Scotlands History

The Battle of Falkirk

The defeat of the English army at Stirling Bridge had enraged Edward and united the English nobility against the Scots. In summer 1298, King Edward himself marched north at the head of a massive war machine. Edward had over 1500 knights and mounted men-at-arms and more than 12,000 veteran foot soldiers. His army also brought a devastating new weapon - the English longbow - and a host of English and Welsh archers.

Edward’s journey north was not easy. The Scots had undertaken a ‘scorched-earth’ policy; leaving nothing for Edward’s army to eat or drink. Among Edward’s knights was Brian Le Jay, the former Templar Master in Scotland at Balantrodoch. He was put in charge of restoring order after the Welsh threatened to mutiny and fought with English soldiers.

When Edward received word that the Scots were camped near Falkirk he led his army to face them. The Scots were vastly outnumbered and lacked the heavy cavalry of the English. On the morning of 22 July 1298 Wallace’s men formed four massive schiltrons and held their ground. Between the schiltrons were Scots bowmen under Sir John Stewart of Jedburgh. A small force of Scots knights under Sir John ‘Red Comyn’ waited on horseback.

Wallace is famously said to have called out to his men, ‘I have brought you to the ring - now dance if you can.’

The Welsh refused to attack so Edward sent in two groups of mounted knights. They wheeled around the schiltrons and charged but couldn’t break them. Knights fell as their horses were impaled on Scots spears. At that moment, when they should have joined the fight, the Scots nobles turned their horses and rode away from the battlefield.

The English knights turned on the Scots bowmen, cutting them down and killing their leader Sir John Stewart. Edward recalled his cavalry and ordered his archers to loose. The English longbow was a new and deadly weapon; its iron-tipped arrows could pierce chainmail and padded armour. Flight after flight of arrows rained down on the Scots and began to break the schiltrons. Edward sent his knights to finish the Scots.

William Wallace managed to escape from the carnage. The surviving Scots fled into the woods as Edward’s army hacked down the uprising. Edward watched the rout but his army was too hungry and badly supplied to continue the campaign.

The Templar Brian Le Jay fell at Falkirk, dragged from his horse and killed by Scots foot soldiers. Among the Scots dead was Sir John de Graham, a close ally and friend of Wallace. Wallace resigned as Guardian soon after the defeat at Falkirk.

  • Photo of soldiers wearing helmets and carrying spears

Click on the image to view a larger version.