26th March 1296

Start of the First War of Scottish Independence

When Alexander III, king of Scotland, died in 1286, his heir was the three-year-old Margaret, who died just four years later. This left Scotland without a monarch, but many claimants to the throne, including Robert Bruce and John Balliol.

They each invited the English king, Edward I, to come to Scotland to adjudicate, but Edward instead insisted that he be recognised as the country’s ultimate ruler, whoever might sit on its throne. They refused, but did agree to some lesser demands so that he would hear the appeal of each claimant to the Scottish crown. Eventually, Edward and over 100 arbiters selected John Balliol who was crowned King of the Scots at Scone on 30 November 1292.

Scotland’s authority ignored

Edward still refused to recognise the authority of the Scottish crown over Scottish affairs and commanded that John Balliol contribute to his forthcoming battle with France. Scotland refused and made an agreement with France that, should England invade French territory, Scotland would invade England.

When he became aware of the Franco-Scottish Auld Alliance, he bolstered his forces on England’s side of the northern border. John did likewise on his side of the line.

Robert Bruce, who had been passed over in his quest to be awarded the Scottish crown, was by then governor of Carlisle Castle, to which he had been appointed by King Edward. John Comyn, nephew of John Balliol, attacked the castle on 26 March, effectively opening the First War of Scottish Independence and, two days later, Edward I crossed the River Tweed and marched on Berwick.

John Balliol captured

Initially, England appeared to have the upper hand and, within four months, John Balliol had abdicated and been taken prisoner by Edward, once again leaving the throne of Scotland vacant. At Scone Abbey, Edward captured the Stone of Destiny, on which Scottish kings were crowned, and had it transported to London where it was installed at Westminster Abbey.

But Scotland wasn’t beaten. In 1297, William Wallace renewed the fight against the English, alongside Andrew de Moray, and the tide was turned at Stirling Bridge where de Moray lost his life. Scotland pushed back into England, then Edward once again drove his own forces into Scotland.

Heir to the Scottish throne

By 1304, all of Scotland’s strongholds were in English hands. Wallace was executed in 1305. However, the issue of who was the rightful heir of the Scottish throne had still not been settled, and remained a point of friction until John Comyn was killed at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, leaving the path free for Robert the Bruce to claim it as his own.

With a clear leader, Scotland renewed its campaign against the English king, who died in 1307 and was replaced by Edward II, who continued his father’s campaign. But Edward II found himself continually on the back foot as Scottish forces consistently drove his own troops south. English troops were ejected from Scotland in 1314 and, in 1328, the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton brought the First War of Scottish Independence to a close. Its successor, the Second War, began just four years later.



Other events that occured in March

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