On this day in history : 22nd July 1298 – The Battle of Falkirk takes place; led by King Edward I, the English army defeats the Scots, under William Wallace – who shortly after resigns as Guardian of Scotland…..

James Grant – Public domain

King Alexander of Scotland had died mysteriously in 1286….leaving his child Margaret of Norway as heir to the throne…. King Edward I made a contract that marriage between his own son and Margaret would take place…. However, before this could happen Margaret died and no immediately obvious heir was beyond her…. Various claimants came forward to make themselves known and King Edward was asked to mediate…. Two of the most obvious candidates were Robert Bruce and John Balliol….Edward chose the latter – but immediately began to influence….he wanted to control….

Balliol rebelled and formed an alliance with France…. A furious Edward marched north, took Balliol prisoner and occupied Scotland…. William Wallace stepped in and raised another Scottish revolt…. This resulted in the humiliating defeat of the English at Stirling Bridge under the Earl of Surrey in 1297….

Wallace statue by D W Stevenson at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh – Kim Traynor CC BY-SA 3.0

An even more furious Edward was determined to crush the Scots once and for all…. And so he was off back up north again — this time with around 2,500 mounted knights and 12,500 infantry….including English and Welsh longbow archers….

Self-yew English longbow – Hitchhiker89 at English Wikipedia – Public domain

At first Wallace tried to avoid a pitched battle – he was vastly outnumbered with just some 1,000 mounted knights and 5,000 infantry…. But eventually he was forced into battle….

On the morning of when the two sides were to meet Wallace formed his pikemen into 4 divisions – ‘schiltrons’…. A square (or circle) with the pikemen shoulder to shoulder with their pikes facing outwards – and then another row of men in armour…. The gaps between the divisions were where Wallace placed his archers….

At first the Scots held out against the English…. But the steady fire from Edward’s longbowmen was relentless…. It was the first time longbows had been predominantly used by the English…. The arrows continued to rain down, along with crossbow fire and sling shot – and soon the schiltrons were broken up…. The Scots, including Wallace, fled into the nearby woods…. The longbow was to dominate battles for the next two centuries, helping the English to victory at Crecy and Agincourt….

A late 15th Century illustration of the Battle of Crecy – Jean Froissart, public domain

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