Wales: conquered by 1283
Gruffudd (1220-82) had allied with Simon de Montfort and even after
Simon's defeat had been able to obtain many concessions from Henry III in
the Treaty of Montgomery (1267).
Caerphilly (Caerfilli) Castle built between
1268 and 1271 by Gilbert de Clare to counter Llywelyn's
Prince Llywelyn controlled about 75%
of territory in Wales, which by the 1290s had a total of about
Seizing the pretext of Llywelyn's failure to do him homage as overlord
(as agreed in the Treaty of Montgomery,) Edward invaded Wales in 1277
with 800 knights and 15,000 infantry.|
Overwhelmed by this force, Llywelyn had to submit in the Treaty
of Aberconwy (1277.) This stripped him of his control over the other
Welsh lords, and confined his power to the northwest of Wales. Edward
I built large castles at Flint, Rhuddlan, Builth and Aberystwyth to
Edward I extended the English county system into his new territories
and applied English law to its Welsh inhabitants. This provoked a
revolt in northeast Wales in 1282 which Llywelyn assisted. The rebels
took Ruthin, Aberstwyth and Builth castles, and Edward I responded in
"Let this be
clearly understood: his council will not permit him to
yield … and even if the prince [Llywelyn
] wishes to transfer [the Welsh] into the hands of the king,
they will not do homage to any stranger as they are wholly
unacquainted with his language, his way of life and his
laws. If they were to accede, they may have to suffer
imprisonment and cruel treatment as have the inhabitants of
other cantrefi [localities] …
in ways harsher than those of the Saracens."
(The councilors of
Snowdonia to Llywelyn, 1282)
In December 1282, Llywelyn was killed in a skirmish near Builth. His
head was sent to London as proof of his death. When Llywelyn's brother
Dafydd died (October 1283), the revolt petered out. The English conquest of
Wales was now complete.|
The familiar story that Edward promised the Welsh a prince "Who spoke
not a word of English" and then appointed his infant son dates from
the 16th Century and is probably apocryphal. It is true however that
in 1301 Edward made his eldest son Prince of Wales. [The eldest son
of the English monarch has been invested with this title ever since.]|
1200s were a period of comparatively amicable relations between
England and Scotland. The royal families intermarried (Henry III's
sister, Joan, married Alexander II; and Edward I's sister, Margaret,
married Alexander III).|
| In 1286, Alexander III died in a riding accident, and was succeeded by
his infant grand-daughter Margaret "the Maid of Norway" who was
living at the Norwegian court; she died four years
later on the sea journey back to Scotland. This meant there was no clear heir to the throne.|
[See Family tree].
The two main claimants were John Balliol and Robert VI Bruce. John
Balliol said that his claim was better, because he was descended from
the senior line (Margaret was older than Isabella.) Robert VI Bruce
argued for the superiority of his claim on the grounds that he was the
son of David I's great-grand-daughter, while John Balliol was
the grandson of the great-grand-daughter (i.e. Bruce was nearer in
|Edward I (who believed himself the feudal
overlord of Scotland) was accepted as arbitrator of the
dispute, and he decided the "Great Cause" in favor of Balliol.
owned land in the North of England and was therefore more
likely to defer to Edward I, but it was also quite arguable
that his claim was the better. John was crowned King of
Scotland in December 1292.
John Balliol paying homage to Edward I
Edward I intended to absorb Scotland into the English system of
government. He placed John de Warenne, Earl of Warenne and Surrey in
charge and moved the Stone of Scone to Westminster.
||The Stone of Scone or "Stone of Destiny" was
an ancient relic on which the ruler of Scotland sat when he
was crowned king. Though Scotland was autonomous until the
17th Century, the stone remained at Westminster until 1996.
Scots barons soon rebelled, led by Robert the Bruce (grandson of
Robert VI Bruce) and William Wallace (not himself a baron.) Robert was soon defeated, but
William Wallace initially had more success. At the Battle of
Stirling Bridge (11 September 1297), Wallace defeated Warenne's
more numerous force by waiting in swampy terrain behind the single
narrow bridge that crossed the Forth river. He attacked when only a
part of the English army had crossed and was at its most vulnerable,
and routed his opponents.|
The Scottish soldiers captured the English Treasurer, Hugh de
Cressingham, tanned his skin and used it to make purses and bridles.
|William Wallace used similar tactics at the
Battle of Falkirk (22 July 1298.) He drew up his heavy infantry,
armed with 12 foot spears/pikes in defensive positions on a slight rise
behind boggy ground. (The horses of attacking knights could not gallop
rapidly over soft ground.)
Practicing shooting the longbow
The first impetuous charge of the English knights scattered a
few Scottish archers, but made no impact on the phalanxes of
pikemen. Edward I therefore changed tactics and used his
longbowmen to rain arrows down on the pikemen. After the
archers had created gaps by inflicting many casualties,
Edward's cavalry charged into them and broke the Scottish
William Wallace carried on guerilla warfare for some time, but in
August 1305 was captured and taken to London. Wallace was hanged,
drawn and quartered. His head (crowned with laurel) was placed on a
spike on London Bridge; and the four parts of his body sent to
Newcastle, Berwick, Perth and Stirling for exhibition in the local
Edward I had persuaded Robert the Bruce to accept a truce in 1302, and
Robert had given him token support in 1303. But Edward did little to reward Bruce
and instead denied him possession of his
hereditary estates in Annandale.|
Robert Bruce decided to rebel and when one of the main Scottish
barons, John Comyn, refused to join the revolt, Robert stabbed him to
death (February 1306).|
Robert's first attempts at warfare were unsuccessful and he was forced
to go into hiding, but he emerged to achieve a victory at the Battle
of Louden Hill, Ayrshire (May 1307).
"…Thus in the hyllis levyt he
Till the mast part off his menye
Wes revyn and rent, na schoyn thai had
Bot as thai thaim off hydis mad.
Tharfor thai went till Aberdeyne
Quhar Nele the Bruys come and the queyn
And other ladyuis fayr and farand
Ilkane for luff off thar husband
That for leyle luff and leawté
Wald partenerys off thar paynys be…"
(Excerpt from The Brus, John Barbour
Lowland Scottish c. 1375)
|Thus in the hills [Bruce and
his men] lived, till their clothing was ripped and torn; they
had no shoes but those they made from hides. Therefore they
went to Aberdeen, where they were joined by Neile the Bruce
and the Queen and other fair and fine ladies, who even for the
love of their husbands - for true love and loyalty - would be
partners with them in their pains.
[There is a legend
that, while sheltering in a cave, Robert the Bruce was
inspired to continue his efforts by seeing a spider finally
succeed after many failed attempts to spin a web. This story
was apparently invented in the 18th Century.]
Edward I decided to go to Scotland to remedy the problems there but
died en route - 7 July 1307.
Ireland: not yet conquered.
determined efforts in Wales and Scotland were not matched in Ireland,
which Edward I largely neglected.
The Red Earl's residence
The most powerful Anglo-Irish Earl
was Richard de Burgo, Lord of Connacht and Earl of Ulster
from 1280 to 1326. He was known as the "Red Earl" and
extended the power and territories of the earldom of Ulster.
Edward I was
basically concerned with the revenue he could derive from Irish
taxation. From 1275 onwards he derived significant income from customs
on its wool, hide, and leather exports.
The first Irish
Parliament was summoned in 1297 by Edward I's viceroy, John de Wogan,
to provide troops for Edward's Scottish wars.
Many of the
English colonists were gradually "going native" and direct English
power shrunk to the area immediately around Dublin. Robert the Bruce
tried to undermine English power still further during the reign of
Edward II. He sent his brother Edward there in May 1315 to raise a
routed the forces of the Red Earl at Connor in 1315, and on May
Day, 1316 he was crowned "King of Erin."
Robert the Bruce
visited Ireland to rally support for the Celtic cause and returned to
Scotland to raise more men and supplies. However, before these arrived
Edward Bruce was defeated and killed by a force under John de
Bermingham at the Battle of Faughart (October 1318).
Bermingham was made Earl of Louth; the Red Earl recovered Ulster and
Connacht, and English overlordship of Ireland was restored.