An English lord with large estates in the north of England, Sir Robert Clifford was a highly experienced knight who, from the opening of Anglo-Scottish hostilities in 1296 through to 1314, was notably active in defending the English borders against the relentless Scots.
He helped Edward I defeat William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, and was generally well rewarded for his support of the monarchy, with grants of land in Scotland over many Scots who opposed the English crown.
In 1308 he was appointed captain and chief guardian of Scotland, confirming his place amongst the most despised of Scotland’s enemies.
One of Edward’s most trusted commanders, Clifford led a 300-strong cavalry division at Bannockburn. On day one of the battle, in an attempt to cut off any potential Scots retreat, he and his men surrounded Randolph’s Schiltron near the village of St Ninians. He was to learn the bitter Schiltron lesson, losing many men and horses all of which met an agonising and gruesome end at the hands of the spearmen. On the deciding day of battle and desperate to recover reputation and respect, Clifford was equally and uncharacteristically reckless, getting trapped between two Scottish Schiltrons, whose tight-knit numbers recognised the powerful and detested knight at their mercy.
There was to be none as they closed on him with relish, their phalanx of spears and pikes giving him no chance of survival. As one of many gestures of respect for formidable opponents, Robert Bruce returned Clifford’s body to England.