Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Thu, 2009-11-19
At this point, all Scottish castles were garrisoned by English troops, its churches were filled with English priests and its day-to-day business governed by English bureaucrats. In the Autumn of 1296 Edward returned to England, fully convinced that Scotland was totally subdued. But nothing could be further from the truth. A growing number of outraged Scots were taking refuge in the mountains and forests of their native land. And by May of 1297, the whole of Scotland, outside of Lothian was in revolt led by two men, Andrew Moray and William Wallace.
Andrew Moray had been captured at Dunbar but escaped north to his family’s land where he raised rebellion. He so harried the English that they soon pleaded to Edward for help.
Meanwhile down in the forests near Selkirk, William Wallace, the second son of a knight, had been an outlaw all along because he had never sworn fealty to Edward at Berwick. He and his brother, Sir Malcolm, now led the rebels in the forest. Wallace was described as tall, with a great mane of brown hair and piercing eyes. He had recently married a young woman from Lanark. Visiting her by stealth, as he was a marked man, he clashed with an English patrol. Fighting his way clear, he retreated to her house and as his pursuers hammered on the front door, he escaped out the back. Enraged at his failure to capture Wallace, Sir William Heselrig, Sheriff of Lanark, ordered the house to be burned and all within it be put to the sword. From that day forward, Wallace vowed undying vengeance against the English.
Gathering his men together, they fell upon the sheriff and his men and Wallace hacked the sheriff into small pieces. For the first time, one of the high officials of the hated English had been killed and a ripple of jubilation spread across Scotland.
Men immediately flocked to Wallace’s banner, including Sir William Douglas, the late commander of the Castle at Berwick. This adherence of a nobleman immediately gave Wallace’s band of rebels respectability.
Edward did not take the defection of William Douglas very seriously, all he did was dispatch the Governor of Carlisle, the elder Bruce, to instruct his son to seize Douglas Castle. So young Robert Bruce, the Earl of Carrick, summoned the men from his Earldom and rode to Douglas castle. On the way he had much to think about. His father had always supported Edward, and neither of them had supported Balliol. But the young Bruce was Scottish born and bred. His enemies, the Comyns and Balliols, were now prisoners of Edward and the men he was being sent against were the very men who had supported his grandfathers claim to the throne. At this time Bruce was only 22.
When Bruce reached the castle, he made his decision. He offered his men the choice of returning home or following him as he joined the rebels.
It was at this point, Edward decided to take the rebellion a little more seriously, and dispatched two of his knights to gather a strong force and put it down.
Unfortunately for the Scots, they were once more divided. Andrew Morray and William Wallace were both fighting in the name of John Balliol, whom they still regarded as king, and may well have been skeptical of the young Bruce’s sudden conversion. Others felt that Balliol had abdicated his right to the kingship and that Bruce’s father was the rightful king. William Douglas was on nobody’s side.
Moray and Wallace both preferred to fight on their own terms and on their own ground, and departed immediately. The rest of the force was not strong enough to confront the English. The Scottish army was comprised mainly of foot soldiers and the English force was mostly armored knights. News had also reached the Scots of trouble in England. Edward was having a dispute between himself, the church and his barons, placing England on the brink of civil war. Knowing that this was the only armed English force in the field, the Scottish commanders decided to keep them occupied in negotiations so Wallace and Moray could continue their activities unhindered.
The English commanders were also aware of the uncertain events in England and had no desire to risk troops that they might need at home. So talks began.
A few days later, the Scottish leaders agreed to surrender to Edward and produce hostages in good faith. Robert Bruce was required to hand over his young daughter Marjorie, which he refused to do. William Douglas failed to produce his hostages so he was imprisoned. In the end, Robert Bruce and James Stewart never surrendered or produced hostages so they remained at large, deprived of their lands. Bruces father was relieved of his post as Governor of Carlisle and retired to his estates where he died in 1304.
After the surrender of the nobles at Irvine, this left the resistance entirely in the hands of Wallace and Moray.