As the clock ticks on towards the 23rd and 24th of June and the 706th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, it is worth considering that this was a battle which Robert theBruce did not want.
With an army that was fatigued and reduced by prolonged combat, the warrior king was planning respite and regrouping. However, his headstrong, infinitely less rational and fiercely combative brother Edward, had other ideas.
The siege of Stirling Castle
In July 1313, Edward was tiring of his prolonged siege of an unrelenting, English-held Stirling Castle. In its history, Stirling Castle has never been taken, only surrendered under siege, and Edward was wise to the fact that his namesake in London, the English King Edward II, was in no mood for a march north.
And so it was, that Edward struck a deal with Sir Philip Mowbray, Governor of the castle and himself a Scot but a traditional enemy of the Bruces: that if Stirling Castle and its English squatters were not relieved within 12 months, the Scots would prevail, and Mowbray would surrender the keys of the Castle to Edward Bruce.
In its hugely strategic position as the lowest crossing point of the River Forth in the belt of Scotland, Stirling was viewed as ‘the key to the Kingdom of Scotland’ and not without reason - even more so in those fragile days. As such, its loss would be unthinkable. And so it was, in the summer of 1314, the reluctant English King and his sparkling array of belted Knights brought the biggest-ever army of invasion northwards - to silence the Scots once and for all.
History, at times, can be superficial, in that many generations have told their own versions which, in the passing down through time, can change beyond recognition. However, there can be no doubting King Robert's fury with his brother for issuing such a foolhardy challenge to a nation with a larger army, far greater resources, and doing so at a time when all he needed was another battle.
Nonetheless, the cup was spilled….
And so it was, that the largest army ever seen north of Berwick poured into the Carse of Stirling on the 22nd of June 1314 to face the smaller but (unbeknown to them), utterly determined gathering, prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, not because of what they were ordered to do - but because of what they believed in - both King and Country.
The rest, as they say, is history. And whatever path life takes for Scots - at home or in exile - the hair on the back of our necks will rise at the very mention of the word ‘Bannockburn’.
Edward Bruce (Knight) and the Inner Gate at Stirling Castle (Rook) are only two of the 32 different chess pieces in the Battle of Bannockburn Chess Set. Every piece tells its own tale: of the faces and places in the long lead up to the battle; of the epic resistance of a hugely outnumbered force; and of an ultimate victory that changed the course of history.
‘Bannockburn’ may be a single word, but it is a story too big for one chess set - even our epic Battle of Bannockburn Chess Set, but it will never stop us trying!
Take a closer look at the full Bannockburn Chess Set today.