Battle of Roslin

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Battle of Roslin
Part of the First War of Scottish Independence
Battle of Roslin - - 1211243.jpg
Battle of Roslin memorial
Date 24 February 1303
Location Midlothian, Scotland
Result Scottish victory
Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland.svg Kingdom of Scotland England COA.svg Kingdom of England
Commanders and leaders
John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Guardian of Scotland
Simon Fraser
Sir John Segrave
8,000[citation needed] 30,000[citation needed]
Casualties and losses
7,000[citation needed] 28,000[citation needed]

The Battle of Roslin was a battle of the First War of Scottish Independence, taking place on 24 February 1303 at Roslin, Scotland. The battlefield is currently under research to be inventoried[1] and protected by Historic Scotland under the Scottish Historical Environment Policy of 2009. The battle was the subject of a fictional account written by Walter Bower in the mid-15th century which bears no relationship to the contemporary evidence.

The Battle[edit]

The Scottish historian John of Fordun wrote this description of the battle:

There never was so desperate a struggle, or one in which the stoutness of knightly prowess shone forth so brightly. The commander and leader in this struggle was John Comyn, the son... John Comyn, then guardian of Scotland, and Simon Fraser with their followers, day and night, did their best to harass and to annoy, by their general prowess, the aforesaid kings officers and bailiffs... the aforesaid John Comyn and Simon, with their abettors, hearing of their arrival at Rosslyn and wishing to steal a march rather than have one stolen upon them, came briskly through from Biggar to Rosslyn, in one night, with some chosen men, who chose rather death before unworthy subjection to the English nation; and all of a sudden they fearlessly fell upon the enemy.[1]

The accounts speak of the English army being divided up into three divisions, commanded by Sir John Segrave (or John de Segrave), Ralph Manton and Sir Robert Neville, which entered Roslin. While in their respective camps, the English divisions were taken by surprise by Comyn.[1] The Scots drove the English knights over the steep sides of Roslin Glen and cut down their English prisoners.[2] Several place-names commemorate the battle, such as Shinbanes Field where many bones were afterwards found, Hewan, thought to have been the site of the third encounter,[3] and Killburne, a small brook said to have been discoloured with blood for three days.[4]


Steps up Hewan bank - Roslin Glen

It was not the normal practice to assemble extensive forces in winter due to the difficulties of keeping men and horses fed and the challenge of finding enough billets to accommodate anything more than a few hundred people. Neither the English nor the Scots raised large armies in February 1303, but both sides conducted operations with fairly small numbers of men-at-arms (heavy cavalry) throughout the winter months in most years.

Despite the unsupported claims of Walter Bower, there is no evidence of any kind to indicate that Roslin was a battle between large armies, but contemporary material from chronicle and record sources indicate a clash between relatively modest forces of men-at-arms; the sort of action that was absolutely typical of Scottish-English warfare in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. It would seem that there were at least two and possibly three separate actions resulting in a clear victory for the Scots.



  • "Scottish Battlefields", (tempus/History Press), 2006
  • A.D.M. Barrell, Medieval Scotland, (Cambridge University Press)
  • Peter Traquair Freedom's Sword

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°51′18″N 3°09′50″W / 55.855°N 3.164°W / 55.855; -3.164