Post-classical history

Section Two: The Contenders

CHAPTER FOUR

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THE TWO ARMIES

‘They made ready weapons and armour, and all that pertains to war.’

Barbour, The Bruce

IN THEIR PREPARATIONS FOR the expected confrontation England and Scotland faced contrasting problems. Scotland’s primary difficulty was to raise sufficient numbers to match those of the anticipated English invaders. Its population was approximately 400,000, just a fifth of England’s, and after eighteen years of almost continuous fighting, including costly civil warfare, the available manpower had been reduced still further. If Bruce had attempted to use the decree of ‘Servitum Scoticanum’ in 1313 to raise the country’s traditional feudal host of men aged between sixteen and sixty it is very doubtful if he could have raised anything like the numbers that manned Wallace’s battle lines at Falkirk. There were also severe economic constraints on both the equipment and food needed to support a large army after years of fighting and enemy occupation had seriously interrupted the country’s legislative processes and dislocated its economy. It was not until 1309, for instance, that Robert Bruce was able to hold his first parliament, and his request for burghers to attend the Inchture parliament of three years later demonstrated the importance he came to place on the burgh providing a vital source of state revenue, as well as fighting men.

Although from 1310 onwards Bruce’s financial problems were helped by his raids on northern England, which brought considerable sums in protection money together with cattle, horses and corn, these were neither normal nor regular sources of income. Compared with England, Scotland was a poor country and, until Bruce recaptured the Isle of Man (in 1313) English ships were able to threaten its shortest supply line from abroad through the southwestern approaches between Scotland and Ireland. In spite of the partial blockade, from 1310 at least the Scots had been receiving some foodstuffs from Ireland and, more importantly still, badly needed iron and steel weapons along with armour, in addition to the supplies of these coming from Scandanavia.1 Military weapons were unlikely to have been made in Ireland and were probably re-exported after being obtained from the continent or from England.

Recruitment was not the major English dilemma. They normally had no need to order a full national levy for they could hardly have coped with the numbers that would have resulted, and so it became common practice to take men from specific regions. The reign of Edward I also saw a great extension in the system of paying troops and raising private contracts in addition to relying on the feudal or general duties of vassals. For the battle of Falkirk, for instance, the English infantry was levied from Wales, Chester and Lancashire, in all 29,400 foot, supplemented by mercenaries from Gascony.2 Admittedly, prior to Bannockburn things were somewhat different, since the unsettled state of the country caused especial difficulties over raising men, and Edward II was obliged to extend his earlier calls to include thirteen midland and northern counties with specialist archers coming from the far south.3 This brought further problems, particularly over the need to pay the militia once they served outside their county boundaries. Faced with the huge debt bequeathed by his father and dissatisfaction of his own making among the baronage Edward II attempted to raise additional foot soldiers by requiring one from each township, whose wages would be paid for by that community.4

Another of England’s great strengths was in the qualitative superiority of its army. England’s more numerous and wealthier aristocracy, together with the growing number of men who owned twenty librates of land or more, enabled it to raise far larger numbers of armoured cavalry, the battlefield-winning weapon of the day. Each English magnate was required to supply a fixed quota of knights, fully protected by chain mail, mounted on large and powerful shire horses which were themselves protected not only by heavy cloth trappings over their haunches but by metal chaffrons over their heads.

By any standard it was undeniably expensive to equip a knight. When archers were paid two old pence a day, a heavy destrier horse cost between £40 and £80 and even cheaper horses cost between £10 and £20, quite apart from their other equipment. Each knight needed a minimum of two horses and most more still. Knights were customarily supported by at least two troopers on somewhat inferior horses that could be valued as low as £2 but on some expeditions even the English troopers were allowed three horses.5 The shire horses needed to be powerful, for in addition to their riders’ mail which could total more than 60lbs (27kg), their war saddles weighed from 21 to 33lbs (9.5 to 15kg).6 Additionally, under their mail the knights wore heavy quilted garments to help absorb any blows and over it surcoats emblazoned with the knights’ arms. By this time, as the contemporary inventory of Piers Gaveston revealed, many knights had come to enjoy the increased protection of iron plates over their chest and back which were often faced with silk or velvet.7 When fully accoutred the knights topped off their layers of body protection with great metal helms covering their heads and faces which, despite admirable defensive qualities, brought attendant penalties, for even with slits or small windows for the eyes, their vision was much restricted.

For offensive action knights carried twelve-foot lances, together with swords and battle axes or maces for close quarter fighting. The heads of their lances were fitted with small pieces of cloth or silk, the forerunners of armoured pennons, which, when lances found their mark, prevented them from becoming embedded and enabled the weapons to be removed for further use.8 Their swords were quite often highly decorated and most maces with their protruding ‘knobs’ were the work of skilled craftsmen. Some indication of the cost of armoured knights together with their weapons and horses can be gathered from Edward I’s attempts to raise cavalry for an invasion of Scotland following the English defeat at Stirling Bridge. He subsidised several of his nobles by providing them with up to 500 horses at the amazing cost of £7691.16s.8d.9

Scotland could never match this outlay. Wallace was very weak in cavalry at both Stirling Bridge and Falkirk, while Bruce’s cavalry contingent at the time of Bannockburn would not be much above a fifth of the English strength. Moreover his riders were mounted on small wiry ponies or ‘hackneys’, standing around 14 hands high, compared with a destrier of up to 17 hands with its much heavier build and more powerful shoulders and haunches. Although some of the Scottish riders wore mail, or were protected by stout coverings of boiled leather across their chests and backs, in the main their horses were incapable of carrying the equivalent of English knights equipped for battle. The Scottish cavalry were also incapable of withstanding charges from the English juggernauts, although they did have the advantage in manoeuvrability and adaptability: carrying such a weight of armour, English knights were most effective when charging in straight lines. Most seriously of all, if for some reason the English riders were unhorsed they became highly vulnerable to the weapons of ordinary foot soldiers. Daggers could be thrust within the eye slits of helms and axes swung against the unprotected backs of their legs. Notwithstanding, at this time armoured cavalry were still the unquestioned arbiters of the battlefield.

The English were also superior in bowmen. In England the shortbow was being replaced by the longbow with its much superior qualities, a fact well appreciated by Edward I at Falkirk. The longbow was strung with hemp whipped with light linen cord and its shafts of English yew were almost two metres long. These were equipped with different tips: some could pierce armour while others were designed for inflicting large flesh wounds. Although the longbow had a maximum range of 350 metres its armour-piercing qualities were best at the much shorter, if still considerable, distance of 100–150 metres. A good archer could fire as many as fifteen aimed arrows a minute and could be likened to a type of medieval machine gun. When the English used massed archers firing high in the air their shafts would make up a dense cloud of missiles, which descending with a destructive swishing noise could inflict heavy casualties on opposing infantry or cavalry. The English subsequently came to rate the longbow so highly as a weapon that six feathers from every goose killed were to be handed in for arrow fletching.10 Like all weapons it was not without some limitations, the main one being the high draw power required – between 150–170 pounds. In battle longbowmen needed to take up their stations on firm ground standing side on with their feet planted well apart and even more than other infantrymen they were vulnerable to cavalry, if it could get amongst them. Good longbowmen needed strength and stamina and it took years rather than months for them to become fully effective. For protection the archers wore jerkins or chain-mail on their shoulders in addition to some form of head covering. As well as their bows they carried short swords or daggers.

The English army also had a considerable number of highly regarded crossbowmen. These had to crank their weapons for loading but once loaded they could be retained in that state without further effort. Some crossbows were carried by Englishmen and many by mercenary bowmen from regions such as Gascony. The weapon was equal or superior in range to the long-bow and very much superior to the shortbow. The penetrative power of its shafts were quite equal to those of the longbow as their leather or parchment flights made the shafts rotate thus increasing both their velocity and penetration. The crossbow’s rate of fire, however, was slower with a maximum of six aimed bolts a minute. Nonetheless, it was at least as accurate and could be aimed precisely.

In comparison the Scottish shortbows had a far shorter range and poorer penetrative ability. They had, in fact, reached the limit of their development, although their skilled archers could fire even more quickly than the English longbowmen. Unlike the English the bulk of the Scottish bowmen tended to come from a particular location, in Bruce’s time the forest of Ettrick.

In one arm only, that of infantry spearmen, were the Scots not outmatched qualitatively. Both sides were similarly equipped. For protection the English footsoldiers wore quilted coats, often topped by chain mail over their heads and shoulders, mail gloves and bassinets (iron hats), and each carried a shield. For armament they carried a twelve-foot spear together with a short sword or dagger. Their Scottish equivalents were also protected by quilted jackets. At the time of Bannockburn fewer had chainmail than the English but they also wore protective gloves and bassinets. Although contemporary evidence is lacking concerning their actual length, the Scottish spears were probably also between twelve and fourteen feet long.11 In addition each Scottish soldier carried a dirk or an axe, as well as a circular wooden targe or shield. The latter was usually made by fastening layers of close-grained wood at right-angles to each other, making it very difficult for arrows to penetrate, although sometimes it was made out of string wickerwork. Even if their spears were no longer than twelve feet they were capable of keeping English cavalry at a distance, for the riders’ twelve-foot lances were unlikely to stretch much more than six feet in front of their horses’ heads. While their equipment was almost the same, the Scottish infantry had a distinct advantage in the calibre of the men who filled the ranks, as nobles, knights and yeomen farmers were accustomed to fight on foot together with their followers, whereas such men in the English army served with the cavalry.

The actual size of the two armies at Bannockburn has provoked much discussion. Apart from the contemporary chroniclers, two major studies have been made of the respective strengths. During 1913 both John Morris and William Mackay MacKenzie published books on the battle which included estimated totals for each side, although it has to be acknowledged that Mackay MacKenzie followed many of Morris’ calculations.12 Later writers, including the redoubtable Professor Barrow, have been generally content to follow Morris’ and MacKenzies’ figures, although Peter Traquair in his recent book Freedom’s Sword has scaled down both armies still further.13

The total cavalry available in England at this time was about 7000 to 7500, but it is highly unlikely that such a number was mobilised.14 Like his father Edward II used the feudal levy to raise the majority of his cavalry but for Bannockburn only three of the eight English earls answered his summons, the other five sending the minimum number of knights required. Fortunately for the English king many of his nobles below the rank of earl attended enthusiastically and were likely to have contributed more than the bare numbers of additional troopers required. Added to these were the Scottish knights still opposed to Bruce, as well as knights from Ireland and others from Europe. Between August and October 1313 Edward II took considerable pains to call on such men: he wrote eleven letters, for instance, to gain the release of a single – albeit outstanding – knight, Giles D’Argentan, to fight with him at Bannockburn.15

One contemporary English chronicler put the total English cavalry at Bannockburn at slightly more than 200016 although at the other extreme John Barbour set their cavalry strength at 3000 barded horses alone, i.e. those carrying fully armoured knights.17Following a careful calculation of the rolls John Morris came to the conclusion that the English cavalry at Bannockburn could not have been above 2400.18 This, of course, would by no means be the total number of horses required. Apart from their front line mounts the English knights were likely to ride coursers or lighter horses on the approach march, saving their destriers for the anticipated battles. In fact, their battle chargers were normally led by the squire on the knight’s right hand, for the name destrier comes directly from the Latin dextra, meaning right.

In contrast there is relative unanimity about the number of Scottish cavalry. Raised from among a much smaller force of knights and other magnates, quite apart from the fact that the feudal system of knight service did not operate countrywide, this was put at 500, all light horsemen since large-boned destrier horses were not available in Scotland and the English made sure they remained so. In January 1310 Edward II had banned exports of horses and arms to Scotland on pain of the highest penalties and under Edward III it was a felony to export horses there.19 Taking the lowest estimated figures the English cavalry with their heavier horses still outnumbered their Scottish opponents by four to one.

Comparable discussion has taken place over the numbers of foot soldiers. Barbour, for instance, put the total strengths of the two armies (including cavalry) at 100,000 English and 30,000 Scots. In contrast, by painstaking analysis and working on the pattern of recruitment that operated during Edward I’s Welsh wars, John Morris calculated that Edward II sent out writs for 21,640 men, including archers, and that he probably succeeded in assembling no more than 15,000, including 2400 cavalry. However these totals probably did not include the overseas and Irish contingents whom Barbour said were ‘a great following’. W M MacKenzie comes to a somewhat higher total estimating the English cavalry and infantry combined at 20,000.

There is even less evidence to help calculate the size of the Scottish infantry. Working on Barbour’s ratios between the two forces and using Morris’ figures, the Scottish strength would total less than 7000. All authorities agree on the Scottish small folk (retainers and troops who came late to the battle) at some 3000.20 These figures are not far from General Christison’s, who in his study of the battle for the National Trust for Scotland calculated there were some 20,000 English foot faced by 5500 trained Scottish soldiers (together with the complement of small folk).21 Only one English writer, Major A F Becke, whose conclusions are included within The Complete Peerage, and who lacks the distinction of authorities like Barrow, Morris or Christison, comes to the remarkable conclusion that the Scottish infantry was ‘scarcely at all inferior in numbers to the English infantry’.22

These were the facts, along with the commentators’ interpretations, that faced me and from which I needed to come to my own conclusions on the size of the opposing armies. Like all students of Bannockburn I found that although John Barbour’s near contemporary account of the battle has proved remarkably accurate in so many respects (despite its Scottish bias), like other medieval chroniclers he tended to exaggerate the strengths of the respective armies. Such chroniclers’ figures were not only highly inflated but wild differences occurred between them. Abbot Bernard of Arbroath, for instance, in his contemporary poem of the battle put the English foot at 40,000 with their cavalry at 3100.23 This was remarkably at variance with Barbour’s figure of 100,000 English infantry although not that far from Barbour’s 3000 barded cavalry among a total of no fewer than 40,000 mounted troops! As far as many chroniclers were concerned the larger the figures the more dramatic would the clash appear. W M Mackenzie, however, comes to the more logical conclusion that Barbour’s massive figures of footsoldiers probably arose from his guess that each of the English ten battles (or divisions) at Bannockburn were 10,000 strong.24 Whatever inspired Barbour’s figures for the English infantry it would have been impossible for Edward II to have marched this host from the Scottish border to Stirling in the time and manner described. However, Barbour’s ratio of strength levels between the English and Scottish infantry of ten to three appears far more feasible where the account of the battle is concerned and neither I nor the majority of commentators find any good reason to discount it.

Of all the later writers John Morris made the most thorough investigation of the English methods of recruiting along with the proportions of men who were likely to have turned up during their Welsh and Scottish wars. Accordingly his estimated English strength at Bannockburn of 15,000 (including cavalry) plus Irish and overseas contingents has not been seriously disputed by the most distinguished later authorities, including Professor Barrow and General Christison.

Using Barbour’s strength ratio the Scottish infantry would be expected to number no more than 6600. Morris’ calculations of Scottish recruiting patterns also puts them at below 7000 with Professor Barrow inclining towards 6000 and General Christison going somewhat lower still. Although these levels seem very low in comparison with the English infantry it should be remembered that Bruce placed much more faith on personal qualities and skills than in mere numbers. After following the early descriptions of the battle and applying them to the ground I believe Bruce did in fact require something like 6000 men in order to form and hold his continuous spear walls against the English cavalry. I am therefore inclined to think Peter Traquair’s estimate of 4500 spearmen rather too low, and for a whole number of reasons to discount the conclusions made in The Complete Peerage that the numbers of infantry were scarcely different on both sides.

On the question of the English heavy cavalry figures, at the higher end are the totals of 3100 and 3000 from Abbot Bernard and John Barbour with Vita Edwardi Secundi putting them two thirds lower at 2000. With regard to later commentators the meticulous John Morris reckons them at a maximum of 2400. It is impossible to be exact here although the English cavalry strength was highly unlikely to be less than the 2000 estimated by the English commentator in Vita Edwardi, who for patriotic reasons would be inclined to have reckoned them as low as possible. With less than 2000 the English would not have been able to mount such continuous attacks against the Scottish spearmen nor, after the bruising battle, to have supplied the two large bodies of English horsemen who left the field.

With regard to the Scottish light cavalry, John Barbour is quite definite in putting them at 500 strong, a figure supported by his account of the battle’s final stages. Such a figure is fully in accordance with Scottish cavalry strengths both at Falkirk and somewhat later at Halidon Hill (1333) and it has not been contested by later commentators.

The most likely strength figures of the opposing armies at Bannockburn are therefore:

English

Cavalry of 2000–2400; infantry, including bowmen, 16,000– 16,500.

Scottish

Light cavalry 500; trained infantry 5000–5750, together with 3000 ‘small folk’ (including women).

By any standard, with or without their qualitative advantages, the English numerical superiority was overwhelming.

In addition to the numbers and armaments involved, the organisational arrangements for both armies are obviously important. As mentioned already Barbour has the English army split into ten battles for the march (the first of which was likely to be the vanguard), formations he suggested were retained in the conflict.25 Most later authorities accept Barbour’s ‘battles’, although Peter Traquair argues that ten battles would be unwieldy and points out the illogicality of great earls likely to be acting as joint commanders of cavalry battles when lesser nobles were in sole charge of some infantry ones. He suggests it is more likely the English would have adopted the traditional military formations of vanguard, main body and rearguard – which, of course, they could have done – as well as having ten battles. Despite Traquair’s doubts, Barbour’s account of the battle has proved remarkably accurate with the exception of his inflated force levels. In any case, the English aristocracy’s love of cavalry is a long-standing tradition; at the beginning of the twenty-first century it is still safe to say that many British army officers would be willing to accept joint or lesser command roles with the cavalry than with the infantry.

In fact, the tenfold division of the battles could go far to explain many of the English difficulties during the battle. The army’s strength was undoubtedly impressive, but gathered as it was from so many different sources, cohesion was particularly difficult. This was not all. An enquiry held during Edward II’s reign discovered that local officials would sometimes choose good men at an assembly attended by the king’s arrayers but substitute poor ones after the arrayers had departed.26 The arrayer’s task was to draw up the county muster rolls wherever the men could be grouped into vintenaries and centenaries strength (roughly equivalent to today’s British army’s platoons at somewhat under 30 men strong and companies of around 100 men). In any case whatever their quality, the army’s 16,000 infantry were levied from counties across the face of central and northern England, with other detachments coming from much further south, together with 5000 from north and south Wales and perhaps a further 4000 from Ireland.

With the cavalry the pattern was similar, nobles answering the feudal summons came with their groups of knights and retainers from all over England and Ulster to join up with professional men at arms and cavalry paid for by the king’s household. To add to such remarkable diversity additional soldiers, both infantry and cavalry, came from Europe to answer Edward II’s general invitation for what he saw as a great military adventure.

Not only did they journey from widespread locations, they had little or no time to practise together. Those infantry soldiers from south Wales or Lincolnshire who were gathered into their groups of 100 men (the centenaries) and put under an officer who was horsed, had to march 200 miles before they even joined the general muster on the border. It is likely the cavalry were first to arrive at Wark where they could have been formed into three of Barbour’s battles, possibly the vanguard, then the force under Clifford’s command and the third under the king (which would certainly have been the largest of the three). The other seven battles would have filled up as men arrived and no sooner had they assembled than they were required to set off on their move northwards into Scotland. During the march some sort of unit cohesion would be expected to develop but, even if they had thought it necessary, little or no tactical training could have been carried out.

As for the Scottish army all commentators (except Peter Traquair and the account in The Complete Peerage) accept they were formed into four battles. The probable reason for any disparity among the observers was because at Bannockburn Robert Bruce’s battle followed behind the other three and it was therefore not immediately visible to the English. Barbour, however, gave specific details about the men in the king’s battle. He ‘had in his company all the men of Carrick and of Argyll, Kintyre and the Isles, among whom were Sir Angus of Islay and Bute and all his following. He had also a great host of armed men from the lowlands.’27 Bruce relied here on the valuable leadership of Angus Og MacDonald, the Lord of Islay, who had been his firm supporter ever since Bruce made his bid for the Scottish throne. Professor Barrow reasonably concludes that those men in Bruce’s battle, whom Barbour said came from the ‘plainland’, were from the Central Lowlands and perhaps Fife and Strathmore to the East.28 With a larger formation than the other Scottish commanders such a wide area of recruitment was likely to have been required.

Working on the premise that each of Bruce’s senior commanders would be expected to follow the king’s lead and command men who owed them prior allegiance, Ronald McNair Scott makes valid assumptions about the composition of the three other battles. Edward Bruce, he concluded, drew on men from the southeast, from Buchan, Mar, Angus, the Mearns, Menteith, Strathearn and Lennox, including some from Galloway. Those in James Douglas’ and Walter Stewart’s battle would come from Lanark, Renfrew and the border region, while Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray’s battle was made up with men from Moray’s earldom, from Ross and other parts of the far north, including burghers from Inverness, Elgin, Nairn and Forres.29 This was not all. Men coming from certain localities were likely to be kept together under their own sub-commanders and appointed to particular stations in the spear lines. There they would occupy all three or four ranks of the segment. If Bruce came to inspect a schiltron he would know that a particular flank would be the responsibility of the MacDonalds while further on he would come upon his own men of Carrick. By such methods loyalty and responsibility were encouraged within the small Scottish army.

On paper English superiority was such that Bannockburn should have been no contest. As in past battles, however, neither favourable strength levels nor superior equipment can guarantee victory. Qualities of leadership, training and force cohesion are all important too. The armies’ commanders are described in the next two chapters but Bruce had not only selected his well before the coming battle but under his tutelage he made sure they had progressed. With the dangers facing him he could not afford to retain commanders of moderate ability. Many of the soldiers in the Scottish battles had also been together long enough to develop a firm trust in their leaders and many were justly proud of what they had already achieved under their direction.

Edward II enjoyed no such relationship having clashed with all the senior English commanders over his favourite, Piers Gaveston. Mutual trust was not only lacking between the king and his nobles but amongst the nobles themselves depending on how far they had opposed their monarch. As for the Scottish commanders serving in Edward II’s ranks, they were Comyn supporters primarily motivated by the wish for revenge against Robert Bruce and for the restitution of their possessions in Scotland rather than any devotion for the English king.

In his role as defender Bruce had another advantage, the opportunity of selecting the likely site of the battle and preparing his men for the anticipated shape of the encounter. The English were coming to relieve the garrison at Stirling Castle and just before the castle their ways of approach were limited. He could therefore determine the pattern of the likely confrontation. In fact, after Edward Bruce and Sir Philip Moubray made their compact, both sides had the best part of a year to prepare, a period which they used in rather different ways. Bruce kept his forces sharp by setting them to capture the remaining English castles in Lothian (in the full awareness that any successes could only make things more difficult for an invading army), but as the time for Stirling Castle’s relief drew closer he concentrated on training his men in the tactics he believed could best match the English invaders. Bruce was very likely to have talked to some of the survivors from Falkirk, and he had already used massed spearmen, if still in relatively small formations, at Loudon Hill and Glen Trool against English heavy cavalry. Unlike Wallace’s spearmen at Falkirk Bruce had made them advance but only when their flanks were secured by steeply sloping ground. After their success at Loudon Bruce, like Wallace, determined to make his spearmen the nucleus of the army that he was preparing to meet the English. They would constitute the human anvil of impenetrable pikes against which the English cavalry would shatter their lances and, hopefully, break their hearts.

As with the Greek phalanxes, drill masters were needed to train his men to change their formation, notably from straight files three to six ranks deep, often facing both ways, to a circular formation offering all-round defence. When in motion the schiltrons would have to move with measured steps in order to preserve their order and formation. When in circular formation with the front rank grounding their pikes and pointing them outwards, the rear ones would need to practise leaning their pikes forward upon the shoulders of the first rank. Endless drill was also required to strengthen arms and shoulder muscles the better to handle the clumsy, head-heavy spears and hold them straight forward for relatively long periods. Above all the spearmen had to be trained to act in unison, thus preserving cohesion, the essential strength of such a formation.

Even if Edward had wanted to undertake a training programme with his army, which was extremely doubtful, he had first to settle matters between himself and his nobles following Gaveston’s execution. Only after much diplomatic persuasion by Valence and Louis, brother of Philip IV of France, did the nobles apologise for their crimes and it was not until October 1313, after the king granted them a general pardon, that he could start his detailed preparations to assemble an invasion force. It was December before he sent out writs to eight earls and eighty-seven barons, ordering them to bring themselves and their contingents to Berwick by 10 June 1314. During February Edward repeated his intention of leading an army against Bruce but surprised his followers by letting them know he intended a mainly infantry campaign.30 This was not a popular announcement: his barons wanted a cavalry enterprise. It was not until March 1314, after restoring Valence to his post as Viceroy of Scotland, that the king was able to issue a succession of detailed orders to raise both men and supplies.

In any event Edward II faced a most formidable logistical undertaking and it was problems of movement and supply rather than training that occupied the English command. More than sixty ships were required to support the expedition, quite apart from the organisation required to bring the levies together, and in May an embargo was put on the export of food from England. At about the same time more than two hundred wagons, together with the animals needed to draw them, were commissioned to help transport the army north. In fact, the scale of the victualling required exceeded anything achieved by Edward I. Funds for the campaign came through arrangements made with the Italian banker, Antonio Pessagno. In the months leading up to the campaign he lent at least £21,000 to the English exchequer together with funds for three quarters of the wheat and oats stockpiled at Berwick.31

In early June 1314 Edward moved to Berwick and awaited the concentration of his invasion force. At nearby Wark, where they gathered, no monarch could have failed to be moved or to feel anything but optimism as the great assembly of heavy cavalry and the endless infantry detachments came marching in, however raw some of them might be. He could be sure he had sufficient resources of infantry, including highly regarded Welsh bowmen, to complement his unparalleled force of heavy cavalry against which the Scots apparently had no counter. In a show of confidence he distributed the estates of the opposing Scottish commanders to his supporters. Some of his proud knights so shared his certainty of victory that they brought tapestries, plate and furniture to deck the houses they would possess.32

On the other hand, in Scotland as Bruce drilled and redrilled his men he knew that if he met the English he would be fighting for his own and his country’s very existence. He had still not resolved the question of where best to meet them on their way to Stirling, and it was still theoretically possible he would avoid a full scale encounter.

In spite of their overwhelming superiority it was one thing for the English to assemble an army, quite another to move it into the battle area in good heart and then bring its full strength to play against a smaller but battle-hardened adversary.

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