Battle of Inverurie (1308)
At the close of summer 1305, King Edward
I of England had exiled Balliol with maximum dishonour.
Also, by this time King Edward had captured and
killed Scotland's greatest military leader William Wallace
with maximum cruelty.
By all accounts Scotland was dead, and
Edward I of England owned it. There was only one final
step to conclude his conquest. In 1301, Edward sought the Pope's
agreement that John Balliol was no King, as there was no
Scotland to be King of.
Scottish Bishops William Lamberton of St.
Andrews and Robert Wishart of Glasgow sent a small
party of Scottish priests with legal expertise to save the
Scottish Crown. The party of clerics made a successful
pleading, and the Pope ordered the release of Balliol, and
the restoration of the Scottish Crown.
However, a demoralized Balliol, now
exiled to his lands in France, was no longing willing nor
able to be King of Scotland. An absentee King created a void
on the Throne.
John III 'Red' Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, was a blood
relation of Balliol and next in line. However, Robert the
Bruce had always felt cheated that his father had not
originally been recognized by King Edward as King of
Scotland in 1296. These two were the primary claimants
to the Throne of Scotland.
Comyn and Bruce had agreed to meet at
Grayfriars Abbey in Dumfries (1289). The meeting was
supposed to be peaceful, but an argument erupted. Bruce murdered Comyn
at the alter in Grayfriars,
and some historians suggest Bruce had intentionally planned
to assassinate his competitor, John Comyn. This
act shocked all of Scotland, and most of the Catholic world.
Bruce faced excommunication from the Catholic Church.
And, in fact he would later become excommunicated. His
barons would also become excommunicated for not uprising
against him, and eventually all of Scotland for not uprising
against the barons.
Regardless, the Bruce fled to Glasgow Cathedral, to
Bishop Robert Wishart. Wishart absolved Bruce of blood
guilt on condition he swear an oath that as King, he would
always remain obedient to the wishes of the Scottish Clergy.
Wishart launched the Bruce. He
proclaimed on his pulpit that Bruce was their rightful King,
that this was a crusade, a holy war and to fight for him.
Wishart and Lambert, on 25 March 1306, recognized Robert as
King of Scotland.
King Robert began securing Scottish
castles like a "man of war." King Edward
and his English forces then
began re-taking castles held by King Robert. The Bruce
routed by Edward's forces near Perth.
Needless to say, he fled. His wife and daughter were
captured by King Edward, and confined in convents.
Bruce, rather than flee Scotland, chose
to fight. In 1307, he landed in Ayreshire with a small
force of Irishman and Hebridians. In Galloway, Bruce
surprised a superior force of English troops, and was
victorious. He engaged a much larger force
of English troops once more, and was victorious again. By
this time Edward was aged and infirmed, and shortly died
thereafter. King Edward's heir, Edward II was not the
military genius his father was, and made only one failed
attempt to reclaim Scotland.
The Bruce then turned his attention on
the murdered Alexander Comyn's cousin and heir - -
John Comyn, 3rd Earl of Buchan and his many supporters
- - who were still
loyal to Balliol, and subsequently the Comyn family and
their claim to the Throne of Scotland.
The Bruce marched north. He had a
small mobile force that employed excellent tactics, and had
a reputation of being ruthless. Bruce reduced one Comyn castle after another to rubble, killing everyone.
A ruined castle was after all no use to Comyn, no use to the
English should they decide to return, and no use to the
Bruce who employed a mobile hit and run strategy. He
burned Comyn castles and filled their wells.
The Comyn and Bruce forces met at the
Battle of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire, also known as the Battle of Barra,
which was fought in May 1308. The Earl of Buchan,
cousin of the murdered John Comyn, had gathered a sizeable
force and dug themselves on the summit of Barra Hill, the
site of an abandoned iron age fortress.
It was, he thought an impregnable
position. He was wrong. Bruce's reputation
had preceded him. The Earl of Buchan lost his Calvary to
simple terror. He then lost the battle and fled to England,
with many other of his supporters.
There were still supporters of the Comyn
that Bruce needed to exterminate.
After the battle, forces loyal to Bruce
attacked among other places - - Aboyne Castle, which was
held by the English. They then turned their attention
on neighboring Strachan, the location of a timber
fortification, Castle Hill of
By March of 1309, the Bruce had crushed
virtually all opposition, English as well as Comyn.