Hill near Warwick.
Some four years previously in 1308, Edward had married Isabella the daughter of Philip IV of France. On the day of his marriage to Isabella, Edward appears to have preferred the bed of Gaveston rather than that of his new wife which is not a great way to make friends and influence people.

Ten years after the total embarrassment of Bannockburn, war broke out with France and Edward sent Isabella and his young son, (later to be Edward III ), to negotiate with her brother the King of France , Charles IV. This subsequently turned out to be a very, very bad career move, because in 1326 Isabella returned with her boyfriend Roger Mortimer, (a Baron disenchanted with Edward), and a large army of exiles. Deposing and imprisoning Edward she replaced him on the throne with their son, Edward III.

This where the plot thickens.

Isabella and her merry bunch decided that Edward had to die, perhaps to stave off any plans to restore him to the throne, anyway it seems that they wished to appear that he died of natural causes, so they removed him from Bristol Castle where he had been held, and took him to Berkeley Castle. click for larger view of Berkeley Castle On his arrival he was tossed into a pit dungeon and for six odd months was subjected to total humiliation, degradation and every means possible was used to try and infect him with disease.
They gave him nothing but contaminated water and rotten meat to eat, rotten carcasses of animals were tossed in to keep him company, but, perhaps because of his physical fitness or the hygiene of that time, he survived. By September 1327 it had been decided that sterner measures were to be taken to end his life.
Some accounts have that his wife designed the method but be as it may, he was taken out of the pit, a straightesh cow horn with the tip removed was inserted into his bum to serve as a kind of funnel. A red hot plumbers iron was passed through the cow horn and used to burn out his entrails after which both iron and then cow horn were removed leaving no trauma marks on the body.
Lord Maltravers and a knight called Gurney were responsible for this horrific murder, and it may well have gone undetected but for the fact that they for some reason committed the deed not in the dungeons, but out in the open where his agonised screams were heard throughout the town of Berkeley some two kilometers away. In those days to do violence to the sacred person of the king was a horrific crime so that anybody who was involved ducked for cover, including Thomas Berkeley, who produced statements signed by every man click for larger view of Edward II's tomband his dog to say he wasn’t anywhere near his home at the time and therefore was cleared of murder but historians in the middle 1600’s found in fact that he was. Roger Mortimer was in later years charged and executed for taking part in this murder.
Edward II was Buried in Gloucester Cathedral.

The torch of the Scottish war was handed over to Robert the Bruce by Sir William Wallace of whom we all think we know, courtesy of Hollywood. While the film industry must be commended for bringing to the attention of the world his name, it must be remembered that the film ‘Braveheart’ was in fact a amalgamation of about six different stories set in as many time frames with a wee bit of gloss added.

click for larger view of Stirling Bridge as it is todayOld Picture of the actionThere is no doubt at all that this was a clever and brave man who turned a resolute, hardy, and valiant bunch of fighting men into a well organised army who gave the English a shocking hiding at Stirling bridge in 1297 and continued in the same way until the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 when Edward Longshanks himself took charge and defeated Wallace’s army and slaughtered the Scots.

Before I move onto Robert the Bruce I must point out a couple of things that I have learned. In all things that are talked about on these various pages that I have put together, the reader must take into account the times that these people lived in. They were rugged times indeed, and the Scots are renowned for their long memories, as they are even today. This war between Scotland and England had degenerated into ‘no truce- no mercy’. For instance, a hated English tax-collector had fallen in the Battle of Stirling Bridge and Sir William Wallace had cut suitable strips of skin from him and covered his sword belt with it, also Wallace had been accused of taking no prisoners, of which charge he he did not argue at his trial.
click for larger view of the wellFinally, just to put the record straight, Sir William was captured whilst having a wee drink from this well in 1305 in Glasgow, betrayed by a fellow Scotsman named Ralph Rae. He was tried in Westminster Hall with due ceremony, found guilty and then Wallace was quickly led outside and tied to a team of horses, where he was pulled to a field outside of the city walls, jeered along the way by the thousands of English gathered for the spectacle, onto the grounds of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, hung until he was nearly unconscious, his genitals cut off, his abdomen cut open and his entrails drawn out and burnt before his eyes.
click for bigger image of Sir William Wallace's MemorialMercifully, his head was then cut off and spiked on London Bridge, the rest of him cut into various joints and the parts displayed in the ‘Four Corners of the Realm’ as a example to others not to have a go at the English King.
........Didn’t work,did it!

Now, for:
Robert the Bruce.

Bruce in stained glassRobert Bruce (1274 - 1329 ), Earl of Carrick, one of the seven Celtic Earldoms of Scotland. He was seventh generation deBruce who originally came from Cherbourg in about 1100. He was crowned King of Scots at Scone in 1306, (after killing his rival John Comyn "The Red" in the Church of Minorite Friars in Dumfries), being descended indirectly from King William the Lyon of Scotland.
He was married twice, firstly to Isabella of Mar who died in childbirth leaving him one daughter Marjory Bruce.

He later married Elizabeth de Burgh of Ulster, who gave him a male heir, David, later David II of Scotland.
His daughter Marjory, married Walter the Steward, whose son later became Robert II of Scotland, from this union was the Royal House of Stewart/Stuart descended and the current British royal family.
Bruce also had a number of illegitimate children which wasn’t that unusual for your everyday noble of those times.

His staunchest lieutenant was Sir James Douglas, son of Douglas 'Le Hardi'. Known as the Black Douglas to the English, 'The Good Sir James to the Scots, he was a brilliant guerrilla fighter.
The second was Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray, Bruce's nephew.
Both played a key role at Bannockburn in 1314 and their raiding into the north of England was a key factor in bringing Edward III to the negotiating table.

Robert Bruce fought his first action at Methven in 1305 and lost heavily. After wandering in the Highlands and Islands, he began a series of brisk actions including Glen Trool, Loudoun Hill, the Harrying of Buchan, the Pass of Brander and culminating at Bannockburn in 1314, one of the great battles of all time. Raiding continued against the north of England until 1327. He also fought in Ireland with his brother Edward, who for a time was King of Ireland.

click for larger view of Robert BruceHe was a great military leader for his time and Bannockburn was a classic example of using Guerrilla tactics, utilising his men and the terrain to the best advantage, and of course his time serving in England helped enormously as he had learnt their methods of warfare well. He was also a great trainer of men and took great pains to know personally his veteran soldiers and their officers. It is understood he spoke some Gaelic in addition to Latin, Norman-French and the crude Inglis, forerunner of modern English.

The legend of Bruce's spider is the most famous of all and is used even today as and example of "Try,try again". Bruce saw a spider in a cave try to spin its web a number of times and failing to succeed. It was eventually successful, encouraging Bruce to continue his campaign against the English when his fortunes were at a low ebb.

There are many stories that he may have been a leper. Robert the Bruce fathered a number of children late in his life, none of them or his wife ever showed signs of the disease, so it is thought more likely that he had syphilis. There was a lot of it going around in those days amongst Kings and the rest at the top of the food chain.

He is also said to have slain Sir Henry de Bohun, the English champion on the first day of the Battle of Bannockburn. Scottish Foot SoldierWhile the Bruce was riding a moors pony checking out his troops, he was sighted by deBohun, perhaps seeing the chance of glory, who broke away from the English line and charged down . Being suddenly challenged by the heavily armed knight mounted on a huge war-horse before he had a chance to mount up on his own, he never- the- less met the challenge and knocking aside deBohun’s lance, killed him with one blow from his favourite battle axe. He was highly unamused that the engagement had broken the handle.
Modern historians strongly dispute that de Bohun ever existed, however my experience of modern historians has led me to believe that many of them are biased, wee pasty-faced English ferrets who wouldn’t know their bum from their elbow and who repeat ad nauseum what others have badly translated from documents of the day.

The Battle of Bannock Burn was fought near the end of June in 1314 under the leadership of Robert the Bruce. On the 21st or 22nd of June, Robert the Bruce drew his men on top of the ridge that straddled the Stirling-Falkirk road. South of that area was the winding stream known as the Bannock Burn, there it joined the Forth River a mile or two northeast across some marshes. There, nearly 12,000 men waited ready for battle under their commanders, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Edward Bruce, James Douglas and Robert Keith.

Meanwhile, the English were coming up along the old Roman road from Falkirk towards Bannock Burn. Edward II sent out a 3,000 strong force of horsemen and infantry, under the Earl of Gloucester, to attack the Scots on their hill. At the same time, he sent a smaller force of cavalry around to the back of the ridge to deal with any fleeing Scots. However, Gloucester's attack was rebuffed and Edward had to come up with another plan.

He led his main army, some 20,000 strong, further towards Stirling. In the low-lying ground between the ridge held by Bruce and the bend in the Forth where the Bannock Burn entered, he and his men camped for the night with intentions of assaulting the ridge the next day.
Dawn rose and the English King had the call to arms sounded. The main English force began to move under the leadership of Gloucester, a frontal attack with very little reserve. Schiltron formed,click for larger viewThe Scots, with the advantage of going downhill, advanced in good order. When Gloucester charged into the frontline, the Scots infantry men formed themselves into their famous schiltron (rings of men with spears 'levelled at every point of assault'), likened to a bristling hedgehog; this action forced the English back. At the same time, the three commanders, Douglas, Edward Bruce and Moray, led their men forward and, with a tremendous succession of "shoves", broke the English front lines. As they pushed them back to their rear lines, chaos ensued as they hit the swampy marshes by the stream.

King Edward set out a squadron of archers to the left of the Scots, where they did some damage to Douglas' men, but Robert Bruce countered by sending Keith's cavalry squadrons among the English bowmen and scattered them.

Recognizing the signs of defeat, Edward of England promptly fled and headed for Stirling. The English soldiers remaining either surrendered where they stood or were run into the marsh and stream where they died.

In 1320 the Scottish nobility signed a declaration known as the Declaration of Arbroath, part of which has been translated as: "For so long as one hundred of us remain alive, we shall never in any wise submit to the domination of the English, for it is not for glory we fight, for riches or for honours but freedom alone, which no good man loses but with his life."
That’s telling ‘em!

In 1324 the Pope recognised Scotland as an independent country

click for larger view of King Robert Bruce's TombIn 1328, the year before his death, Bruce, by now an old and sick man, witnessed the culmination of a lifetime's work when England signed the treaty acknowledging Scotland's Independence. The marriage of Bruce’s five year old son to Edward III ’s sister helped to seal this treaty.
King Robert the Bruce's remains are at peace in Dunfermline Abbey.

The next five hundred years would see both nations fight one another in more wars but never again would Scotland's very existence be denied.

Now, for the lyrics to THAT song....Click on either Lyric Plaque below to see a larger, more readable version.

The Flower of Scotland lyrics in english The Flower of Scotland lyrics in the gaelic Dunadd of Dalriada, click for larger view Rannock Moor, click for larger view Loch Awe, click for larger view

This the last page....bet you're glad about that!!!
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  • Peter Levarre-Waters