Battle of Methven
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|Battle of Methven|
|Part of the First War of Scottish Independence|
|Kingdom of Scotland||Kingdom of England|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Robert I of Scotland||Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke|
|4,500||3,000|
|Casualties and losses|
|4,000 dead||600 Dead or wounded|
The Battle of Methven took place at Methven, Scotland on 19 June 1306, during the Wars of Scottish Independence. The battlefield is currently under research to be included in the Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Scotland and protected by Historic Scotland under the Scottish Historical Environment Policy of 2009.
In February 1306, Robert Bruce and a small party of his followers killed John Comyn, also known as the Red Comyn, before the high altar of the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries. Both Comyn and Bruce had been forced to give fealty to King Edward I of England on pain of execution, and every appearance is that both intended to pursue the Scottish crown. According to John Barbour's poem The Brus, Comyn and Bruce had previously signed an agreement to that effect which Comyn betrayed to King Edward I. However, the bad blood between the two men went far back, and they had found it impossible to work together as Guardians of the Realm. Bruce was crowned King of Scots at Scone 25 March 1306.
The Oath of the Swans
The killing of John Comyn took Edward by complete surprise. News travelled slowly: it was some thirteen days after the event that the details reached his court at Winchester, and even then the full circumstances were unclear. The murder was initially described as the 'work of some people who are doing their utmost to trouble the peace and quiet of the realm of Scotland', but he learned the true facts later. On 5 April, he appointed Aymer de Valence, Comyn's brother-in-law, and the future Earl of Pembroke, as his plenipotentiary in Scotland, with powers to raise the Dragon Banner, signifying that no quarter would be given to Bruce and his adherents; or, as the chronicler John Barbour puts it 'to burn and slay and raise dragon'.
At Westminster on 20 May, the king knighted the Prince of Wales and 250 other young men in preparation for the coming war. A banquet was held after the ceremony during which two decorated swans were presented to the king. Edward then vowed 'by the God of Heaven and these swans' to avenge Comyn's death and the treachery of the Scots. On his demand the newly created knights took a similar oath.
In Scotland, Robert Bruce was already engaged in a full-scale civil war with the family and friends of John Comyn. The coronation in March had given him some legitimacy; but overall the position was very uncertain. His wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, the daughter of the Earl of Ulster, and now queen of Scots, is reported to have said 'It seems to me we are but a summer king and queen whom children crown in their sport'.
Valence moved quickly, and by the middle of summer he had made his base at Perth, where he was joined by many of the supporters of John Comyn. King Robert came from the west, ready to meet his foe in battle. He was prepared to observe on this occasion the gentlemanly conventions of feudal warfare, while the English adopted less orthodox tactics. Valence was invited to leave the walls of Perth and join Bruce in battle, but he declined. The king, perhaps believing that Valence's refusal to accept his challenge was a sign of weakness, retired only a few miles to nearby Methven, where he made camp for the night. Before dawn on 19 June, his little army was taken by surprise and almost destroyed, because Bruce had accepted Valence at his word and failed to take the precaution of placing pickets around the camp. His entire army was routed.
Bishops William de Lamberton of St Andrews and Robert Wishart of Glasgow were quickly seized and taken south, and incarcerated in an English dungeon, saved only from execution by their clerical orders.
Bruce barely escaped and fled with a few followers to the Scottish Highlands.
- Barbour, John, The Bruce, trans. G. Eyre-Todd, 1907.
- Barbour, John, The Bruce, trans. A. A. H. Duncan, 1964.
- Barrow, G.W. S., Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, 1964.
- Barron, E. M., The Scottish War of Independence, 1934.
- Hailes, Lord (David Dalrymple), The Annals of Scotland, 1776.
- Macnair-Scott, R., Robert Bruce, King of Scots, 1982.